Who is the most American of fantasy heroes? I ignited enough fireworks yesterday in the course of Independence Day festivities to get me feeling good and patriotic. And as a patriotic writer of fabulism, it should come as little surprise that the opening question occurred to me.
We are living in interesting times. Whatever your take on current events, however much or little the global turmoil and tumults have affected you personally, it is likely you feel at the least a bit of consternation, perhaps even pique. My day-to-day existence has altered little. I’ve been driving to the office, the same as usual. It is startlingly quiet there, but that doesn’t bother me. And now that I am able to once again go the gym and take my family out to restaurants, my life is largely back to normal. But even so, I experience moments of discontent, a Truman-Show style notion that something is not quite right.
Michael Moorcock is the elder statesman of the S&S genre. He earned his bones. His success is unquestioned and his influence is clear. It would be unmannerly for a piker like myself, who has yet to make much of a ripple in the genre, to criticize a big fish like Moorcock. I’ve already, perhaps, neared such impertinence during the course of my Appendix N series, but the nature of the undertaking required a certain degree of honesty.
The thing is, in my personal experience, Elric and the rest of the Eternal Champion stories, worked well for a certain period of my life and experience, but not as well later in life. I’m making no argument here, simply pointing out my subjective impressions. Yours may differ, and I would not object even if I could. My claim to be the Final Arbiter of all Things Subjective is made purely in jest.
So, understand that I picked up The Revenge of the Rose with personally calibrated, limited expectations. I was pleased to find that Rose marginally exceeded those expectations. Elric remains Elric, brooding and tortured. (There ought to be an episode of Epic Rap Battles of History with Elric versus Lestat.) There is plenty of the usual. I won’t criticize it; it’s a feature not a bug. But a minor criticism is that Elric is rather passive in this book, brought along for the ride other characters are taking through the Multiverse. On the other hand, maybe that’s a reason I somewhat enjoyed this one: the other characters.
It was nice to encounter Prince Gaynor the Damned again. And there were other callbacks to the Corum books. I have fond memories of reading The Chronicles of Corum as a teen. I mean, look at that cover. I must have read that one three or four times during high school.
I also enjoyed the imaginative settings, one of Moorcock’s greatest skills as a writer. There was the train of monstrous wagons, forever circling the planet, a sort of proto-Snowpiercer. There was The Ship That Was. There was the abandoned, crystalline city. Moorcock can always be counted on to create a memorable location. And he is evocative, skilled at creating a mood.
And then, there’s the relatively happy ending. Even knowing what ultimately lies in store for Elric, it is nice to see him off on what promises to be an interlude of tranquility and contentment. I remain fond of my memories of Elric. So, I found the end of Rose satisfying. A rewarding payoff.
I mentioned the call back to the Corum books. One thing Moorcock created was the idea that his Elvish race existed throughout the Multiverse under different names. Elric may be called a Melnibonean, but let’s face it, he’s an elf. In Rose he recognizes his kindred, though they are called the Vadhagh. Elves. Tall, and generally considered superior to men, though whether benign or malign depends on the world in question.
I did something similar with Thick As Thieves, creating the Haptha. Tall, physically (and perhaps culturally) superior human-like beings. But perhaps…maybe…could be, they are just elves with the serial numbers filed off and some aftermarket add-ons. The second edition of Thick As Thieves is out. Tell me what you think. And where do I get off daring to cast even a hint of shade at an acknowledged master? (And I do acknowledge it. You don’t need to extol his virtues. Michael Moorcock doesn’t need the help and I already appreciate what he’s created, even if I’m no longer the ideal reader of it.)
To sum up: I enjoyed The Revenge of the Rose. If you’re an Elric fan, I recommend it to you.
There was a time when bookstore shelves were not dominated by cinder block-sized fantasy epics. Back in the 1960s a 150-page sci-fi paperback was commonplace. Or, so I understand from my expeditions through used book stores. I’m afraid I have no memories from the 60s.
I see nothing wrong with short novels. Not every meal needs to be a seven-course feast. A salad and a half-sandwich lunch is sometimes precisely what you need. At other times you just want to go through the drive-through and get something fast and tasty, but not particularly nutritious.
Does the Sword-and-Planet (also known as Planetary Romance) genre qualify as Sword-and-Sorcery? Or, more precisely, can it?
Yes. Next question.
Wait, you want some sort of explanation rather than a blanket agreement or denial. Fine.
So, 2019 is pretty much a wrap. I have few complaints, it was a good year for YoursTruly, MBW, and the HA. I have another book out, and three in the can waiting to be unleashed in 2020. I traveled a bit, hit a few conventions to dispense what (if looked at cross-eyed, in a certain light) passes as wisdom, successfully achieved the half-century mark of my life (pro-tip: don’t die), completed my web log series on Appendix N, and brewed a few batches of beer.
Some things are true serendipity, others are more deliberately linked. I’m going with the latter in the case at hand. You see, I’m nearing completion of the sequel to Karl Thorson and the Jade Dagger, and the climax occurs at The Alamo. At about the time I commenced writing that chapter I needed to download a new audio book. Searching for this and that I came across a book I’d heard of before, but hadn’t read, by one of my favorite writers: The Alamo, by John Myers Myers.
I am about two-thirds of the way through re-reading Glen Cook’s Black Company novels. This time through (the second for the later novels, the third for the earlier) I think I’m better able to appreciate more of the subtleties. Some of that may be due to reading them straight through, without the long gaps that accompany awaiting publication.