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YMMV: Robert E. Howard
  • Fair for Its Day: Although, usually under pressure from his publishers, Howard had many Distressed Damsel types, he also wrote several strong, intelligent female characters including Belit and Valeria from his Conan stories, and Red Sonya of Rogatino from his historical fiction. Unfortunately the same can't be said of his racial views which were pretty typical for the time and place he grew up in.
    • Howard occasionally wrote stories that weren't screamingly racist, or at least had some non-racist plot elements. In the Solomon Kane stories set in Africa, most of them have something along these lines. In The Hills of the Dead, N'Longa the shaman can actually be read as the hero, since he does all the major work necessary to put down the vampires, while Kane just keeps the vampires off N'Longa's back during the process. N'Longa also speaks eruditely when he's using his own language...he just can't speak English well. The Bogondan villagers of Wings in the Night are presented as basically good people trapped in a horrible situation. During the The Footfalls Within, Kane attacks a band of Arabs who've been enslaving Africans, and is (temporarily) captured. A minor Arab character, who had only been traveling with the slavers' caravan for protection, is sympathetic to Kane's plight. In The Moon of Skulls, Howard makes the following point about the villainous African culture of the piece: "These savages are not like the other natives of the region. A latent insanity lurks in the brain of each and every one." (Mind you, Moon is still jaw-droppingly racist, but at least Howard managed to slightly ameliorate his attitude.)
      • Other non-racist moments show up from time to time. In Howard's historical short story The Road of Azrael (not public domain, but recently reprinted in Lord of Samarcand and Other Tales of the Old Orient), the viewpoint character is an Arab. Several of his horror/supernatural works feature sympathetic characters of color: The viewpoint character in The Thunder-Rider is Native American, while In The Spirit of Tom Molyneaux (aka Apparition in the Prize Ring) the hero (but not the viewpoint character) is an African-American, whom Howard actually describes as possessing "great nobility." In The Noseless Horror, Ganra Singh (a Sikh) saves the day at the end. Meanwhile, The Horror from the Mound features a Mexican who's got a damn sight more common sense than the story's white viewpoint character. Finally, The Dead Slaver's Tale and The Dead Remember feature black victims getting ghostly revenge on the whites who murdered them.
      • Also in his defense, he wrote some stories that showed plenty of racism existing between conflicting clans and tribes that were either purely imaginative, or all ultimately Indo-European, at least in name. Picts? Northern Britain. Atlanteans? Supposed "Aryan" progenitors. In other words, Howard's fiction contains racism, itself, as an common accepted fact.
    • The racist setting in Howard's stories set in the modern age also tends to make a difference between Black characters - darker skinned "true" Blacks are usually brutal warriors, while lighter-skinned characters are either sympathetic or towards the more mysterious and intellectual end of the villains' spectrum:
  • Macekre: In addition to some of his stories being completed upon his death, many of his less-popular stories were rewritten, often to create dolled-up installments in his more popular franchises (source), and many of his actual stories were bowdlerized in paperback printings (source, and see also). In addition L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter wrote several published fanfics which they declared canon. The fanbase refused to go along with this, however, and all these bad decisions have long since been reversed.

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