The Day – Let’s Talk About The Best Sword And Witchcraft Books
Classic stories of sword and witchcraft hold a special place in our hearts. For those unfamiliar with the genre, tales of sword and witchcraft usually follow the adventures of a lonely hero or heroine in a fantastic landscape populated by supernatural beings – witches, wizards and monsters. If you’ve watched “The Witcher” then you get the idea. Join us as we walk around (sword in hand!)
Life: I love the original “Witcher” stories by Andrzej Sapkowski, collected in English under the title “The Last Wish” in 2007 and translated by Danusia Stok. They were originally published in the Polish magazine Nowa Fantastyka. I was able to read “The Last Wish” in evidence even before it was released, but I’m not sure if anyone expected it to get as big as it did then. For a while he almost titled himself “The Hexer” but, maleficent or witcher, Sapkowski’s Geralt of Rivia is a worthy successor to his earlier influences.
Stephen King’s “The Gunslinger” has similar origins. The stories were first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in the late 1970s and early 1980s. These entries have been compiled into a book of the same title. King trades weapons for swords, but otherwise his Roland de Gilead is as classic an S&S hero as you’d expect. The following books have expanded the scope (and number of pages), but the heart of the Dark Tower is found in these original tales, still bound in the yellowing pages of the magazine.
Sylvie: It’s no surprise that King reconfigured S&S as a western. This subgenre, which begins with writers such as Robert E. Howard and His Adventures of Conan, had already begun to transform in 1970 when Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories were brought together in “Swords and Deviltry”. Leiber has been deeply influenced by writers who have been active in pulps in previous decades, such as HP Lovecraft, and if we continue this game of six degrees of separation, we come to CL Moore, who created two iconic characters. : space adventurer Northwest Smith (grandfather of Han Solo) and warrior queen Jirel de Joiry whose stories are collected in “Black God’s Kiss” (2007).
Back in the days when Leiber was producing more adventure volumes, Tanith Lee, Karl Edward Wagner and CJ Cherryh contributed to an S&S mini-boom. Lee had “The Birthgrave” (1975), the first of a trilogy, about a woman with amnesia. with strange powers which awaken inside a volcano and traverse a landscape populated by magic and violence. Wagner in turn wrote numerous books starring the mercenary Kane, imbuing his creation with touches of horror – these novels have been collected under the names “Gods in the Dark” (2002) and “The Midnight Sun” (2003). Cherryh wrote the Morgaine cycle, beginning with “The Door of Ivrel” in 1976, which follows a mysterious warrior on a mission to close the portals that allow time travel and passage between worlds.
Five years later, Charles R. Saunders published his novel on the sword and African witchcraft, “Imaro”. Saunders went on to influence a new generation of writers such as Milton J. Davis, who created many “sword and soul” stories (sword and witchcraft with an African influence). “Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology” (2011) is a good example of more recent efforts in sword and witchcraft. Although Saladin Ahmed is best known for his comic book, “The Throne of the Crescent Moon”, a fantasy novel inspired by the Middle East, won him a Locus Award in 2013. Now, should we talk about this famous white haired warrior who swung a sword long before Geralt?
Life: In the 1960s, Michael Moorcock published New Worlds Magazine and ran S&S stories on weekends to pay the bills. The result was the stories of Elric de Melniboné, the haunted albino with the demonic sword who is destined to kill everything he loves, now undisputed classics. They were collected in “The Stealer of Souls” (1963) and “Stormbringer” (1965). When Moorcock sought a name for these works, Fritz Leiber came up with “Sword and Sorcery”, finally giving it a label. Also in London at the time was Samuel Delany. He approaches the genre in his own way. “Tales of Nevèrÿon” (1978) was the first in a quartet that covers slavery, gay culture, and power dynamics, and reinterprets and radically challenges the ideals of the sword and witchcraft. Even the AIDS epidemic becomes part of the story of “Flight from Nevèrÿon” (1985).
The sword and witchcraft have their souls in fiction magazines and, as such, has never been the most popular aspect of fantasy. But every time it shows up, it offers something fresh, individualistic – and often spectacular. And you, dear reader: who are the protagonists of the sword and witchcraft that scratch your itch of devilry and adventure?