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Hither Came Conan: The New Weekly Robert E. Howard Series at Black Gate!

Wednesday, December 26th, 2018 | Posted by Bob Byrne

frank-frazetta-conan-the-barbarian1_smallHither Came Conan. Indeed. The iron-thewed Cimmerian trod the thrones of the earth under his sandaled feet. Usually, while wearing nothing more than a loincloth…

Robert E. Howard completed twenty-one tales of Conan, as well as a few more fragments. Of course, some stories were better than others, but even those generally considered among ‘the worst’ offer evidence of Howard’s expertise as a story teller. “The God in the Bowl” rarely makes anybody’s Favorites List, but I wrote an essay, positing that it was a very early example of a police procedural; before the term even existed.

Which might leave the average reader wondering, “What are the best stories in the Conan Canon?” Black Gate is here to tell you… ALL OF THEM! in a brand new weekly series.

Black Gate was proud to round up some of the best Howard scholars, and biggest fans (hey, there’s no shame in that sobriquet – I’m one!), for our award-nominated Discovering Robert E Howard series.

Reaching far beyond the stories of the sword (and axe, and dirk, and torch, and furniture, and…) swinging northern barbarian, almost two-dozen essays delved into the works and life of the pride of Cross Plains. It was a fantastic series that truly paid tribute to the man I consider to be the best fantasy writer I’ve yet read.

Well, Black Gate sure as heck didn’t win a World Fantasy Award for my posts on Sherlock Holmes and hard boiled pulp! Swords and sorcery, epic fantasy, and imagined worlds are what the visitor comes here for. And until they change the password and I can’t log in anymore, I’m going to do my best to keep the Robert E. Howard content flowing. And this time, it’s all about Conan!

Beginning on Monday morning, January 7th, an absolutely All Star roster of guest contributors and Black Gaters (and me. Hey, it’s my series!) is going to be presenting you a cogent argument on why that week’s story is the best Conan tale written by Robert E. Howard.

What? I’m being a bit presumptuous in heaping accolades upon the roster? Okay, fine. You be the judge (the order is still being juggled):

Conan_WBREHRob DerieThe Phoenix on the Sword

John C. HockingThe Scarlet Citadel

Jason M. WaltzThe Tower of the Elephant

Deuce RichardsonBlack Colossus

Jason Durall Xuthal of the Dusk/The Slithering Shadow

David C. SmithPool of the Black One

Bob ByrneRogues in the House

Morgan HolmesIron Shadows in the Moon/Shadows in the Moonlight

Patrice LouinetQueen of the Black Coast

Scott OdenThe Devil In Iron

Gabe DybingThe People of the Black Circle

Jeffrey Shanks A Witch Shall Be Born

James McGlothlinThe Servants of Bit-Yakin/Jewels of Gwalhur

Conan-Rogues-in-the-HouseKeith WestBeyond the Black River

Steven SilverThe Man-Eaters of Zamboula/Shadows in Zamboula

Ryan Harvey The Hour of the Dragon

Keith TaylorRed Nails

Fletcher VredenburghThe Frost Giant’s Daughter

Mark FinnThe God in the Bowl

Dave HardyThe Vale of Lost Women

Fred AdamsThe Black Stranger

 

I admit, I was bragging a bit. But still think I was overstating things?

Each story was randomly assigned to a writer. So, nobody got to pick their favorite. Or trade for one they really like. That would have made things too easy. And we editors don’t make things easy for writers now, do we?

So, some contributors got a story in which there are some obvious angles to pursue. But others had to really delve into Howard’s plots and prose to assert why that tale is the best of the bunch (I did not envy Dave Hardy the luck of the draw…). This approach really required the essayist to pull out Howard’s strengths. And I think it worked out fantastic!

I plan on interspersing a few other Howard/Conan-related posts as well, so you should have some quality Conan reading from winter into the summer. It will be like going from the frozen wastes of Vanaheim to the deserts of Stygia. Without all the danger and dust.

So, join us as we examine Conan’s gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth: from young, uncivilized thief to king of the greatest nation in Hyboria.

By Crom: This should be fun!


Bob Byrne’s ‘A (Black) Gat in the Hand’ was a regular Monday morning hardboiled pulp column in the Fall and Winter of 2018.

His ‘The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes’ column ran every Monday morning at Black Gate  from March 2014 through March 2017 (still making an occasional return appearance!).

He also organized Black Gate’s award-nominated ‘Discovering Robert E. Howard’ series.

He is a member of the Praed Street Irregulars, founded www.SolarPons.com (the only website dedicated to the ‘Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street’) and blogs about Holmes and other mystery matters at Almost Holmes.

He has contributed stories to The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories – Parts III, IVV and VI.

And he will be in the anthology of new Solar Pons stories coming early in 2019.

21 Comments »

  1. This looks to be a cool series. Looking forward to it.

    I had to check who got The Tower of the Elephant. Not sure if writing that article would be more pressure or less.

    Comment by Charles_Martel - December 26, 2018 7:33 pm

  2. Right?

    Comment by Jason M 'RBE' Waltz - December 26, 2018 8:11 pm

  3. […] the Black Gate web magazine, Bob Byrne is a new weekly re-read of all 21 of the original Conan stories written by Robert E. Howard.  Each contributor to the series must take on the task of explaining […]

    Pingback by Where Conan walks, he walks … with company? | Beamer Books - December 26, 2018 10:35 pm

  4. I know that there have been numerous editions of the Conan stories, with later edits and additions not found in the original published stories, in some cases. What edition(s) is the “authorized” one(s) for the BG re-reads, if we wish to read along at home?

    Comment by Eugene R. - December 26, 2018 10:41 pm

  5. For myself, I’ll be using the version of “The Devil in Iron” presented in The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, from Del Rey.

    Comment by ScottOden - December 26, 2018 11:44 pm

  6. Eugene – It’s up to the individual as to which version they use. Though, I suspect the majority will be using the original text, Del Rey trilogy. I am.

    Comment by Bob Byrne - December 26, 2018 11:52 pm

  7. I hope the discussions won’t bog down on topics that’ve been thrashed over pretty thoroughly, e.g. Howard’s racism, Howard’s epistolary debates with Lovecraft about “barbarism,” etc. unless someone has something fresh to say. The former topic especially is predictable: Yes, Howard’s attitudes are unacceptable now, but he was a man of his times, yada yada.

    A few topics that might be of interest:

    How do Howard’s actual descriptions of Conan compare with the image of Conan that’s become the standard thanks to Frazetta’s art (perhaps one should say, Krenkel’s and Frazetta’s art)?

    Which are the Conan stories that matter? — vs. the ones that might be entertaining but really add nothing to Conan, one’s sense of the Hyborian world, etc.

    How useful is the familiar Hyborian Age map and how authoritative is it?

    How useful and authoritative is the familiar “outline of Conan’s career,” and has it had a baleful influence (by seeming to invite innumerable fill-in-the-gaps stories by other authors?

    Comment by Major Wootton - December 26, 2018 11:54 pm

  8. Well, this will be an interesting set of articles, like visiting a bunch of old friends over next year. Good weekly pause as I try to remove most/all distractions to maximize my output.

    Sadly, the articles on my favorite stories are near the last. “Man Eaters of Zamboulah” was my first read REH story, right after I was discovering him via the Conan comic and Savage Sword comic. Then I read “Red Nails” and “God in the Bowl”, later “Tower of the Elephant”.

    Oh, and I could not care LESS about “Political Correctness”. Let’s not turn this into a flame war coz Triggypuff’s Feelz gets hurtz. REH was a great writer and overall he and Weird Tales were progressive for the time. Certainly I’m for talking about aspects of it, issues touched then and now. But real discussion, not a fake left/right like the puppet show mass media act.

    Comment by GreenGestalt - December 27, 2018 1:36 am

  9. Nice, as a newer reader of this genre and these stories, it will be a fun ride to journey along and see what other more learned people think of the same stories, thanks!

    Comment by silentdante - December 27, 2018 2:47 am

  10. Major Wooten and GreenGestalt –

    The purpose of the series is for each essay to show why the story being discussed is the ‘best’ (subjective, of course) Conan tale that REH wrote.

    So, bringing up anything negative, other than perhaps just as a point of interest, is kind of self-defeating.

    It’s not about taking some point of note in each story and elaborating on it (like I did with The God in the Bowl as a police procedural).

    Obviously, most of us don’t actually think the story we got is the best of the bunch, so we’re going to have to look for the good in each one.

    If the discussions go negative, I’ll try to bring it back around.

    And Green – The order’s probably going to change, so you may see some of your favorites earlier than you think!

    Comment by Bob Byrne - December 27, 2018 7:35 am

  11. I’m looking forward to following along. I haven’t read any of the later Conan stories.

    Just a quick look i think I’ve only read about 3/4 of the list. And some of those weren’t the Del Rey versions.

    Hopefully this goes well and you guys can do the same thing with Kull (The Kull stories are some of my favorite so far.)

    Comment by Glenn - December 27, 2018 9:29 am

  12. Hi Glenn.

    I’m not much of a Kull fan. I struggled through the Del Rey collection. That one where he just stares into the mirrors…

    Someone else will have to head up that effort!

    But I hope you enjoy this Conan series. I think it’s gonnna be pretty awesome!

    Comment by Bob Byrne - December 27, 2018 10:24 am

  13. My my, THIS looks interesting!

    Comment by John E. Boyle - December 27, 2018 1:04 pm

  14. Oh, man. I would have loved to contribute. I’m excited about this series.

    Comment by Woelf Dietrich - December 27, 2018 2:37 pm

  15. Looking forward to this series.

    Comment by V. Russell Waciuk - December 28, 2018 2:03 pm

  16. […] posts at Black Gate on which Conan story is the best.  Bob Byrne, who is heading up this project, announced the launch date (Monday, January 7).  Bob also posted a list of the authors who are contributing to the series.  […]

    Pingback by Arguments Discussions on the Best Conan Story to Begin at Black Gate | Adventures Fantastic - December 28, 2018 9:22 pm

  17. Okay, not only did the announcement of this series of articles excite me, but so did the list of names writing the articles. Really looking forward to this one.

    Comment by Ty Johnston - December 28, 2018 9:53 pm

  18. Me too, Ty. I’m excited, intimidated, and curious. I am no longer confident in my chosen approach, lol.

    Comment by Jason M 'RBE' Waltz - December 29, 2018 12:20 am

  19. Wow. I am looking forward to 2019. Truly shaping up to be the year of Conan the Barbarian.

    Look here for more of what’s coming in ’19

    http://messagesfromcrom.blogspot.com/

    Comment by James K - December 31, 2018 4:54 am

  20. Castle of Terror is one of my favorite Conan stories. The Hundred Heads! Also, REH’s The Sowers Of The Thunder is awesome. No Conan, but Red Sonja shows up.

    Comment by CimmerianJohn - January 3, 2019 12:35 pm

  21. Hi CimmerianJohn.

    When I was pitching this series, someone suggested we should do one in which folks promote their favorite de Camp/Carter pastiche. I don’t know that I’ll take that one on, but I too like Castle of Terror.

    Comment by Bob Byrne - January 3, 2019 5:48 pm


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