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On Getting Current in Heroic Fantasy, Part II

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009 | Posted by Don Lee

ambrose-2I was commenting the other day on the surplus number of wonderful S&S anthologies I’ve stumbled on since a friend and I began a collaborative shared world writing project a few weeks ago, both writing stories set in a fantasy/medieval city with a history and a river and neighborhoods and taverns and all the usual trappings. His background in world building (via D&D or whatever) is less than mine, and mine is quite scant, so our efforts have grown in odd bits and pieces: first the tavern, then the name of the city, then a mountain backed up against it, and so on.

And while writing and inventing and noting what I was writing and inventing, I’ve kept reading new (to me) material, noting those books and writers people clamor about and ordering their books and waiting impatiently by the mailbox every afternoon to see what’s arrived – David Gemmell’s first novel, or George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, or Matthias Thulmann: Witch Hunter  or, just yesterday, James Enge’s Blood of Ambrose  – I read and very much enjoyed his “The Red Worm’s Way” in Return of the Sword and want to read further about his hero Morlock Ambrosius…

I am writing this on the front porch of my cabin in the woods, drinking cheap beer and eating liverwurst and onion sandwiches and listening to Bob Dylan, in a perfect mood to tackle my ongoing story, involving an old knight who comes home to die and gets entangled in one last adventure … a bit stuck in the middle, but hopefully once I type it up – I typically write longhand first draft – the scales will fall from my eyes and I can figure out how to head it toward the end. There is something invigorating about this kind of writing, 10 times moreso than any workshop story I ever attempted (I never was very good at those – I kept wanting to throw weirdness into everything I wrote, and neither workshop profs nor fellow MFA writing students deal particularly well w/ weirdness of the sort I am drawn to). I always wanted to write a fantasy story based on Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower” – don’t know if that’s ever been attempted.

elak-of-atlantisRight now re-reading Tim Powers’ The Drawing of the Dark and then Blood of Ambrose and who knows what else. (Solomon Kane, whom I’ve neglected unjustly for decades, and discovering Henry Kuttner wrote some amazing S&S, e.g. Elak of Atlantis.)

Feels like a race against time to catch up. At this point nobody’s reading this but me and maybe one other person, but it’s good to vent in this fashion, even a little…

Those anthologies are great. I am glad sword & sorcery (heroic fantasy, whatever) is still alive and thriving. For years I have ignored, too, books written/published that I foolishly regarded as useless crap spinoffs from gaming systems – Warhammer, Forgotten Realms, etc. – but I suspect I have been an exclusionary fool about these things, as usual. I’ve never read a book by R.A. Salvatore. How can someone claim to love this kinda fantasy and ever read R.A. Salvatore?

I am correcting the situation very quickly.

Am going to send out info on my blog (at dragonsandswords.blogspot.com) in hopes I can get some feedback. Help a brother out!

5 Comments »

  1. I have been kind of the opposite. I have been reading dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, and Ebberron for awhile. It wasn’t until i started reading the Black Gate blogs that i discoverd Robert Howard. I have yet to read the other authors that this magazine talks about but i plan to! I have read well over a dozen Salvatore books, he’s what got me into reading as much as i do. His none FR stuff is just as good if not better than his FR novels.I plan on picking up a copy of Blood of Ambrose as well once i get caught up with my reading list.

    Comment by Glenn - October 7, 2009 6:39 pm

  2. Good to see your post over here, Don.

    One thing I’ve remarked upon before, that Glenn just reminded me of, is how lucky we are to have the information and distribution opportunities the internet brings. When I was a kid there were author’s I’d never heard of, and plenty I had heard of whose books I could never find. But now, the sky is the limit — a person can immerse themselves as deeply as they like in a particular genre and acquire the works of a newly discovered author with a week. Pretty amazing times.

    Comment by Bill Ward - October 8, 2009 6:54 pm

  3. You’re right. the only problem now is deciding what you want to read with the time you have. between the new books of my favorite authors that come out, random books that look good, the stuff i read about on here, and the source books i read for d&d i have a hard time picking out what i want to read. and the books i have stacked up at the house just gets bigger and bigger and i love it. haveing to much to read is a lot better than not having enough.

    Comment by Glenn - October 8, 2009 11:41 pm

  4. Hey, thanks for the kind words about “Red Worm’s Way”! That has one of my favorite self-written lines in it (“His vomit was burning”). Because I love to keep it classy, I guess. I hope you’re liking Blood of Ambrose.

    Kuttner did a lot of swashbuckling–and Erik Mona of Planet Stories is an HK fan, so I’m hoping for yet more reprints. (“The Dark World” has also appeared in a Planet edition.) Kuttner’s wife, C.L. Moore had a great heroic fantasy series, the Jirel stories.

    Leiber (especially the Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser stories) and Vance (especially the Cugel the Clever stories) are standbys for me–I don’t even know how many times I’ve reread them.

    Comment by James Enge - October 10, 2009 12:58 am

  5. […] with an iron fist, Enge turned to more ambitious goals, producing the first two Morlock novels Blood of Ambrose (2009) and This Crooked Way (also 2009 – it makes other writers look bad, doesn’t […]

    Pingback by Black Gate » Blog Archive » Werewolves and Ghost-powered zeppelins: Sample Chapters from The Wolf Age Now Available - September 20, 2010 7:48 pm


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