Sir Harold of Zodanga

Sir Harold of Zodanga is a fantasy novella by American writer L. Sprague de Camp, part of the Harold Shea series he originated in collaboration with Fletcher Pratt and later continued with Christopher Stasheff. It was first published in paperback by Baen Books in de Camp and Stasheff's shared world anthology The Exotic Enchanter (1995). It was later reprinted together with the remainder of the de Camp/Pratt Harold Shea stories in the collection The Mathematics of Magic: The Enchanter Stories of L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt (2007).[1]

The Harold Shea stories are parallel world tales in which universes where magic works coexist with our own, and in which those based on the mythologies, legends, and literary fantasies of our world and can be reached by aligning one's mind to them by a system of symbolic logic. In "Sir Harold of Zodanga", in a new wrinkle, Shea visits a parallel Mars rather than a parallel Earth, Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom.

Sir Harold of Zodanga
The Exotic Enchanter
Cover of The Exotic Enchanter (Baen Books, 1995), in which "Sir Harold of Zodanga" was first published
AuthorL. Sprague de Camp
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
SeriesHarold Shea
GenreFantasy
PublisherBaen Books
Publication date
1995
Media typePrint (Paperback)
Pages288 pp
Preceded bySir Harold and the Hindu King 
Followed byHarold Shakespeare 

Plot summary

Dimension hopping Harold Shea, having returned home to his psychological practice, is visited by the malevolent enchanter Malambroso, an enemy of Shea and his partner Reed Chalmers who has also discovered the secret of transdimensional travel. Having been thwarted in his attempt to steal Chalmers' wife Florimel in previous adventures, the enchanter attempts to subvert Shea into aiding him. Rebuffed, he threatens vengeance, which he shortly puts into practice by kidnapping Voglinda, the young daughter of Shea and his wife Belphebe of Faerie.

In their search for their daughter, Harold and Belphebe find Malambroso has been residing in their world for some time, and from reading material discovered in his abandoned dwelling discover that he had become a fan of the Barsoom novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Reasoning that it is this alternate vision of Mars to which their foe has fled with the girl, they determine to travel there themselves by means of the symbolic logic formulas originally devised by Chalmers. Accordingly, they outfit themselves for the journey, or rather, de-outfit themselves, much to Belphebe's embarrassment; Burroughs' Barsoomians go about largely naked.

Arriving on Barsoom, the Sheas seek out the aid of the royal family of the city-state of Helium, which includes Burroughs' protagonist, the transplanted earthman John Carter. Carter is not present, but they manage to obtain an audience with his father-in-law, Mors Kajak, "jed" (king) of Lesser Helium. Kajak turns out to be somewhat sour on earthmen, including his own son-in-law, presenting a picture of them very different from that of Burroughs. He regards Carter as something of a blowhard, claiming impossible prowess in battle, and Ulysses Paxton, the other earthman resident on Barsoom, as a rabble-rouser, advocating Terran ideas of equality and freedom unwelcome to the hierarchical, slave-owning Martians.

Kajak suggests they seek guidance from Paxton's old mentor Ras Thavas, the so-called "master-mind of Mars," formerly villainous and still somewhat amoral. Thavas consents to aid the couple in return for some professional help from psychologist Shea; having previously had Paxton transplant his brain from his original aged body into a young and virile one, he has had difficulty adjusting to changed societal expectations, not to mention the youthful urges of his new form. With his assistance it is discovered that Malambroso has sought refuge in the one Barsoomian city-state that has shown itself receptive to Paxton's ideas – Zodanga, the traditional foe of Helium.

Together, the Sheas and Thavas succeed in tracking down Malambroso, first on thoat-back to Zodanga, and then by flier to the Great Toonoolian Marshes, with a stopover in Ptarth when their flier is damaged in an air skirmish. Over the course of their journey, Shea counsels the irascible genius successfully. Barsoom is found to be somewhat divergent from the romantic world written of by Burroughs. While the beasts are generally multi-legged, as described, the number of their limbs tend to be fewer than reported. Aside from in the medical area, the superior technology of the Martians has likewise been exaggerated, more comparable to that of Earth's nineteenth century than the futuristic vision portrayed in the novels. And as for Barsoomian honor, vaunted as much by Thavas as it had been by Carter, they are quickly disillusioned when a Zodangan makes a crude pass at Belphebe. On the other hand, Thavas provides something of a corrective to the jaundiced Kajak's view of Carter, who in his experience is a genuinely charismatic leader who can exact pledges of a defeated foe and make them stick. He attributes his own reform to Carter's influence.

The final battle is between Harold and an assassin hired by the enchanter to do his dirty work; they prove fairly evenly matched swordsmen until Thavas, with his superior mental powers, makes the hired killer believe he is confronting six Harolds rather than one. The assassin then abandons the conflict, and Belphebe shoots Malambroso with her bow. Voglinda is safe, as the villain had grown somewhat fond of and paternal toward his captive while on the lam from the Sheas.

Thavas uses his medical skills to save the life of the enchanter to keep Belphebe out of trouble with the law (a sword duel is considered a fair fight by Barsoomians, while a shooting death is murder). The recovering Malambroso abandons his vendetta; having become smitten by his Barsoomian nurse, he forswears his previous infatuation with Florimel. Satisfied, the Sheas depart, though not (immediately) to their home dimension; their pursuit has been costly, and they need to return their rented flier to Zodanga to recover their deposit on it, and resell the purchased thoats they had left there.

Differences from earlier Harold Shea stories

In previous tales Harold indulged his yearning for romantic adventure; this one, as in de Camp's immediately preceding Harold Shea story "Sir Harold and the Gnome King", brings his more practical characteristics to the fore. It continues the changes marked by the earlier work in both the fantasy worlds visited by the protagonist to and the manner in which they are portrayed.

Previous venues were generally based on mythology or pre-modern fantastic literature; these were depicted faithfully according to the original sources, and much of the action involved puzzling out and becoming proficient in the magical systems holding sway in them. Now the venues are drawn from modern fantasy or science fiction and are re-imagined in a way that strips them of what de Camp regards as their more absurd aspects. Thus, exploration of the source material is displaced by a revisionist view of it, while the protagonists’ interest in figuring out the local physics gives way to the pursuit of more immediate goals. In the present tale there isn't even a magical system to explore in the first place.

Unlike "Sir Harold and the Gnome King," in which de Camp's alterations of the original venue are attributable to events in the venue itself and the different viewpoint of the protagonist, the vision of Barsoom articulated in the present story is incompatible with Burroughs' original stories. While de Camp rationalizes his changes by attributing Burroughs's portrayal as erroneous reporting, the method of dimensional travel utilized by his characters depends on that reporting, in that the destination world is set by it. Thus, absurd or not, Malambroso and the Sheas should have ended up in the "erroneous" Burroughs version of Barsoom, not the "correct" de Camp version. Possibly de Camp's implication is that Burroughs' version would be impossible in any universe, and the one his characters reach is the closest approximation.

In any case, the "absurdities" dispensed with in de Camp's version of Barsoom include the impossible swordsmanship of John Carter, the unlikely rectitude and supposedly advanced technology of the inhabitants, the excessive attributes of the fauna (multitudinous limbs, physically impossible size, as of the supposedly gigantic hornet-like siths), and like matters, all set down to the exaggerated storytelling of Carter, Burroughs, or both. It is a firmly de-romanticized Barsoom through which the Sheas travel.

The story shares with its predecessor another inconsistency with previous entries in the series, in that the era in which it takes place seems to have been silently revised from the 1940s of the original tales to the 1990s in which it was written. In the most notable instance, the Burroughs works Malambroso is found to have read consist of contemporary paperback copies in addition to the editions available earlier in the century, and the Sheas too appear familiar with the later versions.

Notes

  1. ^ Sir Harold of Zodanga title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
Preceded by
"Sir Harold and the Hindu King"
Harold Shea Series
Sir Harold of Zodanga
Succeeded by
"Harold Shakespeare"
Barsoom

Barsoom is a fictional representation of the planet Mars created by American pulp fiction author Edgar Rice Burroughs. The first Barsoom tale was serialized as Under the Moons of Mars in 1912, and published as a novel as A Princess of Mars in 1917. Ten sequels followed over the next three decades, further extending his vision of Barsoom and adding other characters. The first five novels are in the public domain in U.S., and the entire series is free around the world on Project Gutenberg Australia, but the books are still under copyright in most of the rest of the world.

The Barsoom series, where John Carter in the late 19th century is mysteriously transported from Earth to a Mars suffering from dwindling resources, has been cited by many well known science fiction writers as having inspired and motivated them in their youth, as well as by key scientists involved in both space exploration and the search for extraterrestrial life. Elements of the books have been adapted by many writers, in novels, short stories, comics, television and film.

Harold Shea

The "Harold Shea" Stories is a name given to a series of five science fantasy stories by the collaborative team of L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt and to its later continuation by de Camp alone, Christopher Stasheff, Holly Lisle, John Maddox Roberts, Roland J. Green, Frieda A. Murray, Tom Wham, and Lawrence Watt-Evans. De Camp and Stasheff collectively oversaw the continuations. The series is also known as the "Enchanter" series, the "Incomplete Enchanter" series (after the first collection of stories) or the "Compleat Enchanter" series.

In the original stories, psychologist Harold Shea and his colleagues Reed Chalmers, Walter Bayard, and Vaclav Polacek (Votsy) travel to various parallel worlds where ancient myths or old literature are reality. In the course of their travels, other characters are added to the main cast, notably Belphebe and Florimel, who become the wives of Shea and Chalmers, respectively, and Pete Brodsky, a policeman who is accidentally swept up into the chaos. In the later continuations, the most notable additions to the cast are the recurring villain, Malambroso, and Voglinda, the young daughter of Shea and Belphebe.

Jetan

Jetan, also known as Martian Chess, is a chess variant with unclear rules. It was created by Edgar Rice Burroughs as a game played on Barsoom, his fictional version of Mars. The game was introduced in The Chessmen of Mars, the fifth book in the Barsoom series. Its rules are described in Chapter 2 and in the Appendix of the book.

Ras Thavas

Ras Thavas is a fictional character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs in his 1927 novel The Master Mind of Mars. Within the narrative framework of the story he is an elderly Martian mad scientist of the city-state of Toonol, the "Master Mind" of the novel's title, skilled in the surgical transplantation of brains. He takes in protagonist Ulysses Paxton, an earthman newly arrived on the planet, and educates him in the ways of Barsoom, as Mars is known to its inhabitants.

Ras has perfected techniques of brain transplantation, which he uses to provide rich elderly Martians with youthful new bodies for a profit. Distrustful of his fellow Martians, he trains Paxton as his assistant to perform the same operation on him. But Paxton has fallen in love with Valla Dia, one of Ras' young victims, whose body has been swapped for that of the hag Xaxa, Jeddara (empress) of the city-state of Phundahl. He refuses to operate on Ras until his mentor promises to restore her to her rightful body. Ras agrees, and receives his operation. Now distrustful of his protege, the scientist plots to murder him, but Paxton escapes in the company of other experimental victims of the master mind and proceeds to Phundahl on his quest to retrieve Valla Dia's original body. Ras warns Xaxa against Paxton, but the group ultimately succeeds in kidnapping the Jeddara and reversing the brain exchange. Later Ras travels to Phundahl for aid in recovering his island laboratory, from which he has been expelled by soldiers from Toonol. He finds Xaxa overthrown and Paxton's ally Dar Tarus the new Jeddak. Tarus agrees to oust the Toonolians on the condition that Ras reform and cease trafficking in bodies.

Sir Harold and the Gnome King

"Sir Harold and the Gnome King" is a fantasy novella American writer L. Sprague de Camp, part of the Harold Shea series he originated in collaboration with Fletcher Pratt and later continued with Christopher Stasheff. It was first published in the 1990 World Fantasy Convention Program Book. It first appeared in book form as a limited edition hardcover chapbook issued by Wildside Press in August, 1991, with a paperback edition following from the same publisher in October of the same year. In addition to the title story, the book includes an afterword by de Camp and illustrations by Stephen Fabian; the paperback edition also has a cover by Fabian. The story was afterwards reprinted, slightly revised, in de Camp and Stasheff's shared world anthology The Enchanter Reborn (1992). The original version was later reprinted together with the remainder of the de Camp/Pratt Harold Shea stories in the collection The Mathematics of Magic: The Enchanter Stories of L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt (2007).The Harold Shea stories are parallel world tales in which universes where magic works coexist with our own, and in which those based on the mythologies, legends, and literary fantasies of our world and can be reached by aligning one's mind to them by a system of symbolic logic. In Sir Harold and the Gnome King, Shea visits two such worlds, first (briefly) that of L. Ron Hubbard's setting from The Case of the Friendly Corpse (actually invented by John D. Clark and Mark Baldwin) and second L. Frank Baum's land of Oz.

As originally written, "Sir Harold and the Gnome King" was a direct sequel to de Camp and Pratt's previous Harold Shea story "The Green Magician", and appears to have been intended to tie up the main loose end remaining from that story, in which Shea's colleague Walter Bayard had been left stranded in the world of Irish mythology. Another issue addressed was a long-standing plot complication introduced by L. Ron Hubbard's "borrowing" of Shea for use in his novella The Case of the Friendly Corpse (1941), previously ignored by de Camp and Pratt. While the collaborators' original discussions for a sequel to "The Green Magician" had called for a story set in the world of Persian mythology, de Camp abandoned that plan in the sequel written.

When the story was reprinted in The Enchanter Reborn another tale, "Professor Harold and the Trustees", was interposed between it and "The Green Magician", necessitating some alteration to take into account the events of the new story. This was clumsily done through the insertion of a phrase into one sentence in a way that disturbed the actual sense of the sentence; further, a longer block of text was allowed to remain which should have been excised, as it directly contradicts the account of the new story.

The Exotic Enchanter

The Exotic Enchanter is an anthology of four fantasy short stories edited by American writers L. Sprague de Camp and Christopher Stasheff. The Exotic Enchanter is the second volume in the continuation of the Harold Shea series by de Camp and Fletcher Pratt. It was first published in paperback by Baen Books in 1995; an ebook edition followed from the same publisher in September 2013. All the pieces are original to the anthology.

De Camp and Pratt's original Harold Shea stories are parallel world tales in which universes where magic works coexist with our own, and in which those based on the mythologies, legends, and literary fantasies of our world and can be reached by aligning one's mind to them by a system of symbolic logic. In these stories psychologist Harold Shea and his colleagues Reed Chalmers, Walter Bayard, and Vaclav Polacek (Votsy), travel to a number of such worlds. In the course of their travels other characters are added to the main cast, including Belphebe and Florimel, who become the wives of Shea and Chalmers, and Pete Brodsky, a policeman who is accidentally swept up into the chaos. The Exotic Enchanter continues the new format of the series introduced in de Camp and Stasheff's previous volume, The Enchanter Reborn (1992), in which it was opened up into a shared world to which other authors were invited to contribute. In addition to stories by de Camp and Stasheff, who collectively oversaw the project, this volume includes contributions by Roland J. Green and Frieda A. Murray (in collaboration) and Tom Wham. Green and Murray may have worked from an outline provided by the editors as in the previous volume, though this is not stated. Wham's contribution is a distillation into concrete story form of his earlier authorized Harold Shea gamebook, Prospero's Isle, originally published by Tor Books in October 1987.The action in the first two stories concludes the quest by Shea and Chalmers to rescue Florimel that began in the previous volume, where she was kidnapped by the malevolent enchanter Malambroso. Their mission takes them into the worlds of the old Russian Tale of Igor's Campaign in "Enchanter Kiev," and that of Bhavabhuti's Baital Pachisi (or "Vikram and the Vampire"), a proto-Arabian Nights collection of Indian tales, in "Sir Harold and the Hindu King." After Florimel is finally recovered Shea and Belphebe must undertake a similar mission to Edgar Rice Burroughs's fictional version of Mars in "Sir Harold of Zodanga," this time to recover their daughter Voglinda, likewise seized by the unrepentant Malambroso. "Harold Shakespeare," the final tale, sends Shea and Belephebe on an unrelated adventure precipitated by the foolishness of Shea's colleague Polacek, into William Shakespeare's The Tempest.

The Master Mind of Mars

The Master Mind of Mars is a science fantasy novel by American writer Edgar Rice Burroughs, the sixth of his Barsoom series. Burroughs' working titles for the novel were A Weird Adventure on Mars and Vad Varo of Barsoom. It was first published in the magazine Amazing Stories Annual vol. 1, on July 15, 1927. The first book edition was published by A. C. McClurg in March, 1928.

Burroughs had been unable to place the novel in his standard, higher-paying markets like the Munsey magazines and the Street & Smith line. Some critics have speculated the publishers were put off by its satirical treatment of religious fundamentalists. He eventually sold it to publisher Hugo Gernsback for $1,250: only a third of the rate paid by magazines like Argosy All-Story, where the previous book in the series had first appeared. Gernsback chose the novel's final title and made it the cover feature in his newest magazine.

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