Saturday, December 1, 2012

On Top of the World: 80 Years of CONAN

"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 - Nemedia, Ophir, Brythunia, Hyberborea, Zamora with its dark-haired women and towers of spider-haunted mystery, Zingara with its chivalry, Koth that bordered on the pastoral lands of Shem, Stygia with its shadow-guarded tombs, Hyrkania whose riders wore steel and silk and gold. But the proudest kingdom of the world was Aquilonia, reigning supreme in the dreaming west. Hither came Conan the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet."


A whole lot of things have contributed to my writing inspiration and drive, my own poetry expanding into prose, the sheer love of reading-especially myth and legend, a love of history and lost mysteries, Tolkien is absolutely huge, Hemingway and more as well, but I must give credit that the biggest factor that literally kicked me in the face and said I HAVE TO START WRITING - instead of just talking about it, was Robert E. Howard's creation CONAN, who turns 80 today since his first appearance in Weird Tales.

The first tale of Howard's I read was People of the Black Circle but I know The Phoenix on the Sword (the first Conan tale with the familiar opening above, was soon to follow) I devoured the tales and harassed used book shops to acquire all the beat-up old dog-eared copies I could find, usually the lamentable DeCamp series. This was before the Del-Rey releases. I hardly read anything else that summer, and soon enough  I read most of the rest of REH's catalog and then got to work on my own.

If I can someday engender that same fascination with a reader, the sheer excitement and thrill that I felt reading these stories, I will have truly succeeded. I can think of no other praise or reward so high as sharing that feeling with another person when it comes to writing.


“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.”


Angie said...

What a great inspiration!

David J. West said...

Thanks Angie, one of those things that really kicked me into gear.

Charles Gramlich said...

Me too, man. Me too

David J. West said...

Thanks Charles.

Ty Johnston said...

I'm right there with you as far as Howard being an inspiration to write. I've never seriously attempted to emulate Howard's style of prose, mainly because I don't think I could pull it off with any level of decency and because ... well, Howard's style is HIS. Still, he's had a huge influence upon my writing and reading over the decades.

David J. West said...

I hear you Ty, a huge influence, but I don't believe I write like he did either.