WI: Robert E. Howard lives

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by thekingsguard, Jan 11, 2019.

  1. thekingsguard Founder of Korsgaardianism

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    Robert E. Howard is one of the most unsung heroes of modern speculative fiction.

    The man pioneered modern fantasy with Conan the Barbarian and the Hyperborean Age, as well as charachters like Soloman Kane, Krull of Atlantis. He penned over a hundred stories across a range of genres, ranging from sword and sandals fantasy, to Lovecraftian horror, to westerns, adventure, historical fiction, detective stories, and even boxing. The man was prolific in a way few authors, even in the pulp era, ever managed to be.

    He had a signature style, most notably the resourcefulness of his characters. To name an example, his Lovecraftian horror, where HP Lovecraft protaganists would often give into despair, Howard's would go down swinging.

    The mind-blowing thing - he did all of this by the age of 30, when he committed suicide out of both grief over his dying mother, and lingering mental health issues.

    Let's say Howard doesn't commit suicide though - maybe he couldn't go through with it, or lets go ahead do him a solid and say his mother doesn't get cancer and lives another 20 years like his father did.

    For the sake of our discussion, Robert E. Howard lives at least until the age of 65, until 1971.

    Does he flesh out his fantasy works into something more formal, as Tolkien would eventually do with Middle Earth? Does Howard become the American answer to deeply British Tolkien? Conan of Cimmeria grow into a proper rival of Frodo Baggins?

    Does he get the big break he always craved - he had just sold his first novel prior to his suicide, does he eventually gravitate from short fiction to novels as many other authors of the era did?

    With the rise of publications like Astounding, and men like Asimov, Heinlein and Clarke, would we see Howard dabble in the one genre he never tackled, science ficiton?

    Does not being effected by the death of his friend give HP Lovecraft a few more years too?

    Or does Howard stumble, never graduating from being a prolific pulp author?

    What does one of speculative fiction's most seminal and prolific names do with another three decades?
     
  2. CountDVB Dual Emperor of the Aztech and Maychanical Empires

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    Well, from the bit I read on him, he committed suicide partly out of a fear of not dying young.

    However, I could see him becoming even more popular and prolific.

    I do think that the Second World War would affect his writing. After all, the decline of his hometown was gave him a form of wariness toward civilization and the war could affect him in different ways. Maybe he becomes more jaded by the atrocities of Nazi Germany or possibly become more optimistic because of the war effort. Additionally, the economic boom of the late 40s and early 50s would also have an effect.

    I am thinking that he probably would not go to science fiction and stay more in fanatasy.


    I have no idea if he’d go into deeper fanatasy, but he does have a couple similarities to Tolkien. If he does come across Lord of the Rings or one of his friends does, it could inspire him though I could see more him doing some counterpart of the Simarillion.

    One interesting idea would be to see him dabble in comics for a while though the Comics Code Authority would end that.

    I am thinking new writers could inspire him to publish his short stories in novel form and work on bigger ones, especially if he’d be one of the few prominent big names in American fantasy.
     
  3. Dave Howery laughs at your pain

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    before he died, he was doing a lot less of fantasy and adventure writing in favor of writing western fiction (both serious and comedy)… he might stick with that, western fiction was becoming a big thing...
     
  4. unclepatrick Well-Known Member

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    I could see Howard doing Westerns in the 40 and 50's and maybe doing Adventure novels in the late 50's.
    I kind of wonder what Howard would do when the Spy Novels become popular.
     
  5. Mark E. Well-Known Member

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    This is an author who died quite young, yet he produced notable fiction. His move to westerns in the thirties says he was adaptive to the genre of the time. Sci-fi became popular in the fifties. James Bond/spy stories in the sixties. Supernatural horror in the early seventies. Tolkien wrote in the fifties but his works did not catch on until the early seventies, as Dungeons and Dragons adopted some of his settings. As for early adulthood characters, the late forties brought an short interest in stories about college-aged students. The late fifties saw TV shows with teen-aged characters. Would Howard try to write for TV?
     
  6. UCB79 Bookworm, 1st class

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    Most interesting idea Count about REH going
    into comic books. Could he- dare I say it?-
    have wound up @ Marvel & joined there Stan Lee & Jack Kirby? What might have followed could have been mind-blowing! (Peter Parker
    the Barbarian?)

    Or maybe instead he would have gone into
    the movies or TV as a writer- though @ first I thought that the latter from the 1950’s to the early 1970’s would have been too res-
    trictive, too down on creativity for REH to
    work there. But then I reconsidered. After
    all, if Harlan Ellison could toil for years in
    the vast wasteland, who is to say REH could
    not have done the same? Maybe he could have wound up working with Rod Serling on
    THE TWILIGHT ZONE. Or maybe even for
    Gene Roddenberry on the original STAR TREK! (Red Sonja, Captain of the starship
    ENTERPRISE- now doesn’t THAT have a ring
    to it!)

    It really is a shame that REH was unable to
    work out his personal problems & live longer.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2019
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  7. Mad Bad Rabbit Well-Known Member

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    "Conan, starring William Shatner. Brought to you by Ford Motor Company, makers of the exciting new Edsel."
     
  8. CountDVB Dual Emperor of the Aztech and Maychanical Empires

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    REH was kind of a complex person. As for comic books, I figure he would be more into western or barbarian styled comics. While a post does mention the rise of westerns, his core base in Conan would probably be a safer bet.

    REH compared with Harlan Ellison, eh? but he was not much of a science fiction person (though he did dabble in it as seen with Esau Cairn.)

    The decline of his hometown made him wary of civilization, hence all the rugged heroes out in the wilderness. Honestly, I think he could make it big since his works were about manly men and giving how James Bond filled a void of a loss of traditional "rugged individualism" sort of vibe, Conan could do the same. I figure that he could be pretty popular among the Irish.

    Though he could also introduce a more edged view of science fiction earlier on.

    Another thing was that he was pretty fair toward women (minorities not as much, but there were some good moments) in his fiction.

    Him living longer could portray him going into World War 2, which would definitely change him. Besides adding more to his respect of women and minorities, it could either change him of how he views violence or he doubles down on his disdain of civilization and its functions.
     
  9. Joao97 Well-Known Member

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    Well, Howard had a very hot-blooded writing style which doesn't really seem fit for writing Tolkien-style fantasy. His stories were generally action-packed and had a very hardboiled, dark(ish) tone. I don't think he would be very interesting in writing Tolkien's type of stuff. Even if he does switch to novels, his fantasy writing will probably still be of the "pulpy" sword-and-sorcery variety.

    As for science-fiction, I suppose he could dabble in the genre when it starts becoming popular, probably with some sort of space opera.
     
  10. CountDVB Dual Emperor of the Aztech and Maychanical Empires

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    Agreed, but he did have a timeline of Conan stuff so I figured that he could organize it all in a tome in his older years. Granted, this is all implying he remains the same. Should he go to war, he would be a changed man.
     
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  11. Joao97 Well-Known Member

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    Hum... I just had an idea.

    If Howard is still active in the 60s and gets to know Michael Moorcock, could we maybe hope for a Conan the Barbarian-Elric of Melniboné crossover?
     
  12. Max Sinister Retired Myriad Club Member Banned

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    Moorcock doesn't like even Tolkien, finds him "fascist", I don't know whether he'd like Conan.
     
  13. Major Major Tired Old Man

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    Yet Tolkien "rather liked" his works.
     
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  14. Lord High Executioner Is also the very model of a modern Major-General

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  15. Joao97 Well-Known Member

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    Over a period of time following almost exactly the period in which I was writing the first Elric stories, I was inclined to distance myself from the work of Robert E. Howard, even though he had been an important influence (unlike Lovecraft, for whom I had no taste). Over the years I have seen many other writers put space between themselves and their main sources of inspiration and have come to understand it as an important, if not particularly admirable, part of the process of trying to make one’s individual mark.
    In recent times I have also given Howard due credit and even by the early 1960s was perfectly happy to announce him as an important influence.
    Howard wrote pulp adventure stories of every kind, for every market he could find, but his real love was for supernatural adventure and he brought a brash, tough element to the epic fantasy which did as much to change the course of the American school away from precious writing and static imagery as Hammett, Chandler, and the Black Mask pulp writers were to change the course of American detective fiction.
    - Michael Moorcock

    Howard was an important influence on Moorcock, and Elric was writen specifically as an anthithesis of Conan, that's why I think such a crossover would be interesting.

    Moorcock may have been more ambivalent about Howard in his later years, but he still very clearly respected the man.

    To be honest, I don't know about that. But regardless, their styles were very different and I don't see Howard producing anything close to Tolkien's work if he lives more.
     
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  16. Joao97 Well-Known Member

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  17. Alexander the Average Anti-lion tamer

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    Conan as an incarnation of the Eternal Warrior?
     
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  18. thekingsguard Founder of Korsgaardianism

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    Moorcock wasn't just influenced by Howard. He wrote a good many Conan the Barbarian stories himself.

    I do love that individualist streak in Howards works. His Lovecraftian horror? His protags never give up, and worst case, go down fighting. His fantasy stories? Mostly selfmade mens, prophesy and monarchy be damned, and even Conan was only a king "by his own hand".

    A fantasy genre shaped by that, as much as it has been by Tolkien's Catholic beleifs and traditionalism, could be interesting, to say nothing of Howard pulling more from ancient times than the Middle Ages.

    American fantasy vs British fantasy on steroids perhaps.
     
  19. DakotaTimeTraveler Well-Known Member

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    Lots of speculation but it's hard to say for sure.

    If anyone writes up a TL on this, I'd subscribe in a flash!
     
  20. Dave Howery laughs at your pain

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    I read that one back in the day... it was a two-parter. I don't have those original comics, but I do have a 'special collected edition' of it somewhere that came out a year or two later...