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Save a Sword-and-Sorcery Legend

Thursday, August 9th, 2007 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

Rescue Imaro

I just got word that Nightshade Books is going to be cancelling its reprint of the Imaro series. The sales have been disappointing — I can only assume that’s because word, somehow, didn’t get out about the books. Charles Saunders’ Imaro is one of the most important sword-and-sorcery characters to walk onto the scene after Conan himself.

Here’s what I said about him in a recent history of sword-and-sorcery article I wrote with some help from Robert Rhodes:

Imaro was the first important black hero of sword and sorcery. The three Imaro novels and a set of related short stories breathe with atmosphere, so much so that the setting is a character unto itself. The customs, people, and places feel real. While the supernatural and fantastic stalk this world, Saunders’ storytelling skills present even the ordinary features of his setting, from savanna to jungle, as vivid and new. Tie in Saunders’ skilful world-building with his taut action and suspense scenes and you have an explosive mix, one that Lin Carter was quick to recognize, printing Imaro tales in several volumes of The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror anthology series.

Born the son of mixed parentage in a warrior society, Imaro longs always for acceptance, although when he finally earns it his own pride sets him on another path. A mighty warrior, at heart Imaro is a decent, loving man who hides behind a wall of stoicism he’s built both to protect himself during his troubled upbringing and to endure the horrors he’s faced. Most other sword-and-sorcery heroes are rogues born with wanderlust. They’re fascinating to see in action but aren’t necessarily people we’d care to meet. Imaro, however, is honestly likable.

Disastrous marketing decisions killed the Imaro series back in the ’80s. Now it looks like poor market penetration is going to kill it again, and may already have done so. And that means that two never-before-published Imaro novels and any kind of collection of Imaro short stories won’t be seen.

Now I can’t speak for all of Black Gate on this particular issue, but speaking for a moment simply as Howard Andrew Jones minus his editing hat, GO BUY THESE BOOKS. If you like sword-and-sorcery, GO TO NIGHT SHADE AND BUY THESE BOOKS. Maybe we can still save Imaro!!! Do NOT delay!!!

Archon/Nasfic

So here’s what I’d been planning to post about before I got the bad news this morning. I didn’t get to do this sooner because I’ve frankly been trying to re-earn some spousal goodwill points after being gone for four days.

The convention was fun as usual: John and I had a good time. A steady stream of visitors dropped by the booth to look over the magazine, and most of them picked up at least one issue — many more subscribed, and some even purchased entire runs of the previous issues! We showed interested parties the unbound copy of issue 11.

In between various panels Steven Silver and Rich Horton dropped by and helped out at the table. Both men have contributed to the magazine and it was a pleasure getting to know them. The little shop at the convention center sold surprisingly good soup, which I lived on during the day, and then John and I would head out with whoever was around in the evenings to grab dinner. The first night we drove into Collinsville, away from the crowded restaurants near the con, and stumbled upon a nice Chinese place — the only open restaurant in town, so far as we could see. The next day the nearby places were even more crowded, and John and Steven and I were joined by Gordon van Gelder and David Marusek, who didn’t actually complain about my awful direction sense as I tried to find my way back to the Chinese restaurant.

Saturday I snuck away from the booth long enough to try out Richard Hatch’s new role-playing game, The Great War of Magellan. His Captain Apollo had been one of my childhood heroes, so it was pretty nifty when he sat down beside me and joined the game.

There was a flurry of sales at the last minute on Sunday, so I hung around later than I’d planned (I couldn’t abandon John when the booth was so busy). Thank goodness Steven was there to help out as well.

I’m a relatively recent convention attender. It still strikes me as pretty amazing how approachable most of the industry professionals are. I’ve looked up to many of these people for years, and it can feel a little surreal to find yourself in casual conversation with them.

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