A Hypothetical Anthology

Sunday , 30, August 2015 7 Comments

weird_3306People 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.

Contents:

Introduction

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

David Gemmell-           Druss the Legend            Drenai Tales, 1991
This would be a good size paperback but not a huge doorstopper. The contents are very much by core writers.weird_3807

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.

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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.”

Karl Edward Wagner: The Kane story “Undertow” always gets anthologized so I decided to go with something less well known. One wishes Wagner Fantastic_7605wrote more Kane stories but Jack Daniels won out.

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.

7 Comments
  • Chuck Gatlin says:

    Hard to argue with any of these choices. I’d say one of the Pusad tales (maybe “Ka the Appalling”?) by De Camp might represent the 1950’s.

  • Morgan says:

    I did think about de Camp. This was meant as an introductory volume of core material, so he did not make the cut. At the end of the day, L. Sprague de Camp on his own is not a canonical writer. I will be coming up with period anthologies and one of de Camp’s Pusad storie will probably be included for the 1950s.

  • John Mayer says:

    It’s a volume I’d love to have, except that I hate to see Drake included in a volume with Wagner. Not, specifically, though, because of the quality of his writing, though the work of his I HAVE read was pretty ham-handed.

  • Richard Simms says:

    The earlier vintage stories you have chosen for your imagined anthology look good to me. I think “The Charnel God” by Smith is a fine choice, I like his Zothique cycle tales. Good to see Kuutner and Moore in there. other contenders for such a book, to my mind, would be Manly Wade Wellman and Nictzin Dyalhis. I also feel Leigh Brackett and Basil Wells would be worthy of inclusion, though the stories they wrote that had swords and sorcery elements probably fall under the planetary romance category, as you noted.

    • Morgan says:

      Those authors you mention such as Dyalhis and Wellman would be included in a multi-volume series with each volume covering roughly a decade. I do have a Planet Stories imaginary anthology in my head.

      • Richard Simms says:

        I had thought that Dyalhis and Wellman would be suited to a more comprehensive series covering several decades. Just a couple of other names to add to the mix.
        Your Planet Stories anthology idea makes me think of “The Best of Planet Stories” paperback anthology ed. by Leigh Brackett in the 1970s. There was only one volume, although two were planned. There is a goldmine of great stuff in Planet, enough for 10 or 20 volumes I would say. Oh, and my father also once said that the earlier Fafhyd and Gray Mouser stories were better than the later ones. I think authors tend to lose their focus and edge when writing a long running series. With the exception of E. C. Tubb – his Dumarest novels are all excellent!

  • Cro-Magnon Man says:

    Difficult to disagree with the aptness of your suggestions. Any dispute can only boil down to personal preference. Speaking for myself I’d cheerfully eject the Leiber as I’ve always had a blind spot where his work is concerned. My loss – so everyone tells me – but I can live with it. I’d probably substitute a lesser known Moorcock too, maybe “The Last Enchantment”. And I’d find the space to crowbar in Adrian Cole’s “The Shadow Navigator”. Not only is it an excellent and unreprinted tale, but it provides a natural bridge between Moorcock’s Dark Ship of Eternal Champion avatars and Cole’s current resurrection of proto-barians like Elak.
    Oh, and a Dave Madison Marcus & Diana story would get in there too. For no other reason than that they’re brilliant.

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