Friday, November 11, 2011

L. Sprague de Camp: The Other Side of the Coin

So a couple days ago I posted a blog in defense of L. Sprague de Camp's edits, posthumous collaborations, and pastiches where Conan is concerned. I also mentioned in that blog that the other things he did involving the property are by and large arrogant, abhorrent and unforgivable. Some people may not be familiar with the entire story behind de Camp's legacy with the Conan property.

Well, look no further. Several years ago, a blogger over at the Robert E. Howard United Press Association website posted a series of articles entitled "The de Camp Controversy." This series of articles presents (if from a somewhat biased standpoint) the entire history of de Camp's involvement with the Conan property. It is informed, enlightening, and it paints a very clear picture of exactly why many Robert E. Howard fans take a dim view of de Camp and his involvement with the property.

You can find all articles that deal with de Camp in any way, by going to the site clicking the link for the "L. Sprague de Camp" link at the left. However, there are a lot of articles that carry the "L. Sprague de Camp" tag, and not all are part of the de Camp Controversy series.

I thought it would be useful to archive links to each individual part of that specific series in one place. So here we are:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Part 11
Part 12
Part 13
Part 14
Part 15
Part 16 (Conclusion)

Enjoy. The entire series is well worth a read to anyone who is a fan of Howard and/or the Lancer/Ace paperback series that de Camp helped to kick off.

3 comments:

  1. Cool.

    I'll admit this is one of those issues that has always been on periphery of the gaming world for me.
    I guess in part because everyone I knew came to gaming via a path of Conan while I got here via Hammer Horror. So my education is a bit lacking.

    Thanks for posting this.

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  2. My problem with de Camp is long and complicated. I basically back 'Conan vs. the Conantics' 100%, but that's not all.
    Basically, Conan is like Lovecraft in that, despite being fantasy stories, they are basically amoral. They derive from a sense of what real mythology and legends look like and thus recreate the same feel of the Romance tales or the Epic of Gilgamesh or the confused pantheons of the Near East. Conan is a revolt against civilized hypocrisy and cloud-headed ideologies.

    de Camp lacks the background and subtlety to either see or recreate any of this. As such, he turns Conan into a rationalistic superhero in a world with a Dungeons and Dragons pantheon. He treats the stories like they come from an omniscient historian instead of a drunken old barbarian or a Homeric bard. There are so many subtle religious and thematic elements in Conan that just fly right over the head of de Camp.

    Did his pastiches create a name for Conan? Sure. But they also helped ensure the reputation of Conan as being irrational hackjobs. I'd rather have an obscure Conan with literary merit than a bunch of th It's quite hilarious to read de Camp criticize Howard as being simplistic and rushed when in fact de Camp was just too ignorant or stupid to understand what Howard was doing. de Camp seems to have read Conan the way modern Christians read the Bible: uncritically and totally devoid of any understanding of the conceptual relationships and controversies the texts are dealing with.

    Many things Carter and de Camp dislike about Conan is because they buy into mainstream values (and I don't mean just literary values, but philosophic and cultural) and thus do not like Howard, who contravenes them. The problem isn't with Howard's writing, the problem is that de Camp and Carter accept Western Christian/Humanistic values that Howard was scoffing at when he wrote his Conan. It would be like trying to re-write Elric and making him out to be a pious Jew, you have to be retarded to even attempt it.

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    Replies
    1. I disagree with your take on what de Camp did (the "superhero in a world with a D&D pantheon" thing). Rather, I'd say that's exactly what Robert Jordan did. I find de Camp's Conan to be largely compatible with Howard's.

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