Sunday, February 10, 2008


As stated, I'm re-reading the works of Robert E. Howard. I'm currently in an odd mode of switching back and forth between Conan stories and Boxing Stories.

(Technically, I probably prefer Solomon Kane and the westerns, such as those in The End of the Trail collection, however, for that very reason, I've re-read those much more recently.)

The subject I'm pondering at this moment, is mostly relevant to the character of Conan of Cimmeria, Howard's most famous character, allowing me to overuse the glorious Frank Frazetta paintings, from the otherwise frustrating Lancer paperback series.

The issue here, as the title says, is pastiche.

Very few groups of fans hate pastiche more than Howard fans. I'd suspect Edgar Rice Burroughs fans, or at least Tarzan fans must have something similar with adaptations, but it still can't compare.

The difference is, you could always pull out the books with Tarzan, "You think Johnny Weissmuller is Tarzan? Well, read this!"

With Conan, one would have to say, "You think Arnold Schwarzenegger or this Roy Thomas comic (or whatever) is Conan? Well, read these two stories from this book, but definitely not these two then this whole book, but then skip this next book altogether..."

It's not an introduction to a great discovery, it's giving them homework. How could they not just go back their nice stack of comics?

And while I'm sure there are Sherlock Holmes who resent things like The Seven-Per-Cent Solution and Shadows Over Baker Street, but as none of it is ever published interspersed with the original stories with the expectation that we won't recognize the differences or will integrate them as one thing in our mind, it is considered by most of us as a potentially amusing literary game.

But after years of only editions in which the originals were interspersed with pastiche, not to mention the more recent period in which only pastiche was in print.

By the way, I just happened past a copy of a book that says Robert Jordan "has been called the greatest storyteller ever to write Conan". I'd hope more people would recognize that it's a trick, first of all, like calling Michael Apted "possibly the most important moviemaker to make a James Bond movie". But then whoever said it was wrong nonetheless.

I'd like to see Howard fandom move past that. The new century has finally brought us wonderful new editions of the unexpurged Howard texts, which I thoroughly recommend. I hope they're able to move into a position where they are seen as the standard.

This one, in which even the comics - where most of us discovered the character - are seen as one more abuse... despite the Dark Horse series being, not perfect, but certainly entertaining comic books in the right vein, not to mention recognizing the variation in Howard's work. I especially thought Joe R. Lansdale and Timothy Truman did a good job with Conan And The Songs Of The Dead. It's still not Howard, but it's pretty dang cool.

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