People have asked me what fiction I would use for a sword and sorcery anthology. I made it known in an earlier blog post that I found Tachyon Press’ The Sword & Sorcery Anthology wanting in terms of contents. I will tackle first of what I would use for an introductory anthology. Say Scholastic Book Service or some other publisher was to contact me to put together an anthology of sword and sorcery fiction as an introductory volume. I would probably want the book in mass-market paperback form. Trade paperbacks would contain more but considering the university press origin of the trade paperback, we would want the earthy origins of sword and sorcery fiction reflected in presentation.
Cover– I would probably want Steve Hickman or Charles Keegan to do the cover. Hickman is good at capturing the exotic background of sword and sorcery fiction.
Robert E. Howard – Black Colossus Weird Tales, June 1933
Clark Ashton Smith- The Charnel God Weird Tales, March 1934
C. L. Moore- Hellsgarde Weird Tales, April 1939
Henry Kuttner- Spawn of Dagon Weird Tales, July 1938
Fritz Leiber- The Howling Tower Unknown Fantasy Fiction, November 1940
Michael Moorcock- The Stealer of Souls Science Fantasy, February 1962
Karl Edward Wagner- Two Suns Setting Fantastic, May 1976
Charles R. Saunders- The City of Madness Dark Fantasy, July & October 1974
Richard L. Tierney- The Blade of the Slayer Pulse Pounding Adventure Stories #1, 1986
David Drake- Dragon’s Teeth Midnight Sun, Summer-Fall 1975
Robert E. Howard– If you intend this book as an introduction to the genre, you have to have Conan present. You don’t see “Black Colossus” ever used in an anthology. It is what call a “pocket epic” with one of Howard’s classic battles.
Clark Ashton Smith: Again, “The Charnel God” does not seem to get picked up for anthologies. One of his Zothique stories, it is classic Smith.
C.L. Moore: “Hellsgarde” has been reprinted in anthologies. It is the last Jirel story and one that sort of broke the mold of the earlier stories. Moore was somewhat repetitious with plot in Weird Tales. “Hellsgarde” is the beginning of a new era were Moore with and without Henry Kuttner took it to the next level.
Henry Kuttner: “Spawn of Dagon” is one of his Elak of Atlantis stories which Kuttner meant as a send up of the wandering swordsman story. The Lovecraftian elements are upfront and center in this story. The Prince Raynor stories are darker in tone. I would gladly substitute either of the Prince Raynor stories for “Spawn of Dagon.”
Fritz Leiber: I am a fan of the earlier Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser stories over later ones such as “Lean Times in Lankhmar.” Leiber’s stories in Unknown were lean and mean.
Michael Moorcock: We jump two decades now. There were sword and sorcery stories dressed up as planetary adventure in the pages of Planet Stories but that is the subject of another imaginary anthology. Moorcock supposedly wrote the Elric series as a form of satire though I am not getting the humor. This is a typical Elric adventure. Moorcock said somewhere this story was “pornography.”
Charles Saunders: He gave us a black African sword and sorcery character. Saunders inverted the lost race tale in this one. This is possibly the best Imaro story.
Richard L. Tierney: One of his Simon of Gitta stories written for one of the Cryptic Publications chapbooks. Simon of Gitta meets Kane.
David Drake has gone on to a very successful paperback career in science fiction. He is best known for military science fiction but he was a great writer of hard-boiled sword and sorcery once upon a time. The Vettius and Dama series goes to show what can be done with well researched historical periods.
David Gemmell was the man who single handedly saved sword and sorcery in the 1990s when it all but died. He was a paperback writer, he wrote very few shorter pieces. This is a story of Druss earlier in his career.
Were there things left out- most definitely. Roger Zelazny’s Dilvish stories are honorable mention. David C. Smith had some great sword and sorcery stories in the small press and he was one of the more successful writers in the genre.
Like I said, this would be an introductory volume for you to buy for your fourteen year old nephew or friend who reads classic science fiction.
To really do this right, a multi-volume series of books covering chronological periods that would allow more detail is needed. That will be a topic of discussion in time.