Author Topic: Conan  (Read 3758 times)

Eagle Prince

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Conan
« on: August 16, 2004, 07:49:18 PM »
Has anyone read the original Conan stories by R.E. Howard?  I had been trying to get them forever.  After awhile I start to give up, then I'm walking through Media Play and found them!  Del Rey republished all of them in one book called 'The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian".

They are pretty short.  The only short stories I've really read many of is mostly just Lovecraft, so its still kind of a new thing for me.  I was expected more like Elric-sized short stories, and while some of the later Conan stories get a bit longer, the earlier ones are sometimes only 4 pages.  A lot of them I could see becoming a full-length novel, but then it just ends and you just kind of sit there for awhile as your mind wanders.  Its kind of interesting, because you suddenly imagine him on all sorts of adventures that were never even written.  Which I think lends itself to his character, so doing most of his tales as short stories was probably a smart idea and one reason why he got so popular.  Well, he's also just a good writer, but that goes without saying.
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Eagle Prince

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Re: Conan
« Reply #1 on: September 01, 2004, 03:30:05 PM »
Anybody?  Come on, Conan is cooler than LOTR, and it gets boring talking about it just to myself.
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Re: Conan
« Reply #2 on: September 01, 2004, 03:33:25 PM »
lol.  Sorry, man.  I've always meant to read them, but I've never gotten around to it.  My interest is more academic than it is expectant--are they actually very good?
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Re: Conan
« Reply #3 on: September 01, 2004, 03:41:31 PM »
it depends entirely on what you read for. The Conan books are actually pretty good, and he does some decent world building and descriptions. Very pulpy, but some people like that. Tolkien has more depth and culture, though, and I think he's a better wordsmith.

Eagle Prince

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Re: Conan
« Reply #4 on: September 01, 2004, 04:51:06 PM »
Yeah, I wasn't just casually saying they are better than LotR.  They are actually good.  Its probably a little harder than just comparing them strait across for something like that as well.  With Conan, you have short stories.  LotR you have one really long story.  That is kind of a big difference.  I haven't really read any short stories before, except for some Lovecraft or maybe something here or there (like I mentioned in my first post), but Conan is making me a believer in them.

I'm not exactly an english teacher, so I can't do much comparing their grammar skills or such.  Howard did have more professional publishing experience.  LotR has sold more copies.  But then, as I've mentioned, Conan isn't exactly the easiest books to find, unlike LotR.

Worldbuilding is also kind of hard to compare.  Its easy to say LotR has more worldbuilding in the story... how much worldcraft can you get into with a 5-10 page story?  It works a bit different.  Hyborian Age has some huge worldbuilding going before you even start to consider the format.  So some of the cultures might be fairly typical (then again, so are some of them in LotR), but its not because Howard couldn't have put together some big elaborate thing.  He is using that familiarity to his advantage.  With a few words he gives you a very detailed description of a culture, then only has to describe the differences from the familiar culture that you have just summoned to mind.

Some people also talked about the deeper meaning of LotR, like what you can learn about mortality/immortality or whatever.  Conan I think does a much better job of getting across its underlying currents (can't think of the exact term I want to use here).

And the main thing I think Conan has that LotR lacks, was a strong central character.  Maybe I'm just not much for the anti-hero thing, Frodo just doesn't do anything for me.  Aragorn had the workings for such a character, but he never comes across as a central character.
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Re: Conan
« Reply #5 on: September 01, 2004, 05:15:30 PM »
well, to play some DA here,

you say how much you can get into a 5-10 page story, but most of the stories are longer than that, AND i'll wager that there are at least as many words written about Hyperborea than in the LotR trillogy, maybe even with the Hobbit added on. (start throwing in simillarion and the books of lost tales, I'll start doubting).

I don't think that Howard has developed themes as well as Tolkien, nor do I think his craft reveals nearly as much skill or love for the language.

But all this is just to say that they're different. They are read for wholly different reasons. Which, I think, is why they're both essentially the progenitors of very different sub-genres of fantasy. I don't think it's fair to say that one is better than the other except in two cases: that one accomplishes a specific goal better or that an individual reader prefers one. Objectively, I don't think either can be rated as "better."

It would be interesting to see who was more monetarily successful though.

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Re: Conan
« Reply #6 on: September 01, 2004, 08:02:07 PM »
During their time:  Howard
Overall:  Tolkien

(My guesses.)

And I very much like SE's thoughts on the subject.  I would say, however, that Edgar Rice Burroughs founded the sub-genre, then Howard perfected it.  
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Re: Conan
« Reply #7 on: September 01, 2004, 09:29:14 PM »
I've never considered Frodo an anti-hero, mostly because I grew up applying the term to heroes that aren't especially heroic (like Punisher) rather than heroes who don't want to be heroes (like Frodo). I suppose it applies equally well, though, depending on how you look at it. Is there a solid definition for anti-hero?
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Eagle Prince

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Re: Conan
« Reply #8 on: September 02, 2004, 12:13:52 AM »
It is a protagonist who lacks heroic qualities.  While someone like Punisher or Elric can be called antiheroes because of their attitude, Frodo is antihero because of his physical qualities.  Hobbits as a whole seem completely designed to exaggerate their lack of heroic qualities.  They are small, weak, don't like to adventure, etc.

Personally, I think the fact antihero gets slapped onto someone like Elric more than Frodo is a direct result of how popular antihero stories have been in the last century.  I think it is a common view that what makes a hero is less about his physical capacity for the endeavor, and more about the desire,passion,willpower,etc.  But I think that was the point in large of the antihero during that time, to show that point.  And it did a good job of showing that point, and so people see heroes a little different now days.

If most Conan stores go over 10 pages, it might get up to 20-30.  That's still not even a 10th of a normal novel length, let alone LotR.  Unless you are starting to count non-Howard books about Conan, going just off word count, LotR has it beat length-wise by double.

"I don't think that Howard has developed themes as well as Tolkien, nor do I think his craft reveals nearly as much skill or love for the language.

But all this is just to say that they're different. They are read for wholly different reasons."

Except for the themes Howard actually wanted to develop.  And he might not go to grueling lengths for his 'love of the language', because he decided to focus on things he thought were more important.  Like story, character, etc.  Why either of them are read is obviously for entertainment.  (Well, you might get some freak who wants to read for some kind of academic study  ;) but that would be like one in a thousand at best).  Unless you mean something different by the reason you read them.

I agree with what you said about trying to label one as better than the other, but I did give something more specific initially.  I said Conan is cooler, as in its more stylish.  I find style to be a principle element in how entertaining something is, and have stated that fantasy is primarily for entertainment.  And as I posted some time ago in the introduce yourself thread, the strong barbarian is one of my two favorite character archtypes.  I site all of this as proof for my original claim that Conan to be better than LotR, subjective as a point as it may be.

Now, one thing I found surprising with the stories is a number of them seem almost like horror stories.  Very much like a Lovecraft horror story in fact, the main difference being Conan ends up killing the things that bump in the night instead of suffering a swishy death by them.  There are a lot of Cthulhu-type scenes in most of them, but specifically The God In the Bowl, Queen of the Black Coast, Tower of the Elephant (to name a few) would have made good, fairly traditional (minus the time period) Cthulhu stories if Conan had not been there.
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Re: Conan
« Reply #9 on: September 02, 2004, 12:19:27 AM »
no, see, I don't think the themes of conan, (the themes Howard WANTED to develop) are not as well developed as those of LotR.

Howard wrote a LOT of stories though, I'm still thinking the word counts are more comparable. Not all of them are about "Conan," Kull and Red Sonja are in the same world.

And I also disagree with "style." Tolkien's world is VERY stylish. not swashbuckling, to be sure, but stylish.

Eagle Prince

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Re: Conan
« Reply #10 on: September 02, 2004, 12:51:09 PM »
Its too dumb to argue over word count, but sorry I have to point out that Red Sonja is only a character in a Conan story.  Howard didn't write any stories about her, all he wrote of her is what was in one Conan story.  If you want to go outside what Howard actually got published himself, then yeah Conan is going to beat out LotR in number of content even including lost tales, etc. because of the many other people who've wrote of Conan and the Hyborian Age.  In fact, they are still being written to this day.

Kull is also another topic that probably deserves more attention that this, but Howard was unable to get Kull published.  He later invented Conan and stole Kull's stories for Conan stories.
« Last Edit: September 02, 2004, 12:52:17 PM by Eagle_Prince »
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Re: Conan
« Reply #11 on: September 02, 2004, 11:58:04 PM »
The irony is that out of all of RE Howard's characters, Conan is probably the least interesting.  I think that a large part of why the Conan stories had such a frenetic snazz to them was that Howard was envisioning himself as Conan and was writing the adventures that he wished he could have had.  

Personally, I think that the best Howard charcter, hands down, was Solomon Kane.  Kull was also heavy on the sword and sorcery, but was more cerebral and dealt with themes of loyalty and responsibility.  Another Howard character that I kinda dug was The Mucker (although maybe he was a Moorcock charcter; it's been so many years....), and of course Bran Mac Morn.  

Kane was the best, though.  The most realistic and psychologically complex character with the creepiest stories.  

All of the REH stories are currently being collected in omnibus form.  I have seen Conan and Kane out there, and probably the rest have also either been re-released or will be soon.  If you like Conan, you owe it to yourself to check out some of Howard's other creations as well.
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Re: Conan
« Reply #12 on: September 06, 2004, 09:53:26 AM »
For the record, EP, I talked with Stephen Saffel yesterday, who is the editor for the Conan reprints that are coming out (reprints of HOWARD's stories). The total page count for the three books is somewhere around 1200. You can argue about margins and font sizes after this, but 1200 pages is much closer to the total size of the LotR than it is to half or less. I think that's comparable.

You may be interested to know that the Bran Mac Morn collection is coming out early next year and will contain a  previously unprinted story by Howard.

Eagle Prince

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Re: Conan
« Reply #13 on: September 06, 2004, 03:50:35 PM »
Three books?  Well I only have one, do you know when the other 3 are supposed to come out?
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Re: Conan
« Reply #14 on: September 08, 2004, 07:47:35 AM »
next one is this spring, I think