Today I’ll mix nostalgia with hype, if you don’t mind.
When I was a kid, say 15 years old, I discovered Robert E. Howard and Conan the Barbarian through the Italian editions of the Lancer Books collections edited by Lyon Sprague de Camp.
My first was Conan the Adventurer, and I was hooked.
Also, I decided this was the sort of stuff I wanted to read, and possibly to write.
The little hardback book had a wonderful dust jacket (by Dutch artist Karel Thole), and it came with a gorgeous map of the Hyborian world.
Then there was a fun introduction by Italian critic and translator Riccardo Valla, and then the stories.
And each story was introduced by a snippet of text by L. Sprague de Camp, providing some sort of continuity to the series.
After escaping from Xapur, Conan builds his Kozaki and pirate raiders into such a formidable threat that King Yezdigerd devotes all his forces to their destruction. After a devastating defeat, the kozaki scatter, and Conan retreats southward to take service in the light cavalry of Kobad Shah, King of Iranistan.
It was fun, it gave me a sense of history.
Now, the Lancer collections organized Conan’s stories according to an internal chronology, but it is a well known fact that Howard did not write the Conan stories in chronological order.
When I started working on the second Aculeo & Amunet story – after the good results of the first tale – I decided to follow a more chronological development, so that The Hand of Isfet actually takes place roughly two weeks after the events of the first story.
Or it should take place, because I found writing it very hard going.
Having briefly despaired of ever capturing the magic again, I decided to take the only logical course in such a situation – I started writing other stories about my characters, set well before, and well after, the events in Bride of the Swamp God.
The results were a very short vignette, called Mirror of Amunet, which works as a prequel to Bride, and takes place when Amunet was about six or seven, and a longer piece, as yet without a definitive title (it’s currently called Something of the Something Something), taking place about one year after Bride.
Both stories clicked perfectly with a minimum of fuss – the longer piece needed some rewriting on the finale, but apart from that, one was finished in two evenings, and the other took five days after New Year’s Eve.
And I’m quite surprised at how nicely the three pieces, distributed along a span of about fifteen years, hang well together.
There is a sense of history.
And now, despite the new story still lacking a title and being in the hands of my long-suffering beta readers, I can feel this deep, cultured, elegant voice going on in my head, reading me a Lyon Sprague de Camp-ish snippet providing some continuity to my series…
Having survived their Mediterranean adventures, Aculeo and Amunet leave Tarsus and the agents of the Cult of Isfet behind, and ride north into the Caucasus, seeking a safe place in which to winter. This is the bailiwick of the Twelfth Imperial Legion – Duodecima Fulminata…
Hell, wouldn’t it be nice to have Sprague de Camp providing continuity for my stories!
Now the least I can do is get me a map…