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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PLANETS OF WONDER edited by Terry Carr

TITLE: PLANETS OF WONDER – A TREASURY OF SPACE OPERA
EDITED BY: Terry Carr
CATEGORY: Short Fiction
SUB-CATEGORY: Anthology
PUBLISHER: Thomas Nelson Inc., Nashville, Tennessee, 1976
FORMAT: Hardback, 1st Edition, 189 pages, ISBN: 0-8407-6526-6

CONTENTS:

  • Introduction by Terry Carr
  • “Dust of Gods” by C. L. Moore (Weird Tales, August 1934)
  • “We Guard the Black Planet!” by Henry Kuttner (Super Science Stories, November 1942)
  • “The Veil of Astellar” by Leigh Brackett (Thrilling Wonder Stories, Spring 1944)
  • “Kingdoms of the Stars” by Edmond Hamilton (Amazing Stories, September 1964)

This is one of my favourite SF anthologies, edited by one of the best anthologists out there, Terry Carr. It’s also a pretty short one, at only 189 pages, with only four stories, but what stories they are.

What we have here are four of the genuine Classic Space Opera adventures from days gone by, one from the 1930s, two from the 1940s and one from the 1960s. Even more importantly, all of these stories were authored by four of the greatest proponents of that sub-genre of SF, Henry Kuttner, C. L. Moore, Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton. These two great husband and wife author teams of the Thirties and Forties, are among my favourite SF writers of that era, and I’ll read pretty much anything written by the four of them. Kuttner, Moore and Brackett, in particular, are three of my favourite SF authors ever.

This is a gem of an anthology, with four great stories and an excellent introduction by Terry Car. I reckon that it’s been out of print for many years, but it would be well worth tracking down in used book stores. I wish that far more old anthologies like this would again be made available in electronic format for the Kindle, Nook and various other eReader devices out there, For the enjoyment of newer generations of SF readers, who have never seen these old classics before.

Poor kids. They don’t know what they’re missing!

BEACHHEADS IN SPACE edited by August Derleth

TITLE: BEACHHEADS IN SPACE
EDITED BY: August Derleth
CATEGORY: Anthology
SUB-CATEGORY: Short Fiction
FORMAT: Hardback, 224 pages
PUBLISHER: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1954 (Originally published in the US in 1952 by Pellegrini & Cudahy).

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

  • “Beachhead” by Clifford D. Simak (1951)
  • “The Years Draw Nigh” by Lester del Rey (1951)
  • “Metamorphosite” by Eric Frank Russell (1946)
  • “Breeds There a Man…?” by Isaac Asimov (1951)
  • “And the Walls Came Tumbling Down” by John Wyndham (1951)
  • “The Blinding Shadows” by Donald Wandrei (1934)
  • “The Metamorphosis of Earth” by Clark Ashton Smith (1951)

This is an interesting old anthology, edited by another of my favourite SF anthologists, August Derleth. The theme of this anthology, according to the book’s jacket blurb, is “invasion from another world, or counter-attack from Earth against the planets”.

I haven’t read this one in many years, maybe twenty-five years or more, but I remember that it was a favourite of mine way back in the day, and it still has a special place on my bookshelves. Obviously my memories of the individual stories are vague after all this time, and I don’t remember all of them clearly, and a couple of them not at all. But the ones that I do recall really liking are Clifford D. Simak’s very clever short story “Beachhead” (AKA “You’ll Never Go Home Again!”, first published in Fantastic Adventures, July 1951), Eric Frank Russell’s excellent novella “Metamorphosite”, (from Astounding, December 1946), and Clark Ashton Smith’s scary and unusual alien invasion SF/Horror novelette “The Metamorphosis of Earth” (Weird Tales, September 1951).

I also remember liking Lester del Rey’s “The Years Draw Nigh” and Isaac Asimov’s “Breeds There a Man…?”, although for some reason I remember a lot less about them than I do about the Russell, Simak and Smith stories. I don’t recall anything at all about the Wyndham and Wandrei stories. I’m surprised about not remembering the Wyndham story, as I’m usually a big fan of his writing.

But as good as my recollections are of the Simak and Smith stories, the stand-out story for me in this anthology has always been Eric Frank Russell’s classic “Metamorphosite”, which I recall having a huge impact on me back when I was a young guy in my twenties. I don’t think this story is in any of my other anthologies (and I have zillions of the darned things!), so I reckon it hasn’t been reprinted very often. It’s far, far too many years since I last read it, and indeed this entire anthology, so it’s long overdue for a re-read. I’ve already started on the Simak story, and, so far, it’s at least as good as I remember it, if not better. If the rest of the stories hold up as well as this one is doing, I’m going to really enjoy reading this anthology again.

Please take note that this is the 1954 UK edition, which is different from the original 1952 US hardcover edition, published by Pellegrini & Cudahy. Apparently all editions aside from the original hardcover edition have been “butchered” in some way, missing stories, etc. This UK edition is missing the Introduction and seven of the stories from the US edition. Also note that John Wyndham has two stories in the original US edition, one under his usual John Wyndham pseudonym, and the other as John Benyon.

Here is the full Contents Listing of the original 1952 US edition:

  • Introduction by August Derleth
  • “The Star” by David H. Keller, M.D.
  • “The Man from Outside” by Jack Williamson
  • “Beachhead” by Clifford D. Simak
  • “The Years Draw Nigh” by Lester del Rey
  • “Metamorphosite” by Eric Frank Russell
  • “The Ordeal of Professor Klein” by L. Sprague de Camp
  • “Repetition” by A. E. van Vogt
  • “Breeds There a Man…?” by Isaac Asimov
  • “Meteor” by John Beynon
  • “And the Walls Came Tumbling Down” by John Wyndham
  • “Blinding Shadows” by Donald Wandrei
  • “The Metamorphosis of Earth” by Clark Ashton Smith
  • “The Ambassadors from Venus” by Kendell F. Crossen
  • “To People a New World” by Nelson S. Bond

For lovers of old-style, classic SF short fiction, this anthology would be right up their alley. If you can actually find it, that is. As it’s such an old book, it’s obviously long out of print, and you’ll have to hunt through used book stores to find this anthology. But it’ll be well worth the trouble it takes to find it, as are any other anthologies edited by August Derleth.

After all these years, I think I’ll actually make a major effort to get off my butt and track down the longer original US hardcover edition, which I didn’t even realize was different/longer until I recently read the Wikipedia entry on the anthology.

Highly recommended, particularly the original US hardcover edition.