The Once And Future Blogger, The Department Of Conan Studies, The Anarchism Of Fools, Book-Buying Recommendations, And The ULTIMATE EXCUSE!
I no longer write here.
At one time (this has always been Ken's site), I was the junior member of a thriving partnership, but it's evolved into a solo firm. I'm sorry that I don't write here any longer, but for reasons various and sundry it isn't where my heart is any longer. That's happened in the past. I began blogging here, left for my own moody reasons (which had nothing to do with Ken), wrote my own blog which became too much work, and returned to the fold. Primarily because I like Ken. I've never met him. I may never meet him, but I enjoy his virtual company. He's the best blogger I read.
That said, I'll be blogging here for a few days next week, over a major political problem in my fair state, one which bothers me enough that I've spent hours digging through the mathom hall, to find my sword. May it only wound evildoers.
Speaking of swords, let's talk about books. Specifically the genre of "Swords and Sorcery", as Gary Gygax among others called it. I recently re-read the collected stories of Robert E. Howard, those concerning the fictional character, place, and time who will carry his name forward not just into this century, but the next, Conan the Cimmerian, of the Hyborian Age. The appellation "the Barbarian" was popularized by others, principally L. Sprague DeCamp (a fine fantasy writer in his own right), who discovered the stories of Howard in the pages of Weird Tales (one of the most important literary magazines of the twentieth century, which no serious person would now deny), and as with August Derleth and H.P. Lovecraft, refused to allow his predecessor's work to die.
As with Derleth and Lovecraft, Howard's work was saved because DeCamp (whose own Grey Mouser and Fafhrd work is superior to what he did to Howard) re-wrote and changed the chronology of the Conan stories. Howard was a pulp author, but so were Raymond Chandler and James Cain, authors whose genius no one disputes. The Conan stories (along with the rest of Howard's work) have recently been reprinted, as originally written, with interpretation and comment of an almost academic stripe. "Beyond The Black River" is one of the five best short stories I've ever read. You might consider reading it and other stories of Conan the Cimmerian in:
The Conquering Sword of Conan (my personal favorite, and Howard's last, and most mature, work)
Now at this point you're saying, Patrick, you're shitting me. There's no way that a bunch of stories about Arnold Schwarzenegger are as worthy of study as the work of, say, Nobel Prize winner Doris Lessing (who reluctantly admits she's dabbled in science fiction and fantasy), but I'm saying it. Raymond Chandler, whose work was considered trash by everyone except Ben Hecht when he wrote it, pointed out the now fully accepted truth that, "Down these mean streets a man must go." A timeless truth Howard only wrote better at his best, and the man walked wearing sandals.
Don't believe me? Try the Wall Street Journal. A hundred years from now, Conan the Cimmerian will still be read and appreciated, while the works of Doris Lessing will be consigned to the one-dollar-a-mindlink (the inflation of a hundred years will make the dollar equivalent to a modern penny) Thoughtbin at Amazon.ch.
On that note, I've also been reading the re-released work of Michael Moorcock, who back when boomer males could get an erection without the aid of blue pills was considered a revolutionary in fantasy, acclaimed by such modern heroes as Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore. While Moorcock now writes "literary fiction" (whatever that means), his most influential work (apart from inspiring the "Lawful" and "Chaotic" alignments in Dungeons & Dragons"), remains the Elric series of short stories, later re-written (by anonymous editors) and, as with Howard's work, re-assembled into some form of God-forsaken chronological narrative series of fake novels, under the Del Ray imprint. As with Howard's stories, the Elric series was originally written in no particular order, each story reflecting a phase in its hero's life, the last perhaps occurring decades before the next, as though told around a campfire.
And shouldn't all fantasy be appreciated out of chronological order, like yarns spun round a campfire?
Anyway, Moorcock's Elric stories, also, have recently printed in America in the original order and as originally written. I'll just link to the first volume:
in which the reader is introduced to, in many ways, the 1960s' answer to Conan, a magician rendered a weakling by genetic infirmity, not a barbarian but the product of an ancient and decadent civilization, whose powers are based on magic, addiction to drugs, and a demon disguised as a sword far more intimidating than any Arthurian toy, Stormbringer.
Moorcock, by the way, when he's not writing fantasy and/or litfic, is a political theorist. A self-proclaimed atheist anarchist who trumpets the virtues of socialism, to which I, in my non-ancient, non-decadent, barbaric mind, can only reply: Huh?
Judge for yourself, as Moorcock denounces all science fiction writers Who Came Before as racist, authoritarian, and insufficiently dedicated to government-enforced redistribution of wealth. Tolstoy was also an anarchist and a socialist, but as a religious mystic he had little use for practicality or consistency. And unlike Moorcock (a writer I quite admire), Tolstoy was a genius.
Speaking of socialism, can we talk? Due to my partner's political proclivities, we are near bombarded with calls from Barack Obama, or his surrogates, asking for money. I can tell it's them because they open the conversation with "Mr. [my partner's last name which is not my last name]?" Then they go into their spiel. At the first breathing point, I reply with…
"I'm sorry, I'm a libertarian."
At which point they go on with their talking points, ignoring what I said to be answered with a dial tone, get off the phone on their own, answer with some non-Moorcockian equivalent of "Huh?", or, most rarely, try to discuss politics in their crude, Flatlandish way with me (usually these are the college kids), a la:
"So you support children working in factories 14 hours a day?"…
To which I respond:
"Only if the children are there voluntarily, as free agents."
Mind you, I once made the mistake of donating to a Republican, and we get occasional calls from them as well. Last election season, one of them, a college Republican sort, engaged me in a similar discussion, asking me whether, since I wasn't going to donate to McCain, I supported polygamy and bestiality.
To which I responded:
"Only if the animals are participating voluntarily, as free agents."
There are probably many flaws to libertarianism as a political philosophy, but it's the ultimate excuse when one wishes to end a stupid political conversation.
Last 5 posts by Patrick Non-White
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