Leonard Nimoy, RIP.

Phil Friel:

I rarely keep up with the celebrity news, so I got a real shock when I read this on Dayton Ward’s excellent blog a wee while ago. I’m sitting here stunned, in tears. I’m gutted. Totally gutted.

Even though Leonard Nimoy was old and in pretty bad health, and this sad news should come as no great surprise to anybody, I’m still gutted. He was always my favourite Star Trek character, and more than any other actor/character in TOS, he epitomized the whole ethos of Trek for me. Star Trek has always been a major part of my life, ever since I watched its first run on UK television as a starry-eyed eight year-old back in 1969-1970, and Spock was always the main man for me.

Leonard Nimoy may once have written a book titled “I am NOT Spock”, but, as far as I’m concerned, he IS and always WILL be Spock. No disrespect intended to Zachary Quinto or any other talented newcomers who try to fill Nimoy’s huge shoes, but the man is irreplaceable.

Live Long and Prosper my friend, wherever you may be.

Originally posted on The Fog of Ward:

The New York Times and numerous other media outlets are reporting that Leonard Nimoy died earlier this morning at the age of 83. Our thoughts today are with his family and friends.

NYTimes.com: Leonard Nimoy, Spock of ‘Star Trek,’ Dies at 83

StarTrek.com also has a very nice tribute to Mr. Nimoy, chronicling his extensive career on the stage, television, and the silver screen as well as his writing, poetry, and other pursuits:

StarTrek.com: Remembering Leonard Nimoy, 1931-2015

Last year, after he had become a regular, active presence on Twitter, he announced that he was suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and he attributed this to his years of smoking. Mr. Nimoy gave up the habit decades ago and even allowed his image to be used by the American Cancer Society to promote smoking cessation programs. I still have one of the posters from back in…

View original 372 more words

THE COMPLETE ADVENTURES OF LUCKY STARR by Paul French (Isaac Asimov)

Last time out, I listed some of the SF novels that I picked up recently, among them two of Isaac Asimov’s Lucky Starr juvies that he wrote back in the 1950’s under his Paul French pseudonym. Well, that set me to searching for the only single-volume omnibus of all six Lucky Starr novels, which I found on Amazon. It’s quite hard to come by, being out-of-print, and quite expensive. But I took the plunge and bought it, and it arrived by mail in double-quick time.

So what’ve we got? Let’s look at the details:

TITLE: THE COMPLETE ADVENTURES OF LUCKY STARR
AUTHOR: Paul French (Isaac Asimov)
CATEGORY: Novel
SUB-CATEGORY: Omnibus
FORMAT: Hardback, 701 pages
PUBLISHER: Science Fiction Book Club, in association with Doubleday & Co. Inc, New York, 2001
ISBN: 0-7394-1941-2

CONTENTS:

  • Introduction to the Adventures of Lucky Starr
  • Introduction to the Further Adventures of Lucky Starr
  • David Starr – Space Ranger (1952)
  • Lucky Starr and the Pirates of the Asteroids (1953)
  • Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus (1954)
  • Lucky Starr and the Big Sun of Mercury (1956)
  • Lucky Starr and the Moons of Jupiter (1957)
  • Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn (1958)

The reason for the two introductions is that the books were released in two volumes back in 1985, with a different introduction for each volume. So both introductions have been republished in this single volume. The introductions alone are very interesting, and give some nice insights into Asimov’s thoughts on his old juvies from a vantage point of thirty years later.

Asimov spends much of both introductions, explaining, almost apologizing for how wrong he got the planetary science in his novels. I found all of this very entertaining, but, in effect, totally unnecessary. He wrote those books according to the knowledge that science had in the early 1950’s, from telescopic observations of the planets, before the radar imaging and planetary probes of the 1960’s and 1970’s made that old knowledge totally obsolete.

Sure, the planetary science is in those books is wrong and way out of date. Hey, so what? All planetary science before the Mariner space probes and those that followed is hopelessly out of date. There are no oceans on Venus, and it is a boiling, poisonous, high-pressure inferno to outdo any religious visions of hell. There has never been any advanced life or civilizations on Mars, no canals, and only an extremely thin, cold atmosphere. Mercury does not keep one side only to the Sun, Saturn’s rings are radically more complex, and the lunar families of both Jupiter and Saturn are much larger than they ever suspected back then, and the lunar ecologies of both planets much more complex than they could ever have imagined.

But you know what? I don’t give a hoot. That kind of thing has never bothered me too much, any more than the “wrong” planetary science in the books of earlier “greats”. I just shunt these Lucky Starr stories into the same alternate solar system where all the mythical planets of great earlier writers reside. Asimov is in some great company there: Stanley G. Weinbaum, Edgar Rice Burroughs, H. G. Wells, Olaf Stapledon, Edwin Lester Arnold, C. S. Lewis, Raymond Z. Gallun, P. Schuyler Miller, Ray Bradbury, Clifford D. Simak, James Blish, Clark Ashton Smith, John Wyndham, Frederik Pohl, Cyril M. Kornbluth, Henry Kuttner, C. L. Moore, Leigh Brackett, Ed Hamilton, Theodore Sturgeon, Robert A. Heinlein and many, many other giants of the genre. These earlier solar system tales exist in their own little continuum, untouched by cold, hard, modern scientific facts. Nor should they be.

I first read most of these novels (all except Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus and Lucky Starr and the Big Sun of Mercury) way back in my early teens, usually on loan from local libraries. These were the classic NEL (New English Library) UK paperback editions, with those beautiful covers. Even now that I have the hardback omnibus, I still want to pick up those paperbacks in good condition, just for the covers.

I’ve been reading a little of the first novel in the series, and the writing holds up surprisingly well today. I think I’m going to really enjoy reacquainting myself with David “Lucky” Starr, Bigman and the rest in these fun books.

The Lost World (1960)

I was watching an old movie on Film4 on Sunday evening that brought back many good old memories for me. It was one of those oldies that I’d first seen way back when I was a kid, sometime during the first seven or eight years of my life, and is one that I hadn’t seen in many, many years.

The film in question was the second cinema version (1960) of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic 1912 novel The Lost World (the first version was the 1925 silent movie classic). The story involves an expedition to one of those “lost” regions of the world which were so popular back in the days before pretty much the entire world was explored and mapped. “Lost World” stories were very popular in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Lost civilizations in the jungles of darkest Africa and South America, beneath the sea, at the Earth’s core, indeed anywhere as yet unexplored, which could still harbour exciting adventures and unknown mysteries.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s story was originally published as a serial in the Strand Magazine during the months of April–November 1912, and it took an expedition of explorers and scientists to South America, and up into the deepest, most unexplored regions of the Amazon, to a previously undiscovered plateau, where dinosaurs and other extinct prehistoric creatures had survived and still thrived. There were also cannibalistic native humans, who proved to be more dangerous than the dinosaurs, and who had wiped out a previous expedition.

The 1960 film adapts the original novel very loosely, taking a lot of liberties. And it was produced by Irwin Allen, king of the cheap and cheerful (in other words, terrible) special effects. Huge chunks of stock footage were later lifted from this film and just plonked down wholesale into several of Allen’s 1960’s television series, notably Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Land of the Giants and The Time Tunnel. Irwin Allen was the biggest cheapskate ever in the history of sci-fi television and cinema. He’s right up there alongside Ed Wood and Plan 9 from Outer Space. :)

Did I mention that the SFX are dire? Even for 1960, the special effects are terrible, and, by comparison, the ancient 1925 silent version, with the legendary Willis O’Brien producing the effects, was far superior technically. And O’Brien’s dinosaurs were proper dinosaurs, too. The 1960 film? Dinosaurs? Don’t make me laugh. The “dinosaurs” were a bunch of iguanas, monitor lizards and a baby alligator, all with bumps and horns glued to them. “Triceratops” was the baby alligator. “Stegosaurus” was a monitor lizard. “Iguanodon” (a bipedal dinosaur) was a four-legged iguana lizard (Allen must’ve looked at the names and thought “Iguana = Iguanodon”). And worst of all, “Tyrannosaurus”, the most famous dinosaur of all, the fearsome alpha predator, was played by a four-legged monitor lizard with glued-on horns and fins (Tyrannosaurus was two-legged and had neither horns nor fins). Even as a seven or eight year-old child, I knew my dinosaurs, and found these pathetic attempts totally hilarious. Anyone over the age of five these days would be howling with derision.

After all that slagging off, what is there good that can be said about the film? Granted that it is pretty lame by modern cinema standards, most of the criticisms are on the technical and SFX side of things. There is still an old-fashioned charm to this old movie, and it is certainly fun to watch. And even the so-called “dinosaurs” are hilarious, in a rather pathetic (“they aren’t dinosaurs!”) way. But the biggest redeeming feature of the film is definitely the cast, which included a number of big names – Michael Rennie, Claude Rains (as the cantankerous and hilarious Professor Challenger, the real star of the film), David Hedison and Jill St. John. They all played their parts straight and extremely well, which most likely elevated the film to a higher rating than it should otherwise have received (in my book, at least).

But most of the attraction for me is certainly on a personal level, namely the life-long nostalgia effect that links me to this film. I saw it at a very early age and it left a lasting impact on me, which led to bigger, better things. It lead directly to me reading the vastly superior original novel shortly afterwards at about age eight or nine, just as seeing George Pal’s classic 1960 cinema version of The Time Machine had led to me reading the original H. G. Wells novel a year or so before reading The Lost World.

Watching The Lost World for the first time all those years ago, was one of those formative encounters that helped lay the foundations that made me the geek that I am today. The film may not have dated very well by twenty-first century standards, but it still holds that old charm and nostalgia for me, and I’ll always make sure to watch it occasionally on TV when it gets shown every few years.

New Telefantasy Books

The books have been rolling in (don’t they always – I need a bigger house), from Amazon.co.uk, Ebay.co.uk, and my regular comics and books supplier in the US. So I’m going to start listing the new stuff that has landed on my doorstep during the months September-December 2014, starting off with the books based on various telefantasy series, in this case, Doctor Who and Star Trek.

  • DOCTOR WHO: 50TH ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION – 11 DOCTORS 11 STORIES (trade paperback, Puffin Books, London, 2013, ISBN: 978-0-141-34894-0)
  • THE OFFICIAL QUOTABLE DOCTOR WHO: WISE WORDS FROM ACROSS TIME AND SPACE by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright (hardcover, Harper Design, New York, 2014, ISBN: 978-0-06-233614-9)
  • DOCTOR WHO: THE VISUAL DICTIONARY written by Neil Corry, Jacqueline Rayner, Andrew Darling, Kerrie Dougherty, David John and Simon Beecroft (hardcover, Dorling Kindersley DK, London, 2014, ISBN: 978-1-4053-5033-4)
  • BEHIND THE SOFA: CELEBRITY MEMORIES OF DOCTOR WHO edited by Steve Berry (hardcover, Matador, UK, 2012, ISBN: 978-1780882-857)
  • DOCTOR WHO: THE OFFICIAL ANNUAL 2015 (hardcover, Puffin Books, London, 2014, ISBN: 978-1-405-91756-8)
  • STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS – the official novelization of the film by Alan Dean Foster (paperback, Simon & Schuster, London, 2013, ISBN: 978-1-47112-890-5)
  • STAR TREK THE NEXT GENERATION: ON BOARD THE U.S.S. ENTERPRISE by Denise and Michael Okuda (hardcover, SevenOaks, London, 2013, ISBN: 978-1-78177-056-6)
  • NEW LIFE AND NEW CIVILIZATIONS: EXPLORING STAR TREK COMICS edited by Joseph F. Berenato (paperback, Sequart Organization, US, 2014, ISBN: 978-1-9405-8905-3)
  • STAR TREK: A COMICS HISTORY by Alan J. Porter (paperback, Hermes Press, US, 2009, ISBN: 1-932563-35-0)

That’s five Doctor Who books and four Star Trek books. So quite a nice haul.

The big DK coffee table book DOCTOR WHO: THE VISUAL DICTIONARY is very nice indeed, lots and lots of gorgeous pictures. The DOCTOR WHO: THE OFFICIAL ANNUAL 2015 isn’t quite as beefy or interesting as the big DK book, but each year wouldn’t be the same without the Doctor Who Annual. BEHIND THE SOFA: CELEBRITY MEMORIES OF DOCTOR WHO is an interesting little read, with over a hundred celebrity fans sharing their Doctor Who memories, as is THE OFFICIAL QUOTABLE DOCTOR WHO: WISE WORDS FROM ACROSS TIME AND SPACE, a nice, fat book of Doctor Who quotations, from all eras of the show.

But my favourite Doctor Who book of the bunch is DOCTOR WHO: 50TH ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION – 11 DOCTORS 11 STORIES, a big, beefy trade paperback of wholesome Doctor Who fiction. Eleven stories celebrating the 50th Anniversary of our favourite Time Lord, one for each incarnation of the Doctor. Eleven stories by eleven different authors, all of which has originally appeared as a series of ebooks earlier in 2013. Most of the names are not authors that I recognize, but I certainly know Neil Gaiman, Eoin Colfer and Alex Scarrow, who are big-name authors (well, Gaiman and Colfer are, but Scarrow has also had a few books published).

The large STAR TREK THE NEXT GENERATION: ON BOARD THE U.S.S. ENTERPRISE is another coffee table-sized book, although it’s a lot slimmer than the big DK Doctor Who Visual Dictionary. A nice book, packed with visuals of the Enerprise D, inside and outside, and its crew. The novelization of STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS is one that I picked up in a local bookshop. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have bothered, as I’m not a huge fan of the Star Trek reboot movies, but the author is Alan Dean Foster, who always does a great job on these novelizations. So I took a chance on this one.

But, as far as I’m concerned, the best of the Star Trek books are the two covering Star Trek comics. These two could’ve just as easily been covered along with the books on comics, but I’ve put them in with the telefantasy books, as they’re about Star Trek. As a fan of both Star Trek and of comics, I find the combination irresistible, and even more so since I’ve actually read most of these comics over the years, going right back to the Gold Key comics of the late-60’s.

STAR TREK: A COMICS HISTORY is a nice large-format softcover, full of lots of lovely colour pictures and choc-a-bloc with detailed information. NEW LIFE AND NEW CIVILIZATIONS: EXPLORING STAR TREK COMICS is a smaller format trade paperback, although over a hundred pages longer. Again, loads of great information, although the visuals are a bit disappointing (compared to the copious colour pics in STAR TREK: A COMICS HISTORY) as they are all black and white and there aren’t as many of them.

That’s the telefantasy books covered. Next time up, it’s some of the other stuff.

Some New and Old SF Novels

I’ve picked up a few books recently, so I’ll list them, a few at a time. Starting off firstly with the novels. Two new purchases from Amazon.co.uk, and two old/used books from local car-boot sales.

  • SATURN’S CHILDREN by Charles Stross (paperback, Orbit Books, London, 2008, ISBN: 978-1-84149-568-2)
  • NEPTUNE’S BROOD by Charles Stross (paperback, Orbit Books, London, 2013, ISBN: 978-0-356-50100-0)
  • PIRATES OF THE ASTEROIDS by Isaac Asimov (Paperback, NEL, London, 1973, first published by Doubleday & Co., Inc., New York, 1953, as LUCKY STARR AND THE PIRATES OF THE ASTEROIDS by Paul French)
  • OCEANS OF VENUS by Isaac Asimov (Paperback, NEL, London, 1974, first published by Doubleday & Co., Inc., New York, 1954, as LUCKY STARR AND THE OCEANS OF VENUS by Paul French)

The two Charles Stross books were bought new from Amazon.co.uk. These two books can be considered a pair, or loosely connected series, set in the same post-human “universe” (but many centuries apart) where humanity’s “children” seem intent on recreating the worst mistakes of both our dodgy societies and our nasty individual behaviour. Both novels can be classified as “thrillers”, set in the above-mentioned SF scenario.

The first book of the two, Saturn’s Children, is set within our solar system, only two hundred years after the death of the final natural human, whilst the follow-up novel, Neptune’s Brood, is set five thousand years later, and against an interstellar background, although constrained by STL travel and real physics. Both books are of the Hard(ish) SF/New Space Opera sub-genre of SF that I like so much, and Stross writes excellent New Space Opera fiction, so I’m pretty much guaranteed to enjoy them. I’ll leave commenting on the plots of either novel until a later date, as I haven’t read them yet.

The two Isaac Asimov novels are part of his “juvenile” or Young Adult (YA) SF&F Lucky Starr six-book series, written back in the 1950’s under his “Paul French” pseudonym (Pirates of the Asteroids is Book 2 in the series, and Oceans of Venus is Book 4). I read all of these books back when I was a kid, and they were an important part of my formative years as a young SF reader, leading me directly onto reading Asimov’s more adult SF works. As the series was written back in the Fifties, long before the first space probes gave us the first true images of our planetary neighbours, giving us a wonderful glimpse of one of those SF alternate “solar-system-that-never-was” continuums that fascinate me so much.

Unlike the two Stross novels, these two books are much older, used/second-hand copies, and were picked up recently at a car-boot sale for next-to-nothing. Both books are in quite tatty, strictly “readers-only” condition. They are definitely not collectible copies, so, ideally, I’d love to pick up pristine copies (or at least much better) of these two books, and every book in the series (if possible), as these are the classic New English Library (NEL) UK editions with the gorgeous cover artwork that I read way back when I was a pre-teenager.

I know that an omnibus collection of the entire six-book series, The Complete Adventures of Lucky Starr, was released back in 2001 (although it’s apparently now out-of-print and quite expensive to buy), but I’d like to track down decent condition copies of the six 1970’s NEL paperback UK releases, just for the lovely covers, and because they will bring back so many great childhood memories. :)

Some Good Sunday Night Viewing

Another interesting Sunday night with myself and the mates here at Chez Phil, and we’re all sitting here right now, watching some good sci-fi stuff on DVD.

First up, it was the complete 2-Season DVD box-set of The New Captain Scarlet. This was an impressive modern CGI remake of the classic Gerry Anderson 1960’s puppet show. In my opinion, the stories are more intelligent and more adult than those in the original series, which suits me fine, as I’m not a little kid any more. Likewise, on a visual level, the excellent (for it’s time) CGI visuals of the new series far outstrips the 1960’s version (and its rather wooden actors – couldn’t resist that! :) ). Indeed, the only thing that lets The New Captain Scarlet down is its rather bland theme music, which is pretty lame compared the absolutely brilliant Barry Gray 60’s theme.

Well, four episodes later of The New Captain Scarlet, and it was time to move onto something else. So, what did we watch? By unanimous verdict, we all decided to pop open the lovely Series 1-5 DVD box-set of Warehouse 13, and stick on a few episodes of Season 4. Warehouse 13 is an odd but interesting show, very, very funny at times, with an excellent cast who work very well together. It’s also completely stark, raving bonkers, with some really daft (but fun) storylines, completely tongue-in-cheek, and is always a hoot to watch. But it can also be very dark at times. Sometimes I think that the writers of this show are on LSD or something stronger, and they certainly must have had a complete ball coming up with all the kooky powers for those crazy artifacts that they created for the series. :)

This Warehouse 13 box-set actually belongs to a friend of mine, and he has generously brought it (and so much other good stuff) up for all of us to watch on Sunday nights (thanks mate!). He picked it up locally for only £35, which is an absolute steal for the entire five-season run of this entertaining show. Jeeze! I remember the not-to-distant days when we had to pay £13-£14 for VHS videos containing only two lousy episodes of our favourite sci-fi series. That would’ve been somewhere between £400-£500 for this series on video. When you ain’t exactly Rockerfella, there’s a massive difference between £35 and £500 – I’ll try anything decent for £35, but £500 is reserved for computers, electronics and other relatively expensive stuff. At only £35, methinks I shall be stalking Amazon.co.uk in the near future to pick said box-set up for such a trifling sum.

Anyway, four episodes of The New Captain Scarlet and five episodes of Warehouse 13 later, and its almost 1am on Monday morning, and time to pack it in for another night. Pretty enjoyable evening overall.

THE SWORD & SORCERY ANTHOLOGY edited by David G. Hartwell and Jacob Weisman

TITLE: THE SWORD & SORCERY ANTHOLOGY
EDITED BY: David G. Hartwell and Jacob Weisman
CATEGORY: Short Fiction
SUB-CATEGORY: Anthology
PUBLISHER: Tachyon Publications, San Francisco, 2012
FORMAT: Trade Paperback, 1st Edition, 480 pages
ISBN 13: 978-1-61696-069-8
ISBN 10: 1-61696-069-8

CONTENTS:

  • Introduction: Storytellers: A Guided Ramble into Sword and Sorcery Fiction by David Drake
  • “The Tower of the Elephant” by Robert E. Howard (Weird Tales, March 1933)
  • “Black God’s Kiss” by C. L. Moore (Weird Tales, October 1934)
  • “The Unholy Grail” by Fritz Leiber (Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, October 1962)
  • “The Tale of Hauk” by Poul Anderson (first appeared in Swords Against Darkness, Vol. 1, edited by Andrew J. Offutt, Zebra Books, New York, 1977)
  • “The Caravan of Forgotten Dreams” by Michael Moorcock (first appeared as “The Flame Bringers”, Science Fantasy #55, October 1962)
  • “The Adventuress” by Joanna Russ (first appeared in Orbit 2, edited by Damon Knight, Putnam, New York, 1967)
  • “Gimmile’s Songs” by Charles R. Saunders (first appeared in Sword and Sorceress #1, edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley, DAW Books, New York, 1984)
  • “Undertow” by Karl Edward Wagner (Whispers #10, August 1977)
  • “The Stages of the God” by Ramsey Campbell [writing as Mongomery Comfort] (Whispers #5, November 1974)
  • “The Barrow Troll” by David Drake (Whispers #8, December 1975)
  • “Soldier of an Empire Unacquainted with Defeat” by Glen Cook (Berkley Showcase, Volume 2, edited by Victoria Schochet and John Silbersack, Berkley Books, New York, 1980)
  • “Epistle from Lebanoi” by Michael Shea (Original to this anthology, 2012)
  • “Become a Warrior” by Jane Yolen (Warrior Princess, edited by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough and Martin H. Greenberg, DAW Books, New York, 1998)
  • “The Red Guild” by Rachel Pollack (Sword and Sorceress #2, edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley, DAW Books, New York, 1985)
  • “Six from Atlantis” by Gene Wolfe (Cross Plains Universe: Texans Celebrate Robert E. Howard, edited by Scott A. Cupp and Joe R. Lansdale, MonkeyBrain Books & Fandom Association of Central Texas, 2006)
  • “The Sea Troll’s Daughter” by Caitlín R. Kiernan (Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword and Sorcery, edited by Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders, EOS, New York, 2010)
  • “The Coral Heart” by Jeffrey Ford (Eclipse Three, edited by Jonathan Strahan, Night Shade Books, San Francisco, 2009)
  • “Path of the Dragon” by George R. R. Martin (Asimov’s SF, December 2000)
  • “The Year of the Three Monarchs” by Michael Swanwick (Original to this anthology, 2012)

Right, we have something a bit different this time around. Firstly, this anthology is a lot more recent than most of the others that I’ve posted about on the blog so far. It’s relatively new, in fact, published in 2012, and edited by David G. Hartwell, with whom I’m very familiar for his work on SF anthologies (one of my favourite modern SF editors, but I’m not familiar at all with his co-editor, Jacob Weisman). But I will be including new anthologies that I’m impressed with from time to time, so this may be the first, but it won’t be an exception, although the main focus of the blog will always be on the older, “forgotten” anthologies.

Secondly, and this is a first for this blog, this isn’t a science fiction anthology, it’s a fantasy anthology. Or, to be more precise, a sword and sorcery anthology. The “About” section of this blog does state that I would be including very occasional reviews of fantasy books, although they will be very far and few between. I’m not overly fond of reading fantasy at the best of times (I’m more of an Analog nuts ‘n’ bolts hard SF kinda guy), and I simply can’t abide the modern dominant Tolkein-imitation strain of mainstream fantasy. Hey, I can’t even read Tolkein himself, as his writing totally bores me to tears, so how could I abide second and third-rate imitators?

However, I do like some of the older, more traditional forms of fantasy (for instance, the Narnia books, which IMHO are far superior to Tolkein) and some Young Adult SF&F. Like I said, there will be only very rare reviews of fantasy books, as it only comprises a tiny percent of what I read. More than 95% of my fiction reading is SF, most of the rest is classic/older horror (not the modern stuff), and only about 1% (maybe less) is fantasy.

But this is a sword and sorcery anthology, and s&s is a very rare exception, the only sub-genre of fantasy that I actually enjoy reading on a more widespread basis. It’s definitely the darker, horror elements that really attract me to s&s, as well as the fact that most s&s stories are not afflicted by that excruciatingly boring pseudo-medieval, rustic scenario that the vast majority of modern mainstream fantasy is set in. I could never be a farmer! :)

I have to admit that my s&s reading has been mostly confined to the classic 1930’s and 1940’s work of Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, C. L. Moore, maybe a little of Fritz Leiber and a few others. I haven’t read anything in this genre post-1950. So tackling this anthology is going to be quite interesting. Only two of the stories are pre-1950 (both early 1930’s), and the rest are from the 1960’s onwards, and covering every decade from then up until the two original 2012 stories written for the anthology. I don’t know how different modern s&s is to the classic form, but I reckon I’ll find out soon enough.

I must admit that my tastes in SF&F reading material have changed and narrowed drastically in the last 10-15 years. I know I’ll still enjoy the earlier Robert E. Howard and C. L. Moore stories, and most likely the Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock and Poul Anderson. But as for the more modern stories by the authors that I’m not familiar with, that remains to be seen. Let’s see if I can make it the whole way through this one without giving up. :)