With the Dark Horse comics, Age of Conan and all manner of new Conan/Hyborian fiction coming out, how does the Manifesto stand up today?
1. We believe that ONLY the words actually written by Robert E. Howard have "official" or "canonical" status with regard to the life and adventures of Conan, or of any other character created by REH.
Note that, while most of us have little interest in pastiches, we do not deny anyone the right to produce them. In fact, the "purist" position would actually result in more and better pastiches. How? By opening up the entire Conan "saga" to any writer to produce his or her own interpretations of episodes from Conan's career. Working from hints in Howard's work, any number of writers could give us their own versions of Conan's rise to kingship, say, or any other of his adventures not actually chronicled by REH. Currently, the artificial "biography" of Conan originally created by P. Schuyler Miller and John D. Clark, but later considerably amended and expanded by L. Sprague de Camp, effectively prevents any such situation. Those who control the Conan "property" insist that writers must follow de Camp's outline of Conan's career, and one and only one version of any given episode or period is allowed. This actually stifles, rather than encourages, creativity. De Camp has suggested that lack of rigid controls could result in such abominations as a gay Conan. My response is: so what? I'm sure that those who plead that Conan should be "consumer friendly" and that we should give the readers what they want, no matter what it is they want, would have to agree that there is nothing inherently wrong with gay people having their own Conan.
At the risk of digression, I'm going to run with the "gay Conan" thing, just bear with me a minute.
While the idea of a gay Conan would shock some (and come as no surprise to certain quarters only familiar with the oiled-up muscular icon from the films ), ultimately I'm in agreement with Burke's sentiments. As long as a gay Conan does not usurp Howard's original straight Conan - not BECAUSE of his sexuality, but the simple fact that that isn't how the creator, Howard, wrote him - I'm perfectly fine with it. Some of the manliest men in history were known or suspected to be homosexual or bisexual - Michelangelo, Alexander, Hadrian, half of the Greek/Roman list of rulers etc. Mythology is rife with men of the highest order of masculinity who would take male lovers - Heracles, Achilles, Cuchullain, Gilgamesh, among others, each the "Conan" of their own mythology. Although I certainly wouldn't consider it "canon" and it wouldn't colour my perception of REH's Conan, I can think of worse things for a pastiche Conan than for him to be homosexual.
But enough of that: my point is that the freedom for new fiction would be much better to allow better stories if they didn't have to adhere to a pre-established chronology. For now, "Conan the Liberator" is the only depiction of Conan's rise to kingship given any sort of official status: it was adapted in Marvel's Conan and Savage Sword, and to this day no other depiction of this important event in Conan's life has been directly explored. Dale Rippke did an outline for his Dark Storm Conan Chronology, and there is the abandoned treatment for Karl Edward Wager's "Day of the Lion", but none of those are officially endorsed.
I'm pretty sure that when they get around to that period, Dark Horse have their own idea of what happened, but until then, "Conan the Liberator" is still the only published account of that period. I'm sure fans of the novel are perfectly happy with the idea that Conan came to power with the help of friendly centaurs after extensive periods of inaction punctuated by battles with a far-too-sympathetic sorcerer, but in the absence of a Howard-penned tale, we only have the pastiches. There have been many pastiches and homages done of other characters that are not counted as "official" yet are still interesting to read for the philosophical exercise: Gaiman's "A Study in Emerald", Alan Moore's "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen", and the myriad re-tellings of fairy tales are all interesting, but you'd obviously not put them in the same shelf as the original authors.
The Conan stories should be treated as the Sherlock Holmes stories are treated by their aficionados: only the actual works of the creator of the series (in our case, REH) should be accounted "canonical": all else is pastiche. There are many Sherlock Holmes pastiches out there, some of them based on the same hints from Doyle. I myself own several versions of the "giant rat of Sumatra" tale, for instance. But Sherlockians all agree that the original tales of Dr. Watson as told to Conan Doyle are the only truly canonical works.
To their credit, Dark Horse has acknowledged REH frequently, and made a point of their "higher" status in canon to the rest of the issues, to the point of using a different type-face when Howard's words are used, which is something I'm extremely impressed with.
2. Only the actual words written by Robert E. Howard himself have any business in the "official" saga. Pastiches should be sold separately.
In this I would include those stories "edited" (i.e., rewritten) by de Camp: the Howard versions of "The Frost-Giant's Daughter," "The Black Stranger," and "The God in the Bowl" belong in the Howard volumes, and the non-Conan tales which de Camp turned into Conan stories should not be included. Fragments should be left as fragments in the Howard volumes. Again, pastiche to your heart's content, but do not attempt to sell your work as REH's.
With the Del Rays now in full swing and the unedited Howard stories freely available to all, the Purist Manifesto is now quite easily attainable.
So what's everyone's view on this issue? Is the manifesto still relevant with uncensored and unedited REH easily accessible? What makes an "REH Purist"? What about other Howard characters like Cormac Mac Art, Bran Mak Morn and others?