Lin Carter did more than tread in Howard's footsteps, however. He wrote his own stories, served as a literary critic, and edited anthologies. One of those, Flashing Swords! #4: Barbarians and Black Magicians, contains a story by author Michael Moorcock. But his introduction to the volume is all about Howard. He describes the theme of the series, Sword & Sorcery, as "the modern reincarnation of the oldest form of narrative known to world literature: the heroic fantasy." He traces its lineage from Beowulf, through medieval sagas and epics, and to legends such as St. George and the Dragon, "until a smart aleck called Cervantes lampooned it in a novel called Don Quixote, and made this sort of stuff the laughingstock of Europe."
So, if Miguel de Cervantes' epic story Don Quixote killed Sword and Sorcery, who revived it? That would, of course, be "a burly, brooding, furiously energetic Texas writer named Robert E Howard." He describes Howard's stories as "crisp, vivid, told with verve and gusto, drenched in color and mood, and narrated with enormous drive and urgency." Such a description makes clear that reviving the popularity of Robert E. Howard's stories was more than just a step along the path to publishing his own stories. Perhaps that's why much of his own creations, including those featuring a hero named Thongor, have been often compared to Conan and Kull. In fact, the reason I've been thinking of him, and put him on my author birthday list, is all due to my renewed interest in Robert E. Howard. Comic book readers in the 1970s and '80s may have felt similarly. A few months back, I read one letter in the back of an old Conan The Barbarian comic, in which he asked how Thongor fit into the chronology of Marvel's other Sword & Sorcery series on Conan and Kull.
|An illustration accompanies Carter's introduction to|
Flashing Swords! #4: Barbarians and Black Magicians.
Sometimes, you realize later on how much someone contributed to your life. They stayed in the background, seemingly just a member of the crowd, their efforts largely unrecognized during their lifetimes. With the recent literary efforts to strip away the extraneous Howard material, and publish the Robert E Howard stories as they first appeared in magazines, or even as unfinished story fragments, perhaps it's time to acknowledge the people who transformed a largely forgotten author into a literary giant, and made his characters (particularly Conan) into household names. I'd like to read more of Lin Carter's stories, and I don't just mean read his Howard pastiches, but those belonging to his own imagined worlds. Somehow, I think I owe it to this other largely forgotten author who has given us so much. How about you?