Sunday, January 22, 2006

Conan in the Rio Grande Valley

More geekery: Today, January 22*, 2006, is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian and many other characters.

And, it turns out, Howard wrote some of his Conan-related material while visiting the Rio Grande Valley -- a poem about Conan's native land of Cimmeria was "Written in Mission, Texas, February 1932; suggested by the memory of the hill-country above Fredricksburg seen in a mist of winter rain." As the author wrote,

"Conan simply grew up in my mind a few years ago when I was stopping in a little border town on the lower Rio Grande."

Howard visited other Valley cites as well, including Rio Grande City, where he crossed into Mexico to partake of the local culture, as he wrote in a letter:
[...] There is a bar on every street. You get quite thirsty in the heat. I am a temperance man, confound it. Down with all liquor! So I downed it.

Indeed, Howard scholars say Conan is a native of Texas as much as he is the fictional land of Cimmeria. Howard wrote most of his stories while living in the West Texas town of Cross Plains, which recently suffered destruction from the wildfires that swept the state.

Conan, of course, gained fame in a series of stories for 1930s pulp magazines, 1960s reprints distinguished by Frank Frazetta covers, 1970s comic books and 1980s movies featuring a future California governor in the lead role. Today a new Conan comic series offers a retelling of the barbarian's adventures and a computer game gives fans a chance to adventure in the time of Conan, the Hyborian Age.

And, most significantly, a publisher has reissued all of Howard's Conan tales in new editions. Check them out; they're good reading if you like swords & sorcery action-adventure tales.

*Howard's birth certificate says January 24, but the writer and his father always gave January 22 as Howard's date of birth.


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