Sword & Sorcery: "An earthier sort of fantasy" discussion

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Group Reads > 2013 (a) 9-10 Review Starved Books

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message 1: by S.E., Gray Mouser (new)

S.E. Lindberg (selindberg) | 2273 comments Mod
Our thematic topic for Sept-Oct is Review Starved Books. It is time to advocate the Sword & Sorcery genre, and enable future readers with some reviews/ratings. Seek out some new or vintage books that are not represented well (i.e. have less than ~20reviews), post some feedback on the book's page and here!


message 2: by Charles (new)

Charles (kainja) | 428 comments Great idea!


message 3: by S.E., Gray Mouser (new)

S.E. Lindberg (selindberg) | 2273 comments Mod
Some members have recommended new ones like Waters of Darkness.

A lot of vintage books need some better representation too.


message 4: by T.C. (last edited Aug 23, 2013 09:02AM) (new)

T.C. Rypel (tedrypel) | 123 comments I would love to see my GONJI Series reviewed. It's had an exasperating review history.

The five extant books were originally published by Zebra Books in the 1980s. They're most definitely heroic fantasy (which, as the series progressed, began to uniquely meld with a sort of weird-sf/fantasy, though the characters would not have recognized it as such).

The story arc concerns the "Deathwind" quest of a lone master samurai, Gonji Sabatake, son of a Japanese warlord and a Norse sword-maiden. Most of his adventures take place in an alt-history 16th-century Europe (and sometimes Africa) populated by monsters and demons and riddled with sorcerous power and effects. It all points toward a great reckoning, a sea change in human events that will affect multiple concentric worlds, of which our Earth is only one.

Fantasy, right?

The problem was, publisher Zebra decided to try to trade on the popularity of SHOGUN, SHIKE and the NINJA books by van Lustbader, designing and marketing the books as mainstream historical adventures! (Gonji is seldom in Japan, in the published books, and he never wears traditional samurai armor, as is sometimes depicted on covers.) Worse, they took the epic (SHOGUN-length) first book they had bought from me and, without so much as the slightest notice to consumers, broke it into three separate novels!

(Yes, Part 2 just dangles there, with neither beginning nor end. I was conscientiously compelled to make them AT LEAST permit me to add "What Has Gone Before" prefaces to books 2 and 3, along with a character index for the big cast. In recent editions, the first three books are now clearly designated as "The Deathwind Trilogy.")

And yet, despite all that clumsiness---despite the death-kiss of being passed over as mainstream by the fantasy-bookselling community---the Gonji Series sold well and stayed in print for several years. It attained a small, vocal fan following and more than a few converted fans who said they might never have picked it up if they had realized it was fantasy.

But Gonji has received very little review action, over its existence. The fantasy community, in the main, simply doesn't recognize it, though reviews tend to be four- and five-star. (Just as disappointing, it's inspired very little artwork, in spite of a richness of exotic characters, creatures and scenes.)

And yet it has come swarming back in recent years with international, foreign-language editions, audio books, and currently (finally) a domestic re-issue by Wildside/Borgo Press, in paper and eBook. And new stories in the series are poised for publication.

Thus, I groan to see more review action for Gonji in the modern fantasy-reading community, before I succumb to seppuku. This forlorn, obscure mythmaker needs to know!


message 5: by Dan (new)

Dan (TheGreatBeast) | 213 comments I had a copy of Richard Tierney and David C. Smith's Bran Mak Morn pastiche For the Witch of the Mist on my book shelf so I'll be reading that for September.


message 6: by David (new)

David Hayden (dahayden) I'm thinking Tanith Lee for me, or perhaps David C Smith.

I have a sword & sorcery title that could use some love: Chains of a Dark Goddess. Sales have been hard to come by but all who've read it and commented love it. If anyone is interested, I can conduct the ritual of sending the ebook review copy.


message 7: by Periklis, Fafhrd (new)

Periklis (periklisbegzos) | 427 comments Mod
T.c. wrote: "Thus, I groan to see more review action for Gonji in the modern fantasy-reading community, before I succumb to seppuku. This forlorn, obscure mythmaker needs to know! ..."

Keep your tantō sheathed T.C., I'm sure there is an upcoming review of Gonji: Red Blade from the East brewing out there ;-)


message 8: by T.C. (new)

T.C. Rypel (tedrypel) | 123 comments Periklis wrote: "T.c. wrote: "Thus, I groan to see more review action for Gonji in the modern fantasy-reading community, before I succumb to seppuku. This forlorn, obscure mythmaker needs to know! ..."

Keep your t..."


I would use my "wakizashi"... But I will try to exercise more characteristic samurai patience than Gonji often does. (You know, it's that "wild Western child part of him" that does him in every time---the legacy of his Norse shieldmaiden mother!)

Thank you for your compassionate contact!


message 9: by J.W. (new)

J.W. Kent (jwkent) | 19 comments What is it about S & S that seems to cause a drought in reviews?????? Most other genres reviews just flood in.....

(I ask because I an a "review starved" author myself...)


message 10: by Thomas (new)

Thomas Cardin | 9 comments This is a great idea. I have already reviewed The Bridge at Ardendale. I highly recommend it.


message 11: by David (new)

David Hayden (dahayden) Well, if you write for a MG or lower YA audience like I do, reviews can be hard to come by there as well.


message 12: by S.E., Gray Mouser (new)

S.E. Lindberg (selindberg) | 2273 comments Mod
Being a fan of Gramlich's poetic style, I am reading Bitter Steel: Tales And Poems Of Epic Fantasy. So far, it is gritty Sword & Sorcery with little humor--which is my preference.


message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

I've been enjoying Bitter Steel myself, I need to get back to that. :D


message 14: by Dan (new)

Dan (TheGreatBeast) | 213 comments looks like a cool little collection, I will have to check out some of Gramlich's work.


message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

Some stories in Bitter Steel are really good.


message 16: by C.B. (last edited Aug 31, 2013 09:12AM) (new)

C.B. Pratt (cbpratt) | 6 comments T.c. wrote: "I would love to see my GONJI Series reviewed. It's had an exasperating review history.

The five extant books were originally published by Zebra Books in the 1980s. They're most definitely hero..."


T.C.: I spent some time in the Zebra-mill myself. You have my sympathy.

My Hero for Hire could use a few reviews. It's only .99 cents right now in honor of Dragon-Con.


message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

Having been a classical scholar in decades past, I'll give it a look.


message 18: by T.C. (new)

T.C. Rypel (tedrypel) | 123 comments C.B. wrote: "T.c. wrote: "I would love to see my GONJI Series reviewed. It's had an exasperating review history.

The five extant books were originally published by Zebra Books in the 1980s. They're most de..."


"Sympathy" returned, C.B.!

Zebra put your books out there. And they were attractive enough, as mass-market paperbacks go. But they didn't particularly care who the target audience was: If they saw a chance to capitalize on a sales or popularity trend, they'd package your books as ANYTHING that might steal a customer's trust.

Back in the '80s, when the books sold surprisingly well, I didn't complain much about the fact that the fantasy community, for whom the series was intended, was largely ignoring these books that were packaged as mainstream. NOW, though, I'm in the awkward position of having to "break in" all over again, in the minds of fantasy readers, with the books' re-issuing.

I DID complain, though, even back then, when Zebra frustratingly broke an epic-length novel into three separate "novels" and reviewers started complaining about "well-written books that might have benefited from having beginnings and endings"...

...the "trilogy that WASN'T." I couldn't believe their cavalier disregard for reader goodwill.


message 19: by Joseph, Master Ultan (new)

Joseph | 1235 comments Mod
Zebra also did things like putting "In the tradition of Robert E. Howard!" on Talbot Mundy's Tros of Samothrace books and actually misnumbering a couple of the books in the series.


message 20: by T.C. (new)

T.C. Rypel (tedrypel) | 123 comments Yeah, they were really big on cramming you into "the tradition of REH!" whether it was accurate or not, whether you wanted it or not. (In my case, it was, to quote the ad fliers distributed in advance of my GONJI Series: "From the NOBLE HOUSE of Zebra comes a SHOGUN in the tradition of SHIKE"---!!)

But that's how mindless marketing works. All they care about is commerce. The rest---the aesthetics and legacy of the content---is for others to work out, in their eyes.


message 21: by C.B. (last edited Aug 31, 2013 07:59PM) (new)

C.B. Pratt (cbpratt) | 6 comments I think my favorites were when they'd take a book and give it the cover for whatever was 'hot' at the moment. Like a vampire cover on a non-paranormal romance or a Conan-ish cover on an elf-themed book.

A lot of the paperback houses did the same thing. They'd slap on any old cover they had lying around, even if they'd used it just a year or so previously for another book.

And the author always gets blamed for poor sales by the house and for choosing a bad cover or bad cover-copy by the readers. At least in indie e-books, the blame goes to the right person.


message 22: by T.C. (last edited Aug 31, 2013 09:20PM) (new)

T.C. Rypel (tedrypel) | 123 comments I have to say, at the time, I was pleased with the nice embossed oriental dragons on the Gonji book covers. Very classy. But then...

After five books with variations on those same symbolic oriental dragons... which were not really symbolic of ANYTHING in the stories, since Gonji is a reversal of the basic SHOGUN situation---one samurai in alt-history medieval EUROPE...

He's never IN Japan, in the extant books! BUT naturally the books were placed with mainstream lit!

And then when they came out in Germany, in more recent times, my German publisher picked up on that SAME oriental misdirection---Gonji's in traditional Japanese armor on every cover. That NEVER HAPPENS in the books!!

Of course, worst of all, there's never a single monster on the covers. Or marvelously depicted action sequence. Where was Frazetta when you needed him? Oh, yeah---painting covers that were similarly mismatched to the books they covered.

But at least there was no mistaking that they were FANTASY books...


message 23: by Dan (new)

Dan (TheGreatBeast) | 213 comments I ended up starting and finishing For the Witch of the Mists. I just wrote a review for it, if you want to check it out. I really enjoyed it, some glaring typos aside.


message 24: by [deleted user] (last edited Sep 01, 2013 12:41AM) (new)

My episodic rather dark fantasy, A Road of Blood and Slaughter, which can be read as a series of more or less stand alone short stories of around 7000 - 20 000 words or straight through as a long-ish sword and sorcery novel hasn't had too many reviews as yet. I'd be grateful to anyone who'd like to take a look.


message 25: by Charles (new)

Charles (kainja) | 428 comments Thanks for the kind words on Bitter Steel. I much appreciate it. I saw a blog review of Conan and the Emerald Lotus the other day. One of the Conan pastiches that I have but haven't read. The reader was bragging on it pretty strongly so I'm gonna have to dig it out and give it a go.


message 26: by Charles (new)

Charles (kainja) | 428 comments S.E. wrote: "Being a fan of Gramlich's poetic style, I am reading Bitter Steel: Tales And Poems Of Epic Fantasy. So far, it is gritty Sword & Sorcery with little humor--which is my preference."

Thanks, man!


message 27: by Charles (new)

Charles (kainja) | 428 comments Dan wrote: "I ended up starting and finishing For the Witch of the Mists. I just wrote a review for it, if you want to check it out. I really enjoyed it, some glaring typos aside."

I mentioned those typos to David C. Smith once and he kind of laughed about how bad Zebra was back in the day with copy editing.


message 28: by Periklis, Fafhrd (last edited Sep 02, 2013 05:29PM) (new)

Periklis (periklisbegzos) | 427 comments Mod
Just finished Gonji: Red Blade from the East and planning to read either In the Darkness, Hunting (4 reviews so far) or the collected Mad Shadows: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser (9 reviews so far), hopefully early in October...


message 29: by T.C. (new)

T.C. Rypel (tedrypel) | 123 comments Charles wrote: "Dan wrote: "I ended up starting and finishing For the Witch of the Mists. I just wrote a review for it, if you want to check it out. I really enjoyed it, some glaring typos aside."

I mentioned tho..."


They WERE pretty lame at copy-editing. The only thing that saved your books was that Zebra was pretty reliable about shipping you galley proofs prior to publication. But, then, you had to drop your life and pour a couple of solid days into nothing but reading your proofs, because they expected them back by Overnight Express on, like, the third day after they sent them!

Dave Smith and I used to commiserate about our Zebra experiences all the time.


message 30: by T.C. (new)

T.C. Rypel (tedrypel) | 123 comments Periklis wrote: "Just finished Gonji: Red Blade from the East and planning to read either In the Darkness, Hunting (4 reviews so far) or the collected Mad Shadows: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser (9 reviews so ..."

I hope your experience of the opening book of the Deathwind Trilogy was pleasant enough, Periklis...


message 31: by Dan (new)

Dan (TheGreatBeast) | 213 comments Charles wrote: "Dan wrote: "I ended up starting and finishing For the Witch of the Mists. I just wrote a review for it, if you want to check it out. I really enjoyed it, some glaring typos aside."

I mentioned tho..."

I wish i knew what segments were Tierney and which segments were Smith. I kind of have a feeling a lot of the what happens in Rome was Tierney, but I don't know for sure.


message 32: by T.C. (new)

T.C. Rypel (tedrypel) | 123 comments Dan wrote: "Charles wrote: "Dan wrote: "I ended up starting and finishing For the Witch of the Mists. I just wrote a review for it, if you want to check it out. I really enjoyed it, some glaring typos aside."
..."



We haven't talked about this in years, but Dave would acknowledge, I believe, that most of the Roman cultural details were Dick Tierney's, as that was his province, Dick being an enthusiastic history buff and researcher.


message 33: by Dan (new)

Dan (TheGreatBeast) | 213 comments That's what I figured. It reminded me a lot of his Simon Magus stories.


message 34: by Bruce (new)

Bruce | 76 comments A couple of S&S titles that could do with more reviews are Return of the Sword and Rage of the Behemoth, as well as the latest titles in the Heroes in Hell series edited by Janet E. Morris: Lawyers in Hell, Rogues in Hell and Dreamers in Hell.


message 35: by S.E., Gray Mouser (new)

S.E. Lindberg (selindberg) | 2273 comments Mod
Bitter Steel: Tales And Poems Of Epic Fantasy may still be starved for reviews, but I fed it another 5-star today...with an epic review.

Highly recommended: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...

I plan to tackle Imaro next, as part of the other group-read.


message 36: by Charles (new)

Charles (kainja) | 428 comments S.E. wrote: "Bitter Steel: Tales And Poems Of Epic Fantasy may still be starved for reviews, but I fed it another 5-star today...with an epic review.

Highly recommended: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/69..."


S. E., thanks so much for the great review of "Bitter Steel." Much appreciated.


message 37: by Phil (new)

Phil (klarkashton) | 107 comments For the group read I've chosen the second Brak the Barbarian ebook compilation, Witch of the Four Winds * When the Idols Walked.

I might pick up some of Milton Davis' sword & soul work afterward. I really liked the first two Imaro books by Saunders, but with no ebooks and distribution only through Lulu he's not making it easy for me to check them out...


message 38: by Charles (new)

Charles (kainja) | 428 comments I fondly remember those Brak books. Not the greatest prose but good fun stories.


message 39: by Dan (new)

Dan (TheGreatBeast) | 213 comments I've been trying to track down those John Jakes books for years. I was actually just looking up the earlier prints of those books online, debating about buying them. I think I'll try one last time at the local shops. I read a couple short stories in some antholgies and really liked them.


message 40: by Phil (new)

Phil (klarkashton) | 107 comments If ebooks are OK, they've been collected in two inexpensive Kindle compilations (each with two novels + short stories). The author's introduction is the same for both volumes, which is a little chintzy, but the books themselves are quality work.


message 41: by Derek (new)

Derek | 37 comments For those who are interested, I've reviewed Master of the Etrax by Robert Lory.

(In brief: if you like Cugel the Clever, read Cugel the Clever instead.)


message 42: by Bruce (new)

Bruce | 76 comments Bruce wrote: "A couple of S&S titles that could do with more reviews are Return of the Sword and Rage of the Behemoth, as well as the latest titles in the Heroes in Hell series edited by Janet E. Morris: Lawyers..."

I'm starting to wonder if I'm on everyone's ignore list...


message 43: by Charles (new)

Charles (kainja) | 428 comments It's unfortunate in a way that so 'many' new books are coming out because it means that for those of us who are fans we simply can't read it all, and with a lot of books jockeying for position we sometimes overlook quality work. This certainly makes reviews more important than maybe they have ever been.


message 44: by S.E., Gray Mouser (new)

S.E. Lindberg (selindberg) | 2273 comments Mod
Bruce wrote: "Bruce wrote: "A couple of S&S titles that could do with more reviews are Return of the Sword and Rage of the Behemoth, as well as the latest titles in the Heroes in Hell series edited by Janet E. M..."

Bruce, I think "we" are listening. By the numbers, however, there are just not many "listeners."

This young group (~1yr old) only has ~200 people (albeit very cool people); but only a percentage participate in the groupreads. These few readers have (a) already tackled those suggestions... or (b) are tackling many other worthy books.

There actually has been a lot of discussion about Rage of the Behemoth, Return of the Sword, and the In Hell series in the various Discussion threads. In fact, the previous Groupreads on "Anthologies" introduced me to the Rogue Blade Entertainment books (and lured me to provide three reviews). Your suggestions are good ones!


message 45: by Joseph, Master Ultan (new)

Joseph | 1235 comments Mod
Looks like I'll be choosing Echoes of the Goddess: Tales of Terror and Wonder from the End of Time by Darrell Schweitzer, although I think it'll be closer to Clark Ashton Smith-style weird fantasy. First, though, I'm going to reread The Shattered Goddess because it's been quite a while.


message 46: by Jason (new)

Jason | 114 comments Bruce wrote: "I'm starting to wonder if I'm on everyone's ignore list..."

I hear you, Bruce, but don't despair. There's only so much you can do, and you've been putting the word out and so are doing it already. All that remains is to keep producing your quality work and getting it out there where it can be seen and happened upon. So much of discovery relies on luck, it seems...at least to me.


message 47: by Jason (new)

Jason | 114 comments Joseph wrote: "I'm going to reread The Shattered Goddess because it's been quite a while. ...."

I'll be interested to hear your thoughts on this one. I've only read a portion of We Are All Legends and keep meaning to get back to it. I was enjoying it, as I recall, and can't remember why I put it down in the first place.


message 48: by S.E., Gray Mouser (new)

S.E. Lindberg (selindberg) | 2273 comments Mod
Jason wrote: "Joseph wrote: "I'm going to reread The Shattered Goddess because it's been quite a while. ...."

I'll be interested to hear your thoughts on this one. I've only read a portion of We Are All Legends..."


I loved it...and cripes...it looks like I am the only one to have reviewed it on Goodreads. Eh god! Someone here must add to that!

http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...

Quick Summary: We Are All Legends is a must-read for fans of doomed protagonists (Karl Wagner’s Kane, Michael Moorcock’s Elric, David Gemmell’s Druss, etc.). It is Sword and Sorcery for the adult crowd. It is gritty, poetic, and intellectually rewarding.


message 49: by Joseph, Master Ultan (new)

Joseph | 1235 comments Mod
Schweitzer is an underappreciated master. Mask of the Sorcerer is my favorite (although could Wildside have picked a worse cover?) but I've enjoyed everything of his that I've read.

And he was also involved in the Terminus revival of Weird Tales back in the late 1980s, which was, to my mind, the high point of the current revival.


message 50: by Phil (new)

Phil (klarkashton) | 107 comments Finished reading Witch of the Four Winds, the first of two Brak the Barbarian novels in the ebook compilation I'm reading. I was pleasantly surprised. This is the third Brak novel and the strongest I've read to date. The premise is pretty standard; Brak must stop an evil sorceress from using her magic to destroy a beleaguered kingdom. But the great thing about the story is how *lean* it is. There is nothing extraneous here. Every character has an important role to play in the story, and no plot threads are left dangling. Everything comes together in the end to form a neat and tidy package. It was well put together, and I'm beginning the fourth and final Brak novel (barring some miscellaneous short stories) with high hopes.


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