o, that was 2021, huh? Well, before moving on into what I’m sure will be a glorious 2022 — a year of unicorns galloping across rainbows, with bareback riding leprechauns scattering gold to us all — I figure I’d look back at what I accomplished in the unicorn-free year.
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.
September the Eleventh is, perhaps, a better day than most for reflection. Falling on a Saturday, yesterday, it also offered one of the last fine summer days of the year. For both reasons I took MBW and the HA out into the hinterlands, into the foothills of Mt. Hood.
The Lizzi household threw a little party yesterday, with attendees primarily from the neighborhood. We wanted to celebrate. MBW passed the mortgage loan officer national exam (by all accounts a rather devilish test.) I’m proud of her. I remember all the work and stress that preceded and carried through the Bar Exam, so I could empathize with all she endured.
We also celebrated (somewhat belatedly) the publication of the first book of Semi-Autos and Sorcery, Blood and Jade. And I suppose I was also prematurely celebrating the release of book two, Santa Anna’s Sword, due out in just over a week from the writing of this post.
The HA is spending a few days with her grandparents on the coast. Thus MBW and I have a childless weekend, unless you count the new kittens (which, soulless barbarian that I am, I don’t.) We planned to drive to Lost Lake, rent some kayaks, and paddle about with Mt. Hood in the background, casting its reflection upon the placid, mirror surface of the lake. The weather, however, had other plans.
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.