Browsed by
Tag: Sword and Sorcery

Rogue Blades presents: “Deep in the Land of Ice and Snow”

Rogue Blades presents: “Deep in the Land of Ice and Snow”

Return of the Sword-smallMy short story “Deep in the Land of Ice and Snow” originally appeared in the collection The Return of the Sword: An Anthology of Heroic Adventure by Rogue Blades Entertainment. Enjoy.


The wolves were too many. Belgad knew that as he soon as he spotted the beasts. There were nearly a score of them, and if that were not bad enough, the creatures were huge, each nearly the size of a riding pony. What was worse, the wolves were quiet and had managed to surround him without his spying them sooner.

No, this was no ordinary pack. They had appeared from nowhere, and they had no qualms about scaling the side of a mountain for their human prey.

Belgad forced himself to climb higher, the bitter cold winds whipping at his long yellow hair. His fingers, the tips protruding from rags he had used to swaddle them, gripped the edge of another boulder and lifted him with the help of solid placement from his fur-lined boots.

On top of the boulder, Belgad found a flat spot and sat there, letting the cold air fill his tired lungs. His body needed rest after days of hiking dense forests and climbing steep hills, but he would not close his eyes; the wolves were drawing nearer, below and above. It would only be a matter of time before they would pounce.

After what felt like hours to the big man wrapped in furs, one of the wolves, the largest, began to creep its way along a narrow path toward him.

Belgad watched the animal with anticipation, knowing soon he would be in battle.

Eventually the wolf was below Belgad, just out of reach of the man’s legs hanging off the side of his stone seat.

“Will you eat me today, wolf?” the large man said to the animal.

The wolf’s only reply was uplifted ears and a tilted head.

“I think not,” Belgad said, drawing in his legs and pushing off them so he was standing on the boulder.

The wolf blinked, and that was when Belgad took notice of its eyes. The animal had eyes the shade of morning blue ice.

Read More Read More

Rogue Blades Presents: Recalling a Fantasy Hero — Hanse Shadowspawn

Rogue Blades Presents: Recalling a Fantasy Hero — Hanse Shadowspawn

Thieves' World-Walter-VelezAs I’ve written before, my introduction to Sword and Sorcery literature came not through the more traditional routes of Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock, etc. I first delved into Sword and Sorcery almost by accident about 1979 when at the age of nine I picked up a collection of fantasy short stories titled Thieves’ World, the first in what eventually would become a long series of anthologies and novels and even gaming-related material.

At that point in my young life I had discovered Tolkien, and I had read what was then the first of Terry Brooks’ Shannara books, but that was about the extent of my fantasy readings outside of comic books.

Thieves’ World opened my eyes to a much larger and somewhat darker potential for fantasy literature, one I had yet to envision at that time.

Yet my love for the series, and for Sword and Sorcery, would not come immediately upon opening the book. The introduction by series editor Robert Asprin proved interesting enough as did the first short story, “Sentences of Death” by John Brunner, and the following tales were also worthy reads.

Yet when I got to the fourth tale, “Shadowspawn” by Andrew Offutt, something … changed. Something opened within me.

This tale featured one Hanse Shadowspawn, a young, cocky thief who often wore bright garb by the day but dark garb by the night. And he also wore a dozen or so daggers about his body. Hanse showed himself to be a cocky, swaggering sort of fellow, though he also had a soft spot for those he loved.

Over the next forty or so years throughout multiple short stories and a few novels, Hanse Shadowspawn still remains one of my favorite fantasy characters. Despite his upbringing on the roughest streets of the city of Sanctuary, he became a friend to royalty, rescued a near-god from a fate worse than death, found love, grew old and learned his parentage consisted of … but that would be telling. I’ll try to leave more than a little mystery. Let’s just say, Hanse proved no mere thief, and he was the best at what he did for a reason, for several reasons.

Read More Read More

Rogue Blades author: Robert E. Howard, Conan and Me

Rogue Blades author: Robert E. Howard, Conan and Me

Howard changed my lifeBelow is an excerpt from author John C. Hocking’s essay for the upcoming book, Robert E. Howard Changed My Life, from publisher Rogue Blades Foundation.

I was a precocious reader.  By the time I was seven years old, guided by the taste of my father, I was reading Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, E.R. Burroughs, E.E. Smith, and Lester Dent’s Doc Savage stories.  Around this time my father, an art and history teacher, a martial artist and collector of swords, became a little frustrated that my mother was less than keen to accompany him to see a new, supposedly pretty hardboiled, Western movie called A Fistful of Dollars, so he took me.

In addition to thrusting upon my youthful eyes an unimagined example of cinematic style, the film presented a powerful vision of a highly qualified good and a frighteningly believable evil in stark conflict beyond anything I’d encountered before.  Every aspect of the movie resonated with me, but the depiction of fearsome, believably dangerous villains being faced down by a hero who was actually dangerous enough to confront and destroy them instantly made most of the reading, TV and movies I’d known seem somehow inadequate, even false.

Then, in the summer of 1967, my Dad brought me a copy of Lancer’s Conan the Adventurer.  The Frazetta cover promised much, but I read the first story in that collection, Robert E. Howard’s “The People of the Black Circle,” on a quiet sunny morning and it blew my little mind.

Read More Read More

Steve Harrison Reconsidered

Steve Harrison Reconsidered

CasebookMenaceThe following article was first published on July 28, 2016 at the now defunct REH: Two-Gun Raconteur blog. Thank you to John O’Neill for consenting to reprint my odd stray article so it is archived at Black Gate, which is home to over 275 of my articles written over the past decade. Thank you to Damon Sasser without whom the original article would not exist. Minor editorial changes have been made to the original text.

It has become fashionable to regard Robert E. Howard’s Steve Harrison as the author’s lone failure. Much is made of what Howard expressed in letters about disliking hardboiled detective stories as both an author and a reader. Emphasis is placed on the fact that very few of the Steve Harrison stories found a market in the author’s lifetime. Critics measure the Steve Harrison tales against Hammett and Chandler and dismiss Howard’s efforts with disdain. All of this ignores how the character first came to prominence in the late 1970s when Berkeley Books collected “Lord of the Dead” and “Names in the Black Book” in Skull-Face.

Read More Read More

Black Gate Interviews Howard Andrew Jones, Part Two

Black Gate Interviews Howard Andrew Jones, Part Two

hannibal2In part one of Black Gate’s interview with Howard Andrew Jones we heard about one of Howard’s new novels, The Desert of Souls, and the joys and pitfalls of writing fantasy stories set in an historical milieu. In our second installment we talk about Howard’s reverence for the greatly under-appreciated historical adventure writer Harold Lamb, and the massive project Howard undertook to collect and republish Lamb’s fiction to preserve it for new audiences.

All this talk about historical fiction naturally brings us around to Harold Lamb. When and where did you first encounter his work?

I first found him as a high school sophomore. I had to write a short history paper on a famous historical figure, and I happened to find Lamb’s biography of Hannibal on the library shelves. I loved that book. I had reread books in the past, but they were always novels or short story collections. Hannibal  was the first non-fiction text I revisited again and again. Lamb presented what was almost a Shakespearean drama about a man blessed by the gods with brilliance and charisma, doomed never to achieve the one thing he truly fought for, which was the preservation of his homeland, the citystate of Carthage. A military genius, Hannibal won battles employing tactics that are still studied today, but no matter how clever he was, he could not win the war. He had luck in abundance, but it was almost a curse, for while he continued to survive, all those closest to him fell. When he returned home to Carthage after the war, he turned his intellect to reforming the state. He eliminated graft and corruption, and  overhauled the elective system so that senators, appointed to lifetime power, had to be elected every two years by the people. Though beloved by the commoners, his sweeping changes drew only ire from the ruling elite, who lied to Rome, saying Hannibal was still plotting against them. He had to flee his city and wander for the rest of his life, taking employment with more and more distant places as a military adviser while the Romans expanded their holdings. Hunted to the end by Rome, he finally died by his own hand rather than permitting them to capture him alive.

Read More Read More

Robert E. Howard Birthday Celebration

Robert E. Howard Birthday Celebration

solomon-kane3Here’s to Robert E. Howard, creator of my favorite genre, sword-and-sorcery, on the anniversary of his birth. Raise high your goblets and drink deep.

What is best about Robert E. Howard’s writing? The driving headlong pace, the seemingly inexhaustible imagination, the splendid cinematic prose poetry, the never-say-die protagonists? It is hard to pick one thing, so it may be simpler to state that Robert E. Howard possessed profound and often astonishing storytelling gifts. Without drowning his readers in adjectives (he had the knack of using just enough adjectives or adverbs, and knew to let the verbs do the heavy lifting) or slowing pace, he brought his scenes to life. Vividly.

Writer Eric Knight may have most succinctly described this particular aspect of Howard’s power in an article on Solomon Kane:

“’Wings of the Night’ features a marathon running fight through ruin, countryside, and even air that only a team of computer animators with a sixty-million dollar budget and the latest rendering technology (or a single Texan from Cross Plains hammering the story out with worn typewriter ribbon) could bring properly to life.”

Read More Read More

“The Fire of Asshurbanipal”: The First Time I Met Robert E. Howard

“The Fire of Asshurbanipal”: The First Time I Met Robert E. Howard

Today’s is Robert E. Howard’s birthday—I’ve always felt pleased that it lies so close to mine, as January is a lonely month in which to have your birthday—and for my gesture to commemorate the Great Lord of Blood, Thunder, and Thick Mountain Accents, I’m going to take a short glance back at my first encounter with him, in the story “The Fire of Asshurbanipal.”

Okay, I lied. It’s not short . . .

Read More Read More

Bloody Brilliance: Why I Love Robert E. Howard

Bloody Brilliance: Why I Love Robert E. Howard

Why do I love the works of Robert E. Howard?kull

Emerald jungles filled with scalp-hungry picts. The primordial perfection of axe and spear. The clang of steel on steel beneath tattered banners, and the dying howls of winged terrors. Lost temples and fantastic jewels, mounds of gold steeped in the glow of eldritch flames…

The thunderous cadence of tribal drums and clouds rushing grey as death. Ruby-eyed witches and bloody claws trailing torn flesh. The primal rush of muscle and bone…battle cries like phantom bats above the field of honor. The stench of Stygian darkness where serpents gleam and glide, as terrible gods demand red sacrifices…

 The sorcerer who peers beyond and calls up fiends from Hell…the clash of iron and the defiance of tyranny. The triumph of the noble savage against the cruelty of opulent empires. Colossal spiders and spitting vipers. The turn of a supple leg, the heaving of breasts and swirling of gossamer veils. The crushing embrace of bronze arms, the blazing passion of life against the black gloom of death…

The galloping hosts of antique nations, the cry of a night-beast wailing at the moon. The precarious dance of flesh and metal, the arcs of flying crimson. Spilling viscera. The brutal grace of prehistoric combat, the strength of arm and gnashing of teeth. The sparkling visions of a misted age, the mysteries of old worlds heavy as dreams…

The Cimmerian snow and glaciers, the breath of northern myth…the sweltering desert where vultures stalk parched prey…the rise of Slave to King…the simplicity of might making right in a world tossed on seas of blood. The damsels in distress and the avenging hero…the lantern jaws and sapphire eyes. The glittering towers collapsing in shards…

fraz501

The ancient world transmogrified, embroidered with the brilliants of legend, steeped in the wine of epic storms. The blood and thunder. The broad-shouldered lug and the skull-faced horror…the sting of a whisper in darkness. The dripping dagger and the broken blade…

Crumbling continents and rushing seas, the cataclysm of evolution…Atlantis and the descendents of Valusia. Tiger totems. Solemn kings brooding on golden thrones…the serpents that walk on two legs…the wizards haunting graveyards and the bones that rattle and walk in moonlight…the Valley of the Worm.

The mystic spell of language…the well-turned phrase and the phantasm of imagery. The tales of obsession, the obsession with tales. The poetry of doom and the marching specters…the man, the legend, the visionary…

The spectacular stories, the gripping yarns, the wonderfully weird tales…

Immortality wrought in ink and parchment.

All this and more…that’s why I love REH.

Happy Birthday, Bob.

— John R. Fultz

‘On Thud and Blunder’ — Thirty Years Later

‘On Thud and Blunder’ — Thirty Years Later

. . . writers who’ve had no personal experience with horses tend to think of them as a kind of sports car.

Poul Anderson
Poul Anderson

It’s been thirty years since Poul Anderson wrote his essay on the need for realism in heroic fantasy, ‘On Thud and Blunder,’ which you can read in its entirety at the SFWA site, and I think it holds up well even though the genre — and the perception of it — has changed greatly. ‘On Thud and Blunder’ originally appeared in the third installment of Andrew Offutt’s classic anthology series Swords Against Darkness; though it was in the excellent, if unimaginatively named, collection of Anderson’s called Fantasy that I first encountered it. But already at the time of my reading a whole generation of writers had made a name for themselves by following the dictates of realism and common sense in designing their fantasy worlds.

The essay begins with a satire of the genre that features a barbarian cleaving through armor with a fifty-pound sword and riding a horse as if it were a motorbike, among other ridiculous things. It’s the kind of thing that gave heroic fantasy and sword and sorcery a bad name, and perhaps the sort of thing that meant it would soon be eclipsed by a rising tide of ‘high fantasy’ in the eighties and nineties. But, in 1978, hf — as Anderson terms heroic fantasy in an abbreviation that seems to have never caught on — was an emerging star:

Today’s rising popularity of heroic fantasy, or sword-and-sorcery as it is also called, is certainly a Good Thing for those of us who enjoy it. Probably this is part of a larger movement back toward old-fashioned storytelling, with colorful backgrounds, events, and characters, tales wherein people do take arms against a sea of troubles and usually win. Such literature is not inherently superior to the introspective or symbolic kinds, but neither is it inherently inferior; Homer and James Joyce were both great artists.

Read More Read More