Fans of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Cimmerian have little affection for the Conan pastiches, i.e. any Conan story by another author. I can’t blame them—few of these short stories, novellas, and novels are much good. Howard was singularly suited to writing about the barbarian hero, and without his peculiar combination of skills and his relentless authorial drive, it’s tough to capture anything matching the same excitement. Non-Howard Conan is just another muscular fantasy barbarian who’s really good at splitting open skulls and drinking. That can be fun, but it’s not really Howard’s Conan.
But I owe some of where I am today to the Conan pastiche novel, specifically the long series Tor Books published from 1982 to 1997 (with one extra book popping up in 2003). I got my start as an online writer and book/movie essayist by writing about the Tor Conans—because nobody else apparently wanted to. In the early 2000s, while wasting time at a mind-killing day job at a commodities firm, I often posted on some of the Conan forums. I noticed other posters occasionally asking if anybody could recommend some of the Tor novels, which usually got the response of, “Don’t know, I haven’t read them.”
I thought I might make a name on the forums and have some fun as “The Guy Who Reads the Conan Pastiches So You Don’t Have To.” It was enjoyable for a stretch, and it was how I met John Chris Hocking, author of one of the Tor novels, Conan and the Emerald Lotus. He wrote to me saying he liked my reviews and wondered if I had read his Conan novel. I hadn’t, but I answered that I’d take care of this oversight immediately.Continue reading “My History With Conan Pastiches; Plus: Conan the Bold”