Time for a Short Break

There are now 50 posts (not including this one) on this blog. 48 of them since August 3rd when I started blogging in earnest. Most of my posts (but not all) have been rewrites or dusting up old articles.

I have not quite exhausted my back catalog yet but I am taking a break to write new articles and now will be posting stuff on a weekly basis. I thought having something every day would be a good way to have subscribers. I now think that was a mistake and too much of a good thing. There is only so much a person wants to read in a week.

So only once a week from now on…

I hope readers will start replying to posts and dialoging with everyone here. Also I readily invite guest bloggers. I hope to improve the blog in the future (eliminate the ads, use plug-ins to be more searchable, etc.) This is all a learning experience and I am still learning!

A big “Thank You” to everybody reading!

The next post will be on Sept 29, and posts will continue each Wednesday thereafter… do the “follow the blog” thing. Reading once a week is easy!

The Father of Sword & Sorcery?

This is a slight rewrite of the article that appeared in Leo Grin’s The Cimmerian (the best REH journal ever) many many years ago…

The 2006 Del Rey Books edition of Kull of Atlantis, proudly hails, “Heroic tales of adventure from the Father of Sword and Sorcery” on the cover. Inside the introduction (by the late/sadly missed Steve Tompkins) states: “It is not quite accurate to label “The Shadow Kingdom,” which introduced Weird Tales readers to King Kull in the August 1929 issue […] the original sword-and-sorcery story. To do so is to overlook an earlier masterpiece, Lord Dunsany’s 1910 “The Fortress Unvanquishable, Save for Sacnoth” […]. But the Howard tale jumps out at us as not only the first American sword-and-sorcery story but the first to summon a series into being by offering a setting, an arena, greater than was required for just a single adventure […].” Steve Tompkin’s introduction was not meant to be a history of sword-and-sorcery but it does bring up the question of just how Howard was crowned paterfamilias of the genre?

The term sword and sorcery has its roots in Robert E. Howard even though neither he, nor his contemporaries, ever used the term. It was in the pages of Amra, a fanzine dedicated to Robert E. Howard and his Conan stories, that the need for a genre label was first suggested. Michael Moorcock wrote that a term was needed to describe the type of stories that he and his peers wrote. Fritz Leiber replied (originally in the fanzine Ancalagon and also) in the July 1961 issue of Amra:

A consensus grew and in 1963 L. Sprague de Camp edited the book, Swords and Sorcery. This was the first collection of its type. It featured Howard’s “Shadows in the Moonlight” among others. Despite the title de Camp apparently prefers the term heroic fantasy. De Camp writes in the introduction: “Heroic Fantasy is the name of a class of stories laid, not in the world as it is or was or will be, but as it ought to have been to make a good story.” De Camp lays out the basics of the genre: “In such a world, gleaming cities raise their shining spires against the stars; sorcerers cast sinister spells from subterranean lairs; baleful spirits stalk crumbled ruins; primeval monsters crash through jungle thickets; and the fate of kingdoms is balanced on the bloody blades of broadswords brandished by heroes of preternatural might and valor.” De Camp defends this colorfully unreal fiction: “Heroic fantasy is escape reading in which you escape clear out of the real universe. But, come to think of it, these tales are not a bit more “unreal” than any of the hundreds of whodunits wherein, after the stupid cops have fallen over their own big feet, the brilliant amateur – a private detective, a newspaper reporter, or a little old lady – steps in and solves the crime.” Howard is given no special status as the “father” of this genre but de Camp does say, “for vivid, violent, gripping, headlong action, the stories of Robert Ervin Howard take the prize among heroic fantasies.” The introduction credits William Morris as reviving heroic fantasy in the 1880s. Lord Dunsany, a predecessor of Howard, is represented in the collection.

De Camp followed this book with his The Spell of Seven in 1965. This book was dedicated “to my fellow enthusiasts for the art of heroic fantasy: the members of the Hyborian Legion.” De Camp would wear a nametag to science-fiction conventions bearing this affiliation thus promoting Howard and the genre. De Camp says: “These are stories laid in an imaginary world, superficially somewhat like ours, but a world where magic works and machinery has not yet been invented. Sometimes this world is that which the story-teller imagines ours was like in prehistoric times. Sometimes he fancies that it will exist in the distant future, when the sun has dimmed, science and civilization have decayed, and magic has once again come into its own. Sometimes the scene is a world in another universe parallel to ours, where the laws of nature are different.” De Camp states that “for its ultimate inspiration, heroic fantasy goes back to the saga, the epic, the legend, and the myth.” De Camp gives a slight historic overview and again credits William Morris as the creator of modern heroic fantasy. Again Dunsany is represented in the collection. De Camp says: “Nearly all later authors of fantasy […] owe something to him.” De Camp says of Howard that: “Despite certain literary faults, Howard was one of the greatest natural story-tellers the genre has produced. Nobody has excelled him in constructing a fast-moving, smoothly-flowing tale of headlong, violent, gripping action. His stories are not only readable but also endlessly rereadable.”

The Fantastic Swordsmen, published in 1967, the third de Camp anthology, gives another defense of the genre in the introduction. De Camp writes: “if the reader can believe in international spies who race about in super-powered cars from one posh gambling joint to another and find a beautiful babe awaiting them in bed at each stop, a few dragons and demons should not bother him.” Lord Dunsany is represented again, this time with his story, “The Fortress Unvanquishable, Save for Sacnoth” which certainly seems a heroic fantasy or sword and sorcery tale written years before any Howard tale. De Camp writes: “Dunsany was perhaps the strongest single influence in the development of fantasy fiction in the present century.” In the preface to “Drums of Tombalku” de Camp says, “Of writers of heroic fantasy, the greatest natural story-teller was Robert Ervin Howard.” De Camp makes no claim for Howard as the father of the genre. Later de Camp mentions “Conan’s preeminence in his field.” The popularity of the de Camp edited Lancer Conan series is starting to be felt.

The Conan series, edited by de Camp, and published by Lancer Books began in 1966 with Conan the Adventurer. In the introduction no genre information is really discussed. De Camp simply writes: “The Conan stories are the ultimate in tales of swashbuckling adventure with a strong and sinister flavor of the supernatural.” Conan the Warrior, published in 1967, simply states that “Of all the many kinds of fiction, the one that gives the purest entertainment is heroic fantasy: the story of swordplay and sorcery laid in an imaginary world […]. One of the greatest writers of heroic fantasy was Robert Ervin Howard […].” Conan the Conqueror, 1967, has some Heroic Fantasy discussion and states that William Morris pioneered the genre, followed by “Lord Dunsany and Eric R. Eddison in the earliest twentieth [century]. Writing in the early 1930s, Howard was one of its strongest formative forces.” Conan the Usurper, 1967, was next, no genre information was really discussed. De Camp mentions Kull, Bran Mak Morn, Solomon Kane, and Conan, all, as examples of Howard’s swashbuckling adventure-fantasies. The volume Conan, 1967, has plenty of biographical information as well as genre information. De Camp defines sword-and-sorcery: “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.” De Camp repeats his assertion that William Morris pioneered the genre and that Dunsany and Eddison refined it. Conan the Avenger repeats the William Morris assertion with nods toward Dunsany and Eddison. De Camp praises Howard and states: “Howard had an excellent prose style, unobtrusive, and highly readable. He had the rare knack of giving the impression of a highly colorful scene without actually using many adjectives to describe it.” Conan the Freebooter, 1969, reprints John D. Clark’s introduction from the Gnome Press volume, Conan the Conqueror. No genre information is discussed. Conan the Wanderer, 1968, mentions that heroic fantasy or swordplay-and-sorcery fiction was written by E. R. Eddison, J. R. R. Tolkien, Fletcher Pratt, and Fritz Leiber. Conan of the Isles, 1968, discusses fantasy at length. William Morris is again credited as the modern creator of heroic fantasy and Dunsany and Eddison as later developers. Conan of Cimmeria, 1969, again credits Morris, Dunsany and Eddison as the creators/developers of the genre. De Camp goes on to mention Tolkien and later stresses that “Before [Howard] undertook the writing of the Conan stories, Howard constructed a pseudo-history of Conan’s world, with the geography, ethnography, and political units clearly worked out. It is partly the concreteness of Howard’s imaginary world that gives his stories their vividness and fascination – his sharp, gorgeous, consistent vision of ‘a purple and golden and crimson universe where anything can happen – except the tedious.’”

Lin Carter’s book Tolkien: A Look Behind the Lord of the Rings came out in 1969. Carter mentions the conversation de Camp had with Tolkien, in which Tolkien said (according to de Camp) that he rather enjoyed Conan. Carter says, “Although it is possible to trace many of [Tolkien’s] story themes and plot devices to their origins in northern mythology and literature, he certainly does not intend to hint that his readers should superimpose a map of ancient Europe and the Near East over his imaginary chart of Middle-Earth, as one is supposed to do, for example with the world of the Hyborian Age wherein the fantasy writer Robert E. Howard laid the scene for his swashbuckling stories of Conan the Cimmerian.” Carter adds a footnote: “Those Conan stories, originally written for the American pulp magazine Weird Tales, are pulp fiction at its most lurid and gory – and at its most colorful and sheerly entertaining.” Carter traces fantasy back from the classics as everyone does. He does go to say: “It awaited only a small number of writers to draw these elements together from epic, saga, and romance and to reintroduce them into modern fiction.” He then proceeds to discuss William Morris, Lord Dunsany, and E. R. Eddison as these writers. Later in the book, Carter writes: “The adventure fantasies of Robert E. Howard ([…] are of a subgenre called Sword and Sorcery and not, strictly speaking, epic fantasy in the Morris-Dunsany-Eddison-Tolkien tradition at all) […].” Carter footnotes this: “The phrase was coined to describe simple, direct, pulp action stories which pitch brawny barbarian heroes, armed with broadswords and the like, against evil magicians or supernatural monsters. The subgenre was more or less created by Robert E. Howard (1906-1936) with his “Conan of Cimmeria” stories, written for the magazine Weird Tales.” By the end of the book, Carter summarizes, “If L. Sprague de Camp is correct in his opinion that Lord Dunsany was the most influential fantasy writer of the first half of this century, then I feel that J. R. R. Tolkien will prove the greatest influence over writers in the last half.”

The Mighty Barbarians came out in 1969. This was a collection of five sword and sorcery tales compiled by Hans Stefan Santesson, a former editor of SF/Fantasy magazines. Santesson brings up the epic past to describe the origins of these stories and says: “We are concerned here however with a subgenre of these folk tales which have lived through to our times in the writings of Tolkien and still others who have, with care and with affection, created alternative worlds in which we can take refuge for a while from the Orwellian realities which surround us.” There is no special mention of Howard being the creator of the genre.

The Mighty Swordsmen in 1970 is a sequel to the above book. Santesson gets even more trippy in this introduction. “Starting with this premise, that our present day understanding of history is somewhat limited, we can thus legitimately wonder, as Lin Carter and others do in this group of stories, what life was like in those days before the dawn of history. Or what we now know as history. All that is demanded of us is the willingness to accept that the possibility that civilizations have risen and have fallen, long before those which may be known to us by their records or by their monuments. We have to recognize the possibility that we may even have misread those records or failed to understand the meaning of these monuments.” Santesson seems to be forgetting the sorcery part of sword and sorcery. He does go on to mention Conan saying: “[…] Conan the Cimmerian, [is] possibly the personification of this approach to an age […].”

Signet Books published an anthology called Swords Against Tomorrow in 1970. The introduction by Robert Hoskins says, “The first sword and sorcery story may have been the Odyssey of Homer, or it may have been a legend recited around the campfires of a nomadic tribe. Whichever, the tradition lives on, stronger than ever, in the tales of Robert E. Howard, L. Sprague de Camp, and the writers included in this collection.”

Despite being the editor of the first anthology devoted to “sword and sorcery” and it being titled Swords and Sorcery de Camp rarely used that term, preferring heroic fantasy. In his final anthology, Warlocks and Warriors, published in 1970, de Camp says his book is a “collection of stories of heroic fantasy – or, as the genre is also called, swordplay-and-sorcery stories.” De Camp again traces the history of heroic fantasy from myth to J. R. R. Tolkien. Howard is presented in the collection with a Solomon Kane story and given no special consideration as the father of the genre. Dunsany is described as “one of the strongest single influences on the development of fantasy fiction in the present century […].”

Conan the Buccaneer, 1971, features an introduction by Lin Carter. Carter uses the term Sword & Sorcery. The first time it is stated exactly thus in a Conan book. And while Carter talks about ancient sagas and epic poems being the predecessor of sword-and-sorcery he pointedly says, “it was only recently that these scattered and diverse story elements were reconstituted into what we call Sword & Sorcery. The man who did this was a fiction writer for the adventure pulp magazines of the 1930s named Robert E. Howard.” Carter gives a brief history and states: “In pulling together the various elements of supernatural horror, ancient magic, and legendary prehistoric civilization, within the context of a fast-paced pulp adventure yarn, Howard contributed a new genre to the field of literature. We call it Sword & Sorcery.” It is possible that someone else christened Howard the father of Sword & Sorcery earlier, but Lin Carter’s pronouncement in the pages of a best-selling mainstream popular paperback is certainly the first popularization of the idea that Robert E. Howard is the father of Sword & Sorcery. It would be nice if Lin Carter were given credit for this.

Carter had another “look behind” book published in 1972. Lovecraft: A Look Behind The Cthulhu Mythos. In the introduction Carter writes of Robert E, Howard: “[…] the popularity of his own school of “Sword & Sorcery” may be, probably are, transient phenomena.” Dunsany is discussed for his influence on Lovecraft (and fantasy in general). Carter, of course, discusses Howard’s correspondence and friendship with Lovecraft and Howard’s contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos. Carter gives a brief history of Kull and Conan as examples of Howard’s heroic fantasy adventures.

Imaginary Worlds was Lin Carter’s magnum opus on fantasy published in 1973. Carter starts the overview in the same way as most overviews. Carter makes a Gilgamesh Epic/Conan Heroic Fantasy connection in the very first chapter. He then goes on to discuss William Morris, Lord Dunsany, and E. R. Eddison. Carter adds plenty of other authors to the discussion too. Howard comes up for discussion in the third chapter. Conan is mentioned as the prototypical Sword and Sorcery hero. But what is interesting and different here is that Solomon Kane is mentioned with special interest. “It was not until the [Weird Tales] issue of August 1928, however, that [Howard] began to find his true metier; in that issue appeared “Red Shadows” […].”

Carter points out that Lovecraft said it was with Solomon Kane “that Howard found his way to “one of his most effective accomplishments – the description of vast megalithic cities of the elder world, around whose dark towers and labyrinthine nether vaults linger an aura of pre-human fear and necromancy.” Carter goes on to say, “Howard swiftly carried the idea to its logical extremity and began plotting stories in the lost, forgotten civilizations of the elder world themselves.” Carter says, “with the birth of Conan, Howard entered his great phase. […] The readers loved it, because it was something fresh and new, something which combined the heroic action of Burroughs, the black magic and evil demons of Lovecraft, and the fabulous legendary prehistoric kingdoms of Smith.” Carter summarizes by saying Howard created Sword and Sorcery with the popularity of Conan. Carter considers Solomon Kane as more of a precursor to full-blown Sword & Sorcery.

Chapter 7 of Imaginary Worlds discusses Sword and Sorcery in more detail. Carter suggests “the invention might date from August 1929, the publication date of “The Shadow Kingdom” […].” Carter says might here, undoubtedly, because of his (and Lovecraft’s) earlier connection of “Red Shadows” to the creation of a new genre. While Carter influenced de Camp’s thoughts on fantasy (an example being Carter saying de Camp once remarked he had never realized the position of William Morris in the imaginary-world tradition until reading one Lin’s fanzine articles) de Camp included a Solomon Kane story in his heroic fantasy anthologies.

Carter credits Ace Books with the “first recognizable milestone in the revival of Sword & Sorcery” with the publication of Andre Norton’s Witch World in 1963. Ace Books had earlier success with Burroughs and Tolkien and were looking for similar product. Then in 1966, Conan hit the stands. “From a fairly slow, uneven start, the Conan series took off for the high country … and today, with three million copies in print […] it has never come down.” Of course even more product followed. Carter quotes John Jakes, creator of Brak the Barbarian, “we Sword & Sorcery chaps are generally looked down on as mere imitators of Howard […].” Carter, like de Camp, rankles that the genre is not more respected. Carter, perhaps to his detriment, is brutally honest when he says, “Sword & Sorcery is the smallest, tightest literary genre I can think of, and one that is completely derivative.” This is not an opinion all Sword & Sorcery writers and fans would necessarily agree with of course. But Carter redeems himself in his love for the genre. He later added: “there just ain’t enough of it around, the real old-fashioned stuff, and never has been […].” In 1968, an organization of Sword & Sorcery writers was formed. Carter, de Camp, Jakes formed the first members. Later Fritz Leiber, Andre Norton, Jack Vance, Poul Anderson, and Michael Moorcock joined. Carter’s “Flashing Swords!” series from Dell Books gives more details on the organization and these writers.

Lin Carter was probably at his peak in 1973. His Ballantine Adult Fantasy series was still going and he was putting out series after series for decent paying publishers. Flashing Swords! #1 hit the stands with an exciting Frank Frazetta cover. Sword-and-Sorcery was hot! Carter dedicated the book to Robert E. Howard “without whom we would all probably be writing nothing but science fiction stories.” Carter defines the genre: “We call a story Sword & Sorcery when it is an action tale, derived from the traditions of the pulp magazine adventure story, set in a land, age or world of the author’s invention – a milieu in which magic actually works and the gods are real – a story, moreover, which pits a stalwart warrior in direct conflict with the forces of supernatural evil.” Carter says Howard founded the genre and had something that “makes other writers eager to try their hand at this new variety of fiction.” Carter then proceeds to discuss other writers in the field and how Carter, de Camp, and Jakes founded the Swordsmen and Sorcerers’ Guild of America, SAGA for short. Carter, in a reversal of sorts, from his Imaginary Worlds discussion says the “fine old art of Sword & Sorcery writing has evolved quite a ways from the era of Robert E. Howard […].” Carter explains that newer writers have changed the setting from prehistoric times to alternate worlds and far-flung futures.

Flashing Swords! #2 followed #1 a year later. Frazetta’s now famous Death Dealer painting was the cover. Carter somewhat lazily says Howard created Sword & Sorcery with the publication of the first Conan story. An argument could be made that it wasn’t until Conan that Howard hit on the exact right mix that would keep Farnsworth Wright wanting more of the same – paving the path for Henry Kuttner’s Elak, C. L. Moore’s Jirel, and others – thus creating the Sword & Sorcery genre. But after Carter’s more historical overview in Imaginary Worlds, not mentioning Kull and Kane seems simply a shortcut. Carter praises Howard: “Very few writers are privileged to do something new and different. […] Howard was one of the gifted few.” Most fans and critics routinely called Howard “the father of Sword & Sorcery” from this point on.

Lin Carter was editing a new series from Daw Books, The Year’s Best Fantasy Stories. Carter starts the introduction with sad news. Tolkien had passed away in 1973, Lancer Books went bankrupt in 1974, and Ballantine Books had quit publishing the Adult Fantasy Series. Carter also tells us that the Leo Margulies revival of Weird Tales died with the fourth issue. The introduction ends on somewhat of a downer, “With the suspension of Lancer and the gradual phasing out of fantasy at Ballantine, just about the only market for original fantasy novels left is DAW Books.” Carter hopes fantasy has entered the mainstream with the popularity of Richard Adams Watership Down. Fantasy was certainly entering a new phase. The old authors were fading out. Fantastic Stories, a digest sized magazine, where Lin Carter’s fiction often appeared quit publishing in 1980. Tolkien would continue to become ever more popular and new fantasy works in his vein were to be the future. Lester del Rey became an editor at Ballantine and had success with new fantasy originals.

Flashing Swords! #3 appeared in 1976 and the genre definitely appeared to be winding down. Carter gives a very short introduction and the book’s cover art is more Tolkien like than Howard like. Howard is absent from the introduction. Flashing Swords! #4, 1977, features some comic-book type art and Elric on the cover. Howard is mentioned but not touted as the creator of the genre. Conan, Kull, Bran, and Kane are all mentioned. The Conan comic book is singled out as “the best comic book around today.”

Ace Books picked up the reprinting of the Lancer Books series and Conan of Aquilonia, the final volume was published in 1977. It has a de Camp penned intro that is a throwback to the previous general heroic fantasy information found in earlier volumes.

April 1979 saw the publication of Heroic Fantasy, a collection of stories edited by Gerald W. Page and Hank Reinhardt. Page and Reinhardt state: “The modern taste for heroic fantasy grew from the popular discovery of the fiction of two men: Robert E. Howard and J. R. R. Tolkien.” They go on to praise Howard and Conan in particular: “The Phoenix on the Sword” is a revision of an unsold Kull story, “By This Axe I Rule.” Howard added some magic, and the enormous factor of Conan’s personality. It is astonishing to see the differences. Kull, a fine character, nevertheless pales alongside Conan.”

The last in the series, Flashing Swords! #5, appeared in 1981. Howard is mentioned as the genre’s founder “with his famous tales of King Kull and Conan the Barbarian […].” The comic books’ influence is showing. The book features writers who are not members of SAGA. It seems more than ever that an era is passing. Carter had only seven more years of life. He died of cancer on February 7, 1988 at the age of 58.

Stephen King’s Danse Macabre first published in 1981 praises Howard to some extent but dismisses Sword and Sorcery as a viable genre. “This sort of fiction, commonly called “sword and sorcery” by its fans, is not fantasy at its lowest, but it still has a pretty tacky feel […]. Sword and sorcery novels and stories are tales of power for the powerless. […] The only writer who really got away with this stuff was Robert E. Howard […].” No mention is made of Howard being the “father” of the genre, just its best practitioner.

Dark Valley Destiny, de Camp’s biography of Robert E. Howard, published in 1983, avoids the term sword and sorcery for the most part. But de Camp does say, “[Howard] was not only the first person in West Texas to earn his living as a writer; he was also the first American writer to develop a new genre of literature – a genre that has come to be closely associated with his name: heroic fantasy.” Later he writes, “So distinctive, indeed, in both content and style are the stories of the Conan saga – combining as they do precipitous action, spirited swordplay, blood-chilling magic, ghosts, monsters, and color-splashed lands of sunshine and shadow – that Howard is credited with starting in America the genre of heroic fantasy.” De Camp never really let go of his belief (apparently acquired from Lin Carter) that William Morris revived the genre and that Dunsany and Eddison refined it. Since they are British writers, de Camp qualifies his statement with the “in America” comment. The introduction to the Del Rey Book, Kull of Atlantis, discussed earlier agrees with de Camp’s view that Dunsany wrote Sword and Sorcery before Howard and Carter’s view that “The Shadow Kingdom” is (probably) the first American Sword & Sorcery tale.

The later Conan pastiches, published by Bantam and then Tor, rarely mentioned Howard or Sword & Sorcery at all. The Lancer and Ace series, the Marvel comics, and the Schwarzenegger movies had established Conan as a brand name. If any current mainstream paperback books can be said to be in debt to Robert E. Howard, the Age of Conan series from Ace Books is it. The first book in the series, Blood of Wolves, doesn’t mention Howard on the cover at all. “Conan” is highly prominent in attractive copper-colored raised type.

The new millenium has seen some respected critics applauding Howard. Michael Dirda, a Pulitzer Prize winner, reviewed the three Del Rey Conan volumes for the Washington Post. John J. Miller, a Wall Street Journal contributor, wrote: “What ultimately set Howard apart was a dazzling imagination that dreamed up the sword-and-sorcery subgenre of fantasy literature before anybody heard about J. R. R. Tolkien and his hobbits. With Conan, Howard created a protagonist whose name is almost as familiar as Tarzan’s.”

That Conan came to overshadow Howard is not the fault of either de Camp or Carter. They both had it right. De Camp, while mentioning Morris, Dunsany, and Eddison, recognized all of Howard’s heroic fantasy storytelling as an original American creation. Carter saying that Howard created a new genre is correct for those of us who wish Howard-style American sword & sorcery to once again populate the bookstore shelves. “The Father of Sword & Sorcery” is an accurate battle cry that shouts proudly Howard’s preeminence in the fantasy field.

Book Review: Man and Power

by Brian Kunde

Today’s de Camp highlight is Man and Power: the Story of Power from the Pyramids to the Atomic Age (New York, Golden Press, 1961), a nonfiction science book for older juveniles. Unlike Engines (1959), de Camp’s previous Golden Press for younger readers, this is no jumped up “Little Golden Book.” This is a big old honking Golden Book, 189 pages long, and as tall and wide as one of the era’s slick magazines. It was issued in two states, as a “Deluxe Golden Book” for $4.95, and a “Goldencraft Book” for $4.99. The main differences between them are the cover colors (primarily orange on the former, primarily blue on the latter), and that the latter is a library edition with more durable binding. I have the Deluxe Golden Book version, so that’s the one pictured. Its binding seems plenty durable enough.

There was just the one printing for the book in the United States, for reasons that will become apparent, but it gained more lives overseas. There were editions in French—La conquete de l’energie, de la fronde a l’atom (Paris, Ed. Des Deux coqs d’or, 1962), Italian—Dalla fionda all’atomo: la conquista dell’energia (Milano, Mondadori, 1962, 3rd edition L’uomo e energia, Milano, Monadori, 1967), German—Der Mensch und die Energie (Zurich, Delphin Verlag, 1962, 2nd edition Stuttgart, Delphin Verlag, 1968), Swedish—Manniskan och Kraften (Stockholm, Folket I Bild, 1963), and Spanish—La conquista de la energia (Barcelona, Bruguera, 1964). This list is obviously not exhaustive—for instance, if there were first and third Italian editions, there must also have been a second—but these are all the foreign editions I’ve seen cataloging or citations for.

Oh, and there actually was another U.S. version as well, just not from Golden, and apparently abridged—a little-known cut-down version issued in Chicago by Science Research Associates in 1962, “reprinted” from the original but reduced to 32 pages and without the original illustrations, though with new ones by Walter Ferro. I know nothing of this one but its existence.

Man and Power was actually commissioned before Engines, as one in a series of such books. De Camp composed a sample in November 1955, but it took Golden a couple years to organize the project and send de Camp a contract, whereupon he wrote the rest in six weeks in the summer of 1957. Engines, also conceived and written during this period, came out before the longer work. I suspect the delay was occasioned by the illustrations. Which, for the record, included “original documents” and photographs by Russ Kinne, Roman Vishniac, “and others,” and paintings by Alton S. Tobey.

De Camp’s next book for Golden, Energy and Power (1962), was not part of the series, but a companion to Engines, with complementary content, and, like it, part of The Golden Library of Knowledge. As it chugged its way to publication, however, he received contracts for sequels to Man and Power; he duly turned in two more manuscripts, for Man and Life, on the biological sciences, and Man and Cities, on urbanization, and started a third, Man and Weapons, on warfare. Then everything came unglued. Golden suffered financial reverses, de Camp’s editor (fellow Trap Door Spider member Jean le Corbeiller) was let go, the delivered manuscripts were shelved, and the in-progress one was abandoned. So died a noble undertaking. Of a sequence that ought to have extended to four books, or more, we have only the first.

Such reverses notwithstanding, the era of the late 1950s through the early 1970s was still a boom time for science publishing, thanks to the heating up of the space race. From L. Sprague and Catherine Crook de Camp, singly or collectively, we get The Heroic Age of American Invention (1961), The Ancient Engineers (1963), Ancient Ruins and Archaeology (1964), Elephant (1964), The Story of Science in America (1967), The Day of the Dinosaur (1968), The Great Monkey Trial (1968), Darwin and His Great Discovery (1972), and Great Cities of the Ancient World (1972), not to mention boatloads of science articles. Heck, they even got Spirits, Stars, and Spells (1966), their definitive take on debunkery, published during this time.

But back to Man and Power. Just what’s in this book? Actually, it bears more than a passing resemblance to that of Engines and Energy and Power. Its ten chapters are titled “Manpower,” “Animal Power,” “Wind Power,” “Water Power,” Steam Power,” “Internal-Combustion Power,” “Chemical Power,” “Electric Power,” “Nuclear Power,” and “Future Power.” So … did he essentially write the same book three times, twice for small fry and once for somewhat older fry? Seems kind of a let-down. Now I really long for those sequels, if only so we could see “Man” given a few other things to do! Still, the book does age up. It goes over the familiar ground in a lot more detail, with text that is clear and concise, hitting its points with an admirable comprehensibility, suited alike to the least- and most technically-minded of readers. Exactly as one would expect of de Camp. Despite or because of the aim at young readers, it’s probably the equal of a whole college course on the subject. It also has an adequate index, and is, let’s face it, a gorgeous tome. So there you go.

Maybe this is a good place to talk about de Camp’s collaborators on the book. As previously noted, these include Russ Kinne, Roman Vishniac, “others,” and Alton S. Tobey. (The “original documents” promised before their names need not detain us. These are all reproductions, of course, generally of whatever small relevant portions of the actual documents as are called for, and sparse on the ground, to boot.)

In regard to the photographers named, there seems little reason to have singled out Kinne and Vishniac over the host of additional image suppliers covered by the word “others.” Their credits may appear a bit more often than most amid the myriad others attached to the hundreds of photos supplied, but still account for a small minority of the illustrations. In the absence of a comprehensive listing of the “others,” as might have graced a more “adult” treatment, a sample drawn from the endpapers and a couple interior pages will give some hint of their flavor: American Museum of Natural History, American Numismatic Society, Brooklyn Museum, Cooke/Photo Researchers, Carlos Elmer, H. Grumstein/Photo Researchers, Rapho-Guillumette, Shostal, Sabine Weiss, Science Museum [of] London, Stimson FPB, Charles Uht, United States Air Force … you get the idea. And in most instances, these merely reproduce the work of others still who did the original diagrams, plans, or paintings. As one instance, the large painting on the double-spread title page, credited to “Brooklyn Museum/Charles Uht,” is then helpfully captioned “Louisiana Rice Fields by Thomas Hart Benton.” All of this admitted, one might still be curious about the two photographers deemed important enough to rate mention on the title page.

Russ Kinne, named first, is the working name of Russell Cutler Kinne, born February 7, 1928 in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. He attended Brown University, graduating after an education interrupted by World War II with a BA in Psychology in the Class of 1950. He was a freelance photographer by at least 1957, and a member of the Explorer’s Club from 1960. As a nature photographer and photojournalist, he traveled the world on assignment or shooting stock images. In 1968 he established Russ Kinne, Inc. in New Canaan, Connecticut, specializing in portrait and pet photography, and has served as its president since. In 1957 he married Jane Ann Segnitz, a prominent photo researcher and expert in media reproduction rights and law. She died November 3, 2007; Russ, at 93, is still living. In later life he has resided in Topsham, Maine. His LinkedIn profile lists him as photographer, pilot, boat skipper, diver, and writer. Besides supplying photographs to books by numerous authors (like de Camp), he is himself the author of various educational slide sets and the books The Complete Book of Nature Photography (several editions, the first in 1962), Fishes of the Shallow Sea (1965), Life on a Coral Reef (1965), The Complete Book of Photographing Birds (1981), and Rosie’s Lightning, An Amusing Retrospection (2013). NANPA’s Kinne Legacy Award, originally the Russ Kinne Grant and then the Russ & Jane Kinne Recognition Grant, was established in honor of the Kinnes’ work.

The second-in-line photographer, Roman Vishniac, was born August 19, 1897 to a Jewish family in Russia. Educated in zoology and medicine, he moved with his family to Germany in 1918, where he studied Far Eastern Art in Berlin. In addition to his photographic work he was a biologist, art history teacher, and art collector. He made scientific contributions to photomicroscopy and time-lapse photography. On commission from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, he amassed an unequalled photo archive of pre-Holocaust Jewish communities in Central and Eastern Europe from 1935-1938. His wife and children went to Sweden to escape the Nazis in 1939; he was detained in France by the Vichy government, but later reunited with his family in the United States. There he made an initially precarious living shooting portraits of mostly foreign clients, including Albert Einstein. From the 1950s onward he was a prominent academic based in New York. He received honorary doctoral degrees from the Rhode Island School of Design, Columbia College of Art, and the California College of Art. He died in New York City on January 22, 1990, aged 92. He was author of A Vanished World (1947, with a new edition in 1983), on pre-war Jewish Culture in Eastern Europe, which made him famous; his other publications include This Living Earth (1956), Mushrooms (1957), Living Earth (1959), Building Blocks of Life: Proteins, Vitamins, and Hormones Seen Through the Microscope (1971) and various posthumous works, mostly photographic. There have been several major exhibitions of his photography. An archive of his work and memorabilia is held in the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life at the University of California at Berkeley.

And then there’s Alton S. Tobey, credited on the title page with paintings that appear without individual credits throughout the book. Most are of historical scenes, individual devices (including diagrams), landscapes and maps. Alton Stanley Tobey was born November 5, 1914 in Middletown, Connecticut. He was a painter of historical art and portraits, a muralist, and illustrator, working in a realistic style, as well as a teacher of art. He won a scholarship to the Yale University School of Fine Arts in 1934, but his education, like Kinne’s, was interrupted by military service, following which he completed his MA at Yale and then taught there. His early murals, largely on historical subjects, were created for the WPA Federal Art Project in the 1930s. He was president of the National Society of Mural Painters from 1984 to 1988. As a portraitist, he painted Pope John Paul II, Robert Frost, and Albert Einstein. (That name again; guess that fellow was famous…) His illustrations appeared in the 12-volume Golden Book History of the United States, SPORT, Life, and innumerable Time-Life Books. His experimental abstract works, exploring a number of personal idioms, are less well known. Alton lived most of his life in Mamaroneck, New York, where he died on January 4, 2004, aged 90. Per his New York Times obituary, his work “hangs in museums, libraries, public buildings, corporate offices, and private collections.” He is ranked by the Artists Trade Union of Russia among the best world artists of the past four centuries. Works illustrated by him are numerous, though I find none under his own name as primary author.

Okay, having gone (more than) a bit overboard on de Camp’s artistic collaborators, I’ve said pretty much everything I set out to say about this book. I would ordinarily conclude by telling you who it is dedicated to and profiling the dedicatee(s), but can’t in this case, as there’s no dedication. Likely a publisher or editor-mandated decision, as de Camp loved dedicating his books.

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Magazine of Horror

This is another in the series of looking back at the old introductions that were written prior to the era known as The Howard Boom. Let’s look at the Magazine of Horror. There were 36 issues running from 1963 – 1971.

From Tuck’s Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Up to No. 6 the contents page gave The Magazine of Horror and Strange Stories; from No. 7 the subtitle changed to Strange Tales and Science Fiction, and from No. 15 to the Bizarre and the Unusual. A magazine for weird enthusiasts, this has mainly reprinted notable stories from Weird Tales and other old sources, with a few original short stories. It was very capably edited by Robert A. W. Lowndes, with interesting and knowledgeable lead-ins to most stories, and did much to keep the classical (or near classic) weird stories in print. Book reviews have been presented at times, and the letter department “It Is Written” did much to build up a sense of comradeship within the magazine.

Following are the various intros to the stories published therein. MOH also published several poems but these were presented without introduction.

The Magazine of Horror started publishing Robert E. Howard’s work in issue #9, cover dated, June 1965. Little was known of REH at the time. The suggestion that REH was a pen name for Edgar Rice Burroughs sounds quite ludicrous today but a statement like that was addressed seriously at the time. By 1966 more REH manuscripts were being found and the introduction in issue #13 addresses that. Issue #15 is cover dated Spring 1967, by this time the Conan phenomenon was in full bloom. The introductions now reference the popular Conan series.

One item from MOH # 23 has to be mentioned. De Camp was never deferential enough for some REH fans. His refusal to put REH on a pedestal and his critical look at REH’s suicide has made de Camp a pariah to quite a few REH fans. Here de Camp gives what I think is a heartfelt and pragmatic apology.

These magazines published just before and during The Howard Boom give us an insight into early fandom and show the excitement of re-discovering a classic author. Nostalgia is most likely a form of depression but these old magazines rekindle my excitement as a young man in reading these stories for the first time. I’m glad I’m an old codger who was around back in the day!

Fantastic

This is a companion piece to the previous post on The Avon Fantasy Reader. Fantastic was published from 1952 to 1980.

From Wikipedia: It was founded by the publishing company Ziff Davis as a fantasy companion to Amazing Stories. Early sales were good, and the company quickly decided to switch Amazing from pulp format to digest, and to cease publication of their other science fiction pulp, Fantastic Adventures. Within a few years sales fell, and Howard Browne, the editor, was forced to switch the focus to science fiction rather than fantasy. […] At the end of the 1950s, Cele Goldsmith took over as editor of both Fantastic and Amazing Stories, and quickly invigorated the magazines …

A part of that invigorating was to print stories by recognized authors. Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories had been reprinted in the Gnome Press Hardcover editions and REH fandom was growing through fan publications like Amra and The Howard Collector. Magazines were starting to reintroduce REH to their readers.

Sam Moskowitz did the honors for Fantastic. His first introduction appeared in the May 1961 issue that reprinted “Garden of Fear.”

The intro stresses REH connection with Weird Tales and the Conan stories. “Howard’s forte was violent action…”

The next introduction was in the December 1961 issue that reprinted “The Dead Remember.”

This is a “weird western” and some have suggested REH should be that genre’s “father” along with him being the pater familias of Sword & Sorcery.

These early presentations of REH show that more and more fans were interested in both his fiction and his life. Moskowitz’s theory of a bad heart doesn’t get mentioned much today. The general consensus (as I understand it) seems to be that REH was fascinated by suicide and his mother’s impending death was the occasion rather than the cause. Even though that seems to be logical and REH’s poetry and letters confirm that in part; one can never truly know the thoughts of another person and questions and speculation about his choice of suicide will continue.

We can celebrate the fiction and concentrate primarily on that but even at the beginnings of the Howard Boom, fans pondered why he made the decision to end his life at age 30.

Book Review: The Incorporated Knight

by Brian Kunde

Today’s de Camp highlight is The Incorporated Knight. It’s one of his later fantasy novels, and one of his weirdest ones, in that it’s not really a novel at all, but a collection of previously published short stories. Except that it isn’t really that, either, since those stories make up just the first five chapters, with the remaining thirteen being new material, published for the first time in the book. The new stuff really does read like a novel, albeit an episodic one, and there’s enough thematic and plot connection between the old stuff and the new stuff that the whole really reads like a novel as well, albeit, again, an episodic one.

Just to complicate things, the short stories were all originally credited to L. Sprague de Camp alone, while the book is credited to L. Sprague and Catherine Crook de Camp. Why? Well, the book straddles the line between de Camp’s middle speculative fiction of the 1960s and 1970s and the late ones of the 1980s and 1990s. The late period is when Catherine finally gained recognition as full co-author in their fiction (an admission that had come in their non-fiction in the early sixties). She was not so credited in every case, just in those instances her contribution was regarded as pivotal. One wonders what she brought to this one. Whatever it was, literary improvement or simply kick-starting the thing into completion, I’m glad we have it. It’s a good one!

Here’s the bibliographical stuff. Chapters I and II first appeared as the story “Two Yards of Dragon” in the anthology Flashing Swords! #3: Warriors and Wizards, edited by Lin Carter (Aug. 1976). It also got into the de Camp collections The Best of L. Sprague de Camp (May 1978) and Aristotle and the Gun and Others Stories (Aug. 2002), as well as the anthologies Dragon Tales, edited by Asimov, Greenberg and Waugh (Jul. 1982), Dragons!, edited by Dann and Dozois (Aug. 1993), A Dragon-Lover’s Treasury of the Fantastic, edited by Margaret Weis (Oct. 1994), and Dragons: The Greatest Stories, edited by Martin H. Greenberg (1997), as well as German translations of at least three of these. So it’s quite well-traveled as an independent piece.

Chapter III first appeared as “The Coronet” in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, v. 51, no. 5, Nov. 1976, and … nowhere else but the present book, aside from a French magazine, in French translation.

Chapter IV first appeared as “Spider Love” in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, v. 53, no. 5, Nov. 1977, and … again, nowhere else but the present book, this time at all.

Chapter V first appeared as “Eudoric’s Unicorn” in the anthology The Year’s Best Fantasy Stories: 3, edited by Lin Carter (Nov. 1977). Odd place for it to start; one expects “bests” to be published somewhere else before they’re recognized as bests. But Carter could be precipitate, and may have figured anything new by de Camp would automatically qualify. No argument from me. This story also got into the de Camp collection Footprints on Sand (Jun. 1981) and the anthology Unicorns!, edited by Dann and Dozois (May 1982), and is well represented in other languages, having appeared in German, Dutch, French, German, and Italian translation.

The lesson here would seem to be that stories with dragons and unicorns in them are popular, and stories centering on magic crowns and giant spiders, not so much. That, or debuting in a Carter anthology is golden, while initial publication in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is the kiss of death.

We are informed that all these stories were revised for their appearances in The Incorporated Knight. Which there was certainly enough time to do, as there was quite a gap between the short stories and the book. Ten years, in fact; enough time for the former to qualify as Middle de Camp and the latter as Late de Camp. Why the long interruption? Well, possibly because de Camp shifted his focus to the contemporary Willy Newbury stories (1975-1979), and then the mammoth undertaking of researching the Robert E. Howard bio, Dark Valley Destiny (1983). The Conan and Krishna series were coming back to life right around then as well. Or maybe the market just dried up for poor Eudoric. The eventual book may have benefited from the delay, by allowing the remainder of the tale to be told as a more unified narrative.

In its complete form, The Incorporated Knight was first issued in hardcover by Phantasia Press in August 1987, in a luscious Victoria Poyser wrap-around dustcover showing hero Eudoric Damberton and his shotgun-bride Princess Yolanda facing off against the Orthodox Ogre. Yolanda, a practicing sorceress, looks quite up to the challenge, cutting a commanding figure, and she’s taller than hubby Eudoric to boot! Eudoric, for his part, seems quite content to shelter in her shadow. The ogre, hidden around the spine on the back of the jacket, has his back to us, and, while menacing, appears a bit scrawny for an ogre. And naked. All of this is unusually true to the text, as I recall. Poyser did the art for a number of de Camp covers around this time, and was a favorite of his for the task; her attention to such details makes it easy to understand why. On the downside, both Yolanda and Eudoric are rather bland in appearance, which doesn’t exactly pull the reader in. This reader, anyway.

In common with other 1980s specialty press editions, Phantasia’s production came in two states; a signed and numbered slipcased version limited to 275 copies with the then-whopping price tag of $40.00, and a more reasonable trade edition of 1000 copies for $17.00. That would be the one I would have, if I had the Phantasia at all, which I don’t. Because even today $40.00 seems a whopping price, and while I’m sure copies can be hand for less, ones in decent condition likely command significantly more. Fortunately for mere mortals, the book was reissued in paperback by Baen Books a bit over a year later, in September 1988 for $3.50. That’s more like it! It’s the one I have. Baen put out a simultaneous Canadian edition and a reprint in 1991 with a cost creep-up to $3.95. Not bad for a late de Camp.

The Baen version also chose the confrontation with the ogre as its cover scene, this time omitting Yolanda. The ogre is seated, beefy, mad-eyed, and scary-creepy, dwarfing and nearly engulfing Eudoric, who nonetheless appears simultaneously irritated and nonchalant in regard to his peril, which is tonally straight on, even if not quite as faithful to what goes on in the story. Both are rather lavishly dressed, which is pretty if not altogether likely, given that the ogre has been living a hermit-like existence off in the wilderness, while Eudoric is a fugitive on the lam from the forces of Armoria. Still, a better, more dynamic image than the Poyser, in my view. Dan Horne is the artist on this one.

There’s one more edition I know of, the UK Gateway/Orion ebook issued in September 2011. It has the usual crappy Gateway cover, nonpictorial, with title and credits in black and red type over a plain yellow background. The Gateways are good because they keep de Camp in print (eprint, anyway), even if only overseas. Admitting that, however, is to admit their sole merit.

Before the book came out, I had only read the two stories in the Carter anthologies. I was not a great reader of spec fic magazines back in the 70s, preferring to spend my money on stories I knew I wanted, not wheat mixed with the chaff of what some editor thought I might want. Yes, I know, that describes anthologies as well as magazines, but I was young, foolish, and reckless, and I trusted Lin Carter’s judgment. Since my tastes were simple and those were the days before he went completely off the deep end, I was rarely disappointed.

No, I take that back. I was disappointed by the first Eudoric story, “Two Yards of Dragon.” De Camp’s previous appearance in the Flashing Swords! series had been a new Pusadian tale; “The Rug and the Bull,” the first of that series I had ever read up to that point, in fact. My appetite for the Pusads had been whetted by things Carter had previously written about them—in a period when none remained in print—so it was timely for me. Having enjoyed it, I was looking forward to another one. What I got instead was the first entry in a completely new series at a stage in my life when I was more into sequels. That said, I did like this new thing, in spite of myself. I was intrigued by the idea of a would-be knight having to earn his spurs hunting an endangered species, amid perils rooted as much in local game law as the intrinsic danger of the enterprise. I also bought into the premise, touted by Carter, of a fantasy world whose geography was based on a fabulous Medieval travelogue (Mandeville’s Travels). Good thing I didn’t realize the Mandeville angle was bunk.

That’s right, bunk! Here’s the –in-advertising Carter (and later, when he wrote about it, de Camp himself) failed to provide. Eudoric’s world is not that of Sir John Mandeville. Mandeville, a 13th century romance writer, purported to describe the world he himself lived in, or at least the Europe and Levant he knew—just getting, shall us say, a little imaginative as he got further from the regions familiar to his readers. What this meant was filling the eastern Mediterranean with mythical, Arabian Nights-style islands, full of marvels. De Camp borrowed the names of a couple of these (along with a few trivial details like one having giant snails amid its fauna), and then pasted those names onto the eastern European steppe as whole countries. And that. Is. All. The. Mandeville. In. Eudoric’s. Whole. Setting. WTF?

What happened here, I believe, marks a rare lapse in de Camp’s erudition. I strongly doubt he ever read Mandeville. I don’t even blame him; when I myself, much later, on the strength of these de Campian borrowings, came to The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, I found the work practically unreadable, despite it being rendered into modern English courtesy of Dr. C. W. R. D. Moseley and Penguin Classics. Still, one expects de Camp to have read it. It was a worthy entry in the wonder travel-tale genre of its era that gave rise to such later, more truthful works as Marco Polo. De Camp ate that sort of thing up, and passed it on to us in several his nonfiction works. Mandeville figures in one of these, Lands Beyond, which he wrote in collaboration with Willy Ley. Ley, a literate and well-read European, was doubtless more familiar with Mandeville than was de Camp, and I suspect he’s the one responsible for the material therefrom that made it into their book. Much later, when de Camp was seeking color with which to infuse his latest story, he must have returned to Lands Beyond and lifted it directly from there. So while the ultimate source was indeed Mandeville, it was as mediated by Ley, uncritically adopted by de Camp, and gushingly retailed by Carter, who (rightly) thought it a neat idea on which to base a fantasy world.

Only, as noted above, Eudoric’s world isn’t. It merely borrows a few snippets, transplants them to the wrong spots, and goes off on its own merry way. It’s a fine way, it just has almost nothing to do with Mandeville. Here’s what Eudoric’s world really is. It’s a parallel Earth that developed along historical lines similar, but not identical, to those of our own world. It has a stronger component of magic in its makeup than science. In de Camp’s stories, the region that in our world constitutes Europe has reached a level of development comparable to our own High Middle Ages, though some areas are more primitive. It had a Mediterranean empire that fell and was replaced by a feudal central European one, just as our own world did—though their versions were a Napolitanian Empire (centered on Naples) rather than a Roman one, and a “New Napolitanian Empire” in place of our Holy Roman Empire.

Politically, the map is reasonably familiar. Combining information gleaned from both The Incorporated Knight and The Pixilated Peeress, a follow-up novel set in the same world, we find the New Napolitanian Empire roughly corresponds to Germany, Franconia to France, Armoria to Brittany, Rhaetia to Switzerland, and Tyrrhenia to Italy, while Eastern Europe has Avaria in place of Poland, Pathenia (the main Mandeville borrowing) where one would expect Belarus, and Pantorozia where one would expect Russia. Farther east still is Serica, a China analog, and to the south, Saracens inhabit what to us are North Africa and the Middle East. In a fun wrinkle, the high Alps are home to “trolls” (remnant Neanderthals).

Other than the supernatural element, the most significant difference is religious. Eudoric’s Europe, like ours, transitioned from polytheism to monotheism, but with no unifying authority. Each country has its own version, so religious boundaries correspond to political ones. And they’re … odd. The deity is often envisioned as being constituted as more than one “person.” Franconia reveres a Holy Trinity (not the Christian one), and the Empire a Divine Pair with names derived from Germanic paganism, while eastern lands embrace a unitary godhead. A holy land is recognized in the analog of Palestine, but its contribution to these varied faiths is unclear.

And the adventures this setting gives a home to? Entertaining in the grand de Camp tradition, and full of ironic twists and reverses. Eudoric, our protagonist, is heir to an imperial fief, an aspirant knight, and unlucky in love. Setting out to win his spurs and a bride, his interest is diverted into establishing and extending a stagecoach line, inspired by an example encountered in his eastern travels. Not that his attention is ever far from his initial goals. He gains his knighthood fairly early, but as women find him cold and overly practical, the bride proves not so simple. He pursues a succession of potentials, undertaking several quests to win over them, their parents, or both. Hence his trip east to hunt dragon, his campaign to rid a neighboring barony of a giant spider, and his effort to capture a live unicorn for the Emperor. (There are the usual de Campic ironies; the dragon’s a protected species, the spider is love-lorn, and the unicorn, as always, is a rhinoceros.) All for naught. His original intended elopes with a minstrel, the next sends him packing due to the underhanded way he gains his knighthood, and so on, culminating with the Emperor’s own daughter, who throws him over for the Cham of Pantorozia. C’est la vie. She had a mustache, anyway.

The preliminaries are over, and the pattern set. Then Eudoric seeks to extend his stage line into Franconia, and things really take off. His reputation for tackling difficult challenges has preceded him, and he finds the deal contingent on him rescuing King Clothar’s sister Yolanda, imprisoned in neighboring Armoria. That proves complicated. There, Yolanda, denounced as a sorceress, is to be sacrificed to a sea monster (actually a beaked whale). Cue de Campian twist on Perseus and Andromeda! Typically, Eudoric saves her in a manner not straightforwardly heroic, finessing things in a way that does not entail actually killing the monster. Unfazed, Yolanda’s captors forcibly wed him to her, marriage being another traditional way to neutralize a sorceress. So, yay, he’s a husband at last! (Be careful what you wish for…)

Two problems. First, Yolanda, a princess accustomed to having her own way, is a complete harridan. Second, she really is a sorceress. Moreover, not only is her magic not neutralized by sex, she’s—ahem!—already well experienced in that regard. Hardly the virginal blushing bride!

Well, first things first. With Yolanda’s head about to be back on the figurative (perhaps literal) chopping block, it’s time to cut and run. Our uncongenial mates take flight together back to Franconia just ahead of the posse. More episodic adventures ensue, overcome by Eudoric’s smarts, Yolanda’s spells, or occasional dumb luck. They’re successively trapped in an ancient cyclopean tomb by its spectral, company-starved occupant, run afoul of an “orthodox” ogre who kills and eats non-adherents to his own persuasion, and, oh yes, the soldiers of the Franconian border duchy of Dorellia, who just happen to have it in for Yolanda.

At length they reach Letitia, the Franconian capital! But—not safe! Eudoric is promptly mewed up in Yolanda’s mansion, imprisoned by her magical servants, marids from the Saracen lands. He’s to be her boy-toy and nothing more. Worse, he learns he’s but the latest in a series of husbands the princess has espoused; she turned the others into statues as she tired of them. Cue de Campian twist on the Bluebeard tale! Ever resourceful, our hero beats this doom as well, even unfreezing the other husbands. True, the original one, resentful of his successors, tries to kill him, but hey, you can’t make everyone happy.

So Eudoric returns home, older, wiser, and once more unwed, spurning Yolanda’s letters entreating him to come back (too late, she decides he is the only one of her husbands whose loss she regrets). Alas for her, Franconia’s marriage laws are not recognized in the Empire. As for our hero, he is last seen scheming to incorporate his coach line, as they do in far Serica, and paying court to his original fiancé, who has also returned home, disillusioned with her minstrel lover. (Who had left her for Yolanda and her husband statuary gallery before being freed by Eudoric.) So all’s well that ends on, hmm, well, a promising note, at least. Let us wish ultimate happiness for our Eudoric and his Lusina!

A longish plot description, but perhaps befitting the complicated text, originating as it did in so many component stories. I suspect the saga of Eudoric and Yolanda was first projected as a series of additional shorts, and only gelled into one mass after they either failed to find a market or were temporarily set aside in favor of other projects. Perhaps it was Catherine who at last swept them all together, tied them up with a bow, and presented them to her husband in triumph, saying “Now we’ve got a novel!” Or it may have just been another instance of Sprague’s late career impulse to tidy up all the loose ends of his then uncompleted series(es).

Whatever it may have been, The de Camps would go on to pen the previously mentioned second novel set in Eudoric’s world, The Pixilated Peeress (Del Rey Books, 1991), featuring a different locale and new characters. Unlike the first, it’s a true novel, though just as delightful. But that’s a highlight for some other time.

The Incorporated Knight is dedicated “To Jeanne and Paul Maguire, whose lively imagination gave us our title.” A cursory check through the index of de Camp’s autobiography Time & Chance fails to turn up these names, or the story behind the acknowledgement. Elsewhere, I find references to a Paul Carl Maguire (1921-2000) who in 1945 married a Jeanne M. Nickelson (1921-2014) in Norristown, Pennsylvania, where they afterwards lived. She married again, in 2003, Joseph S. DiLucca. These Maguires operated a dance school over four decades out of their home, as well as teaching at the Mainline Night School at Conestoga and Harriton. I presume they are the dedicatees. If so, they must have been friends from the de Camps’ long period of residence in the keystone state. Anyone have elucidatory information relative to this point? If so, you may contact the undersigned. Or just post a follow-up, that works too.

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The Avon Fantasy Reader Intros

The following are excerpts from the AVON FANTASY READER. These are the introductions to stories by Robert E. Howard that were reprinted in various issues. The Avon Fantasy Reader was a sort of transitional time in the reemergence of REH’s literature. The first issue was dated February 1947. Skull-Face and Others (the first U. S. collection of REH’s work in hardcover) was published by Arkham House in 1946. Conan the Conqueror from Gnome Press was published in 1950. These brief intros give a snapshot in time of how REH was viewed before the popularity of Conan.

Avon Fantasy Reader 2 -The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune

Avon Fantasy Reader 7 – The Cairn on the Headland

Avon Fantasy Reader 8 – Queen of the Black Coast

Avon Fantasy Reader 10 – A Witch Shall Be Born

Avon Fantasy Reader 12 – The Blonde Goddess of Bal-Sagoth (alternate title “The Gods of Bal-Sagoth.

Avon Fantasy Reader 14 – Temptress of the Tower of Torture and Sin (alternate title The Voice of El-Lil)

Avon Fantasy Reader 18 – The Witch from Hell’s Kitchen (alternate title The House of Arabu)

The Avon Fantasy Reader was published from 1946 to 1952. The 18th issue was it’s last. There were two paperback collections. The first published in January 1969 and the second in February 1969.

The first book reprinted “The Witch from Hell’s Kitchen.” The second book reprinted “The Blonde Goddess of Bal-Sagoth.”

The introduction to both books are very short summaries of the type of fiction that the Avon Fantasy Reader published. The introductions are by George Ernsberger, an editor for Avon Books, and a writer of several books, the most famous being The Mountain King (about a giant rattlesnake). No individual author is discussed. REH is cited as the author of the “Conan” adventures in the blurb material at the front of the book.

Book Review: Lest Darkness Fall & Timeless Tales Written in Tribute

by Phil Sawyer

I recently purchased Lest Darkness Fall and Timeless Tales Written in Tribute by L. Sprague de Camp (and others) through Amazon and thought I would write it up for our fellowship. I then thought it would be fun to get out my Easton Press Masterpieces of Science Fiction edition of Lest Darkness Fall. Let’s start with the Easton Press book. Here goes:

This edition came out in 1988. It’s 182 pages and is illustrated by Pat Morrissey. She is a fine artist who might be known to some for her work on Magic: The Gathering trading cards among other SF/Fantasy art.

It is the usual beautiful Easton Press green leather edition. Isaac Asimov wrote an introduction dated August 23, 1988. It was fascinating re-reading this introduction. The good doctor writes that in the opinion of many people including Asimov (!) Unknown was the BEST MAGAZINE ever created!

And Lest Darkness Fall was the best story ever to appear in Unknown. Asimov points out that Mark Twain got there first with “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” but that Sprague wrote a better story. Asimov wrote that Twain was “bitterly contemptuous of humanity.” To Asimov, Sprague was less bitterly cynical than Twain, and Sprague wrote the novel to prove that the past COULD be changed by man.

And now on to the novel:

  1. I had forgotten that Padway was born in 1908. A year after Sprague and Catherine.
  2. Lest Darkness Fall has a lighter and more breezy tone than Land of Unreason. Land of Unreason is set in 1940 and by then the whole world seems to be coming apart at the seams. Lest Darkness Fall is set in 1939 BEFORE WW2. Padway refers to Mussolini as “Benny the Moose.” Mussolini is still at this point at least partially a figure of fun. Also, Sprague had just married his beautiful Catherine so he was probably feeling on top of the world. (The check for this novel paid for their honeymoon!)
  3. Sprague once mentioned ” the casual cruelty” of the ancient world and that is very evident. Most of the ruling class people Padway tangles with enjoy torturing people and are quite proud that they are very good at it!
  4. Two of my favorite characters are Padway’s banker Thomas the Syrian (“You can trust him. You just have to watch him.”) and his bodyguard Fritharik who is always convinced that they will soon end up in nameless graves! And I love it when Thomas the Syrian gets John the Egyptian undertaker to start advertising: “Do You want a Glamorous Funeral?”

In the tribute volume Alexei and Cory Panshin contribute a very nice 5 page essay about Sprague. I shall comment a little about each of the tribute stories:

  1. Frederik Pohl wrote a 6 page very short story. I guess I have read enough SF that about 1 page in I knew exactly what was going to happen so I was not too impressed with it.
  2. S. M. Stirling wrote a very fun story about how the elderly Padway becomes a genuine saint as people actually witness him ascending to heaven. I don’t want to give away too much but this story is excellent. Poor Padway had introduced soccer into this age and it backfires on him.
  3. The David Drake story is about a Roman lady who is transferred back in time via a lightning bolt to the age of Romulus and Remus. It is well written but it really didn’t grab me. I think the stories set in 535 A.D. are much more intriguing.
  4. The David Weber tale ” Temporal Discontinuity” is very good. I enjoyed it a lot. Padway has to basically answer to a version of The Time Police and explain why he thinks it is okay for him to alter history.
  5. Harry Turtledove’s “The Fake Pandemic” to me comes closest to the spirit of Sprague. Padway assigns the famous Byzantine jurist Tribonian the job of keeping the bubonic plague away from the shores of Europe. And when they do find a plague ship Tribonian must make a terrible heart breaking decision.
  6. The character who Sprague describes as “the brilliant though slightly warped” Emperor Justinian is a constant presence in these stories. If Padway were Gandalf then Justinian would be Sauron.

All in all this is a fine volume and a heartfelt tribute to Sprague.

Next I will review a special Phantasia Press edition of Wall of Serpents.

Thanks for the time!

The Other H. P. – Part 2

I wanted to add to yesterday’s article on Harold Preece. I read more about him and his books and would like to make some additional comments.

Preece, at least in his early career, mainly wrote for newspapers and magazines. As a southern white man supportive of Negro issues he created a bit of a stir in left wing circles. Sure, a big fish in a small pond, but nevertheless he was gaining a reputation. His most influential work probably appeared in The Chicago Defender, a black owned newspaper with a big city circulation.

Preece’s newspaper articles attracted the notice of a Texas politician named Martin Dies, who criticized Preece, and referred to him as a “negro writer.” Preece replied back that he was white but not insulted and takes his stand with the Negro.

This stand and growing notice probably got Preece the job to co-write Lighting Up Liberia (1943). This book was co-written with Albert Hayman. Hayman was an engineer/boss at Firestone’s rubber plantation in Liberia. It is a good indictment of the settler/colonial outpost and mindset.

Hayman writes in his introduction:

“I was indeed fortunate to secure Harold Preece as the co-author of this book. Mr. Preece shares with me a conviction that the new world must be built on the foundations of dignity and equality for all peoples. He is a southern white man by birth and has become widely known as a champion of the race to which we have assigned the lowliest positions – the black men and women whom we can no longer ignore whether they live in Louisiana or Liberia. Mr. Preece has written widely, and is particularly known for his sympathetic studies of the great Negro folk culture.”

Hayman gives an overview of Liberian history and bemoans the fact that ex-slaves in turn took on the role of masters. The settler/colonial regime defeated the native Krus and Greboes and consolidated an exploitative rule. An excerpt from the book follows:

“Native tribes today are still required to furnish their quota of unpaid laborers for the roads in the Americo-Liberian districts of the five counties. Otherwise, the psalm-singing, gun-carrying soldiers will impose heavy fines upon the reluctant villages […]. The pawn system, whereby natives are forced to mortgage their own children to pay taxes or fines, still flourishes back in the hinterland.”

Hayman interestingly talks about how the Americo-Liberians would often play games of divide and rule, using demagoguery of the whites in the country in an effort to sway native Africans to support their rule.

The book covers Hayman’s interaction with the workers and others at his Firestone Plant. It is always interesting and insightful. Firestone was the first big business to gain a foothold in West Africa. Native populations were uprooted to make way for the large rubber plantation but Hayman praises the Firestone Company for its fair wages and medical services to the workers. Hayman does note the medical services are in the company’s financial interest. Healthy workers are better workers. Hayman adds:

“But it is significant that [Firestone] has made no attempt to use its influence to better conditions outside of its own properties, although it is, in fact, that country’s master, able, if it chose, to squeeze the little martinet government between the fingers of its corporate hand.”

There are a few things Hayman states that might seem wrong-headed or out-dated to the modern liberal. Hayman recognizes that the U.S. also began as a settler/colonial land, but he apologizes for the colonization of the United States by stating what is now considered a more right wing argument. Basically that the Indians were not doing anything productive and that our technological civilization is in the benefit of all. Modern ecological concerns make this notion seem naïve at best. But most of Hayman’s views are still relevant today.

Next up for discussion is Harold Preece and Celia Kraft’s Dew on Jordan (1946). The book is co-written with his then wife, Celia Kraft. (They mention a son named Hillel David.) Preece was a ministerial student at Texas Christian University. Kraft grew up in a Jewish religious tradition and family but apparently was not religious. Parts of this book might appeal to those that honestly like REH’s humorous stories (as opposed to those who just find them interesting since they are written by REH). About half of the book is very humorous. It is basically a collection of anecdotes about true believers: snake handlers, holy rollers, and rapture believing folk. Preece and/or Kraft throw in dialogue that, most likely, no one really ever said about working class inequality and praise of Roosevelt’s New Deal. Preece properly mentions his distaste when the hill folk talk about lynching and dislike of Negroes.

The last third of the book takes a more serious turn. He talks about Seventh Day Adventists and similar offshoots in less of a humorous eye than he did the snake handling types. Preece seems supportive of the vegetarian diet that Adventists follow and treats them as a more serious “back to the roots” church despite “The Great Disappointment” when they predicted the end of the world in the middle 1800s. That most of these small sects are racially integrated, of course, pleases Preece. He also tells of a liberal preacher who tries to join the races in the aftermath of the Detroit riots of 1943.

For whatever reason, most likely, the repression of communists and fellow travelers in the 1950s, Preece seemed to turn to Westerns as an outlet for his writing. He had several articles published in the western magazines and his next three books were all western histories.

Living Pioneers (1952) is a collection of multiple stories told by different narrators. Preece does not mention how much he edited or rewrote the different contributions. But some are better than others. Probably the best, in which Preece lets his notions of racial equality spring forth again, is “Good White Man.”

It tells the story of a young man who self-identified with Indians and wanted to live among them. He goes to join them and gets a rough awakening. They tell him to move on. He finally meets an older Indian who wants to break some horses. The kid is good with horses and was allowed to stay with this group. He earns the name Chemakacho and things go well until horses start disappearing. The Indians suspect Chemakacho and he has to leave and discovers an outlaw, Sam Bratton, is the culprit. The kid confronts Bratton and is almost killed for the trouble. An Indian had followed him and learns he truth.

The author of the story, La Verne Kershner, narrates:

“Pokaro cut me short. “I think different when I see Bratton trying to kill you. I am sorry, Chemakacho.””

“That was the only apology he ever made for suspecting me, and trying to finish me off before Bratton tried it. But the fact that he had called me by my Comanche name – the Good White Man – was worth a million other things he might have put into words.”

I haven’t read Preece’s book Lone Star Man (1960) on Ira Aten, a Texas Ranger. Aten had a chapter in Living Pioneers and I think I got all I need to know about Mr. Aten from that. (Of course, someone will now pipe up and say that is Preece’s best book, and I should read it!)

The Dalton Gang (1963) is a fairly routine biography of the train-robbing brothers. Mostly interesting, but to my mind kind of badly structured. The Dalton boys were many in number and it gets a little sketchy for me keeping them apart. It could be me as a reader but I was a little bored by what should have been an action packed recount of the daring criminal gang. Preece’s only left-leaning comments in this book are a few mentions of the underpaid lawmen that risked their lives protecting other men’s fortunes.

It is hard to track much of Preece’s writing after those books. He continued publishing in magazines and even had REH related articles published in various fanzines during the REH boom. Also Preece must have maintained friends in the black press. He was writing for Sepia (sort of a black version of Life) well into the 1980s.

A Google Search on Harold Preece will bring up several scholarly publications with names like The Price of Whiteness, Struggles in the Promised Land, and The Southern Disapora, all published by University Presses and written by academics. Preece is duly quoted and footnoted in all of them. He was a foot-soldier in the battle for civil rights. Not a major name, but not a total unknown. Preece will never get rediscovered and become a bestseller like REH but in some very significant ways he was an important writer.

The Other H. P.

If a man is known by the company that he keeps then Robert E. Howard was an eclectic fellow. Of two of his correspondents with the initials H. P. one was a very xenophobic conservative (at least in his youth), the other a radical integrationist. We all know about H. P. Lovecraft but interest in Harold Preece, the other H. P., has grown.

Years ago The Two Gun Raconteur website published some excellent articles on Preece and there is very little I can add biographically. Maybe some comment on his writing career will be of interest.

Harold Preece is not known to have self-identified as “black” like Rachel Dolezal but for a 1930s era Texan he came pretty close. In A History of Affirmative Action (University Press of Mississippi, 2001) Harold Preece is mentioned:

“In August 1935, an unusually titled article appeared in Opportunity, the monthly journal of the National Urban League. It was written, the journal’s editor noted, by a Southern white man named Harold Preece, and was called “Confessions of an Ex-Nordic: The Depression Not an Unmixed Evil.””

Preece’s article described his change from early prejudice to anti-racism due to the financial hardships of the depression. Preece wrote:

“I waited in line with other men – white and black who spent their days frantically wandering to obtain the same tawdry necessities. Forgetful of Jim Crow we discussed the appalling debacle and shared crumbs of cheap tobacco. […] To me, white and black no longer exist. There are only oppressors and oppressed.”

Besides Opportunity, Preece wrote for The Crisis, New Masses, and some other communist linked publications. He also wrote for non-communist magazines like The Nation and The American Spectator. In The American Spectator Preece published two interesting articles where he more or less apologizes for Clyde Barrow and Pretty Boy Floyd. In the August 1934 issue Preece wrote of Clyde Barrow:

“Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were the poisoned by-products of a vicious and diseased social system. The example of their callousness was set by men whom we politely designate as “successful”, and who have this in common with the most moronic cut-purse: they live without working.”

Preece writes about Floyd in the January 1935 issue:

“Pretty Boy Floyd was the last of the classic road agents. He was intrepid, daring; he robbed the rich and gave to the poor […] Mr. Floyd perfected the art of thievery to an unprecedented magnitude; and the peccadilloes of a first-rate artist are always preferable to the rabbit-like decorum of mankind at large.”

In a letter to H. P. Lovecraft, REH also expresses a bit of sympathy for Pretty Boy Floyd, “Pretty Boy is still at large, and getting the blame for every crime committed in Oklahoma. The cops say he is a rat. I’d call him a wolf. The cops are all afraid of him, judging from the way they’re not catching him; if he’s a rat, what does that make them?”

In another letter REH writes HPL, that a friend of his, (probably Preece): “was quite enthusiastic about Floyd. From what he said public sympathy must be a good deal with the outlaw.”

Expressing less sympathy but commenting on the excessiveness of their deaths, REH writes to HPL on Bonnie and Clyde and notes that “Bullets from machine rifles, ripping through him, riddled her, plastered the interior of the car with blood, brains, and bits of Barrow’s skull. 167 slugs were poured into the automobile of the outlaws.”

One of Preece’s more controversial stands was a review of Zora Neale Hurston’s Of Mules and Men published in Crisis, December 1936: “When an author describes her race in such servile terms as “Mules and Men” critical members of the race must necessarily evaluate the author as a literary climber.” This kind of controversy, whether popular humorous depictions of blacks, benefit or malign, has long been a part of black culture criticism. Good arguments can be made for both views. It is just a little surprising that Preece, a Southern white man, takes a radical stance similar to Spike Lee’s in his film Bamboozled.

In the 1940s Preece was very active in the black press, writing for publications like The Negro Worker, the previously mentioned Opportunity, and The Informer. Preece corresponded with Roy Wilkins and W. E. B. Dubois as a fighter for civil rights. He continued his support for civil rights in New Masses as well. The October 16, 1945 issue has an article about the Ku Klux Klan.

Preece, although writing for Communist Party publications might very well have never been a member of the party. A more famous writer, Howard Fast, also wrote for communist papers before ever joining. One did not have to be a member to have submitted articles to their publications.

Fast, of course, along with others went to jail for their membership in the Communist Party, and for refusing to name names of others in the party. (Shades of Conan, in “The Queen of the Black Coast.”) Fast recounts his decisions in his autobiographical book, Being Red. It is well worth reading. Fast spent 3 months in jail and his writing career (despite a previous string of best sellers) had effectively ended until he self published Spartacus. Spartacus is an absolutely superb novel and was a success despite the blacklisting. The success of this book and the later film has been said to have broken the “blacklist.” Of course, not every writer was as successful as Howard Fast, so if Harold Preece denied membership in the party to protect his livelihood I don’t think anyone can blame him.

Most likely, like Fast, Preece, if ever a true communist broke with communism after Khrushchev denounced Stalin. The American Communist Party dwindled to almost nothing after these revelations. Fast resigned from the party and left his position on the communist newspaper. Fast writes: “All things come to an end. Being a part of this brave and decent newspaper had been an important act of my life. Now, on June 13, 1956, a couple of days after the appearance of the secret speech, I wrote my last column for The Daily Worker.”

In any event, Preece switched gears to western writing and had several articles published in Real West, Zane Grey’s Western Magazine, and other venues. He published non-fiction western history books as well. Three of his books are easily available through on-line sources. Lone Star Man: The Life of Ira Aten, The Dalton Gang, and Living Pioneers. These books all feature very positive views and sympathy with Native Americans that was a bit out of the ordinary for the time. Preece was still fighting the good fight against prejudice.

He remained a believer in social justice until the end of his life.