Robert E. Howard’s Birthday, 2018

As far as I know, there aren’t any Howard Anniversaries this year. If there are, they’ve slipped my mind. I usually read something by an author whose birthday I’m posting about. The problem is all the Howard stories I want to read or reread are too long given the time available. I’d still be reading them on C. L. Moore’s birthday (two days after Howard’s).

Instead, I’m going to do something a little different.

Howard was born on January 22, 1906. One hundred twelve years ago. The world has changed a lot since then.

Many of the roads Howard knew, if they still exist, are paved now. Cars are much faster. They’re also air conditioned, as are most houses in Texas. That’s something he would appreciate, I’m sure.  Howard was interested in radio technology, but I doubt he could have imagined how much radio would have evolved.  As for television and internet, I’m sure he would be amazed. I think he would have taken to the internet like Conan took to battle. I’m going to steal a line from Mark Finn and say, can you imagine Howard and Lovecraft on Facebook?

Sexual harassment, Hyborian style

There are a lot of things Howard would probably be quite enthusiastic about that didn’t exist in his day.  But I think there would be some things he wouldn’t.

Take the idea of safe spaces, for instance.  I think Howard would despise the idea of a safe space. I mean, c’mon, think about it. This is the guy who argued that barbarism is the natural state of mankind. In his work, especially the Conan stories, he’s always contrasting Conan’s ethics with those of the more civilized people he encounters. Usually civilization does come off looking so good. Howard’s heroes (and heroines) did not try to hide from danger. They stood their ground. And that’s if they didn’t seek danger out in the first place. Safe spaces are the most effete thing you can come up with.

Can you see Solomon Kane going to his safe space when evil rears its head? Conan telling Belit she was making him uncomfortable with her dance? Sailor Steve Costigan apologizing for hurting someone’s feelings? Bran Mak Morn worrying about whether or not his policies were Rome-ophobic?

Howard’s characters would not fit in well in today’s politically correct world. They were direct. They said what they thought. They weren’t worried about who was offended or if anyone disagreed with them.

Maybe that’s why I find Howard’s characters so refreshing. They had spines. They lived by their own codes and didn’t let society force them into a milquetoast mold.

Howard refused to let the society he lived in force him into a mold. He struggled, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, to be his own man. He lived by his own code, and while his code is not quite my code, it was one I can admire. Furthermore, he incorporated that code into his work. And in doing so he gave us some of the most enduring characters in some of the greatest works of literature of the 20th Century.

And for that I raise my glass to him on the anniversary of his birth.

12 thoughts on “Robert E. Howard’s Birthday, 2018

  1. John Bullard

    Good post, Keith. I have visions of Howard railing against the PC/SJW silliness on his own blog-site, as he would have no doubt been banned from Twitter and Facebook years ago. One anniversary of Howard that I know of is this year is the 90th anniversary of the publication of the first Solomon Kane story, “Red Shadows”. Maybe I’ll read one of Kane stories today.

  2. Woelf Dietrich

    You pretty much explained why I was attracted to REH’s stories as a kid. lol

    I doubt he would have participated in the social media madness of today but he would enjoy and appreciate the research capacity of the Internet. He might have attended cons and there he would have been a fan favorite. He would have offended some people in his straightforward manner and anyone who took issue with his words he would either ignore or subject to a thorough tongue-lashing to the glorious applause of his fans.

    Then again, he might have felt even more out of place in today’s landscape than he did in his own time.

    Here’s to you, REH. Happy Birthday!

    1. Keith West Post author

      I’m sure he would have been on Facebook or had a blog or something. That would allow him to communicate with fans and friends. Twitter, I think he probably would have stayed away from. I think he would have no interest in joining SFWA, but you’re probably right about him attending cons. At least until he was ejected from one for hurting some snowflake’s feelings violating the code of conduct.

      I agree he probably would have felt more out of place today. I know I am more and more as I observe the insanity around me. What did Heinlein call this part of his future history, The Crazy Years?

      1. Woelf Dietrich

        Oh, I agree. He would enjoy having a blog. As for hurting someone’s feelings, I refer to my favourite quote here:

        “Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.“


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