Conan vs. Druss (31/8/2011)

Posted in Critical Failures

For various reasons, I’ve found myself giving a lot of thought to what is ‘heroic’ fantasy – possibly because this is the sort of fantasy that the Gemmell Awards aim to laud and I happen to have been reading some Gemmell of late. Possibly also because I’ve been reading Robert E Howard again, on and off, and it certainly hasn’t been helped by starting off on both Prince of Thorns and Paul Kearney’s The Ten Thousand of late (and that, in part, because I’ve heard it said that if anyone should win an award for writing like David Gemmell, it should be Paul Kearney).

If anyone nailed me to the floor and refused to allow me any ice cream ever again until I came up with a couple of icons of heroic fantasy, I guess I probably would have said Conan and Druss. That’s what I would have come up with before I did all this thinking. Now, though, I’m not so sure. Is Conan a hero? Is Druss? They’re quite similar characters in a way – big, strong men who are as good as invincible in single combat, and they have little to no grasp of the concept of either compromise or backing down. They not characters who will turn tail and slink away to fight another day. They will stand up for what they believe in no matter what the odds. Now that last bit ought to make them heroic, oughtn’t it? But as far as I can make out, Conan believes in Conan, in Conan getting lots of treasure and hot babes and respect, and, y’know, stuff. And not much else. There’s nothing very heroic in there – one might conclude that Conan is simply a big bully. A hip-hop star in the worst traditions of babes-and-bling.

Druss is a bit different, but in the end his motivation is a selfish one too – he simply doesn’t want to die like an old man, weak and feeble and no longer in control of his faculties. So yes, he goes off one last time to face up against the impossible odds, only he does it because he wants to die. He has nothing to live for any more. There is no sacrifice, because all he’s giving up is something he no longer wants. The difference, to me, exists in the way they are written. When Conan’s about, other characters exist (largely) to die, either to fall into the horrible trap so that Conan doesn’t, be murdered so that Conan isn’t, or, most commonly, be slaughtered by the man himself. What makes Druss different is that characters around him have lives of their own. They have hopes and fears and aspirations. They have reasons to carry on living. These are characters who have something to lose, and sometimes they do, and yet they put themselves in danger’s path for the greater good, or for love, or some sense of forgiveness or having done one good thing. What makes Druss differ from Conan is not what he actually does, but what he inspires in others. And that, surely, is what Heroic Fantasy is about.

So if I have to give the ‘Heroic Fantasy’ crown to one of them, it’d be Druss, but to be honest I’d rather give it to Rek. I rather wonder who else might deserve it. In fact, I’m rather wondering where the heroes in my fantasy have gone.

Oi, Little One, Did You Spill My Pint? (24/8/2011)

Posted in News

The magnificent Stephen Youll strikes again: The cover art for The Black Mausoleum. I particularly like the birds and the Fury River flood plain in the background. Oh, and the dragon.

Note – the UK cover art.

After another long had day at the office, Skjorl was disheartened, upon leaving, to discover that Blackscar had not forgotten their altercation of the night before.

After another long had day at the office, Skjorl was disheartened, upon leaving, to discover that Blackscar had not forgotten their altercation of the night before.

Not-So-Challenging Video Games (16/8/2011)

Posted in News

Angry Dragon

The Warlock’s Shadow (October 2011 UK)

Two years have passed. Berren is becoming a man and learning the thief-taker’s trade; But the thief-taker’s own past is about to catch up with both of them.

Read an excerpt here.

warlocks shadow cover - shrunk

First review up was Liviu Suciu at the Fantasy Book Critic: “…a highly recommended novel that stands well on its own until the cliffhanger ending…” I Thank you, Liviu. I do try to avoid cliffhangers, but the temptation overwhelmed me on this occasion!

Next up, LEC Book reviews: Dragon-monks, assassins, necromancy and enemies long-forgotten are all at the rendez-vous in this greatly entertaining novel.”

“…a lovely relaxed storytelling style…” Lowly’s Book Blog

This is such a great little series that requires little time and investment for a great return so I recommend it to all fantasy fans! Fixed on Fantasy

It’s The End of the World As We Know It and I Don’t Feel Fine (9/8/2011)

Posted in News

Given what kicked off last night, I’m not in the mood for talking about books much. I’m half tempted to repeat last week’s cartoon & subsitute “Subjegated disenfranchised drugged underclass” for “Impending Doom” but maybe that’s reaching. So have another Test Card instead.

002 - Industrial Relations

Follower 1007 (2/8/2011)

Posted in News

I promised some sort of amazing prize-thing if ever I had 1007 twitter followers. Then I sort of forgot and then it sort of happened and then I sort of remembered and felt sort of guilty for not having thought about it.

So OK. Every now and then, there will be copies given away to new followers on Twitter. At random times around the start of each month, so there’s no playing silly buggers, but that doesn’t seem like much of a prize, because I’m guessing that most of the people who come and read this will have read The Adamantine Palace already.

Today’s giveaway is a hardcover copy of The Last Dragon. It’s the short story I wrote for Genre for Japan, and if you simply want to read it, it’s available here for free. It’s not long. I’ve made five hardcover copies of the story using Lulu – one for me, one for the cover artist (Su Haddrell), one for the man who comissioned it and two to give away. They are signed and numbered and there are unlikely ever to be any more. I’m giving away copy number five to the first person who can reply to this post with the correct answer to the following question:

The Salt Pool lies in the Mausoleum under Clifftop. How many full-size dragon skeletons hang there?

The answer is somewhere in King of the Crags. No read-ee book-ee, no get-ee prize-ee.

Here’s a picture of The Last Dragon:

The Last Dragon

Is Fantasy Relevant to the Modern World? (1/8/2011)

Posted in Critical Failures

Synopses in pictures - American Debt Crisis (insert your own names)

Synopses in pictures - American Debt Crisis (insert your own names)

This is basically a pictoral synopsis of King of the Crags too. Since this is (mostly) an apolitical blog, you canuse your imagination to fill in the blanks. It’s possible I’m wrong about there being any people in Congress whose source of power is making other people bleed. Possible. Or they may just be called republicans.

The dragon was as good as traced from one of the preliminary Stephen Youll sketches for the cover of The Black Mausoleum, which is why it doesn’t look totally rubbish.