On Getting Current in Heroic Fantasy, Part I
I read an interesting post the other day by a thoughtful blogster whose name I cannot now remember and whose post I cannot locate again, who professed his surprise at all the fans of Conan (and Sword & Sorcery in general) who were returning to the fold now, after falling away in the 1980s, after the last Big S&S Boom.
I confess myself one of those folk. I don’t know what happened. Life, I guess. There weren’t any more new books – or if there were, I didn’t see them – and so I drifted on to other things. (I should add that I got my degree in English Lit after that time, and those bastards had no use for genre fiction of any kind, much less the kind of stuff I’d been cutting my teeth on since I learned how to read – e.g. Zelazny, Howard, Fritz Leiber, et. al. Plus I tumbled onto so many other writers — e.g. the Beats, Bukowski, Henry Miller, and *then* Poetry, in which I immersed myself for several years. But I digress…)
I’ve been delighted though in the past month or so to see all the new material being produced along sword & sorcery lines (new to me at least). A whole slew of beautiful anthologies: LORDS OF SWORDS, SAGES & SWORDS, RETURN OF THE SWORD, RAGE OF THE BEHEMOTH. It is a wonderful thing. I am reading them all simultaneously and will discuss them here, and at my blog.
I feel … invigorated is a good word. 18 again, instead of 46. I have the sense that these new editors – Jason Waltz and Daniel Blackston, et. al – believe in what they’re saying. They have drunk deep in the Well at the End of the World, just like I did Back in the Day, and have reached the same conclusions I have about the same writers: Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock (who is exactly the same age as my dad), Bob Howard and Clark Ashton Smith and Andy J. Offutt and Lin Carter and Manly Wade Wellman and Henry Kuttner: when it came to sword & sorcery, those guys had it Going On. And so do a whole bunch of guys (and gals) now living and reading and typing up fresh new stories, who read Karl Edward Wagner when he was still writing and alive, and who now read each other, published in these good books.
So I can see with some confidence that we are now in the Third Age of Heroic Fantasy, as one might measure such things, the first having covered Weird Tales and so forth, the second peaking in the 1970. Too many great books to ignore. I am a book-ordering fiend even under normal circumstances. It’s a good thing my wife already threw my ass out months ago, because if she hadn’t she would now, when she saw the mailbox every day w/ some wonderful tome in it. And on that note…
[Originally posted at Dragons and Swords].
Just wanted to comment I realize above I put Andy J. Offutt amongst those writers who “lived” in the past tense, though of course he is alive and well and still writing. Sorry about that, sir!
Welcome to the Black Gate fold, Don! I look forward to reading your observations on your return to reading S&S and heroic fantasy. The genre needs such excitement as you bring – now spread the word, the world needs to hear!