200 Blackfeet Loose in an American City

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

James LaFond writes back to a kindred spirit to explain what Robert E. Howard was really about:

Ishmael, Howard, it seems, was widely misunderstood as an action writer, where he actually wrote about the same stuff that Lovecraft and a modern college professor named Andy Nowicki, wrote and write about in an academic flavored mire of internal conflict. Howard’s genius was that he wrote about alienation in such a belligerent manner from both perspectives: the civilized female and the barbaric man. There is not a simper, or a whine, or a doubt in the mind of the alien barbarian, like there is in the tormented souls of Lovecraft’s and Nowicki’s soft civilized victims of alienation.

Not only are the atmospherics of Howard’s stories horrific rather than fantastic, the action is so brutal that he skips the physicality. He’s not a biomechanical writer that will describe the gelatinous slide of a cleaved part from the rest of the body — but goes right to the emotion of defiance, dominance, conquest and racial hatred.

To me, reading in my youth, and in my prime, and now on the downward side of life, what Howard wrote about in 1933-34 was the ultimate corruption of Civilized Man, of what he saw American society eventually becoming — of course, presented to his editor in a fantastical veiled manner — as seen through the eyes of a hero that strides onto the scene not to set things right, but to punish the weak and greedy and powerful that thrive therein, and then to fade into legend as the whole rotten world goes up in flames. In other words, I see Howard’s fantasy and historical settings as his premonition of our moral predicament, and his heroes such as Kull, Kane and Conan [and Conan most of all] as a type of moral time traveler from a primal age, come to show us what our ancestors would think of Modernity. I get his drift as being along the lines of your suggestion that it would be great fun to bring forward 200 Blackfeet warriors from 1800 and set them loose in an American city.

What Robert E. Howard brings us, as an Aryan mystic obsessed with that which we are driven by our material demons to forget, is the judgment of our ancestors, for our fall, not from grace, but from an honored place.

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