Saturday, May 3, 2008

"The Unnatural City" finds a place in The Cimmerian

The latest issue of The Cimmerian (Vol. 5, No. 2, you can find a complete listing of the contents on The Cimmerian Web site ), contains an article I wrote, "The Unnatural City." It's my attempt at analyzing a Robert E. Howard short story, "Red Nails," easily one of my top five favorite Howard stories of all time.

For those unfamiliar with the story, here's a brief outline: Conan and Valeria of the Red Brotherhood enter the ancient, forgotten city of Xuchotl (actually--and in true Howardian form--they are more or less chased inside by a dragon). While at first the city appears deserted, soon they discover that the final stages of a centuries-old blood feud is playing out to its grim end. Adventure ensues as Conan and Valeria are thrust into the middle of the two warring tribes, and into this incendiary mix Howard tosses a crawling monster from the crypts, a mad sorcerer, and dark magic. The story culminates with a murderous orgy of violence in the labyrinthine halls of the city. Pretty cool stuff.

I chose the word "labyrinthine" because that's the feeling I received while reading Howard's descriptions of Xuchotl. As his readers know, Howard despised civilized man, whom he felt became soft and degraded due to living a life bereft of battle and survival and honest labor. Howard's antipathy was also directed toward that symbol of civilized man, the modern city, our own concrete jungles. Howard's fullest depiction of the city occurs in "Red Nails" and led to the inspiration for my essay. For the record, I'm no fan of city life, either, and seem to get lost every time I drive into Boston.

Thanks to editor Leo Grin for his patient work hammering my essay into publishable form and providing some helpful references to Howard's letters. I hope subscribers of The Cimmerian find it interesting, and perhaps take from it some food for thought the next time they wander the halls of Xuchotl in their mind's eye.

Edit: If you haven't been to The Cimmerian in a while, check out this great post on J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion by blogger Steve Tompkins. Interesting, well-written, and well-researched posts like these are why I always find time to swing by that worthy website.


trollsmyth said...

Congrats! Is this a professional by-line or charity-fan work?

Brian Murphy said...

Hi Trollsmyth, it's a paid, by-lined article. The editor also delivered a couple courtesy copies to me and it's a fantastic-looking publication.

Chris said...

Congrats Brian! You need to bring the mag next time we get together so I can check it out.