Friday, 17 September 2010

The Robert E. Howard Reader is coming at last

Over at REH: Two-Gun Raconteur, Damon has alerted Howardom at large to the long-gestating Darrel Schweitzer critical anthology, The Robert E. Howard Reader.

Here's the contents list:

Introduction by Darrell Schweitzer

“Robert E. Howard: A Texan Master” by Michael Moorcock

“The Everlasting Barbarian” by Leo Grin

“Robert E. Howard’s Fiction” by L. Sprague de Camp

“The Art of Robert Ervin Howard” by Poul Anderson

“Howard’s Style” by Fritz Leiber

“What He Wrote and How They Said It” by Robert Weinberg

“Barbarism vs. Civilization” by S.T. Joshi

“Crash Go the Civilizations” by Mark Hall

“Return to Xuthal” by Charles Hoffman

“Howard’s Oriental Stories” by Don D’Ammassa

“King Kull as a Prototype of Conan” by Darrell Schweitzer

“How Pure a Puritan Was Solomon Kane?” by Robert M. Price

“Balthus of Cross Plains” by George H. Scithers

“Fictionalizing Howard” by Gary Romeo

“A Journey to Cross Plains” by Howard Waldrop

“Weird Tales and the Great Depression” by Scott Connors

“After Aquilonia and Having Left Lankhmar: Sword & Sorcery Since the 1980s” by Steve Tompkins

As Damon says, it's unlikely to reach the lofty heights of The Dark Barbarian or The Barbaric Triumph, but it's still great to have another critical anthology dedicated to Howard. That said, I see this being about as controversial as the last critical anthology.

“Robert E. Howard: A Texan Master” was not very well received, and ripped to shreds by Rob Roehm in V4n2 of The Cimmerian, so it's a shame to have this instead of "Conan: American Phenomenon," Moorcock's far superior essay that serves as the introduction to Conan the Phenomenon. The seemingly eternal controversy around S.T. Joshi has me very, very nervous about "Barbarism vs Civilization," though he's apparently come around in the past few years. Gary Romeo is always the lone voice of dissent in Howardom, but if "Fictionalizing Howard" is about the many horrible inclusions of the man in fiction (i.e. "Gilgamesh in the Outhouse") then it might well be surprisingly agreeable.  Schweitzer himself is often at the centre of scraps in The Cimmerians' Lion's Den (according to Damon, this was first posted at the L. Sprague de Camp Yahoo group - yes, that one) so his essays will certainly be the source of discussion.

That said, there's a lot to look forward to from a historical point of view.  Moorcock, Poul Anderson and Fritz Leiber add some Sword-and-Sorcery legend to proceedings, and the inclusion of De Camp would offer an example of the state of Howard scholarship back in the day. Plus you have the redoubtable Howard scholars, and an essay by Steve Tompkins to boot.  I always loved the look of the Wildside Press Howard collections, so it's really cool that this is keeping in line with them.  I'll keep an eye out for this one.

EDIT: It turns out that the above cover is no longer the one they're going for. Damon has kindly informed me and directed me to the correct version:

I dunno, folks. I just liked the first cover better, so that might account for my reluctance. Still, if that muscular chap's meant to be Conan, where's his hairy chest? And what's that thing he's holding? It looks like some sort of Micronesian, Australian Aboriginal, or maybe African war club, but I'm damned if I can identify it.


  1. Al, have you seen what is, apparently, the revised cover for the book? It's been dropped in in place of the original one at REH: Two-Gun Raconteur.

    Go take a look, BEFORE you eat anything!

    (all that I have to say has already crossed your mind)

  2. Tex, I found out before I read your comment. Suffice to say, it looks like many of the Gay Romance covers at my local Waterstones, which is dangerously close to the SF/Fantasy section as it is, complete with the black background and lighting setup. We already have enough problems from the idiots snickering about oiled-up barbarians in loincloths, and this is hardly going to help matters. Heroes in the Wind had the same problem, though frankly, this cover's much worse.

    But hey, if it'll get gay people to read REH by accident and find out they like it, that's something, right? Right? Come on guys, I have to think of *something* positive about the cover...

  3. hehehe... I think the intention with the new cover is to portrait barbarism, is a kind of prehistoric man or a modern primitive people, I don't know the words in English, for people of the modern world that lives like in the age of caverns...
    by the way where is the hairy chest in Ken Kelly's illustration or in other illustrators or in comics?

  4. While I also think it looks silly, I think it's mainly an attempt to get away from the Arnold image.

  5. Well Francisco, I do think . And good point about the lack of hairy chest in... well, just about all the Conan art out there. But then, this is an REH critical anthology, not just a comic or pastiche: you'd think they'd get that right at least.

    Jonas, I guess that's their attempt. Unfortunately, it doesn't really succeed (IMO.)

  6. See what happens, Al? Ya leave Dinobot Base 1 for a bit, and the Spambots show up!

    (I recommend napalm)

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