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.
Unless you’re reading out loud, the words scrolling through your head are spoken in your own unique, idiosyncratic voice. Pronunciation is at your discretion, an unregulated free-for-all. Any given word can sound exactly as you damn-well please.
Such individual variances can make such things as the pronunciation guides many fantasy authors place in their novels rather superfluous. Sure, sometimes you’ll try, going to the effort of mentally molding some invented name with two hyphens and an umlaut for the first few times you read it. But eventually you lapse into whatever pronunciation seems fitting to your internal editor. I mean really, how many of us go to the trouble of figuring out how Robert E. Howard intended us to say Bêlit? How does a circumflex (that little upward pointing diacritical mark) modify a word? I think it is supposed to make the “e” somewhat elongated, going up in inflection then down, sort of like “Bay-ih-lit.” But I’m not entirely sure.
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.
Appendix N to the Dungeon Master’s Guide is an ever full well. Each dip of the bucket brings up something thirst quenching. Gary Gygax’s pulp influences were as broad as they were deep. Some feel that D&D is best seen as an immersive plumbing of pulp Sword and Sorcery. There is probably much to support that opinion. But even a cursory reading of Appendix N indicates that he did not limit himself to the sub-genre. He mined science fiction, historical fiction, and epic fantasy.
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.