Swordsmen and Supermen is a slim volume of heroic fiction. The selections are eclectic. “Let’s see what we have lying about the office.” Not too much apparently, but an interesting variety. Take a look.
Meet Cap’n Kidd. Robert E. Howard. Breckenridge Elkins! Yee haw. Elkins is a Pecos Bill-like character; a larger than life Western folk hero. Those who know REH only through Conan or Solomon Kane might not realize just how funny Howard could be. Breckenridge Elkins stories are on par with Clemens at his Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County best.
Death of a Hero. Jean D’Esme. This is a chapter extracted from the English translation of a French novel. Seems an odd choice. Surely the early 1970s offered complete short stories to choose from. Still, this isn’t bad, reading like the highlights of a lost world fantasy adventure. I might track down a copy of “Red Gods” some time.
Wings of Y’vrn. Darrel Crombie. Decidedly an artifact of a specific era, an era prioritizing experimentation and stylistic boldness; unafraid to take a swing, knowing a strike was as likely as a hit. The 1970s: bell bottoms and psychedelic van art. There is much to admire about this story. It offers some interesting ideas and wildly creative world building. The Biblical and mythic references, resonances, and echoes layer in an illusion of depth. But while the author dishes up what in his mind was a cosmic fantasy, what ends up on the page is often confusing and a challenged to parse. While I enjoyed bits of it, in the end it is too tied to its time. Too far out, man.
The Slave of Marathon. Arthur D. Howden Smith. To a degree this is ill-concealed message fiction. But that message — duty and loyalty to country — is itself a fantastic rarity nowadays. The prose is stiff, the characters poorly developed or one-dimensional, and the historical recreation more like a stage play than a well-researched, immersive piece of fiction. Despite all that, it grew on me and I earned something from my investment of reading time.
How Sargoth Lay Siege to Zaremm. Lin Carter. Carter pays homage to Dunsany. He is a fair mimic. I liked this; it did what it came for and ended, not wearing out its welcome. Short and satisfying.
Summary? Not an anthology for the ages. Not much meat. But if you can find a cheap copy, not a waste of your time.
You know who isn’t wasting his time? Me. I’m writing this on my birthday, at a rented condo on the beach in the Florida panhandle with My Beautiful Wife and the Heir Apparent. Despite the weather gods having received advanced intelligence that I was coming and making a mockery of the phrase “Come to Sunny Florida” it has been a good trip so far. I’ve worked on short story revisions as requested by the editor of a magazine many of you are probably familiar with (more on this later, I hope) and spent quality time on the beach, in the hot tub, and at craft breweries. A birthday lunch at Margaritaville (scouted out earlier) is in the offing. So, Happy Birthday to me.
Should you wish to say Happy Birthday to me, why not buy yourself a present?