Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Publishing Profile - Conan the Barbarian

"Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet."
— Robert E. Howard, The Phoenix on the Sword, 1932.

Created by Texas writer Robert E. Howard in a re-write of an earlier story, Conan the Cimmerian strode onto the pages of weird tales magazine in the 1930's. He's proved most obstinate in sticking around, and better for all of us. Howard wrote Twenty One Conan stories, Seventeen of which were published during his lifetime, four were unpublished at the time of his untimely and unfortunate suicide in 1936. I won't be arm chair psychoanalyzing him, I will leave that to the Howard Scholars, and the Howard Shield wall. Though I will give a brief Biography of him later on.

Wait, Twenty One Stories? There are Ninety Nine listed on your website, I hear you say.. Let me explain.

Between 1950, and 1957, a small publisher known as Gnome Press, began re-releasing the Conan stories in hardback, The first Five volumes contained 20 of the 21 Conan stories, the last two volumes contained Pastiche material mainly consisting of a bit of Fan Fiction from one Bjorn Nyberg and several Non Conan, Howard stories edited by L. Sprague DeCamp into Howard stories.

Starting in 1966 with Conan the Adventurer, L. Sprague DeCamp and new collaborator Lin Carter began collating and re-re-releasing the Conan stories, Both Howard and Pastiche for Lancer books. They increased the total number of stories considerably, though they are mostly of dubious quality. Lancer went belly up before all 12 volumes of this series could be printed.

Enter, Ace Publishing. Who published what would become Volume 11, Conan of Aqulionia in 1977.. hardly the auspicious title that Lin Carter makes it out to be in Years Best Fantasy Stories 4.. Especially not when he compares its release to the Silmarillion which came out the same year..

Ace may have started with that volume, But they quickly reprinted the other 11 volumes.. Finally the " Complete Conan Saga " was available for the masses. We are still suffering the results of this to this day. Oliver stone speaks of the 12 Volume series when talking about writing the scripts for what became 1982's Conan the Barbarian... Again we are still suffering for this to this day.

But the series was a HUGE success, due in equal parts in my opinion to Howard's Prose and Frank Frazetta's Covers.. I guess its safe to say the series wasn't hindered by DeCamp, Carter and Vellajo's contributions.. because the series was followed by the first of the new Pastiches, Conan the Mercenary, and Conan and The Sorcerer, Both by Andrew J. Offutt.

But the pace or the pay wasn't good enough, so DeCamp started another new series in 1978 with Bantam Books.. I've never been able to find a specific reason for this change in publisher, as the books are ostensibly numbered 13-18 of the Conan Saga. Beggining with Conan The Swordsman, a collection of Short stories.. This series featured some very big Names.. Karl Edward Wagner and Poul Anderson.. it also contained the novelization of the 1982 Movie.

In 1982, a 3rd pastiche series was launched by then newcomer TOR books, starting out with some books by one Robert Jordan, who hadn't yet reached international fame with his Wheel of Time series.. There are 43 books in the Tor Series.

And that should just about bring you up on what you need to know so we can get started.

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