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Sword and Sorcery

What good sword and sorcery is being written these days?

I've always liked the sub-sub-genre of whatever larger sub-genre it's come from. Fantasy, heroic fantasy, high fantasy... shit, who can decide with all those labels out there? But I've always had a soft spot for it, even as it turns messy and slips into other sub-sub-genres like weird fantasy, or whatever. Think Moorcock's Elric. That's always been sword and sorcery to me. Of course, the father of it has always been, without a doubt, Fritz Leiber. Genre history even gives him the credit for coming up with the term sword and sorcery, which has always struck me as being unkind, since it's a horrible label to have in your legacy.

I like writing sword and sorcery. It's fun, but like pushing a cart of shit into the market when it comes to selling as short fiction. The current flavour of thinking is that it's out of favour with a lot of publications, which is their choice, but if you try your luck with a few you can receive such intelligent rejections as, "What a well written and interesting story. It's a shame you're wasting your time in this genre." It flows along with that mindset that says, "No elves!" as if the mere presence of an elf in a story was somehow the indication of trash. It's the equivalent of saying "No black people!" because of course, in speculative fiction, everyone knows that black characters are magical and wise and tell white characters what to do with their life. Elves are, I guess, the pointy eared (or winged) version of this. Never mind, of course, that neither have to be that character stereotype, but I guess it's also a point that there are enough unimaginative writers running around doing exactly that.

I've my own sword and sorcery series I've been messing around with, and I've sold four short stories for it. It also led me into doing some work for Gary Thomas' projects when he was at Cyberpulp, a dubious publisher when it came to royalties and the like, but Thomas has since moved to his own digs with RAGE m a c h i n e Books. Too early to tell how things will go from that, but the Magistria project kept me amused and might bring in a bit of a new audience, but only time will tell. It is, however, not what I'm looking for in sword and sorcery, and the series I've got hasn't appeared there. It appeared in Cat Sparks first Agog! anthology and I sold a couple to Ben Payne's Potato Monkey, but I stalled on the work about a year and a half ago with A Walking Tour of the Dreaming City taking up space and, to be quite honest, the general luke warm reception to the genre as a whole. I do it for fun, and when the work stops being fun, I just put it down for a while. It's always been the way with that sub-sub-genre.

Anyhow, I have the itch again, and a few ideas, but I also want to see what's being done out there, so if anyone knows of any interesting sword and sorcery being written (or something that might be it enough) list it down. Short stories, novels, I'm not fussed in it's form.

EDIT: Also, if you've any westerns, steampunk, and samurai fiction to recommend, that'd also be appreciative. I'm especially interested in seeing how westerns and samurai fiction work in good prose.


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May. 16th, 2005 01:12 am (UTC)
The Vlad Taltos books
by Stephen Brust are popular. Friends of mine like them, but I've never read them.
May. 16th, 2005 01:19 am (UTC)
Re: The Vlad Taltos books
yeah, i've heard of them. been going for a while, haven't they? i remember taking a look at them last time i got the itch, but being unable to find a starting point.
Re: The Vlad Taltos books - strangedave - May. 16th, 2005 04:08 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: The Vlad Taltos books - benpeek - May. 16th, 2005 04:20 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: The Vlad Taltos books - matociquala - May. 16th, 2005 04:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: The Vlad Taltos books - benpeek - May. 16th, 2005 09:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Re: The Vlad Taltos books - benpeek - May. 16th, 2005 10:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
Michelle West - dark_geisha - May. 16th, 2005 11:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Michelle West - benpeek - May. 16th, 2005 11:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: The Vlad Taltos books - benpeek - May. 16th, 2005 07:06 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: The Vlad Taltos books - strangedave - May. 16th, 2005 04:04 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: The Vlad Taltos books - benpeek - May. 16th, 2005 04:22 am (UTC) - Expand
May. 16th, 2005 01:16 am (UTC)
Not sure if it counts
but I love George RR Martin's "Song of Fire and Ice".

Not sure if it strictly qualifies.

Have you read Karl Edward Wagner's "Kane" books?
May. 16th, 2005 01:22 am (UTC)
Re: Not sure if it counts
martin's stuff doesn't do much for me, and i've read a bit of one of his fantasy novels (it was a free excerpt thing) but i wasn't grabbed.

i haven't read the kane stuff. i saw it was reprinted by nightshade last year, but i wasn't sure about the cost. are there cheaper editions around?
Re: Not sure if it counts - jack_ryder - May. 16th, 2005 01:28 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Not sure if it counts - benpeek - May. 16th, 2005 02:18 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Not sure if it counts - jack_ryder - May. 16th, 2005 02:48 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Not sure if it counts - benpeek - May. 16th, 2005 10:58 am (UTC) - Expand
May. 16th, 2005 05:40 am (UTC)
Not that you know me, but...
Elizabeth Haydon's Symphony of Ages is good. Don't know if it fits exactly with what you mean by sword and sorcery, but it is good.
May. 16th, 2005 06:52 am (UTC)
nah, haydon is a bit heroic fantasy/high fantasy. young boys and girls, despotic rulers, armies, destiny, that sort of stuff. sword and sorcery tends to be outside that, and focus on a dirtier sense of fantasy, where there's no real destiny, and most of the characters are of the anti hero fare. loners, that sort of thing.
May. 16th, 2005 05:42 am (UTC)
"The Anubis Gates" and "The Stress of Her Regard" by Tim Powers (the second one isn't strictly steampunk but is a historical SF novel - whilst gliding through the fantasy and horror genres as well.

"Infernal Devices" by KW Jeter

These are all fairly old - I've obviously got to catch up on my reading!
May. 16th, 2005 05:43 am (UTC)
Re: Steampunk
have a problem closing brackets today.

Use these ones - ))
Re: Steampunk - benpeek - May. 16th, 2005 07:01 am (UTC) - Expand
May. 16th, 2005 07:35 am (UTC)
glen cook's black company series served well during my days of suffering from diablo 2 withdrawl symptoms. they're not the world's best written books but they portray the gritty world of sell-swords and endless fighting well enough.

May. 16th, 2005 11:01 am (UTC)
what about something you stand by?

i did have a look at the cook book (the first one). that opening page with portents and lightning 'smoting' the ground... man, that was harsh stuff to go through. appears to find an even shape the next page with its narrator, but i'm looking for that special stuff. the stuff that is doing something people aren't seeing elsewhere.
May. 16th, 2005 10:09 am (UTC)
I haven't read it, but the only non-'New Weird' I'd consider reading in the near future is new Thomas Covenant book.

Actually, I wouldn't mind catching up on Guy Gavriel Kay either, because his Fionavar Tapestry is great Tolkeinesque/Arthurian(?) fantasy, and I'm told the other ones (in a variety of cultures) are also very good.
May. 16th, 2005 10:48 am (UTC)
neither of those books are what i'm really looking for though, are they?
(no subject) - ashamel - May. 16th, 2005 11:11 am (UTC) - Expand
May. 16th, 2005 01:43 pm (UTC)
Lois Mcmaster Bujold's The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls.

Each book is actually self-contained, so you don't have the issue that often happens in the fantasy series books; the concept of demons is pretty well thought out; and Bujold provides intellectual mind-candy, if that is a term we can use, although we probably can't.

There's a third book coming out in the series, but it hasn't appeared in the States yet.
May. 16th, 2005 02:07 pm (UTC)
i just read the description for that book on amazon. it mentions princesses in need of new tutors, court intrigue and romance. you wish to torture me, don't you?
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - May. 16th, 2005 02:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mariness - May. 16th, 2005 02:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - May. 16th, 2005 10:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - May. 16th, 2005 09:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mariness - May. 17th, 2005 12:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mariness - May. 16th, 2005 02:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 16th, 2005 03:57 pm (UTC)
Black Gate is difficult to find, even in the US, but it's a good market for sword and sorcery.

C.J. Cherry's The Paladin is sort-of samurai fiction--it's an alternate world without much magic in it, but it has the whole training of the girl to take revenge thing.

Western fantasy using some Celtic myth: Midori Snyder, The Flight of Michael McBride.

This is NOT new, but did you ever read Roger Zelazny's The Changing Land? It's an ironic take on the genre.
May. 16th, 2005 10:02 pm (UTC)
cool, thanks.

i was up on BLACK GATE. it's an awful market to submit too due to it's long turn arounds, but it's the top sword and sorcery market out there. (though i'm not interested in submitting to it, at least not at the moment. this idea'll take a while.)

thanks for the head up on the zelanzy book. i haven't read it (appears out of print and published in the early eighties), but i'll see if i can track it down.
(no subject) - oracne - May. 17th, 2005 12:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - therck - May. 17th, 2005 03:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - oracne - May. 17th, 2005 03:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - May. 17th, 2005 10:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 16th, 2005 04:03 pm (UTC)
Carol Berg has written some Very Large fantasy books that I think of as sword and sorcery, though for your purposes they might verge more on fantasy epic...not sure. Anyway, there's an excerpt of her new one up at her website, so you can have a look to see if it's anything you'd like:

May. 16th, 2005 10:05 pm (UTC)
thanks again. had a flip through. it's a bit on the other side of what i'm looking for.

the covers remind me of romance novels for some :)
May. 16th, 2005 05:18 pm (UTC)
Eragon, by Christopher Paolini : http://www.randomhouse.com/teens/eragon/

Written by a young man as he was finishing high school, this story has now become a trilogy. It is passable fantasy / sword & sorcery fare, and I can tell that video games are starting to have a larger influence on other pop culture. Christopher doesn't write anything new, but still manages to create characters you can care about and a hook that will bring you back for book two, and ultimately three.

Bought it for my son, read it myself, and I'd recommend it to anyone who likes light sword and sorcery stuff. Reminds me a bit of the Black Cauldron and the much more popular Pern books.
May. 16th, 2005 10:08 pm (UTC)
oh no.

not that boy. no. it's not happening. also, it's not sword and sorcery. but ultimately: not happening. i'd rather pour acid over my eyes.

thanks for the suggestion, though :)
(Deleted comment)
May. 16th, 2005 10:14 pm (UTC)

thanks for dropping by. i'm familiar with the green and feist and wurts books. with the latter all i did was read the first one and then ditch out. don't think i lasted it all--but then, feist himself has never done much for me. the green stuff isn't bad.

i'll have a look round for the salmonson books, see if they're what i'm looking for.
May. 16th, 2005 06:46 pm (UTC)
Hmmm. I've enjoyed two trilogies by K.J. Parker in recent years - the "Fencer" trilogy, Colours in the Steel , Belly of the Bow , and The Proof House , and the Scavenger trilogy, Shadow , Pattern , and Memory . Gritty and "realistic" fantasies, and it is clear that Parker knows his/her stuff when writing about weapons, armour, and battles.
May. 16th, 2005 10:19 pm (UTC)
hey, cool, thanks for that.
May. 16th, 2005 07:55 pm (UTC)
Here by way of yhlee.

In terms of samurai fiction:
Lian Hearn's Tales of the Otori trilogy. Technically, that's more ninja fiction that takes place in a fantasy land based on historical Japan. I enjoyed the first novel, but the second and third were not up to par, IMHO.

Takashi Matsuoka's A Cloud of Sparrows and Autumn Bridge, which mostly take place during the twilight years of the samurai. They jump back and forth in time -- in Autumn Bridge especially -- but the main storyline is set during the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate, when Japan has opened its doors to the West. A Cloud of Sparrows also features a gunslinger (or two), so you could say there's a bit of Western in there too. The prose in Autumn Bridge is more polished, but Matsuoka writes with this sly humor that's fabulous.
May. 16th, 2005 10:28 pm (UTC)
hey there. thanks for stopping by.

i'm familiar with the hearn stuff. she's actually also a young adult author called gillian rubenstien--not sure on the last name spelling. she wrote a book called SPACE DEMONS. it was a big thing growing up here in australia.

didn't know about the other author though, so thanks.
(no subject) - dark_geisha - May. 16th, 2005 10:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - May. 16th, 2005 11:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
also - dark_geisha - May. 17th, 2005 01:49 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: also - benpeek - May. 17th, 2005 03:39 am (UTC) - Expand
May. 17th, 2005 01:44 am (UTC)
robert e. howard.
his stories of conan, bran mak morn, and kull are STILL defining works that rank among the best sword and sorcery fiction.
also, leiber's 'lankhmar' books and karl edward wagner's 'kane' stories and novels.
May. 17th, 2005 03:43 am (UTC)
yeah, i'm familar with all but the kane stuff.
(no subject) - lokust - May. 17th, 2005 03:46 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - May. 17th, 2005 03:55 am (UTC) - Expand
May. 17th, 2005 03:47 pm (UTC)
I don't know if it's necessarily good sword and sorcery, but there was that shared world anthology Thieves' World, from the early 1980s. Twelve books, a number of related single-author books and stories, and it's been recently revived. If you've never seen them, you might want to chase down a couple. I rather enjoyed them when I was a teenager, so take that with a grain of salt.
May. 17th, 2005 10:28 pm (UTC)
yeah, i read the original stuff back when i was a teenager as well. haven't read the new stuff yet, but for research purposes that may indeed happen, you know?

thanks for dropping by. if you don't mind me asking, has someone been tossing a link around to this? lotta new people here.
(no subject) - jonhansen - May. 18th, 2005 01:59 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - May. 18th, 2005 02:06 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jonhansen - May. 18th, 2005 02:27 am (UTC) - Expand
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