Sunday, June 26, 2022

July-Aug S&S Group Read Topic: NEW EDGE contemporary Sword & Sorcery




Born in 1920, the Sword & Sorcery genre continues to evolve.  Let us hone its "New Edge" (a term coined by Howard Andrew Jones). Discussion thread on Goodreads (click here to join in).

The July August "2-month spotlight/group read" will be New Edge (i.e. contemporary) S&S. Your mission for the next two months:
(1) Explore a new S&S author (and/or magazine).
(2) and, chime in/share
(3) stretch goal.... review the new content to enable new readers to find them!

Let us not get mired in "what is" or "what is not S&S" of the past.
Instead share where you think the genre is going, or can go!

Feel Welcome to keep adding-to or browse the poll/survey used to spur this discussion:
https://www.goodreads.com/poll/show/2...

Banner Credits
Magazine on Left / Cover artist
Savage Realms Monthly: May 2022: cover artist unattributed
Tales from the Magician's Skull #7: Sanjulian
Swords & Sorceries: Tales of Heroic Fantasy Volume 4: Jim Pitts
WHETSTONE Amateur Magazine of Sword and Sorcery, Issue Five:Carlos Castilho

Savage Realms Monthly May 2022 by Remy Morgeson Tales from the Magician's Skull #7 by Howard Andrew Jones Swords & Sorceries Tales of Heroic Fantasy Volume 4 by David A. Riley WHETSTONE Amateur Magazine of Sword and Sorcery, Issue Five by Jason Ray Carney

Books on right / Cover artist
-The Night Eternal: Bruce Pennington
-Mathias Thulmann: Witch Hunter: Marta Dettlaff 2018
-Twilight of the Gods:James Iacobelli -2018
-Worlds Beyond Worlds: The Short Fiction of John R. Fultz: Brian LeBlanc
- The Night Eternal by Steve Lines Mathias Thulmann Witch Hunter (Warhammer Chronicles) by C.L. Werner Twilight of the Gods (Grimnir #2) by Scott Oden - Worlds Beyond Worlds The Short Fiction of John R. Fultz by John R. Fultz



New Edge S&S has been a hot topic lately... spurred on by Scott Oden and others like Oliver:

Putting a NEW EDGE on an Old Blade 
https://scottoden.wordpress.com/2022/...


New Edge S&S Guest Post: Oliver Brackenbury
https://scottoden.wordpress.com/2022/..


Oooh...from the Whetstone discord, the original posts to Howard Andrew Jones' 
"New Edge" Manifesto were provided by "Riobard#6007" : 
https://bg-editor.livejournal.com/21089.html

And another by HAJ ~2010:
http://www.howardandrewjones.com/sword-and-sorcery/a-new-edge

Saturday, June 25, 2022

GenCon Writers Symposium - Guest of Honor R. A. Salvatore and Special Guests

 

Gen Con Writer's Symposium is back (Aug4-7, Indianapolis IN)

Gen Con just announced that legendary fantasy author R. A. Salvatore is the 2022 Author Guest of Honor! 

Thirty-four years ago, he created the character of Drizzt Do’Urden, the dark elf who has withstood the test of time to stand today as an icon in the fantasy genre. With his work in the Forgotten Realms, the Crimson Shadow, the DemonWars Saga, and other series, Salvatore has sold more than thirty million books worldwide and has appeared on the New York Times bestseller list more than two dozen times. He considers writing to be his personal journey, but still, he’s quite pleased that so many are walking the road beside him!
He will be participating in several Writer's Symposium events (click to browse and register via the GenCon portalduring the convention, including book signings and appearances. 


Gen Con

The Gen Con Writer’s Symposium is a semi-independent event hosted by Gen Con and intended for both new and experienced writers of speculative fiction. Although many of us love and play the games Gen Con offers, our program is focused on the craft and business of writing, particularly in the speculative arenas. In the past 27 years, the Symposium has grown from a small set of panels over a day or two of the convention to one of the largest convention-hosted writing tracks in North America. Gen Con itself is the largest tabletop gaming convention in the world. In 2019 (the last pre-pandemic year for the convention) they welcomed over 65,000 unique visitors and offered over 19,000 events. By its nature, Gen Con attracts a large number of reading-oriented attendees who enjoy speculative fiction.

Writer's Symposium

This year, the Writer's Symposium will have ~40 Authors75 panels, 42 workshops, and special events like the Meet-the-Pros (Thursday night) and D&D-with-Authors (Friday night)! In addition to the GenCon event link above, browse the dedicated website for the GenCon Writers Symposium (link) that explains more and has other views of the program.

The Writer's Symposium also features two special guests, Carlos Hernandez and Brandon O-Brien!

Saturday, June 18, 2022

The Elusive, Inspirational Soul – by S.E. Lindberg

This post originally appeared on the Once and Future Podcast website on Sept 3rd 2018.

Reposting here since that website is now sun-setted.

Embedded Images are all under Public Domain or Common License:


The Elusive, Inspirational Soul – by S.E. Lindberg

For most artists, including writers, the act of creating attempts to capture and share some emotion, or conversely, evoke an emotional response from an audience. Often, we draw inspiration from our past experiences, traumatic or enjoyable, to deepen the impact. As a scientist, I find the entire transaction of emotions oddly inspirational and terrifying. Feelings are ubiquitous, but cannot be measured objectively; they do not seem to adhere to any law of conservation like energy or mass obey (is there any limit to sorrow or joy?).

Could we better our craft if we knew how emotions flowed from an object (fine art or prose) to a person (or vice versa)? Let us examine the sources and sinks of emotion: our souls. In playful art, this is quite easy to simulate; heck, consider the soul-currency for crafting in From Software’s Dark Souls videogame series—if only we could see as the undead do! In real life, studying the soul is harder.

Many ‘Renaissance Men’ were inspired to find the soul while the art of anatomy flourished. The prevailing Church did not permit the dissection of innocent believers, so criminals or ‘sinners’ were often studied. Bodies were considered divinely sacred and were thus difficult to obtain; acceptable corpses could not be refrigerated, so one had to work fast. Nor were there cameras or video to capture the observations, so artists and alchemists convened in the dissection theaters to document the microcosms of life.  Leonardo Da Vinci provided detailed notes along with his drawings (from The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci. Oxford World's Classics, 1998):

"I have dissected more than ten human bodies, destroying all the various members and removing the minutest particles of flesh which surrounded these veins, without causing any effusion of blood other than the imperceptible bleeding of the capillary veins. And as one single body did not suffice for so long a time, it was necessary to proceed in stages with so many bodies as would render my knowledge complete; this I repeated twice in order to discover the differences. And though you should have a love for such things you may perhaps be deterred by natural repugnance, and if this does not prevent you, you may perhaps be deterred by fear of passing the night hours in the company of these corpses, quartered and flayed and horrible to behold; and if this does not deter you, then perhaps you may lack the skill in drawing, essential for such representation..." p151

Da Vinci determined that the senses were linked to a ‘common sense’ that led to the brain. But no actual soul was discovered. He yielded the goal of managing the soul to religion.  Below, from his treatise on painting, he spoke how the artist must deal with this and impart the soul into its subjects otherwise:

"A good painter has two chief objects to paint, man and the intention of his soul; the former is easy, the later hard because he has to represent it by the attitudes and movements of the limbs.” p178

Anatomical artists had to grapple with documenting macabre scenes of opened bodies while remaining 'artistic'.  For the dignity of the specimens and to satisfy the surgeons' needs, artists often found harmony by posing their subjects. Perhaps most famous are Johannes de Ketham's Fasiculo de Medicina (1491), Andreas Vesalius's De Humani Corporis Fabrica (1543), and Leonardo Da Vinci's notebooks (1500). The contemporary Bodies: The Exhibition continues this controversial tradition of displaying the dead artistically.

With the most promising connection to our souls being the senses, it follows that the next great promise of discovery came when optical technology allowed scientists to see new worlds. Pioneering microscopists had to draw their observations. In 1664, Robert Hooke published a large treatise entitled Micrographia or Some Physiological Description of Minute Bodies, containing an encyclopedia of detailed drawings of his microscopic views. In his preface, he explains to the reader that optics have enabled a spiritual quest:

“… by the help of microscopes, there is nothing so small, as to escape our inquiry; hence there is a new visible world discovered to the understanding.  By this means the heavens are opened, and a vast number of new stars, and new motions, and new productions appear in them, to which all the ancient astronomers were utterly strangers.”

The soul has never found, however.  Despite ‘the opening of heaven’ with microscopes, the soul still eludes us.

Ernest Haeckel (1834-1919) was another famous artist-scientist fascinated with the aesthetics of nature and the elusiveness of the soul. His 1904 set of lithographs Art Forms in Nature brilliantly exhibit his obsession with the symmetrical beauty of biological microstructures, and his extensions into comparative embryology brought him controversy. He argued this in his support of his own monistic religion that scientific adventures continually uncovered the beautiful designs inherent in nature (monism generally supports that ‘body and soul’ are one connected entity, not separate as many dualistic religions profess):

“The remarkable expansion of our knowledge of nature, and the discovery of countless beautiful forms of life, which it includes, have awakened quite a new aesthetic sense in our generation, and thus given a new tone to painting and sculpture. Numerous scientific voyages and expeditions for the exploration of unknown lands and seas, partly in earlier centuries, but more especially in the nineteenth, have brought to light an undreamed abundance of new organic forms... affording an entirely new inspiration for painting, sculpture, architecture, and technical art.”

In 1900, Haeckel published his scientific, spiritual book Riddle of the Universe at the Close of the Nineteenth Century in which he explains his monistic philosophies.  He shares elegant philosophy on the soul's lack of participation in the "Laws of Substance" (conservation of mass and energy); below, he discusses how many related the nonexistent soul to that which is tangible:

“Thus invisibility comes to be regarded as a most important attribute of the soul.  Some, in fact, compare the soul with ether, and regard it, like ether, as an extremely subtle, light, and highly elastic material, an imponderable agency, that fills the intervals between the ponderable particles in the living organism, other compare the soul with the wind, and so give it a gaseous nature; and it is this simile which first found favor with the primitive peoples, and led in time to the familiar dualistic conception.  When a man died, the body remained as a lifeless corpse, but the immortal soul ‘flew out of it with the last breath.’”

Indeed, the many myths of preserving a dead man’s soul, or gaining its powers, is pervasive. The notion of relics is common across cultures and time. It assumes that the soul is a contagion remaining attached to the body postmortem. Hence, the power of a Saint could be absorbed if one obtained his or her bones; this gave rise to the theft and desecration of many crypts and catacombs. Many crypts remain with the bodily relics on display. The crypt of Saint Munditia of Munich and the Vienna Imperial Crypts are fine examples. Other famous examples include the shrines of Capuchin monks in Rome and Palermo, Sicily (>6,000 bodies) and the Kostnice 'Church of Bones, Kutna Hora, Sedlec Ossuary, Prague (~40,000 remains).

Alas, we cannot study the soul directly yet, but the journey is inspirational. H.P. Lovecraft summarized our human condition best in his opening to “The Call of Cthulhu” (Weird Tales, 1928):

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age…”




S.E. Lindberg resides near Cincinnati, Ohio working as a microscopist, employing scientific and artistic skills to understand the manufacturing of products analogous to medieval paints. Two decades of practicing chemistry, combined with a passion for dark fantasy, spurs him to write graphic adventure fictionalizing the alchemical humors (primarily under the banner “Dyscrasia Fiction”). With Perseid Press, he writes weird tales infused with history and alchemy (Heroika: Dragon EatersPirates in Hell). He co-moderates the Sword & Sorcery group on Goodreads.com (please participate), and regularly interviews authors on the topic of Beauty in Weird Fiction.


 

 

 




Friday, June 17, 2022

Tales From the Magician's Skull Blog Roundup - June 17th 2022


Skull Minion of the Eleventh Order, Bill Ward, continues to guard the threshold between reality & fantasy (via the Tales From the Magician's Skull Blog).  With Robert E. Howard Days occurring (a tribute to REH who died June 11th), and with the passing of master painter Ken Kelly, the focus turned to the masters who have traversed realms. Read on, in honor of heroes!

MAY 31 - Classic Covers: More Roger Zelazny

Multiple-award-winning and best-selling author Roger Zelazny’s popularity wasn’t just confined to his native United States. Winner of France’s Prix Apollo, translated into dozens of languages, Zelazny’s reach was international and his appeal universal. While many of us will only ever appreciate him in one language, the multitude of artistic interpretations of his highly imaginative stories is something we can all enjoy with yet more Classic Covers.

 

JUN 3 - A Look at Caveman Stories by Fletcher Vredenburgh

That Robert E. Howard’s first professionally published story, “Spear and Fang,” was a caveman story should mean something to the history of heroic fiction and sword & sorcery itself. Perhaps, because it’s not a very good story, it never had the effect a better one might have. But I’m not totally sure; teenage Robert E. Howard already had a sure grasp of the elements that hook a reader craving action and adventure in their stories.

There’s not very much to “Spear and Fang” (1925). Pretty Cro-Magnon girl A-aea is forcefully accompanied into the woods by the haughty and threatening warrior Ka-nanu. Very quickly, they’re set upon by a ferocious, animalistic Neandertal who proceeds to dismantle Ka-nanu. Later, A-aea is saved by the object of her affections, the brave (and artistically inclined) Ga-nor. All ends well and love will bloom in the savage dawn of mankind.

 

JUN 7 - Dehumanizing Violence and Compassion in Robert E. Howard’s “Red Nails” by Jason Ray Carney

Robert E. Howard’s sword and sorcery tale “Red Nails,” published as a three-part serial in Weird Tales in 1936, tells the story of the city of Xuchotl, the enduring, blood-soaked war between the Tecuhltli and the Xotalanc, and the dehumanizing effect of sustained hatred and violence. “Red Nails” engages with several ancient literary tropes, but the one that centers “Red Nails” is what I term “the stalemate war.” By focusing on the stalemate war between the murderous Tecuhltli and insane Xotalanc, I hope to bring into focus a surprising facet of Robert E. Howard’s most famous sword and sorcery character, Conan of Cimmeria: the way the barbarian maintains his humanity through compassion.

First, let me briefly clarify what I mean by the literary trope of “the stalemate war.” Identifying tropes and patterns in literature and popular culture is more an art than a science, but it’s fun and often reveals surprising dimensions to works. Why storytellers hew to these enduring patterns, who knows? Some speculate that these mythic patterns are evolutionary residues, instinctual psychological narratives that unconsciously narrate the crucible of our evolution. Their origins notwithstanding, there are undeniable recurring structures of story that resonate with us, and so storytellers return to them over and over, hone them, and reinvent for their own purposes. Robert E. Howard did this with “Red Nails,” and he did this masterfully.

 

JUN 10 - Classic Covers: Frank Frazetta’s Lancer/Ace Conans

Second only to Robert E. Howard in importance in the development of the perception of Conan, Frank Frazetta’s explosively elemental take on the Cimmerian achieved instant cultural cache and has become the defining image not only of Howard’s most famous creation, but of the barbaric hinterlands of fantasy fiction itself. Frazetta’s frenzied depictions of havoc and battle, his iron-muscled killers taut with violent fury, his churning vistas of bodies in conflict beneath rust-red skies, presented a gritty, dynamic vision of the bloody world of sword-and-sorcery fiction — a graphical apotheosis for a sub-genre that was no longer tucked away in moldering pulps, but instead enthusiastically smashing through the doors of mass culture.

The long-running Conan series helmed by de Camp and Carter was the entry point for a generation of readers newly discovering the original tales of Robert E. Howard’s barbarian adventurer—along with a mixed bag of pastiche and repurposed stories from other Howard heroes.

 

JUN 14 - Classic Covers: Ken Kelly

The world of fantasy illustrators has lost one of its most prolific and long-running practitioners, Ken Kelly (May 19, 1946 – June 3, 2022). From the classic Berkley Medallion line of collected Robert E. Howard to the modern Baen reissues, Tor Conan pastiches, and Wildside/Dorchester Weird Works of REH — and the thousands of fantasy and science fiction books from every major publisher in between — Kelly’s art was a ubiquitous presence on the paperback rack for half a century. Tutored by “Uncle Frank” Frazetta, the undisputed master of brooding sword-and-sorcery illustration, Kelly incorporated Frazetta’s high-contrast interplay of light and dark and sinuous, dynamic character modeling into his own brand of frenetic, physical, and fantastically explosive art.

While many remember Kelly for his work on album covers for bands like Kiss and Manowar, or his equally dynamic covers for horror and film magazines, comics, and even toy advertisements, for those of us at Tales From the Magician’s Skull he will forever be honored as one of the major voices in sword-and-sorcery illustration, a direct connection between our contemporary age and the era in which rediscovered pulps boomed across the collective consciousness and sparked a revolution in fantasy story-telling — both in print and in art.

 

JUN 17 - Lin Carter: Enthusiast of the Fantastic by Brian Murphy

Born this month 92 years ago, the late Lin Carter (1930-1988) was, perhaps more than anything else, an enthusiast. He heard the Horns of Elfland, and they called to him like few fans of the sacred genre before or since.

Author of Thongor. Creator of worlds. Self-mythologizer. Awards organizer of the Gandalf, for whose statuettes he paid out of his own modest pocket. Founder of the (mostly fictitious) Swordsmen and Sorcerer’s Guild of America, or S.A.G.A. Generous with his praise, both for the fantasy GOATS, and his peers and contemporaries. Editor of the esteemed Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series (BAFS), which breathed new life into old classics and helped codify the fantasy genre. Frequent contributor to Amra. Capable steward of multiple anthologies including Year’s Best FantasyFlashing SwordsKingdoms of WizardryRealms of Wizardry, the Zebra Weird Tales paperback revival, and many others.

Carter wrote lots of fiction. Most of it was of mediocre pastiche quality, with a few sparkles amidst the detritus. But what he never lacked was a boundless enthusiasm for it all.

 

 


Thursday, June 16, 2022

The Blood of Roses Vol-1, by Tanith Lee: Review by SE

 

The Blood of Roses Volume 1: Mechail, Anillia by Tanith Lee

SE rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tanith Lee (1947-2015) acclaimed Fantasy & Horror writer known for her poetic weirdness and mature content (i.e. sexual situations). The Blood of Roses Volume 1: Mechail, Anillia sequence follows suit; originally available only in the UK, a more-global audience can now access her take on a milieu featuring the conflict between a Christian religion and naturalistic pagans. The Back Cover Blurb below from Immanion Press summarizes the contents and the re-publishing of the single book into two volumes (each ~300pages with sub-books focused on key characters; Volume 1 Contents: “Mechail” and “Anilla”; Volume 2 Contents, “Jun”, “Eujasia”, “Mechailus”).


Read this is as part of a Goodreads Sword & Sorcery Group Read [The Blood of Roses is not classic S&S, but Lee has written in that genre and this is focused on a dark fantasy environment that is tangential; it falls into the “dark epic fantasy” category instead]. The key thing to note for candidate readers is that Lee adores presenting mysterious worlds, blurring the lines between myth, reality, and dreams. So, reading becomes more like deciphering a puzzle, and reading less easy.

Here, she does the following:
• Presents a fantasy world in which magic truly exists
• Presents many mysteries (i.e., riddles) that are unexplainable to the characters...such that even their understanding of their world is insufficient, so the reader’s will be too
• Changes perspectives at chapter & scene breaks
• Changes time too between chapter & scene breaks (going forward or backward days or decades between chapters)
• Use pronouns at the beginning of scenes, avoiding explicitly identifying who “She” or “He” are for several paragraphs.
• No map is provided; reading each chapter reveals the land more, so it is like a fog-of-war approach in video games; its all a mystery until you unveil it
• The conflict is complex: it is not simple “single protagonist vs single enemy”, nor is it the more intangible "protagonist vs world-nature." Here are many characters here and each struggles against a variety of forces
• Writes at a high Reading Level using an intellectual vocabulary and archaic & dreamy descriptions (metaphor similes). She literally mixes dreams in with "reality."

Anyway, The Blood of Roses Volume 1: Mechail, Anillia is expertly written and enjoyable. If you are looking for digestible, guilty-pleasure reading, this won’t be for you. Lee demands her reader to be immersed and attentive. Like Celtic fantasy, but want something more deep? Then you will adore this.

Back Cover Blurb

In a rich, complex epic set in a grim fantasy world, Tanith Lee explores in her distinctive style the excesses of religion as well as the dark pagan roots of earlier times. There are disturbing similarities between the rites of apparently conflicting beliefs – the blood and body of Christ and the divine blood of the World Tree.

While the Christerium might believe it wields the greater power and keeps the people under control through brutality and oppression, the older cunning ways lie hidden in every forest glade and in the hearts of those who worship the Great Tree, nourished by the blood of willing sacrifice. But then the Tree is destroyed, in the midst of a sacred rite, unleashing a potent and vengeful magic.
From the ruin of this atrocity, the enigmatic dark priest Anjelen arises. He deftly works his way into the heart of the Christerium, bewitching its most powerful administrators. He is like an angel, beautiful and charismatic – yet to be feared. People are drawn to follow him into any darkness he claims to be the Light of God. The rites he introduces to the inner cabal of the Christerium change all who take part in them, not least invoking a thirst for blood.

Characters with mysterious origins, damaged in body and mind, assemble to enact a world-changing drama. Anillia wakes within an old abbey, knowing she is 15 years old, but with no idea who she is or how she got there. She feels safe with the ageing nuns until sons of a local forest clan arrive at her sanctuary, claiming she is their sister, lost long ago in the woods. She is married off to a local clan leader, thereby becoming part of Anjelen’s plan. Mechail, the crippled son of a powerful forest lord is murdered yet rises from death to follow an unknown destiny. It seems he was never quite human to begin with. Jasha, a wild woods girl, more animal than human is drawn into
Anjelen’s entourage, witness to strange and terrifying events, knowing she too has a part to play in the savage rites of blind belief and raw desire.

This vivid, macabre epic was only ever published in the UK in a hardback edition – to most readers it will be a completely new title, which Immanion Press is proud to present in two paperback volumes, with illustrations by Danielle Lainton and cover art by John Kaiine.

Excerpts: Anthropomorphized Nature, Similes, &Metaphors Abound

[1] "Warm, deceiving and sad, the light of Autumn lit the courtyard and chapel building. But the berries were thick as red drops of blood all over the bushes at the door. It would be a wicked winter. The forest, standing behind and about like an army of bears, its darkness still green, would change rapidly to a place of snows. Marika feared the winter. Her uncomfortable joints turned painful…"p185

[2] "She led him to the hearth and sat down there on the slave’s stool. He looked up, at her eyes, and away again. Time was like the snow. It had no enduring substance and might thaw to mud in one spring day." p246

[3] "...she offered her whispering cry to the soldier, the captain of her husband’s garrison, twenty-nine years of age, Carg Vrost, strayed broken-handed and partly mad, from terrifying night to chaos night…He looked young, the captain, and old. Agony – the broken hand – had pulled his face against its bones." p253

[4] "That evening, sunset was not red but angrily overcast, with leaden clouds that promised boiling summer rain. Veins beat in the grey forehead of the sky." p292

View all my reviews

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

The Hunter (by Richard Stark, aka Donald E. Westlake) - Review by SE

During a Writing Class I took last year via the Muse Writing Center (The Craft of Heroic Fantasy Fiction) author Howard Andrew Jones suggested I read Donald E. Westlake (aka Richard Stark)'s Parker series to (1) to add variety to my steady dose of Sword & Sorcery [this is a dark, noir crime thriller .... not fantasy adventure] and (2) experience reading economical writing and optimal information flow (ie "reveals").


This was a blast. Granted, some of the misogynistic 1960 perspectives did not age (nor should it actually...in this case it reinforces the protagonist Parker's culture). I can see why this expanded in 1 24 book series. Parker is our protagonist, but he's a tough criminal. His exploits are James Bond-like, in that he is a lone rogue constantly thinking on the fly; otherwise, his intentions are entirely self-serving.

As HAJ indicated, this was not only fun to read, but it is a fine example of an entertaining book that also demonstrates highly-efficient prose; each sentence delivers only what it has to, and Stark/Westlake perfected when to add detail (i.e. Brand names or key adjectives). Also perfected, chapter-to-chapter information reveals; the reader only receives what they need, but five chapters in you'll realize that each section unravels key context from all the prior ones.

Splendid. I'm not sure if I want to read all 24! However, I heard the first three comprise a story arc, so I plan to read the next two.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

GenCon Writer's Symposium Aug 4-7; it's Back, and S.E. is helping to coordinate!

 GenCon Writer's Symposium is back (Aug4-7, Indianapolis IN)

Check out the 119 Writer's Symp events: (75 panels, 42 workshops, the Meet-the-Pros and D&D-with-Authors events)

GenCon Writer's Symposium: Over 20 Years of Helping Writers to Write!

I am proud to be the Event Coordinator with seven other organizing committee members bringing the symposium back to life after previous year's Covid disruptions (others include E.D.E. Bell, Maurice Broaddus, Aaron Rosenberg, Gregory A. Wilson, Matt Jarchow, & John Wiswell).

In the past 27 years, the Symposium has grown from a small set of panels over a day or two of the convention to one of the largest convention-hosted writing tracks in North America, offering hundreds of hours of programming from 70+ authors, editors, agents, and publishers to nearly 3000 unique visitors per year. For 2022, we have over 160+ hours of events, more than 50 amazing authors.

I will be moderating 5 panels on Sword & Sorcery or Weird Fiction. More info. here

Click here to register for events!




Saturday, May 28, 2022

Friday, May 27, 2022

Tales From the Magician's Skull - Blog Round-Up May27

 


Tales From the Magician's Skull Blog May 27th 2022 Round-Up

Blogger Master and Skull Minion of the Fifth Order, Bill Ward, continues to collect and share splendid incantations. Here are the latest six:


May 6: Classic Covers: Fred Saberhagen

Prolific writer of science fiction and fantasy series, Fred Saberhagen is best known for his Berserker series of far-future space operas in which a beleaguered mankind squares off against a malign machine intelligence, and the Swords series, detailing a massive conflict involving numerous key players and their unique swords of power. Often combining magic, post-apocalyptic, and military themes in his fiction, Saberhagen’s steady output through the second half of the twentieth century ensured that not only did his larger-than-life narratives entertain a worldwide audience, but his work inspired dozens of first-rate cover illustrations during the boom years of commercial fantasy paperback publishing.

 

 May 12: Adventures in Fiction: Roger Zelazny and the Chronicles of Amber by Steve Bean

The idea of space gods seems somewhat commonplace today, but Roger Zelazny is the reason that most of us are familiar with them. Today, Steve Bean explores Zelazny’s work and the impact it had on both fiction and gaming. By virtue of his unusual last name, Roger Zelazny is last in Appendix N. This author wonders: “How many readers have never gotten all the way down the list, leaving Zelazny a mystery?” And so, around the anniversary of his birth, let’s take a look at this three-time Nebula Award winner (nominated 14 times), six-time Hugo Award winner (coincidentally, also 14 nominations) and “last-but-by-nomeans-least” author, focusing on his best-known work: The Chronicles of Amber.

 


May 17: Classic Covers: Roger Zelazny

Roger Zelazny’s explosion onto the speculative fiction scene was practically the horn blast announcing the coming of science fiction’s New Wave, at least in the United States. This fresh injection of modern literary techniques and counter-culture sensibilities into the genre of robots and rocket ships sparked a fertile period of experimentation that saw the genre develop a keen interest in the interior world of the human mind, inverting the frontiers of exploration from the distant and impersonal far corners of space, to the inner life of the individual.

Zelazny combined headlong pulp pacing with literary experimentation and a fine ear for language — as well as an almost mischievous love for the juxtapositions of myth and modernity. While he played with structure and technique in his stories, and freely combined tropes from multiple genres (as in many of his greatest works, such as the Amber SeriesLord of Light, and Jack of Shadows), Zelanzy’s racetrack mind was one of wildly creative invention, nothing like the de(con)structionist mindset of many of those embracing the New Wave as an opportunity to undermine what had come before. Zelazny, a natural storyteller of tremendous imagination, strengthened the foundations of fantasy and science fiction even while exuberantly constructing his own inimitable edifice upon its stones

 


May 20: No Darkness Without Light: Roger Zelazny’s Jack of Shadows

Godlike beings in competition, the bending of natural laws, a multiplicity of strange environments, the collision of magic and science, characterization rooted in myth and metaphor, and stakes of cosmological or world-shattering import – Roger Zelazny’s most popular fiction, be it his Amber Series, his brilliant Lord of Light, or the subject of this essay, Jack of Shadows, showcase the inherent fascinations that inform much of his work. Not that a grab-bag of story elements alone could possibly define an author – particularly one as creatively unrestrained as Zelazny – but if you should see such a grab-bag flung over the back of a man in a hurry, shades black, cigarette canted, perhaps as he races with seemingly suicidal speed atop a growling chrome hog though the log-jammed streets of conventional narrative, then you’ve just spotted one of the wildest storytellers of the twentieth century. Run after him!

 

May 24: The Far-Flung Literary Webs of Manly Wade Wellman by Brian Murphy

I’ve always been interested in the great chain of influence, the through-lines from one writer to the next. And I still get a thrill when I discover them, or better yet, experience them in the texts themselves. One of these great through-lines is Manly Wade Wellman (1903-1986). While he does not seem widely read today, the threads of Manly’s life and work are inextricably woven through horror and sword-and-sorcery, from the pulps all the way up to the present day. Even if you haven’t read him, odds are you’ve experienced Wellman in one way or another.

There is a clear literary chain from H.P. Lovecraft to Wellman, on to Karl Edward Wagner and Stephen King. I think it continues in Joe Lansdale, whom Wellman must have influenced, though my somewhat cursory internet research has not turned up anything definitive (Wellman did influence King, who influenced Lansdale). You can see the similarities in the authentic regional voice both use in their stories.

 


May 27: The Adventures of Elfboot and Hellstallion: Roger Zelazny’s Dilvish, the Damned

Roger Zelazny’s Dilvish, the Damned is a collection of short stories that includes both some of his earliest work, and later stories written with the established authorial voice familiar to fans of his Amber Series. One might say that in tone and style Dilvish, the Damned is as odd and unpredictable as the titular character’s adventures. Beginning with some of Zelazny’s earliest writing, two pieces that originally appeared in Fantastic Stories of the Imagination in the mid-60s written in the mode of a Dunsany or E.R. Eddison, and ending with work from the late seventies and early eighties, much of which was written to expand the story cycle to book length, Dilvish, the Damned is as much a fun romp through sword-and-sorcery fields as it is a snapshot of Zelazny’s evolution as a writer.