Well, I see Jonathan has outed us, so here's the Big News.
For some time now, my fellow Hugo-nominated editor Jonathan Strahan and I have been kicking around the idea of collaborating on an anthology. We had various ideas - all science fiction - shuffling around on the back burner. Independently of this, I started musing, around the time that The Lies of Locke Lamorawas first published, and before news of Del Rey's reissue of all the Elric books, or even that Richard Morgan was about to start writing fantasy, that Swords & Sorcery was due a come-back. Or rather, that the rather sophisticated S&S that was already being written was due its musical chairs spot at the front of the class (which is really all a comeback is).
Either way, I found myself thinking quite a lot about S&S. The least profitable idea to come out of this was a temporary obsession/conclusion that the Coen Brothers had to direct the Elric movie in black and white. A much more profitable (and implementable) notion was to do an anthology. I'd about decided that was the course when, at the Saratoga Springs WFC last year, Jonathan told me he'd been thinking the same thing (anthologies not Coen Brothers films). We realized this was the project we'd been searching for and so - viola! - Conquering Swords: The New Swords & Sorcery (working title) was born. We put a pitch together, Jonathan's agent Howard Morhaim handled, and we are VERY excited to announce that Diana Gill of Harper bought. Harper Eos published Jonathan and Gardner Dozois' The New Space Opera,so this is a very good fit, and gives you something of an idea of the scale of the project. The book will be out in 2010 and we'll let you in on the very exciting contributors list soon.
Let me see - how many days is that till the book is out?
Couldn't figure out where to put this, so I'll put it here.
OK, I promised that I'd let you know how I liked Moorcock's "Elric: Stealer of Souls."
Well, I didn't. Or rather, I didn't dislike it but I didn't like it either. Elric just seemed so . . . empty. It wasn't as rich. Elric seemed very one-sided. Maybe it suffered being compared to Mieville & MacDonald, whom I just finished reading. But it just didn't grab me - I didn't find myself becoming part of the story - I just remained an "observer."
Yeah, that's exciting.
Spot on, Mr A. Surfing the ripcurl of the zeitgeist yet again.
Ces - no idea how I'd feel about Elric today. I read them when I was 14! I recommend Moorcocks DANCERS AT THE END OF TIME if you want to explore him further though.
Tim, Marco - thanks.And yes, "ripcurl of the zeitgeist" is my fav place to be, so thanks for the affirmation.
Lou - Thanks for the recommendation! I'll see if the library has it.
That was FAST!
OK, John got to me before I got to the library. So instead of reading the next book in my stack (which said book has now been moved to the bottom of the stack) - & instead of getting to the library (said excursion moved to Wednesday) I've now started Son of Man. It's a lot different than the Majipoor chronicles, which is the only Silverberg I've read.
And I have never read Marjipoor...
It wouldn't surprise me that S&S is poised for a comeback, I think BFF takes itself so seriously that the spunky fun of S&S would be a nice cut.
I think the comeback is in full swing, with the likes of Erikson, Abercrombie, Lynch, etc... Curious to see how Richard Morgan's is received here.
I'm not sure I'd put Erikson in S&S. He's Epic with a capital E, and has redefined that genre. I'm interested: how would you make a distinction between S&S and Epic Fantasy? For me, Epic has multi-stranded plots, huge amounts of movement, deep worldbuilding, and complexity. Erikson, Martin etc have moved things on significantly in recent years.
Does S&S differ in that it's much more lo-fi, with an eye back to pulp-retro classics?
Well, this is some of what I want to explore, but my understanding is that S&S is smaller scope, focusing on the single character or pair of characters, often anti-heroes motivated (at least initially) by self-interest caught up in smaller scale, grittier stories without the good vs evil whole kingdom stakes. But we're generalizing and there are always counter examples.
I can certainly see that angle.
I would argue that Epic has become more sophisticated over the last ten years. Featuring anti-heroes and self-interest in spades. There's been a definite move away from the 80s and 90s Tolkien clones, almost quite consciously, and this is especially the case in UK fantasy series on sale - I'm not as sure about the US. You should definitely check out Erikson's Deadhouse Gates and Memories of Ice though. Landmark books in the genre. There is no grittier writer than him - one might say in any genre. Check out the start to Deadhouse for such savagery!
I wonder also how much of the new S&S is down to mass market publishers keeping costs low - in terms of lowering page counts, and therefore plot strands? An interesting aside...
A little late to the plate, but Howard Jones of Black Gate has done a hell of a job defining S&S over on his blog:
I'm so bad at linking. Deal with the long link. Deal!
Hey Tim, that was a great link apart from the last paragraph, where it appears the dude has not read an epic fantasy novel for ten years. Sounds like he still thinks it stopped at Terry Brooks.
Epic Fantasy has every one of those qualities he claims it hasn't. And I'd go as far as saying it's a much more experimental form of fantasy than he realises. I'd say Erikson, again. Scott Bakker another.
Tim - thanks for the link. I read this whilst I was in China and enjoyed it, and Mark, I agree with what you say. So how would YOU distinguish S&S from gritty epic?
Okay, without wanting to prescribe a formula:
I think the distinguishing factor is scope. Epic involves a large cast, multiple POV, and Big Events, usually. There's perhaps more focus on what happens at the society level. There is much more world building involved, because setting becomes a character as well.
S&S is perhaps more focussed (in air-time) to character. That isn't to say their characters are better or worse, just that they're more central to the plot. Maybe it's more about the personal events and developments. It's often lo-fi, too -- there is less magic/technological magic, less events going in the background. You could say more streamlined.
But they blend into each other, of course, but these are general terms. I'm convinced that market forces have much importance in the success of either sub-genre, be it for pulp magazines or LOTR-style blockbusters.
You caught me -- between finishing grad school and having small children I haven't gotten far into the large newer novels. I keep hearing that they contain some of the elements I love to see, but I can't personally verify it yet. I strive diligently to keep up on the short magazine fiction sword-and-sorcery, although it is often difficult to find.
As to characteristics, Mark lists some good ones. Let's not forget pacing, though. Sword-and-sorcery is birthed from a different tradition from, say, high fantasy. Robert E. Howard, its creator, wrote for the pulps. The pulp magazines, the television of their day, were fueled by quick moving action. The stories needed to grab you within the first few sentences so that if you were browsing the magazine at the news stand you’d feel compelled to purchase it to finish. The pulp stories were meant to seize your attention from the opening lines and never let go.
That's my two cents. I have many, probably too many, more cents on the subject if anyone wants to hear more.
Howard Andrew Jones
Howard - I think the pacing point is a great one! Thank you. Yes. And please, drop as many pennies here as you want.
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