Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Weird Fiction and Sword & Sorcery GenCon Panels Moderated by SE

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)


... this post highlights five panels...

Weird Fiction and Sword & Sorcery GenCon Panels

Moderated by SE (link):


Repulsive Appeal  (SEM22214058)

Thursday, 11:00 AM EDT

Location: Marriott : Austin   

How do we make horror appealing? Maurice Broaddus, Richard Dansky, Byron Leavitt, Jason Ray Carney, Steve Diamond, S.E. Lindberg (M)

 

 

BACK TO PULP  (SEM22214087)

Friday, 10:00 AM EDT

Location: Marriott : Austin 

Pulp is back! Why? And how do you do it right? Jaym Gates, Richard Lee Byers: Howard Andrew Jones; Jason Ray Carney, S.E. Lindberg (M)

 

 

Gamifying Stories and Storifying Games (SEM22214106)

Friday, 2:00 PM EDT

Location: Marriott : Blrm 1

Translating from one media to the other. Jennifer Brozek, Byron Leavitt, Matt John, Lucien Soulban, S.E. Lindberg (M)

 

 

Sword & Sorcery Renaissance in Writing (SEM22214118)

Friday, 4:00 PM EDT

Location: Marriott : Blrm 1

 Is the genre coming back? Did it ever go away? Jaym Gates, Daniel Myers, Howard Andrew Jones, Matt John; Jason Ray Carney, Paul Weimer, S.E. Lindberg (M)

 

 

SWORD & SORCERY PASTICHE (SEM22214157)

Saturday, 5:00 PM EDT

Location: Marriott : Blrm 4

How to adopt someone's writing style, and where to blur the line to original. Howard Andrew Jones; Matt John, S.E. Lindberg (M)

 

RAINBRINGER: ZORA NEALE HURSTON AGAINST THE LOVECRAFTIAN MYTHOS - Review by SE

As featured on Black Gate May 10th 2022:

 NEW TREASURES: RAINBRINGER: ZORA NEALE HURSTON AGAINST THE LOVECRAFTIAN MYTHOS BY EDWARD M. ERDELAC


Rainbringer: The Symphonic Heavy Metal of Weird Fiction

Edward M. Erdelac has been writing entertaining weird fiction for over a decade. He pushes boundaries. One of his first spotlights on Black Gate was in 2014 regarding his Merkabah Rider (concerning the 19th-century Hasidic Jewish mystic turned gunslinger).  Erdelac also wrote an entry in Tales of Cthulhu Invictus mentioned in my recent 2022 review of Richard L. Tierney’s Simon of Gitta tales (this connection resonates since both Tierney and Erdelac extended the mythos of Robert E. Howard’s magical Ring of Set… more on that below). The author clearly has a knack for extending the landscapes (dreamscapes?) of modern fiction.

With Rainbringer: Zora Neale Hurston Against The Lovecraftian Mythos, Erdelac invites us to follow a fictionalized version of Zora Neale Hurston throughout the North American Twentieth Century. On the face of that description, you may not be hooked. Like most people, I presume, I had no idea of who she was…. or why she may present a wonderful lens into cosmic horrors. Read on! She’s a strong, witty survivor who is uniquely qualified.

Rainbringer reminds me of splendid, symphonic (or operatic) Heavy Metal music. It combines the literary foundation of solid historic fiction (arguably Classical music) with the wild experiences of intense adventure (“\m/”…. that’s the emoticon for “rock on” BTW). Cozy mystery readers may be lured into reading Rainbringer for its historic influences, but they will have their minds blown when cosmic demons are revealed to be meddling with humankind. Likewise, readers of classic weird fiction (i.e., Howard Phillips Lovecraft, Robert Howard, etc.) will be treated to an extremely fresh take: a heroine in charge, and African American woman to boot! This review covers the Contents, Zora, Excerpts, and more.

Back Cover Blurb

“The oaths of secrecy she [Zora Neale Hurston] swore, and the terrifying physical and emotional ordeals she endured…left their mark on her, and there were certain parts of her material which she never dared to reveal, even in scientific publications.” – Alan Lomax

ZORA! She traveled the 1930’s south alone with a loaded forty four and an unmatched desire to see and to know. She was at home in the supper clubs of New York City, back road juke joints, under ropes of Spanish moss, and dancing around the Vodoun peristyle. Her experiences brought us Their Eyes Were Watching God, Mules And Men, Tell My Horse, and Jonah’s Gourd Vine. But between the lines she wrote lie the words unwritten, truths too fantastic to divulge….until now.

LEAVES FLOATING IN A DREAM’S WAKE, BEYOND THE BLACK ARCADE. EKWENSU’S LULLABY. KING YELLER. GODS OF THE GRIM NATION. THE SHADOW IN THE CHAPEL OF EASE. BLACK WOMAN, WHITE CITY. THE DEATHLESS SNAKE. Eight weird and fantastic stories spanning the breadth of her amazing life. Eight times when she faced the nameless alien denizens of the outer darkness and didn’t blink.

ZORA! Celebrated writer, groundbreaking anthropologist, Hoodoo initiate, footloose queen of the Harlem Renaissance, Mythos detective.

So, Who Was Zora?

Paraphrasing from the author’s introduction best explains:

The Zora Neale Hurston depicted in this book is not the real person, of course. The real Zora Neale Hurston was born in Eatonville, Florida on January 15th, in (according to her, at various times in her life) either 1898, 1899, 1900, 1901, 1902, 1903, and 1910.

Except she wasn’t. She was actually born in Notasulga, Alabama on January 7, 1891. Her birth year changed as it suited her purposes. She needed to apply for school, wanted to impress a younger man, whatever. She was somehow always vivacious and gregarious enough to sell her claims.

As to her hometown, you can’t blame Zora for claiming Eatonville. It was among the first all-black incorporated towns in the United States, and her father was once elected its mayor, helped write its laws, and was pastor of its largest Baptist church. Combined, these elements surely instilled in her a fierce sense of independence and pride that caught a number of her contemporaries later in life, black and white, by complete surprise…

In New Orleans, gathering material on Hoodoo for a book, she was inducted into the mysteries of the magical folk practice by Luke Turner following a grueling three day ritual. She wrote Langston Hughes; “I am getting in with the top of the profession. I know 18 tasks, including how to crown the spirit of death, and kill.”

Zora was many things in the course of her life; anthropologist, author, teacher…she was probably never a Mythos detective.

Historic & Weird Ingredients

Rainbringer‘s realistic milieu hosts characters such as Zora Neale Hurston, her white benefactress Charlotte Osgood Mason, the musician Asadata Dafora, and even Orson Welles. They roam New Orleans, Harlem during its Renaissance, and even a trip to Honduras’s famed Monkey Temple. Both Voodoo (the religion) and Hoodoo (the associated spiritual practices) are prominent, in addition to the timely governmental program Works Progress Administration (WPA). The Voodoo Macbeth focus in the “King Yeller” chapter was outstanding as it fictionalized the 1936 production of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth led by Orson Welles. Plenty of references to slavery abound, as well as classic literature references (i.e., Lysistrata, the story of a woman who led a movement to deny men sex to end the Peloponnesian War) ground us in reality.

Fantasy is firmly rooted in weird fiction (which also flourished in the 1930’s).  Author Robert W. Chambers’s The King in Yellow (1895) mythos is integrated firmly here, especially interwoven with the Voo Macbeth production. From Robert E. Howard (creator of Conan), the Serpent Ring of Set is treated with an extended mythos (originally appearing in the 1932 “The Phoenix on the Sword”); Akaan creatures (echoing those from Solomon Kane’s battles in “Wings in the Night” published in 1932); also from REH, we experience elements from his King Kull (i.e., the serpent men from Valusia). And then there are the ever-present Howard Phillips Lovecraft cosmic deities, such as Yig, Nyarlathotep, Tsathoggua; Erdelac almost made me believe that the Dreamland of Kadath was reachable via Zora’s touring.

Chronicles of Zora’s life in Chapters

A concise introduction reveals the protagonist’s history. Then the chapters chronicle her bizarre experiences from the 1920’s through the 1960’s. The last chapter “The Deathless Snake” is unexpectedly emotive and wild.

  • Zora: A Brief, Inadequate, and Likely Inaccurate Summation of A Life
  • 1925: Leaves Floating In A Dream’s Wake
  • 1928: Beyond The Black Arcade (published first in Heroes Of Red Hook, Golden Goblin Press, 2016.)
  • 1935: Ekwensu’s Lullaby (published first in Beyond Red Hook, Golden Goblin Press, 2016)
  • 1936: King Yeller
  • 1937: Gods of The Grim Nation (published first in Dread Shadows In Paradise, Golden Goblin Press, 2016)
  • 1940: The Shadow In The Chapel of Ease
  • 1947: Black Woman, White City
  • 1960-1975: The Deathless Snake
  • Afterword

Crazy Melee Excerpt

This woman anthropologist could give Indiana Jones a run for his money.  She handles a 0.44 Magnum just fine.  And wrestles with elder gods!

There was a flood of light then, and silhouettes peered down at me in the hold. The shrill cacophony of that indescribable call flooded my numb limbs with nervous strength, and I sprang from the stinking bowels of that boat like something vomited up. I latched onto one of those peering figures, digging my nails into the flesh beneath the long, greasy hair, stifling the shriek of surprise with my own mouth, locking onto the face of my oppressor in a ravenous kiss, biting, chewing through the hairy lips, tearing the tongue from between the desperately locking teeth, driving that white man to the wet deck and pushing my thumbs through his neck so blood bubbled and coursed up over my hands like the birth of a virgin spring. I was not alone. All around me my people tore through our captors, twisting their heads off with the chains that bound them, seizing hatchets and knives and returning them to their hated owners edge first, going over the side with them into the marsh and resurfacing alone if at all.

Trippy Dreamscapes Excerpt

Twentieth Century history is breached by dreams and violent entities.

I was standing in some colorless, gray place, in a field of dead grass on which the gray, heavy clouds seemed to roll, slowly dying, pierced now and again by bare, twisted trees and broken stones. There was no sound of wind or rustle of beast, but there was an incessant lapping, as of water, which my dream-self then navigated by.

Far across that water, which seemed to be a vast lake, the suns slipped from sight, and I saw the strange yellow limned spires of a gray, quiet city, the architecture unknown to me. I knew somehow that these tall, alien skyscrapers were the tombstones I had been expecting all along, markers of a population long dead if it had ever been at all. No watercraft moved to or from its unseen harbor. No bleat of traffic or noise of any passersby came to me across the water, only the incessant, dull lap of the black lake on the gray shore. But then I heard a flapping sound, as of many banners streaming, and I saw the first flash of color; mustard yellow streams of ribbons tied to every inch of a nearby dead tree. They fluttered madly in every direction, flaring like stagecraft fire, though no wind blew and they had not been there before…

Rocking from the topmost skeletal branch, pierced through its eyelet, there hung a queer, inexpressive, whey-faced mask, the appearance of which filled me with such loathing I retched.

Inspirations Revealed

Paraphrasing from the Afterward, we learn the context for Erdelac’s muse and genuine passion.

Zora was one of a kind, and as I worked my way through her other folklore book Mules and Men, her short stories, her essays, through Moses, Man Of The Mountain and her personal letters, I came to love her ardently. I was enraptured by her biographies, knocked silly by her quotations and the bold and brassy way she came at life.

Well, the how came with Oscar Rios’ Golden Goblin Press putting out a call for Caribbean-themed Lovecraftian horror.

I flipped through Wade Davis and my Tell My Horse, and found a quote by Zora that kicked it all in motion; “Research….is a seeking that he who wishes may know the cosmic secrets of the world and they that dwell therein.” Writers of Lovecraftiana hone in on the word ‘cosmic’ like bees to pollen…

So I started thinking of Zora as the type of woman who wouldn’t flinch at the Old Ones; an occult scholar more in the Robert E. Howard mode, and one who could be honor bound to keep secrets…

What made me, a white man, think I could write one of the most beloved and important African American women of the Harlem Renaissance? I’m afraid any drawn out, carefully mulled-over answer I can concoct will end up sounding like a stereotypical display of white privilege at best, so I’ll just keep it to this; Simply and truthfully, I love Zora Neale Hurston.

 


Edward M. Erdelac

Edward M. Erdelac is the author of the acclaimed Judeocentic/Lovecraftian weird western series Merkabah RiderConquerRainbringer: Zora Neale Hurston Against The Lovecraftian MythosAndersonville, Monstrumfuhrer, The Knight With Two Swords, and the compiler of Abraham Van Helsing’s papers (in Terovolas).

In addition to short story appearances in dozens of anthologies and periodicals, he is an independent filmmaker, an award-winning screenwriter, and sometime Star Wars contributor.

Born in Indiana, educated in Chicago, he now lives in the Los Angeles area with his family.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Tales From the Magician's Skull - May 4th 2022 Blog Round-Up

 


Tales From the Magician's Skull Blog May 4th 2022 Round-Up


APR 22  Classic Covers: Avram Davidson

Twentieth-century genre fiction produced a number of huge talents that liked to try it all — writing across category labels in blissful violation of what would one day become the standard practice of brand marketing. Indeed, for prolific writers of both the pulp and science fiction golden ages of magazine fiction, casting one’s net wide across the flimsy genre partitions of the day was just a common-sense way to broaden your market. Prolific author of short fiction, as well as essayist, editor (including a stint at the helm of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction), and novelist Avram Davidson stands right alongside genre-hopping giants like Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov, or Jack Vance as a writer that refused to stay fenced in. Whether in his dozens of undefinable short stories, or his pulpish far-future SF, magic-infused novels of alternate history (the Vergil Magus and Peregrine series), or tales of mystery and weird horror set in imaginary nations of the contemporary world, Davidson demonstrated a roving intellect ever-eager to explore the wild hinterlands of speculative fiction.


APR 25  Adventures in Fiction: Fletcher Pratt by Jeff Goad

The Appendix N is a list of prolific authors of science fiction and fantasy. But Fletcher Pratt is not one of them, at least not in comparison to most of the authors on the list. He primarily wrote historical nonfiction about the Civil War, Napoleon, naval history, rockets, and World War II. So why is Fletcher Pratt listed in the Appendix N and why does he have the coveted “et al” listed after The Blue Star?

Well, digging a bit deeper into his writings and his career, it is no surprise that Gary Gygax was smitten with this fellow….

Fletcher Pratt was a bearded, bespectacled, pipe-smoking intellectual who raised marmosets in his spare time. And if you don’t know what a marmoset looks like then I highly encourage you to pause reading this to do a quick Google Image search of these adorable mini-monkeys. I promise that you won’t regret it.


APR 26 Beyond the Gate of Shadows: Harold Lamb’s The Grand Cham

“As evening closed in they were threading through gorges that hastened the coming of darkness. Often they looked back in the failing light. No one desired to be last. And then Rudolfo, in the lead, halted abruptly.

‘Before them in the twilight stood a great mound of human skulls.”

When we are first introduced to Michael Bearn, young Breton ship-master in Venetian employ, he and his shipwrecked crew are slaves to the Turkish Sultan, Bayezid the Great, ‘the Thunderbolt.’ Bearn, talented, headstrong, and proud, refuses to kneel before the conqueror, the ruler of an empire stretching from the Danube to the Euphrates, and Bearn is cruelly cowed when his arm is crushed by an iron sleeve. Crippled, brutalized, Bearn vows his revenge to the Sultan’s laughing face — and thus colossal events are set underway with the snapping of a man’s bones, and the humiliation of his soul. For Bearn is a man of immense drive and cleverness, and Bayezid is not the only great conqueror in the vast lands of the East . . .


APR 28  Adventures in Fiction: Jack Williamson by Ngo Vinh-Ho

In the storied list of Appendix N authors, there is one name that encapsulates nearly the entire course of modern American science fiction and fantasy: Jack Williamson. John Stewart Williamson was born on April 29th, 1908 in an adobe hut in what was then still the Arizona Territory. Seeking to better themselves, the Williamson family travelled by horse-drawn covered wagon to New Mexico in 1915, where Williamson recalled that they “homesteaded in Eastern New Mexico in 1916 after the good land had been claimed. We were living below the poverty line, struggling for survival.”

This isolated, hardscrabble existence continued throughout Williamson’s entire youth, but his imagination and inquisitive mind helped him to endure. As he describes, “I did a lot of farmwork—riding horses after a string of cattle, gathering the corn, that sort of thing. Working alone so often like that was naturally pretty boring, so I started creating these endless epics and fictional cycles in which I was the principal character—all this done simply as a way of keeping my mind alive.”


APR 29  Classic Covers: Jack Williamson

Few writers can boast as long and as productive a career as SF Grand Master Jack Williamson — this ‘Dean of Science Fiction’ produced scores of short stories and dozens of novels across multiple genres and series during a lifetime that saw him publish work in over eight consecutive decades. Getting his start in the era of the pulps and publishing right through until the first decade of the twenty-first century, Williamson’s style may have changed with time, but his adherence to straightforward storytelling, breakneck adventure, and uncluttered prose remained a constant over his long career.

Williamson, who became a college professor after he achieved success as a commercial writer, is credited with coining the terms ‘terraforming’ and ‘genetic engineering.’ He is possibly also the first to use the term ‘psionics’ (perhaps this was what Gary Gygax was thinking of when he listed Williamson as an influence on D&D in Appendix N?). While most associated with his numerous science fiction shorts and series (Legion of SpaceHumanoids), Williamson also wrote grounded fantasies, even horror, as with his werewolf novel, Darker Than You Think.


MAY 3 Ballantine Adult Fantasy: Ernest Bramah

An English writer with a varied bibliography ranging from humor, to dystopian science fiction, to mystery tales of the blind detective Max Carrados, Ernest Bramah achieved literary success and is still best known for his tales of itinerant Chinese storyteller, Kai Lung. Bramah’s combination of understated humor, familiarity with East Asian culture and mythology, and most especially his inspired ‘translation’ of the cadences and over-refinement of antiquely formal and courtly Chinese into a playfully whimsical English, proved not only popular with audiences, but enduringly influential for the more fantastical varieties of Asian-themed fiction penned in the West over the last hundred years.

Lin Carter chose both Kai Lung’s Golden Hours, and Kai Lung Unrolls His Mat for the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series in the 1970s, and had the series continued there would have certainly been more Kai Lung available had Carter wished — for unlike many of the individual works or even specific authors Carter would reprint after decades of relative obscurity, Bramah’s Kai Lung stories have never been long out of print in over a century since their first publication.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Terra Incognita: Lost Worlds of Fantasy and Adventure- -- Now available!


Terra Incognita:

Lost Worlds of Fantasy and Adventure

Reposting from DMR Books (link)  
Click on the DMR link to order digital or paperback

You are holding a ticket in your hands. A ticket for a voyage of thrills, wonder, and discovery as seven of today's top fantasists, each one a master of Heroic Fantasy, transport you to lands beyond your imagination. Lands of fantasy and adventure. And the only passport needed is your imagination.

David C. Smith's courageous rebels under the leadership of the undying warrior Akram must form an alliance with an ancient race to overthrow murderous usurpers, along with their necromantic masters, who are hellbent on destroying their kingdom in an insane attempt to conquer the world.

Adrian Cole transports a group of explorers to a Lovecraftian netherworld of no return. Or is there, if one is courageous enough?

S.E. Lindberg gives us a distant world where two alien sisters, who were created in the image of man, wage a war against each other to determine the future of their world.

J. Thomas Howard reveals the harsh realities of ancient Eire, Samhain, and the war between the Fomorians and Tuatha Dé Danann.

Milton Davis introduces us to a young man, barely past boyhood, who has to brave great dangers on his own to seek the help of ancient allies who may no longer exist.

John C. Hocking regales with the plight of a young archivist who is forced at swordpoint to travel into a parallel world full of horrors from a time long forgotten.

Howard Andrew Jones sets sail into adventure with a group of sea-going merchants and their passengers. Many of them are not who they seem to be and only reveal their true selves once a sunken kingdom from the bottom of the sea launches an attack against the travelers.

Release date: May 2022
Trade Paperback: 9” x 6”, 222 pages, $14.99
Digital: $4.99




Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Tales From the Magician's Skull Blog Apr 1st-20th 2022 Round-Up




Tales From the Magician's Skull Blog
 Apr 1st-20th 2022 Round-Up

 

Apr 4: Adventures in Fiction: Stanley G. Weinbaum by Ngo Vinh-Hoi

Not many authors can be credited with changing the entire trajectory of a genre, yet Stanley Grauman Weinbaum managed to do so with his very first published science fiction story A Martian Odyssey. The story first appeared in the July 1934 issue of the science fiction pulp magazine Wonder Stories, which was a distant third in popularity to Astounding Stories and Amazing Stories. Forty years later, no less a figure than Isaac Asimov would declare that “hidden in this obscure magazine, A Martian Odyssey had the effect on the field of an exploding grenade. With this single-story, Weinbaum was instantly recognized as the world’s best living science-fiction writer, and at once almost every writer in the field tried to imitate him.”

 

Apr 5: Classic Covers: Adventure Magazine

At its height, Adventure Magazine had a circulation of over 300 thousand and was published three times a month, marking it as one of the most successful fiction pulps of all time (in 1935 Time Magazine dubbed Adventure ‘The No. 1 Pulp’). Adventure gave the audience just what the title suggested; pulse-pounding tales set in exotic locales, desperate journeys on land and sea, western gunfights, jungle explorations, and blade-whirling exploits throughout history. It even frequently intersected with real-world adventures offering true (ish!) accounts of modern day acts of exploration and daring. A host of classic adventure writers appeared in its pages, such as H. Rider Haggard, Rafael Sabbatini, Baroness Orczy, John Buchan, Talbot Mundy, Harold Lamb, and H. Bedford Jones.

 

 

Apr 8: A Look at Edgar Rice Burroughs’ I Am A Barbarian

If the nickname “Little Boots” doesn’t fill you with dread perhaps it will in the original Latin: Caligula. The byword for depraved tyranny, the quintessential Mad Monarch, Caligula’s brief reign as third Emperor of Rome has been the fascinating stuff of prurient legend and scandalous rumor for nearly two thousand years. A megalomaniac combining arbitrary cruelty with a wicked sense of humor – flinging coins to the poor after first heating them in a brazier, turning the Imperial Palace into a brothel to pimp the wives of senators, ordering his legions to attack the oceans and gather seashells as plunder, appointing his favorite horse to the Senate – this “viper for the people of Rome” is like a joke you’re ashamed to laugh at, or a car crash from which you can’t look away. Separating the truth of Caligula’s reign from the rumors and embellishments is the mostly impossible task of historians – but using it as a backdrop for titillating fiction is the job of storytellers, something Edgar Rice Burroughs’ I Am a Barbarian does with page-turning success.

 

 

 

Apr 12: Where to Start With Harold Lamb by Howard Andrew Jones

It wasn’t so long ago that the fiction of Harold Lamb was best known only as a footnote in the old Lancer Conan books, mentioned in passing as being important and influential but almost completely unavailable. All that could be found of his prose were some late novels and his biographies, and, fine as those biographies are, neither were foundational works of sword-and-sorcery. Today, though, most of Lamb’s fiction is in print once more, and fairly easy to lay hands on, just like the histories, many of which are retained to this day by libraries across the United States. So much is out there now it can actually be difficult to know where to start. You need no longer scratch your head in wonder, however – this essay will show you the way.

 

 

Apr 15: Classic Covers: Harold Lamb’s Histories

What do you get when you cross an expert adventure storyteller with a linguistically-gifted polymath? Some of the greatest popular histories ever written. While Harold Lamb’s fiction was familiar to readers of Adventure magazine, it was his gripping histories and biographies, starting with 1927’s Genghis Khan, that won him international acclaim, and made him an acknowledged expert in both Hollywood and the State Department.


 

 

Apr 19: Adventures in Fiction: Turning the Khlit Stories of Harold Lamb into RPG Adventures!  by Julian Bernick

Here in the Goodman Games world, we’ve been rediscovering the works of Harold Lamb. He wrote timeless adventure stories that influenced a bevy of Appendix N authors, most notably Robert Howard. The strength of Lamb’s tales are tight plotting, crisply drawn characters and rich historical detail. But as enjoyable as Lamb’s tales are, they lack some of the cardinal elements of Appendix N literature and DCC RPG adventures: supernatural magic, brooding extra-human entities from beyond space, and the never-ending struggle between Law and Chaos. Without these elements, what can we draw from these adventure stories to enrich our adventures for DCC RPG? For this essay, I’ll discuss the Khlit stories collected in Wolf of the SteppesThese tales are just a fraction of Lamb’s pulp stories, but still provide plenty of useful ideas for DCC adventures. 

Monday, April 18, 2022

Tanith Lee and Sword & Planet: Sword & Sorcery Group-read Topics May June 2022

 



The 2022 May June Groupread Topics have been selected and the discussion folders are set.
Please join us!


(A) Tanith Lee
https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...

(B)Sword and Planet
https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...

Banner Credits
Tanith Lee Night's Master, art by Melvyn Grant, 1981
Tanith Lee Empress of Dreams, DMR Book 2021, art by Lauren Gornik
The Tides of Kregen (Dray Prescot, #12) , art by Michael Whelan, 1976 (Dray Prescot) Alan Burt Akers

Night's Master (Tales from the Flat Earth #1) by Tanith Lee Empress of Dreams by Tanith Lee The Tides of Kregen (Dray Prescot, #12) (Krozair Cycle, #1) by Alan Burt Akers

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Sorcery Against Ceaser (and Scroll of Thoth byt Ricjard L. Tierney ; Review by S.E.

RICHARD L. TIERNEY’S SORCERY AGAINST CAESER; REVIEW AND TOUR GUIDE OF SIMON OF GITTA’S SICA & SORCERY!

 Original Post: Sunday, April 10, 2022  SELindberg on Black Gate


Sorcery Against Caesar: The Complete Simon of Gitta Short Stories
 (cover art by Steven Gilberts) Pickman’s Press, 2020, 405pages.

Greg Mele recently paid tribute to Richard L. Tierney at Black Gate. That memorial post covers the author’s life and bibliography very well, so check that out; Tierney co-authored books with David C. Smith will be echoed here. The Goodreads S&S group is hosting a two-month group read of his work presently (March-April 2022), which spurred me to read Scroll of Thoth; Simon Magus and the Great Old Ones.

That book lingered way too long on my shelf. It was packaged as horror influenced by history, with a mage protagonist; however, having read it now, I argue that it is more Fantasy than Horror or Historical Fiction. If assigning genre categories floats your boat, then Sword & Sorcery is more accurate.

As the post title indicates with “Sica and Sorcery,” Simon often fights with a Thracian long-dagger/short-sword called a sica, and evil sorcery abounds. With cover art by H. E. Fassel (below), Scroll of Thoth has all twelve Tierney-written, short stories tracking Simon of Gitta with comprehensive essays from Robert M Price for each; he covers both the actual history drawn from, as well as the Lovecraftian and Howardian (REH) mythos call-outs. The collection was published by Chaosium in 1997 and inspired (or augmented) their Call of Cthulhu role-playing game; in 2009, the Cthulhu Invictus campaign (6th ed) released, and that, in turn, spawned a 2015 collection of similar “Sica and Sorcery” (Tierney did not contribute, but Robert M. Price did).

With Sorcery Against Caesar: The Complete Simon of Gitta Short Stories (cover art above by Steven Gilberts, Pickman’s Press 2020), readers are treated to all 12 stories and essays in Scroll of Thoth (with an abridged version of the introduction), plus 4 more tales that are pastiche or co-authored tales (also with contextual essays). Pickman’s Press also released a novel-length Simon of Gitta adventure penned by Tierney called Drums of Chaos (originally published in 2008, available now with cover art by Zach McCain, published 2021), which would have been too big to include with the short stories. In short, both Sorcery Against Caesar and Drums of Chaos are available in print and electronic form. This review covers the short stories, but Drums of Chaos is included in the tour guide below.  According to the essays by Price, even more Simon of Gitta stories were planned but, unfortunately, are left in limbo.

Sorcery Against Caesar: The Complete Simon of Gitta Short Stories, official blurb:

A REBEL AGAINST ROME.

Simon of Gitta, an escaped slave turned magician, roves the Roman Empire battling dark magic and demons, all the while pursued by Caesar’s soldiers. Join Simon as he flees across the ancient world evading cultists and Legionaries, outwitting sorcerers and Centurions, and fighting gladiators and gods, even the deities of the Cthulhu Mythos. Yet all these foes cannot prepare him for his greatest challenge: the pursuit of his lost soul-mate Helen, a love so deep even death can’t stand in its way for long.

Who is Simon of Gitta?

For the non-history and non-religious folk, Simon is actually a biblical character. The Christian Bible’s Acts of the Apostle presents him as a Samaritan magus. Tierney presents Simon similarly, a mage hailing from Tyre (modern-day Lebanon), but has his heroic origins emerge from being an enslaved gladiator. Essentially, Tierney rebranded Simon as genuinely as Karl Edward Wagner did the biblical Cain (with his Kane tales); in fact, Tierney emphasized this by having the characters meet in the “The Blade of the Slayer” story.

Having excelled at fighting, Tierney’s Simon is skilled at the sica and hand-to-hand combat. The first tale “The Sword of Spartacus” has him escaping the pits and starting his studies as a mage. Frankly, he casts few spells himself.  He does ally with many other active mages (his mentors), and he applies his knowledge of the arts frequently (low-level actions like casting illusions and enhancing disguises, letting his companions do the heavy spellcasting). Even though a mage describes his character well, he is much more of a rogue gladiator/fighter. Simon’s companions are more sorcery-focused and include the mages Dositheus and Menophar, and even a raven named Carbo.

“…I studied the arts of the mages at Persepolis, but before that I was trained as a gladiator — sold into the profession by the Romans, who slew my parents in Samaria because they could not pay the taxes imposed on them by a corrupt regime. I escaped, after two years of fighting for my life — of spilling blood for the Roman mob —!”  The character Simon explains

Simon is completely fascinated with two goals: (1) seeking revenge against Rome, and (2) seeking out his love named Helen. The villains are usually Roman Emperors like Tiberius, Claudius, and Gaius (aka Caligula), or they are subordinates or Senators seeking more power. The antagonists are constantly summoning eldritch gods with grand rituals that are completely over the top, and wonderful (we are talking’ coliseums full of sacrifices’ and ‘mating rituals with Star Gods’!). As Simon ventures, he learns his True Spirit has existed beyond/before his current life and that he is always paired with the same female companion who also pervades time; this approach reminded me of Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion with a love interest. Even though each short story is stand-alone, these two themes persist across all.

Style

Sorcery Against Caesar really is a splendid mashup of history from Ancient Roman times, with lore from Judaism, Zoroastrianism, polytheistic Etruscan & Egyptian religions, and more… all equally weighted with Lovecraftian Mythos, Robert E, Howard’s Hyborian Age history, and even lore from David C. Smith’s Attluma cycle. For most readers, there will be instances in which determining which gods are based on historical deities or fictional ones will be difficult (for me it started right away with the summoning of Tuchulcha in the first story; that daemon is based on Etruscan myths, not a Lovecraftian Elder). Like Lovecraft, Tierney reinforces a pseudo-real mythos by referencing faux books like the Necronomicon with reverence; here we have the Sapientia Magorum written by Ostanes, the titular Scroll of Thoth, and the Tomb Texts of Ani.

For the Howard fans, you will enjoy entire stories that build on Conan’s first story “The Phoenix on the Sword.” Both the Ring of Set mentioned therein as well as the Phoenix on the Sword get full stories; also for the Kull of Atlantis fans, delight in the “The Dragons of Mons Fractus” tale that features Pontius Pilate exhibiting Vlad the Impaler vibes along with Valusian serpent people. “The Scroll of Thoth” reinforces the Pain Lords from the Red Sonja Books (co-authored by Tierney and David C. Smith).

Even though there is a ton of sorcery, most of it is redirected toward evil Emperors, Simon usually is not the sorcerer. He is a fighter who hangs out with friendly sorcerers while taking down the evil ones. The fight scenes and action reminded me of Howard’s action-packed Sword & Sorcery. Anyway, don’t expect dry history or old-style, meandering pre-pulp gothic horror. Expect (a) bloody melee, (b) fantastical sorcery, and (c) links to Howardian and other fictional mythos. Excerpts below the Tour Guide reinforce these.

Roman-inspired adventure by Chaosium and related Call of Cthulhu content

 


Table of Contents (and Chronological Tour Guide of Simon’s Tales)

* content in Sorcery Against Ceaser (i.e., not in Scroll of Thoth). All stories by Richard L. Tierney unless noted.

  1. “Sword of the Avatar” Introduction (by Robert M. Price); the unabridged version is in The Scroll of Thoth.
  2. “The Sword of Spartacus” first published in Swords Against Darkness #3 (Zebra Books, 1978).
  3. “The Fire of Mazda” first published in Orion’s Child #1 (May-June 1984).
  4. “The Seed of the Star-God” first published in Crypt of Cthulhu #24 (Lammas 1984).
  5. “The Blade of the Slayer first published in Pulse-Pounding Adventure Stories #1 (December 1986).
  6. * “The Throne of Achamoth” by Richard L. Tierney & Robert M. Price, first published in Weirdbook #21 (Autumn 1985).

Drums of Chaos is a separate novel-length, Simon of Gitta adventure by Tierney (originally published in 2008, available now via Pickman’s Press 2021, 415pages) that occurs chronologically after “The Throne of Achamoth.” Here’s the blurb (cover below):

CAN A HANDFUL OF HEROES STOP AN APOCALYPSE CENTURIES IN THE MAKING?

Escaped gladiator-slave Simon of Gitta returns to Judea — during the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth — on a mission to avenge the deaths of his parents, seeking revenge in blood against the Roman officials who committed the murders and sold Simon into slavery.  But as Simon travels the Holy Lands with his mentor Dositheus and their students Menander and llione, they gradually become entangled in a complex occult plot designed to call down a monstrous alien entity to herald a new aeon on Earth. The mysterious time traveler John Taggart (from Tierney’s The Winds of Zarr) also becomes involved with Simon as their separate quests converge toward a common goal of saving all life on Earth from extinction.

But can a handful of travelers really thwart a covert scheme backed by the power of the Roman Empire? As the apocalyptic supernatural events slowly unfold, Simon and his allies are in a race against time to prevent the devastation of the world. Using mystery cults and early Christian Gnosticism as his vehicle, with meticulously researched Roman history and Biblical scholarship, this is author Richard Tierney’s magnum opus: an epic Lovecraftian alternate history dark fantasy novel that features Tierney’s most famous characters, Simon of Gitta and John Taggart. This novel will appeal to fans of historical fantasy and sword & sorcery fiction in the vein of Robert E. Howard, and the elements of cosmic horror and the Cthulhu Mythos will satisfy many fans of H.P. Lovecraft.

  1. * “The Emerald Tablet” by Robert M. Price; first published in Strange Sorcery #24, Rainfall Books (August 2017).
  2. “The Soul of Kephri” first published in Space & Time #66 (Summer 1984).
  3. “The Ring of Set” first published in Swords Against Darkness #1 (Zebra Books, 1977).
  4. “The Worm of Urakhu” first published in Weirdbook #23 (December 1988).
  5. “The Curse of the Crocodile” first published in Crypt of Cthulhu #47 (Roodmas 1987).
  6. “The Treasure of Horemkhu” first published in Pulse-Pounding Adventure Stories #2 (December 1987).
  7. * “The Secret of Nephren-Ka” by Robert Price, published first in The Mighty Warriors (Ulthar Press, 2018).
  8. “The Scroll of Thoth” first published in Swords Against Darkness #2 (Zebra Books, 1977).
  9. “The Dragons of Mons Fractus” first published in Weirdbook #19 (Spring 1984).
  10. * “The Wedding of Sheila-Na-Gog” by Richard L. Tierney & Glenn Rahman, first published in Crypt of Cthulhu #29 (Candlemas 1985).
  11.  “The Pillars of Melkarth Vengeance Quest” first published in Space & Time #78 (Summer 1990).
  12. * “Vengeance Quest” poem, originally published in The Cimmerian #7 (October 2004).

More Simon of Gitta from Tierney?

Robert M. Price writes in the essay for “The Pillars of Melkarth” this context hinting at an unpublished, but already written, novel, and several other tales that likely were never finished:

Readers may notice a large time lapse between the events of “The Pillars of Melkarth” (spring equinox, A.D. 50) and those of the previous story set in A.D. 42. This is because those years were taken up with the events of the novels Path of the Dragon (forthcoming from Pickman’s Press) in A.D. 42 and The Gardens of Lucullus (Sidecar Preservation Society, 2001) in A.D. 48. Other stories were planned during this time period as well. Richard Tierney intended some German adventures in A.D. 46 – 47, as well as entertaining another collaboration with Glenn Rahman on a pair of novels set on the western Roman frontier, one centered on the Claudian invasion of Britain, the other involving the Picts in Scotland. Sadly, none of these stories were ever written — yet.

Drums of Chaos (cover art by Zach McCain) Pickman’s Press, 2021

 


Excerpts. Expect:

A) Lots of “Sick” Sica Melee

Simon roared and struck out; his fist cracked sharply against the face of the nearest guard, who flopped to the cobbles without a cry. Quick as a panther he crouched and whirled, barely in time to avoid a murderous blow from a second guard’s staff; his sharp-bladed sica, already in hand, shore through the guard’s neck as Simon completed his whirl, and the man went down with a dying gurgle.

and…

The door was only large enough for two abreast and Simon met the first two with steel, expertly parrying, slashing, stabbing. One collapsed mortally wounded from a sword-thrust in the guts; the other leaped back, suddenly fearful, but was pushed forward again by the surging mob — to die instantly on the point of the sica. Simon howled with mad rage, swinging and thrusting; a bludgeon glanced heavily off his left shoulder and a knife-point nicked his flank, but three more of his enemies went down with blood gushing. A pike ripped his tunic and gashed the side of his ribcage; he roared and smote in return, cleaving a snarling face with his sword. Fierce exultation suddenly filled him; if he must die, this was how he preferred it, fighting and slaying Romans to the very end —

 

B) Unraveling Emperor Plans to Meddle with Cosmic Sorcery

“I think I know what you learned. Tiberius’ purge of his enemies is no secret, and Carbo recently brought me another message from Senator Junius, who has been recalled from exile in Lesbos to house arrest in Rome. The senator told me about Prodikos and his daughters, and I have learned much more here in Ephesos.”

Simon stopped eating. “What have you learned of Prodikos?”

“Much, Simon, but mainly that in this city renowned for its sorcerers, he is the most powerful and feared of them all.”

A serving-girl entered with an amphora of wine, and Dositheus ceased speaking. When she had gone Simon filled his goblet. “Go on,” he said.

“Prodikos had several children by various slave women, but all were sons save Helen and Ilione. These sons he long ago sold into slavery, but his daughters he kept — for an evil purpose, as it turns out. Simon, it is no mere incestuous lust that drives Prodikos. He means to force Ilione to join with him in a monstrous ritual that shall release forces this world has not seen since it emerged from the last great darkness of the All-Night.”…

… “The rite of the Impregnation and the Slaying — an act of sympathetic magic that shall cause the seed of the Star-god to unite with the Great Mother, thereby generating a horrendous spawn that will overwhelm this world.”

Simon gripped his goblet tensely. His scalp tingled as he recalled reading of just such a black ritual in the Sapientia Magorum of the ancient Persian magus Ostanes. “Gods of Hades! How could the girl’s own father even think of such perverse madness —?”

Dositheus drew a deep breath. ‘‘He may no longer be her true father, Simon. Have you not read of Sakkuth, King of Night, and his evil Master?”

Simon felt the tingling extend down his spine. Sakkuth the King, servitor of Kaiwan the Star-god — both evil beings cursed by the ancient prophets yet still furtively worshipped by sorcerers in his own native Samaria…

“The wizards of Acheron and Stygia and even older civilization cycles knew them by other names,” Dositheus went on. “To the nations of primal Attluma they were Kossuth and Assatur. It is said that every thousand years Sakkuth attempts to destroy civilization, and that he succeeds unless powerful magic is used to stop him. It was he who plunged the world into the All-Night after the Atlantean and Hyborian cataclysms. And to initiate such times, his master Kaiwan, who dwells amid the stars near the Eye of Taurus, sends to earth his seed to unite with the Great Mother, thereby enabling her to spawn the Thousand Abominations that will overwhelm the world.”

 

C) An Abundance of R.E. Howard Hyborian Age References

Instantly the sword hilt in his hands shrilled with a supernatural energy, and a blade of golden light sprang forth — a blade that must, Simon somehow knew, be equal in length to the sword blade when it was first wielded ages ago by the Aquilonian King!

“The Phoenix!” gasped Nephere, falling to his knees. “The soul of civilization — the hope of mankind…”

The great bird — if bird it was — had wheeled about and was now settling down, flapping its wide and glittering pinions, coming to rest atop the ancient pyramidal stone behind the flaming altar. It perched there and folded its wings, gazing down upon the flames where — so Nephere had said — its parent had just been cremated.

Simon could only stare in awe. He suddenly realized that he had never known true beauty before. He had seen vast mountain landscapes that had taken his breath away, and many fire-emblazoned sunsets, and had known a number of beautiful women — even one that had shared with him and the fallen gods his own soul-nature. But never, until now, had he felt the presence of the very Soul of Beauty.

Yet, despite the mood that was upon him, despite the lingering chords of celestial music in his heart, he could still see actual, objective features of the being. It was about the size and shape of a large eagle, and this fact had doubtless formed the basis of the legends that had surrounded it. But it was no bird, Simon knew — nor any creature of earth or its environs. Those scales or feathers, gleaming like a thousand luminous gems, only slightly resembled the scales or feathers of earthly creatures; that gently curved bill, glowing like translucent pearl, only resembled something between the beaks of ibis and eagle; the golden spray of filaments about its head and throat only resembled the inferior crowns and gorgets of earthly kings and queens. And the great eyes, round and limpid and swirling with obscure colors, bright with transcendent life and supermundane intelligence — these resembled nothing he had ever seen…

 

 

Richard L. Tierney

Richard L. Tierney (1936 – 2022) was a poet, author, and editor of adventure fiction, mainly in the realm of dark fantasy. Since his mid-teens, he had been both a fan and scholar of H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, and other great names from the pulp fiction era. In 2010, he was nominated for the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s Grandmaster Award. In 1961, Tierney earned a degree in Entomology (Iowa State College) and served for many years with the U.S. Forest Service in several of the western states and Alaska. A haunter of archaeological ruins by instinct, he had traveled widely, especially in Mexico, Central, and South America. Many of the ideas and images that he employed in his stories were inspired by his extensive travels. His major works include Collected Poems (1981, Arkham House), The House of the Toad (1993, Fedogan and Bremer), Sorcery Against Caesar: The Complete Simon of Gitta Short Stories (Pickman’s Press, 2020), The Drums of Chaos (2008, Mythos Books, 2021 Pickman’s Press), and Savage Menace and Other Poems of Horror (2010, reprint 2021, P’rea Press).

 

Monday, April 4, 2022

DMR Books & Doug Draa PresentsTerra Incognita, S.E. Lindberg tale included

 


DMR Press Release for Terra Incognita April 2022

Follow the link for the full announcement.  Here are highlights:

In May DMR Books will release the anthology Terra Incognita: Lost Worlds of Fantasy and Adventure. This project was masterminded by Doug Draa, editor of Weirdbook Magazine. Doug assembled an all-star team of writers, including David C. Smith (author of Oron, The Sorcerer’s Shadow, and the Red Sonja series), Howard Andrew Jones (editor of Tales from the Magician’s Skull and author of the critically-acclaimed The Desert of Souls), Adrian Cole (author of numerous series, including The Voidal, The Dream Lords, and War on Rome), and John C. Hocking (author of Conan and the Emerald Lotus.)

Terra Incognita will appear in May in trade paperback and digital formats. The cover art was created by Lauren Gornik, whose work has appeared on other DMR titles such as Tanith Lee’s The Empress of Dreams, Manly Wade Wellman’s Cahena, and Harry Piper’s The Great Die Slow.

Table of Contents:

  • “Shadow of the Serpent” (a tale of Akram, hero of The Sorcerer’s Shadow) by David C. Smith
  • “The Place of Unutterable Names” by Adrian Cole
  • “One Hive. Two Queens.” by S.E. Lindberg
  • “The Siege of Eire” by J. Thomas Howard
  • “Warriors of Mogai” by Milton Davis 
  • “Necropolis Gemstone” by John C. Hocking
  • “From the Darkness Beneath” by Howard Andrew Jones

For more updates on Terra Incognita, join the official Facebook group.

Terra Incognita
: unknown territory: an unexplored country or field of knowledge
-Merriam Webster

You are holding a ticket in your hands.
A ticket for a voyage of thrills, wonder, and discovery as seven of today's top fantasists, each one a master of Heroic Fantasy, transport you to lands beyond your imagination. Lands of fantasy and adventure. And the only passport needed is your imagination.

Howard Andrew Jones sets sail into adventure with a group of sea-going merchants and their passengers. Many of them are not whom they seem to be and only reveal their true selves once a sunken kingdom from the bottom sea launches an attack against the travelers.
Adrian Cole transports a group of explorers to a Lovecraftian nether world of no return. Or is there, if one is courageous enough?
Milton Davis introduces us to a young man, barely past boyhood, who has to brave great dangers on his own to seek the help of ancient allies who may no longer exist.
John C. Hocking regales with the plight of a young archivist who is forced at swordpoint to travel into a parallel world full of horrors from a time long forgotten.
David C. Smith's courageous rebels under the leadership of an undying warrior must form an alliance with an ancient race to overthrow murderous usurpers, along with their necromantic masters, who are hell-bent on destroying their kingdom in an insane attempt to conquer the world.
S.E Lindberg gives us a distant world where two alien sisters, who were created in the image of man, wage a war against each other to determine the future of their world.
J. Thomas Howard reveals the harsh realities of ancient Eire, Sam Hain, and the war between the Fomorians and Tuatha Dé Danann.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Tales From the Magician's Skull March 2022 Round-Up 2

 


Tales From the Magician's Skull Blog  Mar 2022 Round-Up-2


 Post Links & Blurbs, Championed by Bill Ward

 

Apr 1:  Look at Henry Treece’s The Great Captains by Fletcher Vredenburgh

When Treece turned to fiction, an endeavor that would eventually put an end to his poetry writing, he found his voice in historical fiction, in particular in legendary events and characters, and in providing a realistic basis for them. Among his most notable works is the Celtic Tetralogy. Chronologically, the first, The Golden Strangers (1956) is about the conquest of Neolithic Britain by bronze-wielding invaders. The Dark Island (1952) and Red Queen, White Queen (1958) recount the doomed resistance by British leaders Caractacus and Boudicca, respectively, to Roman rule. In The Great Captains (1956), Artos and Medrodus, descendants of the invaders from The Golden Strangers, fight a doomed battle against a new race of intruders. Together the four books recreate ancient Britain, its forests haunted by spirits, portents looming in every strange occurrence. In his novels he presents events that perhaps lie at the center of the mythic heart of Britain. Alongside Paul Kingsnorth’s Buckmaster Trilogy, it’s one of the great poetic works about Britain’s history, its land, and its people

 

Mar 29:  Ballantine Adult Fantasy: William Morris

One of the most significant figures in the cultural life of Victorian England, William Morris (1834-1896) was everything from a poet, translator, and writer of medievalist fantasy, to a political activist, printer, champion of building preservation, and a renowned innovator in textile manufacturing and interior design. When Lin Carter oversaw the Ballantine Adult Fantasy line (1969-74), he brought many of Morris’ out-of-print fantasies back into print in affordable paperback editions.

 

 

Mar 25: Fueling the Fire of Fantasy Fiction: Gaming’s Influence on Today’s Writers by Brian Murphy

After taking a bit of a controversial stance last week with my piece on the possible detrimental effects of gaming on sword-and-sorcery, I will now take the opportunity to rebut … myself, and offer the opposing side a chance. And discuss the net positives that role-playing and, in particular, Dungeons and Dragons has had on fantasy fiction. As I mentioned in my prior piece, gaming can, and in many instances has, inspired gamers to take up a pen and launch successful careers as fantasy authors. Before they were writers, the likes of China Mieville (author of Perdido Street Station), Cory Doctorow (Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom), and Joe Abercrombie (First Law trilogy, The Heroes) were slinging dice at the game table. George R.R. Martin is another notable author who sings the praises of role-playing, though he had started writing in 1971, prior to the invention of D&D.

 

 

Mar 22: Classic Covers: Dragonlance

It might be fair to say that the Dragonlance series — initially a trilogy of novels written by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman in tandem with a group of D&D modules from TSR — is The Lord of the Rings of media tie in fiction: massively best-selling, appealing to a broader fanbase than conventional wisdom dictated, and prompting an entire industry of imitators. In Dragonlance one can see the beginnings of not only an explosion in shared worlds based on popular media, but also the genesis of Young Adult fiction as a force punching well above its weight class in publishing.

 

Mar 18: Dungeons & Dragons: Friend or Foe of Sword-and-Sorcery?   by Brian Murphy

I’m a long-time D&D fan and ex-gamer who may again pick up the dice bag. D&D is an awesome game, has given me countless hours of unadulterated joy, and I will unequivocally state that the world is a better place for it. But, I don’t think it has necessarily been a uniformly positive influence for subsequent generations of writers. Specifically, it may have played a role in the downfall of sword-and-sorcery.  Note: The following bit of speculation is not an indictment of what goes on at the table during D&D games, which at their best are cauldrons of creativity. But rather, the impact D&D may have had on sword-and-sorcery and subsequent fantasy fiction.

 


Mar 15: Where to Start With Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser

Aside from Conan the Cimmerian, there can be no more iconic image in all of sword-and-sorcery fiction than the dynamic duo of “the Twain.” Fafhrd, towering Northern barbarian, and Mouser, weaselly little thief, form a wonderfully visually complementary whole, and that’s even before you get to their actual personalities. Bawdy and reckless, bantering and adventurous, these two lovable rogues have traveled the length and breadth of a nowhere place called Nehwon, with many of their most memorable escapades taking place in the city of Lankhmar.