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.
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.
Rereading DMG’s Appendix N, I noted that the Lin Carter entry specified a single series. Now, I’ve read quite a bit of his stuff. I had plenty of fodder for my post on Mr. Carter. But I’d neglected the very work that got him enshrined in Appendix N. I was chagrined.
So, after a quick visit to Thriftbooks online, I ordered the first two of the World’s End series. I’ve read the first, Warrior of World’s End, and have plunged into the second, The Enchantress of World’s End. Will I purchase the rest? Read on and see.
I picked up a collection of what composed the pinnacle of fantasy short stories in 1975, the unapologetically titled The Year’s Best Fantasy. A bold claim. True or not, these pieces are, at any rate, what the editor of the anthology considered the best. The editor? Lin Carter, whose objectivity and disinterested, selfless focus on the fulfillment of his task we’ll come to appreciate in this post.
I’d like to start by sincerely noting a classy act of Carter’s right out of the gate. The book is dedicated to Hans Stefan Santesson, who had recently passed on to whatever mead hall sword-and-sorcery editors ascend to. I covered one of his books, The Mighty Swordsmen, in a previous post.
I think a brief reminder is all that is needed here: Lin Carter was a gifted and prolific editor. One of the volumes he put together for The Adult Fantasy series was a book titled Golden Cities, Far. The introduction is one of his better efforts, and seems to have been exhaustively researched. In fact, the book benefits from Carter’s notes, commentary, and humor throughout. This is the second of his collections of old myths, legends, and tales that are the roots from which the tree of heroic fantasy sprang (following Dragons, Elves, and Heroes, which I suppose I ought to track down at some point.)
I can’t always be reviewing anthologies, you know. I do have other matters to occupy my attention. Here’s a snapshot of some of those matters.
What I’m reading:
Lin Carter is back with another volume and more alliteration. Flashing Swords! #5: Demons and Daggers. The cover is drab and uninspiring, a tepid fantasy scene with a dull background, far from the evocative Sword-and-Sorcery covers of the previous volumes. The intro is equally unpromising. Carter writes that he is doing “something a little different” and is soliciting “stories for #5 from writers who have not yet become members of [SAGA].” The names of the contributors — with the notable exception of Roger Zelazny do not inspire confidence in those hoping for the raw fire of S&S. No slight is intended to the others, all fine fantasists in their own right. But, I don’t read the FS anthologies for the larger, inclusive category of Fantasy. Well, I’ll keep a more-or-less open mind. Come with me.
I have a number of well-worn anthologies on my shelves. It has been said that shorter fiction is the proper length for Swords-and-Sorcery. Maybe so. At least in an anthology the reader has access to multiple imagined worlds in a single volume instead of the single world of a novel. I thought I’d investigate this somewhat, revisiting these collections. And what better volume to start with than Flashing Swords #3?