Archive for Robert E. Howard

Robert E. Howard Monday: Nerdrage

Posted in movies with tags , , on September 15, 2009 by bradellison

So the trailer for the new Solomon Kane movie is out.

And I am not well pleased.  I’ve come to terms with the fact that there’s never going to be a faithful adaptation of Red Shadows directed by Guillermo Del Toro and starring Michael Wincott, and I’ve had months now to try and come to grips with the nonsensical origin story they’ve cooked up for my favorite pulp hero, but even so I’d hoped for better than the Black Prince from A Knight’s Tale dressed up like Hugh Jackman from Van Helsing, swinging two cutlasses around in slow motion, and fighting the Golem boss from Castlevania.

Speaking of Van Helsing, I see from the Youtube comments, that endless black abyss of stupidity that God Almighty has forsaken and left to fester, that this movie has already given rise to the first generation of unreflective jerk-offs to whom Solomon Kane will be nothing but a crappy knock-off of an already-crappy knock-off.  For the record, anyone who says anything to me about Solomon Kane being a Van Helsing ripoff had best do it from a distance, or I will stab them right in the damn eye.

I can see exactly how this happened.  I have a blueprint detailing how this almost certainly happened, because I would bet real money that it’s pretty much the same process that turned Kull the Conqueror.  I strongly suspect that somewhere along the line, someone wanted to make an actual Solomon Kane movie, and then the project went into the studio sausage factory, with a sampling of the unrecognizable end result being this trailer.

I think I’ve given up hope for a Solomon Kane movie better than this:

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Robert E. Howard Monday: The Shadow Kingdom

Posted in Words with tags , , , , on March 31, 2009 by bradellison

As he sat upon his throne in the Hall of Society and gazed upon the courtiers, the ladies, the lords, the statesmen, he seemed to see their faces as things of illusion, things unreal, existent only as shadows and mockeries of substance. Always he had seen their faces as masks, but before he had looked on them with contemptuous tolerance, thinking to see beneath the masks shallow, puny souls, avaricious, lustful, deceitful; now there was a grim undertone, a sinister meaning, a vague horror that lurked beneath the smooth masks. While he exchanged courtesies with some nobleman or councilor he seemed to see the smiling face fade like smoke and the frightful jaws of a serpent gaping there. How many of those he looked upon were horrid, inhuman monsters, plotting his death, beneath the smooth mesmeric illusion of a human face?

Kull, exiled barbarian warrior of Atlantis and King (by his own hand) of the unspeakably ancient and crumbling empire of Valusia, was the sword and sorcery hero who preceded Conan.  Indeed, as I’ve mentioned before, the last Kull story (“By This Axe I Rule!) was reworked into the first Conan story (“The Phoenix On the Sword”).

But Kull, unlike Conan, is a thinker.  While he is a warrior, and a barbarian, Kull prefers to ponder cosmic mysteries and converse with philosophers, whereas all the philosophy Conan needs is “I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content.”*

This propensity for contemplation and brooding gets him into a lot of trouble throughout the series, of course, but luckily Kull’s hetero lifemate Brule the Spear-slayer has his back.  (There are more potentially-homoerotic overtones in this story than there are in the Biblical account of David and Jonathan, and that’s saying something).  Brule, an untamed barbarian, provides a touchstone for Kull, a link back to the purity and strength of his savage upbringing, before the corrupting decadence of civilization got its hooks into him (Two-Gun Bob was not ambiguous in expressing how he felt about human civilization in general).  Brule is also a Pict, and thus Kull’s ancestral enemy (and part of the unbroken lineage that leads from the days before Atlantis rose, to the time after it fell, through the collapse of the Hyborian Age and on down through the generations until the last King Bran Mak Morn fell in battle against the Roman Legions), but that blood feud is forgotten in the face of the threat of FREAKING SERPENT MEN FROM THE AGE BEFORE TIME!

*Special bonus story: “The Queen of the Black Coast,” one of the best of the Conan yarns.

Robert E. Howard Monday: Pigeons From Hell

Posted in Words with tags , , , on March 24, 2009 by bradellison

The footfalls were resumed. Branner was coming back. He was not running. The tread was even more deliberate and measured than before. Now the stairs began to creak again. A groping hand, moving along the balustrade, came into the bar of moonlight; then another, and a ghastly thrill went through Griswell as he saw that the other hand gripped a hatchet–a hatchet which dripped blackly…

Is it the scariest short story ever written in the English language?  Maybe, maybe not.  But better men than you have soiled themselves trying to read it while alone in the dark.  It’s a grim, nightmarish little piece of Southern Gothic horror about vengeance, voudun, and the taint left by the evils of slavery.

Monday Robert E. Howard: The Phoenix On the Sword

Posted in Words with tags , on March 10, 2009 by bradellison

Know, oh prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars…

The first Conan story was a reworking of the last Kull story.  It was a tale of the great adventurer’s later days, long after he’d won his kingdom, and wore the crown of Aquilonia upon a troubled brow.  But even as a middle-aged monarch, Conan is still Conan.

What do I know of cultured ways, the gilt, the craft and the lie?
I, who was born in a naked land and bred in the open sky.
The subtle tongue, the sophist guile, they fail when the broadswords sing;
Rush in and die, dogs–I was a man before I was a king.

Robert E. Howard Monday: The One Black Stain

Posted in Words with tags , , , on March 3, 2009 by bradellison

Solomon Kane may be Howard’s greatest character, although he’s overshadowed by Conan the Cimmerian.  I’ve got no love for Puritans as a general thing, but Kane is a Puritan swashbuckler, a man roams the Earth from his home soil of Britain through Europe to China and into the deepest and darkest parts of Africa, seeking adventure and evil to vanquish.  A man who grapples the spirits of the restless dead with his bare hands, and pits cold steel against pirates, harpies, vampires and wizards.  A man who sailed with Sir Richard Grenville on the last voyage of the Revenge, when she was laid low by no fewer than fifty-three Spanish vessels in one of the most epic naval battles in history.  And, as we see here, he sailed with Francis Drake.

(Sir Thomas Doughty, executed at St. Julian’s Bay, 1578)

They carried him out on the barren sand
where the rebel captains died;
Where the grim gray rotting gibbets stand
as Magellan reared them on the strand,
And the gulls that haunt the lonesome land
wail to the lonely tide.

Drake faced them all like a lion at bay,
with his lion head upflung:
“Dare ye my word of law defy,
to say this traitor shall not die?”
And his captains dared not meet his eye
but each man held his tongue.

Solomon Kane stood forth alone,
grim man of a somber race:
“Worthy of death he may well be,
but the trial ye held was mockery,
“Ye hid your spite in a travesty
where justice hid her face.

“More of the man had ye been, on deck
Your sword to cleanly draw
“In forthright fury from its sheath
and openly cleave him to the teeth-
“Rather than slink and hide beneath
a hollow word of the law.”

Hell rose in the eyes of Francis Drake.
“Puritan knave!” swore he.
“Headsman! Give him the axe instead!
He shall strike off yon traitor’s head!”
Solomon folded his arms and said,
darkly and somberly:

“I am no slave for your butcher’s work.”
“Bind him with triple strands!”
Drake roared and the men obeyed,
Hesitantly, as if afraid,
But Kane moved not as they took his blade
and pinioned his iron hands.

They bent the doomed man over to his knees,
the man who was to die;
They saw his lips in a strange smile bend,
one last long look they saw him send,
At Drake his judge and his one time friend
who dared not meet his eye.

The axe flashed silver in the sun,
a red arch slashed the sand;
A voice cried out as the head fell clear,
and the watchers flinched in sudden fear,
Though ’twas but a sea bird wheeling near
above the lonely strand.

“This be every traitor’s end!” Drake cried,
and yet again.
Slowly his captains turned and went
and the admiral’s stare was elsewhere bent
Than where the cold scorn with anger blent
in the eyes of Solomon Kane.

Night fell on the crawling waves;
the admiral’s door was closed;
Solomon lay in the stenching hold;
his irons clashed as the ship rolled.
And his guard, grown weary and overbold,
lay down his pipe and dozed.

He woke with a hand at his corded throat
that gripped him like a vise;
Trembling he yielded up the key,
and the somber Puritan stood free,
His cold eyes gleaming murderously
with the wrath that is slow to rise.

Unseen, to the admiral’s door,
went Solomon Kane from the guard,
Through the night and silence of the ship,
the guard’s keen dagger in his grip;
No man of the dull crew saw him slip
through the door unbarred.

Drake at the table sat alone,
his face sunk in his hands;
He looked up, as from sleeping –
but his eyes were blank with weeping
As if he saw not, creeping,
death’s swiftly flowing sands.

He reached no hand for gun or blade
to halt the hand of Kane,
Nor even seemed to hear or see,
lost in black mists of memory,
Love turned to hate and treachery,
and bitter, cankering pain.

A moment Solomon Kane stood there,
the dagger poised before,
As a condor stoops above a bird,
and Francis Drake spoke not nor stirred
And Kane went forth without a word
and closed the cabin door.

Sir Thomas Doughty is nothing more than a footnote in history now.  Look him up.  His legacy is this poem, and a rather odd play about his last dinner with Francis Drake, who had been his friend.

Robert E. Howard Monday: The Bulldog Breed

Posted in Stuff I think is cool, Words with tags , on February 24, 2009 by bradellison

I’m not ashamed to admit I get choked up every time I read this story.  It’s about boxing, and about courage and determination, but mostly it’s about a man’s love for his dog.

And I thought, as Tom Roche rubbed my belly and mopped the blood off my smashed face, and Mike rubbed his cold, wet nose in my glove, that me and Mike was both of the same breed, and the only fighting quality we had was a everlasting persistence. You got to kill a bulldog to lick him. Persistence! How’d I ever won a fight? How’d Mike ever won a fight? By walking in on our men and never giving up, no matter how bad we was hurt! Always outclassed in everything except guts and grip!

Monday Robert E. Howard #1: The Marching Song of Connacht

Posted in Words with tags on February 17, 2009 by bradellison

Monday is the return to toil. Up in the morning, out through the traffic, and on with the daily dose of meaningless drudgery, coming to an end with the promise of four more days of the same yet to come.

It is good, then, to remember that there is more to life than commuting and drone-work. The open steppe, a fleet horse, falcons at the wrist, and the wind in your hair.

To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women!

And to that end, Mondays are now a day for the main man of blood and thunder typing himself.

The men of the East are decked in steel,
They march with a trumpet’s din,
They glitter with silks and golden scales,
And high kings boast their kin–
We of the West wear the hides of wolves,
But our hearts are steel within.

They of the East ride gallant steeds,
Their spears are long and brown;
Their shields are set with sparkling stones,
And each knight wears a crown–
We fight on foot as our forebears fought,
And we drag the rider down.

We race the steed of the Saxon knight,
Across the naked fen–
They of the East are full of pride,
Cubs of the Lion’s den.
They boast they breed a race of kings–
But we of the West breed men.

–Robert E. Howard