Friday, July 20, 2012

Six Sword & Sorcery Stories You May Not have Read

Over at his blog The Silver Key, my pal Brian Murphy has posted a list of six somewhat obscure sword & sorcery stories. I mean, everybody has read Tower of the Elephant and Black Gods Kiss. Brian has served up a list by folks like David Drake, Henry Kuttner, and Lord Dunsany, writers the average reader may not immediately associate with S&S. Brian's article is also posted at Black gate Magazine (I'll provide a link at the bottom of this post.) and there he asks for further suggestions of Sword & Sorcery short stories.  I'm going to follow Brian's example and offer a half dozen that some of you might not have read before.

Demonsong by F. Paul Wilson

This nifty little story actually sets Wilson's six volume Adversary Cycle in motion. It introduces his hero Glaeken and his seriously bad villain Rasalom. Wilson has made Demonsong available as a free e-book, so it's easy to come by.

The Master of Crabs by Clark Ashton Smith

   Once upon a time I was fairly insistent that Clark Ashton Smith had never written a real sword & sorcery story. It was my friend Al Harron who convinced me to give some of the stories another look, and I finally admitted that a few of them do qualify as S&S. It was The Master of Crabs that really did it for me. it has swords, sorcery, and a couple of stalwart heroes. The lack of strong heroes was what had made me disqualify several other CAS stories that other folks had labeled S&S. This one's been reprinted quite a few times and it's online here:

The Blade of the Slayer by Richard L. Tierney

This is my favorite of Tierney's short stories about his historical sword & sorcery hero, Simon Magus. It also has a surprise guest star. This may be the most difficult one on the list to track down. It appears in the Simon Magus collection The Scroll of Thoth, which is pretty expensive these days.

The Sustenance of Hoak by Ramsey Campbell

   A tale of Campbell's wandering swordsman Ryre, this manages to be not only a first rates S&S story, but also a creepy as all get out horror tale, as one would expect from Ramsey Campbell.

The Dweller in the Temple by Manly Wade Wellman

   The second of Wellman's five stories about the last survivor of Atlantis, the minstrel-warrior Kardios. Sort of a Sword & Sorcery version of John the Balladeer, but with more direct action. This story and the Ramsey Campbell tale mentioned above appeared in the first two volumes of the Swords Against Darkness anthologies.

Slim and Swede and the Damned Dead Horse by C. Dean Anderson

   This is the most recently published of the stories on my list. It appeared in Cross Plains Universe, a collections of stories in tribute to Robert E. Howard published in 2006. Trust me, you've never read one like this before.

That's it. Six wild and wooly S&S tales that you may not have read. here's a link to Brian's article. Check it out.


Brian Murphy said...

Nice, thanks for sharing these Charles. I've been eyeing purchasing a copy of Campbell's S&S stories for a while now--I find his horror fiction either a puzzling flop, or among the best in the genre (some of his stories unsettle like few I've ever read, and they're always atmospheric). The best S&S is typically infused with some element of horror and the weird, I've found.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

I definitely agree, Brian. I think the best sword & sorcery has horror at its heart. Campbell's Ryre stories are all well done, though one does have a bit of that 'what tha'? feeling to it.

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing.