And what better way to celebrate Halloween and close out October, than with something kind of creepy. . . .
It probably won’t amount to much, but I’ve noticed a possible new trend in the way some people want Robert E. Howard and his work to be perceived. A trend, if it gains ground, which would be in diametrical opposition to my position as set forth in “The Dark Barbarian” (and in “Hard-Boiled Heroic Fantasist” from the same book), kicking it back toward the air-headed approach of L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter, which I rebutted in 1976 in the essay “Conan vs. Conantics.”
I touched on it briefly toward the end of a recent post, where I quote Professor Frank Coffman as asking, “Did they suggest that Conan isn’t quite the ‘Dark’ barbarian that Herron maintains?”
Apparently Frank is toying around with the idea of “The Bright Barbarian” — if he can articulate the concept in an essay, maybe he thinks he can dethrone my idea as the dominant theory in Howard Studies of the last twenty years. I don’t know if Frank is up to writing an essay that would have to be That Good, but he’s definitely monkeying with the concept. I first noticed it mentioned in his review of the Jason Momoa Conan movie — if you want to look into it, feel free, but I warn you that Frank is one of the least readable figures in Howard Studies. You’ll have to plow through a lot of verbiage about how only elite intellectuals have the technical stylistic tools to do real criticism, and you’ll be blindsided by a comparison of Conan the Barbarian with Battleship Potemkin. Jeez.
But for what it’s worth, that’s the first place I noticed the term “The Bright Barbarian,” and now I await the onslaught in my impregnable redoubt. (I think I’ll have time to take a nap.)
Meanwhile, Lightin’ Al Harron has done another post on his blog about our back and forth — Al seems to be enjoying the exchange, but his readership is getting kind of frantic:
“No, Al, no! — he’s just toying with you, man!”
“Watch it, Al, he’s got a knife!”
“Behind you, Al, he’s behind you!!!”
Al goes on and on and on and on trying to explain his positions, constantly changing the argument. If you look at the whole shebang, at first he’s wondering where I am, why I haven’t been doing anything in Howard Studies — then he realizes I’ve never been gone, that I do Howardian material steadily — then he admits he’s not really doing criticism — but then he defends what he does do, which has nothing to do with the topic of criticism. If I may borrow the technique from Frank, I have a technical word for this kind of writing, Al: dithering.
During one of our regular phone calls, I told Leo Grin, former honcho of The Cimmerian, about the Al posts, and he surfed over to check them out. First thing he noticed at the top of the page that day was a bit in which a woman who is a new editor on the Conan comic books has decided that they’re going to make Conan “sexier” and also “prettier” — with the intent of getting “more female fans into the fold.” Leo groaned, but after all, it’s only a comic book, it doesn’t matter what they do to the character — have Justin Bieber play him in a movie, the comic book dinks will justify it in their own minds for their own pleasure. The real fiction is different — as Howard stated prophetically in the poem “A Word from the Outer Dark:”
“I am the Dark Barbarian that towers over all.”
Yeah. Dark. Barbarian. Towering over all the inferior imitations.
Yet, I do hope old Professor Frank manages to knock out a few essays on his side of the argument, such as:
“The Bright Barbarian.”
“The Delicate Barbarian.”
“The Pretty Barbarian.”
“The Girl-Friendly Barbarian.”
Creepy. . . .