When was the last time you read something truly incredible?
And I don't mean the Song of Ice and Fire series or "Fifty Shades of Grey"... I mean a book that inspires you and makes you think beyond your own petty greed and need for instant gratification?!
Well this section of Lilith Press Magazine is dedicated to book reviews of books we recommend other people try reading. Why? Because they're seriously that good. We wouldn't be recommending them if we didn't really like them.
Archive of Old Articles
Is Sword and Sorcery Dead? Hardly.
By Charles Moffat, February 2020. Updated January 2021.
What do you think of when you think of Conan the Barbarian?
Do you think of the movies starring Arnold Schwarzenegger or Jason Momoa? Or do you think of the short stories by Robert E. Howard, who is widely regarded to be the Grandfather of Sword and Sorcery.
Robert E. Howard published his original Conan stories between 1932 and 1936, before committing suicide in 1936. Many of his Conan stories were later published posthumously after his death, including various stories featuring similar characters which were edited and changed into Conan stories after his death by other authors due to the popularity of the Conan character.
The original stories are now considered to be classics by fans of the Sword and Sorcery subgenre, and unauthorized additions to Conan's timeline have been posthumously added by a variety of fantasy authors including L. Sprague de Camp, Robert Jordan, Andrew J. Offutt, and many others.
Conan the Barbarian is just one example of Sword and Sorcery however. The most famous example perhaps, but just one of many. There are many other authors who have also written within this particular fantasy subgenre. Authors like Marion Zimmer Bradley and Charles Saunders.
Being written and published in the 1930s the original Conan stories suffer from a number of issues and now feel outdated. Editors in recent years have been "cleaning up" old Robert E. Howard stories to remove racial biases. The same problem persists in books by Edgar Rice Burroughs (creator of Tarzan and John Carter of Mars) and other authors from that time period. Authors from the 1950s and other decades were also prone to this problem. Ian Fleming (creator of James Bond/007) was a notorious racist. Anyone reading the original version of "Dr No" will be amazed at just how racist he was.
The sexism of the era is also a concern, and inspired authors like Marion Zimmer Bradley to write their own Sword and Sorcery stories in an effort to eradicate that problem in the genre.
So how do we fix this problem?
Well, we can't change history. History is fixed. Editors may decide to alter the original stories to make them less racist/sexist or to try to eliminate the racism/sexism entirely, but there will always be original copies of the stories floating around in used book stores, and there will also be some readers who prefer the original versions in their unvarnished style. The original stories are well written after all, and despite their faults are enjoyed by many.
The only real solution is for authors of today to be creating new Sword & Sorcery stories that grow in popularity, and for readers to start buying those books to see if they are worthy of replacing the original Sword & Sorcery classics of the 20th century with a new Sword & Sorcery of 21st century that depicts such things in a more realistic, honest, and hopefully worthy replacement.
Doing my part, I have been writing my Wulfric the Wanderer stories since 2007. Stories like:
In the Wulfric the Wanderer series I depict racial diversity in a positive light, and while you might still see harem girls, they are usually trying to escape and defeat their male captors. While you can certainly see the influence of Robert E. Howard's writing on my work, it is certainly not the only influence. I am also influenced by David Eddings, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Andrzej Sapkowski, George R. R. Martin, J. R. R. Tolkien, Dave Duncan, and others.
The length of each story in the series varies between being a short story, novelette or novella in length, and they are similar in length to the stories that Robert E. Howard wrote. Like REH stories they don't need to be read in any particular order, although some readers will certainly prefer to read them in order.
Portal of Destiny
Wulfric has grown weary of hunting in the Snowfell Mountains of Korovia and decides to head south, looking for danger and adventure. What he finds however is a portal that takes him back in time to when legendary warriors walked the land, and when great dragons ate warriors like himself as a snack.
The Cult of the She-Bear
Wulfric the Wanderer has traveled back in time to Korovia's Stone Age, when it is on the cusp of the Bronze Age. He has earned the trust and respect of the chieftain Ko Margus, and Wulfric has accepted that he is somehow destined to be trapped in this time period for the time being. When the Flintrako tribe finds megalithic carvings of bears in the side of a mountain the two sides begin to bicker about whether to destroy the carvings. Wulfric is tasked with investigating the nearby caves and the cave art within, finding more caverns that delve deeper into the mountain. What he doesn't know is that the bear carvings outside are magical wards that prevent an evil entity inside the mountain from escaping. If the carvings are destroyed the entity will be freed and it will be able to feed once more...
Shifting Shadows in Iztark
Wulfric the Wanderer has defeated the dark wizards inhabiting the Ivory Tower of Iztark, but upon exiting a strange old man approaches him with the promise of riches if he can assassinate the dark wizard known as Merchant-Lord Phrax Al-Amun. But Phrax's palace and harem full of women is guarded by more than mere mortal guards and the wandering barbarian-turned-assassin will have to battle his way through all manner of dangers and distractions.
Black Monoliths of Al-Kazar
Tahira, Wulfric's great love, is dead and the barbarian from Korovia decides to strike out on his own. His journey brings him to a Quinian trading post on the coast of Al-Kazar... But what he encounters there however is black magic and 'Black Monoliths of Al-Kazar'. Forced into slavery Wulfric the Wanderer must unlock his own rage within the dark abyss of his soul.
The Unbreakable Arrow
The stranger arrived in the village leading a dying injured horse. The villagers live in the woods, away from the keen eyes of the dragons and demons that fly overhead during the Dark Ages of Korovia. When pressed by a local Xarsian priest the stranger is convinced to find a legendary magical arrow, said to be unbreakable, in order to slay a demon. There is only one problem. The magical arrow is said to be in the lair of a sleeping dragon...
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