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August 19, 2011

"A couple of years ago they were just another snake cult"

The Lord of the Rings was the perfect fantasy for WWII-era Europe,
the story of an external evil defeated by a courageous alliance. The Conan stories address a more insidious threat, the decay of civilization from within. Science fiction and the western took opposite tacks to create frontier adventures for a world with no more frontiers; Howard created a sort of nightmare inversion of both, a world in which the ragged edge of civilization is always rolling backward. "Barbarism is the natural state of mankind," he wrote in the Conan story "Beyond the Black River." "Civilization is unnatural. … And barbarism must always ultimately triumph." -- Brian Phillips on Conan the Barbarian - Grantland

Posted by Vanderleun at August 19, 2011 11:38 AM. This is an entry on the sideblog of American Digest: Check it out.

Your Say

Civilization, of any endurance, is constant struggle against that "bad luck" Heinlein (and Glenn Reynolds) reminds us of. Conan did end up on a throne with a kingdom, but it didn't last.

Posted by: stephen b at August 19, 2011 3:00 PM

What I was expecting Phillips to get into -- which he didn't -- is just how astute and sharp many of Howard's observations were concerning government and society, particularly regarding those who seek power so that they can remake society in their own image. The last time I read Howard's Conan stories (a few years back, when the trade paperback editions came out), I found myself stopping and reading passages to my wife (a fellow political junkie). ..bruce..

Posted by: bfwebster at August 19, 2011 4:07 PM

If you want to highlight any of those passages I'll be pleased to use them.

Posted by: vanderleun at August 19, 2011 5:18 PM

I'm currently out of state for computer forensics training. When I get back in a week or so, I'll whip together some choice Howard quotes. ..bruce..

Posted by: bfwebster at August 19, 2011 7:28 PM

We're more in danger of creating a Chronicles of Riddick 'Underverse' these days.

...Fracking necromongers are getting out of control.

Posted by: monkeyfan at August 20, 2011 10:00 AM