Archives: Sword-and-Sorcery

Borders and Liminal Zones: The Magic Goes Away as Sword-and-Sorcery.

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.

The Dresden Files: Sword-and-Sorcery?

I had intended to write another post on anthologies. However, I was about three and a half stories through a collection when Peace Talks arrived. So much for that plan. I’m about halfway through the latest of Harry Dresden’s series of unfortunate events. Once I’m done, I’ll get back to revisiting Fafhrd and Gray Mouser’s shenanigans.

Reading Peace Talks, however, raised in my mind the question of whether or not the Dresden Files are sword-and-sorcery. Superficially, why not? The main character is a wizard. One of his buddies is a sort of holy warrior, often armored up and swinging a sword. So we’ve got both swords and sorcery right there. I recently wrote a post in which I enumerated what I thought were the essential components of sword-and-sorcery fiction. Why not run through those with an eye to Jim Butcher’s tales of Harry Dresden and a Chicago infested with the supernatural.

A Drive-Through Meal

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.