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.
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.
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.
Lin Carter apparently enjoyed letting his imagination roam free in the first World’s End book (The Warrior of World’s End) so much that he figured even greater license would be even more fun. There may be something to the idea that more is better, but there is also such a thing as restraint.
MBW, the HA, and I hosted a Columbus Day party yesterday. We served homemade limoncello, and I tapped a keg of homebrew. We nibbled on vaguely Italian themed snacks. I put on a quiet Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra soundtrack for the affair. And today I find myself thinking about fantasy and science fiction linked to the New World. That’s just the way my mind works.
Carl Jacobi (1908-1997) is one of the forgotten genre writers, penning weird tales, crime fiction, science fiction and fantasy for the pulps, and later in life for their successors. He’s an author I intend to keep an eye out for when browsing for something new to purchase. Why? Well, I happened upon a short-short of his by the title of A Pair of Swords. It’s a weird tale, from 1933, with just a touch of the swashbuckling fare I enjoy brought to life with the assistance of an unexplained supernatural occurrence. Classic pulp contrivance; museum antiques, weapons, the King’s Musketeers, an out-of-time encounter. Good stuff.
I’ve been considering Robert E. Howard’s Conan. As one does, you know. I don’t need to tell my discerning and intelligent audience that there is more to the character than a violent savage in a hairy diaper. But I thought I’d share a few of my thoughts.