Sunday, July 17, 2011
Whenever I'm working on a particular type of story, I find my mind stays focused better if I only read things in the same genre, or genres as the case may be. So while I was working on Sailing to Darkness I was reading mostly horror and sword & sorcery. Fortunately for me, two books I'd ordered that fit the bill for both genres had arrived on Wednesday night. In an odd coincidence both were short story collections by David Drake. John Hocking had recommended Balefires, a collection of Drake's supernatural fiction written early in Drake's career, when he was working under the influence of Manly Wade Wellman, Robert E. Howard and the Weird Tales gang. The other book, recommended by Jim Rockhill, was Vettius and His Friends, which contains all the historical sword & sorcery stories Drake wrote about the Roman soldier Vettius and his friend, the merchant Dama, as well as some unrelated supernatural historical fiction. There is some crossover, since a few of the Vettius stories appear in Balefires.
I actually managed to read a couple of the Vettius stories before either book arrived, because once Jim mentioned it, I dug back through my anthologies, figuring I probably had some of the stories somewhere. I found three, one in The Year's Best Horror Vol VII and two in Andrew Offutt's Swords Against Darkness anthologies. This kind of thing happens a lot. Back when I was introduced to Karl Edward Wagner's Kane in the Kane/Elric crossover The Gothic Touch, I was able to find several Kane stories in various anthologies I already owned. That's the good thing about owning a lot of books.
I have to admit that I was a little dubious, however, about what I would think of Drake's stories, since my last attempt at reading one of Drake's fantasy novels hadn't gone well. I needn't have worried. Even as I read my first Vettius story, Nemesis Place, I knew I was into some good stuff. Tightly written dark fantasy with a Roman setting. I've read one more since, entitled Black Iron. Both stories were very fine, but I've put the book aside lest I read all the stories back to back. So far the stand-out tale for me in Balefires is Lord of the Depths, a very creepy little tale, which Drake says was inspired by REH's Queen of the Black Coast. I didn't see much similarity, but I guess he meant the overall feel of the story. I still have quite a few stories left however.
I was also in the mood for some Cthulhu mythos stuff, though not for Lovecraft's fiction itself. So I dug out Cthulhu 2000 and The Children of Cthulhu, a couple of anthologies from a decade or so back and reread a few stories from those. Also read some stories in Ramsey Campbell's collection, Ghosts and Grisly Things.
I plan to read James Enge's Morlock story The Red Worm's Way this evening, finishing out my weekend reading of horror, sword & sorcery, and dark fantasy.