Thanks, I'll have a read. I don't know Elric super-well but do have a reasonable grasp of existentialism, and so between the two of us we probably have the right skill-set!You might find these posts I wrote around a month ago interesting. They're about anti-existentialist passages in the AD&D 1e DMG compared to the existentialism in the early Elric stories. One weakness is that I don't have a very good grasp of what existentialism means
I think there are similarities to Westerns, but also contrasts.That sounds very similar to most Westerns.
EDIT: The Conan story Beyond the Black River is very much a Western with a frontier and Picts as stand-ins for Native Americans. I think I remember reading that towards the end of his life Howard was growing tired of sword & sorcery and wanted to transition more to Westerns.
There's also a lot of similarity with the post-apocalyptic. Upthread @Snarf Zagyg described Mad Max Fury Road as S&S. I'd consider all the later Mad Max movies to be essentially Westerns.
I agree that Beyond the Black River is a Western. It's probably also my least-favourite REH Conan story (which I know puts me at odds with the critics). But compare Beyond the Black River to The Tower of the Elephant or the opening sequence of Queen of the Black Coast - instead of Conan as a critic of "civilisation", he is a champion of it, helping the colonists spread it. The thematic orientation is completely reversed.
If REH wanted to write a story in defence of colonialism, it would have made more sense to have the "vibrant, energetic" colonists taking over Stygia or some "ancient" and "decadent" land. (That said, from memory the Beyond the Black River Picts do use snakes in their magic, like Stygians. But they are not a "decadent" peoples.)