Sword & Planet

Discussions of what is and what is not Sword & Sorcery can be a thorny proposition. On the one hand S&S is largely no different than epic Fantasy (ala Tolkien) except in scope or tone. On the other side is a branch of Science Fantasy known as Sword & Planet, and to many is called […]

POUL ANDERSON: THE INVISIBLE CLASSIC

Sometimes great books come and go, waiting for another chance to be discovered and given the place on our bookshelves they truly deserve. Sword & Sorcery is no exception. In 1951, Poul Anderson wrote what was a labor of love, a Fantasy based on the mythology of his ancestors, the Scandinavians. The book was called […]

L. SPRAGUE DE CAMP 2 HYBORIAN TIMES

As mentioned in an earlier post, L. Sprague de Camp attempted to turn Sword & Sorcery down a logical, Science Fictional route (ala John W. Campbell’s Unknown) with his Pusadian stories, but in this he failed largely because of his other activities in Fantasy: the Gnome Press release of Conan in hard cover. Gnome Press […]

SWORD & SORCERY & J. R. R. TOLKIEN

In September 1937 an English Don named John Ronald Reuel Tolkien published a children’s book called The Hobbit. Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan, had been dead for fifteen months. In 1950 Gnome Press published the first Conan stories in hard cover. July 1954, Tolkien begins publishing a second version of his mythology, but […]

PUSADIAN REWRITE: L. SPRAGUE DE CAMP 1

Two things happened in 1950. One: L. Sprague de Camp read his first Conan story. And two: L. Sprague de Camp would try to direct Sword & Sorcery down another track altogether. Those two don’t really make much sense. Didn’t L. Sprague de Camp become the editor/posthumous collaborator of Robert E. Howard? It went something like […]

CROM THE BARBARIAN: THE FIRST TRUE S&S COMIC

Comic strips were the only game in town in the 1930s but these strips were eventually collected into omnibuses that lead to the standard comic book. Heroic Fantasy was slow to appear in  the “four-color format” but tales of the glorious past were not. In 1937, Hal Foster exploded in the newspapers with Prince Valiant, […]

JACK VANCE: VISIONS OF A DYING EARTH

After the last few S&S works of the early 1940s, such as “Dragon Moon” by Henry Kuttner and the short-lived Unknown, Sword & Sorcery lost steam. With Robert E. Howard dead for five or more years, Heroic Fantasy became a thing of the past with only the occasional Edmond Hamilton Weird Tales fantasy or anomalies […]

NORVELL W. PAGE: WAN TENGRI – PRESTER JOHN

While Fritz Leiber was creating a boisterous style of Sword & Sorcery based upon E. R. Eddison and James Branch Cabell, Norvell W. Page wrote two novels that seem on the surface to be closer to Robert E. Howard and his Conan series. But only to those who do not look closely. Norvell W. Page […]

FRITZ LEIBER: SWORD & SORCERY GROWS UP

In 1939 Farnsworth Wright began a move away from Sword & Sorcery. With Robert E. Howard dead, he no longer championed the dark fantasy tale, publishing Henry Kuttner’s Elak as the last. This meant that Fritz Leiber, who had written horror stories for Weird Tales, was not welcome with his new series, this featuring two […]

BLUE PENCILS AND BLOODY SWORDS: EDITORS OF S&S

It’s easy to discuss authors for their contributions are evident. You just have to read the stories. The great editors are harder to corral, for the editor’s job is one of selection, guidance, subjective acts that may be hard to understand in hindsight. (For instance, all those men and women who rejected Dune by Frank […]

NOT QUITE SWORD & SORCERY: EARLY FANTASY

Robert E. Howard may have invented Sword & Sorcery with the first King Kull tale, but he was not the only author working with the raw materials of heroic fantasy. We have already mentioned C. L. Moore and her Jirel of Joiry stories, which were published at the same time as Conan. There were other […]

The James Allison Stories: Dreaming of the Past

Robert E. Howard produced several series: Solomon Kane, Kull of Valusia, Bran Mak Morn, and finally Conan the Cimmerian, all existing more or less in the same world at different times. In “Kings of the Night” (Weird Tales, Novembr 1930) he tied Kull with Bran Mak Morn through magic, as he did Turloguh o’Brien and […]

Jirel of Joiry: Sword & Sorcery’s First Lady

Circumstance plays a part in history. It was inevitable that a woman would eventually try her hand at Sword & Sorcery. It’s our good fortune that C. L. Moore was writing for Weird Tales in the 1930s. Leigh Brackett would have been the next logical choice, but she didn’t rise to prominence until the 1950s, […]

Conan the Cimmerian: Sword & Sorcery Superstar

When many people hear the words “Sword & Sorcery”, they immediately think of Conan. He might be Robert E. Howard’s original, or the L. Sprague de Camp/Lin Carter pastiche Conan, the Marvel Comics Conan of Roy Thomas, or sadly, the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Conan. No matter which they think of, there is good reason for […]

Dark History: Bran Mak Morn

Robert E. Howard, more than anything, wanted to sell to Adventure Magazine. This publication of the Buttrick Co. was considered by many the best Pulp of all the hundreds of cheap magazines published between the 1920s and 1950s. It featured writers like Talbot Mundy, James Francis Dwyer, Rafael Sabatini, H. Bedford-Jones, Arthur Howden Smith, Arthur […]

Of Shadows and Serpent – The First Sword & Sorcery Tale

When people think of 1929 they usually recall the Great Depression and “Black Tuesday” (October 29th). I prefer to think of it as the year Sword & Sorcery was born. For S&S, like its greatest hero, Conan, was a child of the Great Depression. But the first tale was written before the darkness fell over […]

Sword & Sorcery – What’s In A Name?

Sword & Sorcery has become a term of derision since the 1980s. There are good reasons for this but much of that derision is out of ignorance. The barbarian baby has been thrown out with the Hyborian bath water. This blog will outline the history of S&S, its major players, its ups and downs, and […]