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This is an old revision of HowardRobertE made by TrulyBlackMask on 2013-03-09 11:53:54.


Robert E. Howard's Writing

The name of Robert E. Howard is synonymous with his most famous character, Conan The Barbarian,and to well read pulpsters he is also the author of many memorable characters and locations (the Hyborian World). The focus here is on the writing style of Howard and his influences on pulp writing as a whole. There is little doubt that Howard's living primarily in small towns in a huge state like Texas must have pushed him to create everything larger than life. His own world in his formative years was very tight-knit with his mother being the center and small town familiarity being the limits of his social sphere. No wonder he dreamed of exotic and elegant places peopled with characters whose lives bore little relationship with his own. Howard never saw himself as exciting or exceptional and writing of himself said his was "a very average and humdrum life".*
There was nothing "humdrum" about the fire of his imagination or the fury of his writing as most of his stories move at a frantic pace as if Howard could not get them down on paper fast enough. Whether sword and sorcery, westerns, boxing, horror, or humor Howard drove his pacing at a full gallop. Stories that had a slow buildup soon gave way to hurricane speed when the "good part" was reached, that part being the climax of the protaganist and antagonist meeting as they inevitably did. Let me say a word about pulp writing because that is the focus of this encyclopedia. The pulps were written as a common theme in a common format for a common audience. Take westerns for example, the entire issue was devoted to western stories that usually consisted of cowboys, horses, guns, saloons, brutal outlaws, and beautiful women in a locale of plains and canyons. Men (the pulps were largely for a male audience) who bought these magazines expected nothing else and would stand for nothing else; thus the pulps delivered familiar stories with familiar characters the reader could count on.
Howard was a great pulp author whose stories delivered what the pulp reader wanted in many genres in so much that readers were seeking not only their favorite genre but Howard's writing in any form. Those who read Howard became exposed to fiction they normally would not have read and now became fans of other fiction and writers because of Howard's
introduction to a foreign genre. Robert E. Howard was prolific and productive in a short -lived professional life (less than 20 years) and it is amazing that he was able to do so while suffering from a depression that would claim his life at age 30. Perhaps it was depression that drove him to write about other places and lives to escape his own personal thought prison and his desire to move beyond the boundaries of his stifling existence that pushed his imagination into places light years from his binding reality. Whatever the motivation the results moved him far beyond the names and works of many other authors in a way that would have seemed unattainable in his own lifetime.

*from Howard's response to an editor wanting him to write a short biography of himself.

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