Monday, September 5, 2011

Weird Tales Books

The Fantastic Swordsmen edited by L. Sprague de Camp

Heroic fantasy, a subgenre of Weird Tales' stock in trade, evolved during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but its boom came after the deaths of pioneers such as Lord Dunsany, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith. (I'll use the terms heroic fantasy and sword and sorcery interchangeably here. Feel free to quibble.) Lin Carter played his part in that. Frank Frazetta may have played an even greater part. In any case, paperback fantasy filled the spinner rack during the 1960s and '70s. Not one to miss out on a good thing, Pyramid Books issued its own collection of heroic fantasy, The Fantastic Swordsmen, in 1967, edited by a practitioner of long standing, L. Sprague de Camp. The book includes nine tales, three printed therein for the first time, two originally printed in the pages of Weird Tales, and each introduced by de Camp's biographical and scholarly comments. Each story is also introduced with a map of the world in which it takes place, drawn by cover artist Jack Gaughan after L. Sprague de Camp. There is a Conan story here, and stories of his literary offspring, Elak of Atlantis and Brak the Barbarian. Michael Moorcock also weighs in with an early tale of his hero, Elric of Melnibon√©.

The Fantastic Swordsmen edited by L. Sprague de Camp
(Pyramid Books, 1967, 204 pages)
"Tellers of Tales" (Introduction) by L. Sprague de Camp
"Black Lotus" by Robert Bloch (Unusual Stories, 1935)
"The Fortress Unvanquishable Save for Sacnoth" by Lord Dunsany (The Sword of Welleran and Other Stories, 1908)
"Drums of Tombalku" by Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague de Camp (Original to this book)
"The Girl in the Gem" by John Jakes (Fantastic Stories of Imagination, Jan. 1965)
"Dragon Moon" by Henry Kuttner (Weird Tales, Jan. 1941)
"The Other Gods" by H.P. Lovecraft (Weird Tales, Oct. 1938)
"The Singing Citadel" by Michael Moorcock (Original to this book)
"The Tower" by Luigi de Pascalis (Translated from the Italian by L. Sprague de Camp and original to this book)

The Fantastic Swordsmen, edited by L. Sprague de Camp (1967). The cover by Jack Gaughan (1930-1985) illustrates John Jakes' contribution to the collection, "The Girl in the Gem." You can see her there in the background, imprisoned in a multifaceted blue oval. 
Text copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

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