Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Similes as Spells?

I've been reading Conan recently, specifically "The People of the Black Circle". For some reason I just kept noticing Mr. Howard's use of similes and decided it would be a fun exercise to pair my neophyte python skillz up with Project Gutenberg and write a simile extraction script.

Things went better than expected (only pulling "like" similes right now as "as" may be beyond my skill level)! Originally I just wanted to analyze his usage for patterns or repetitive crutches and then expand out to other pulp authors. I'll plan to still do that, but the thing that really struck me was how many of them seemed spell-like. If other pulp authors are similar, perhaps it'd be possible to create spellbooks for each of the major pulp authors. The book of Howard. The book of Lovecraft. The book of Burroughs. My wheels are spinning.

If nothing more I think it'd be fun to start posting a simile or two a day with a relevant image over on the tumblrs. We'll see. So many awesome things that could be done. So little time.

Check it out and see if you agree (from The People of the Black Circle):

  • Their fingers sear me like fire!
  • But Conan sat easily, almost carelessly, in the saddle, riding like a centaur.
  • He lit on his feet like a cat.... (why fall like a feather?)
  • His spine cracked in three places like a rotten branch....
  • And those eyes held his like a magnet. (excellent setup for hypnosis/suggestion)
  • The girl shrank and wilted like a leaf in the drought.
  • ...a terrific blow like a gust of storm wind knocked him sprawling against a rock.
  • They moved like phantom riders through an enchanted realm of shadows.
  • The dragons on the tapestries glowed like blue fire....
  • And like the flick of a fiery whip....
  • A hawk with wings like burnished steel....
  • ...treading the gold vein like rope-walkers.
  • ...facing the four quarters of the compass like the enchanted guardians of a fabled treasure.
  • But now the muscular arm was brushed aside like straw....


  1. Now I want to go back over my REH library and gauge the density of similes in his works. Yay new evening projects!

  2. Lovecraft used a lot of similes too, from what I recall...
    Please see my roleplaying-related posts, which I wrote with passion like a bird crafts a nest... www.beneath-the-cellardoor.blogspot.com
    I'm trying to join the roleplaying blogger community, but I don't really know what you guys like posts about, so I'm documenting