Well, spin me around and call me Sally. Just looking through the draft program of the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts (ICFA), and it turns out they selected me to chair a panel on the fiction of Robert E. Howard. The weird thing? I happen to be reading the Conan series for the very first time right now. Picked up a series of his Conan stories, edited by Karl Edward Wagner, some time back, and finally just got around to reading them.
Anyway, Howard's a peach. Although sword & sorcery (and adventure) stories aren't my thing, I'm liking the Conan stories a lot better than the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories by Leiber. Leiber had a tendency to get cutesy, but Howard just doesn't waste any time with nonsense like intrigue or plausibility before getting to the action.
And he has produced my new all-time favorite paragraph in literature. After Conan gets imprisoned by an evil magician, he's eventually set free by a beautiful young harem girl (of course). While protesting that she has no intention of betraying Conan, she offers the world the following gem:
"Cut me down without mercy if I play you false," she answered. "The very feel of your arm about me, even in menace, is as the fulfillment of a dream" (The Hour of the Dragon 58).
Ever since I read that, I've had to resist the urge to explain the wonders of Robert E. Howard to my feminist friends, since something tells me they'd find this less amusing than I did.*
*Of course, I told them anyway. :)