Saturday morning, I took MBW, the HA, and one of the HA’s little buddies up to the cabin of a close family friend. Situated on the bank of a snowmelt-high river, in the foothills of Mt. Hood, the cabin provides a sense of seclusion, aided by the virtual non-existence of cell phone signal, and the absence of televisions, radios, computers, etc. Entertainment consists of reading, playing board or card games, and conversation. Aided, perhaps, by the occasional adult beverage.
With Felimid mac Fal, Keith Taylor offers a unique take on the Sword-and-Sorcery hero. Felimid is an Irish bard, making his way through the early sixth century power vacuum created by the fall of the western Roman Empire on the strength of his wits, his magical bardic skills, and (not least) his magic harp and magic sword. But he’s a reluctant warrior. He’s no coward, but he’d prefer to avoid a fight, and if it comes to it, would rather engage in a duel than become involved in a pitched battle.
o, that was 2021, huh? Well, before moving on into what I’m sure will be a glorious 2022 — a year of unicorns galloping across rainbows, with bareback riding leprechauns scattering gold to us all — I figure I’d look back at what I accomplished in the unicorn-free year.
High boots, cuffed above the knee, crunched through snow upon the frozen heath. The feet within the boots contained little more warmth than the white blanket they trod. But the boots marched on, steady and unvarying, for Solomon Kane did not bend or waver in the face of inclement weather any more than he did in the face of opposition from man or beast. Or creature of Hell.
Lin Carter’s Gondwane Epic continues in The Barbarian of World’s End, the fourth volume. In a pleasant departure from the previous book, this one actually has a plot of sorts. Our sporadically child-like and sporadically wise hero, Ganelon Silvermane, in an almost Conan-esque fashion, rises from captive to Warlord of a barbarian horde. His goal then becomes to render the horde harmless, leading a migration between and around settled areas.
Lin Carter put his carnival barker’s hat on. “Step right this way folks, see the mighty sphinx, the flying castle, the illusory city.” He’s clearly entertained by the sights he has to show you and he desperately wants you to be as well.
I know Henry Kuttner primarily from his Sword-and-Sorcery excursions: his Elak of Atlantis stories, The Mask of Circe, etc. And of course he was married to C.L. Moore, she of Jirel of Joiry and Northwest Smith fame. Kuttner, sadly, died young. And yet, it turns out, he produced a substantial body of work in the time he had. The Best of Henry Kuttner collects some of it.
Ray Bradbury offers up an exemplary introduction. No surprise there; it’s Ray Bradubury. I won’t quote bits of it here or I’d end up excerpting probably twenty to thirty percent of it. If you normally skip intros and dive right into the first story, try to exercise patience and read this one.
With apologies to the shade of ERB.
John Clayton II, Viscount Greystoke, stubbed out his cigarette on the railing of the veranda overlooking the Patapsco. The smell of gunpowder mingled with the aroma of tobacco, wreaths of smoke coiled and drifted over the long green lawn that descended toward the bank of the river. Greystoke wandered toward the other end of the veranda to take his turn with the double-barreled shotgun.
Professor Archimedes Q. Porter knelt over the clay pigeon thrower, absorbed in the motions of a beetle exploring one leg of the contraption, utterly unaware that his tie was caught in the mechanism. Samuel T. Philander fussed nearby, tut-tutting as he attempted to extract the neckwear. William Cecil Clayton clacked open the action of the shotgun, ejecting two spent shells.
“John,” Clayton said, handing over the gun, “one for two. I’m clearly in need of more practice.”
Greystoke slipped two shells in with unconcious grace while Clayton assisted Philander to extricate Professor Porter from his predicament.
“Pull,” Greystoke commanded, once the machinery was cleared for action. He powdered two clay discs in rapid succession, ejected the shells and snatched them both from the air before they struck the whitewashed boards of the veranda.
He was about to hand off the gun to Clayton when a cry of despair arrested his attention.
“Oh, Lawd!” ejaculated Esmerelda. “The bird, she ruined, miss.”
The voice, though coming from within the sprawling Victorian manse of the Porters, was clearly audible to the men.
A moment later, Jane Porter emerged onto the veranda, the look of concern on her face rendering her only more endearing to Greystoke. Esmerelda followed, wringing her hands within the folds of her voluminous apron.
“Oh, Tarzan,” Jane said. “I am so sorry. I’m afraid the dogs got to the turkey. We cannot salvage it. And on this, your first Thanksgiving.”
“Never fret,” Greystoke said. “A turkey, you say? I’m not personally familiar with the beast, as it did not occupy my jungle home. But I have read about it.”
His heart ached to see Jane Porter aggrieved. Was a turkey all that stood between her and happiness?
He sprang to the railing, balancing like a young ape. He cocked an ear, listening with a hearing honed by an upbringing in the savage wilderness. A faint gobbling reached his keen senses.
“Set out the rest of the viands,” Tarzan said. “I shall return.”
Tarzan leapt from the railing. He stripped off his civilized attire as he ran around the side of the house. Then he made for the woods still lingering to the rear of the Porter estate, fighting a losing rearguard action against the encroachment of Baltimore.
Minutes later he was perched on the branch of a spreading oak, peering down at a flock of fat, gabbling fowl. He picked out the largest.
“KREEGAH!” The battle cry of Tarzan echoed through the woods as he sprang toward the turkey, the euphoria of combat enveloping him.
More of my stuff and nonsense available, among other places, here.
Labels are useful as more than just a tool for the marketing department. Labels also help the consumer determine if the product before him is the sort of thing he wants to purchase or not. Still, labels can be limiting, deterring someone from acquiring something worthwhile merely because it doesn’t precisely fit within a genre box.
Those of us who are aficionados of Sword-and-Sorcery fiction expend significant time debating what is or is not S&S. That’s as it should be: If your goal is to consume, enjoy, and discuss X, you want to avoid slipping in discussion of Y as beyond the scope. But S&S is a protean subgenre, a slippery subject that is, at the same time, gregarious and outgoing, liking to socialize with all the neighbors in the bookstore. So you can’t always be sure if the book next to that copy of Swords and Ice Magic is S&S or instead Sword-and-Planet, High Fantasy, Grimdark, or something else entirely. And whether or not it matters is completely subjective.
Greetings from Houston, the Big Strip Mall. Or, more precisely from a pond-side deck at our little AirBnB in the suburb Pearland. The contrast from the rainy (flood-threatening) Pacific Northwest to sunny coastal Texas is distinct and welcome.