East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Heroic or not?

Turns out a debate opened, on Facebook or thereabouts, two days ago, about the fact whether Howard’s Conan stories are sword & sorcery or heroic fantasy.
Because that’s an important thing, you see.
To some.

I was not present when the thing started, but apparently a friend referring to Conan as sword & sorcery caused somebody’s knicks to get in a twist.
Which is interesting, because everything started from a discussion about Fritz Leiber (him again), and we all know – or should know – that the label of Sword & Sorcery was coined by Leiber when Moorcock asked him about a tag for “the sort of fantasy stories Robert E. Howard wrote”.
It was 1961, the venue was the fanzine Amra.

So, the point should be moot, and yet… is there a difference?

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Coming soon-ish: The Heart of the Lizard

There is one thing that can really make things look up even on a cold rainy day, when you are writing for a living, and that’s being asked by your publisher how many more stories in the same series can you write, per year, should the first one you just delivered be a success.

The obvious answer being “as many as you need,” of course – but in the meantime you feel real good because you know you’ve done a good job.

It happened to me a few hours ago, three days after delivering The Heart of the Lizard, my first (hopefully, of many) tie-in novella for Andrea Sfiligoi’s 4 Against Darkness fantasy solo roleplaying game, set in the gaming world of Norindaal.

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An earthier kind of fantasy

Swords_and_Sorcery-anthologyI’ve been involved in a lot of talk, in the past weeks, about Sword & Sorcery and the definition thereof, and what makes S&S different from Heroic Fantasy and blah blah blah.
The subject is dear to my heart as I like S&S, and I both read and write it.
And as luck would have it, hot on the heels of that discussion I got a contract for a number of S&S shorts (yeah!!)1 – so it turns into a matter close to my bread-winning activities, too.

But do we really have to undersign a standard definition?

I still love the definition provided by Glen Cook (an author I love) in an old piece on the SFSignal Blog:

I see Sword & Sorcery as a species of proletarian fiction. The heroes are working class guys, within the context of the story and mores of the time when it was written. They are guys who get stuff done but you would not want them in the drawing room for high tea because they smell bad, break things, and leave bloody messes all over. Despite their class, or lack thereof, they are not much into progressive politics, seeing that sort as easy meat.

This one works fine with me, and while I am not much for definitions it was one of the bits I had in mind when I started writing Aculeo & Amunet. Continue reading

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Other People’s Pulps: Segrelles

When I was a kid, I did not read fantasy.
OK, I did read the Arabian Nights, Alice in Wonderland, and a few books of folk stories and fables, but when it came to novels, I was a science fiction reader since the tender age of ten, with a side interest in mysteries (and I still am, actually, mostly a SF reader).
Fantasy was basically old sword & sandal movies, and little else, to me and my friends.

The very first time I realized there was this genre of fiction featuring warriors and monsters and beautiful, scantly-clad women in strange exotic locales, was when I discovered the works of Spanish painter and comic artist Vicente Segrelles, and his character, The Mercenary.


I was fourteen or thereabouts. The age of discovery.
For me, Segrelles came before Frazetta, and Buscema, and Adams, and Alcala, and Robert E. Howard.
I saw his paintings, and I was hooked for life1. Continue reading


Eating the Dragon

51upa6Uj-OL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I’m having lots of fun reading “Heroika – Dragon Eaters”, a massive, highly entertaining collection of fantasy stories edited by Janet Morris and published by Perseid Press.

I like very much the central concept of the anthology – collecting stories in which men (and sometimes gods) pit their strength, spirit and wits against the power of dragons.
This is a welcome return to stories in which the dragon was the adversary, an expression of power hostile (or alien) to our mindset and civilization.
After so many stories of good dragons portrayed as an endangered species1, it’s good to have the dragon back as the bad guy.

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