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The Newcomer's Guide To Robert E. Howard


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#1 Taranaich

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Posted 27 December 2010 - 01:39 AM

Friends, Barbarians, Tribesmen, a moment of your time.

When Mark Finn released his New Manifesto, it was borne of a mounting frustration with how Howard is considered in the popular consciousness. No doubt a large part felt it was preaching to the choir, others felt it would set Howard studied back years. Nonetheless, I feel it had an important point to make.

Someone asks you what you're reading. You say, it's a collection of Robert E. Howard stories. They draw a blank. You attempt to clarify, but usually, it's only the mention of Conan that elicits the little flash of recognition you're looking for. Then they respond in any number of ways: a few happy, joyous times, they'll engage in conversation about the author with a sense of familiarity. But more often, it'll be some variation of "why are you reading that dumb teenage junk," "why are you reading that racist filth," "I didn't know they novelized Conan the Barbarian," "I thought that was Robert Jordan," "crush yah enemies blah blah blah blah blah." Sometimes they'll bring up some old hoary myth or nonsense, like how Howard had an Oedipal complex, or that he never left his home town, or that he sympathized with the Nazis, or how he hallucinated the ghost of Conan who told him his tales at axe-edge, or that he boarded up his windows at night and loaded rifles for a coming onslaught that never came. And all you can do is sigh a little.

You've had those moments. We've all had those moments. Well I say, enough is enough!

I decided a while ago - about the same time, as it ended up, as Mark's New Manifesto - that the only way to dispel the myths and misconceptions is to replace them with facts and reasonable hypothesis. Split the rocks of ignorance that obscure the light of knowledge and truth. And so, I started The Newcomer's Guide to Robert E. Howard.

The purpose of the guide is to be simultaneously simple and comprehensive, sparse and detailed, informal and formal. My goal is for it to be a source to deconstruct the most common myths and misconceptions, and have a source online for it. For more complex or involved issues, such as the matter of racial tension and sexual politics, it'll be mostly a series of links to other sources.

This is where you fine folk come in. I don't have access to even a fraction of all the Howard scholarship out there, but given the quality I've read, I've no doubt it would be of considerable use to everyone. Thus, I would be most grateful if everyone could take a look at my guide, and give me hints and pointers. In particular, there are many issues that even Howard fans and scholars disagree on. Rather than attempt to answer them, I'd like to use the entries as a jumping-off point to other sources, just to show that there isn't some monolithic "party line" every Howardist, scholar or fan adheres to. Then the reader can make up their own mind.

Right now I'm still working out the kinks. It's very Spartan and difficult to navigate - Wordpress is harder than I remember - and no doubt I might have mistakes here and there. The best way to access the entries is to just go through the categories on the right hand side. I hope to have a "contents" page set up soon.

(If I've left out any publications/links in the right hand side, don't be offended: I'm still adding and organizing)

Edited by Taranaich, 27 December 2010 - 01:39 AM.

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#2 Tex

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Posted 27 December 2010 - 03:35 AM

Bookmarked for future reference/the giving of hints and pointers.

Looks like I'm gonna have to add another link to the bottom of all outgoing emails!

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#3 Mikey_C

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Posted 27 December 2010 - 05:40 PM

It's a great idea - kind of an "Idiot's Guide" with no idiots!
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#4 THE KID

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Posted 28 December 2010 - 02:57 AM

:) Outstanding job Taranaich! Robert E. Howard 101 - I like this a lot! v/r Richard

Edited by Richard, 28 December 2010 - 02:58 AM.

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#5 Almuric

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Posted 28 December 2010 - 03:04 AM

Once again, you prove yourself invaluable to REH fandom. B)
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#6 Taranaich

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Posted 28 December 2010 - 06:15 AM

Cheers, all! B)

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#7 MilkManX

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Posted 28 December 2010 - 06:46 AM

I dig it.

To the point and not treading on anyone's particular Conan fandom.
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#8 Croms Bones

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Posted 28 December 2010 - 05:38 PM

I added you to the REH Directory.
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#9 Taranaich

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Posted 28 December 2010 - 07:54 PM

I dig it.

To the point and not treading on anyone's particular Conan fandom.


While I might (read: will) get a smidgen snarky on Conan the Destroyer, Red Sonja and Conan the Adventurer, and very snarky on the live action Conan, Kull the Conqueror and Conan and the Young Warriors, I don't see how going out and saying "Conan the Barbarian is a bad movie and you are a bad person for liking it and you should feel bad because you are a bad person" helps matters. For one thing, it would apply to me, since I like the film, and for another, it has a lot of cinematic merits that deserve consideration. All I want is for people to acknowledge the fact that CtB and REH's Conan are two different animals, and should be considered on their own merits. Then one can make their own calls.

Similarly, what would be the point of me constantly harping on de Camp, when I could just link to "The de Camp Controversy," "Conan vs Conantics," and for balance's sake, any of Gary Romeo's spirited defenses? De Camp did a lot of good and a lot of bad, he said a lot of complimentary things, and a lot of uncomplimentary things. No need to demonise him, just present the facts.

I added you to the REH Directory.


Wonderful, thank you very much, Croms Bones!

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#10 deuce

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Posted 28 December 2010 - 08:29 PM

Right on, Taranaich! B)

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#11 sonny sixshooter

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 01:09 AM

...I don't see how going out and saying "Conan the Barbarian is a bad movie and you are a bad person for liking it and you should feel bad because you are a bad person" helps matters. For one thing, it would apply to me, since I like the film, and for another, it has a lot of cinematic merits that deserve consideration.


I agree completely, It is actually a great film and younger filmmakers could learn a lot from the way it is put together. And let us not forget all the people that were turned on to REH because of that film, I knoe, I'm one of them. But you are right, it is not REH's Conan as such.

#12 Libaax

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Posted 30 December 2010 - 11:22 AM

I like the idea and the Guide is looking very good.

#13 grim cimmerian

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Posted 31 December 2010 - 06:58 AM

Personal insights are usually the best critiques and yours is welcome but don't forget to include as many other sources as you can cram in and not just from fans and scholars. I wonder if any professional psychologist or psychiatrist has ever done a professional opinion of Howard. Even posthumously one could glean much from a psychology consensus of the man by professionals. His father being a physician might have had professional insight to his son's physiological ailments (if any) as well. How would a modern doctor's assessment differ? Also what do professional writers, critics, and editors really think of Howard's work? I think "the newcomers guide" by Taranaich could be a good platform to delve into Robert E. Howard beyond fan reverence and non-fan misconceptions. Let's get more than just the armchair scholars' opinions and fan applause to make the Newcomer's guide the definitive place to point prospective Howard readers. A great job so far Taranaich, let's make it as thorough as possible so we can direct others to this material with pride. I could see it becoming less a personal blog about all things Howard or counterpoint to Mark Finn, and more than a just a links hub and instead become a consensus of fans, non-fans and professionals on who Howard really was and why his literary works are worthy of exploration. Great starting point with much potential.
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#14 Taranaich

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Posted 31 December 2010 - 08:20 AM

Cheers again guys!

Personal insights are usually the best critiques and yours is welcome but don't forget to include as many other sources as you can cram in and not just from fans and scholars.


I definitely will put in as many sources as I can: it's mostly just getting those links organized and properly placed that's taking so long.

I wonder if any professional psychologist or psychiatrist has ever done a professional opinion of Howard. Even posthumously one could glean much from a psychology consensus of the man by professionals. His father being a physician might have had professional insight to his son's physiological ailments (if any) as well. How would a modern doctor's assessment differ? Also what do professional writers, critics, and editors really think of Howard's work?


It's worth consideration, albeit - as you can imagine - one fraught with the danger of controversy.

I think "the newcomers guide" by Taranaich could be a good platform to delve into Robert E. Howard beyond fan reverence and non-fan misconceptions. Let's get more than just the armchair scholars' opinions and fan applause to make the Newcomer's guide the definitive place to point prospective Howard readers. A great job so far Taranaich, let's make it as thorough as possible so we can direct others to this material with pride. I could see it becoming less a personal blog about all things Howard or counterpoint to Mark Finn, and more than a just a links hub and instead become a consensus of fans, non-fans and professionals on who Howard really was and why his literary works are worthy of exploration. Great starting point with much potential.


Indeed, here's hoping!

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#15 Libaax

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Posted 31 December 2010 - 04:07 PM

May i ask why there is no info about the difference beteween Conan by REH and the more mainstream Conan of the movies ?

Thats the most important information in the Guide imho. Tell newbies in calm way that if they find the movie version lame there is another version in the actual stories.

Thats the thing you have to convince people that might be interested in Conan. Not to dismiss REH cause of some 80s film.

#16 Taranaich

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Posted 01 January 2011 - 02:30 AM

May i ask why there is no info about the difference beteween Conan by REH and the more mainstream Conan of the movies ?


Only one reason: it isn't finished. B) I'm working on a "Filmgoer's Guide to Conan the Barbarian" post that basically goes through the film and points out the differences. I have a lot of it done, though.

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#17 Rob Roehm

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Posted 01 January 2011 - 06:48 AM

"Oh yeah? Well, I?d like to see you try a Conan origin story!"

Your response to this is, in my opinion, perfect.

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#18 Rob Roehm

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Posted 01 January 2011 - 07:15 AM

Hey Al,

I'm reading through what you've got as time permits. First boo-boo I've seen is in here:

"Although it?s sometimes asserted that Howard never left his home state ? sometimes that he never even left his home town ? there is substantial evidence that Howard traveled outside of Texas. Indeed, Howard left his home town of Peaster fairly early in life, spending time in BROWNWOOD as a youth, before finally settling in Cross Plains. It is known that Howard visited San Antonio, Austin, Galveston, Fort Worth and Rio Grande in Texas, as well as New Orleans, Santa Fe and Carlsbad in New Mexico. Quite well-travelled for a Depression-era Texan."

Howard did not live in Brownwood before settling in Cross Plains. Perhaps you meant Bagwell? Anyway, he lived in LOTS of places before Cross Plains: Peaster, Dark Valley, Seminole, Bronte, Poteet, Palo Pinto, somewhere in "the Wichita Falls country" (possibly Burkburnett), Bagwell, Cross Cut, Burkett, and then Cross Plains--and later a few extended stays in Brownwood, mostly while he was attending school or college.

Love the mileage chart.

Rob

#19 Taranaich

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Posted 01 January 2011 - 12:43 PM

"Oh yeah? Well, I?d like to see you try a Conan origin story!"

Your response to this is, in my opinion, perfect.


Thanks so much, Rob!

I'm reading through what you've got as time permits. First boo-boo I've seen is in here:

"Although it?s sometimes asserted that Howard never left his home state ? sometimes that he never even left his home town ? there is substantial evidence that Howard traveled outside of Texas. Indeed, Howard left his home town of Peaster fairly early in life, spending time in BROWNWOOD as a youth, before finally settling in Cross Plains. It is known that Howard visited San Antonio, Austin, Galveston, Fort Worth and Rio Grande in Texas, as well as New Orleans, Santa Fe and Carlsbad in New Mexico. Quite well-travelled for a Depression-era Texan."

Howard did not live in Brownwood before settling in Cross Plains. Perhaps you meant Bagwell? Anyway, he lived in LOTS of places before Cross Plains: Peaster, Dark Valley, Seminole, Bronte, Poteet, Palo Pinto, somewhere in "the Wichita Falls country" (possibly Burkburnett), Bagwell, Cross Cut, Burkett, and then Cross Plains--and later a few extended stays in Brownwood, mostly while he was attending school or college.


Bugger, I thought he was in Brownwood before CP, even for a short time: I must've confused it with Bagwell or Bronte. Regardless, thanks so much for going over everything, I appreciate it deeply. I'll be sure to add in the other locations.

Love the mileage chart.

Rob


I ran the numbers through a few sites, but they're purely "point A to point B" distances. And, of course, the number crunching speaks for itself, doesn't it?

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#20 godzilladude

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Posted 03 January 2011 - 05:31 PM

In Myths and Misconceptions, you say Bob didn't own rifles. I beg to differ, he apparently had quite a collection of weapons, including swords, pistols and rifles. Kate Merryman commented that she saw Doc Howard and some friends handing lots of weapons out the window to keep Bob from using them to kill himself. Whether they were Bob's rifles, or Doc's, doesn't really matter, the point is that rifles were kept in the house. And that would be a VERY typical thing to expect in rural Texas of the early 20th century. You have to go kill a snake on occasion, and home defense was a given.

A little thang.