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Sword and Sorcery, where are you?

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Initial post: Jun 24, 2007 7:23:05 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 24, 2007 7:36:45 PM PDT
In other boards the subject of Sword and Sorcery has popped up a lot. GSH_67 is the unofficial Sword and Sorcery expert on these discussion boards, and he provided some links along with his insight in another discussion about 800+page epics:

I define Sword-and-sorcery as stories that take place in the, more-or-less traditional, fantasy settings and focuses on the heroes/anti-heroes then instead of a world-event-like plot and the hero/anti-hero is more,.. well, heroic, in the action-hero kinda sense. The world-setting is brutal, and the conflict at the character level, man-against-man, man-against-monster, man-against-the-elements, and/or physical-strength-against-sorcery. These links are the best definitions of S&S, I've ever ran across and I agree with them whole-heartily;

Thank you, GSH for starting my mind down a path I wouldn't have considered otherwise. Other readers and posters on these forums, please contribute:

1. Why isn't there any good new sword and sorcery fantasy?
2. What do you consider sword and sorcery fantasy?

and my contribution:

3. What favorite fantasy stories have a similar feel to sword and sorcery but wouldn't really fit the classification? I think of the "feel" as flat-out entertainment with lots of action, maybe some humor or at least irony, and absolutely there must be a swashbuckling hero (I'm thinking of Conan, not Errol Flynn).

So, any suggestions?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 25, 2007 6:43:52 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 25, 2007 6:57:35 AM PDT
Greg says:
CeciM-Awesome!!! I've tried a hand at getting something going for this same topic myself. I was starting to think I was alone with my longing for good ol' Sword-and-Sorcery stories. I would also very much like to see others' thoughts about the points you've posted. Maybe we can start resurgence. :)

My take and I'll try to keep it short:
{1. Why isn't there any good new sword and sorcery fantasy?}
I think S&S became a victim of politically correctness and a general opinion (that I guess grew from too many cheesy S&S movies) that the genre was adolescent and not complex enough to be taken serious.

{2. What do you consider sword and sorcery fantasy?} - Sword-and-sorcery are adventure stories that take place in fantasy settings and focuses on the heroes/anti-heroes instead of the large scale plot of Epic fantasy. The world-setting is brutal, and its either a traditional fantasy world, desolate Earth future, or primitive other planet. Anywhere technology is more-or-less primitive to medieval and magic has some influence. The conflict is at the character level; man-against-man, man-against-monster, man-against-the-elements, and/or physical-strength-against-sorcery. These links I've found say it better then I ever could;

{ 3. What favorite fantasy stories have a similar feel to sword and sorcery but wouldn't really fit the classification?} -This is what I'd like do know too. The only recent books, past 10-15 years (and aren't something re-published from 30+ years ago) that comes to mind is the David Gemmell's stuff.

I would like to point-out that they may be some old classic S&S due out soon, or at least it appears to be; Planet Stories by Pazio Publishing. I'm not sure yet if its exactly S&S, but one can hope. :)

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 25, 2007 9:43:24 AM PDT
I really enjoy cheesy fun, myself. True entertainment doesn't always have to edify, uplift, and challenge. I also think a good, entertaining, action-packed story is a perfect place to slip in some philosophy and opinions.

What prompted me to finally put up this topic is that I was trying to remember the name of a book I was going to recommend as being similar to the S&S feel. I finally remembered it --"The Anvil of the World" by Kage Baker. This was fun and unusual. I may be steering you in the wrong direction, though, GSH, because it may not be dark enough.

I still have to read any of the Kane stories, but I may have read some long ago and just forgot. Do you think it matters what order I read them?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 25, 2007 1:56:45 PM PDT
The Gray Man says:
Now I am the 'official' Kane expert. No, it doesn't matter which you read first. I would reccomend "Darkness Weaves" first only because the successive books are so much stronger. Also, the Kane books were originally described as 'Gothic Fantasy'. I only disagree with that tag only because 'Gothic' has become synonymous with 'Vampiric'. The work is much more in line with Robert E. Howard's pulp work and the first four Conan books. Where Wagner's Kane departs from Conan is the depths of depravity he is comfortable with (I did admire his punishment of an unfaithful lover.) Yet, despite his obvious evil Kane will do the right thing when the time comes.

Now, my series has those influences but I wouldn't say they were purely S&S. Since I personally hate genre 'pigeonholing' everything I write will be mostly the broad format of the intended genre, but will always lean into something else. My latest book, TFLR: THE GRAY MAN is F/A, but is also a Noirish murder mystery. The part that I feel is most important is the dark undertones which grow progressively darker as the tale unfolds. That to me is indicative of S&S work.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 25, 2007 2:02:24 PM PDT
John Willis says:
Hi CeciM,
The Kane series can be read in any order...they are great...Bloodstone along with Death Angel's Shadow are quite good.

I also want to recommend Tim Power's "The Drawing of the Dark" and his "On Stranger Tides."


In reply to an earlier post on Jun 25, 2007 2:10:30 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 25, 2007 2:12:13 PM PDT
Greg says:
CecIm- I will respectfull defer to Grayman on that one since, he's ultimatly the one who got me to read Kane, to start with. :)
Darkness Weaves, Night Crusades,Death Angel's Shadow, Bloodstone, and, Night Winds are the novels and they are all stand-alone novels of which the only one I still need to get and read is Darkness Weaves. There is also a scattering of short-story collections that are harder to find. -is a great link for insights into Kane as well as the main page; -is a great site for S&S altogether, if you're interested. :)

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 25, 2007 3:01:46 PM PDT
What is the general opinion about Michael Moorcock's Elric saga? I just couldn't get into it. I thought Elric was a bit whiny or just self-absorbed and compared him unfavorably to Conan and John Carter.

Now I wonder if I should give him another chance. One day I may run out of new books to read (perish the thought).

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 25, 2007 10:15:09 PM PDT
The Gray Man says:

I've discussed his 'Elricness' at length in several of these posts (mainly to get off LOTR!) Loved the series. Definitely dark, intellectual and philosophical S&S. Elric really shouldn't be compared to K or C. He was an intellectual from an advanced and decaying society whereas the other two had humbler and far more savage origins. Elric was a metaphor of the 'average' idealized 20th Century Western Man. His Albinism marked him as 'whiter than white', his education made him seem otherworldly knowledgable to those around him and he had a weapon so superior it made him more powerful the more he used it. Just like the learned Western Man, he reveled in his power but regretted his use of it and lamented over those he used it on. Kane was literally 'just killin' time.' Conan was just killin'.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 25, 2007 11:11:52 PM PDT
Equimanthorn says:
Personally,the Elric saga are some of my most cherished books.It was that sword and his unfortunate attachment to it that made those stories so exciting to read.The first time I actually felt 'emotion' for a book that I could never put down.Every word savoured like a sip from the finest wine,every passage pulling me further in and never letting go.Autumn was in the air,and I was listening to "Ghost Story" by Philippe Sarde.I am of the opinion that choice of music enhances a book as well as the time of year read.Perhaps Elric just appeals to 'metalheads' who are too often stereotyped for being weird or evil 'looking',like myself.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2007 5:26:44 AM PDT
Greg says:
I've had the same experience that CeciM had with Moorcock's Elric saga. I think I picked it up back when I was a kid after finishing up the Ace published Conan series and I was looking for some more S&s and Elric was the only thing I could find. It was probably too complex for my reading level then, but with all these good recommendations here, I'm going to have to put it on my mental list for must reads.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2007 5:33:30 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 26, 2007 7:16:11 AM PDT
Greg says:
CeciM- warning for Kane, He's defiantly is for a certain, maybe somewhat twisted taste, but I he's become one of my favorites (not sure what that says about me). He's like a mixture of a very well educated Conan and maybe, Darth Vader. Not sure if you'd caught the premise, but he's based on the Biblical Cain. He was the first murderer and brought violence to his world, so the god/creator cursed him to an eternal life alone. Basically out of boredom, he constantly on a quest for power and to take over the world. He's been around so long, that the comparatively short-lived mortals (meaning us), usually mean very little to him and are more often then not, just tools for his schemes.

What I liked so much about Kane, not only is he a very interesting and unique character, but its the ultimate revenge story. He's still hacked-off at the creator for cursing him, and out of sheer anger, he refuses to be "broken" or bow down to the gods. He'd really like just to get his big, meaty paws around that god's neck.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2007 10:37:59 AM PDT
John Willis says:
There is a story with Kane when he is recognized by a being who also has a very long life span and they talk about past events and the dead before dueling...he is so experienced in combat his enemies forget that... A.A. Attanasio also has a really cool King Arthur series with sword & sorcery themes thrown in. I was impressed and I have read quite a lot....There is one more series by an author by the name of Cobb I think...It deals with sorcery and knights...Steven Erikson's "Malazan Books" are also a great read.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2007 10:49:29 AM PDT
If you want sword and sorcery, try reading my book, "Princess Luanne and Wizard Heatheria: Return To Doloria." It's an adventure that combines magic and swordplay, and thrown in is a moral: The Power of Family overcomes all obstacles.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2007 3:01:11 PM PDT
L. Harper says:
I recently read a great fantasy book called Epic of Merlowe, it is an excellent book and I am trying to get the word out for all to know. You won't want to put it down, I know I didn't!

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2007 3:26:37 PM PDT
Equimanthorn says:
For those with an interest in Elric,I would also like to recommend 2 other stories by Michael Moorcock.The stories of Corum - the prince with the scarlet robe,and Hawkmoon - the story of the runestaff.

1) the knight of the swords
2) the queen of the swords
3) the king of the swords
4)the bull and the spear
5) the oak and the ram
6) the sword and the stallion

1) the jewel in the skull
2) the mad god's amulet
3) the sword of the dawn
4) the runestaff

I have the White Wolf collections of Hawkmoon and Corum just for the fact that they are real hard to track down individually.Elric however is best with the Michael Whelan covers.My 'signature' will give you an idea of what they look like.When/if you read any of these,I hope that they may entertain and excite you as they did me.Oh,almost forgot to mention 'the Prose Edda' by Snorri Sturluson.If you've never read that and you like Howard,Wagner et-al,heh-heh you will enjoy this.You will read the great tales from Norse mythology,the stories that warriors from the far north used to hold in their heart and the Gods they raised their swords to the sky to.Pour a nice glass of Merlot and enjoy,or atleast that is what I can hope that you do.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2007 4:13:48 PM PDT
I love any fantasy/sf story that uses Norse mythology. I don't know why, but it's my favorite.

I read a really good one that involved traveling around the world of the Norse gods and I can't remember the author or title. It might have been Tom Holt, but it's definitely not Who's Afraid of Beowulf.

It seems to me that Norse mythology naturally lends itself to the S&S type of story. Can anyone recommend other fantasy, S&S or not, that included the Norse mythology (I already know about American Gods).

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2007 4:52:05 PM PDT
You should read the books by Poul Anderson "The Broken Sword", Hrolf Kraki's Saga", and "Three Hearts And Three Lions". Blurb from Hrolf Kraki reads "Born of a treacherous love union, Hrolf Kraki rose to wild Norseland power in a storm of sorcery, blood...and glory!

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2007 9:13:38 PM PDT
John Willis says:
Odin makes an appearance in A.A. Attanasio's King Arthur series...Many different ideas are in the series but he handles them well...Merlin is really a demon, dwarves are unlike anything Tolkien ever did, its funny, check it out.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 27, 2007 12:30:14 AM PDT
Equimanthorn says:
1) The Saga of the Volsungs
(Sigurd the "dragon slayer" acquires runic knowledge from a valkyrie and goes well with the Prose Edda in your collection)

2) the Intrepid Enchanter (Sprague de Camp)

(the first story in the book has the main character figuring out a mathematical equation for time travel,ending up at the coming of Ragnarok) a nice little story

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 27, 2007 10:02:31 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 27, 2007 10:07:50 AM PDT
The "Hammer and the Cross" series uses Norse's historic fiction but there is mythology and a type of troll species in it.
I love Norse mythology too, always have- I play a troll thane of Midgard in Dark Age of Camelot.

For children's books, "Helga's Dowry" also uses Norse mythology.

And of course The Lord of the Rings surges with it. The name Gandalf and the names of all of Bilbo's dwarves were actually taken from the Elder Eddas- they are the names of the first dwarves ever created on Midgard. Except Gimli- Gimli is the Norse "New Jerusalem" that's created after Ragnarock.

(It's an adventure that combines magic and swordplay, and thrown in is a moral: The Power of Family overcomes all obstacles.)

To me this sentence disqualifies your book for the genre. When I think of sword and sorcery I think Conan > The Brady Bunch.

To me sword and sorcery is something absolutely brutal, and any sword and sorcery hero worth his salt would not be tolerated by the judicial system of any modern society.

Sword and Sorcery with family values is like a G rated horror movie about a psycopathic cannibal.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 27, 2007 10:12:04 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 27, 2007 10:18:44 AM PDT
Greg says:
Its really more historical fiction then it is fantasy but I liked Michael Crighton's Eaters of the Dead, or the movie version, The Thirteenth Warrior. A lot of people didn't like the movie but I thought it was OK. It's basically supposed to be the real story behind Beowulf.

I'm half-way through a new book that leans more toward the "swashbuckling" then Sword-and-Sorcery but coming from a die-hard S&S fan, I'm really enjoying it so far, The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (the first of the Gentleman Bastards series). The blurbs bill it as a Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, Ocean's 11, and Godfather combined and that's a very accurate description.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 27, 2007 3:13:13 PM PDT
The Gray Man says:

Yours and John W.'s description of Kane were pretty accurate. Kane is the difinitive 'civilized savage' as how one moment he has the culture and mannerisms of a seasoned scholar/diplomat and the next he could be just as comfortable up to his chin in gore and depravity. That's a challenging mix for an author to write and make his character worth reading.

I'm also a fan of Norse Mythos. Some of my favorite stories are of the 'Warriors Three' (Thor, Balder, and the Fat One whose name escapes me.) On the otherhand, just like with LOTR 'been there, read that, saw the cartoons, saw the movies may I please move on?' There is soooooooooo much material out there for S&S and F/A stories from the mythologies from other countries. Forget China, Japan, Middle-Eastern and anything European(i.e. Greek, Roman, etc.) all that's been done (unto death by the way.) I'm talking about African, Ancient Egyptian (not just mummies and friggin' pharohs), Thai, Phillipino, Polynesian, American Indian, Australian Aborigine and on and on. One African mythological monster that stood out in my mind had one leg (and buttock), was part man, part zebra and part lion. The beast was highly intelligent, ate children, grew more powerful with each one it consumed and could only be killed with an iron spear after you got it drunk. Man, the places one could go with a story with that thing in it! Now, I do enjoy the myths from the more 'established' countries. It's just why do we settle for 31 flavors when there are at least 3100?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 28, 2007 4:09:11 AM PDT
Greg says:
Gray Man- While I hear what you're saying and it really should be that way. I'm not sure why but it's still the Norse and European mythos that really appeal to me in a way that other cultures' legends don't, or at least what little I know of other mythos. I wonder why that is? I mean I try to be a fairly open-minded guy and I'm "all-up-on" the History Channel every chance I get. The only other mythos that even remotely grabs me like those is maybe American Indian.

Maybe it's because I'm a white-guy of Scotch/Welch descent? Maybe it's an ancestral memory type thing? I know I should really get over that.

Ever read any of the Imaro books by Charles Saunders? From what I understand it's an S&S story similar to a Conan but based on African mythos. I've been thinking of giving it a go sometime.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 28, 2007 11:39:31 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 28, 2007 11:43:18 AM PDT
The Gray Man says:

Having had the wonderful opportunity to live, work and travel outside the US I was exposed to many cultures and their myths. Some, were bizarre enough to give me momentary pause. Great stuff though! I remember one myth about a type of vampire that's always female, has a head and guts but no body. It steals the bodies of young women and 'vacates' the current occupant rather gruesomely so that it can move about the country-side getting it's blood meals. Man, that is waaaaay scarier than the standard vampire fare! I wouldn't have known about it unless I had been to the Phillipines. I do believe the answer to your question doesn't stem from your, 'White-guyness' (put that in Wikipedia.) It is my opinion that the offering of the world's 'complete' palate of mythos are not presented en masse to American readers/audiences. Now, the stuff is definitely out there. You just have to be of a mind to look for it. If you wait for the major publishing houses or film studios to present these things to you, you'll be a waitin'. Your mention of the 'Imaro' books sound familiar, but I'll have to investigate it further. Now, I'm not about to get on a 'diversity' rant. It's just that I've experienced similar 'over-saturation' with European-based fantasy and S&S. One thing I loved about the Robert E. Howard Conan books was Conan's immersion into the foreign countries he went to. Though I have read no mention of REH travelling abroad, he had the feeling of being in an 'alien' culture down. For me, the best way to overcome my jaded attitude was to look at stuff from foreign countries. So, restrain from 'beating yourself about the head and shoulders'. You are in the same spot most folks are in. Hey, even my travels to Europe turned up some stuff I never heard of! In Greek Mythos there is a monster called a 'tooth-mother'. Imagine a beautiful young woman who can seduce the weak-willed is actually immortal and will reveal her 'bite' is far worse than her bark when you enter her 'heavenly-gate'. Ouch.

Oh, and thanks for inviting me into your circle. If you haven't seen THE GRAY MAN webpage, please do so. If you'd like, I'm sure I can wrest a book for you from the clutches of my merchandise manager.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 28, 2007 12:20:08 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 28, 2007 12:28:44 PM PDT
Greg says:
Gray Man- I'd be honored, big-time and I'll definatly check out your site. You got me to check out Kane who has become one my favorites after all.

That's some really interesting stuff! I envy your worldliness. I'll have to spring that vampire legend on a Philippine buddy of mine. He picks on me for being a back-woods hillbilly and I pick on him for running around barefoot and climbing trees. So we're always looking for ammo to use against each other.:) (wait a sec.. hillbillies go barefoot too,, that's not good)

I think that was one of the truly amazing things about REH. From what I can read, he didn't venture far from Texas and was still able to describe with such richness other places and cultures.

Welcome to the circle.. We'll have to start a "syndicate" or something. :)
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Initial post:  Jun 24, 2007
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