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Old 05-06-2012, 10:03 AM   #1
b0rsuk
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Exclamation Be wary of "previously unpublished works".

I've just read some short stories about Salomon Kane, by Robert Howard. Initial stories about Conan are pretty good, and while simple it's exceptionally well written action fantasy. And Conan is is nowhere as stupid a person as people (who haven't read it) make him. So I thought I would probably like something by the same author... ?

How WRONG I was.

This is not about Salomon Kane per se. I started seeing a pattern. Previously unpublished stories tend to be low quality. And it just makes sense ! In many cases unpublished stories are simply stories the author considered bad or editors rejected. It's been thrown away. Not in all cases, but more often than not they're trash. This begs for an analogy: you can find food in a trash can and eat it. But it's probably not a good idea.

If you like an author, you like him in part because of his judgement. If his work is collecting dust in some drawer, it's because his judgement tells him it's not good. Author's judgement is what makes you like his work. You already respect his judgement to write stories. Skip the posthumously published work. It's the logical next step.

There is only one exception - when a story is not published because it was interrupted by author's death. Then someone else may finish it and it will probably be a polished work for most part, because it will be written to the standards of an experienced writer.

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Old 05-06-2012, 11:37 AM   #2
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Early works, bad though they may be, can be an interesting way of tracing the development of the writing style of the author.
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Old 05-06-2012, 05:16 PM   #3
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i suppose they're good if you're a completist. i won't knock an anthology or whatever for including previously unpublished works, its almost like a 'directors cut' of the author.
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Old 05-06-2012, 05:58 PM   #4
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I'm confused... which REH Solomon Kane stories did you read that were previously unpublished? Except for "Blades of the Brotherhood" (and a handful of fragments that were completed by other authors) they were all published during Howard's lifetime.

If you just didn't like the Solomon Kane stories... I can fully understand that. I'm just not quite following the "collecting dust in a drawer" or the "posthumously published" gist of your argument and how it pertains to these stories. The bulk of the "Kane canon" (if you will) was published between 1929 and 1932 in Weird Tales.
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Old 05-07-2012, 10:13 PM   #5
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Wasn't there a collection edited by Ramsey Campbell that included incomplete stories that were finished by Campbell?
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Old 05-07-2012, 10:18 PM   #6
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Sometimes the previously unpublished stories were the ones that were shopped around when their genre was not the hot one at the time in the publishing industry. Times change, genres cycle and earlier unpublished works by an author may be appealing in a different publishing climate.
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Old 05-07-2012, 10:39 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by b0rsuk View Post
There is only one exception - when a story is not published because it was interrupted by author's death. Then someone else may finish it and it will probably be a polished work for most part, because it will be written to the standards of an experienced writer.
Only one?

Letter's From The Earth (Twain) may have a word or two to say about that. Great book, held back because the world wasn't ready for it.
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Old 05-07-2012, 10:47 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by b0rsuk View Post
Initial stories about Conan are pretty good, so I thought I would probably like something by the same author
Being a Howard fan, I'd just like to pop in to say the Solomon Kane stories actually preceded the Conan tales. Regardless, I agree with your opinion. I, too, am not fond of the SK stories. But don't let that throw you off! There are MANY Howard tales even better than the Conan yarns. "Pigeons From Hell" often tops many horror fans' lists. The El Borak desert adventures are wonderful fun. And his westerns are great as well. PG should have a fair smattering of all these.

But I think you're right about most of an author's unpublished material. Especially if it was churned out for the pulps, as most of Howard's was. But even among those, there are the rare few gems. Unpublished Conan included.
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Old 05-08-2012, 03:51 AM   #9
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It depends.

On one hand, yes, there's a reason they were unpublished and it can be a pain for people to read.

On the other hand, it's possible that there's some gems there.

Or in the case of Kafka, his most famous works were previously unpublished
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Old 05-08-2012, 06:31 AM   #10
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Early works, bad though they may be, can be an interesting way of tracing the development of the writing style of the author.


I totally agree with that.

As well, it allows one to trace the development of the character, and how the author views that character in the world he or she has created.



Don
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Old 05-08-2012, 11:22 AM   #11
b0rsuk
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Originally Posted by DiapDealer View Post
I'm confused... which REH Solomon Kane stories did you read that were previously unpublished? Except for "Blades of the Brotherhood" (and a handful of fragments that were completed by other authors) they were all published during Howard's lifetime.
It's important to remember people are living outside United States of America, too :-). Not only short story collections can have different titles, but many books we talk about on this forum are simply not translated at all and out of reach. it works both ways - out of Polish SF you probably only know Solaris by Stanisław Lem. As far as fantasy is concerned, you may've heard about The Witcher. And that's it.

"The Days of Perky Pat" by Philip K. Dick is to my understanding a title with a double meaning. It's not possible to preserve the play on words in translation, so it has been named after "Conquerers we". But that's an easy case. For other authors, like Robert Sheckley, there's even no 1:1 relationship between books. Short stories are distributed differently among different number of books.

And Solomon Kane may be not my thing indeed, I don't know. I haven't read any other books about him. This collection contains:
The Return of Sir Richard Grenville
The Moon of Skulls
Skulls in the Stars
The Footfalls Within
The Hills of the Dead
The Hawk of Bastii

The bottom line: treat "previously unpublished" as a WARNING label.

(Not trying to sound patronizing. I just figured I out I may as well go for the full story.)

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Old 05-08-2012, 11:51 AM   #12
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That's all fine and dandy. I just got the impression that you believed all these stories were languishing in a drawer somewhere, and were found, dusted off, and published after the author's death. Such is not the case—not for all of them anyway.

The collection you mention does contain two posthumously published works: the first and the last. The last was first published as a fragment in 1968 and then completed by another author (J. Ramsey Campbell) and republished in 1979
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Old 05-08-2012, 09:40 PM   #13
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Spider Robinson finished a Robert Heinlein book. It was interesting but it was bad.
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