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‘An Eerie Power’
David Drake on Intruding on Robert E. Howard

I read, yesterday, from Cormac Mac Art, the tales of my favorite Robert E. Howard character, one of many brooding heroes whose stories he never sold. I had read the original Tigers of the Sea paperback, covering the adventures of the Gaelic Reaver in the mid-1970s. This volume was given to me by Nero the Pict, my brother in the matter of our bleak and pointed view. I learned that Karl Edward Wagner, who was my favorite posthumous collaborator of Howard’s, had already passed when I enjoyed his Road of Kings Conan series.

Drake went on, through his introduction, titled Ancient History, [Drake’s record of writing plot background for Andrew J. Offutt was fascinating from a writer’s perspective.] as well as his brief notes on the text, to impress me with his conceptualization of his editorial duty and specifically the following…

On Science-Fiction and Fantasy from the 40-60s:

“A very eclectic mix, enormous in scope if not in volume; but it was Robert E. Howard who made us want to write.

On Howard as a literary wellspring;

“That’s what caused me to put first an echo of his truth on paper and later, after I had experience of my own, my own visions of truth.”

On editing the incomplete story and outline of The Temple of Abomination:

“Instead of completing the long version of the story, I’ve let it stand as Howard wrote it—but with the short version, the outline, appended. I find the outline to have an eerie power on which I don’t care to intrude.”

I have considered completing a number of Robert E. Howard stories but have, each time, shrunk from tainting the source of my own drive to write. I know firsthand what Drake meant: an incomplete Robert E. Howard story is better than anything his inspirational inheritors might ape in the shadows cast by his imagination. To write a Robert E. Howard pastiche would be like The Servants of Bit-Yakin, the subhuman descendants of a yogi’s luggage handlers from Howard’s Conan story by the same name [also published as The Jewels of Gwallur] pretending to append his script with a quill grasped axe-like in their own hairy hands.

White in the Savage Night: A Politically Incorrect Life In Words: 2016

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