Howard’s “The Phoenix on the Sword” introduced Conan to the world in the December 1932 issue of Weird Tales and so now that he’s 80, I thought I’d commemorate his birthday with a trip down memory lane and map out some of the high points of my life that were brought about due to my fondness for the mighty Cimmerian.
I first really discovered Howard’s timeless hero when I was about ten, through the Lancer editions, and was even able to make a stop at the Howard abode in Cross Plains back in 1967. This was a highpoint of my reading life—my family never would have made the Cross Plains stop if Conan hadn’t fired my youthful imagination.
In fact I was so fired up that years later I wrote a story about a Conan-like warrior’s melancholy end and mailed it to Jonathan Bacon’s Fantasy Crossroads and even got it accepted, although my literary hopes were dashed when the fanzine went out of business before the tale got published. Howard has inspired quite a few people to write—whether this is a good or bad thing all depends on the opinion of the reader, of course.
But this enthusiasm for Conan (and all things Howard) never left me and in 2007, on the fortieth anniversary of my first journey to Cross Plains I was lucky enough to return, and believe me it was quite the moment when I realized that I was only a few feet away from where my family had parked all those years ago.
Fast forward five years and I’m invited to be on a panel at PulpFest celebrating the Cimmerian’s birthday. That was a pretty big deal for me. I sat, and shared the stage with, Don Herron, Rusty Burke and “Indy” Cavalier—an impressive trio of Conan scholars and that’s a fact.
While it was very cool being part of PulpFest, I think the coolest thing occurred when some younger members of the audience started asking questions. These newer Robert E. Howard fans were not known to any of us, but it was apparent to all of us that these guys were excited. Evidently they had seen the Momoa movie and it had spurred them to search out the talented Texan and read the real Conan stories. So now they were hooked and their lives were beginning to be changed by the Cimmerian too; in short, they, like me forty-six years before, were enthused.
Conan has made it to 80, and judging by what I saw at PulpFest the tough barbarian is going to be around for a long time. PulpFest displayed to me that there are a lot of Howard fanatics out there that we don’t even know about, but I’m willing to bet that as the years go by we’ll be hearing from them. I don’t know if I’ll be alive to celebrate my eightieth birthday, but I’m damn positive that Conan will be here for number 100 and many more. The Cimmerian has trampled many heroes into the dust under his sandaled feet and I feel he will continue to do so—who out there could possibly stop him, or his fans?