Lately I’ve been reading through the Del Rey Robert E. Howard collection El Borak And Other Desert Adventures. I’ve read a lot of these stories in various beat-up old paperbacks, but some are new to me, and others haven’t been read by me in ten years or so. As I’ve said elsewhere, Robert E. Howard was a vivid writer and brilliant crafter of action scenes. I love how swiftly he brings a scene to life, and how visual and cinematic his fight scenes are. I always learn something or catch some great turn of phrase whenever I’m reading his work, and I usually enjoy myself immensely.
Sometimes I find myself growing annoyed with some of the artifacts of the era and magazine genre for which he wrote, particularly the racism, or the tendency for characters to infodump or villains to monologue. I know Robert E. Howard wasn’t himself a racist or sexist, but anyone who pales at seeing racism or sexism will be in for a rude awakening when they try out adventure fiction from the pulp era. Anyway, sometimes these aspects of the fiction that I otherwise quite enjoy start to irritate me… And then I think about how little I enjoy the sense of pacing in so many modern fantasy novels (how do people read such loooong books where nothing much happens for long stretches of time?) and how uninterested I am in novels that are mostly social criticism, and I remind myself how pleased I am to be reading some REH, who, like Conradin, seemed to celebrate the fierce, impatient side of things.