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The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane
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Are some stories just too old? Forgotten or unreadable by today's standards?

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Patrick | 5 comments I saw that the film 'Solomon Kane' showed up on Netflix recently... the movie isn't bad, a bit of an origin tale that i don't quite recall from Robert E. Howard's stories I read as a kid.
For some reason I found characters like Solomon Kane and Elric of Melniboné wonderous whe I was young, they were comicbook-like characters in novel form. I would pretend to be these characters as often as I was Spiderman in my imaginary worlds.
Do people even really read and enjoy these stories anymore? Conan and Even stories in the Cthulu Mythos... I know Cthulu and Conan have entered popular culture, but how many folks have actually read them?
They read anymore like they were from a time lost and forgotten.
Just curious who else do you feel has been forgotten or truly isn't appreciated?


message 2: by Gene (last edited Aug 21, 2013 11:57AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gene I just finished rereading Elric stories. They are as good as they were during my first reading of them. The same is true about the original Conan stories by Howard. I also know quite a few people who recently discovered H.P.Lovercaft and love him.

Some other stories might aged, but not the ones I mentioned above - at least for me.


message 3: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 314 comments I think, so long as the reader accepts the differing times or values of both the author and the setting then it is good. Read Homer, for example, that is WAY back but the The Odysseyis still a darn good tale.


message 4: by Ariel (new)

Ariel Stirling | 80 comments I just added Burroughs' to my to-read list. I think a lot of people are frightened off by books described as 'classics' but some classics were actually great stories and surprisingly readable. I'm excited to try out Tarzan and the Mars books by Burroughs. I read the Wonderful Wizard of Oz for the first time recently and was very surprised that something written so long ago was very easy and fun to read.


Joseph | 2269 comments William Morris and James Branch Cabell are largely forgotten, although both have small communities of dedicated fans.

Realistically, anything more than, say, 5-10 years old that's not by a big-name author is going to fall by the wayside. You can tell that just by perusing the shelves in the bookstore.

And there's an entire generation of stuff (from the mid-1930s to maybe sometime in the 60s or 70s or even 80s) that's in danger of being lost forever because it's new enough to still be in copyright but old enough that it's difficult to track down the rights-holders, to say nothing of creating a version for modern publishing.


message 6: by Ben (new)

Ben Nash | 200 comments When I finally read The Three Musketeers, I was surprised by how fast paced and modern of an adventure it was.

It also reminds me of when I recently read some of Thomas Paine's pamphlets. Depending on his audience, he changed his voice. Sometimes it seemed very dated, sometimes modern.


message 7: by Firstname (new)

Firstname Lastname | 488 comments Ben wrote: "When I finally read The Three Musketeers, I was surprised by how fast paced and modern of an adventure it was.

It also reminds me of when I recently read some of Thomas Paine's pamphlets. Dependin..."


You should try the Scarlet Pimpernel.


message 8: by Bryan (new)

Bryan | 111 comments Elric, Conan, Tarzan, John Carter, Jurgen...I love all that stuff. I think, in order to truly appreciate the SFF genre, one really has to read back into the "forgotten" annals of the genre. That's really where most of the current crop of authors found most of their inspiration.

Oh, and let's not forget Fafhrd And The Grey Mouser.


Patrick | 5 comments Very true Bryan. and really all of these replies, it is all about perspective with these older stories.
I'm always trying to get friends to read them, in my circle I have a few friends that have read and enjoyed them.
I've actually never read any of the Tarzan, I think I'll have to dig those up. :-)

The Three Musketeers was a good read. Bookstores have been a refuge for me in my youth but a truly sad place to visit today.


message 10: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Lawston (andrewlawston) | 52 comments Second hand and charity bookshops remain a fantastic way to acquaint oneself with past glories.

And I love Les Trois Mousquetaires too. Alexandre Dumas's stuff in general remains incredibly readable. As with Dickens, I think the original serial format of much of his work helps keep it fresh to modern audiences.


message 11: by AndrewP (new)

AndrewP (andrewca) | 2481 comments I recently read Dracula, and that didn't seem to be dated at all.


message 12: by Michele (new)

Michele | 1154 comments Some stories may be more difficult to read, just from gradual changes in writing styles, but the "stories" themselves aren't being forgotten - thus many no longer read things like Beowulf or the Illiad, but they are known from other media. I myself don't enjoy reading much of the stuff written before...oh the 1960s, Dickens, Melville, Hemingway, and some of the more pulp-ish stuff...simply because I'm put off by the styles of the writing. Not thatvit isn't good, but I'm distacted by the style to the point where it's hard to focus on the story.

But storytelling changes throughout the ages, from recited tales around a fire, to chanted poems in a dining hall, to bedtime stories, to writing, to radio, and now to audiobooks, tv, movies, and even video games. Stories will always be told, whatever the medium, and the best stories stick with us, whatever way we consume them. And the best ones also change in each retelling to speak to the current audience, but the cores stay the same, because they touch something in us, however they are told.


message 13: by David (new)

David (dbigwood) Classics have stayed around for a reason, they transcend their time. Beowulf, the Illiad, the Song of Roland, le Morte D'Authur, for instance. Then there are books that were popular but just don't work anymore. A Journey in Other Worlds, by John Jacob Astor is a chore. Anything that gets too racist I also find difficult to read.

Good places to find classics are the websites offering free e-texts of copyright-free materials. Project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/ and eBooks @ Adelaide http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/


Joseph | 2269 comments An interesting experiment: The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson came out a hundred years ago, plus or minus. It has some really stunning concepts & imagery in it, but it's almost unreadable because Hodgson wrote it in this really awful kind of faux-medieval prose. So a few years back, James Stoddard, just because he's a fan, rewrote the entire thing as The Night Land, a Story Retold, which is infinitely more approachable than the original.


message 15: by terpkristin (new)

terpkristin | 4144 comments It'll be interesting to see how people feel about the September pick (after they've read it), The Demolished Man. It looks like it was written in the early 1950's, so it's got potential to fit squarely in the category for this thread.


Joseph | 2269 comments It'll be especially interesting given the reaction to Ringworld.


message 17: by Kristen (new)

Kristen (TealBard) | 35 comments Firstname wrote: "Ben wrote: "When I finally read The Three Musketeers, I was surprised by how fast paced and modern of an adventure it was.

It also reminds me of when I recently read some of Thomas Paine's pamphle..."


I absolutely agree that The Three Musketeers and The Scarlet Pimpernel hold up well. Rafael Sabatini is another historical adventure author who still reads pretty well. I especially recommend Captain Blood.


Darren I have that edition of Solomon Kane in the title, with the Gary Gianni illustrations. I still read those stories, and certainly think that they hold up. I first came across Solomon Kane in the Savage Sword of Conan comics, but I enjoy the original stories, as well. So does whoever does the art for the Harry Dresden novels, since they always put him in Solomon Kane getup, no matter how many times Butcher insists that Harry "doesn't wear a hat" in interviews.


message 19: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (sandikal) | 1212 comments I love how everyone responds to the question by citing classics. Classics earn that designation by being good, timeless, speaking to the human condition, whatever. However, for every Three Musketeers, there were probably at least 10 books that sank into obscurity because they became dated.

I think genre fiction runs a real risk of becoming dated just because tech surpasses what was imagined in the past. The works that last are the ones that look at the human condition. Frankenstein, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Other Tales of Terror, The Island of Dr. Moreau, etc. have lasted because they aren't about the tech, they speak to something deeper within us.


message 20: by Darren (last edited Aug 24, 2013 12:15AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Darren Sandi wrote: "I love how everyone responds to the question by citing classics."

Why say you love it, when you clearly don't? You talk about classics, as though it's dirty pool to mention them, but given the nature of the question, discussing works of fiction nearly or over a century old which still resonate, how can one list anything but classics? Any work of fiction still widely known after that length of time is a classic by default.


message 21: by Andreas (new)

Andreas Some classic science fiction books have this "outdated" problem, obviously. Most of them come around quite fine because they don't concentrate that much on the fact extrapolation into the future.

Just two examples: I recently re-read the 1954 The Caves of Steel and found it simply ridiculous. On the other hand, 1952's The Space Merchants was quite good.

Fantasy works on the other hand don't have this problem of outdated science at all. Older works might not be up with current taste - due to writing style, outdated language or themes like drug consumption (smoking in Zelazny's work!) or attitude to women (*cough*Tarnsman of Gor *cough*).

I don't think that fiction really can become outdated. It is more dependant on the reader's attitude, probably.


message 22: by George (last edited Aug 24, 2013 12:21PM) (new)

George (georgefromny) | 70 comments I suspect the more recent sort of Grimdark and "edgy" stuff, as well as didactically-political New Wave SF works, will not age well; decades from now, you'll need the patience of Diogenes to find a Harlan Ellison fan.


message 23: by George (last edited Aug 24, 2013 12:38PM) (new)

George (georgefromny) | 70 comments My intention is not to categorically dismiss political SF - or Ellison, whose work I greatly recommend and admire - but to caution against stories which are written as stalking horses for the doctrines of Marxism, Libertarianism or Fill-in-the-blank-ism first and narrative literature second, if at all.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 2859 comments I can think of plenty of books that make more sense in the context of when they were written, but a lot of ideas come back around. When we discussed The Iron Heel by Jack London on SFF Audio, I was surprised by how relevant a novel about post-socialism dystopia, published in 1907, could be in the 21st century.

There are always ideas that may grow outdated, but I find this to be more true with more recent books that attempt to be techie and are soon old news. At least with older books we have the benefit of context and hindsight.

When we hit the singularity and all of us are floating through puddles of telepathic goo, I'm sure almost everything will seem kitsch and out of date.


message 25: by kvon (new)

kvon | 562 comments I tried one of EE Doc Smith's books, and won't be going back. One D characters, obvious plotting, little relevance to me. I've also tried to read some Tarzan without much success.
A Voyage to Arcturus on the other hand was weird enough to hold my interest.


message 26: by Mark (new)

Mark (mndrew) | 31 comments I have no problem reading the old classics; but that is likely just because I am old meself.


message 27: by AndrewP (new)

AndrewP (andrewca) | 2481 comments Andreas wrote: " outdated language or themes like drug consumption (smoking in Zelazny's work!) or attitude to women (*cough*Tarnsman of Gor *cough*).."

It's all relative. In many places on earth I don't see how drug consumption is an outdated theme. It's more prevalent now that it was back then. And the attitude towards women is mostly a western concept. In much of the middle east, that attitude would be prerfectly normal. Except for the lack of clothes :)


message 28: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (last edited Sep 01, 2013 09:16AM) (new)

Jlawrence | 960 comments Mod
*moved to General Discussion*

I have a large number of classic science-fiction ebooks I've pilfered from Project Gutenberg. Will never get to them all, but I'm looking forward to Jules Verne in particular.

There's also an interesting anthology series called The Road to Science Fiction, which traces sf's evolution (for instance, Vol 1 is subtitled "From Gilgamesh to Wells"). You can see the table of contents of the various volumes here. I'm especially excited about the first two volumes as a sampler of sf's roots, and will find out which I find dustbin-worthy or classic-worthy.


message 29: by LegalKimchi (new)

LegalKimchi | 112 comments lovecraft is hit and miss for me it doesnt produce terror, but some are fun reads. also there is the racism, but again that is a sign of the times. doesnt make it ok, but no point getting mad at that.


message 30: by Lonnie (last edited Sep 02, 2013 08:56AM) (new)

Lonnie Smith (readwithmybrain) | 47 comments First off, I would like to say I think this whole concept speaks more to our lack of patience, imagination and education (I include myself in this as well) than to "evolution" of style. Books are successful (usually) because they are well written, unique, and/or fill a niche not previously filled in that generation. There are things that will pass by the wayside as their attraction lacks one of more of the previously mentioned things (twilight). But..good examples of timeless and useful books would be as follows:

1. On the Incarnation - religious Christology book written by a 17 year old, about 1700 years ago. Still applicable in modern philosophy, and central to the Catholic/Orthodox/Protestant theology structure.
2. The coming of Grendel - One of the earliest English language epics - with a little education and patience a truly thrilling read!
3. The Canterbury Tales - Again very early English writing. With some education it can be downright hilarious "He was perhaps a gelding or a mare..."
4. Frankenstein - Knowing a little of lore behind how this was written, and why. Then divorcing it from every Frankenstein movie you have ever watched and you will walk away from it with a whole new experience!

I honestly don't think there is much to the thought of something being "dated" just because I struggle to get or understand a book doesn't make it the books fault. I think there ARE certain things that could make a book more dated...modern books that rely too much on time sensitive jargon and technology for their plot lines and developments can find it hard to translate later, but even some of that just takes some education to learn.

Sidenote: lovecraft informs...SO much nowadays all the way from board games and video games to horror and even non horror literature, to movies and tv. He is definitely not dated. Though...from what I understand about 50% of his stories were awesome, and the other 50% were crap. I haven't read too much of his.


message 31: by Bryan (new)

Bryan | 111 comments I was having a discussion similar to this one with my brother yesterday. He's reading The War of the Worlds right now and pointed out to me that although he's really enjoying it, he finds he's reading it more slowly than he would a modern novel because it contains little in the way of dialogue compared to 20th/21st century stuff. This is true of a lot of older prose, and now that he's mentioned it, I'm noticing that I read dialogue a lot faster than I do descriptive passages. I think a lot of people have problems with this.

Also, on the topic of Lovecraft, I find his racist diatribes reprehensible, but try to ignore them, as he's dead and not making money off me. I also wonder how sincere he was with his racism. After all, for all his WASP cheerleading, he ended up marrying a strong-willed Jewish woman.


message 32: by Gary (new)

Gary The only reason I can think of for a book becoming unreadable by modern standards is that the language and/or culture has moved on. That is, the vocabulary might have shifted in ways that make the reading experience very difficult, or the cultural references used in the book are too obscure for modern readers to get.

Great literature, of course, is immune to such things. Chaucer is still important and valuable to read, despite the shifts in the language. Shakespeare is most obvious case of a writer whose context really needs to be understood in order comprehend the prose. So, greatness supersedes this issue.

However, I'm sure there's a lot of writers whose work was their period's equivalent of C- or D-level product that one needn't read. It's important to know about dime novels or penny dreadfuls, for example, but I doubt people need to read more than a handful of them in order to get a sense of the history and literary value.

Bryan wrote: "I also wonder how sincere he was with his racism. After all, for all his WASP cheerleading, he ended up marrying a strong-willed Jewish woman."

Yeah, he did seem to learn a bit as his life progressed....


message 33: by [deleted user] (new)

It's an interesting question, but the answer is a simple "No" - it all depends upon what you like to read in the first place. If a book or story is good or crappy to begin with, then it will always be good or crappy, irrespective of age or 'relevance'. None of today's writers would be where they are without those that went before them.


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