9

Robert E. Howard

Know, O prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars – Nemedia, Ophir, Brythunia, Hyperborea, Zamora with its dark-haired women and towers of spider-haunted mystery, Zingara with its chivalry, Koth that bordered on the pastoral lands of Shem, Stygia with its shadow-guarded tombs, Hyrkania whose riders wore steel and silk and gold. But the proudest kingdom of the world was Aquilonia, reigning supreme in the dreaming west.

Robert E. Howard

In my misspent youth I devoured the works of Robert E. Howard.  The creator of Conan the Barbarian, Howard was a writer for the pulp magazines of the twenties and the thirties.  He had a knack for creating literary worlds and populating them with unforgettable characters.  His characters were men of violence, but usually not without a sense of honor.  His puritan hero, Solomon Kane, set in sixteenth century Africa, had a faith in Christ:

“Nay, alone I am a weak creature, having no strength or might in me; yet in times past hath God made me a great vessel of wrath and a sword of deliverance. And I trust, shall do so again.”

Not to be mistaken for great literature, Howard’s stories almost always make great, rattling reading, and sometimes even give a thing or two to think about.

Catholic science fiction author, a convert from atheism, John C. Wright, has a good review up of a Conan tale:  The Tower of the Elephant:

Conan is young here. The internal chronology of the stories is subject to some guesswork. But it is fair to say that this is the second or third tale in Conan’s career, taking place after Frost Giant’s Daughter (1934). We see him for the first time in what will be his signature costume: “naked except for a loin-cloth and his high-strapped sandals.”

I found, as I often do, that not only is Robert E. Howard a better writer than I was able, as a callow youth, to see he was. He also easily surpasses the modern writers attempting to climb his particular dark mountain. From the high peak, brooding, he glares down at inferior writers mocking him, and, coldly, he laughs.

Particularly when Howard is compared with the modern trash that pretends to be fantasy while deconstructing and destroying everything for which the genre stands, he is right to laugh.

Let us list the ways.

Howard, as many pulp-era writers had to be, is a master of structure.

The Tower of the Elephant is divided into three chapters. The first introduces the set-up. In the most lawless quarter of a city of thieves, in a stinking tavern where rogues and lowlifes gather, rumors are spoken of a silvery tower that looms above the city in an isolated garden on a hilltop. In it is a gem of fabled worth and eldritch powers, that is the talisman of a sinister wizard. The tower seems strangely unguarded, or, rather, guarded strangely.

The wall is low, the way is not difficult: but none of the famous thieves will dare approach it. Our very own Conan (whom last we saw as a king) is here a barbaric lad who asks about the tower and the gem, is rudely answered, and rashly vows to make the attempt. Words are exchanged, and a fight ensues. We soon see how tough Conan is.

The second chapter is a heist. We are introduced to Taurus the Prince of Thieves. He and Conan join forces, attempting to elude or outfight the dangerous or unchancy defenders, human or otherwise, guarding the treasure. When even the Princes of Thieves is unable to overcome a particularly strange peril, a second fight ensues. We soon see how tough the Tower is.

The final chapter is pure awesomeness. The weird and supernatural secret of the Tower reveals itself. Even bold Conan, who fears no mortal blade, is petrified, if only for a moment. The dire and supernatural revenge which follows those who meddle in the outer secrets unfolds.

Howard is also the master of the one trick that always seems to elude postmodern writers. He knows how to pen a proper ending: As in a fairy tale of old, Conan is wise enough to obey the supernatural being when it speaks, and a pathway to safety is opened for him. He escapes with his life.

Go here to read the rest.  Howard had a short and sad life of thirty years, ending in suicide when his beloved mother slipped into a coma, but he left behind works still being read 82 years after his death.  Not a bad feat for any writer.

 

 

 

 

20

A Disgrace to the Forces of Evil

 

 

Cardinal Newman once opined that to be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.  Most atheists I have encountered lend support to this adage by their shocking ignorance of the most basic facts of History.  Unlike the atheists of yesteryear, some of whom could be quite challenging with their knowledge of History, most contemporary atheists are so ignorant of History that debating them is to engage in instruction rather than debate.  John C. Wright, a science fiction author and convert from atheism to Catholicism, encounters one of the new breed of ignorant atheists:

 

 

Hmph. I just came across another antieducated sophophobe who declared there to be a war between science and faith, especially the Roman Catholic Church.

I asked him to name the Papal Bull or Encyclical, or any other official document of the Church prohibiting or condemning the practice of scientific inquiry. He did not know what a ‘bull’ was.

I asked him if he knew anything about science and the history of science, and he said yes. I asked him for the evidence of any Catholic interference, or even lack of enthusiastic support, for any scientific inquiry of any kind, in any time or place?

He mentioned Galileo. I asked him if he knew the circumstances of Galileo’s trial, or what Galileo was accused of? He said no. I asked him if he knew who Cardinal Bellarmine was. He said no.

I asked him if he had read Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences? He did not even know what the book was, much less who the characters in it were, or what positions in the contemporary debates they represented.

(Do I need to mention that I read this book in school? I went to a good school, where the education is what mathematicians call a ‘positive sum game’ that is, I ended up more educated than when I went in. His school left him with less education than when he went in.)

I did not bother to ask him if he knew what, precisely, Galileo had discovered, or what proofs he gave to support his various theories.

I did not ask him to tell me what the Galilean satellites were, much less name them (off the top of my head: Io, Europa, Callisto, Ganymede. If I am wrong, and Amalthea is one of them, shame on me. If got them in order, more to my glory.)

Calibrating my questions to the level of someone without a Saint John’s College level of education,  I asked him if he knew who Abertus Magnus, William of Ockham, Roger Bacon, Nicholas Steno were. He said no.

I asked him who invented the mechanical escapement used in clockwork. Or when. He did not know what mechanical escapement was. (Villard de Honnecourt circa 1237, in case you are wondering.)

Recalibrating my question to the high school level, I asked him if he knew who Pascal was, Copernicus, Descartes. He said no. Mendel. No. Still no.

He then told me that all the European inventions in mathematics and medicine came from the Muslim world. I asked him if he knew where Andalusia was, or when the Reconquista happened. Did not recognize those terms. I asked him what religion the people were in the lands conquered by the Muslims in the Seven, Eighth, and Ninth Centuries, et cetera? He guessed that they were some sort of pagans.

I did not bother to ask him if he knew who Abu Hamid al-Ghazali was.

He did not even know enough to raise and throw into my face the old, tired, and oft- efuted slander about Hypatia the neoplatonic philosopher (always described as a female scientist) being flayed to death by a Christian mob wielding sharpened clamshells.

In other words, I could have argued in favor of the War between Science and the Church better than he. He had not even memorized his side’s own talking points.

He was a disgrace to the forces of evil. Continue Reading

17

Let’s Pretend

 

 

 

Science Fiction author John C. Wright, a convert from Atheism to Catholicism, asks an intriguing ongoing question about the March for Life:  the zero coverage it receives:

My question for the reader is this: why can the Morlocks not even admit the size and vehemence of the opposition here?

What is gained by pretending we do not exist?

Or, to ask a more precise question, would not striking the pose that they are opposing such a large and bold movement allow them to portray themselves as heroes, and gain them more?

They cower before the weather, and before the Koch Brothers, which do not threaten them at all, but these marches display the strength of a society that bids fair to abolish abortion in our lifetimes.

The young and highly motivated survivors of the antinatal holocaust are gathering, and they see the economic disaster overpopulation scaremongers have done them, they can see the demographic disaster of Europe.

Why do the Left pretend real threats to their hellish hegemony do not exist, but flaunt in comical excesses of emotion their pantomimes gestures of exaggerated opposition to utterly unreal and imaginary dangers? Continue Reading

6

Freedom and the Left

 

 

John C. Wright, Catholic convert and science fiction author, has a brilliant post at his blog, John Wright’s Journal, in which he examines the threat to freedom posed by the contemporary left:

 

It is darker than you think. Perhaps you have heard about speech codes on campus, about the intolerance of the Left, about their mob tactics, their fetid hypocrisy, and you thought we who complain about it were exaggerating.

You perhaps thought that, at least here in America, certain ideals and values were so much a part of our way of life, so deeply embedded into the hearts of the people, that there was no real threat to our beloved freedoms.

Those ideals and values are not a part of our way of life any longer. They have not been for twenty or thirty years. We are past the tipping point, and it will be a very, very difficult struggle to get back up the pebbly slope to the brink of the cliff down which we fell.

I could list any number of examples from my own field, starting with the expulsion of Theodore Beale from SWFA based on a false accusation by a leftist, going through my editor at Tor books having his child taken from him based on a false accusation, and ending with my agent at Tor books being fired due to a false accusation by a leftist.

I will content myself with a single item of evidence; you can find countless additional items from sources as wide ranging as the monstrous Peter Singer to the absurd Pajama Boy Ethan Krupp.

A creature named Korn writing in the Harvard Crimson calls for an end to Academic freedom.

I am not kidding, I am not exaggerating, and I am not making this up. Here is the link:

http://www.thecrimson.com/column/the-red-line/article/2014/2/18/academic-freedom-justice/?page=single#

Allow me to quote at length, lest I be accused of misrepresenting the true sewer depth of evil being promoted here, the bland banality of the call for chains and gags. Continue Reading