On this day, 103 years ago, Robert Ervin Howard was born in Peaster, Texas. Though he tragically took his own life at the age of 30, his boundless imagination, as exemplified by his greatest creation, Conan the Cimmerian, lives on. Indeed, if one were to take into account how widely-known the name of Conan has become, it wouldn't be much of an exaggeration to claim that Howard was one of the most influential writers of the 20th century.
Quibbles on that score aside, there's no question that REH's writings are one primary of the wellsprings of the genre we now call "fantasy," making him a spiritual ancestor of the hobby of roleplaying. Howard is one of only a handful of writers mentioned by name in both OD&D and Empire of the Petal Throne as an inspiration for their creation; countless more gamers and game designers alike have looked to the stories of Conan, Kull, and Solomon Kane for the same.
For myself, Howard has long been a writer I admire. Like Lovecraft, his worldview is rather different than my own, but that has never prevented me from gleaning genuine insights from his writings. It's a shame that many people still dismiss REH as a hack pulp writer, never realizing how much they're missing by doing so. Howard has his flaws and falls too easily into a certain repetitiveness from time to time, but about what great writer could we not say the same, particularly ones whose writings formed the template for an entire genre?
If by some chance you read this blog and you haven't read a Robert E. Howard story lately, I urge you to do so; you won't be sorry. In the meantime, I raise my glass to the memory of the Last Celt.