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[1][2] 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).[3][4] The book has been translated into French as Les pionniers de la fantasy.[4]

Literary Swordsmen and Sorcerers: the Makers of Heroic Fantasy
Literary Swordsmen and Sorcerers
Dust-jacket illustration by Tim Kirk for Literary Swordsmen and Sorcerers
AuthorL. Sprague de Camp
Cover artistTim Kirk
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Subjectbiography
PublisherArkham House
Publication date
1976
Media typePrint (Hardback)
Pagesxxix, 313 pp
ISBN0-87054-076-9
OCLC2782776
809/.933/7
LC ClassPR830.F3 D4

Summary

The work presents the history of the genre through a discussion of the lives and works of its most important early writers.[3] After a general survey of the development of modern fantasy, individual chapters deal with William Morris, Lord Dunsany, H. P. Lovecraft, E. R. Eddison, Robert E. Howard, Fletcher Pratt, Clark Ashton Smith, J. R. R. Tolkien, and T. H. White. A final chapter concerns lesser or later literary lights C. L. Moore, Leslie Barringer, Nictzin Dyalhis, Clifford Ball, Henry Kuttner, Norvell W. Page and Fritz Leiber.

The book also includes an introduction by de Camp's colleague Lin Carter, who remedies what he considers de Camp's most egregious omission by providing a profile of de Camp himself (also a formative author in the genre).

Contents

Reception

Reaction to the book was largely positive. Richard A. Lupoff declared that it would "almost instantly become a standard reference" and praised de Camp as "an honest, thoroughgoing, and effective researcher.[5]

Charles Bishop called it an "excellent survey of fantasy that avoids the plodding monotony of most surveys of this sort and that should be of equal interest to the rabid fan and the general reader alike." He felt the author, "himself a master of the genre," "seems to have read every work of fantasy there is, but he is neither pedantic nor hagiographic" and considered him "a pleasant writer to read and a solid critic with an enormous knowledge of his subject" who "surveys [each] life and work in an able and authoritative manner, mixing biography and criticism into a smooth narrative that brings the man and his writings vividly before our eyes."[6]

Marshall B. Tymn considered the work a "major contribution to the study of heroic fantasy" covering "its leading practitioners whose works were central to the growth of the genre."[1][2]

David Bratman called the book "[t]he fullest expression of de Camp's love of heroic fantasy with great adventures and mighty heroes," a culmination of his pioneering work with Lin Carter in "piecing together a canon of the masterworks of this field." He noted that while "Carter carried this view of fantasy history to its great fruition as editor of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series ... de Camp [had] first put the concept in print.[7]

Brian M. Stableford, also noting de Camp's voluminous previous writings on fantasy, concurred that the "series of pieces written for Fantastic in the early 1970's" that went into the book were "of greater significance." He characterized the book as "a light and informal survey of the whole field of heroic fantasy [that] is perhaps the best introduction for the interested reader."[8]

Contrasting notes on the work were struck by the reviewers of the Wilson Library Bulletin and Choice. Gary Kuris, Patrice Harper, Harriet E. Rosenfeld, and Wm. R. Eshelman, writing for the former, "found it to exhibit the same faults and virtues of de Camp's popular Lovecraft: A Biography," declaring it "woefully padded" and themselves "maddened by the author's implacable didacticism [and] infuriating inability to write two paragraphs without wandering into a lecture on Nietzsche, or dialectical materialism, or magazine-reading." They stated his "[l]iterary analyses rarely extend beyond the plot summary." However, they felt he "shines ... in his depiction of the authors themselves, some of whom were a lot stranger than their creations ... wields a mean wit," and that the reader's "[p]atience ... will be rewarded" despite "his endless perorations."[9]

Choice felt "De Camp's 'study,' in style and manner as well as in substance, seldom rises above the level of a fan club newsletter," and its chapters "about as responsibly biographical as the gossip of a TV talk show," with his "idea of literary criticism ... the sort of plot rehashing that stumbles to concluding insights like: 'above all Robert Howard was a storyteller.'" It concluded, however, that "Adolescents of all ages, the Star Trek variety in particular, will eat it up."[10]

Relation to other works

De Camp also produced separate full-length biographies of two of the authors treated, H. P. Lovecraft (Lovecraft: A Biography (1975)) and Robert E. Howard (Dark Valley Destiny: the Life of Robert E. Howard (1983)).

Notes

  1. ^ a b Tymn, Marshall B. "Guide to Resource Materials for Science Fiction and Fantasy Teachers," The English Journal, v. 68, no. 1, January 1979, page 71.
  2. ^ a b Tymn, Marshall B., ed. The Science Fiction Reference Book, Mercer Island, WA: Starmont House, c1981, page 76.
  3. ^ a b Laughlin, Charlotte; Daniel J. H. Levack (1983). De Camp: An L. Sprague de Camp Bibliography. San Francisco: Underwood/Miller. p. 76.
  4. ^ a b Literary Swordsmen and Sorcerers title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
  5. ^ Lupoff, Richard A. "Lupoff's Book Week," Algol 28, 1977, page 56.
  6. ^ Bishop, Charles. "Literature. de Camp, L. Sprague. Literary Swordsmen and Sorcerers: the makers of heroic fantasy," Library Journal, v. 102 no. 5, March 1, 1977, page 608.
  7. ^ Bratman, David. "L. Sprague de Camp: An Appreciation," Mythprint, v. 37, no. 12 (whole no. 225), Dec. 2000, pages 13-14.
  8. ^ Stableford, Brian M. "L. Sprague de Camp 1907- / Fletcher Pratt 1897-1956," in Bleiler, Everett F., ed., Supernatural Fiction Writers, 1985, v. 2, pages 929, 930.
  9. ^ Kuris, Gary [et al]. "WLB Booktrucking About Town," Wilson Library Bulletin, v. 51, no. 9, May 1977, page 707.
  10. ^ Anonymous. "DE CAMP, Lyon Sprague. Literary swordsmen and sorcerers: the makers of heroic fantasy," Choice, v. 14, no. 4, June 1977, pages 530-531.
1976 in literature

This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1976.

Child Christopher and Goldilind the Fair

Child Christopher and Goldilind the Fair is a fantasy novel by William Morris, perhaps the first modern fantasy writer to unite an imaginary world with the element of the supernatural, and thus the precursor of much of present-day fantasy literature. It was first published in hardcover by Morris' Kelmscott Press in 1895. Its importance in the history of fantasy literature was recognized by its republication by the Newcastle Publishing Company as the twelfth volume of the celebrated Newcastle Forgotten Fantasy Library in April, 1977.

Early history of fantasy

Elements of the supernatural and the fantastic were an element of literature from its beginning, though the idea of a distinct genre, in the modern sense, is less than two centuries old.

The parallel article History of fantasy deals mainly with fantasy literature in the English language. The history of French fantasy is covered in greater detail under Fantastique.

Eric Rücker Eddison

Eric Rücker Eddison, CB, CMG (24 November 1882 – 18 August 1945) was an English civil servant and author, writing epic fantasy novels under the name E. R. Eddison. His notable works include The Worm Ouroboros (1922) and the Zimiamvian Trilogy (1935–1958).

Fantasy literature

Fantasy literature is literature set in an imaginary universe, often but not always without any locations, events, or people from the real world. Magic, the supernatural and magical creatures are common in many of these imaginary worlds.It is a story that child and adults can read.

Fantasy is a subgenre of speculative fiction and is distinguished from the genres of science fiction and horror by the absence of scientific or macabre themes, respectively, though these genres overlap. Historically, most works of fantasy were written, however, since the 1960s, a growing segment of the fantasy genre has taken the form of films, television programs, graphic novels, video games, music and art.

A number of fantasy novels originally written for children, such as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and The Hobbit, also attract an adult audience.

Gerfalcon (novel)

Gerfalcon is a fantasy novel by Leslie Barringer, the first book in his three volume Neustrian Cycle. It is set around the fourteenth century in an alternate medieval France called Neustria (historically an early division of the Frankish kingdom). The book was first published in 1927 by Heinemann in the United Kingdom and Doubleday in the United States. Its significance was recognized by its republication in 1973 by Tom Stacey in the UK and in March, 1976 by the Newcastle Publishing Company in the US, as the seventh volume of its celebrated Newcastle Forgotten Fantasy Library series. This Newcastle edition was reprinted twice, once by Newcastle itself in 1977 and once by Borgo Press in 1980.Chapter headings of the 1927 edition:

Shadows at Sanctbastre.

Tourney at Belsaunt.

The moors of Nordenay.

The Singing Stones of Hastain.

The hold above Alanol.

Face Campscapel face death.

The forest of Honoy.

Parley at Montenair.

Assay towards Saulte.

Street of Anvils.

A viscount comes home.

Raoul's day.

The marshes of Marckmont.

The crags of Ger.

History of fantasy

Elements of the supernatural and the fantastic were an element of literature from its beginning. The modern genre is distinguished from tales and folklore, that contain fantastic elements, firstly by the acknowledged fictitious nature of the work, and secondly by the naming of an author. Works in which the marvels were not necessarily believed, or only half-believed, such as the European romances of chivalry and the tales of the Arabian Nights, slowly evolved into works with such traits. Authors like George MacDonald (1824 –1905) created the first explicitly fantastic works.

Later, in the twentieth century, the publication of The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien enormously influenced fantasy writing, establishing the form of epic fantasy. This also did much to establish the genre of fantasy as commercially distinct and viable. And today fantasy continues as an expansive, multi-layered medium encompassing many subgenres, including traditional high fantasy, sword and sorcery, magical realism, fairytale fantasy, and horror-tinged dark fantasy.

There is further discussion of the history of fantasy in other languages in "Sources of fantasy" and the history of French fantasy literature is covered in greater detail under "Fantastique".

Islamic literature

Islamic literature is literature written with an Islamic perspective, in any language.

One term for this is adab. Although today adab denotes literature generally, 'in earlier times its meaning included all that a well-informed person had to know in order to pass in society as a cultured and refined individual. This meaning ... started with the basic idea that adab was the socially accepted ethical and moral quality of an urbane and courteous person'; thus adab can also denote the category of Islamic law dealing with etiquette, or a gesture of greeting. More recently, studies have been done on the novelization of contemporary Islamic literatures and points of confluency with political themes such as nationalism.

Joris of the Rock

Joris of the Rock is a fantasy novel by Leslie Barringer, the second book in his three volume Neustrian Cycle. It is set around the fourteenth century in an alternate medieval France called Neustria (historically an early division of the Frankish kingdom). The book was first published in the United Kingdom by Heinemann in 1928; an American edition followed from Doubleday in 1929. Its significance was recognized by its republication by the Newcastle Publishing Company as the ninth volume of the celebrated Newcastle Forgotten Fantasy Library series in September, 1976. The Newcastle edition was reprinted by Borgo Press in 1980 and 2010.

Leslie Barringer

Leslie Barringer (1895–1968) was an English editor and author of historical novels and historical fantasy novels, best known for the latter.

Nictzin Dyalhis

Nictzin Wilstone Dyalhis (June 4, 1873 – May 8, 1942) was an American chemist and short story writer who specialized in the genres of science fiction and fantasy. He wrote as Nictzin Dyalhis. During his lifetime he attained a measure of celebrity as a writer for the pulp fiction magazine Weird Tales.

Shy Leopardess

Shy Leopardess is a fantasy novel by Leslie Barringer, the third and last book in his three volume Neustrian Cycle. It is set around the 14th century in an alternate medieval France called Neustria (historically an early division of the Frankish kingdom). The book was first published in the United Kingdom by Methuen in 1948. Its significance was recognized by its republication in the United States by the Newcastle Publishing Company as the thirteenth volume of the celebrated Newcastle Forgotten Fantasy Library series in October, 1977. The Newcastle edition was reprinted by Borgo Press in 1980.

Chapter headings of the 1948 edition:

Encounters at Parledin.

Azo's way.

Roclatour and Sanctlamine.

A silver shield and a grey kitten.

Balthasar's way.

Jehane's way.

The way of Dom Ursus Campestris.

Belphegor's way.

The secret servants of Yolande.

Passing bells at Roclatour.

Fruit of thunder.

Belphagor's way again.

"My Diomede, my Lioncel".

Yolande's way.

A queen from the east.

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.

The House of the Wolfings

A Tale of the House of the Wolfings and All the Kindreds of the Mark is a fantasy novel by William Morris, perhaps the first modern fantasy writer to unite an imaginary world with the element of the supernatural, and thus the precursor of much of present-day fantasy literature. It was first published in hardcover by Reeves and Turner in 1889.The book influenced J. R. R. Tolkien's popular The Lord of the Rings.

The Roots of the Mountains

The Roots of the Mountains: Wherein is Told Somewhat of the Lives of the Men of Burgdale, Their Friends, Their Neighbors, Their Foemen, and Their Fellows in Arms is a fantasy romance by William Morris, perhaps the first modern fantasy writer to unite an imaginary world with an element of the supernatural, and thus the precursor of much of present-day fantasy literature. It was first published in hardcover by Reeves and Turner in 1889. Its importance in the history of fantasy literature was recognized by its republication by the Newcastle Publishing Company as the nineteenth volume of the Newcastle Forgotten Fantasy Library in April, 1979.

According to Graham Seaman, "The Roots of the Mountains seems to be the story that inspired the subplot of the Dunedain, wanderers of a fading heroic past defending the frontiers of the Shire against the Orcs, and the loves of Aragorn, Eowyn, Faramir, and Arwen in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings."This work and its predecessor, The House of the Wolfings, are to some degree historical novels, with little or no magic. Morris went on to develop the new genre established in these works in such later fantasies as The Wood Beyond the World, Child Christopher and Goldilind the Fair, The Well at the World's End, The Water of the Wondrous Isles and The Sundering Flood.

The Story of the Glittering Plain

The Story of the Glittering Plain (full title: The Story of the Glittering Plain which has been also called the Land of Living Men or the Acre of the Undying) is an 1891 fantasy novel by William Morris, perhaps the first modern fantasy writer to unite an imaginary world with the element of the supernatural, and thus the precursor of much of present-day fantasy literature. It is also important for its exploration of the socialist themes that interested Morris.

His earlier fantasies The House of the Wolfings and The Roots of the Mountains were to some degree historical novels. Like these The Story of the Glittering Plain is set in a world similar to the distant past of northern Europe. Morris would go on to develop the new genre established in this work in such later fantasies as Child Christopher and Goldilind the Fair, The Wood Beyond the World, The Well at the World's End, and The Water of the Wondrous Isles.

The Sundering Flood

The Sundering Flood is a fantasy novel by William Morris, perhaps the first modern fantasy writer to unite an imaginary world with the element of the supernatural, and thus the precursor of much of present-day fantasy literature.The Sundering Flood was Morris' last work of fiction, completed only in rough draft, with the ending dictated from his deathbed. It was edited posthumously by his daughter May into finished form for publication and published in 1897.

Morris considered his fantasies a revival of the medieval tradition of chivalrous romances; consequently, they tend to have sprawling plots of strung-together adventures. His use of archaic language has been seen as difficult by some modern readers.

The Water of the Wondrous Isles

The Water of the Wondrous Isles is a fantasy novel by William Morris, perhaps the first writer of modern fantasy to unite an imaginary world with the element of the supernatural, and thus a precursor of much of present-day fantasy literature. It was first printed in 1897 by Morris' own Kelmscott Press on vellum and artisanal paper in a blackletter type of his own design. For the wider reading public, a hardcover trade edition was published later that year by Longmans, Green and Co. The novel was republished by Ballantine Books as the thirty-eighth volume of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series in November, 1971. The Ballantine edition includes an introduction by Lin Carter.

Morris considered his fantasies a revival of the medieval tradition of chivalrous romances; in consequence, they tend to have sprawling plots of strung-together adventures. These prose romances were written in a mock-Medieval style that modern readers may find arduous and fustian.

The Wood Beyond the World

The Wood Beyond the World is a fantasy novel by William Morris, perhaps the first modern fantasy writer to unite an imaginary world with the element of the supernatural, and thus the precursor of much of present-day fantasy literature. It was first published in hardcover by Morris's Kelmscott Press, in 1894. The book's importance in the history of fantasy literature was recognized by its republication by Ballantine Books as the third volume of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series in July, 1969. The Ballantine edition includes an introduction by Lin Carter.

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