Sunday, April 25, 2021

A wall of S&S

I'm currently in the final stages of a basement office/bar renovation that will yield me a retreat worthy of the Gods. This lengthy project, which left me without ready access to any of my books, is finally wrapping up, allowing me to spend some time unboxing and reshelving my small arsenal of S&S and other titles.

I decided to devote one bookcase entirely to sword-and-sorcery. Or mostly. There's a few odd books of mythology mixed in here, some Tarzan and sword-and-planet, old swashblucklers and historical fiction, etc., but mainly it's a wall of S&S coming right at you. Click on the photo to zoom in and revel in its greatness, if you enjoy such things (I know I do).

Behold the wall! Fear the wall, mortal dog!



Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Sometimes you get lucky: An S&S haul

Sometimes you just get lucky.

I managed to acquire this haul for free, from a very nice gent who was selling his home, moving across the country, and didn't want to be bothered hauling boxes of books with him. This was someone who said they had 75 S&S books to give away, but I was thinking I might be wasting 2 1/2 to 3 hours on a round trip drive, if the "S&S books" turned out to be fat fantasy/Harry Potter/etc. 

Instead, it turned out to be a jackpot. I told the dude that rest assured, his books were going to a good place.






Presented here for your viewing pleasure.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Gateways to sword-and-sorcery

Monster Tales! 
What are yours?

I have many fond memories of youthful reading. When I was in elementary school I was enthralled with the likes of Fire-Hunter by Jim Kjelgaard, Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe (abbreviated/illustrated version), and was engrossed/entertained/scared shitless by Monster Tales: Vampires, Werewolves & Things. I'm still looking for a reasonably-priced copy.

With the benefit of hindsight I realize that these books were leading me, inevitably, toward sword-and-sorcery. Barbaric/pre-historic heroes. Warfare. Monsters and the weird. Throw into a bubbling cauldron and you get S&S. Soon I would find The Savage Sword of Conan, and my path was fixed. But I was already leaning heavily in that direction.

My gateways to sword-and-sorcery are here at Tales from the Magician's Skull. 

Friday, April 16, 2021

Flame and Crimson in Xuthal: Innsmouth Book Club Podcast is up

As mentioned on my last post, I was recently invited to guest on the Innsmouth Book Club podcast. That recording is now up; you can listen here (note: the podcast is hosted on Patreon but you don't have to be a patron to listen).

I have to say I was probably at my relaxed best; I had a lot of fun with this show. I spent a fair bit of my time on my childhood memories of what got me into S&S. I also relayed a story of the time I visited the abandoned Danvers State Hospital, one of the eeriest experiences of my life. I do after all live in Lovecraft country, a long stone's throw from the historical Innsmouth, Newburyport MA.

The two hosts were great and a lot of fun, and were well-read and asked some good questions that allowed me to ramble. It's amazing that you can just hop on a Zoom call and shoot the shit for an hour with two like-minded dudes from Britain. What a world.

The first 30 minutes or so are the two guests talking about Xuthal of the Dusk, with me joining later.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Some swordly-and-sorcerous goings-on, and guest appearances

If you want to get invited on a podcast, the thing to do is to write a book (it's that easy! Well, not the writing of the book part, which is rather hard). Then apparently you have become an authority, or a quasi-celebrity, instead of an average boring dad who likes to read about men stabbing monsters, and each other, during his spare time.

Tomorrow I will be serving as guest on the UK-based Innsmouth Book Club, a podcast which covers HPL, CAS, REH, and other like authors. The hosts will be covering "The Slithering Shadow"/"Xuthal of the Dusk," then I'll be on to talk S&S more broadly. Little do these guests know I live within a stone's throw of the historical Innsmouth, Newburyport MA. And have seen Deep Ones (or maybe they were just drunk bar patrons ... who knows).

Next month I've been asked to guest on a new show called Unknown Worlds of the Merril Collection, with the episode to appear sometime this summer.

I've also been told that a podcast episode I did with Robert Zoltan on the Literary Wonder & Adventure Show last June is nearing 2K views. Check that out here.

Among the reasons I love to write is that it allows me to express my true and actual voice, which due to a combination of natural introversion (I definitely recharge in solitude, away from people) and mild social anxiety is far easier for me to do in the written word than in conversation. That's why I've resisted starting a podcast myself. I fear I'm not very glib, or interesting. Just interested in certain things, like S&S and heavy metal, if that makes sense.

I hope I can deliver something of value to these programs. Even against my natural inclinations I'm leaning into the apprehension and doing my part to spread the gospel of sword-and-sorcery.

On the writing side of things, I recently had published an academic essay, "From Pulps to Paperbacks: The role of medium in the development of sword-and-sorcery fiction," in The Journal of American Culture. The publisher is the Wiley Online Library and it's behind a paywall, but if you're interested and/or have library or other free access, you can find it here. One of my discoveries during the research and writing of Flame and Crimson was that sword-and-sorcery was shaped as much by medium as by the idiosyncratic contributions of individual authors. That's what this essay is about, covering the role of pulps, magazines and fanzines (in particular Amra), and mass-market paperbacks, on how sword-and-sorcery came to be. It was done on a very tight deadline after Jason Ray Carney, editor of The Dark Man, asked me to fill in for someone else who had to bail last minute, and so it relies on much material from Flame and Crimson. But the focus is more squarely on the medium, not the authors. I do hope it opens up S&S to some academic-types and other cultural observers.


Friday, April 9, 2021

Man of Sorrows, Bruce Dickinson

If you're an Iron Maiden fan but have not given Bruce Dickinson's solo albums a listen, you're behaving in a criminally irresponsible manner. Please fix that.

Exhibit A; this is not even accorded one of Dickinson's better solo songs, but it's one that showcases that one of a kind voice that is the Air Raid Siren. "Man of Sorrows" (from Accident of Birth, 1997) is far more soulful and personal than we'd see on the likes of Piece of Mind, but Bruce belts it out with verses that soar.

Enjoy. Happy (metal) Friday.



Friday, April 2, 2021

Queen of the Black Coast, Manilla Road (and REH, too)

Did Robert E. Howard influence heavy metal artists?

Does a bear shit in the woods?

Among the many things I love about sword-and-sorcery are that its tentacles are everywhere, including some places you might not expect. Like the lyrics of a heavy metal band formed in 1977 in Wichita, Kansas.

Take a listen to "Queen of the Black Coast," off of 1982's Metal (aside: can an album name get more metal than Metal? Like Spinal Tap, it gets none more black than that). Many metal bands including early Black Sabbath appropriated fantasy and demonic imagery, while other bands incorporated sword-and-sorcery whole cloth into their music:


These dudes aren't everyone's cup of tea and probably never made to the metal mainstream (though they were close with 1983's Crystal Logic) due to Mark Shelton's odd singing voice, and esoteric subject matter. Shelton can be jarring at first, but he grows on you, and Manilla Road has hooked me deep. The REH content is icing on the cake.

I love this tune, and this story, and the fusion of old stories influencing subsequent artists in different mediums. And even though Manilla Road is gone with the death of Shelton, the bard's songs continue.

Spoiler alert.