The Pulp Swordsmen: Owan of Atlantis

Sunday , 31, May 2020 1 Comment

There are some Poul Anderson stories never reprinted in book form. Last week, I posted about the new collection Swordsmen from the Star from DMR Books collecting three of Poul Anderson’s swashbuckling sword-and- super-science stories from Planet Stories. I began working on a post on various stories by Poul Anderson and how to fit them together into hypothetical anthologies.

One story I was thinking of that I never really read is “Goodbye, Atlantis!” This story is from Fantastic Stories of Imagination, August 1961. Cele Goldsmith aka Cele Goldsmith-Lalli was editor for both Amazing Stories and Fantastic starting in 1958. Amazing and Fantastic had been rather bottom level magazines for around a few years in the 1950s under the editorship of Paul Fairman. Goldsmith took over and slowly improved the contents of both magazines.

“Goodbye, Atlantis!” features Owan. He is the captain of the guard for Donwirel, Marchmaster of Isteth. The capital city located on the small island of Usant off the coast of the mainland is under siege from rebels. The regent for the underage king has an archpriest with Donwirel helping to research a way to defeat the rebels.

There is skullduggery with Owan drugged by Donwirel and an imposter henchman taking his uniform and armor. Donwirel is going over to the other side with plans on the new weapon.

Donwirel’s lovely young wife, Rianna and her maid revive Owan. They prevent Donwirel’s escape exposing him to be a traitor.

Govandon the Archpriest has a use for Donwirel. He will be a sacrifice to summon the gods for aid. The sacrifice does summon the gods, but it does not turn out how Govandon thought it would. The gods are gigantic brains with metal faces.

Quick thinking Owan gets the hell out of there with Rianna on a boat just in time as the gods sink the mainland, lift up Usant and throw it into an oceanic trench.

There is not much space to develop much character for Owan. He is the good-guy, loyal, and quick thinking. An interesting part of the story is the main weapon used is the ax and not the sword. Owan carries a javelin in addition. Anderson has a nice little ax fight with the imposter.

Anderson has a few touches of science. The Atlanteans are using some cruse steam engines. The have impressive engineering skills with a 50 floor tower with elevators.

A letter from a reader complained the story read like a reject left over from Planet Stories. I read the letter first which lead me to track down the story as that piqued my interest. This is not top-tier Poul Anderson but still interesting Poul Anderson. Maybe it was written in the early 1950s and finally found a home a decade later. My guesstimate is the story runs around 10,700 words.

This might be as close as Anderson ever got to H. P. Lovecraft. Dealing with the Norse gods was always a tricky thing in his fiction. This one is gods are not what you think and should not be summoned. These gods are probably alien entities.

Anderson gives the characters pseudo-Celtic names instead of Greek sounding names which is not the norm when writing about Atlantis.

“Goodbye, Atlantis!” was reprinted in Thrilling Science Fiction, June 1974 but never in book form. The original appearance of the story and the reprint are accompanied by two Virgil Finlay illustrations. One was used to accompany Robert E. Howard’s “Shadows in the Moonlight” in the anthology Swords & Sorcery (Pyramid Books, 1963).

One Comment
  • Bies Podkrakowski says:

    Thanks. Found it at the archives.org.

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