Heroic fantasy

"Heroic fantasy" is the name I have given to a subgenre of fiction, otherwise called the "sword-and-sorcery" story. It is a story of action and adventure laid in a more or less imaginary world, where magic works and where modern science and technology have not yet been discovered. The setting may (as in the Conan stories) be this Earth as it is conceived to have been long ago, or as it will be in the remote future, or it may be another planet or another dimension.

Such a story conbines [sic] the color and dash of the historical costume romance with the atavistic supernatural thrills of the weird, occult, or ghost story. When well done, it provides the purest fun of fiction of any kind. It is escape fiction wherein one escapes clear out of the real world into one where all men are strong, all women beautiful, all life adventurous, and all problems simple, and nobody even mentions the income tax or the dropout problem or socialized medicine.

L. Sprague de Camp, introduction to the 1967 Ace edition of Conan (Robert E. Howard), p. 13.


Jack killing the giant - The Chronicle of the Valiant Feats of Jack the Giant Killer (1845), facing 20 - BL
Jack killing the giant - The Chronicle of the Valiant Feats of Jack the Giant Killer (1845), facing 20 - BL

Frequently, the protagonist is reluctant to be a champion, and/or is of low or humble origin, and may have royal ancestors or parents but does not know it. Though events are usually beyond their control, they are thrust into positions of great responsibility where their mettle is tested in a number of spiritual and physical challenges. Although it shares many of the basic themes of Sword and Sorcery, the term 'Heroic fantasy' is often used to avoid the garish overtones of the former.[1]


Initially undistinguished from the other early fantasies of the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries, pulp writer Robert E. Howard wrote short stories about a Barbarian hero named Conan with tales of fantastic adventure with 'a king-sized dose of the supernatural.'[2]

See also


  1. ^ John Grant and John Clute, The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, "Heroic fantasy", p 464 ISBN 0-312-19869-8
  2. ^ L. Sprague de Camp, Introduction of Conan The Freebooter Ace, 1967, ISBN 978-0-441-11863-2, p. 13.
Andrew J. Offutt

Andrew Jefferson Offutt (August 16, 1934 – April 30, 2013) was an American science fiction and fantasy author. He wrote as Andrew J. Offutt, A. J. Offutt, and Andy Offutt. His normal byline, andrew j. offutt, has all his name in lower-case letters. He also wrote erotica under seventeen different pseudonyms, principally John Cleve, John Denis, Jeff Morehead, and Turk Winter. He is the father of novelist Chris Offutt and professor Jeff Offutt.

The Sword of Skelos (1979), one of Offutt's contributions to the Conan The Barbarian saga, included a short, facetious biographical note: "Andrew J. Offutt is the recently 'tired and re-tired', as he puts it, president of the Science Fiction Writers of America. He loves heroic fantasy though at 6' 1" he is built for speed, not combat. Kentuckian Offutt has a number of other books in and out of print, and has been a helpless fan of Robert E. Howard since birth. Now he calls himself the Steve Garvey among writers; 'Surely it's every boy's dream to grow up—but not too much—and get to write about Conan". Offutt researches with gusto, both in and out of books, having—briefly and painfully, he says—worn chainmail and helm and wielded sword. He is also tired of aged, bald, ugly, sexless mages and squeaky females in heroic fantasy".'

Flashing Swords!

Flashing Swords! is a series of fantasy anthologies published by Dell Books from 1973 to 1981 under the editorship of Lin Carter. It showcased the heroic fantasy work of the members of the Swordsmen and Sorcerers' Guild of America (SAGA), a somewhat informal literary group active from the 1960s to the 1980s, of which Carter was the guiding force. Most of the important sword and sorcery writers at the time of the group’s founding were members; later, membership was extended to other fantasy authors.

The Flashing Swords! series provides a cross-section of the heroic fantasy of the period. Carter and SAGA also sponsored The Gandalf Award from 1974-1981. With the collapse of Carter’s health in the 1980s the anthology series, the Gandalf award, and likely SAGA itself all went into abeyance.

A precursor of the series was Swords Against Tomorrow, edited by Robert Hoskins (Signet Books, 1970), an anthology which included pieces by four of the eight SAGA members of that time.

Flashing Swords! 1

Flashing Swords! #1 is an anthology of fantasy stories, edited by American writer Lin Carter. It was first published in hardcover by Nelson Doubleday in April 1973 as a selection in its Science Fiction Book Club, and in paperback by Dell Books in July of the same year. The first British edition was issued by Mayflower in 1974.The book collects four heroic fantasy novelettes by members of the Swordsmen and Sorcerers' Guild of America (SAGA), an informal literary group of fantasy authors active from the 1960s to the 1980s, of which Carter was also a member and guiding force, together with a general introduction and introductions to the individual stories by the editor.

Flashing Swords! 2

Flashing Swords! #2 is an anthology of fantasy stories, edited by American writer Lin Carter. It was first published in hardcover by Nelson Doubleday in 1973 as a selection in its Science Fiction Book Club and in paperback by Dell Books in February 1974. The first British edition was issued by Mayflower in February 1975.The book collects four heroic fantasy novelettes by members of the Swordsmen and Sorcerers' Guild of America (SAGA), an informal literary group of fantasy authors active from the 1960s to the 1980s, of which Carter was also a member and guiding force, together with a general introduction and introductions to the individual stories by the editor.

Heroic Fantasy (anthology)

Heroic Fantasy is an anthology of fantasy stories, edited by Gerald W. Page and Hank Reinhardt. It was first published in paperback by DAW Books in April 1979.

The book collects fourteen short stories and novelettes by various fantasy authors, together with an overall introduction by both editors and three essays on arms by Reinhardt alone.

Jack the Giant Killer (1962 film)

Jack the Giant Killer is a 1962 heroic fantasy adventure film starring Kerwin Mathews in a fairy tale story about a young man who defends a princess against a sorcerer's giants and demons.The film was loosely based on the traditional tale "Jack the Giant Killer" and features extensive use of stop-motion animation. The film was directed by Nathan H. Juran and later re-edited and re-released as a musical by producer Edward Small. The reason for the change to music was on the grounds that Columbia Pictures, which released The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, threatened to sue Small. The original print without the music got released 30 years later with no protest from Columbia Pictures, while United Artists continues to own the rights to the musical version of the film. The film brought together Mathews, Juran, Small, and actor Torin Thatcher, all four of whom worked on 7th Voyage.

Karl Edward Wagner

Karl Edward Wagner (12 December 1945 – 14 October 1994) was an American writer, poet, editor and publisher of horror, science fiction, and heroic fantasy, who was born in Knoxville, Tennessee and originally trained as a psychiatrist. He wrote numerous dark fantasy and horror stories. As an editor, he created a three-volume set of Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian fiction restored to its original form as written, and edited the long-running and genre-defining The Year's Best Horror Stories series for DAW Books. His Carcosa publishing company issued four volumes of the best stories by some of the major authors of the so-called Golden Age pulp magazines. He is possibly best known for his creation of a series of stories featuring the character Kane, the Mystic Swordsman.

His disillusionment with the medical profession can be detected in the stories "The Fourth Seal" and "Into Whose Hands". He described his personal philosophy as nihilistic, anarchistic and absurdist, and claimed, not entirely seriously, to be related to "an opera composer named "Richard". Wagner also admired the cinema of Sam Peckinpah, stating "I worship the film The Wild Bunch".

Ken Kelly (artist)

Ken W. Kelly (born May 19, 1946, New London, Connecticut, United States) is an American fantasy artist.

Over his 30-year career, he has focused in particular on paintings in the sword and sorcery and heroic fantasy subgenres.

Kelly is the nephew of Frank Frazetta's wife Eleanor “Ellie” Frazetta (1935-2009), whose maiden name was Kelly. Early in his career he was able to study the paintings of Frank Frazetta in the latter's studio. In the early 1970s he did a couple of cover paintings for Castle of Frankenstein magazine. Throughout the 1970s he was one of the foremost cover artists on Warren Publishing's Creepy and Eerie magazines.

He has depicted Conan the Barbarian, Tarzan and the rock groups KISS, Manowar, Sleepy Hollow, Rainbow and Ace Frehley.

His work often portrays exotic, enchanted locales and primal battlefields. He recently developed the artwork for Coheed and Cambria's album, Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume Two: No World for Tomorrow, and a painting of his was used as the cover art for Alabama Thunderpussy's 2007 release, Open Fire. In 2012, one of Kelly's paintings was used for the cover of Electric Magma's 12" vinyl release Canadian Samurai II.

Kelly has been a guest at the Kiss by Monster Mini Golf course in Las Vegas, Nevada, doing autograph signings of prints for the classic Kiss albums he has drawn cover artwork for.

Literary Swordsmen and Sorcerers

Literary Swordsmen and Sorcerers: The Makers of Heroic Fantasy is a work of collective biography on the formative authors of the heroic fantasy genre by L. Sprague de Camp (1907-2000), first published in 1976 by Arkham House in an edition of 5,431 copies. Nine chapters (2-10) are revisions from a series of ten articles, also titled "Literary Swordsmen and Sorcerers," that initially appeared in the magazine Fantastic and the fanzine Amra between 1971 and 1976 (the tenth article, on L. Ron Hubbard, was omitted from the book). The book has been translated into French as Les pionniers de la fantasy.

Midnight Rose

Midnight Rose was a name taken by a group of United Kingdom science fiction and fantasy writers for a series of shared world anthologies published by the Penguin Books imprint Roc. The group's "core members" were Alex Stewart, Roz Kaveney, Neil Gaiman and Mary Gentle. Contributors to individual anthologies included Marcus Rowland, Storm Constantine, Kim Newman, Charles Stross, Stephen Baxter, Colin Greenland, Graham Higgins, Paul Cornell and David Langford, among others.

The anthologies were:


Two volumes of superhero pastiches, set in a world where the United Kingdom and European Union demand registry of superhuman talents, whereupon the Talented are expected to be permanently "on call" as part-time superheroes, in exchange for a stipend. The popular perception of the British Civil Service is played up, with registering as a "Temp" being strangely similar to applying for Jobseeker's Allowance or other benefits. The two books were Temps (1991) and EuroTemps (1992).The Weerde

The concept behind The Weerde was that shapeshifting creatures had been living alongside humanity for millennia, mostly concealing themselves, but occasionally giving rise to legends of supernatural monsters. The books in this series were The Weerde Book One (1992) and The Weerde Book Two: Book of the Ancients (1993).Villains!

Villains! (1992) was a parody of heroic fantasy. Like Gentle's later Grunts, it looked at the typical fantasy world from the point of view of the villains.Several of the stories from these anthologies have subsequently appeared in other collections, or have been put on line by their authors:

Roz Kaveney: "A Lonely Impulse" (Temps), "A Wolf To Man" (The Weerde Book One), "Bellringer's Overtime" (Villains!), "Totally Trashed" (EuroTemps), "Ignorance of Perfect Reason" (The Weerde Book Two)

David Langford: "Leaks" (Temps), "The Arts of the Enemy" (Villains!), "If Looks Could Kill" (EuroTemps), "The Lions in the Desert" (The Weerde Book Two)

Marcus Rowland: "Frog Day Afternoon" (Temps), "Playing Safe" (EuroTemps), "The Missing Martian" (The Weerde Book Two)

Charles Stross: "Examination Night" (Villains!), "Ancient Of Days" (The Weerde Book One), "Red, Hot and Dark" (The Weerde Book Two)

One-Roll Engine

The One-Roll Engine (or O.R.E.) is a generic role-playing game system developed by Greg Stolze for the alternate history superhero roleplaying game Godlike. The system was expanded upon in the modern-day sequel, Wild Talents, as well as the heroic fantasy game Reign and the free horror game Nemesis. A simpler version was used for Monsters and Other Childish Things. The One-Roll Engine is notable for its unique dice rolling system in which matched values on ten-sided dice (d10s) determine all variables of a check in a single roll. This eliminates, for example, the separate initiative, hit location and damage rolls common during combat in other systems.

Slavic fantasy

Slavic fantasy (Russian: Славянское фэнтези), a fantasy genre, was finally formed at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries. Slavic fantasy is the use of Slavic folklore (legends, epics, myths) in general structural rules for fantasy works. The term Slavic fantasy broader term Russian fantasy, although these terms are sometimes used synonymously. Slavic fantasy emerged in opposition to the Western fantasy based on Celtic and Norse mythology. The predecessor of Slavic fantasy can be considered to be the forgotten writer Alexander Veltman with the novels Koschei the Immortal (1833) and Svyatoslavovych, Hostile Pet (1834), but the founder of the modern Slavic fantasy was Yuri Nikitin, a series of novels, Three out of the woods. The leader of the Slavic fantasy is Maria Semenova with the cycle of novels Wolfhound. Some of the Russian-language writers use Norse mythology (referred k.f.n EA Safron to Western Fantasy) - for example Elizabeth Butler's cycle of novels ship in the fjord, and some English-language writers - Ancient pagan folklore (e.g. C. J. Cherryh the novels The Mermaid (Rusalka, 1989) and Chernevog (Chernevog, 1990)).

Sword and sorcery

Sword and sorcery (S&S) is a subgenre of fantasy characterized by sword-wielding heroes engaged in exciting and violent adventures. An element of romance is often present, as is an element of magic and the supernatural. Unlike works of high fantasy, the tales, though dramatic, focus mainly on personal battles rather than world-endangering matters. Sword and sorcery commonly overlaps with heroic fantasy.

Swordsmen and Sorcerers' Guild of America

The Swordsmen and Sorcerers' Guild of America or SAGA was an informal group of American fantasy authors active from the 1960s through the 1980s, noted for their contributions to the "Sword and Sorcery" kind of heroic fantasy, itself a subgenre of fantasy. When it developed a serious purpose that was to promote the popularity and respectability of Sword and Sorcery fiction.

Víctor de la Fuente

Víctor de la Fuente (1927 - 2 July 2010) was a Spanish comic book artist and writer. He worked mostly in the western and heroic fantasy genres.

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