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Sword and Sorceress XIX

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roam lands filled with danger, mystery and sorcery. They are sword-wielding defenders or magical spell-casters - roles too often considered the exclusive province of men.

Handpicked by the late Marion Zimmer Bradley, here are 25 original stories about bold and talented women created by such masterful word-weavers as Diana Paxson, Esther M Friesner, and Dorothy J Heydt. Journey with them now through enchanted realms of the imagination into perils both physical and magical:

Where the respect a sorceress pays to a simple farm animal can cure an entire village suffering from a devastating plague...

A young woman is able to free a goddess from her husband, the god of war, with one word...

With the help of a healer, a group of animal "familiars" unite to vanquish the magician who slew their masters...

When the mentor of an apprentice sorceress is killed, the young sorceress-to-be gains her power from the most unlikely source imaginable...

Before her death in 1999, Marion Zimmer Bradley had prepared volumes 19 and 20 of the ever-popular Sword & Sorceress anthology series. Known for discovering and nurturing some of today's best-selling talents, Bradley has once again assembled a powerhouse collection of fantasy fiction, filled with women warriors and wizards.

Introduction · Elisabeth Waters
The Curse of Ardal Glen · Laura J. Underwood
When the King Is Weak · Barbara E. Tarbox
The Sign of the Boar · Diana Paxson
A Matter of Focus · Penny Buchanan
Inner Sight · Susan Wolven
Familiars · Michael H. Payne
Ordeal · Robyn McGrew
Grain · Esther Friesner
Gifts of the Kami · Carol E. Leever
One in Ten Thousand · Aimee Kratts
Lord of the Earth · Dorothy Heydt
Lady of Light · Jennifer Ashley
All Too Familiar · P. Andrew Miller
Artistic License · Deborah Burros
Earth, Wind and Water · Bob Dennis
Fire for the Senjen Tiger · Stephen Crane Davidson
Fighting Spirit · Karen Magon
Pride, Prejudice and Paranoia · Michael Spence
A Simple Spell · Marilyn A. Racette
Sword of Queens · Bunnie Bessel
Better Seen Than Heard · Emily C. A. Snyder
Openings · Meg Heydt
A Little Magic · P. E. Cunningham
Eloma’s Second Career · Lorie Calkins
Sylvia · A. Hall

314 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2002

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About the author

Marion Zimmer Bradley

650 books4,303 followers
Marion Eleanor Zimmer Bradley was an American author of fantasy novels such as The Mists of Avalon and the Darkover series, often with a feminist outlook.

Bradley's first published novel-length work was Falcons of Narabedla, first published in the May 1957 issue of Other Worlds. When she was a child, Bradley stated that she enjoyed reading adventure fantasy authors such as Henry Kuttner, Edmond Hamilton, and Leigh Brackett, especially when they wrote about "the glint of strange suns on worlds that never were and never would be." Her first novel and much of her subsequent work show their influence strongly.

Early in her career, writing as Morgan Ives, Miriam Gardner, John Dexter, and Lee Chapman, Marion Zimmer Bradley produced several works outside the speculative fiction genre, including some gay and lesbian pulp fiction novels. For example, I Am a Lesbian was published in 1962. Though relatively tame by today's standards, they were considered pornographic when published, and for a long time she refused to disclose the titles she wrote under these pseudonyms.

Her 1958 story The Planet Savers introduced the planet of Darkover, which became the setting of a popular series by Bradley and other authors. The Darkover milieu may be considered as either fantasy with science fiction overtones or as science fiction with fantasy overtones, as Darkover is a lost earth colony where psi powers developed to an unusual degree. Bradley wrote many Darkover novels by herself, but in her later years collaborated with other authors for publication; her literary collaborators have continued the series since her death.

Bradley took an active role in science-fiction and fantasy fandom, promoting interaction with professional authors and publishers and making several important contributions to the subculture.

For many years, Bradley actively encouraged Darkover fan fiction and reprinted some of it in commercial Darkover anthologies, continuing to encourage submissions from unpublished authors, but this ended after a dispute with a fan over an unpublished Darkover novel of Bradley's that had similarities to some of the fan's stories. As a result, the novel remained unpublished, and Bradley demanded the cessation of all Darkover fan fiction.

Bradley was also the editor of the long-running Sword and Sorceress anthology series, which encouraged submissions of fantasy stories featuring original and non-traditional heroines from young and upcoming authors. Although she particularly encouraged young female authors, she was not averse to including male authors in her anthologies. Mercedes Lackey was just one of many authors who first appeared in the anthologies. She also maintained a large family of writers at her home in Berkeley. Ms Bradley was editing the final Sword and Sorceress manuscript up until the week of her death in September of 1999.

Probably her most famous single novel is The Mists of Avalon. A retelling of the Camelot legend from the point of view of Morgaine and Gwenhwyfar, it grew into a series of books; like the Darkover series, the later novels are written with or by other authors and have continued to appear after Bradley's death.

Her reputation has been posthumously marred by multiple accusations of child sexual abuse by her daughter Moira Greyland, and for allegedly assisting her second husband, convicted child abuser Walter Breen, in sexually abusing multiple unrelated children.

(from Wikipedia)

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 5 of 5 reviews
Profile Image for Werner.
Author 3 books579 followers
February 1, 2014
Although the late Bradley (d. 1999) is credited as "editor" of this volume of the series, it's really the second of three that were made from the pile of manuscripts submitted before her death, and actually edited by her sister-in-law, Elisabeth Waters. It continues a trend I noticed in Sword and Sorceress XVII: much more emphasis on the sorcery half of the sword-and-sorcery equation. Out of 25 tales here, 20 have heroines who are magic users; only six feature swordswomen (one protagonist is both), and two of the latter don't do any actual fighting in their stories. (Of course, magic-wielding heroines may be fighters too, in their own way!) Other trends that I noticed here were a number of stories treating real-world or imagined pagan pantheons as real, frequent use of various historic world cultures (ancient Egypt, the Hellenistic world, 10th-century Britain, etc.) as settings or models for invented settings, and several coming-of-age stories. While I enjoyed the vast majority of the selections here, I felt that this volume didn't have as high a number of really outstanding stories as previous series volumes that I've read, so it's the first of the latter not to get five stars from me. (But four is still a high rating!) Five of the writers represented are males, about the average proportion for this series.

Bradley had instituted a by-invitation-only policy for submissions before she died, but had invited everyone who'd previously contributed to the series. So all of the contributors here have been represented in previous volumes, though some are new to me (I haven't read all of the previous numbers) and some who aren't are writers whose names I've forgotten. Those whose work I've definitely read before include Diana Paxson, Esther Friesner, Bunnie Bessel, and Dorothy Heydt (whose daughter also has a story here). When I encountered Heydt's ancient Greek sorceress, Cynthia, in Sword and Sorceress XVII, I made the comment in my review that she might be a series character. That's confirmed here in "Lord of the Earth;" but that story has so much allusion to back-story that it loses a lot for readers who haven't followed the character through the whole story cycle. Paxson's "The Sign of the Boar" is a sequel to "Lady of Flame" from the same earlier volume; but here, her considerable talent is disappointingly wasted on a story mainly intended to disparage Christians. "A Simple Spell" by Marilyn A. Racette is a very slight story, which (at least for this reader) failed to make much impression. In her brief intro to A. Hall's "Sylvia," Waters notes that she wanted to close the volume with something "short and funny." It's quite short, and has a mordant black humor in its conclusion; but it's really more tragic than funny if you think about it (and definitely makes the point that, when you try to gain your ends by sneaky and manipulative means instead of honesty, the results may not be what you bargained for).

Those are the weaker stories, but I'd rate all of the rest with at least three stars, and often more. Set in a land ruled by queens chosen by a magic-endued sword, Bessel's "Sword of Queens" is the one five-star work here; it has the emotional and psychological complexity and power of the series' best tales. Laura J. Underwood's Scottish-flavored "The Curse of Ardal Glen" is a standout among the serious stories, and Aimee Kratts "One in Ten Thousand" has both an unusual setting (ancient Egypt) and a very original magic system. Humorous fantasy is represented here fairly often. "Pride, Prejudice and Paranoia' by Michael Spence is perhaps the best of these; it's a sequel to "Salt and Sorcery," which he co-wrote with Waters for an earlier volume, and is set in a magic school (despite the title, it's set in the present, not Regency England). It would be most appreciated by those who've read the first story (which I haven't, but want to!), but can delight even those that haven't. The evocation of a graduate school environment is spot-on (Spence was a seminary student when he wrote it), the family dynamics are precious, and there's a good, subtle message. "A Little Magic" by P. E. (Patricia Elizabeth) Cunningham and "Eloma's Second Career" by Lorie Calkins are also fine examples of fantasy in a humorous vein; the latter will be especially appealing to ladies of a certain age whose family is raised and who are ready to take on new challenges instead of sitting around and vegetating. (Though their new challenges probably won't include training to be a sorceress. :-) ) Not a humorous tale, Deborah Burros dark "Artistic License" also deserves mention; it's a tale of murder and deadly sorcery (but not all murders evoke quite the same moral indignation). This doesn't mention all of the stories, but at least it should provide prospective readers with something of the flavor of the collection!
204 reviews3 followers
May 18, 2013
As the first S&S anthology to be published after MZB's death, this one is a little scattered and not particularly well-curated. This is an anthology of extremes - there are quite a few excellent stories, but the ones that are less-than-good are mostly barely mediocre. I don't recall the theme for this one - I'll edit if I check it out from the library again. BPL copy, March 2013.

Worth rereading:

The Sign of the Boar, Diana L. Paxson - quite a good Bera story
Grain, Esther M. Friesner
Gifts of the Kami, Carol E. Leaver
One in Ten Thousand, Aimee Knotts
Lord of the Earth, Dorothy J. Heydt - an excellent Cynthia story
Artistic License, Deborah Burros
Earth, Wind, and Water, Bob Dennis
Pride, Prejudice, and Paranoia, Michael Spencer
Sword of Queens, Bunnie Bessel
A Little Magic, P. E. Cunningham

Most of those are good enough that merely the title is enough to remind me of the plot, two months and three S&S anthologies later.
Profile Image for Jimyanni.
492 reviews16 followers
April 5, 2011
The "Sword And Sorceress" series is a series of collections of short stories set in the "Sword And Sorcery" genre, except that in this series, all the protagonists are female. The is because, as Marion Zimmer Bradley has always explained in her introductions, historically in the "Sword And Sorcery" genre, the only female characters were "Bad conduct prizes" for the heroes.
The series as a whole is very good, although some volumes were stronger than others. I would rate this one at about the middle of the series, which is not bad at all especially considering that it is the first published after the death of MZB; her assistant (Elisabeth Waters) has continued compiling collections of stories sent in before MZB's death, and may continue to compile new collections after the backlog has run out if good stories keep on coming in.
Profile Image for Karen-Leigh.
2,117 reviews16 followers
December 29, 2018
More sequels to favourite stories...I should list the ones I like best. I started this series with number 22-25 in which I first read the mage squirrel and other stories. Going back and starting from number 1 I got introduced to the first stories in each series that I really enjoyed in those later books. Many good stories in this particular issue of S&S.
Displaying 1 - 5 of 5 reviews

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