No, Conan has not been declared “squeecore” yet, though come to think of it, Conan the Cimmerian is a person from a marginalised background who rises to a high position, he’s something of a wish fulfillment character, there is banter and there are plenty of “hell,yeah!” moments. Conan also allies with former enemies on occasion. Finally, everything usually works out for Conan, though not for necessarily for those around him, and there are two Conan stories (“Queen of the Black Coast” and “Beyond the Black River”), which are total downers where everybody not named Conan dies. So yes, maybe Robert E. Howard was writing squeecore some ninety years ago (at any rate, he was definitely writing for the money, i.e. he had the capitalist motive of needing to eat, pay for his car and support his sick mother). Because the definition is so muddled that everything can be “squeecore”.
Talking of “squeecore”, the Rite Gud podcast now has a transcript available of the episode where Raquel S. Benedict and J.R. Bolt attempt define what they mean by “squeecore”, so maybe their muddled points will become a bit clearer.
While on the subject of podcasts, the Geek Shock podcast, which is run by some geeky people from Las Vegas, including folks who used to appear in a Star Trek live show there, not only weighs in on the “squeecore” debate, but also gave a lovely shout-out to this blog as well as to Galactic Journey. Geek Shock is a fun podcast, which will also be featured as a Fancast Spotlight here soon, so check them out.
ETA: Steve Davidson also wades into the “squeecore” debate at Amazing Stories and rails against the division in ever smaller subgenres and niches and the commodification of SFF in general.
Which brings me to my final link for today. Because I’m also back in 1967 and at Galactic Journey again, where I celebrate the 61st (in Journey time) and 116th (in regular time) birthday of Robert E. Howard by reviewing Conan the Adventurer, first of the Lancer Conan reprints which have only just started coming out in 1967 and would introduce a whole new generation to Howard’s work in general and Conan in particular and which would also kick the sword and sorcery revival of the 1960s, which was already gradually ramping up through the first half of the decade, into overdrive.
The Lancer Conans are controversial these days, because of the way series editor L. Sprague De Camp not only forced the stories into a chronology that was never intended (Howard wrote the Conan stories out of order, actually beginning with an adventure late in Conan’s career and then going back to a very early adventure), but also mucked about with the actual stories, completed unfinished fragments, turned non-Conan stories by Howard into Conan stories and inserted his and Lin Carter’s own pastiches to fill up perceived gaps in the chronology.
Nowadays, Lin Carter’s and particularly L. Sprague De Camp’s contributions to Conan are viewed very negatively, because De Camp did not really get neither Conan nor Howard and because a lot of his mucking about was highly questionable and his and Carter’s Conan pastiches were often only a pale shadow of Howard’s original stories from the 1930s.
However, the Lancer editions were extremely well packaged. Frank Frazetta’s cover art is iconic and Frazetta’s Conan is the definitive image of the character by now, even though Margaret Brundage, Hugh Rankin and Harold DeLay all illustrated Conan before Frazetta did. The Lancers were also hugely successful, kept Conan from falling into obscurity and introduced him to a whole new generation of readers.
I was absolutely ready to roast De Camp for what he did to Conan – especially since some of the De Camp/Carter solo Conan efforts just don’t match the character from the Howard stories at all. However, it turned out that in early 1967, as the first two Lancer editions had only just come out, De Camp actually hadn’t actually done all that much that was objectionable.
Conan the Adventurer collects three largely unchanged Howard stories (and I don’t object to De Camp removing the occasional bit of racism) and one Howard fragment that De Camp completed, based on Howard’s outline. Both the original Howard fragment and the outline survive and have been reprinted in the Del Rey collection The Bloody Crown of Conan, so we can compare them to De Camp’s effort – entitled “Drums of Tombalku” – and De Camp really didn’t do too badly. He stuck to Howard’s outline and did a decent enough job completing the fragment. “Drums of Tombalku” is still a weaker Conan story and I’m pretty sure Howard abandoned it for a reason, but De Camp can’t be blamed for this.
I will be reviewing Conan the Warrior, the second Conan collection that Lancer put out, for Galactic Journey next month. Initially, both collections were supposed to be reviewed in one post, but it ran too long, so we split it in half. Conan the Warrior collects three novellas and is pure Howard with De Camp only providing the introduction and the bridging bits.
By the time, we get the the pure De Camp/Carter pastiches like Conan the Liberator, Conan of Aquilonia or Conan of the Isles, I’ll happily drag De Camp and Carter for what they did to Conan. And indeed, I was not very kind of Lin Carter when I reviewed his space opera The Star Magicians for Galactic Journey last year.
However, at Galactic Journey it’s January 1967 and by January 1967, L. Sprague De Camp really hasn’t done anything yet to deserve the reputation he later acquired.