Posted tagged ‘Robert E. Howard’

Review: The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane

September 27, 2008

Robert E. Howard may be best known for his Conan stories, but it is in the savage tails of Solomon Kane that his skill as a writter shine the brightest.  Kane is just a fascinating character.  A puritan swordsman and gunfighter with a witch doctor for a blood brother who wanders throughout Africa on a quest to prove that he’s driven by the need to right wrongs and not to assuge an incurable blood lust.  He is the prototypical Weird Tales hero, and they just don’t make characters like that anymore.

Many comparisons can be made to Howard’s slightly better known hero.  Both are natural fighters, both adhere to a strong ethical code (albeit a slightly abnormal one), and both are critics of the civilized world.  But while Conan offers an outsider’s perspective on civilization Kane is used to explore the consequences that the so called civilized world has upon the rest of the globe.  The monsters that Kane fights throughout his travels in Africa are almost entirely ones said to have been driven out of their homes by the empires of Europe and the Mid East.  Not only does this provide a venue for Howard to explore his largest pet theme, but it also provides the stories with a real sense of history, making the world Kane inhabits truly believable.

I’m a huge fan of such stories, and this new collection from Ballantine is a gorgeous way to present them.  Ballantine has been producing a series of authoritative Howard collections, complete with story fragments and biographical essays, not to mention lavish illustrations on nearly every page (in this case by the great Gary Gianni).  This book is a must have.

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Conreport: Readercon 19

July 21, 2008

I’m back from this year’s Readercon, and fighting off the effects of sleep deprivation so we’ll see how this goes.  The con was was always the most interesting and rewarding of the year, and yes that includes the library conferences I attend.  In fact nothing else even comes close.

It certainly didn’t hurt that Jonathan Lethem (my favorite author this week) was one of the guests of honor.  Although a disapointingly large portion of the conference seemed to be dedicated to making him defend the path of his career (from a genre author to a literary one according to quite a few critics).  There was even an entire hour dedicated to an interview on the subject (apart from the typical guest of honor interview).  However, the session was very revealing, both of Lethems views and of the regard that fandom holds him in.

Another interesting trend this year was a focus on modern horror, largely due to the inclusion at the convention of the first Shirley Jackson awards.  Hosting the awards ceremony at Readercon was great in that it attracted a number of newer writers to the con, and allowed for one of the highlights for me, namely getting to see Caitlin R. Kiernan recall the words to Come Sail Away (one of the odder panels).

As for other highlights for me.  The large focus on Stanislaw Lem, another of my favorite writers, particularly in regards to both his reoccuring theme of language barriers and the effects translators have on literature, with a lot of input from the great Michael Kandel.  There was a particularly good reading by Michael Swanwick and his wife Sunday morning.  And of course the Saturday night entertainment (two one act plays by guest of honor James Patrick Kelly followed by the annual Kirk Poland Memorial Bad Prose Competition) were a great cap to the entire thing.  I think I’m going to have nightmare of enduring Yves Meynard’s alphabetic onslaught on Robert E. Howard for quite some time (I think it took a good 10 minutes to fully recover my breathe from laughter after that).