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Rogue Blades author: Robert E. Howard, Conan and Me

Rogue Blades author: Robert E. Howard, Conan and Me

Howard changed my lifeBelow is an excerpt from author John C. Hocking’s essay for the upcoming book, Robert E. Howard Changed My Life, from publisher Rogue Blades Foundation.

I was a precocious reader.  By the time I was seven years old, guided by the taste of my father, I was reading Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, E.R. Burroughs, E.E. Smith, and Lester Dent’s Doc Savage stories.  Around this time my father, an art and history teacher, a martial artist and collector of swords, became a little frustrated that my mother was less than keen to accompany him to see a new, supposedly pretty hardboiled, Western movie called A Fistful of Dollars, so he took me.

In addition to thrusting upon my youthful eyes an unimagined example of cinematic style, the film presented a powerful vision of a highly qualified good and a frighteningly believable evil in stark conflict beyond anything I’d encountered before.  Every aspect of the movie resonated with me, but the depiction of fearsome, believably dangerous villains being faced down by a hero who was actually dangerous enough to confront and destroy them instantly made most of the reading, TV and movies I’d known seem somehow inadequate, even false.

Then, in the summer of 1967, my Dad brought me a copy of Lancer’s Conan the Adventurer.  The Frazetta cover promised much, but I read the first story in that collection, Robert E. Howard’s “The People of the Black Circle,” on a quiet sunny morning and it blew my little mind.

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Discovering Robert E. Howard: Damon Sasser on 2015 Howard Days

Discovering Robert E. Howard: Damon Sasser on 2015 Howard Days

HowardDays_HouseI’m not sure there’s quite anything like Howard Days, held each summer in Cross, Plains, TX. It’s a weekend celebration of all things Robert E. Howard and it’s helped to keep Howard’s legacy alive. Though I lived in Austin, TX for a few years, I never made it to Howard Days. So, I turned to the best fan journal (newsletter/fanzine…) I’ve ever come across, REH: Two-Gun Racounteur.

And founder Damon Sasser (2014’s Featured Guest) was kind enough to write a post about the 2015 Howard Days, which also featured a healthy (or perhaps, unhealthy) dose of H.P. Lovecraft as well. Thanks, Damon!


This past month on June 12th and 13th the annual Howard Days celebrating and remembering Robert E. Howard was held in Cross Plains, Texas. Even though it is a two day event, fans start drifting into town early in the week, with Thursday afternoon being sort of a soft kick-off for the weekend. The Howard House Museum was unofficially open allowing fans to wander through it and visit the gift shop.

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Robert E. Howard Birthday Celebration

Robert E. Howard Birthday Celebration

solomon-kane3Here’s to Robert E. Howard, creator of my favorite genre, sword-and-sorcery, on the anniversary of his birth. Raise high your goblets and drink deep.

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.”

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Robert E. Howard: Anatomy of a Creative Crisis

Robert E. Howard: Anatomy of a Creative Crisis

kull-a“Beyond the Sunrise” is the unofficial title afforded an unfinished Kull story that did not see print until over forty years after the author’s death. Its significance is due largely to the fact that it was the first of four widely differing attempts to continue the Kull series following the publication of both “The Shadow Kingdom” and “The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune” in Weird Tales in 1929.

Robert E. Howard starts the story off with a bored Kull sitting on his throne listening to a rather dull tale of the Valusian noblewoman, Lala-ah who has run off with her foreign lover leaving the nobleman she was promised to waiting at the altar. The barbarian king’s pride is piqued once he learns the foreigner insulted him behind his back. He then readily agrees to lead a posse to retrieve the noblewoman and restore his and his nation’s honor.

I was about as enthusiastic as Kull when I first started the story and thought the Atlantean was acting like a childish oaf for getting his nose out of joint just because a foreigner called him a sissy when he wasn’t around to defend himself.

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“The Fire of Asshurbanipal”: The First Time I Met Robert E. Howard

“The Fire of Asshurbanipal”: The First Time I Met Robert E. Howard

Today’s is Robert E. Howard’s birthday—I’ve always felt pleased that it lies so close to mine, as January is a lonely month in which to have your birthday—and for my gesture to commemorate the Great Lord of Blood, Thunder, and Thick Mountain Accents, I’m going to take a short glance back at my first encounter with him, in the story “The Fire of Asshurbanipal.”

Okay, I lied. It’s not short . . .

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Bloody Brilliance: Why I Love Robert E. Howard

Bloody Brilliance: Why I Love Robert E. Howard

Why do I love the works of Robert E. Howard?kull

Emerald jungles filled with scalp-hungry picts. The primordial perfection of axe and spear. The clang of steel on steel beneath tattered banners, and the dying howls of winged terrors. Lost temples and fantastic jewels, mounds of gold steeped in the glow of eldritch flames…

The thunderous cadence of tribal drums and clouds rushing grey as death. Ruby-eyed witches and bloody claws trailing torn flesh. The primal rush of muscle and bone…battle cries like phantom bats above the field of honor. The stench of Stygian darkness where serpents gleam and glide, as terrible gods demand red sacrifices…

 The sorcerer who peers beyond and calls up fiends from Hell…the clash of iron and the defiance of tyranny. The triumph of the noble savage against the cruelty of opulent empires. Colossal spiders and spitting vipers. The turn of a supple leg, the heaving of breasts and swirling of gossamer veils. The crushing embrace of bronze arms, the blazing passion of life against the black gloom of death…

The galloping hosts of antique nations, the cry of a night-beast wailing at the moon. The precarious dance of flesh and metal, the arcs of flying crimson. Spilling viscera. The brutal grace of prehistoric combat, the strength of arm and gnashing of teeth. The sparkling visions of a misted age, the mysteries of old worlds heavy as dreams…

The Cimmerian snow and glaciers, the breath of northern myth…the sweltering desert where vultures stalk parched prey…the rise of Slave to King…the simplicity of might making right in a world tossed on seas of blood. The damsels in distress and the avenging hero…the lantern jaws and sapphire eyes. The glittering towers collapsing in shards…

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The ancient world transmogrified, embroidered with the brilliants of legend, steeped in the wine of epic storms. The blood and thunder. The broad-shouldered lug and the skull-faced horror…the sting of a whisper in darkness. The dripping dagger and the broken blade…

Crumbling continents and rushing seas, the cataclysm of evolution…Atlantis and the descendents of Valusia. Tiger totems. Solemn kings brooding on golden thrones…the serpents that walk on two legs…the wizards haunting graveyards and the bones that rattle and walk in moonlight…the Valley of the Worm.

The mystic spell of language…the well-turned phrase and the phantasm of imagery. The tales of obsession, the obsession with tales. The poetry of doom and the marching specters…the man, the legend, the visionary…

The spectacular stories, the gripping yarns, the wonderfully weird tales…

Immortality wrought in ink and parchment.

All this and more…that’s why I love REH.

Happy Birthday, Bob.

— John R. Fultz