May 24, 2017, 12:38:09 PM

Author Topic: Sword & Sorcery - Recommendations and Opinions  (Read 23922 times)

Offline Elfy

  • Writing contest regular
  • Powers That Be
  • Ringbearer
  • *
  • Posts: 6593
  • Total likes: 510
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
    • Purple Dove House
Re: Sword & Sorcery - Recommendations and Opinions
« Reply #30 on: November 08, 2014, 10:48:03 PM »
That can possibly be attributed to what Howard and other writers of his day did and how their stories were published. In most cases they were serialised in magazines over a period of issues. When they were published as novels, they were 'pulp' style novels and those publishers didn't really want huge tomes, harder to produce, market and sell. I know this sounds weird, but in some places I blame the word processor for the verbosity of many current books. Far easier to write more when you're using a word processor rather than a type writer or writing out things long hand.
I will expand your TBR pile.

http://purpledovehouse.blogspot.com

Offline AshKB

Re: Sword & Sorcery - Recommendations and Opinions
« Reply #31 on: November 08, 2014, 11:00:12 PM »
That can possibly be attributed to what Howard and other writers of his day did and how their stories were published. In most cases they were serialised in magazines over a period of issues. When they were published as novels, they were 'pulp' style novels and those publishers didn't really want huge tomes, harder to produce, market and sell. I know this sounds weird, but in some places I blame the word processor for the verbosity of many current books. Far easier to write more when you're using a word processor rather than a type writer or writing out things long hand.

I'd actually agree with this.

I actually HAVE to use a word-processor due to issues with my hands and handwriting (terrible handwriting that I now have too much RSI to ever correct and writing with a pen/pencil causes my hand to cramp), and normally I hate the 'oh it was so much better when everyone had to handwrite' (although I appreciate you mentioning type-writers). But, agreed.

I was also thinking the other day that the rise of ebooks probably isn't helping much, either, previously unwieldy or unbindable books are now just file sizes. It'll be interesting to see where the trend goes.
The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be lighted - Plutarch

I not only use all the brains I have, but all that I can borrow - Woodrow Wilson

Offline Elfy

  • Writing contest regular
  • Powers That Be
  • Ringbearer
  • *
  • Posts: 6593
  • Total likes: 510
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
    • Purple Dove House
Re: Sword & Sorcery - Recommendations and Opinions
« Reply #32 on: November 09, 2014, 05:33:10 AM »
That can possibly be attributed to what Howard and other writers of his day did and how their stories were published. In most cases they were serialised in magazines over a period of issues. When they were published as novels, they were 'pulp' style novels and those publishers didn't really want huge tomes, harder to produce, market and sell. I know this sounds weird, but in some places I blame the word processor for the verbosity of many current books. Far easier to write more when you're using a word processor rather than a type writer or writing out things long hand.

I'd actually agree with this.

I actually HAVE to use a word-processor due to issues with my hands and handwriting (terrible handwriting that I now have too much RSI to ever correct and writing with a pen/pencil causes my hand to cramp), and normally I hate the 'oh it was so much better when everyone had to handwrite' (although I appreciate you mentioning type-writers). But, agreed.

I was also thinking the other day that the rise of ebooks probably isn't helping much, either, previously unwieldy or unbindable books are now just file sizes. It'll be interesting to see where the trend goes.
We're getting off topic, but I also agree about the ebooks to a point. It is much easier to carry your ereader around, especially when travelling, with a bunch of books, rather than the extra space and weight of a few traditional paper books. It's also more convenient to have the latest door stopper epic fantasy on your ereader, rather than lug a book that is the approximate size and weight of the average house brick with you. Then there's the delivery system, books can be downloaded to your ereader in seconds and you never have to leave the house to do it, as opposed to travelling to the bookstore and purchasing it over the counter.
Back to the topic, Howard and his contemporaries tended to be paid by the word when they wrote for the magazines, so I'm sure if they had been allowed to do so they would have written a lot more.
I will expand your TBR pile.

http://purpledovehouse.blogspot.com

Offline Yora

Re: Sword & Sorcery - Recommendations and Opinions
« Reply #33 on: November 09, 2014, 11:32:41 AM »
I think digital publishing can also be a great thing for shorter types of fiction. You can publish at very low costs, which makes it possible to release stories for very low prices or even completely free. And since it's only a few days of writing at most, instead of months, writers probably would be much less hesitating to even consider that option.
It has an awful smell of microtransactions, but it would be possible for a writer to release a couple of stories for free, and in case you can establish a fanbase, sell future ones for $1 or so each.

A century ago, the medium demanded that stories stay within 15-25,000 words, but I think the writers of the time developed a type of storytelling format that makes the most of these limitations, and actually discovered some benefits that come from it, which 100,000+ word books don't have. Ten, twenty years ago, you might have had some good stories of 30,000 words, but who would have published it? It was probably pretty much unsellable. Too long for a collection, too short for a novel.
I think it's not just the medium that set the limitation, which now no longer exists. There surely must also be an audience that would love to get fiction of that size. I often think about getting some of the popular fantasy books, but then notice it's actually a 4 million word series, which also might not actually be a kind of story I enjoy. There probably are a lot of people who would love to be able to read fantasy that can be read in small, but self-contained chunks. If you completed a story after 20,000 words and think it was bad, it's no big deal. Much better than picking up the third 300,000 word novel in a series and realizing that all the claims of "it gets better in the later books" don't work for you.

Isn't there something like fanfiction.net for original fiction?
Spriggan's Den

There is nothing to read!

Offline Elfy

  • Writing contest regular
  • Powers That Be
  • Ringbearer
  • *
  • Posts: 6593
  • Total likes: 510
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
    • Purple Dove House
Re: Sword & Sorcery - Recommendations and Opinions
« Reply #34 on: November 09, 2014, 10:39:02 PM »
I was recently reading some books (E.E Smith's Skylark series) that were originally published as serials in the old magazines and while I know that some magazines do still serialise or publish shorter work, it's not as prevalent as it once was. It would be wonderful if there were something online like that, move the medium with the times. You could even set it up with two sections. The free section which gives the reader teasers and tastes of what is contained within, and the pay section, where for a fee the reader gets greater access if they liked what they saw elsewhere. I was even wondering if F-F could set something up like this. The forums and the articles would remain free things, with some selected fiction also available for free, but have a subscription portal which publishes the fiction and even the occasional essay or article. It could help offset the costs of keeping the forum and the website running. This thread is showing that there is some interest in the idea of seeing shorter work in maybe an older style.
I will expand your TBR pile.

http://purpledovehouse.blogspot.com

Offline Yora

Re: Sword & Sorcery - Recommendations and Opinions
« Reply #35 on: November 10, 2014, 12:51:45 PM »
There is Fantasy Scroll, which aims at 4 issues per year and at $3 is dirt-cheap. It appears these things tend to have a life expectancy of only two to four years, but this one looks quite well done. Might be worth a look.
Spriggan's Den

There is nothing to read!

Offline Elfy

  • Writing contest regular
  • Powers That Be
  • Ringbearer
  • *
  • Posts: 6593
  • Total likes: 510
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
    • Purple Dove House
Re: Sword & Sorcery - Recommendations and Opinions
« Reply #36 on: November 10, 2014, 09:44:30 PM »
There is Fantasy Scroll, which aims at 4 issues per year and at $3 is dirt-cheap. It appears these things tend to have a life expectancy of only two to four years, but this one looks quite well done. Might be worth a look.
Thanks Yora. I'll have a look at that. To be honest if you look at the history of the old 'pulp' magazines they generally weren't financial successes at the time.
I will expand your TBR pile.

http://purpledovehouse.blogspot.com

Offline fantasyscroll

Re: Sword & Sorcery - Recommendations and Opinions
« Reply #37 on: November 11, 2014, 02:42:18 AM »
Thank you for suggesting Fantasy Scroll. I just wanted to add that in 2015 there will be 6 issues, and, hopefully, we will become monthly in 2016.

Here's a 33% off coupon that applies to purchases from the site directly: 33PERCENT (expires Nov 30).

Enjoy!

Iulian
Editor-in-Chief
http://fantasyscrollmag.com

Offline Yora

Re: Sword & Sorcery - Recommendations and Opinions
« Reply #38 on: December 02, 2014, 09:25:33 PM »
I pretty much by accident discovered the Kormak series by William King. The story The Guardian of the Dawn and the book Stealer of Flesh are on his website. I've read the first two stories so far, and they are mostly quite good. He directly mentions Howard, Moorcock, Leiber, and Smith, so he is clearly seeing himself as writing specifically in the Sword & Sorcery genre. While based on the stories so far, the elements are clearly there, I am so far missing the passion and exciting action I am expecting to see. The action scenes have been few and very brief, and Kormak tends to be almost a bit whiny about how hard and depressing his lot as a fighter of evil is. This might be n influence from grimdark, though I think Elric wasn't immune to that either.

I'll still clearly be reading the other three stories from Stealer of Flesh, but I'll wait until I've finished those before I decide about getting more of the books or not. I do recommend taking a look at them, though. I think aside from my genre expectations, King is writing quite well.
Spriggan's Den

There is nothing to read!

Offline Yora

Re: Sword & Sorcery - Recommendations and Opinions
« Reply #39 on: December 05, 2014, 09:53:05 AM »
I read Stealer of Flesh and was quite pleased with it. I wrote a review of it here.
Spriggan's Den

There is nothing to read!

Offline Jmack

  • Hircum Magna Rex of the Fabled Atku Temple, and writing context regular
  • Writing Group
  • Elderling
  • ****
  • Posts: 5675
  • Total likes: 3740
  • Gender: Male
  • ridiculously obscure is my super power.
    • View Profile
Re: Sword & Sorcery - Recommendations and Opinions
« Reply #40 on: December 05, 2014, 05:46:25 PM »
I posted on Yora's review of Stealer of Flesh, and he suggested I join in the conversation here.

Like the rest of you, I cut my S&S teeth on Conan, especially any of the volumes published in th 70s with Frank Frazetta covers, because, well, the women.  This was also my huge Edgar Rice Burroughs period.  (I went back a re-read The Mad King as few years ago just for chuckles).

A bit from left field, maybe, but C.j. cherryh' Morgaine series is excellent, and earned her membership in the informal and now-long-defunct "Swordsmen and Sorcerers' Guild of America" (thank you, Wikipedia).  That SAGA page on Wiki is worth a look, since it lists the original 8 authors who self-identified as S&S along with 7 more.  I call b.s. on inclusion of Kurtz, as much as I enjoyed Deryni.

The discussion of story length is interesting.  As I've now written ad nauseum in other posts, F-F has prompted me to finish my first story in very many years, even if only 1,500 words (though that's damn hard to do well!).  I like the idea of using a short novel or long story form to explore dramatic and scene structure without the sword of 50,000 words+ hanging over my head.
Change, when it comes, will step lightly before it kicks like thunder. (GRMatthews)
You are being naive if you think that any sweet and light theme cannot be strangled and force fed it's own flesh. (Nora)

Offline Jmack

  • Hircum Magna Rex of the Fabled Atku Temple, and writing context regular
  • Writing Group
  • Elderling
  • ****
  • Posts: 5675
  • Total likes: 3740
  • Gender: Male
  • ridiculously obscure is my super power.
    • View Profile
Re: Sword & Sorcery - Recommendations and Opinions
« Reply #41 on: December 05, 2014, 06:21:18 PM »
OK, I guess I just don't want to do much work today.

I've been thinking about the motivation question raised earlier, and I think S&S is not alone in having outsiders who wander from place to place working out their own priorities.  Think Louis L'amour, Shane and western novel after western novel.  Think Jack Reacher, in the Lee Child books (not the movie, though it was suprisingly okay, given that Tom Cruise is my height and the Jack Reacher character would have trouble fitting in most cars).  Put a sword in Jack's hand, throw some magic around, and you've a great S&S hero. If you don't know Jack  ;), he wanders the U.S. because he spent so many years overseas growing up on military bases and then serving in uniform that he feels he has no idea what he was protecting all that time.  Absolutely follows his own honor system, works outside the police even when working with them, etc.

I can think of many motivating structures for a hero: revenge; a prolonged and now almost irrelevant mission;  protecting a loved one; boredom vs. adrenalin high; curse; running from a serious doom.  And of course, sex and money.
Change, when it comes, will step lightly before it kicks like thunder. (GRMatthews)
You are being naive if you think that any sweet and light theme cannot be strangled and force fed it's own flesh. (Nora)

Offline Yora

Re: Sword & Sorcery - Recommendations and Opinions
« Reply #42 on: December 05, 2014, 06:26:03 PM »
I believe Robert Howard actually made most of his money with western, his fantasy writing is just what he is most remembered for. The influence of western stories on early Sword & Sorcery is probably quite significant.

I've been refining my concept for a S&S protagonist over the last days and now I actually love her a lot more than my original idea for my "main" duo.

While I still want to do something with those characters, their basic concept is really that of controlled professionals who are cautious, collected, and introspective. Yes, this kind of works quite well for Geralt of Rivia, but at this point I really have no idea how to make them actually interesting and exciting.

This new character is a lot easier. More like an Indiana Jones type. Good of heart, but in the end after her own goals. Not taking unnecessary risk, but taking very long shots when she sees an opportunity. Not a fool, but with a tendency for rash descisions. Fights more practical than pretty, and is always very ready to turn around and run away when things get hot.
It may not be a paragon of battle prowres like most Sword & Sorcery protagonist, but I think this character can very easily be put into situation that are exiting and fun, without being comedy, while belivably encountering a lot of failure and hurt without getting grimdark. Once I have an idea for a short plot, I'll go writing.

I think things like these are the reason why I still keep reading Leiber. I really don't think his writing is great or his plots good, but his stories are fun and exciting, just like Howard. And that is why so much of more recent stories leave a rather disappointed. They all have the ingredients, but there is no passion and excitement. After 30 years of developments in fantasy, writers should be able to do new interesting things with Sword & Sorcery, but it seems like somehow they didn't get what is the real essence of this very specific genre:

Quote
Hither came Conan the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet.

Here, in the first story of Conan, Howard all but spells it out for us. The great discovery of literary alchemy he has made and presents to the world: Action and Passion!
You can write Heroic Fantasy about a wandering warrior who fights evil and darkness in a world that has no sympythy for him and always treats him as a stranger. But those are the two secret ingredients that make Sword & Sorcery stand out from the much wider field of Heroic Fantasy. A larger than life character who does incredible things can take many different forms. But if there is no fire in the eyes of the hero, then the whole thing just doesn't feel the same.
Spriggan's Den

There is nothing to read!

Offline Elfy

  • Writing contest regular
  • Powers That Be
  • Ringbearer
  • *
  • Posts: 6593
  • Total likes: 510
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
    • Purple Dove House
Re: Sword & Sorcery - Recommendations and Opinions
« Reply #43 on: December 05, 2014, 09:40:18 PM »
OK, I guess I just don't want to do much work today.

I've been thinking about the motivation question raised earlier, and I think S&S is not alone in having outsiders who wander from place to place working out their own priorities.  Think Louis L'amour, Shane and western novel after western novel.  Think Jack Reacher, in the Lee Child books (not the movie, though it was suprisingly okay, given that Tom Cruise is my height and the Jack Reacher character would have trouble fitting in most cars).  Put a sword in Jack's hand, throw some magic around, and you've a great S&S hero. If you don't know Jack  ;), he wanders the U.S. because he spent so many years overseas growing up on military bases and then serving in uniform that he feels he has no idea what he was protecting all that time.  Absolutely follows his own honor system, works outside the police even when working with them, etc.

I can think of many motivating structures for a hero: revenge; a prolonged and now almost irrelevant mission;  protecting a loved one; boredom vs. adrenalin high; curse; running from a serious doom.  And of course, sex and money.
They're in no way S&S, but Chuck Wendig's Miriam Black books have that air of person wandering from place to place, causing havoc and then moving on. In part it's because of Miriam's 'gift' and in part because of her nature. The restless soul often seems to be a good protagonist in various types of fiction.
I will expand your TBR pile.

http://purpledovehouse.blogspot.com

Offline Yora

Re: Sword & Sorcery - Recommendations and Opinions
« Reply #44 on: December 08, 2014, 01:07:30 PM »
I stumbled upon this article, which in the second half is a review of a specific anthology, but starts with a quite elaborate discussion of "What is Sword & Sorcery". (I've read the book myself and it made me check each of the stories for their actual S&S-content as well.)
There are some very bold statements, but I find myself to very much agree with them. However, in the comments (and there's plenty of them), some people very much disagreed, which might make it worthy for discussion.

Another attempt at defining Sword & Sorcery is this older article, which I had linked to in the first post of this thread.

Why does it matter? One of the commenters said:
Quote
[...] it’s marketers and publicists who create genre labels, NOT writers. And why create genre labels at all? To SELL BOOKS! I, for one, am so very glad that all “sword-and-sorcery” writers do not stick to such a narrow definition as the one given here.
I can understand the reasoning behind that oppinion, and in some contexts I very much disagree. Sword & Sorcery being one.
The term "Sword & Sorcery" was created by Fritz Leiber in a letter to Michael Moorcock as part of a discussion about how they might be able to identify stories that are similar to the special kind of Heroic Fantasy they were both writing. And Leiber also said that Robert Howard should also definitly also be included in this new category. It was not a lable created by publishers, but one created by the writers. Specifically two of the three people who are still regarded as the three giants and granddaddies of the genre. Also, as a reader, I want that lable as well. There are lots of Heroic Fantasy stories around, but I don't want just "Heroic Fantasy". I want a special kind of Heroic Fantasy. Both as reader and writer, I want to be able to say what I want and what I am offering to people.

Let's compare it to ice cream. I like chocolate ice cream, and I aknowledge the presence of other ice creams and that not all people like chocolate as much as I do. Nothing wrong with experimenting with other flavors. Also nothing wrong with experimenting with different kinds of chocolate. Trying out some new ingredients, changing the amounts of ingredients, experimenting with the procedure, and so on.
But when I want to have chocolate ice cream, I want it to be chocolate! Don't give me straciatella, or white chocolate, or mocca. Those are all also nice and have their fans, and sometimes I might want to have some of it to. But when I order chocolate, I want only chocolate and nothing else.
And you can't simply take elements of an established genre and change them and add new elements as you like and still call it Sword & Sorcery with the reasoning that genres evolve and writers need to spice things up and make changes with the time. If someone wants to take elements from Sword & Sorcery and do new things with them, that's no problem at all. But when it no longer captures the essence of the genre, it's no longer of the genre, but something else.

In the older article, Sword & Sorcery was condensed down to heroes who are "all self-motivated, outsiders, of heroic stature". Which I agree with, but these are just the most prominent building blocks. It may actually be much more important what kind of story you build from these blocks.

And interestingly, the review turns to the same quote I posted just a few days ago:
Quote
The most famous lines of description in all of sword and sorcery—

“sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandaled feet”

—describe far more than the character of Howard’s Conan. It is the epitome of S&S. Nothing that does not deliver these same foundational attributes has the right to the title. Nothing that is not hard, fast, action of might and mind, exaggerated, over-the-top mano-a-mano swashbuckling entertainment can be deemed sword and sorcery.
And the author goes even further:
Quote
Keeping the following Lin Carter description of sword and sorcery (Robert E. Howard’s sword and sorcery—for in the end there is no other kind) in mind, let us see.
That is a very big statement. But yet, I find myself agreeing.

When I pick up a story of Sword & Sorcery, I am doing that to see a big badass barbarian do something. I want to see someone larger than life doing spectacular action with passion and fury and fire in his eyes! Swashbuckling with monsters! Passion and action are the cacao and sugar of this genre. You can change and experiment with everything, but if you do not stick to these two key ingredients, it just won't be chocolate. Glorious, furious, and roaring chocolate!
Howard defined what the key ingredients are. Sure, everyone can experiment with it and do various different things with it. But without the spirit that was already in Howards stories, I think it just isn't Sword & Sorcery.

I am dabbling in writing Sword & Sorcery and I want to know what makes the genre tick. Not to pander to an audience and make the work more marketable, because I want to understand what is actually in those stories that I love. Just knowing what it looks like when you see it is not the same as knowing how to build it.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2014, 01:13:44 PM by Yora »
Spriggan's Den

There is nothing to read!

 

Related Topics

  Subject / Started by Replies Last post
0 Replies
790 Views
Last post December 26, 2012, 04:18:50 PM
by Tim Marquitz
1 Replies
810 Views
Last post August 05, 2014, 11:15:09 PM
by sockmerchant
2 Replies
765 Views
Last post December 15, 2014, 03:59:16 PM
by Obadoro
4 Replies
1063 Views
Last post April 04, 2015, 11:04:11 PM
by Yora
31 Replies
5763 Views
Last post March 21, 2016, 10:57:47 AM
by Yora