Hot Best Seller

Literary Swordsmen and Sorcerers: The Makers of Heroic Fantasy

Availability: Ready to download

Stories contained in this book: The swords of Faerie Jack of all Arts: William Morris Two men in one: Lord Dunsany Eldritch Yankee Gentleman: H. P. Lovecraft Superman in a Bowler: E. R. Eddison The Miscast Barbarian: Robert E. Howard Parallel Worlds: Fletcher Pratt Sierran Shaman: Clark Ashton Smith Merlin in Tweeds: J. R. R. Tolkien The Architect of Camelot: T. H. White Conan's Comp Stories contained in this book: The swords of Faerie Jack of all Arts: William Morris Two men in one: Lord Dunsany Eldritch Yankee Gentleman: H. P. Lovecraft Superman in a Bowler: E. R. Eddison The Miscast Barbarian: Robert E. Howard Parallel Worlds: Fletcher Pratt Sierran Shaman: Clark Ashton Smith Merlin in Tweeds: J. R. R. Tolkien The Architect of Camelot: T. H. White Conan's Compeers


Compare

Stories contained in this book: The swords of Faerie Jack of all Arts: William Morris Two men in one: Lord Dunsany Eldritch Yankee Gentleman: H. P. Lovecraft Superman in a Bowler: E. R. Eddison The Miscast Barbarian: Robert E. Howard Parallel Worlds: Fletcher Pratt Sierran Shaman: Clark Ashton Smith Merlin in Tweeds: J. R. R. Tolkien The Architect of Camelot: T. H. White Conan's Comp Stories contained in this book: The swords of Faerie Jack of all Arts: William Morris Two men in one: Lord Dunsany Eldritch Yankee Gentleman: H. P. Lovecraft Superman in a Bowler: E. R. Eddison The Miscast Barbarian: Robert E. Howard Parallel Worlds: Fletcher Pratt Sierran Shaman: Clark Ashton Smith Merlin in Tweeds: J. R. R. Tolkien The Architect of Camelot: T. H. White Conan's Compeers

30 review for Literary Swordsmen and Sorcerers: The Makers of Heroic Fantasy

  1. 5 out of 5

    Randolph

    Gossipy short biographies of major early and important fantasy writers. Has the feel of essays from different sources thrown together to make "chapters" in the book (which is what it actually is). Notable for its exceptions (no Arthur Machen?) and inclusion of too many pulp era writers. Weird introduction by De Camp's "protege" Lin Carter that both praises and criticizes sharply the book's contents. I did find some of the essays of some help in getting more understanding of writers like E.R. Eddi Gossipy short biographies of major early and important fantasy writers. Has the feel of essays from different sources thrown together to make "chapters" in the book (which is what it actually is). Notable for its exceptions (no Arthur Machen?) and inclusion of too many pulp era writers. Weird introduction by De Camp's "protege" Lin Carter that both praises and criticizes sharply the book's contents. I did find some of the essays of some help in getting more understanding of writers like E.R. Eddison but De Camp's inclusion of strange random quirky, not always complimentary, details from each author's personal life was unnecessary and distracting. It wasn't at all clear what these idiosyncrasies had to do with the author's writing other than demeaning the person in some weird way. De Camp was notably a second rate writer so don't expect any literary masterpiece here. This can be a short interesting read for anyone interested in early formative fantasy writing, but there are better surveys of the topics out there, particularly Douglas A. Anderson's Tales Before Tolkien: The Roots of Modern Fantasy.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Martin

    I enjoyed the combination of biographical sketches and literary criticism. The book was educational, I discovered that I have been pronouncing Fritz Leiber's name wrong for over 30 years. The book includes the contents of the letter in which the Gray Mouser and Fafhrd were first conceived; that was a treat. There are several memorable passages in the book, my favorite being: from the chapter on Clark Ashton Smith, who was an accomplished poet long before he ever became a pulp writer, "Moreover, e I enjoyed the combination of biographical sketches and literary criticism. The book was educational, I discovered that I have been pronouncing Fritz Leiber's name wrong for over 30 years. The book includes the contents of the letter in which the Gray Mouser and Fafhrd were first conceived; that was a treat. There are several memorable passages in the book, my favorite being: from the chapter on Clark Ashton Smith, who was an accomplished poet long before he ever became a pulp writer, "Moreover, even if free verse can sometimes be effective, most of it is not. To me at least, it looks like turgid prose, full of strained figures of speech and obscure locutions and chopped into arbitrary short lines. The main advantage of this formless "verse" is that it is easy to do. It is lazy man's poetry. Anybody, even a child or a computer can do it. This makes it popular, since in the present climate of super-egalitarianism it is often thought that if a task cannot be done by everyone, it ought not to be done at all. To do or admire something that requires outstanding talent, arduous effort, and austere self-discipline is elitism, and that is considered a wicked thing."

  3. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    A bit gossipy and not great as a history, a lot tedious asides, but very good as a guide to the genre. A lot of books I want to check out now, plus a few I want to avoid. Also some really outdated stuff about homosexuality being a psychiatric disorder, etc.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Monte

    Taken on a chapter-by-chapter basis, the material here is uneven. The Eddison chapter is as frustratingly short as the Howard chapter is tediously long. The introductory chapter is a nice introduction to the pre-modern, gothic and decadent antecedents to modern fantasy, but the concluding chapter feels like an afterthought. There are some good things to be said about the book however: it is engagingly written; de Camp provides notes and sources throughout; his take on the literary status of Tolk Taken on a chapter-by-chapter basis, the material here is uneven. The Eddison chapter is as frustratingly short as the Howard chapter is tediously long. The introductory chapter is a nice introduction to the pre-modern, gothic and decadent antecedents to modern fantasy, but the concluding chapter feels like an afterthought. There are some good things to be said about the book however: it is engagingly written; de Camp provides notes and sources throughout; his take on the literary status of Tolkein is, I think, a sound one; and, his low opinion of his subjects’ approaches to life never really detracts from his enthusiasm for their written work. Generally speaking, each chapter is more satisfying than the standard Wikipedia entry or introductory biographical essay, but easier to digest than an extended essay or monograph. Concentrating on a writer’s oeuvre also provides a fuller perspective on a work than one might get out of guides like the ‘100 Best Fantasy Novels’ surveys by Pringle and Cawthorn/Moorcock. Insofar as de Camp is a critic, his criticism is broadly of the ‘how fun was this to read?’ kind, and this fits with his explanation of the enduring popularity of heroic fantasy as a kind of adult return to the rebellious behavior of a child against its parents. It’s an unconvincing thesis: de Camp has little in his biographical essays to warrant it. In treating heroic fantasy a product of an emotional complex de Camp neglects (willingly, it would seem) writing as a social and intellectual product – and this is strange given his contextualization of fantasy against the background of earlier literary traditions and genres. His accounts of Morris and Eddison, to name two standout cases, are the poorer for his narrow focus. de Camp's stance is anachronistic: he rails against modernism throughout the book - this at a time when postmodernism was becoming readily recognized, if not by name then by character. Had come to terms with modernism he would have recognized (even when indirect) the modernist influences on the heroic fantasy he was such a supporter of (perhaps he would even have seen the modernism behind his own critical style.) Maybe then he’d have replaced this book’s sleazy biographical material with more of the interesting literary criticism he occasionally shows he was capable of.

  5. 4 out of 5

    75338

    Some interesting analysis and anecdotes for those interested in many of the authors biographed. Many tangents and irrelevant discussion but oh well. Worth a read for the discerning fantasy connoisseur interested in the ...somewhat tragic and sorry lives of the pioneers of your favourite genre.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    De Camp is a justly famous science fiction and fantasy writer, but some of the genre's most rabid fans (I mean, the hardcore fans of H.P. Lovecraft and R.E. Howard, or course) love to hate him, along with August Derleth and Lin Carter, as all three "finished" and/or "edited" many unpublished stories by HPL and REH, with generally inferior results, and moreover De Camp wrote full biographies both HPL and REH that are now considered very unfavorable to both authors. The present book is a compilatio De Camp is a justly famous science fiction and fantasy writer, but some of the genre's most rabid fans (I mean, the hardcore fans of H.P. Lovecraft and R.E. Howard, or course) love to hate him, along with August Derleth and Lin Carter, as all three "finished" and/or "edited" many unpublished stories by HPL and REH, with generally inferior results, and moreover De Camp wrote full biographies both HPL and REH that are now considered very unfavorable to both authors. The present book is a compilation of essays De Camp wrote on a number of the foundational writers in fantasy fiction, particularly the subgenre called "heroic fantasy", including William Morris, Lord Dunsany, E.R. Eddison, Fletcher Pratt, Clark Ashton Smith, Tolkien, and T.H. White, as well as HPL and REH. In the context of these other bio-bibliographical sketches, De Camp's treatment of HPL and REH does not seem quite so objectionable, as he is pretty brutal with all of them (except for Pratt, with whom De Camp collaborated on several novels). Morris, Dunsany, Tolkien, and Pratt all come off the best in these essays; the rest get hammered for their personal failings. (Ironically, De Camp is very critical of the racist and misogynist attitudes he finds in Eddison, HPL, and REH, while later critics have found fault with De Camp for the same things; see for example the series of reviews at the Tor website titled "Advanced readings in Dungeons and Dragons". De Camp is enlightened only in comparison to these reactionaries!) This book was very interesting for the thumbnail summaries of important novels and stories, and extensive surveys of contemporary criticism of the the authors, as well as excerpts from many of featured the writer's letters, or De Camp's own interviews with some of them. (Intriguingly, De Camp mentions that Tolkien said he rather enjoyed REH's Conan stories.) On the other hand, De Camp spends altogether too much space cataloging the writer's scandals and psychological blemishes. How important are William Morris' failures as a father to his writings? Even De Camp admits much of his postmortem psychoanalysis is speculation and untestable hypothesis, yet he still diagnoses several writers as "schizoid personalities" etc. I get the feeling that in some cases he is just listing every fact he knows about their personal lives in lieu of giving a coherent sketch. Even so, it goes a long toward completing a picture of some of these writers who are not widely known outside of fandom. A final chapter covers some of the minor pulp writers who worked in the "heroic fantasy" genre. The introduction, written by the shamelessly self-promoting Lin Carter, is also a sort of appreciation of De Camp, as well as a gentle criticism of the omissions of the book. Lin Carter tries to correct this by discussing De Camp's work. (But I'd add: If Pratt and De Camp are fit to be covered by the book, why not a bit on Poul Anderson, Jack Vance, and other contemporaries of them?) As an aside, I figured out the Lin Carter was the author of the introduction when I saw his Lemurian stories mentioned as co-equals of those of REH, C.L. Moore, and Fritz Leiber! Hah!)

  7. 4 out of 5

    James

    I love reading fantasy books, books about fantasy, fantasy authors, and the history of fantasy. Thus I was interested in reading this book. However, I'd heard some negative things about some of de Camp's other non-fictional works (particularly his biography of Lovecraft) and was wondering how this one would go. Overall I think it's an interesting book, one that anyone with interests in the history of fantasy should probably take a look at. But let me list a few shortcomings. The book is a collect I love reading fantasy books, books about fantasy, fantasy authors, and the history of fantasy. Thus I was interested in reading this book. However, I'd heard some negative things about some of de Camp's other non-fictional works (particularly his biography of Lovecraft) and was wondering how this one would go. Overall I think it's an interesting book, one that anyone with interests in the history of fantasy should probably take a look at. But let me list a few shortcomings. The book is a collection of previously published articles on different individual authors (with the the exception of the last chapter) that de Camp takes to be influential to the history of fantasy fiction. Presumably these articles were edited for this volume but de Camp does little to make the different chapters flow into some coherent whole. Some chapters are more biographical while others are more critical and summary. Since de Camp does not really give an definite meaning or picture of what he takes fantasy to be (Lin Carter's introduction does some of this for him), one might wonder why de Camp does little to justify why some authors are included. Given one sort of understanding of fantasy, the inclusion of Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith might be puzzling to some. (Though personally I think they should be included.) L. Sprague de Camp's shortcomings are fairly visible at various points throughout the book. Some of these authors I was somewhat familiar with, and thus was able to identify some factual errors. Though I believe these were, for the most part, forgivable--not dealing with anything necessarily pertinent. In addition, at times de Camp is not shy in making some fairly strong and controversial statements about certain subjects that shows either an extreme bias on his part, or an ignorance of the subject in question. Nevertheless, de Camp has an engaging style of writing and thus he is not guilty of making this history boring--to which I am grateful. It's also clear that de Camp is very invested and excited about his subject. Despite the things listed above, I recommend this book to anyone whose interested in the field of fantasy and might be interested in one author's take on its later historical origins.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Randy

    Looking back at it now it's not a bad book. Some of the essays are well done but unfortunately de Camp couldn't help but fall back on his tried and true habit of putting down Robert E. Howard as a person while praising him as being a natural storyteller. The rest of the essays are both well written and are even informative. However, for the life of me I've never understood how Lord Dunsany and H. P. Lovecraft could be labeled as a writers of "heroic fantasy". Hell, Clark Ashton Smith barely qual Looking back at it now it's not a bad book. Some of the essays are well done but unfortunately de Camp couldn't help but fall back on his tried and true habit of putting down Robert E. Howard as a person while praising him as being a natural storyteller. The rest of the essays are both well written and are even informative. However, for the life of me I've never understood how Lord Dunsany and H. P. Lovecraft could be labeled as a writers of "heroic fantasy". Hell, Clark Ashton Smith barely qualifies as well.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Joshua

    A nicely readable history of fantasy as a modern literature genre, outlined by authors notable for innovation in the field. Each chapter focuses on an author, and sometimes related authors, with biographical information, synopses of the authors work and critical notes about them. Without being very familiar with most of the works mentioned, it seems that the criticisms are fair, noting both positives and negatives, but not of them are really glowing recomendations.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nick Capo

    Enjoyed this one. The biographies are quick and informal yet also surprisingly informative. Fantasy in the days of these writers was a much smaller club; I enjoyed some of the personal meeting anecdotes.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Charles

    Most essays are short but it gives a nice overview of the careers and contributions of a number of early practicioners of Heroic Fantasy. Includes essays on: Robert E. Howard William Morris Fletcher Pratt T. H. White. J. R. R. Tolkien E. R. Eddison H. P. Lovecraft Lord Dunsany

  12. 5 out of 5

    Michele Nordlie

    Very rare introduction to criticism regarding fantasy fiction from one of its contemporaries.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  14. 5 out of 5

    Benamozegh

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dr. Andrew Higgins

  16. 4 out of 5

    Chuck

  17. 4 out of 5

    Robert A.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Milligan

  19. 4 out of 5

    Pedro Ferreira

  20. 5 out of 5

    Michal Siodmak

  21. 4 out of 5

    Rob Salkowitz

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jay Michael

  23. 5 out of 5

    Christian

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jason Ray Carney

  25. 5 out of 5

    Fletcher Vredenburgh

  26. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jim

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bob Wilkins

  29. 5 out of 5

    Andy Bennison

  30. 5 out of 5

    Luke Van Wegen

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...