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.
Pulp Swords-and-Sorcery stories conveyed a certain esthetic. There was a focus and an energy to them that came through even with authors milking every penny from the word count. I like it. Practitioners of the artform have carried that energy from short stories to novellas and full-length novels. What I’ve wondered is if the esthetic can translate from secondary worlds and mythic history to contemporary fantasy. That is, can one remove the Swords from S&S and substitute modern weaponry while retaining both the driving adventure and the fantastical elements? While working through this, I’ve substituted the term “Semi-automatics” for “Swords.” It maintains the alliteration while holding a conceptual through line, I think.
When we think of a sword in a swords-and-sorcery yarn, most often we think of a barbarian swinging a broadsword. We know what that means. We can visualize it. No matter that “broadsword” is not a term of art, and that in fact a broadsword, properly speaking, is far from the heavy spatha or arming sword we associate with our barbarian hero. And that’s fine. Secondary world fantasy or fantastic fictionalizations of our world don’t demand technical accuracy.
No battle plan, or so it is said, survives first contact with the enemy. Life comes at you fast. Shit happens. Etc. The point is, you cannot expect matters to run smoothly and according to a predetermined schedule. Things change, even as you’re walking out the door on the way to whatever is appointed. Don’t be surprised.
Reading a collection of Louis L’Amour stories has got me thinking about the Western. The Western genre has generated a solid collection of tropes and narrative expectations. It also, it seems, has exercised an influence on science fiction and fantasy; that is, certain speculative fiction stories traffic in the same tropes. All to the good, in my opinion.
I suppose I ought to dip a toe into what makes up a Western, before I proceed. This is a mere surface grazing. Attempting a precise definition of the Western is limiting. Why try to corral a genre with vast possibilities?
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:
The tide of Yule is ebbing this annus horribilis. (Has the near match between annus and anus ever been more appropriate?) Good riddance, I suppose. Still, I’ve made the best of it. I hope you have as well, dear reader.
Is there a more appropriate book for this year than Boccaccio’s Decameron? Not that I’ve personally holed up in a countryside villa to ride it out. I’m one of those who still goes into the office everyday. But I understand there’s quite a bit of that sort of voluntary seclusion going on. Read even just the first story of The Decameron: duplicity, corruption, malfeasance rewarded. Timely, right? (I figure I can make such a nebulous comment without offending anyone; it’s applicable enough that you can assume I’m referring to the bugaboos of your choice.)
Anyways, I thought I’d toss that out in case you’re looking for a book recommendation. That’s about all I have time to write today. I’m busy. I’m trying to finish the second draft of my third Karl Thorson novel by the end of next week. Then I hope to complete the third draft of my Cesar the Bravo novel by around the New Year. I generally take Sunday off to write this weekly post, but I can’t do it if I’m going to meet my self-imposed deadlines.
Have a good week.
I thought I’d offer a change of pace this week. Something different from my usual blathering. I’m offering a snippet from my novel Thick As Thieves. I hope you get a kick out of it.
What are the best taverns in fantasy? Where do you imagine yourself sipping a pint in rather unusual company? The genre is full of these joints, though most, sadly, go nameless. Of course, some of these you’d probably just as soon avoid, like a den of merriment in Arenjun’s Maul, in Zamora.