Swords Against Tomorrow (Signet / New American Library, August 1970). Cover by Gene Szafran.
I’ve been enjoying Alan Brown’s classic science fiction reviews at Tor.com. In just the last few months he’s looked at Masters of the Vortex by E. E. “Doc” Smith, H. Beam Piper’s Space Viking, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Pirates of Venus, Sterling E. Lanier’s Hiero’s Journey, and Murray Leinster’s Med Ship. That’s a pretty satisfying journey through some great 20th Century SF right there (depending on how generously you’re disposed towards “Doc” Smith, I grant you).
But I was especially intrigued by his lengthy review of Robert Hoskins’ 1970 sword & sorcery anthology Swords Against Tomorrow, a long-forgotten volume that contained five long stories by Poul Anderson, Fritz Leiber, Lin Carter, John Jakes, and Leigh Brackett, including a pair of reprints from Planet Stories and an original novelette from Lin Carter. All but one are reprints — including a standalone novella by Anderson, a Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser adventure, a Brak the Barbarian story, and a tale in Brackett’s famous Venus series.
This is a fine little paperback that introduced readers to some of the most popular heroic fantasy series of the era in the early 70s, and I certainly didn’t expect to see it featured so prominently at the premier genre site over half a century after it was published.
[Click the images for sorcery-sized versions.]
Inside cover copy
Robert Hoskins was a fairly well-known SF writer, and the 70s were far and away his most productive period. Between 1972-79 he published a popular trilogy (Master of the Stars, To Control the Stars, and To Escape the Stars) and over half a dozen other novels.
But he was better known as an anthologist, with two popular SF anthology series: Infinity (five volumes between 1970-73) and Wondermakers (two volumes in 1972 & ’74; we covered them both here), and no less than ten additional SF anthologies published between 1969-79.
Tomorrow 1 (Signet / New American Library, June 1971). Cover by David McCall Johnston.
Hoskin’s anthologies included five loosely similar Tomorrow paperbacks, one of which (Tomorrow 1) was clearly intended to kick off a series:
Swords Against Tomorrow (1970)
Tomorrow 1 (1971)
Strange Tomorrows (1972)
The Liberated Future: Voyages into Tomorrow (1974)
Against Tomorrow (1979)
Maybe Hoskins just liked anthologies with the words Tomorrow and Against Tomorrow in the title? I don’t know, but I enjoyed them. Alan Brown clearly enjoyed Swords Against Tomorrow; here’s a snippet from his lengthy review at Tor.com.
I ran across an old anthology from 1970 with a cover blurb promising “Heroic Tales told by Lin Carter, Fritz Leiber, John Jakes, Leigh Brackett, and a novella by Poul Anderson.” Just those names alone were enough to draw me in… The collection turned out to be well worth my time and full of fun adventure stories, even though only three out of the five stories actually feature heroes who wield swords!…
The longest story in the book, “Demon Journey” by Poul Anderson, comes first. It was originally published as “Witch of the Demon Seas” under the pseudonym A.A. Craig, in the magazine Planet Stories. The story takes place on a cloudy planet with plentiful seas, which might or might not be Venus. The captured hero is Corun, a captive of Khroman, ruler of Achaera. In his cell, Corun is approached by the sorcerer Shorzon and his witch daughter Chryseis, who has a dragonish pet called an ‘erinye.’ They know that Corun is one of the only people to visit the Xanthi, or Sea Demons, and returned to tell the tale. If he will lead them to the Sea Demons, they will give him his freedom…. The story follows the Planet Stories template closely, but Anderson’s skill is apparent, and he delivers a taut little action-packed tale…
The final story is an example of Leigh Brackett at her best: “Citadel of Lost Ships…” A hardened criminal, Roy Campbell, who escaped from the solar system’s Patrol, has crash-landed among a native tribe on Venus, the Kraylens. They have not only helped to heal his body, they’ve healed his soul, and for the first time in his life he has found peace. When the authorities of the Coalition decide to take the Kraylen’s land, instead of accepting relocation into camps and cities, they decide to fight… Soon, Campbell is swept up in an effort not only to rescue the Kraylens, but also to preserve this last bastion of freedom in the solar system… This story alone was well worth the book’s price of admission, and I recently discovered you can now read it for free at Project Gutenberg…
This book is a quirky little collection… a group of well-told tales that were perfect for reading on a sunny summer afternoon. They were all enjoyable, with the standout being the Brackett tale, which I urge you all to take a few moments to read… this story is a stellar example of pulp fiction at its finest.
Read Alan’s complete review at Tor.com here.
Here’s the complete Table of Contents.
Introduction by Robert Hoskins
“Demon Journey” by Poul Anderson (Planet Stories, January 1951)
“Bazaar of the Bizarre” by Fritz Leiber (Fantastic Stories of Imagination, August 1963)
“Vault of Silence” by Lin Carter (original, 1970)
“Devils in the Wall” by John Jakes (Fantastic Stories of Imagination, May 1963)
“Citadel of Lost Ships” by Leigh Brackett (Planet Stories, March 1943)
Our previous coverage of Robert Hoskins includes:
Wondermakers, Volume One and Two
Infinity Three — “Let It Ring,” by John Ossian, reviewed by Rich Horton
Infinity Four — Birthday Reviews: William F. Nolan’s “Starblood” reviewed by Steven Silver
Swords Against Tomorrow was a paperback original published by Signet /New American Library in August 1970. It is 176 pages, priced at $0.75. The cover is by Gene Szafran. It has never been reprinted, and there is no digital edition.
See all our recent coverage of classic SF & fantasy here.