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. 🙂

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ON OUR WAY TO THE FUTURE edited by Terry Carr

TITLE: ON OUR WAY TO THE FUTURE
EDITED BY: Terry Carr
CATEGORY: Short Fiction
SUB-CATEGORY: Anthology
PUBLISHER: Ace Books, New York, 1970
FORMAT: Paperback, 253 pages.

That’s the various general details, here’s a listing of the contents:

  • Introduction by Terry Carr
  • Greenslaves by Frank Herbert (1965)
  • A Better Mousehole by Edgar Pangborn (1965)
  • Ballenger’s People by Kris Neville (1967)
  • King Solomon’s Ring by Roger Zelazny (1963)
  • Sundance by Robert Silverberg (1969)
  • Be Merry by Algis Budrys (1966)
  • Under the Dragon’s Tail by Philip Latham (1966)
  • A Taste for Dostoevsky by Brian W. Aldiss (1967)
  • Cyclops by Fritz Leiber (1965)
  • Goblin Night by James H. Schmitz (1965)

We’ve certainly got an interesting anthology here, an oldish one from 1970. It’s also the first anthology posting (but definitely will not be the last) on this blog from another of my favourite SF anthologists, Terry Carr.

This anthology isn’t restricted to a single theme, as were the two Robert Silverberg anthologies in my previous posts, and is more of a general multi-theme “ten science fiction adventures in tomorrow” kind of thing, charting our journey into infinity, our way into the future. There’s a wider variety of stories here by big-name SF authors, stories which, up until the time of publication, had never appeared in paperback before.

As usual, I’ll continue working my way through the stories in this, and the previous anthologies, completely at random, in a totally haphazard fashion, pretty much as the whim takes me and when I get free time to do so. I usually just lift a book, any book, from the “to read” stack, and read any story that takes my fancy. Next time, I might do the same, but with a completely different anthology, and so on.

I don’t have any real system for reading, but usually pick my favourite authors first, then work my way down to least favourite (or authors I haven’t encountered before), The main postings themselves are more for providing general overall information about the various anthologies and individual author collections, but will also be interspersed with posts on the individual stories as and when I have read them.

“Try and Change the Past” by Fritz Leiber (1958)

TITLE: “Try and Change the Past” (1958)
AUTHOR: Fritz Leiber
CATEGORY: Short Story
SUB-CATEGORY: Time Travel, Temporal Paradox
SOURCE: TRIPS IN TIME edited by Robert Silverberg (Wildside Press, 1977)
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: Astounding, March 1958

Okay, I’ll just start picking stories at random from the two Robert Silverberg edited anthologies that I’ve been reading. The first one is from TRIPS IN TIME, and is “Try and Change the Past” by Fritz Leiber.

In the never-ending temporal conflict between the Snakes and the Spiders, one particularly shifty member of the Snakes (a well-deserved description, in the case of this dude) gets the bright idea of illicitly using his side’s time travel facilities to go back and change his own personal history, so that he doesn’t die and end up fighting in this damned war. Unfortunately for him, he ends up finding out the hard way that the four-dimensional spacetime universe has its own Law of the Conservation of Reality, and doesn’t like things to be changed, no siree.

“Try and Change the Past” is a clever and quite amusing story set during the Change War milieu of Leiber’s classic time travel/temporal paradox novel THE BIG TIME. The story was first published in the March 1958 edition of Astounding, at the same time that THE BIG TIME was being serialized in the March and April 1958 editions of Galaxy magazine.

I’ve always enjoyed Leiber’s writing, both SF and fantasy (despite the fact that I’m not a huge fan of fantasy in general), and THE BIG TIME and its Change War setting has always been a favourite of mine. This particular short story, while I certainly wouldn’t rank it among my “most favourite short stories of all time”, is still an enjoyable and worthy addition to the Change War universe.

Rated: 3.0 out of 5.0

TRIPS IN TIME edited by Robert Silverberg

TITLE: TRIPS IN TIME – Nine Stories of Science Fiction
EDITED BY: Robert Silverberg
CATEGORY: Short Fiction
SUB-CATEGORY: Anthology
PUBLISHED: Wildside Press, 1977
FORMAT: Trade paperback, 152 pages.

Recently I bought a couple of nice old SF anthologies from Amazon UK. For my first proper post, I’ve decided to recommend one of those classic SF anthologies and list the contents. The first of the two is TRIPS IN TIME, edited by Robert Silverberg.

The anthology is a collection of quirky time travel stories, which span a thirty-five year period, the earliest being originally published in 1941, and the last in 1976. Here’s a listing of the contents:

  • An Infinite Summer by Christopher Priest (1976)
  • The King’s Wishes by Robert Sheckley (1953)
  • Manna by Peter Phillips (1949)
  • The Long Remembering by Poul Anderson (1957)
  • Try and Change the Past by Fritz Leiber (1958)
  • Divine Madness by Roger Zelazny (1966)
  • Mugwump 4 by Robert Silverberg (1959)
  • Secret Rider by Marta Randall (1976)
  • The Seesaw by A. E. van Vogt (1941)

This looks like a very interesting anthology of short fiction. Some of these stories I remember well as old favourites (the Priest and Leiber), others I vaguely remember (Sheckley, Anderson, Zelazny, van Vogt, Silverberg), and the other two I’m not familiar with at all (Phillips, Randall).

Apparently this is a kinda/sorta “sister” anthology to an earlier one, VOYAGERS IN TIME (1967), which is a more traditional/typical collection of time travel tales. That’s the other paper book I mentioned, and I’ll get to that anthology once I’ve finished with this one. It will be nice to compare the two collections of short stories.

I’m looking forward to working my way through TRIPS IN TIME (however slowly, and most likely not in order of the contents listing), and will make a short progress report in this discussion thread as I finish each story.