Sword, Sorcery, Likes, Dislikes and Recommendations

Discussion in 'Fantasy / Horror' started by Paul Lamontagne, Jan 29, 2009.

  1. Bob Gray

    Bob Gray Registered User

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    You sound like the opposite of me, I don't think my recommendations would suit you. I loved all of The Dark Tower but the last three books are my favorites, no one can out-Lovecraft Lovecraft, I absolutely love the Wheel of Time series as well as The Name of the Wind. Lieber and Moorcock are on my TBR list so I can't comment on them and perhaps I will come to love them more than LotR but I doubt it, it holds too special a place in my heart.
     
  2. Rob B

    Rob B \m/ BEER \m/ Staff Member

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    Then why even bother responding? The original poster (who unfortunately hasn't stopped by here in a while) asked for a specific recommendation. If you can't recommend what he's trying to find, what's the point?
     
  3. Bob Gray

    Bob Gray Registered User

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    The same reason you're making a comment I would suppose, to be a part of the conversation, to add your two cents. That is what a forum is about right?
     
  4. Rob B

    Rob B \m/ BEER \m/ Staff Member

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    My comment was as a moderator keeping the discussion focused and on topic.

    That being said, I'll break out the Randy M. and Bob Gray posts into another (likely Horror Recommendation) thread
     
  5. Garet Jax

    Garet Jax Wishful writer of fantasy

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    One of my recent likings was The Graveyard Book by Gaiman. Well-crafted tale deserving of its awards. So it's a liking and a recommendation.

    I have the first Fafhrd book at home, so I'll be excited to read it in the near future based on everyone's high recommendation of the series.

    Dislikes were Goodkind and Fitzpatrick. Couldn't finish either one of them.
     
  6. Rob B

    Rob B \m/ BEER \m/ Staff Member

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    Great book, but not sword and sorcery.
     
  7. s271

    s271 Repudiated Ursus

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    Wot, no one mentioned Throne of the crescent moon by Saladin Ahmed yet?
    It's definitely S&S and it's good.
     
  8. pytricc

    pytricc Registered User

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    I've been on a Swords and Sorcery kick for the past few years now, so I've de-lurked after low these many years to contribute what I can to the discussion.

    The original poster seems to have gone the way but there was some definite overlap in our tastes, so hopefully those with similar tastes will find this helpful.

    First, some foundation:

    I'll start by going back to Lord Dunsany and recommending his short stories, and specifically the collection The Sword of Welleran and Other Stories (1908). Add in James Branch Cabell's picaresque Jurgen, A Comedy of Justice (1919) to see the origins of the modern rogue.

    Next, since you mentioned Cornwell, Chabon, et al., I'll point you to Conan Doyle's Sir Nigel (1906) and The White Company (1891), Dumas' The Three Musketeers (1844) and virtually anything by Rafael Sabatini; I'm a fan of Bellarion the Fortunate (1926) but more popular titles include Captain Blood (1921), Scaramouche (1921), and The Sea Hawk (1915). Is it worth noting that Fritz Leiber, Sr. had a role in the film adaptation of The Sea Hawk?

    I'm going to invoke the Clarke's Third Law ("Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic") and add in the Barsoom books of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

    Fans of S&S should know and revere these authors the same way Hammett and Chandler are revered by the mystery crowd. Although their works span a large spectrum, I don't think S&S as we know it would exist without them.

    But of course, that brings us to the authors we do revere: Howard, Leiber, Smith, Lovecraft. I don't think there is a strong Sword and Sorcery tradition without those four. Some other, slightly later writers who are sometimes overlooked, like C L Moore and Leigh Brackett. Still later writers like Karl Edward Wagner and Michael Moorcock.

    My favorite is probably Jack Vance, and he's the main reason for this long post. His Dying Earth stories combine the best elements of the tradition with his own unique style. The Cugel stories in particular are just a joy for me, as a fan of the (sub-)genre. I couldn't let this thread stand without throwing in the strongest recommendation for his work. No Sword and Sorcery bookshelf is complete without it.

    That said, I think Vance represents a little of why it's so hard to recommend specific modern Sword and Sorcery authors. I think writers are combining elements from different traditions, and not focusing on fitting into any particular niche. So modern novels contain glimpses of that past tradition, but they're not trying to adhere to it. For what it's worth, I do think we're beginning to see a resurgence of Sword and Sorcery's appeal and influence.

    I've gone on long enough, so I'll wrap this up now.
     
  9. Hobbit

    Hobbit Now.. A Seriously Likeable Administrator Staff Member

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    Nice post, pytricc: pleased you've taken the plunge.

    Must admit I agree with all of your post, though I'm not quite as enthusiastic of Jack Vance's Dying Earth as a lot of people seem to be. Think I prefer the Shadow of the Torturer series.

    But like all these, I agree with you that people should at least try him.

    Mark
     
  10. pytricc

    pytricc Registered User

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    You raise an important point Hobbit.

    Gene Wolfe would be a great example of someone who has advanced the tradition of S&S in more recent years. I assume you mention him because of his acknowledgement of Vance's influence on the Severian books. From an interview with theologian James B. Jordan in 1992:

    Another modern author who deserves a mention is China Mieville, for his high-octane blend of fantasy and the weird tale.

    And while we're at it, some gross oversights in not listing authors: In the same category as Lovecraft, Robert W. Chambers, William Hope Hodgson, Algernon Blackwood, and Edgar Allen Poe. In the historicals section, add Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir Walter Scott.

    While I don't think S&S can claim them, I think Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast books have definitely had an influence on later writers, such as Moorcock, Wolfe and Mieville.

    In with the 50's/60's crowd, Poul Anderson for Three Hearts and Three Lions and The Broken Sword.

    Finally, (at least until I have another bout of forehead slapping,) I think that Sir Terry Pratchett deserves a mention for being a satirist working in the genre. Particularly his earlier work drew far more from S&S than from any other fantasy tradition.
     
  11. Hobbit

    Hobbit Now.. A Seriously Likeable Administrator Staff Member

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    Yes: that wasn't clear, was it? :rolleyes:

    Must also be said that there's 30 years difference between the two, so really the Gene Wolfe should be a development, really, shouldn't it? But I was thinking of their similarity and that Wolfe's is indeed connected in that way.

    The number of authors who have been inspired by the Dying Earth though is pretty impressive: as the list from the recent George RR Martin collection Songs from the Dying Earth shows, including Neil Gaiman, Tad Williams, Elizabeth Hand, Tanith Lee, Dan Simmons, Robert Silverberg, and George R.R. Martin!

    Mark
     
  12. pytricc

    pytricc Registered User

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    I would like to add Matthew Hughes to your list. His contribution to the Songs anthology was note perfect. Just absolutely spot on. I haven't read any of his Archonate books, but a certain "Hugh Matthews" has written a Pathfinder tie-in novel, Song of the Serpent, that sounds very much like a tribute to Vance and more specifically, Cugel. I have something of an irrational aversion to tie-in books but Matthew Hughes writing a Cugel story? Pre-ordered, and June can't come soon enough.

    And while we're crediting Vance with inspiring so many, I would like to join Wolfe in acknowledging Vance's debt to Smith: Zothique is clearly the inspiration for the Dying Earth, and The Door to Saturn (1930) although a Hyperborea tale, can easily be read as the first Dying Earth story, right down to the dialogue:

    To contribute more to the original topic of the thread:

    Preceding all others, and uniting many of these authors (Stevenson, Dunsany, Lovecraft, Smith, among others) under one acknowledged influence: The One Thousand and One Nights.

    Some other modern writers: Tanith Lee (Flat Earth books), Glen Cook (Black Company books), and David Gemmell (Drenai books).
     
  13. s271

    s271 Repudiated Ursus

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    If we go deep Le Morte d'Arthur precede Arabian Nights translation. Le Morte d'Arthur, preceding it chivalric romances (and also city trickster literature) had probably even more influence on the modern fantasy. That's not counting all the huge body of worldwide myths available to contemporary authors.
     
  14. Hobbit

    Hobbit Now.. A Seriously Likeable Administrator Staff Member

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    There are two fairly recent new translations of 1001 Nights and Morte that are pretty good.

    Mark
     
  15. pytricc

    pytricc Registered User

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    I think you're right that the reprints of Le Morte that appear throughout the 19th century must have had some influence (as would Lady Guest's The Mabinogian and Lord Tennyson's Idylls of the King,) particularly on some of the more romantic writers, such as Scott, Doyle, and Stevenson. But the key word there is "romantic."

    Part of what I see in Sword and Sorcery is a rejection of the Romanticism of the 19th century. Sword and Sorcery would seem to grow more out of another aspect of 19th century Europe: Orientalism. We see a series of stories start to appear that eschew romantic chivalry; the protagonists are seldom noble in their actions, there is a greater appeal to the exotic with an emphasis on strange cultures and customs; the doings are darker, the challenges more mysterious , and we get a greater dose of mystic masters and monstrous creatures.

    Also, I especially invoked the Nights because writers such as Lovecraft, Smith, Poe, and Howard directly mention it as an influence or reference it in their work.

    I think there's a PhD thesis in the origins of Sword and Sorcery for someone willing to undertake the research. Someone not me, preferably.

    Once again, some additional recommendations:

    If you're interested in some older texts I highly recommend the new translation of Amadis of Gaul, Books I and II (1508). It's a hoot. (But take notes! I made the mistake of setting it aside for awhile, and I've completely lost track of which character is which.)

    Dungeon, by Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim
    A series of graphic novels set during three different eras, chronicling the creation of the titular Dungeon, the running thereof, and the eventual destruction (along with the whole world.) And the authors are just getting warmed up. Steeped in S&S elements, I don't see how this could be classified as anything but. And as near as I can tell, this is their first mention here on SFFWorld. An injustice now corrected.
     
  16. Contrarius

    Contrarius You talkin' to me??

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    pytricc -- I'm lovin' your posts, please keep them coming!
     
  17. s271

    s271 Repudiated Ursus

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    IMHO Arabian Nights had equal influence on romanticism, like Beckford's Vathek and more, so it's in the foundation of all speculative fiction, not only S&S. And I don't think that Sword&Sorcery is a rejection of the romanticism. It's more like synthesis of romanticism and cynical picaresque novel (like Simplicius Simplicissimus by Grimmelshausen). Heroic romanticism definitely present in S&S. Cross Lancelot with Simplicius and you get Fafhrd, Merlin with Reynard the fox and you get Grey Mouser :)
     
  18. pytricc

    pytricc Registered User

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    I see your point, to an extent. I should have confined my comments to the Romantic concept of chivalry. There are definitely some elements of the Romantic hero in the heroes of our Sword and Sorcery tales. I do not see much in the way of chivalry, however. Personally, I see more of the Byronic hero (en route to the Anti-Hero, and showing his roots in the Gothic villain), and while all Byronic heroes are Romantic heroes, not all Romantic heroes are Byronic heroes. Feel free to discuss that amongst yourselves; I'm moving on because I feel like I'm getting a little too pedantic here.

    Of course, the best we could hope for --if we tried to talk to Conan about "romantic" or "byronic", (or "heroism" for that matter)-- would be a snarl. I think we all have sufficient imagination to picture what the worst outcome would be. Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser might let us have our conversation, as long as there was plenty of wine and we were buying. Oh. And Fafhrd as Lancelot? I don't see it. Fafhrd has always seemed a cross between Eric Brighteyes and Conan to me. See what I did there? That's right, we're back to recommendations!

    Eric Brighteyes (1891) by H. Rider Haggard. Haggard in general, not so much for his writing, but for his themes and his great setpieces. This particular book holds up better than most of his others.

    Tros of Samothrace (serialized 1925-1926, published in book form 1934) by Talbot Mundy. Absolutely a big influence on Howard.

    Seconding Vathek (1786) as a great, great addition to the recommendations list. Big influence on Lovecraft and CAS.

    And we could do a whole post on the picaresque tradition. I've never read Simplicissimus, but I see there's a new translation (2006) available so I think that might finally be going on my own list. Any others that you recommend?
     
  19. Contrarius

    Contrarius You talkin' to me??

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    In case anyone is interested: Eric Brighteyes, The History of Caliph Vathek, The Adventurous Simplissimus, The Mabinogion, Idylls of the King, and 1001 Nights are all available at Project Gutenberg. I didn't have any luck searching by title, though, so you might want to stick with author/translator searches (use Sir Richard Burton for 1001 Nights).

    edited to add -- I also found: The Sword of Welleran and Other Stories, Jurgen, The White Company, Sir Nigel, and bazillions of books by both Dumas and Sabatini, but oddly enough NOT Bellarion (I can't see it there, anyway).
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2012
  20. s271

    s271 Repudiated Ursus

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    Simplicissimus is a must read for anyone with interest in history, military history, history of literature and history of speculative fiction. It's a gem. It also show some very non-trivial differences in mentality of 17c person and modern - it's very instructive for the fun of Science Fiction.
    Other picaresque or nearly picaresque - you likely have read Boccaccio, Chaucer and Don Quixote by Cervantes. From the later period another nearly fitting the genre The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Fielding.
    There isa huge trove of picaresque novels in middle age Chinese literature, of all periods. It's very accessible (with good translation) and , IMHO ironically more easy for modern reader than European middle-age literature. I have read them in russian translation - there was a monstrously powerful eastern study school in russian academy before the fall of soviet union. So I'm not sure what exactly available in English translation.
    My favourite is The unmasking of the deity - 17 century novel where inspector of magistrate("yamen") investigate the theft of the jewelled belt by someone pretending to be a god. Using methods very similar to that modern police using. Exotic weapon, sparse clues, struggling with magistrate superiors who want to close investigation as soon as possible. And of cause the first question - is the criminal really a god, merely a sorcerer or someone else?
    This is the cover of the russian translation:
    http://www.24aul.ru/large/634/3173226.jpg

    BTW I'd love to see modern remake of The unmasking of the deity or other middle age Chinese city novel. We had two very successful Arabian nights remake lately, why not Chinese? :)
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2012