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#1 Halfdane

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Posted 17 April 2011 - 03:06 AM

I've been lurking these boards for a few months -- avoiding you veteran members like Turanian archers after my hide -- accumulating a wealth of insightful information as I've worked my way through REH's Conan stories. Thanks! Lots of fascinating theories to read through!

Now, I've been trying to convince my wife (who's into newer "fantasy") to give Howard a try. I've seen threads on here about which story each of you prefers, but I'd be interested to know which one you're likely to recommend to someone new to Howard.

I tried to select a "starter" tale for her, but was unable to pick just one that represented who Conan was. After that, I thought I could pick three stories to showcase his evolution -- a sort of trilogy. However, the road from thief to king just had too may compelling stops along the way. My list grew to look like a five-act play, and finally swelled to seven stories. That's 1/3 of the completed tales!

Any suggestions for narrowing it back down to one? What do you consider when introducing Conan to people? Are you careful to suggest ones that avoid instances of (attempted) rape [TFGD], (alleged) racism [MEoZ], and murder [TTotE]?

My seven-act list:
The Tower of the Elephant
Black Colossus
Queen of the Black Coast
The People of the Black Circle
Red Nails
The Black Stranger
The Hour of the Dragon

Right now I'm leaning towards The People of the Black Circle or Red Nails.
Thanks! This is really my first forray on any forum, so I hope I did this right.

Edited by Halfdane, 17 April 2011 - 03:09 AM.


#2 Ironhand

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Posted 17 April 2011 - 07:31 AM

How about Phoenix on the Sword? Presents Conan in a good light, being responsible, and near the beginning he is reminiscing on his career.

Other possibilities The Scarlet Citadel, or Beyond the Black River.

Edited by Ironhand, 17 April 2011 - 07:32 AM.

"Did you deem yourself strong, because you were able to twist the heads off civilized folk, poor weaklings with muscles like rotten string? Hell! Break the neck of a wild Cimmerian bull before you call yourself strong. I did that, before I was a full-grown man...!" - Conan, in "Shadows in Zamboula", by Robert E. Howard
"... you speak of Venarium familiarly. Perhaps you were there?"
"I was," grunted [Conan]. "I was one of the horde that swarmed over the hills. I hadn't yet seen fifteen snows, but already my name was repeated about the council fires." - "Beyond the Black River", by Robert E. Howard

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#3 deuce

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Posted 17 April 2011 - 07:52 AM

I've been lurking these boards for a few months -- avoiding you veteran members like Turanian archers after my hide -- accumulating a wealth of insightful information as I've worked my way through REH's Conan stories. Thanks! Lots of fascinating theories to read through!

Now, I've been trying to convince my wife (who's into newer "fantasy") to give Howard a try. I've seen threads on here about which story each of you prefers, but I'd be interested to know which one you're likely to recommend to someone new to Howard.

I tried to select a "starter" tale for her, but was unable to pick just one that represented who Conan was. After that, I thought I could pick three stories to showcase his evolution -- a sort of trilogy. However, the road from thief to king just had too may compelling stops along the way. My list grew to look like a five-act play, and finally swelled to seven stories. That's 1/3 of the completed tales!

Any suggestions for narrowing it back down to one? What do you consider when introducing Conan to people? Are you careful to suggest ones that avoid instances of (attempted) rape [TFGD], (alleged) racism [MEoZ], and murder [TTotE]?

My seven-act list:
The Tower of the Elephant
Black Colossus
Queen of the Black Coast
The People of the Black Circle
Red Nails
The Black Stranger
The Hour of the Dragon

Right now I'm leaning towards The People of the Black Circle or Red Nails.
Thanks! This is really my first forray on any forum, so I hope I did this right.


My recommendation would be RN or Beyond the Black River. Just point out to your wife that the Picts (in REH's own mind) were quite admirable and worthy of respect. The Picts were to Howard in the same way as the Elves were to Tolkien (the parallels are numerous).

However, why MUST you start out your wife on Conan? He's one of REH's most masculine characters. Why not the Agnes de le Fere tales? Or perhaps The Shadow of the Vulture?



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#4 Mikey_C

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Posted 17 April 2011 - 10:50 AM

I gave my partner The Hour of the Dragon to read and she enjoyed it immensely. She also liked Worms of the Earth. She isn't a fantasy reader at all, but I also got her into some Rider Haggard. She didn't get very far with Tolkien.
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#5 duaneshadow

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Posted 17 April 2011 - 11:18 AM

The first few paragraphs of People of The Black Circle hooked me completely, even before the big man appeared. Then when he appeared on the balcony and threatened to 'split your skull like a ripe melon' I was taken for life.
'why does he have to be a misfit? Why can't he be handsome and kind?'

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#6 johnnypt

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Posted 17 April 2011 - 01:44 PM

Phoenix on the Sword is as good a place as any. The great thing with the Del Ray trades is we can follow along as Howard developed the character, if you want to try that approach.

#7 Halfdane

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Posted 17 April 2011 - 09:35 PM

Thanks for the advice, guys.

Deuce, I don't have to start her out with Conan. That's just where I'm at. :D

I should have left out that this recommendation was for a woman/my wife: I suspect that if I just said it was for "a friend" that I would have recieved a more general response of "I suggest [____] to hook new readers."

It's interesting that there were no suggestions to start new readers off with something from early in Conan's career. No love for the thief stories?

Though I loved The Scarlet Citadel and Hour of the Dragon, I wouldn't have someone new to Conan read them first. I envy the new reader who doesn't know that Conan will become king. Honestly, how cool would it be to read Howard's little hints (like in Black Colossus & Red Nails) that Conan has kingly ambitions WITHOUT knowing that he'll actually achieve them???

Can I take it from your suggestions that you all agree that Chronology is less important than other traits, such as Quality?

Again, thanks for the advice! The stories that you've put forward are certainly strong choices. Keep 'em coming if you want!

#8 megocimmerian

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Posted 18 April 2011 - 07:19 AM

I tried to select a "starter" tale for her, but was unable to pick just one that represented who Conan was.


If you are looking for a story that is a sort of primer on Conan, I'd suggest Queen of the Black Coast. It's not only a great action story that is right where REH was hitting his stride on the series, it also has that brilliantly written exchange between Belit and Conan where he sums up what he is all about: Busting heads, loving women and living life to the fullest...

"I have known many gods. He who denies them is as blind as he who trusts them too deeply. I seek not beyond death. It may be the blackness averred by the Nemedian skeptics, or Crom's realm of ice and cloud, or the snowy plains and vaulted halls of the Nordheimer's Valhalla. I know not, nor do I care. Let me live deep while I live; let me know the rich juices of red meat and stinging wine on my palate, the hot embrace of white arms, the mad exultation of battle when the blue blades flame and crimson, and I am content. Let teachers and priests and philosophers brood over questions of reality and illusion. I know this: if life is illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content."



I don't think it's been summed up any better.

Or you can go with my personal favorite, The Hour of the Dragon. Even though it takes place later in Conan's life, it does touch upon the earlier stages in the character's development. Particularly the point in his life when he was a pirate.
"Hither came the Mego Cimmerian, synthetic haired, painted eyes, plastic sword in hand, a toy, a plaything, an action figure, with imaginary melancholies and imaginary mirth, to tread the toy stores of the Earth under his tiny, sandalled feet..."

#9 Arcadian

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Posted 20 April 2011 - 11:16 PM

This is an excellent topic, and I think I probably speak for most here that chronology is not important. Howard was trying to hook people who picked up an odd pamphlet at the newsstand. And I do think gender matters; I'm not sure Frost Giant's Daughter is my favorite Conan story, but it's good, and I wouldn't recommend it an introduction to a woman.

#10 deuce

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Posted 21 April 2011 - 01:40 AM

Deuce, I don't have to start her out with Conan. That's just where I'm at. :D


That's fine, I guess. Should I assume you've only read the Conan yarns?



I should have left out that this recommendation was for a woman/my wife: I suspect that if I just said it was for "a friend" that I would have recieved a more general response of "I suggest [____] to hook new readers."


Unless your wife is very atypical, I think it pertinent that you mentioned her gender. I've had a lot of gfs, ranging from PHds in microbiology to ex-strippers. Many were avid readers and quite a few were fantasy fans. A couple were fans of REH (especially his poetry), but none were (or became) Conan fans. Of course, we have everyone from Brackett to Cherryh to Barbara Barrett as witnesses to the contrary. That doesn't change the fact that female Conan fans are about as rare as male Jane Austen fans. Men and women are not wired exactly the same. As simple as that.


It's interesting that there were no suggestions to start new readers off with something from early in Conan's career. No love for the thief stories?

Though I loved The Scarlet Citadel and Hour of the Dragon, I wouldn't have someone new to Conan read them first. I envy the new reader who doesn't know that Conan will become king. Honestly, how cool would it be to read Howard's little hints (like in Black Colossus & Red Nails) that Conan has kingly ambitions WITHOUT knowing that he'll actually achieve them???

Can I take it from your suggestions that you all agree that Chronology is less important than other traits, such as Quality?


The Tower of the Elephant is one of REH's best yarns, IMO. It would be another good one for your wife.

I possess an extremely low level of spoilerphobia, so I wouldn't be the one to ask. I admit staggerment regarding the idea of placing Chronology ahead of Quality. Thankfully, TTotE qualifies for both.

Just don't start her on TF-GD.



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#11 Halfdane

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Posted 21 April 2011 - 02:24 AM

That's fine, I guess. Should I assume you've only read the Conan yarns?


Yeah, I've only read Conan; unless you count an aborted attempt at Kull that left me cold. I also bought Del Rey's Bran Mak Morn, so I think I'll try that next, and maybe come back to Kull later.

Unless your wife is very atypical, I think it pertinent that you mentioned her gender. I've had a lot of gfs, ranging from PHds in microbiology to ex-strippers. Many were avid readers and quite a few were fantasy fans. A couple were fans of REH (especially his poetry), but none were (or became) Conan fans. Of course, we have everyone from Brackett to Cherryh to Barbara Barrett as witnesses to the contrary. That doesn't change the fact that female Conan fans are about as rare as male Jane Austen fans. Men and women are not wired exactly the same. As simple as that.


I only meant that I should have left gender out of it to get a more general response that might be more useful to anybody trying to get into Conan. For instance, I also have a friend that's really into Lovecraft that I'd like to pick a Conan for.

The Tower of the Elephant is one of REH's best yarns, IMO. It would be another good one for your wife.

I possess an extremely low level of spoilerphobia, so I wouldn't be the one to ask. I admit staggerment regarding the idea of placing Chronology ahead of Quality. Thankfully, TTotE qualifies for both.

Just don't start her on TF-GD.


I agree that TTotE is the best of both worlds. That's what I'm leaning towards right now. It's a great story on its own as well as being a perfect introduction to the character (even if he is more of a passive player, compared to Taurus or Yag).

#12 Rossdude

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Posted 21 April 2011 - 02:54 AM

I'd throw my lot in with "A Witch Shall be Born". I just finished re-reading it and it is quite a good story! On top of that the female Characters Taramis and her evil sister Salome are key to the story's developments. Another one I felt that might appeal to a female is "Iron Shadows in the Moon" since the story follows Olivia more than it even does Conan. In fact it is her tale! It starts with her and has a long section where she faces her fears to go and rescue Conan. Having the female be the main character might make it easier for a girl to get into it.

As for the Lovecraft fan, TTotE is perfect since Yag feels very much like a Lovecraftian invention.
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#13 Guest_CurtisPKinkaid_*

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Posted 16 May 2011 - 02:08 AM

Ive actually always believed that the Horror Stories are the best stories to start a partner with...that way its not about preconcieved notions that a new reader might have with a certain character...Robert E Howard, like Lovecraft has a style of writing that at first is alittle hard to get into...my first couple attempts at reading Solomon Kanes stories, i had to reread paragraphs over and over cause i didnt get his style...which ironically has ruined me from reading alot of current authors now. Before Howard i only read newer authors, now its the opposite...i read mostly classice authors with a couple mainstream ones mixed in! But seriously buy the horror stories of REH. No preconcieved ideas with characters, and horror is horror, and REH wrote some of the best available!

#14 Morrigan

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 11:58 AM

I introduced two of my female friends to Conan. The first read "People of the Black Circle", she liked the exotic setting, the fact that Conan was a gentleman in his dealings with Yasmina, and the twists and turns in the plot.

My other friend read "Tower of the Elephant", she liked Conan's compassion towards Yag-Kosha, she thought that Conan was going to be a brutal inarticulate clod, so was pleasantly surprised by the story.

I have to say that "people of the Black Circle" was the first Conan story I ever read, and it's still one of my favourites.

You know your wife better than anyone else, just pick a story you think she will enjoy. :)

#15 finarvyn

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Posted 22 June 2011 - 03:20 AM

Sorry if this is the wrong place; I was torn between "literature" and "general" and picked here.

My sister would like to try an original Conan story. She's heard me rant about how I grew up with the Ace DeCamp/Carter versions and how finally I have all of the DelRay volumes with the unaltered text.

The question is: which Conan story to have her try?

She plays D&D but isn't really into horror or old pulp stories, so I only get one shot at picking one she'll like. I don't want to default to my favorite story but instead want to pick one that might encouage her to try others.

Any suggestions?

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#16 Rusty Burke

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Posted 22 June 2011 - 03:38 AM

She plays D&D but isn't really into horror or old pulp stories, so I only get one shot at picking one she'll like. I don't want to default to my favorite story but instead want to pick one that might encouage her to try others.


It's impossible for us to know what she'll like, of course. I can only tell you that the first REH story I read was "The Tower of the Elephant" (because that was the first of the comic stories I'd read), and I still think it would make a fine introduction. Mind you, I think "Red Nails" and "Beyond the Black River" are the best Conan stories, but "Tower" is quite good, has some good action and interesting fantasy conceptions, and gives some information that shows that Conan isn't quite the muscle-headed barbarian people have been led to believe. He shows contemplativeness (sitting and listening to philosophers) and compassion.

No doubt others will make compelling cases for other stories.

Rusty

#17 crossplain pilgrim

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Posted 22 June 2011 - 03:49 AM

My personal favorite is "Beyond the Black River," but if I was picking a starting point for a rookie, I'd go with "Tower" also. (Whose gonna argue with Rusty, anyway?) Good story. Good action, and it has a great mystical resonance to it.
A wild moon rode in the wild white clouds,
the waves their white crests showed
When Solomon Kane went forth again,
and no man knew his road.

"Solomon Kane's Homecoming"

#18 Tex

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Posted 22 June 2011 - 04:14 AM

I agree with the Gents above. Tower has all the elements of a good D&D campaign necessary to grab a gamer's attention. She'll also see quite a few things that have been lifted from Howard for RPGs over the decades, so she should get a kick out of seeing where key elements of her game came from.

Tex
(and Tower was my first proper Conan story, too)

EDITED TO ADD...

Please refer her to the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide, Appendix N, for further reading suggestions.

(And thanks to Finarvyn here on the Forum for bringing it up and reminding me about it)

Edited by Tex, 22 June 2011 - 04:25 AM.


#19 finarvyn

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Posted 22 June 2011 - 03:27 PM

Tower it is, then. It was high on my list but I didn't want to bias anyone's suggestions by making one of my own.

I agree that "Red Nails" and "Beyond the Black River" are probably my favorite Conan stories, but I didn't think that she would go for either of those as an intro.

As they say, you only get one chance to make a first impression!

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#20 finarvyn

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Posted 22 June 2011 - 03:34 PM

Please refer her to the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide, Appendix N, for further reading suggestions.

(And thanks to Finarvyn here on the Forum for bringing it up and reminding me about it)

I assume that you are referring to my "DCC RPG" thread in the the Games section?

I just added the entire Appendix N list to that thread, for anyone interested. As the list was done in the late 1970's, only older authors are on the list. It's a pretty distinguished group, however.

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