Thursday, August 27, 2009

Cimmerian sighting: More thoughts on escape in Howard's Conan stories

I’ve been on an escape kick lately. I wrote about it over at The Cimmerian recently, and in the latest issue of The Dark Man I have a published opinion piece about its presence in the works of Robert E. Howard.

In short, while some critics consider escape a dirty word, I think it’s one of fantasy’s strengths, and a quality of the genre to be embraced, not shunned. I also think that readers who deny fantasy’s escapist element are deluding themselves; we love sword fights, and alien landscapes, and dragons. If we didn’t, wouldn’t we all be reading non-fiction or John Steinbeck novels instead?

As a followup on my recent post extolling the values of escapism, here’s some more of my thoughts on how this quality relates to Howard’s Conan stories.

For readers not afraid to embrace its delicious rewards, Howard’s stories offer a rewarding escape destination, “An age undreamed of when shining Kingdoms lay spread across the world, like blue mantles beneath the stars.” Like a long vacation after many months of thankless work, an escape to the Hyborian Age illuminates new possibilities for the reader.

Here are a few choice offerings.

To read the rest of this post, visit The Cimmerian Web site.


Mike in MN said...

This was an excellent essay, Brian. A much-needed reminder of why Howard's work is so appealing. A refreshing read late on a Friday afternoon in the 9-5 world, a world that would likely be one of Conan's most fiendish adversaries.

Brian Murphy said...

Thanks Mike!

Eric D. Lehman said...

I also am not sure where the negative connotation of 'escape' came from. Probably some of the snobs in English Departments (like mine), the readers themselves who wanted out of this cruel world, or perhaps the socially conscious writers of the mid-20th-century who wanted more realism. Whatever their intentions, I think it is time to re-take the word "escape" and make it a viable and positive reason for and effect of our literature.

Brian Murphy said...

Hi Eric, I agree. Studying the reasons for escape, and what the escapee desires to leave behind, also provides useful illumination about an author and his or her creation.