Tanith Lee as Sword and Sorcery Writer

Sunday , 31, May 2015 3 Comments

tanith-leeA week ago, Tanith Lee passed from this mortal coil at age 67. It is a shock as 67 does not seem old in this day where hitting 90 is almost commonplace.

Tanith Lee has been a fixture of fantasy and horror as long as I have been reading those genres. She was part of that generation of fantasy and horror writers who came of age in the 1970s. She was one of the stars of D.A.W. Books. She graced many of the fantasy anthologies of the late 1970s to mid 1980s.

A friend of mine considered Tanith Lee to be the Clark Ashton Smith of our time. Lee straddled horror, fantasy, and science fiction, as did Smith. As a woman, you get the inevitable comparisons to C. L. Moore but I think that is fair comparison as Lee often wrote in a lush style with erotic elements. Lee could be more upfront than what Moore could get away with in the 1930s.

Tanith Lee had a good command of language told in a unique prose style. What I likedAmazons about her is she never seemed to have a gender agenda. She just wanted to tell a good story. There was never a fake masculinity with her female protagonists. Her male characters were portrayed across the moral spectrum.

The Birthgrave and Wars of Vis series were intelligent modern versions of sword and planet vision. These were not slavish imitations of Edgar Rice Burroughs but something different.

The prime example of her sword and sorcery is the Cyrion series. The stories originally appeared in magazines and paperback anthologies.

Cyrion

The Murderous Dove      Heroic Fantasy, D.A.W. Books, April 1979

A Hero at the Gates         Shayol #3, Summer 1979

Perfidious Amber            Swords Against Darkness V, Zebra Books, Nov. 1979

One Night of the Year    Other Worlds 2, Zebra Books Jan. 1980

Cyrion in Bronze              Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Feb. 1980

Cyrion in Wax                  Dragonfields #3, Summer 1980

A Lynx with Lions           Cyrion, D.A.W. Books, Sept. 1982

Cyrion in Stone                Cyrion, D.A.W. Books, Sept. 1982

Swords Against Darkness II
Some other fantasy stories by Tanith Lee appeared in the following publications:

Odds Against the Gods                       Swords Against Darkness II, Sept. 1977

In the Balance                                      Swords Against Darkness III, March 1979

Deux Amours d’une Sorciere             Swords Against Darkness IV, Sept. 1979

The Third Horseman                         Weirdbook 14, June 1979

Northern Chess                                   Amazons!, D.A.W. Books, Dec. 1979

When the Clock Strikes                     Weird Tales 1, Zebra Books, Dec. 1980

The Sombrous Tower                        Weird Tales #2, Zebra Books, Dec. 1980

The Dry Season                                   Flashing Swords #5, Dell Books, Dec. 1981

Mirage and Magia                               Hecate’s Cauldron, D.A.W. Books, Feb. 1982

Southern Lights                                  Amazons II, D.A.W. Books, June 1982.

Heroic FantasyYou get the idea. Charles Saunders, Richard L. Tierney, David C. Smith, and David Drake were providing the more blood and thunder stories while Lee was providing the exotic fare.

Lee continued to produce steadily all through the past 30 years. More recently she had stories in the anthologies Swords & Dark Magic and The Mammoth Book of Warriors and Wizardry. She provided among the few stories worth reading in those two books.

Farewell Tanith Lee. You gave us some great stories.

3 Comments
  • John R. ultz says:

    The story that introduced me to Tanith–and made me a lifelong fan seeking out her books wherever I could–was “The Sombrus Tower”, which I read when it was reprinted in Marvin Kaye’s WEIRD TALES: THE MAGAZINE THAT NEVER DIES (1988). That led me to the FLAT EARTH books and everything else. She was the greatest of storytellers.

  • The story that introduced me to Tanith–and made me a lifelong fan seeking out her books wherever I could–was “The Sombrus Tower”, which I read when it was reprinted in Marvin Kaye’s WEIRD TALES: THE MAGAZINE THAT NEVER DIES (1988). That led me to the FLAT EARTH books and everything else. She was the greatest of storytellers.

  • Cirsova says:

    I almost picked up a Tanith Lee book on Saturday. I’m sad that I didn’t, but I was on a limited budget and was already shocked to have found another Fritz Leiber book and a cheap hardback of Stanislaw Lem short stories.

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