Unfortunately, my excitement was dimmed upon discovering that the first book I opened, the Jessica Amanda Salmonson-edited Heroic Visions (1983, Ace Fantasy), begins with an essay that both exalts the S&S genre while managing to simultaneously land a swiping, drive-by broadsword blow on none other than Robert E. Howard.
Here’s the offending paragraph by Salmonson:
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Heroic fantasy, in recent decades, has seemed too often to be epitomized by Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian, and this is a sad state of affairs. The millennia-old heritage of magical and heroic tales does not begin or culminate in the rather simplistic fictions of the pulp era or the current, slavish imitations thereof. Howard’s work is admirable; he was surprisingly well-read, and invested his stories with the hodge-podge of an amateur historian or Harold Lamb fan, creating something primal, evocative, intriguing. Stylistically, he was weak. The dozen-score imitators of Howard have tended to capture the weakness of his style, but not the primal thread of his limited though worthwhile heroic vision—his, shall we say, pathos. Without denying Howard’s genius or even qualifying it, it must be recognized that glorifying his rudimentary sword and sorcery as “ideal” heroic fantasy is akin to assuming Doc Smith’s old-fashioned space opera is “ideal” science fiction. No area of fantasy should be so stagnant and devoid of stylistic and conceptual growth or variety.