Today we would like to take a minute to celebrate the birthday of Robert E. Howard, the man who had perhaps the most profound influence on the fantasy genre as it exists today. Yes, I will be so bold as to assert that his overall contributions exceed even those of Tolkein. Creator of Conan, Kull the Conqueror, Bran Mak Morn, and my personal favorite, the bad-ass Puritan himself, Solomon Kane. Not to mention all of his bold tales of historical fiction, boxing tales, western yarns, horror stories (including Lovecraftian works), and poetry. All of this done within only 30 years upon this Earth.
I think it is only right for everyone to treat themselves to a REH tale today, and luckily, many of Howard's great works reside within the public domain. Today, I chose to sit down and revisit one of my favorite Kane shorts, 1929's "Skulls in the Stars", which is one of the first tales in this volume:
Just to let you know, however, the entirety of the text can be found here.
In this short horror treat, Kane finds himself at the two roads to Torkertown. The shorter, straighter road is cursed by a creature of evil that has been waylaying travelers for over a year. The winding road goes through the swampland of bogs and mires, and therein resides the hermit miser Ezra. Being a man of faith, Kane opts to investigate the horror on the short road. There he does battle with a spectral horror, one that cannot be beaten by pistol or blade. It will take Kane's mettle and sense of justice to win the day, and right the wrongs committed.
And here I thought Kane's pistols could solve any problem......
This story has Howard at his best; his words tear and rend. The skulls in the stars leer over blood red fields, and Kane cuts an immovable statue of justice. This ten page tale easily scores a 10 out of 10, and remains one of my favorite REH shorts. Happy Birthday to the master!