Sunday, July 31, 2022

Tales From the Magician's Skull Blog Round-Up: Jul 12 to 29th 2022

Skull Minion of the Thirteenth Order, Bill Ward, casts more spells upon us weary, mortal dogs (via the Tales From the Magician's Skull Blog, link).

JUL 29   In The Land of Dreams: Lord Dunsany’s At the Edge of the World by Fletcher Vredenburgh

I didn’t read any of Dunsany’s stories until long after I had encountered several of his direct literary descendants. I discovered H.P. Lovecraft on the Stapleton Library shelves, Clark Ashton Smith on the foxed pages of old anthologies, and Jack Vance in dad’s boxes of books in the attic. I didn’t know their style had been presaged by Dunsany’s stories of mysteriously abandoned cities, phantasmagorical river journeys, and strange, forgotten gods. I knew some of Lovecraft’s earlier stories, especially his short novel, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (1927), were called “Dunsanian,” but it is only in more recent times I’ve read Dunsany’s own words.


JUL 26   Ballantine Adult Fantasy: William Hope Hodgson

William Hope Hodgson, godfather to cosmic horror and ghost detectives alike, had two books reprinted in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy line, The Boats of the Glen Carrig and The Night LandThe Night Land was published in two volumes because of its length — more controversially it received heavy editing from series editor Lin Carter to render Hodgson’s deliberately difficult prose more accessible.


JUL 24   Adventures in Fiction: Lord Dunsany (also known as Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany) by Michael Curtis

Some Appendix N authors directly influenced the creation of fantasy role-playing. We see concrete inspiration in the trolls borrowed from Poul Anderson or the “Vancian” magic system of D&D. Other Appendix N writers exerted a less obvious influence, providing more a sense of tone and wonder than any specific element. It can be argued, however, that one Appendix N author wielded the greatest influence on fantasy role-playing not because his works were borrowed wholesale or served to color Gygax and Arneson’s campaigns, but because he inspired numerous other Appendix N writers, impelling them to create the stories from which RPGs derive their origins. Few would recognize the name Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, but many more know him by his title, Lord Dunsany (pronounced Dun-SAY-ny), whose birthday we honor today.


JUL 22  Ballantine Adult Fantasy: Lord Dunsany

Among the most reprinted authors in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy line was Lord Dunsany, the Anglo-Irish peer who was also a tremendously prolific short story writer and playwright. Dunsany’s sweeping elegies of imagined worlds were both reminiscent of classical myth and the dreaming aesthetic of the visionary fantasists and tellers of Weird Tales going back to Poe. Dunsany is cited as an influence by almost every major writer of the fantastic to emerge over the course of the twentieth century.


JUL 19  Fantasy in the Time of Lord Dunsany by Brian Murphy

When Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany (July 1878-October 1957) set pen to paper, he was wrestling tigers and dragons from the air and committing them to paper. None before or since have done it quite like the man known as Lord Dunsany. He was sui generis, writing in an age where there was no fantasy genre as we know it today. Dunsany was influenced by the bible and Greek mythology, old fairy tales, and to a lesser degree by a few peers including Rudyard Kipling and William Morris. But crucially, not a body of fantasy literature. Coupled with his one-of-a-kind elevated writing style, Dunsany’s early fantasy material feels ethereal and wondrous, as fresh as when it was written more than 100 years ago.


JUL 12   A Look at Savage Scrolls

New from Pulp Hero Press is Jason Ray Carney’s Savage Scrolls (2020), an anthology of contemporary sword-and-sorcery fiction. And make no mistake, this is actual sword-and-sorcery, not sword-and-sorcery used as a vague descriptor, a marketing buzz word, or a broad umbrella term for dark fantasy or fantastic darkness or pseudo-fabulist progwave interstitial slip-hop ironically-referencing-a-loincloth wannabe litfic masquerading as sword-and-sorcery. No, Savage Scrolls is refreshingly exactly what it purports to be, and it does what it says on the cover – providing a collection of contemporary sword-and-sorcery from some of the best modern practitioners in the game.