Finding Sword and Sorcery
Greetings, true believers! Thanks for your continued support. Lately we've all been reading sword-and-sorcery stories to keep us all in the right mindset for this Kickstarter. Personally I'm reading Harold Lamb (more on him here) - tell us what you're reading!
And our essays continue! If you're new to the Kickstarter, you can catch up by reading these previous essays:
- Defining Sword-and-Sorcery
- Sword-and-Sorcery's Grandfather
- Dynamic Duos of Fiction
- Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser: Two Who Sought Adventure
- The Dark Tower of Jaquays
- The Three Ms: Writing Horror in Sword & Sorcery
- Celebrating Robert E. Howard
- It Came From Appendix N: Roger Zelazny’s Jack of Shadows
- Celebrating Leigh Brackett
- By the Sword: Adding Realism to Sword & Sorcery Combat
Today's installment is another perspective on Robert E. Howard. You really can't say enough about him and his contribution to the genre. Now read on!
By C. L. Werner
Given the immense impact his stories have had on my own style and work, I was a rather late comer to Robert E. Howard. Perhaps I should re-phrase that. I didn’t devour his actual stories as written by himself for a good long time. The first book I purchased that really got me off and running with Howard (and by extension sword-and-sorcery in general) was the Ace Conan anthology, the first in the seminal line of twelve books that took Howard’s works and expanded, revised or flat-out rewrote them courtesy of editors Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp.
I distinctly remember that little black-bound tome with its snarling Thak on the cover courtesy of Frank Frazetta’s astonishing painting. The year was 1992, I’d just moved to Arizona and squandered some of my meager funds at a little hole-in-the-wall used bookstore. It would be remiss to say that, as edited as the tales my have been, that first proper introduction to Robert E. Howard left an impact that still resonates with me today.
That little Ace tome, however, wasn’t my first exposure to the genre of sword-and-sorcery. Of course, growing up in the 1980s, it was impossible not to escape the Arnold Schwarzenegger Conan films or the movies that tried to exploit its popularity. I must have seen “The Beastmaster” a hundred times over the years and a staple of USA Network’s Up All Night broadcasts were bargain-basement barbarian movies like the Deathstalker and Barbarian Queen films. “The Sword and the Sorcerer” was another big one; a little more attention to the pacing and script, a bit more consistency in its tone and that could have been something of a classic in its own right.
Even farther back, however, were comic books. I never read the Conan or Savage Sword of Conan publications of the time, but I did have a rather memorable introduction to Robert E. Howard courtesy of an old Marvel title called Supernatural Thrillers.
Before the title was given over as a vehicle for the Living Mummy, it presented various tales in each issue. One dealt with “The Return of the Headless Horseman” while another was an adaption of “The Invisible Man.” The issue that concerns this topic was devoted to “The Valley of the Worm,” adapting Howard’s tale of ancient man against still older primordial horrors with gripping art by Gil Kane. It was a thrilling read that really did live up to the comic’s title.
From then on, Howard’s characters would draw my attention when they showed up in other titles. Monsters Unleashed, a big beefy black-and-white magazine published by Marvel’s Charleton imprint, provide my first exposure to Solomon Kane, via both adaptions of Howard’s stories and original works, such as a tale wherein Kane meets Dracula. Again, the roots laid down by these early influences can’t really be overstated when it comes to my own humble efforts.
As authors, all of us stand upon the shoulders of the giants who came before. When it comes to the man who is pretty much inarguably the father of sword-and-sorcery fiction, Robert E. Howard, you are talking not merely of a giant, but a titan whose legacy will always be there to inspire with fire and thunder.