The Newcomer's Guide to Robert E. Howard

Everything you need to know

The Hour of the Dragon: Novel or Novella?

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Does The Hour of the Dragon count as a novel or a novella?

The problem with defining a novella is that there are wildly different schools of thought as to whether a work is long or short enough for consideration. In fact, most of the time, it’s up to the individual publisher: for some anything above 40,000 will be considered, while others it’s 70,000. I’ll compare The Hour of the Dragon to several different criteria, to see if it qualifies: the categories for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, the RITA Awards, the British Fantasy Society, Lee Masterson, .

The Hour of the Dragon has 72,899 words.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Definition: 17,500 – 39,999 words
Romance Writers of America Definition: 20,000 – 40,000 words
British Fantasy Society Definition: 10,000 – 40,000 words
Lee Masterson Definition: 20,000 – 50,000 words

So from the above definitions, we can see that The Hour of the Dragon is well beyond the boundaries of novella, and into novel status. But is word count all there is? According to Mantex, it’s a more involved process.

A novel can have plots and sub-plots, a teeming cast of characters, and take place in a number of locations. But a novella is more likely to be concentrated on one issue, with just one or two central characters, and located in one place. Artistically, the novella is often unified by the use of powerful symbols which hold together the events of the story

This certainly does not apply to The Hour of the Dragon: there is a wide cast of principal characters aside from Conan himself, there are many sub-plots and parallel actions, and it takes place in a great variety of locations. Even some of the longer Conan stories are pushing that distinction, with many having more than one or two highly important characters, and taking place in many locations. There are other features of the novella featured in the article that could apply to The Hour of the Dragon, in that there is a sense of unity and seriousness – but then, the sheer length of the story would seem to preclude it.

Overall, I would say it’s fair to consider The Hour of the Dragon to be a novel.

Written by alharron

26 December, 2010 at 11:03 pm

Conan the Barbarian (2011) Behind the Scenes

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So who’s directing the film?

Marcus Nispel.

I thought it was Brett Ratner?

Brett Ratner was never officially tied to the Conan film, but was apparently in talks with the producers, and the internet was shortly aflame with indignation at the prospect.

What production studio is making the film?

Four production companies are involved in financing and producing Conan: Lionsgate, Millennium Films, Nu Image Films, and Paradox Entertainment.

Will they use Basil Poledouris’ theme for this new film?

No. In an interview for Fantasy.fr, Howard scholar and editor Patrice Louinet said “I can tell only tell you that it won’t be rock music (as in 300 or Clash of the Titans.) It won’t be a Poledouris 2 either.”

Who’s doing the visual effects?

Shaun Smith and Scott Wheeler, the creature designer and makeup artist of 300, have signed on.

When is it coming out?

19th August, 2011.

Written by alharron

23 December, 2010 at 12:35 am

Conan the Barbarian (2011): A New Cimmerian

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So who’s playing Conan?

Jason Momoa. Even now, a number of websites erroneously claim Kellan Lutz or Roland Kickinger is the “front runner” for the role, and some even claim them to have won it, despite the fact that principal photography for Conan ended in May.

Isn’t Jason Momoa black?

No. Jason Momoa is of mixed ancestry: his father is Native Hawaiian, while his mother is German/Irish/Native American. Don’t let the dreadlocks and goatee on Stargate Atlantis fool you: production photos reveal a barbarian not unlike Howard’s own descriptions.

Well, if they couldn’t get Arnold, why didn’t they cast Roland Kickinger, The Rock, Triple H, or another body-builder or wrestler?

The role of Howard’s Conan is a good deal more complex than the popular conception of the “big dumb barbarian” stereotype. Conan is cunning, intelligent, knowledgeable and emotive. Arnold, while underrated as an actor (he won a Golden Globe for his first major acting role in Stay Hungry) was still inexperienced and raw: combined with Milius and Stone’s hugely divergent character rewrite, the Conan of Conan the Barbarian was very different from the character Howard created.

Conan in Conan the Barbarian was many things, but he was at least crafty, resourceful and given to moments of refreshing insight. By the time of Conan the Destroyer, however, he was reduced to an insulting caricature, a stupid barbarian who cannot count to six or make decisions without a full five seconds to consider it.

Besides, Momoa’s pretty buff in the role:

Written by alharron

23 December, 2010 at 12:24 am

Conan the Barbarian (2011) and the Franchise Without Arnold

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Couldn’t they have just waited for Schwarzenegger to leave office and make Crown of Iron with John Milius?

A lot has changed with the Conan property holders in the past ten years. When Conan the Barbarian was released, it affected not only the popular conception of Conan, but CPI’s own approach. Many of the elements introduced in the film were repeated in games, comics and tv series: the Conan franchise became less about Robert E. Howard’s creation, and more about Milius’ interpretation. By the 1990s, the Conan franchise was in a rut: no less than three failed comic relaunches, a cancelled video game, a critically panned tv series, and two incredibly watered-down Saturday morning cartoons.

In recent years, Paradox Entertainment has gained control of the Conan trademark from the previous holders. Paradox has completely reinvigorated Conan, bringing out new comics under Dark Horse, new video games (2004’s Conan: The Dark Axe was the first Conan game released since 1991’s Conan the Cimmerian), and a host of other media and merchandise.

In nearly all the new media, Conan has been re-imagined without using Arnold Schwarzenegger’s likeness, going back to the original stories and starting from scratch in establishing the visual style of Conan. The Cimmerians of Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures and the two Conan games from Cauldron and Nihilistic software do not have an Austrian accent, nor brown hair, nor any of the elements that instinctively tie the character to Conan the Barbarian. Paradox & CPI are looking to bring Conan into the new millennium by going back to the character’s literary roots, rather than continuing the precedent set by Conan the Barbarian, which had run the character into the rut it was in during the ’90s.

Will Arnold at least make a cameo in the film?

Unlikely. Schwarzenegger’s last cameo was a one-day appearance on the set of The Expendables, where he only had to wear a suit. An appearance in Conan would need costume fittings, hair styling, makeup and more. That said, there is a possibility he could be involved in some other manner, either providing a voiceover narration, or even lending his likeness to a digital cameo as in Terminator Salvation.

Written by alharron

23 December, 2010 at 12:21 am

Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Cimmerian

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Did Howard ever refer to Conan as “Conan the Barbarian”?

He did not. Despite being the most commonly used epithet over the years, the creator of the character widely known as Conan the Barbarian never referred to him as such, neither in the stories, nor in his drafts, synopses or letters.

So what did Howard call him?

In the stories, Conan is most often referred to, or refers to himself, as “Conan the Cimmerian,” or “Conan of Cimmeria.” He is also once referred to as “Conan of the black hair,” “Conan the northron,” “Conan the Throat-slitter,” “Conan the buccaneer,” “Conan of the Barachan pirates,” and twice as “Conan of Aquilonia” and “Conan of Ghor,” referring to his status as , respectively, king and hetman of those places. In his letters, Howard always referred to Conan, when he used an epithet at all, as “Conan the Cimmerian.”

If not Howard, then who came up with “Conan the Barbarian” then?

There are two possibilities: Farnsworth Wright, editor of Weird Tales, used the phrase in promotional material for the magazine. The second is Howard’s friend Tevis Clyde Smith, as recalled by Novalyne Price:

Bob thought a minute. “Every way, but mostly with a character, I suppose. I’ve got a character going now-” “Conan, the Barbarian,” Clyde interrupted. “A ruthless barbarian who loves, fights, and battles the supernatural.”

One Who Walked Alone, page 20

It’s unclear who came up with it first, but in terms of print, Wright would appear to be the first to use “Conan the Barbarian” in publishing.

Written by alharron

23 December, 2010 at 12:19 am

Conan the Barbarian (2011): Remake, Reboot, or Reimagining?

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Right, so what’s this film then? Is it a sequel to Conan the Barbarian?

No. This film is entirely unconnected to the previous films, and is intended as a franchise reboot akin to Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, complete with a new origin story by Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer, with tweaks by Sean Hood and Andrew Lobel.

Is it a remake of Conan the Barbarian?

No. A remake implies a film is based on an earlier film: this is intended to be a new adaptation of the Conan character, who first appeared in the pages of Weird Tales in1932. The story written by Oliver Stone and John Milius for the 1982 film is entirely original, and outside of a few scenes extracted from two or three Howard stories and adoption of some names and elements, it bears very little in common with Howard’s creation.

But if it isn’t a remake, why does the plot sound just like Conan the Barbarian?

It is true that the storyline bears a number of similarities to Conan the Barbarian: the young barbarian whose village is massacred, one of his parents murdered by an evil warlord with sorcerous power, and a quest for vengeance across the Hyborian lands all figure in what is known in the upcoming film:

  • Our protagonist is a young Cimmerian named Conan
  • His father is a blacksmith
  • His village is attacked by a band of raiders
  • His father is killed
  • The raider’s leader takes his father’s sword
  • Conan eventually resolves to avenge his father’s death and village’s slaughter
  • The rest of the film follows Conan as an adult

However, there are significant divergences too:

  • Conan is not enslaved and taken north; he goes south and joins up with a group of pirates
  • Conan is not chained to the Wheel of Pain for 20 years; he lives a life of piracy through to adulthood
  • Conan is not forced into pit fighting; he gains experience in real battles, not gladiatorial combat
  • Conan is not taken to the Far East to learn eastern martial arts; he learns how to fight naturally, not through schooling
  • Conan doesn’t discover an Atlantean Sword in a crypt; he uses whatever weapon suits his purposes
  • Conan is not crucified on a Tree of Woe
  • Conan does not travel to Zamora
  • There is no Black Sun Cult of Set
  • There are no Mounds of the Dead
  • There is no Battle at the Mounds
  • There is no Tower of the Serpent
  • There is no Mountain of Power
  • Conan is not resurrected by demonic forces and the sacrifice of a loved one
  • Thulsa Doom does not appear in the film
  • King Osric does not appear in the film
  • Valeria does not appear in the film: Katarzyna Wolejnio’s minor character is completely unrelated to Sandahl Bergman’s
  • Rexor does not appear in the film
  • The Witch does not appear in the film: Rose McGowan’s “half-human, half-witch” Marique is not the same as Cassandra Gova’s witch
  • Subotai does not appear in the film
  • The Wizard does not appear in the film
  • The Princess, King Osric’s Daughter, does not appear in the film
  • Red-Hair, the slaver who frees Conan, does not appear in the film
  • The “Mongol” General and Turanian Officer do not appear in the film
  • The Pederast Priest does not appear in the film
  • Thorgrim does not appear in the film
  • The Sword Master does not appear in the film
  • None of Milius’ or Stone’s famous dialogue is in the film
  • None of Basil Poledouris’ iconic themes and melodies is in the film
  • None of Ron Cobb’s production design is in the film
  • None of John Bloomfield’s costume design is in the film
  • None of Jody Sampson’s swords are in the film

.. in short, next to nothing from Conan the Barbarian, save the bare bones of a young Cimmerian’s quest for revenge for the murder of his tribe and parents, will be making an appearance.

Written by alharron

22 December, 2010 at 10:15 pm

“Conan the Adventurer” (Live Action)

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Come to think of it, wasn’t there a ’90s tv show too?

Yes, there was. In some markets, such as the United Kingdom and Europe, it was simply called “Conan.”

Is it faithful to Robert E. Howard?

… Do I really have to answer that?

Yes.

No, of course not, what kind of ridiculous question is that?

Ok, ok. Is it at least faithful to Conan the Barbarian?

No, it isn’t even faithful to Conan the Barbarian. In addition to retconning Conan’s discovery of a sword which is quite clearly nothing like Jody Samson’s magnificent Atlantean sword, there are constant myriad inconsistencies with the 1982 film: instead of a slave pushing a wheel, he’s a prisoner pulling a wheel; instead of his people being wiped out, they are enslaved, and so on.

Written by alharron

22 December, 2010 at 10:06 pm