Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cimmerian sighting: "Fantasy” a worthy entry in Anderson’s canon

While others seek the passageway to elven realms in vain, Poul Anderson throws wide the gate to let his readers enter into wonder … Anderson is a “literalist of the imagination.” He makes what is magical real and what is real magical. Of such power is poetry born.

—“An Invitation to Elfland,” Sandra Misesel, from Poul Anderson’s

Poul Anderson gets a lot of love around these parts, and with good reason. While I can’t speak to his metric ton of science fiction, he’s written a lot of great fantasy novels, including Three Hearts and Three Lions, and the Nordic-flavored War of the Gods, The Broken Sword, and Hrolf Kraki’s Saga. All of these are worth finding and reading.

But Anderson also wrote some excellent short stories. I have a couple of his collections and will vouch for the excellence of Fantasy (1981, Pinnacle Books, Inc).

Belying its vanilla title (Fantasy? Was Pinnacle Books considering Men with Swords as an alternative?), Fantasy is actually a wide-ranging, eclectic group of short stories that includes “soft” sci-fi (debatably fantasy) stories, a handful of essays, including a satirical non-fiction look at the sword-and-sandal brand of fantastic fiction (“On Thud and Blunder”), and a few excellent traditional fantasy tales.

To read the rest of this post, visit The Cimmerian Web site.


David J. West said...

I just recently read "On Thud and Blunder" last month or so, but it was in Offutt's 1978 collection Swords Against Darkness III. I'll have to keep an eye out for this one too though, I always like having another good short story collection.

Atom Kid said...

I bought a copy of "Fantasy" as well as "Broken Sword" at my local used bookstore. I had just read "Three Hearts and Three Lions" and wanted more Poul Anderson, but they are still on my to read list.

Have you read the Y's series?

Pericles said...

As good as Anderson's fantasy was, his science fiction is even better.

Whatever genre he wrote in, he deserved more acclaim than he got.

Eric D. Lehman said...

Three Hearts and Three Lions! Thanks for bringing that back to the surface of my mind. I'll have to give that a reread soon.

Barad the Gnome said...

In addition to the previously mentioned Three Hearts and Three Lions, and the Nordic-flavored War of the Gods, and The Broken Sword, I also own The Avatars, There Will Be Time, The Winter of the World, and Orion Shall Rise. I discovered Anderson first when I was heavy into SF, and was pleased to see he did fantasy also. There are not too many authors of whose work I own seven or more titles.

I have always wanted to read Thud and Blunder but never located it. I will have to look harder or 'borrow' it from my scribe's library.

Brian Murphy said...

David: Yes, definitely worth tracking down, especially in this day and age when the norm is multi-volume epic fantasy. Sometimes you just want a short story!

Atom Kid: I'd start with The Broken Sword, it's better than Fantasy and Three Hearts and Three Lions. No, I haven't read the "Y's" series.

Pericles: Good to know, I have mixed feelings when it comes to SF, but I may have to give Anderson's a try.

Eric: No problem, if the only thing this post generates is one more person interested in Anderson, I'm happy with that.

Barad: I'm happy to loan you my copy!

Andy said...

Damn, I had this in my hand a few months back when the local library was getting rid of it. For some stupid reason I put it back and bought a few other things.

Rowdy Geirsson said...

I wish more of Anderson's Norse works were easy to find/in print. I've read War of the Gods, The Last Viking trilogy, and Mother of Kings and enjoyed them all immensely, but have never been able to find The Broken Sword, Kraki's Saga, or this collection of short stories. I'd love to read these.

Though more of a historical fiction like the Cornwell Saxon series, The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson is a great Viking adventure for anyone who likes such things. NYRB Classics is coming out with a new edition of it later this spring so it might hopefully soon be easier to find.

But that was a tangent. This is a great blog, glad to have stumbled upon this place that so appreciates Poul!

Brian Murphy said...

Hi Rowdy, I'm glad you stumbled across my blog. Pull up a bench in the mead-hall.

Well, you and I have come at Anderson a little differently. I've read The Broken Sword and Hrolf Kraki's Saga, but not the Last Viking trilogy or Mother of Kings. War of the Gods was excellent.

You absolutely must track down copies of The Broken Sword and Hrolf Kraki's Saga. They're amazing works, and criminally under-read.

Thanks much for the suggestion on Bengtsson. I'm always looking for more stirring Viking stories.

I'll assume you've read Bernard Cornwell's The Saxon Stories. If not, get thee to a bookstore or library now, and start with The Last Kingdom. It will hit you like a blow from Thor's hammer.

Rowdy Geirsson said...

I will definitely be on the prowl for those two. I loved War of the Gods, but having seen what you have to say in your post about The Broken Sword, I must be really missing out on not having read it. I've read one of the translations of the Old Icelandic Hrolf Kraki's Saga and really enjoyed it, so can imagine how good Anderson's take on it is, though I'd definitely like to see for myself.

I've read the first three of the Saxon Stories. Sword Song is sitting on my shelf, glaring at me for being behind in my epic reading.