Thursday, April 25, 2013

May-June 2013 Group Read: Vintage Sword and Sorcery - Lankhmar

May-June 2013 GroupRead Theme, Vintage-Lankhmar:

The May-June 2013 Group read; which will be any:
1) Vintage Sword and Sorcery (any S&S related work published between 1910 and 1970)...
...with an emphasis (default topic) of... 
2)Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar series ...i.e.The First Book of Lankhmar; most of which was published before the arbitrary 1970 timing (note the Wiki Publication History.) 

Please join us on Goodreads (click here)! 

Masthead Banner:

It is becoming a tradition to create an inspirational montage for each Group Read.  This one is composed of coverart for books authored by (or inspired by) Fritz Leiber. Credits go to the original cover artists:

Background: artist Jeffrey Catherine Jones covers to the 1970 editions of...
Swords and DeviltrySwords Against WizardrySwords against Death
Swords and Deviltry Swords Against Wizardry (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, #4) Swords against Death

Foreground: Fafred and Gray Mouser depictions from Left to Right: 
1- Mike Mignola: Farewell to Lankhmar 
2- Clyde Caldwell: Tales of Lankhmar
3- Michael Whelan: Swords and Ice Magic
4- MIke Mignola:Lean Times in Lankhmar
Farewell to Lankhmar (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, #7) Tales of Lankhmar (Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Module LNR2) Swords and Ice Magic (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, #6) Lean Times in Lankhmar (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, #3-4)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Writing Fantasy Heroes: Powerful Advice from the Pros - Review by SE

Writing Fantasy HeroesWriting Fantasy Heroes by Jason M. Waltz
S.E. Lindberg rating: 5 of 5 stars

Writing Fantasy HeroesEnvision this as a transcript of 14 enthusiastic panelists at a Convention as they tackle the topic "Fantasy Heroes." Would it be worth the price of a book (~$10) to get the transcript of this panel of authors (Orson Scott Card, Brian Sanderson, Steve Erikson, Glen Cook, Janet & Chris Morris, Ian Esslemont, Paul Kearney, Howard Andrew Jones...etc.) ? Heck, yes!

This is Rogue Blade Entertainment's first nonfiction, extending its well-respected, thematic library of heroic fantasy (Rage of the Behemoth, Return of the Sword, Demons: A Clash of Steel Anthology). Fantasy genre readers will want to read this to learn how their favorite authors approach writing; aspiring authors will want to read this to better their craft.

All key elements are tackled within, from the origins of heroes, their motivations, reader expectations, presentation strategies for fight scenes, handling armies, crafting monsters, and amplifying the "epic-ness" via side characters; there is even a chapter on how to balance tropes/clich├ęs, and an entertaining reminder to keep the pressure on the heroes by drowning them in a sea of scat/stool/egestion. Only one contribution of the 14 was disappointing, it reading more of an advertisement rather than providing advice (>75% of that chapter's words was an excerpt). The majority were excellent, concise reads that deliver on what it promises: advice from the pro's.

As the authors dissect their own writing in their case studies, you will find it easier to dissect your own writing. Is your hero too powerful to ever struggle? Are your fight scenes too abstract to engage the reader? Would your hero appear more like a legend if you described him/her via "distant" perspectives (from third party villagers)?

Read this. Get inspired. Craft a better hero.

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Phil Emery's Necromantra - Book Review by S.E.

NecromantraNecromantra by Philip Emery
S.E. Lindberg rating: 4 of 5 stars

Steampunk Necromancy With Noir Milieu, Necromantra is weird fiction for the literary horror reader.
“There is a story here...That every sound we ever make in the world is part of a pattern, part of an immense mantra begun at the beginning of time. That when the pattern is complete, all the dead will rise.”

Summary - From Smashwords: In the Hundred, the working folk are kept in order by the masters who administrate the various mills, pits and manufactories. Strict records are kept in town halls, every death certified despite a crushing mortality. However, the old grim certainties face a new threat with the arrival of the necromancers - dark-skinned pilgrims who, by the chant of a strange mantra, are able to raise the recently dead, thus throwing the immaculate records of the town halls into chaos. In retaliation, the masters appoint a number of rectifiers to each town. Reviled and feared by most of the Hundred, their job is to 're-decease' the 'discrepancies', as the risen are labelled.

Ambience and Style: Phil Emery’s Necromantra is reminiscent of Brian McNaughton’s infamous book The Throne of Bones (just replace McNaughton’s focus on “ghoul erotica” with “thaumaturgic conjuring”). Mature content. Ghosts and animated corpses aplenty. Poetic, literary style. The economy of chapters can be disruptive yet compelling: many mysterious gaps in time/scenery between them propel the story at a brisk pace, engaging serious readers while alienating those looking for a light-read. The Hundred Towns, if you dare adventure there, is knee deep in smog, dissection theaters, industrial steam-driven foundries, and haunted mine shafts. The conflict is intimately linked to this dreary cityscape:

Conflict: This is no simple adventure ( i.e. in which the conflict is "hero vs. bad guy"). There is a distant war fought between the Hundred Towns and some exterior force which is not the real focus. The real battle is within the Hundred Towns, and the control over the mysterious (mineable) Powers. These Powers are intimately connected with communication (song, speech, ink, newspapers, storytelling, words); there is a pervasive, turbulent undercurrent in every scene as these Powers struggle to reveal themselves, or be controlled:
“Every resurrection makes an entry in one of these [ledgers] a lie that can be seen by the citizens of the Hundred. And every time it happens it drags these records into doubt. And when folk start doubting these, what’s next?”

Where to buy?: Paperbacks are out-of-print treasures (expensive, scarce) but electronic versions are available via Smashwords.com for just 6USD (as of 2013).

P. Emery’s Sword & Sorcery short stories: Reading Sword & Sorcery anthologies led me to track down Necromantra. I first learned of his work via the Demons: A Clash of Steel Anthology, in which his "Fifteen Breaths" appealed to me; it had a poetic, dreamy-weird style to it. Crossed his work again in Return of the Sword and was completely taken with his "The Last Scream of Carnage" (notably the editor's pick). It was again poetic, and pushed the bounds of the genre.


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Monday, April 1, 2013

Far Away & Never by Ramsey Campbell - Book Review

Far Away & NeverFar Away & Never by Ramsey Campbell
S.E.Lindberg rating: 4 of 5 stars

Far Away & Never: Pulp Fantasy for the Horror Fan. This is Dark heroic fantasy--stuff that Clark Ashton Smith and Lovecraft, Howard Phillips fans will devour.

Almost a “Tond Cycle” Anthology: Far Away & Never only has 7 tales (not 8 like the backcover claims). The first 4 all star the warrior Ryre, which were all published first in Andrew Offutt's Sword Against Darkness series. Numbers 5-6 are also in Ryre's world Tond (without him) and were weird and dark, akin to Clark Ashton Smith’s style. Number-7 is similar in tone and style, but is not part of Tond. The introduction by Campbell mentions another Tond tale called "A Madness From the Vaults" which debuted the "Tond" world...but this reference is not in this collection.

Table of Contents (and first-published list): Here are the tales from Far Away & Never (copied from the inside cover credits):
1- The Sustenance of Hoak: first published 1977 in Swords Against Darkness
2- The Changer of Names: first published in 1977 Swords Against Darkness II
3- The Pit of Wings: first published in 1978 Swords Against Darkness III
4- The Mouths of Light: first published in 1979 Swords Against Darkness V
5- The Stages of the God: 1974, Vol 2 No 1 of Whispers
6- The Song at the Hub of the Garden: 1975 Savage Heroes
7- The Ways of Chaos: 1996 the only original tale for this series at the time of printing, but is a non-Ryre tale that ended up in another Necropress collection called Ghor, Kin Slayer: The Saga Of Genseric's Fifth Born Son.

Identity Crisis/Theft: "The Sustenance of Hoak" and "Changer of Names" both underscored the notion of losing one's identity (either through enslavement or the stealing of a name). For short stories, this theme is very impactful. It makes us inherently wonder: Who is Ryre? It seems Ryre was poised to evolve in to a continuing character. I was left hungry for more, but only 4 exist. At least two more occur in the land of Tond (sans Ryre): #5- The Stages of the God and #6- The Song at the Hub of the Garden are more weird than action packed; the latter really developed Campbell’s bizarre sense of magic/identity with the use of language/words. He essentially poses that one can steal another’s identity/history merely by declaration. I wish there were more tales to flesh that out, but it is clear that language and identity are magically linked in Tond.

#7 features the famous Hounds of Tindalos, the creatures having been introduced to the world in Frank Belknap Long’s famous weird work (Hounds of Tindalos). Campbell ties them to Conan creator, RE Howard’s warrior Ghor. This is fitting since Ghor was raised by canines (wolves) and Frank Belknap Long wrote in a preceding section of the collection from which this tale was taken. The publisher of Far Away and Never (Necropress) also published the collection Ghor, Kin Slayer: The Saga Of Genseric's Fifth Born Son, a round-robin sequence posthumously finishing REHoward’s Ghor story. Far Away & Never has Campbell’s contribution which stands alone well enough (if only it were in Tond, then it would be even more fitting!)

Groupread Motivation: Our 2013 Mar-April groupread for the Sword and Sorcery group on Goodreads.com was on Campbell's Ryre character. This led many of us on a book hunt. The Ryre tales are found in Far Away & Never, but also in four of the Swords Against Darkness anthologies.

Availability: This book is only being sold “new” from the publisher (as of 2013). Listings on Amazon are used books. Necropress has the best deal on its own collection on its website (<$10), but the response has been slow (for today’s instant gratification consumer anyway…expect a few week turnaround. Necropress is undergoing some transition but is still functioning and has managed to get books to Canada and the UK upon request).

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