Thursday, January 22, 2009

Happy Birthday, REH

Today is Robert E. Howard's birthday. REH is, of course, the creator of Conan, Kull, Solomon Kane, and so many other great characters. He is the father of the fantasy sub genre Sword & Sorcery and probably the second most important figure in the history of fantasy following J.R.R. Tolkien, which basically means that more writers have ripped off, er I mean paid homage to Conan and the Lord of the Rings than to any other fantasy creations.
This evening I'll probably re-read some favorite Howard stories, just to remind myself of what a powerful writer the man was. As if I needed to. If you've been following this blog then you already know how much I love the work of Robert E. Howard. He remains near the top of my list of favorite writers.
So happy birthday, Bob. I doubt you'd have ever believed back in the 1930s that people would still be reading and enjoying your yarns all these years later. But here we are.

6 comments:

Paul said...

Just for fun: I have two other nominees to go with Tolkien and Howard as influential: Burroughs and Andre Norton. The first encompasses the fantasies that involve a mundane Earthling protagonist (if you're willing to grant that Carter is fantasy rather than science fiction) and the second much of the fantasy that blurs magic and psychic or technological powers, focusing on outsiders and empathy/emotions, very often written by the women who are becoming increasingly prominant in the field.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Yep, I'd agree with both of those. Add Michael Moorcock who popularized the anti-hero in fantasy. Maybe we should try for a top 10 list of most influential fantasy writers.

Paul said...

Okay, how about Pratt and de Camp for the Harold Shea series - as far as I'm aware the first major humorous fantasy, now an important subgenre.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Yeah, I love that stuff. Unknown , later Unknown Worlds, set the tone for humorous fantasy with Harold Shea and others. C.L. Moore might make the list since she had the first major female warrior type. Jirel predated Red Sonja and her sisters by several decades.

Paul said...

I was trying to come up with someone to account for sex and romance subgenre. Let me suggest another more recent author to the "most influential in today's fantasy world" - Anne Rice. I would argue that her vampire series springs from sex and obsession rather than from the no-win of death and decay (discussed in your next post), so it makes more sense as contemporary fantasy rather than standard print horror (screen horror is different). I don't read it, but by number of titles and sales they're huge, up to and including Twilight on one hand and Laurell Hamilton on the other. Not exactly part of the traditional line-up, but not sure they can be excluded even if they are shelved elsewhere even if these books are on one of the the delineating/overlapping outer boundary of the genre. It's an important part of the feminization of fantasy.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

I'd agree that the whole Vampire craze, for good or bad, can be laid at Rice's feet, so yeah, ultimately she's definitely a major major influence for the current crop of fantasy writers. There are more Laurel Hamilton clones out there right now but without Rice, you probably wouldn't have Hamilton or any of the legion of witches, demon hunters, werewolf chicks, etc.
I do wonder if that trend will have the staying power of the Tolkien style of fantasy. Will there still be mass quantities of vampire books in twenty years? Time will tell. We seem to have pretty good grist for an essay here anyway. heh.
And yes, film horror is another can of worms. I've little patience with the current slasher/torture horror films.