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Friday, January 22, 2016

Creating a cultural icon

It seems to me that many writers, by virtue of environments of culture, art and education, slip into writing because of their environments.  I beame a writer in spite of my environments.  – Robert E. Howard

American author Robert E. Howard, who was born on this date, is widely regarded as the father of the so-called “sword and sorcery” genre.  Along the way, of course, he created a character almost everyone in the world now knows – Conan the Barbarian. 
Even though he had          no formal training, his voracious reading, along with a natural talent for prose writing and the encouragement of teachers, created an interest in becoming a professional writer.   He actually started writing at age 9, mostly tales of historical fiction centering on Vikings, Arabs, battles, and bloodshed, all key elements in many of the pieces he wrote in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Unfortunately, his Conan books did not get published until after his death (at age 30 in 1936) and thus he had no idea that he had created a character that would stand the test of time.  Today, Conan’s cultural impact has been compared to such characters as Batman, Sherlock Holmes and Tarzan.  Despite never having a novel published while he was living, his writing was published in a wide range of magazines, journals, and newspapers, and he became one of the most popular writers of the new style he created.

“I do have this thing to remember,” he said shortly before his death.  “I was a pioneer in my profession, just as my grandfathers were in theirs, in that I was the first man in this section to earn his living as a writer.”

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