Saturday, February 4, 2012

Lemuria, Here We Come...

I'm going back to my roots, reading wise, this month. In practical terms this means reading a heapin' helpin' of sword and sorcery. I've had Lin Carter's Thongor and Brian Lumley's Primal Land series sitting on the shelves for a few months now, and the time has come to get stuck into them.
I know that for some critics/aficionados of the fantasy, Lin Carter is practically He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, but I recently read Imaginary Worlds, his excellent (although somewhat dated now) history of fantasy/sword and sorcery. If nothing else, it's clear that Carter genuinely loved fantasy, even if his own work within the genre was often perceived as 'second hand' (if not downright derivative and heavily influenced by writers such as Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Jack Vance).
However, he seems as good a place as any, Thongor was, so to speak, one of the first direct descendants of Conan (a lineage that also includes John Jakes Brak the Barbarian and Gardner Fox's Kothar Barbarian Swordsman, both of whom I've intended to read for a while now)
As a genre (or rather as a sub-genre) sword and sorcery has been somewhat maligned, sidelined even, by the growth of epic fantasy, although epic fantasy tends to use some of the tropes of s&s, especially in some of its more down 'n' dirty incarnations (Joe Abercrombie's First Law trilogy and subsequent novels or Peter Brett's Demon series, for instance). However, and to paraphrase Lin Carter, sometimes there's nothing quite so enjoyable as a bit of s&s for pure fun.
I read a lot of Michael Moorcock in my early teens, particularly the Elric stories, and it was only after these that I started to explore other writers like Howard and Clark Ashton Smith (both of whom I have 'rediscovered' in the last few years) and then later again, Fritz Lieber. Charles Saunders and Karl Edward Wagner.
Sword and Sorcery has been described by wiser heads than I as 'the genre that wouldn't die' and even now there are writers producing colourful tales of warriors, wizards and magical lands. In some cases the writers are moving the genre on, moving it away from the Eurocentric, quasi-Medieval settings and such other trappings that have defined sword and sorcery for so long, happy to explore new ways of telling a story.. Others are embracing the traditions of the genre, favouring action over characterisation, straightforward prose as opposed to a more experimental approach.
Still, the fact is that the genre that refused to die has, quite simply, still refused to die. Hence my delve back into its history..
Lemuria, here we come.


  1. Jim,

    check out Saladin Ahmed's upcoming Throne of a Crsecent Moon. That novel promises tons of swashbuckling fun in an Arabian setting.

    Also, are you still the editor for Heroic Quarterly? I got a nice story for them once they re-open to submissions!

  2. Hi Stefan

    I'll check it out - I've read some of his shorts in places like Beneath Ceaseless Skies, so I know the quality is assured.

    My tenure on HFQ was only a short-term thing so I'm not on the editing team anymore, (life, as they say, got in the way) but I'd send the story anyway, it's a great market with friendly and knowledgeable editors.