What is best about Robert E. Howard’s writing? The driving headlong pace, the seemingly inexhaustible imagination, the splendid cinematic prose poetry, the never-say-die protagonists? It is hard to pick one thing, so it may be simpler to state that Robert E. Howard possessed profound and often astonishing storytelling gifts. Without drowning his readers in adjectives (he had the knack of using just enough adjectives or adverbs, and knew to let the verbs do the heavy lifting) or slowing pace, he brought his scenes to life. Vividly.
Writer Eric Knight may have most succinctly described this particular aspect of Howard’s power in an article on Solomon Kane:
“’Wings of the Night’ features a marathon running fight through ruin, countryside, and even air that only a team of computer animators with a sixty-million dollar budget and the latest rendering technology (or a single Texan from Cross Plains hammering the story out with worn typewriter ribbon) could bring properly to life.”
I don’t spend a lot of time talking about the Ballantine Fantasy series anymore, but it was a great introduction to the history of fantasy fiction, and I always enjoyed Lin Carter’s introductions. Thanks to these books I became much more familiar with the grandsires of most of what we’re reading today. Some were interesting in a historical way (as in — huh, so that’s where THAT idea came from), some were curiously different from what we’re reading today, and then a handful of authors crept onto my favorites list mostly due to this series, among them Lord Dunsany.
But this particular Ballantine anthology is a favorite of mine simply because it contains, so far as I know, the only printing of Lin Carter’s very best short story, “Zingazar.” He’s in full Dunsanyian mode, imitating, as he always seemed to do, someone else’s style. But THIS time he knocks it out of the park, riffing on Dunsany’s “The Sword of Welleran” to deliver what I happen to believe is a stronger tale than the master himself, a minor sword-and-sorcery masterpiece.
Morgan Holmes and I have imagined, for years, a “best of” Lin Carter collection that would get 1-2 of his good short novels and a grab bag of his best short stories. This would definitely be right in there. Heck, I like this one so much I contributed an essay about it into a Lin Carter critical studies book. Anyway, if you’ve got this book, read the tale.
There’s a lot going on here, mostly because I’m in a writing frenzy. First, I changed my opinion on those Conan graphic novels I wrote about last week, and you can find the updated article here.
Second, I’ve been playing a neat game a friend got me for Christmas, a solo card game where you’re helping Robinson Crusoe survive on his island. I’ll have a detailed review eventually, but for now — two thumbs up.
Third, my friend Brad, he who gifted the above mentioned Friday card game, also gave me a copy of the new Dark Horse Conan collection, King Conan: The Conqueror. Wow, its that a good read. More details on that are to come as well.
I don’t often revise my web articles aside from addressing typographical errors, but I wanted to take another crack at this particular entry, because I don’t think it was fair or well considered. Heck, I hadn’t even finished reading one of the volumes when I wrote this.
Dark Horse has been reprinting the entire Marvel run on Conan now for multiple years. I’m a latecomer to the comic, even in reprint form, so the stories are new to me.
I read and enjoyed many of the Roy Thomas written run (volumes 1-14, although 15-17 have additional Thomas penned stories). Experimentation with reading the tales by other writers in 15-17 led me to conclude that, as promised, the non-Thomas Conan is pretty wretched, so I’ve held off reading any more until he rejoined the mag in volume 31. (I should add that I do hear good things about Priest’s run on the Marvel Conan and will probably check one of those collections out before much longer.)
But the point of this brief post is a look at these final Thomas collections, and they’re substantially better than the ones that appeared immediately following the departure of Thomas. Read More
My own computer’s in the shop, which makes posting to the web site a little problematic. Apparently some MacBook Pros, mine among them, develop keyboard malfunctions where bit by bit more and more of the keys randomly fail to respond. In my case it started with the n key, then moved onto the c and the b keys and the “command” key. I could get any of them to work if I struck them nine or ten times, but once that began to happen with multiple keys typing became one long act of frustration.
Until I get my faithful laptop back I’ve been using my old Dell to write on. The screen attachment is halfway pulled out of the laptop and it has to remain plugged in at all times or it dies instantly — and sometimes while you’re typing it randomly jumps lines — but it’s certainly better than nothing at all and even in this state is still an astonishing piece of technology that would have blown my mind when I was a kid.
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