Sunday, 3 April 2011

Conan the Homophobe

This came completely out of left field.

When it comes to antagonists, let's just say that if you have ever played a game about Conan that has featured characters from the books, a few of them were "boy lovers". Conan was before political correctness when it was written, and while it was never a focus, Conan has a major amount of contempt for gays and "boy lovers", and while never descriptive a number of his enemies were supposed to have been weakened by such "civilized decadence". Of course in the video games they rarely even go as far as the stories (both canon, and very old non-canon) did, which wasn't very far. Like most heroes a lot of his enemies "almost get him" in one way or another (a trap or spell, if not a straight fight) so you really can't call them impotent (so to speak) for their orientation irregardless of what Conan might think.

Two words: Citation. Needed. 

I'm absolutely stumped by Therumancer's statement.  I can think of about three situations that might be construed as vague allusions to homosexuality:

 - Thalis' gleeful whipping of Natala in "Xuthal of the Dusk"
 - Tascela's suggestive lust for Valeria's youth in "Red Nails"
 - A couple of naked slave boys on wine-pouring duty in "The Scarlet Citadel"

And that's it.  Exactly zero examples, references, allusions or hints that Conan has anything that could remotely be considered "a major amount of contempt for gays and "boy lovers,"" nor that any of his foes could even be conjectured as homosexual, nor that homosexuality was some sort of result of "civilized decadence."  That's not even getting into the fact that I can't recall a Conan game beyond Age of Conan that does feature antagonists from the stories, and even then, from what I can tell they aren't explicitly or suggestively gay.  Seriously, am I missing something, guys?

What's even more bizarre is how our man says that this was before the age of PC, as if the public perception of homosexuality in the 1930s had anything to do with political correctness.  See, here's the thing: up until the 1970s, homosexuality was largely considered a mental disorder.  Think about that.  For much of the 20th century, it was the opinion of the scientific community that homosexuality was as much a psychological-behavioural problem as anorexia, schizophrenia, and the multitudes of manias, philias and phobias.  In the 1950s and 1960s, you got public service announcements like Boys Beware practically equating homosexuality with paedophilia and sexual predation.

This was made a quarter of a century after Howard's death - and you expect a 1930s Texan to think differently?

So to expect Howard to treat homosexuality as anything other than what not only society, but science considered homosexuality to be at the time - that is, a mental disorder, and anyone who practised what was termed sodomy was breaking the law - is simply preposterous.  It's even more ridiculous than expecting him to produce strong female characters (even though he did) or sympathetic black characters (even though he did).

Perhaps he's thinking of one of the pastiches - Lagomorph?  Charles?  Morgan? - but even then, the first Conan pastiche wasn't around until 20 years after Howard's death.  I wouldn't put it past someone like Carter, Moore or Perry.  Perry had some weird stuff.

Oh, and Therumancer said "irregardless."  That isn't a word.


  1. Al,I'm sorry buddy you may have walked into this one: "youre so big, and so well grown, you should be proud of your body." "coult ve tawk over dere, vhere de udders do not see?" " why ..yes brother , of course!" "is this your robe...a I'll stop there you know how it ends up! cheers brother!-mario

  2. I think in one of the Andrew Offutt ones.. probably Sword of Skelos.. theres a bit where after rebuking a multitude of whores a "Painted boy" misinterprets Conan's "Misogyny" to mean he's a potential John.

    Thats the only one I've come across so far. But NONE of the Tor books would contain anything like that.. they basically had an inter company edict that you weren't allowed to mention anything that might potentially turn teenage boys off from reading the series. I remember reading about that specifically because one of the writers was going to have a Eunuch character and TOR stomped the idea.

  3. @ mario

    I doubt rather seriously that you've ever even glanced at the rest of this blog, or you would realize the complete stupidity of that remark. To take a quote from the movie as something written by Howard is patently ludicrous.

    Of course that could be some attempt at humor that went right over my head. If that's the case I apologize for my dimwittedness.

  4. Where does this stuff come from?

    Remember when forumites on another site claimed Crom had the largest sword of all? Not Conan which, though still wrong, would be understandable... Crom.

    Remember when Lin Carter claimed that Solomon Kane smote evil with an iron-bound Bible?

  5. The only bit that came to mind was from KEW's the Road of Kings where Conan and his allies break into the barricaded chamber of King Rimanendo only to find that the king has been murdered by his 'catamites', two youths who are described as having curled and scented hair and oiled and rouged bodies. Conan's opinion of the youths is not stated. Still, there are quite a few pastiches that I haven't read.

  6. "Remember when Lin Carter claimed that Solomon Kane smote evil with an iron-bound Bible?"

    Ah yes, the heavy metal bible. I have to say, that despite Lin Carter coming up with that idea, it still screams "awesome".

  7. I forgot to mention, the Steve Perry book with the hermaphrodite Bandit leader.. Conan didn't seem to have any comments about it one way or another.

    But of course that story also had plants that tried to have sex with him. So.. I tend to write off all the Steve Perry books except Fearless.

  8. @evan: apology accepted.I am well aware of the movies differences,thatwas part of the joke.-mario

  9. For a creative writing class I took a long time ago, I wrote a pro wrestling story that featured a heel using a bible as a foreign object...that one turned out pretty well, as I recall...

  10. Weren't most of Tsotha's slaves naked? Anyway, assuming Therumancer even reads, he either got it from pastiches, comics, or the aether of received/ assumed opinion.
    About GLBT subject matter appearing in Howard's Conan, one has to squint (and add some of one's own interpretation/ insertion) to see it. He wrote in the thirties when the pulps and the nascent SF/F genre was especially prudish (and it really doesn't change until the New Wave and later). So gay and lesbian characters are unlikely to appear excepting for squinting interpretation.
    Although it does raise questions about GLBT characters in more recent sword and sorcery.