Whether you’re a long-time fan of Robert E. Howard or a newcomer, you’ll enjoy this series on Howard’s stories at Black Gate. I love the premise of this project:
Welcome to a brand new, Monday morning series here at Black Gate. Join us as a star-studded cast of contributors examine every original Conan story written by Robert E. Howard: and tell you why THAT is the best of the bunch. Read on!
Think Conan stories are for kids, or are little more than escapist fiction? Think again. Here’s a piece I wrote for the Abbeville Institute on the depth of meaning lurking in the shadows of Howard’s Conan tales. And the thought-provoking worldview Howard infused into these highly entertaining pieces are supercharged with forceful, visual writing reminiscent of Jack London, Ambrose Bierce, and Ernest Hemingway. As Stephen King put it, “Howard’s writing seems so highly charged with energy that it nearly gives off sparks.” Author James Scott Bell once said of Howard, “His writing was big and wild and full of action.” Enjoy!
“A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.” Robert A. Heinlein
“Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.” Robert E. Howard
Another genius of the last century, Yogi Berra, once quipped that “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” And that’s why we have to admire Isaac Asimov for getting so many things right, as this BBC article argues:
He foresaw the rise of computers, saying the complexity of society would make them “impossible to do without”, disrupting work and penetrating the home.
“To think that computers would take over the world was remarkably insightful at that time,” thinks Calum Chase, who writes both fiction and non-fiction books on the subject of artificial intelligence.
“Most bosses did not use computers in the 80s. It was their secretaries who had them and they would print out emails for the bosses to read. The internet was around but not many people knew about it.”
These days, Asimov’s predictions seem rather tame — well, OF COURSE computers are essential, not just in business, but in education, entertainment, and personal communications. But there was heated opposition to them when they first appeared.
Chase’s comments about the lowly status of computers in the ’80s bring back many memories. I worked for Jefferson-Pilot Corporation back then, a holding company for several life, health, and property insurance companies in Greensboro, North Carolina. My work with computers and a corporate-wide cost reduction program led to my transfer to the Organizational Development department, where we analyzed workflows, proposed more efficient and effective methods, and managed automation projects. That was one cool job.
I quickly learned that many of the managers we worked with wanted nothing to do with personal computers, which they viewed as glorified typewriters. In one of my projects, I mapped out a workflow process that eliminated the need for life insurance underwriters to dictate to a transcriptionist, who would then enter data into the mainframe (you know, a REAL computer). Instead, I proposed the underwriter directly enter the applicant and policy information into a local area network. The underwriting manager complained to my boss that I wanted to turn professional underwriters into secretaries.
After all, computers have a keyboard, and keyboards are for clerical workers!
Yes, times have changed. And Isaac Asimov saw a lot of what was coming. “Genius” is an over-used compliment these days, but I’d say he earned it.