The SFFaudio Podcast #734– The Black Stranger by Robert E. Howard – read by Connor Kaye. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the novella (3 hours 30 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants include Jesse, Paul Weimer, Trish E. Matson, Connor Kaye, Alex, and Cora Buhlert.
Talked about on today’s show:
with changes, Fantasy, February 1953, Gutenberg Australia, some art, is that supposed to be Conan, always cleanshaven, he has a knife so he would have shaved, buck naked, a great costume, Conan has a hat!, Conan cosplays, a blue jacket with silver buttons, a lacquered hat, researching hats, 100 years out of date, a pirate hat, the Del Rey edition, Gregory Manchess, Irene Gallo, the comic adaptation, an adaptation of the L. Sprague de Camp, he never gets the hat, inferior version, more authentic and more Robert E. Howard, pirate sword, broadsword, Villains Of All Nations by Marcus Rediker, piracy in the golden age, Howard doesn’t care about piracy as much as storytelling, how terrible De Camp is when he puts his hands on Conan, respectful of the lady’s title, not within his character, he’s not a classist, protective not deferential, Gary Gianni, the pirate sword, full pirate, his hat is a girl named Tina, tricorn hat, not recognizable, not normally naked with a loincloth, armour, Conan doesn’t have its own look, fur diaper, barechested, entering dynamically into the argument, the manor house is the ship wreckage, not a cutlass, par for the course, a hundred years earlier sword in Conanland, well worth getting, original typescripts, great illustrations, introductory essays, the title, Treasure Of Tranicos, the appeal, which is the more Howard Conan title?, not evocative, Swords Of The Red Brotherhood, slowly over the course of a week, who the Black Stranger was, think of how many times some stranger shows up, also refers to Conan, three pirates, the busiest beach in Pictland, so full of coincidences, what? who’s this?, built this castle, there’s a black stranger on the beach, a whipping scene, some Pict’s head comes flying out of nowhere, black hair, black skin, Thoth Amon, gladly excised, a drinking party where everybody’s frozen, he’s having fun, he’s pulling a Rings Of Power, is this hobbit Sauron?, left as an exercise for the reader, he is the author insert, his clothes are described awesomely, stepping out of the shadows, Conan, who else?, Blackbeard, famous pirates stepping out of history, that’s the gimmick is going for, all after the treasure, the misunderstanding of what Howard is doing, I can fix it, a very abrupt ending, the comic’s ending, a bag of jewels, that’s when men of civilized lands want, the speech, I’m gonna go be a pirate again, the demon has been destroyed, finance a revolution, his Conan chronology, the story doesn’t need this, Howard didn’t care about the myth arc, it weakens the story, strengthens its position in the myth arc, de Camp is good if he does his own thing, he cannot impersonate Howard’s writing, his rewrite detracts from the story, a weird twist in Conan’s story, Beyond The Black River, he feels ready, maybe somebody needs to go fix this, maybe a year, runs through the Pict wilderness, off we go, carefree younger bloodthirsty pirate Conan, why he thought that, didn’t fit his character, a line of paperbacks he wants to push, numbers on the spine, collect them all, a way for him to make money, it’s better now I improved it, Jesse the Cimmerian, the Black Vulmea version, you might get sued, perfectly legal, the name change, Verezano, what August Derleth did to H.P. Lovecraft’s writings, all the stories are separate, the milieu, loosely connected, Jules de Grandin, a reference back to an earlier, “complete in this issue”, the promise, a Varney the Vampire, I hate waiting that week, anthology series vs. the appeal of series, sold out that week, massive problems finding copies of Weird Tales in Cross Plains, loose series, what happened so far, they’re the thing that keeps your reading, 3.5 hours, a substantial chunk of Weird Tales, Famous Fantastic Mysteries [or Fantastic Novels], too long, Red Nails was split, the whipping scene, Howard specialists, Bobby Derie, how absolutely terrified, an urbane cultured individual, a descent into madness, not very weird, supernatural elements, a historical story, a straight pirate story, unsold Kull stories, relistening to prepare, where Conan really enters the story (at the 2 hour point), The Cromcast, Rusty Burke, their pre-chat is at the beginning, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, in real-life pirates never buried their treasure, their whole deal, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn were wrong about pirates, Blackbeard’s Ghost (1968), they live a brief life, they want some earthly pleasure, a very unrealistic portrayal of pirates of the golden age, Fafhrd and The Grey Mouser, they wenched, it they drank it, the ISIS flag, found family vs. war against the world, anti-slavery, becoming a free man, they’re going to want to have me as a captain, a captain is elected, democracy and everybody having their share, they need me for navigation, Conan is not a class guy, he’s a race guy, in Queen Of The Black Coast, we get it wrong, she rules the seas, worshiped of the goddess, Valeria is another pirate, like Mary Read, a classic ancient roman dictator, The Isle Of Pirate’s Doom, quartermaster, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Master Of The Ballantrae: A Winter’s Tale, playing a game like in The Slithering Shadow, a gothic novel, supernatural seeming events, a giant slug monster, frog-monster, black heart, A Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare, a coming together, sack of gold very small, woman on the arm, Tina is the hardest to explain story character, a prophetic gift, uncanny, what’s going on the beach, she sees, more plot device than character, a whipping scene, child characters, he liked children (not that way), Solomon Kane, The Moon Of Skulls, a kid he knew?, a Nathaniel Hawthorne sort of story, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, a story set in a witch worried land, in the wilderness, the conception of a daughter out of wedlock, the scarlet A, why is that?, just a way to pad out the book, he’s read a book, what can I do with this, about men, our Duke runaway, civil war, no matter who wins the house and the land is saved, a lord who has runaway from his land to escape a demon, manifested, two demons, the collapse, Thoth is the black man, he sent the demon, in the comic book adaptation, a silver candelabra at the demon, in the original it is a silver bench weighing 100 pounds, what makes this a weird story is two things, the frozen men, the poisonous air, playing a role as in Nathaniel Hawthorne, the idea that people think there are supernatural elements, demons in the woods, Arabian Nights, folktales, the Mary Celeste, The Oval Portrait by Edgar Allan Poe, eerie circumstances, Beyond The Black River, just a great story, tacked on, otherwise Farnsworth Wright, sold into slavery, a juju man?, African voodoo priest, the central character, the game he’s playing, who is the central character, the count’s story, after he’s hung himself, the demon made him do it, tear him apart, if this was The House Of The Seven Gables, a a mouthful of blood, a curse on the family, something you internalize, externalize the demon, a slug/frog monster in the basement, an amazing scene, it might all of been in his head, kicking him into the fireplace, a superstition barbarian, knew the Picts pretty well, the shape of a man but the shadow was not that of a man, very against the Picts, he would kill us but he wouldn’t leave another white man to die amongst the Picts, the mythology and lore, in a cage in an toucan or eagle tribe villages, listening carefully, they’re neighbours, ancient rivalry, the Hyborian lands are basically Texas, in league with the Picts, you don’t understand , a feud older than the world, you know your enemy, traded from one to the other, tangling with each other, the Atlantean, geography is very important, Aquilonia is France, Nemedia is Germany, Zingara is Spain, Shem is Israel, Stygia is Egypt, do you have a map of the Hyborian lands, every issue of every Conan comic, a little splash of blood, just fucking terrible, Koth is south of this place, Bossonian Marches, and Poitain, a giant forest, a temperate rainforest, David J. West, bring to me your grey squirrel knowledge, a jungle off of France, it’s all Texas, get drunk and have sex with women, New Orleans, Tulane University, Cimmeria, Dark Valley, lots of trees so depressing, you bring your depression with you, buckskin, Hawkeye, Natty Bumbo, The Last Of The Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper, Mark Twain, the difference between Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft, jokes written for an individual, not meant for publication for everyone, same stories same ideas, Robert E. Howard is like a sponge, his ideas, he’s doing somebody else’s work, Thunder River, a very Texas names, toponyms, character names, he doesn’t care, how much time did he spend on that map, exactly straight lines, why does the German border with France look the way it does?, it used to be the ocean, it helps dictate so much, one of the first nation states, the ancient inhabitants of Scotland, his overall attitude is exactly the same as the timeline, is the story good?, indistinctness, a really nice fantasy story, the maps in books is a newish invention, it’s Tolkien, the timeline, that timeline, The Phoenix On The Sword, don’t read them in order, Conan Of The Isles, a finite amount of time, so many adventures that happened, there can always be more, it’s mythical rather than historical, Conan is an old guy in a tavern telling stories about his life, I was king of Aquilonia once, listening to old frontierspeople, P. Schuyler Miller’s Probable Outline Of Conan’s Career, savage sword is in this, very broad strokes, and then an age of man passed, story notes, Almuric, a massive infodump, four or five pages of explaining, the decamp rewrite, connects us to the next story and the next book, extrapolation, in the fur diaper every single time, slightly different breeks, he’s hard on his clothes, The God In The Bowl, just stepped out of the cradle, climbs up a tower and kills an elephant and buys a drink and a hat, Afghulistan, silk, knee-breeches, a gay pride parade, made up by Frank Frazetta, he was really good at it, Margaret Brundage’s Conan looks malnourished, default D&D barbarian, we forget how little people read Howard, a long stretch where he wasn’t a thing, Frazetta, De Camp, and Lin Carter, the comics, a little Gnome Press, Lancer and Ace, the comics define that image, as opposed to the text, how excited Savage Sword Of Conan readers, the Conan movie is coming, he’s got a broadsword, a fur diaper, his super-hero costume, the S on his shirt, the underwear, and a cape, cowl with ears, serial, something we never see in American television, Doctor Who, film serials, The Lone Ranger, 52 episodes a season, they never connect, Batman (the Adam West TV show), two-parter, 77 Sunset Strip, Babylon 5‘s serialized arc, Twin Peaks was a weird fiction soap opera, a soap opera, hyper-reality, sexual molestation, deep horror, heavy for today, a father molests his daughter, L.A. Law, a crime drama, final exam, eating crisps, back to the story, the things that make this story work, how stories should be, people think that they can fix it, let me tell you how to open a story, before chapter one, the log walls of the manor walls he had built, his hard earned security, where the darkness seemed thicker than elsewhere, limp with damp sweat, a bluish glow, even in his swoon, what does that add to the story?, Conan fans, oh, it’s a conan story, having Conan in it, Beyond The Black River, Wolves Beyond The Border, Valeria, The People Of The Black Circle, posthumous collaborations with Robert E. Howard, August Derleth’s career, a tension between the audience, a fan petition to reshoot the ending of a movie, what we want from Conan or Robert E. Howard stories, all the arguing and infighting, two different pirates, some kind of code, what is a truce?, I have a ship, how are we going to resolve this, the cabbage, wolf, and sheep, other people reacting to Conan, I don’t want you on my ship, you will to turn my ship against me, preconceptions, the Schwarzenegger movies, three terrible people, fascinating characters, Black Colossus, weird intrigue, Yasmina, doesn’t want to fight a bunch of wizards, letting go of your preconceptions, different than in other stories, more raw and less sympathetic, willing to take advantage of other people, is the character always like this?, The Hour Of The Dragon, written after, similar personalities, really cynical, not very sympathetic, you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, not sad about it, even the women and children massacred at the end, the young man and the dog, not even a likeable dog, a terrible dog, collect some Pict heads for the dog, the character we’re getting, younger, more selfish, the oldest Conan, among the first written, Zenobia the slave, a noblewoman, he needs to flee, go without me I’ll just slow you down, I’m gonna come back, I’m going to remember it, this honour, another adventure, that sense of responsibility, come back for them, the ladies of his court are being debauched by Nemedians, being King pushed him, The Phoenix On The Sword, this weird dream, I don’t care about all this king stuff, absolutely furious, horrible stuff happening, why the barons are not taking responsibility for it, did his personality stand out?, Queen Of The Black Coast Conan, he’s in pirate mode, they’re all in the game, the wildcard, who else am I supposed to root for?, sweep the board, Knives Out (2019) Robert E. Howard style, he never tries to take advantage of them, not very honourable, Pool Of The Black One, he’s done it before, washes up on a pirate ships, take over pirate ships, he’s first mate, Iron Shadows In The Moon, slave mutiny, go back to your villages, myth busted, Connor’s thesis, women and children without names, fairly innocent people, they’re all foolish because they followed this mad count, why it’s his story, that’s how we shouldn’t read it, the Jeremy Brett adaptations of Sherlock Holmes, they opened almost every episode NOT with Sherlock Holmes, consultation, when Conan Doyle gets tired of Sherlock Holmes stories, weirder, where Watson is almost the only character, The Hound Of The Baskervilles, 221 Baker St., we see some weird things happen, that preview is saying “this is the important part”, what makes series popular, The Twilight Zone, an amazing afterlife, as the reboots have shown, a serialized mystery murder series that sustained, an Alan Moore style iconic character, a professional entertainment show, we don’t criticise the author on stage, editing it for television, good writing, where Conan is reintroduced, two other pirates have shown up on the beach, being Weird Tales readers,
A man strode out from the hangings that masked a chamber door, and advanced toward the table without haste or hesitation. Instantly he dominated the group, and all felt the situation subtly charged with a new, dynamic atmosphere.
The stranger was as tall as either of the freebooters, and more powerfully built than either, yet for all his size he moved with pantherish suppleness in his high, flaring-topped boots. His thighs were cased in close-fitting breeches of white silk, his wide-skirted sky-blue coat open to reveal an open-necked white silken shirt beneath, and the scarlet sash that girdled his waist. There were silver acorn-shaped buttons on the coat, and it was adorned with gilt-worked cuffs and pocket-flaps, and a satin collar. A lacquered hat completed a costume obsolete by nearly a hundred years. A heavy cutlass hung at the wearer’s hip.
‘Conan!’ ejaculated both freebooters together, and Valenso and Galbro caught their breath at that name.
‘Who else?’ The giant strode up to the table, laughing sardonically at their amazement.
Conan The Salaryman, the favourite pronoun for Conan, the thrillpoint, those amazing reveal scenes, that word “stranger” comes up 18 times, “The Coming Of The Black Man”, a pretty good story, the best of the unsold stories, The Vale Of Lost Women is better, Conan fights a god, The Frost Giant’s Daughter, Niord, Amra, The God In The Bowl, he’s playing games with literature, it’s time to do a detective story, Conan does Agatha Christie, an investigator, this mysterious murder case, a locked room murder, Mary Roberts Reinhart, the snake did it, The Speckled Band, Rogues In The House, Edgar Allan Poe’s Rue Morgue story, the monkey did it, sardonic, having fun making his own version of somebody else’s story, L. Sprague De Camp in fighting against the story, read the stories individually on their own, the order they are written, Man Eaters Of Zamboula, the best story of all of them, Red Nails, ambitious, it’s got a dinosaur, it’s got lasers, the laser wands are hard to beat, decadent, doing black lotus all day, a practice run for Red Nails, one big thing that shocked Jesse, railing against, pirate ship lay at anchor (full sails), always put gunports, we get this line, saw them drawing barrels of wine, if I had a hundred men, there goes a rocket from the red hand, they have rockets!, part of the argument that had been made, redone as Conan, part of the argument, the video comments, [Karl Edward] Wagner, magic or alchemy, even if they had black powder, a very modern term, feels kind of jarring, weird glowing gems, radium, radiation sickness, one city that developed way to fast, his version of The Time Machine, Morlocks and Eloi, evolution is real, shaking me to my core, a rocket from the red hand, Black Colossus, a practical pirate ship, a rocket store, Rocket Outlet, rockets imply Gandalf, the rocket passes with the sound of an express train, a football, Tolkien, a clock on his mantle, evokes westerns, The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre, the Picts are Indians, moccasins and tomahawks, Normandy or Brittany, toucans are not a European bird, grey squirrels are not a European squirrel, The Brain Eaters by Frank Belknap Long, the Mi-go, Robert Bloch, The Were-snake, a famous piece of art from Weird Tales, Clark Ashton Smith, The Isle Of Pirates Doom, a Poseidonis story, A Voyage To Sfanamoe, super-scientists the only island of Atlantis that has yet to sink, naturally, blind and deaf mute slaves, they fly off to Venus, they map Earth before they live, old men with five foot beards, evil twins, Dr Seuss like animals, one of them sprouts a flower from his hand, die painlessly, the whole story, they die horribly, The Forbidden Forest, becomes enflowered, monster flowers, the evil garden, organs turned into plants, he’s gone, a new Robert E. Howard story, wow this is amazing, Conan By Tweet, The Country Of The Knife, El Borak, Complete Stories Magazine, August 1936, every chapter has a title, a Jane Austen and Cinderella ripoff, super-classist, Keeping The Castle by Patrice Kindl, a YA, 2012, very well done, hate the stepsisters, some over the shoulder stuff, a feature not a bug sort of thing, Disney princesses, his character doesn’t matter very much, her unique goodness, the prince is faceblind, matrimony choices, she’s short, a weird feature if it is a feature.