Conan, Robert E. Howard, and Pastiches

Discussion in 'Archive: The Amphitheatre' started by Mastadge, Jul 11, 2002.

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  1. Mastadge Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 4, 1999
    star 7
    Back in the day, before I even knew what a pastiche was, before I was old enough to distinguish between different authors' styles, I was a huge Conan fan. I managed to collect all the Lancer/Ace books, all the Bantam novels, all the Red Sonja spinoffs, more than half of the long line of Tor novels, as well as quite a few of the Conan and Red Sonja comics.

    Then, a couple of years ago, Baen started releasing a "Robert E. Howard Library," seven slim volumes which collected a lot of Howards work (although none of his Conan stuff), and got me interested again. After reading about Solomon Kane and Bran Mak Morn and all (although I was pissed that they included a David Drake pastiche in the Cormac Mac Art volume), I decided to go back to Conan, so I flipped open some of the old anthologies -- and to my horror, for the most part there was very little indication of which stories were actually by Howard, and which had been modified, etc. etc. If you're a fan, you've heard all this before.

    So you can imagine how pleased I was when the Fantasy Masterworks imprint released all of Howard's Conan stories with none of the pastiches! Great stuff!

    Anyway, to get a discussion going, I've got a couple of questions:

    1) What do you think of pastiches? Just because all of those authors are writing about their interpretation of Howard's character, should they try (usually to fail) to mimic Howard's writing style as well? And where do these authors come from? de Camp, Carter, and Karl Edward Wagner were all well known fantasists before they wrote Conan, but I'd argue that the only one of them whose Conan tale was half decent was Wagner. Of the rest only Robert Jordan went on to make a name for himself, and to a lesser extent Steve Perry. Most of the other pastiche guys pretty much disappeared after writing their Conan stories.

    For the record, of the Tor pastichers:

    Robert Jordan (wrote the first 7 Tor novels) had already written a trilogy of pornographic novels set during the American revolutionary wars, as well as a western. He would go on to write the phenomenally selling Wheel of Time.

    John Maddox Roberts (wrote 8 novels) has published a whole bunch of little-known historical fiction; he never made the big time at all.

    Steve Perry (wrote 5 novels) has sold a few original novels but generally, aside from Conan, has done a lot of franchise work -- Aliens, novelizations, other stuff like that, as well as a Star Wars novel. He's an okay author, probably the 2nd most successful after Jordan.

    Leonard Carpenter (wrote 11 novels) has never sold a non-Conan novel (at least under that name).

    Roland J. Green (wrote 6 novels) has sold a very few critically bashed sci-fi and fantasy novels; he never got anywhere in the field

    Sean Moore (3 novels) has sold one non-Conan novel: the Kull novelization.

    John C. Hocking (1 novel) has never sold a non-Conan novel under that name.

    2) These pastiches take up a lot of room on my shelf, so I'm thinking of boxing them. Before I do, are there any of them that are worth giving another read?

    3) In case anyone's interested, here's as complete a list as I can find of non-Conan REH pastiches:

    Bran Mak Morn:
    Legion from the Shadows, by Karl Edward Wagner (4/76)
    For the Witch of the Mists, by David C. Smith and Richard Tierney (who also wrote the six Red Sonja novels) (1/78)
    Black Vulmea:
    The Witch of the Indies, by David C. Smith (1977)
    Cormac Mac Art:
    The Mists of Doom (Book 1)
    The Tower of Death (Book 2)
    When Death Birds Fly (Book 3)
    ??? (book 4)
    The Sword fo the Gael (Book 5)
    The Undying Wizard (Book 6)
    The Sign of the Moonbow (Book 7)
    all by Andrew J. Offutt
    The Land Towards Sunset, by David Drake
    Treason in Zagadar, by Adrian Cole
    Kull the Conqueror, by Sean A. Moore
  2. Mastadge Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 4, 1999
    star 7
    Hmm. What a compelling conversation.
  3. Mister_Bunny Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Apr 5, 2001
    star 3
    There was a really good one written by John Milius, Oliver Stone and Edward Summer that I think you missed.

  4. Mastadge Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 4, 1999
    star 7
    Conan the Barbarian doesn't count. Aside from the fact that he's a big strong guy with the name Conan, he has absolutely NOTHING in common with REH's Conan. Still a damned good movie, though.
  5. Mister_Bunny Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Apr 5, 2001
    star 3
    Ya, a good movie. We will avoid discussion of the sequel.

    Actually, there were similarities with the following:

    Conan put into slavery at a young age, by the Vanir.

    Companionship with a woman named Valeria. This was in Red Nails, which I believe was the only full fledged single story Conan novel by REH.

    He liked swords.

    With the exception of using a name of a villian from the Kull timeline, Thulsa Doom made a great villain. Much better than the Thulsa Doom and Taramis from the sequel, but we have already discussed the sequel enough.
    I thought the villain part really fleshed out a bunch of the characters that Conan came in contact with in the pulp stories.

    And he rode a horse. He did that a lot in the written adventures.

    Plus, as I may have mentioned earlier, he liked swords.

    I was gonna say something about hating snakes, but that's Indiana Jones.

    Alot of the pastiches are based on unfinished works of REH, are they not? I would rather see them in print from an author that is trying to write like Howard, than to not see them at all.

    And also, many of the stories, if I understand correctly, are adaptations of Solomon Kane and other REH characters, aren't they? I don't mind this, as Conan is the one that gets my attention, so having more stories with some input from REH is better than just a brand new author trying to do Conan.
  6. Mastadge Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 4, 1999
    star 7
    I was gonna say something about hating snakes, but that's Indiana Jones.

    Robert E. Howard was terrified of snakes long before Indiana Jones was around. That's why so many of his villains are "serpent men" and such.
  7. Mister_Bunny Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Apr 5, 2001
    star 3
    I gotta admit that I read more Roy Thomas Conan stuff than anything else. Which collection of Howard's Conan works would you recommend for starting off? I prefer maps up front, introductions to stories with their first publication date, and maybe comments about where a story ties in with Conan's career. All of this very often was accomodated in Savage Sword of Conan may it rest in peace.

    I presently have the first 4 in a set of Ace books that is getting pretty ragged, and a couple are missing, so I probably will just go ahead and buy some new books pretty soon.
  8. Mastadge Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 4, 1999
    star 7
    The Lancer/Ace editions are filled with inferior stories by de Camp and Carter in addition to those by Howard. In adddition, they often changed/added to his stories without acknowledging what they'd changed. And Howard specifically didn't write the Conan stories in a chronological sequence; he wrote them as if Conan was telling them to him.

    The only in-print editions are from Gollancz' Fantasy Masterworks series:

    The People of the Black Circle: The Conan Chronicles, Volume 1

    The Hour of the Dragon: The Conan Chronicles, Volume 2

    These collect Howard's, and only Howard's, stories.

    Here's the approximate writing order of the Conan stories (there is no true "known" writing order):

    The Phoenix on the Sword
    The Frost Giant's Daughter
    The God in the Bowl
    The Vale of Lost Women
    The Scarlet Citadel
    The Tower of the Elephant
    Black Colossus
    The Slithering Shadow
    Pool of the Black One
    Rogues in the House
    Shadows in the Moonlight
    Queen of the Black Coast
    The Devil in Iron
    People of the Black Circle
    A Witch Shall be Born
    Jewels of Gwahule
    Beyond the Black River
    The Black Stranger
    Shadows in Zamboula
    Hour of the Dragon (the only novel-length Conan story)
    Red Nails.
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