When Arthur Henry Ward adopted the nom de plume of Sax Rohmer, he found a match for the bohemian occultist persona he was working to cultivate. The very name sounded exotic and foreign. It was less of a name than it was a statement of intent. As part of his new identity, Rohmer claimed to be a Rosicrucian as well as a member of The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. It appears that both claims were false, although the Ward family doctor, R. Watson Councell was active in occult circles.
It was Dr. Councell who provided much of the information for Rohmer’s 1914 study of the occult, The Romance of Sorcery. It is possible Dr. Councell actually wrote sections of the work considering his own later publication, Apologia Alchymiae (1923) which featured a preface by Rohmer. In the 1970s, Rohmer scholar Dr. Robert E. Briney came across four privately printed titles published by The Theosophical Publishing Society of London credited to one Arthur H. Ward: The Song of the Flaming Heart (1908), The Seven Rays of Development (1910), The Threefold Way (1912), and Masonic Symbolism and the Mystic Way (1913).
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This is the third installment in a series of posts highlighting fantasy short fiction (here are Part I and Part II).
Over the course of the last eight years, I’ve read or listened to a lot of short fiction and the variety out there is astonishing. And I love to try to introduce new readers to some of the stuff that impressed me. This week, the three stories I picked were by Garth Nix, Nancy Hightower, and Daniel Abraham.
“Hereward and Mr Fitz Go To War Again,” by Garth Nix, appeared originally in Jim Baen’s Universe, then in Podcastle (where I heard it), and then in a collection by Subterranean Press (ebook available here). This is one of three Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz stories I heard and I absolutely fell in love with the weird swashbuckling world Nix created.
Hereward is a knight, artillerist, and swordsman, as able with gunpowder as with the blade. Fitz is an animated wooden puppet and dangerous sorcerer, whose sorcery is structured around sewing and knitting, with his accouterments being needles, thread, and sometimes a portable sewing desk. Their job is to enforce a treaty against rogue gods that is so old that some of the nations to the treaty no longer exist.
This is pure buddy picture story, a grand adventures against old gods. Loads of fun and the Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz stories are now available as an ebook, so no reason not to check it out.
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