Favorite fantasy/sci-fi literature other than Tolkien
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Post Posted: Thu Mar 20, 2008 1:12 am 
 

mellmorranth wrote:has anyone read godslayer, shadowclimber, or dragonrank master by mickey zucker reichert?

really good stuff.

h p lovecraft of course - but not really fantasy.

the first six books of the dragonlance series (chronicles and tales) i've read and reread i think four times now.

and just a little flamebait for those who hate comics - but sandman.


whoops, can't believe i forgot dune - and two obscure ravenloft authors - christie golden (vampire of the mists) and p. n. elrod (i strahd)

  


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Post Posted: Thu Mar 20, 2008 1:18 am 
 

Xaxaxe wrote:They are pretty much exactly what you see; the series is pretty straightforward. They are "fleshed-out" versions of the classic 1e adventures, told from the point of view of an adventurer or adventurers, and with lots of background detail and new stuff to get the books up to novel length.

White Plume Mountain was the first one by a "real" author; it is from the fall of 1999. Author Paul Kidd went on to write two more books in the series, and many fans consider them to be the high-water mark of the series. I agree, FWIW: Kidd spins an entertaining yarn.

The series is lucky to have survived Ru Emerson's debut with the Giants novel. It is truly God-awful. Despite being completely predisposed to like the book (D&D fan, played the actual adventure, fantasy fiction fan, etc.), I did not even reach the halfway point. I found out later that I wasn't the only one.

The series just pretty much stopped, nor did it ever receive a lot of publicity from WotC. It always struck me as a pretty easy money-maker for WotC, as the books were by relatively unknown authors and were casually edited at best ... I figured they might just keep going.

There might have been some sort of anniversary or celebration of the Greyhawk setting going on about this time, too. Our own Grodog could probably shed more light on that; if there was something specific these books were supposed to celebrate, I don't remember what it was.



white plume mountain was a good one. i hadn't bothered with any of the sequels because it doesn't look like paul really introduced any new characters and there didn't seem to be a lot more he could do with the dynamics of the ones he had. but reading above, maybe i need to give them a shot.

  

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Post Posted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 12:29 am 
 

I just got my copy of Midnight Sun, a collection of Karl Edward Wagner's short stories featuring his evil protagonist, Kane.

The book has the previoiusly unfindable Kane stories, Misericorde, Lacunae and Deep in the Depths of the Acme Warehouse, as well as the novel fragments At First Just Ghostly and In the Wake of the Night.  There is also an early version of Lynortis Reprise called The Treasure of Lynortis, written when Wagner was a teenager.

My impression of the book is that it is of smaller dimensions than I expected.  Have I been ripped off by a re-print version?

My other impression is that it is a good thing that Wagner stopped writing Kane stories.  It is not a good thing that Wagner died...just that Kane the character got no further.  No writer is perfect.  Heck, Tolkien wrote Farmer Giles of Ham, so Wagner is entitled...right?

Midnight Sun is filled with a collection of some of the best fantasy literature ever written...hindered by a collection of short stories and novel fragments that never got published for very good reasons:

Lacunae and Deep in the Depths of the Acme Warehouse are somewhat revolting erotic literature with Kane as sort of a sneering, mean-spirited pusher.  These stories take place on modern Earth...to which Kane flew in a flying saucer.  (I am not making this up.)

Misericorde is not a good story.  It features Kane exhibiting a sort of multi-dimensional jumping talent that also appears in the modern Kane stories.  Nobody has a chance against Kane because he jumps in and out of shadows and generally lords his complete superiority over everyone.  It might have gotten good.  I stopped reading.

At First Just Ghostly starts out with an interesting 80's protagonist named Cody Lennox...right off the set of Miami Vice.  (He even has a linen jacket and a five o'clock shadow beard.)  Lennox is a bit too autobiographical, since he is a drunken horror novelist who is on his way to a convention in London.  Then the protagonist meets Kane, who is a smug, know-it-all prat who pops in an out of space and time to mystify Lennox and bore the reader to death.  Kane is opposed by Satan/Sathonys and there is no God...because Kane killed him.  The fragment is aptly titled.  Maybe Wagner could have fixed it had he lived.

Writers like to use writers (or their lesser cousins, journalists) as protagonists because a writer is the coolest, smartest, most observant and sensitive character a writer can think of.  For example, easily half of Stephen King's protagonists are writers and most of the other half are equally autobiographical to some extent.

In the Wake of the Night showed promise...largely because Kane-As-Smartass had not yet appeared in the story when the text came to an end.

There is also a heavy-handed Moorcock pastiche called The Gothic Touch, in which Kane meets Elric and uses him to get an artifact, while grabbing hold of Stormbringer's blade with his bare hand and generally posing as Mr. Know-It-All to prove how much cooler Kane is than Elric.  This one was published elsewhere in the very uneven collection titled Tales of the White Wolf.  (Where there are just enough stories that don't involve Elric visiting Earth to make you want to try reading the next story until the book is done.  There are a couple of gems amidst that stew of turds.)

Midnight Sun's end papers are a nice/brilliant/crude map of Kane's fantasy world by a guy named Dale Rippke, who has a long-abandoned website devoted to Wagner and Kane.  The map appears in the book exactly as posted on the website...wonderfully amateur.  Unfortunately, the book's bad editing means that on the last page, Dale Rippke is thanked for his help as "Dale Ripple."  Lord, how he must have been disappointed!  (Why didn't you answer my emails, Dale?)

What is almost worth the price of the book is Wagner's closing essay about why and how he created Kane....and the literary decisions he made in presenting the stories.  Foremost is the explanation of why Kane characters talk like 20th century people.  (Because that is how they sound to themselves...which makes excellent sense.)

All of this ignores that fact that the rest of Midnight Sun is just plain awesome reading.  Kane is an original take on fantasy literature in which the villain is the hero.  As Wagner points out in his essay, villains are more interesting than heroes.  Kane cannot be thought of as an anti-hero because anti-heroes are usually dolts or too flawed to live.  Kane is an evil dude who is usually just a bit less evil than whoever or whatever he is trying to rob/con/bring down/take over/curse.  

Along the way, Kane fights enough lurid, bloody battles  to sate the gore lust of any Conan reader.  (Darkness Weaves was the next novel I read after finishing Tolkien at age 14.  Parts of the story literally made me gag with delight.)  Wagner has the distinction of all the Robert E. Howard fans of creating a character that exceeds his idol's work.  Anyone who has ever suffered through a Brak the Barbarian story knows this is true...now there's a trivia question for fantasy readers!

Reflections for the Winter of My Soul is possibly the best fantasy story ever written.  (Your nominations are....?)  Raven's Eyrie and Lynortis Reprise might challenge for the second and third spots.  Cold Light is a nice tale of a D&D paladin gone wrong.

Anyway, now that I have my copy you should definitely seek out Midnight Sun on Ebay.  Every self-respecting fantasy reader should have the Kane stories on his shelf...even the sucky stories, if only to show how good the good ones really are.

Mark


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Post Posted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 5:00 am 
 

After reading the thread, and looking for some Kane stories, I thought I might add to the list:

Worst books ever: a tie between Donaldson and Brooks.  It's just a matter of which wrist to slit first.

Some good or important authors not mentioned so far:

Ursula Le Guin--EarthSea trilogy has to be on the list (Rowling owes her some cash for the, "Magic school").

Katherine Kurtz: The first three Deryni novels. Young adult, not great, but solid.

Shirley Jackson:  We have Always Lived in this Castle.  Weird and wonderful, not fantasy, not completely horror, but it works for both.

John Gardner:  Grendal. You have to love it when the monster is the main character and has a sense of humour

Zelazny:  Yep.  Jack of Shadows should be added to his list ( First character I read who smoked cigarettes and could pull a knife from anywhere), as should the posthumously published and co-written Lord Demon for an hysterically funny opening line.

Glen Cook:  First three Dark Company..that was mentioned, I think.

Rudyard Kipling: Jungle Book

Dumas:  Three Musketeers

Pratchett and Gaimon:  Good Omens

William Goldman: The Princess Bride.

Lin Carter....should be mentioned somewhere;)

Mervyn Peake:  Gormangast--the whole trilogy, though the first book is the best by far.  Blew my mind after Tolkien.

David Brin:  Hard to pick just one.

John Wyndam:  The Day of the Triffids

Ray Bradbury:  From Fahrenheit 451 to collection in the The Illustrated Man.

H.G Wells...C.S. Lewis ( Not great, but...), T.H. White....

Best,

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Post Posted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 6:55 am 
 

A really very interesting review of the recent Philip K. Dick anthologies, from the 3rd July issue of The London Review of Books.

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v30/n13/burt01_.html


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Post Posted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 7:17 am 
 

My only problem with Karl Edward Wagner is that he didn't write enough. Thw Kane stories are some of the best fantasy adventure novels ever written. While I loved the Conan stories I enjoyed the setting more than the character. The setting of the Kane stories is just as rich and even more diverse, but Kane himself is a richer, fuller character, and a mean bastard to boot. He is self-interested, and evil by some standards, but not a villain. He reminds me of Ganelon from Zelazny's Amber series. A guy who would cut your throat for a pair of boots if he happened to need them, but not paricularly evil for evils sake.

Wagner's other writings are also good. His horror/pulp stuff isn't bad and I have two short story anthologies of his that feature them that are well worth reading (Why Not You and I) is the one I remember offhand.

He is one of those writers whose work I will always look for though I'm sad to hear they published his rough work that wasn't intended for print. Even good writers write crap from time to time and most of them know enough to stop and put it aside in some dark drawer where it might bring forth a better idea later on.

  

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Post Posted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 7:49 am 
 

This one was mentioned oce above.
I think it deserves another mention.

The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov  8)


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Post Posted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 9:52 am 
 

sorry but i am still a fan of the old perry rhodan novels. i think they are fab fun to read - i never tire of them.

have also just finished reading glory road yet again.

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Post Posted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 10:06 am 
 

Has anybody else read Silverlock by John Myers Myers?
It was first published in 1949 but there was a paperback release in either the late 70's or early 80's.
Fun little adventure story with tons of literary references and characters.


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Post Posted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 10:17 am 
 

jasonw1239 wrote:Has anybody else read Silverlock by John Myers Myers?
It was first published in 1949 but there was a paperback release in either the late 70's or early 80's.
Fun little adventure story with tons of literary references and characters.


How about the Harp & the Blade. An excellent historical fantasy.

  

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Post Posted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 10:53 am 
 

killjoy32 wrote:sorry but i am still a fan of the old perry rhodan novels. i think they are fab fun to read - i never tire of them.

have also just finished reading glory road yet again.

Al


Al!  I never knew this about you mate!!!  I was a huge Perry Rhodan fan back in jr high/high school when they were released in English in the US in the 70s.  I still have a complete set (up to #150 or so) of what was released here. It's a shame Ace dropped the series; great classic space opera that was actually decent quality. I love it so much one of my first purchases on ebay back in the day as a set of the German versions, 100 issues from where the English version ends....with the thought someday I'd either learn to read german, or be able to run them through a translation program.  I've really never understood the publisher's lack of effort to get this published or translated into English, seems a pure money maker...

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Post Posted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 11:10 am 
 

oh i think they are a blast. it is just the kinda swashbuckling flash gordon/doc savage sci-fi ish stuff that i like for a good ol' leisure read.

i really like the stories a lot. simple and raw and you get a damn good read out of it. not everyone cup of tea i guess, but it always did the job for me.

i dont know how many novels i have, maybe 30-40 or so. i got them really really cheap in a market one time, many years ago. my mum thought i was mad, spending my pocket money on "them stupid books". you wanna hear what she says now, seen as i still have them, many moons later :)

some novels in my collection come and go, happily, these are ones that will always stay, as i constantly go back and read them again and again.

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Post Posted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 11:17 am 
 

JZavoda wrote:My only problem with Karl Edward Wagner is that he didn't write enough. Thw Kane stories are some of the best fantasy adventure novels ever written. While I loved the Conan stories I enjoyed the setting more than the character. The setting of the Kane stories is just as rich and even more diverse, but Kane himself is a richer, fuller character, and a mean bastard to boot. He is self-interested, and evil by some standards, but not a villain. He reminds me of Ganelon from Zelazny's Amber series. A guy who would cut your throat for a pair of boots if he happened to need them, but not paricularly evil for evils sake.

Wagner's other writings are also good. His horror/pulp stuff isn't bad and I have two short story anthologies of his that feature them that are well worth reading (Why Not You and I) is the one I remember offhand.

He is one of those writers whose work I will always look for though I'm sad to hear they published his rough work that wasn't intended for print. Even good writers write crap from time to time and most of them know enough to stop and put it aside in some dark drawer where it might bring forth a better idea later on.


In a different world where Wagner wasn't an alcoholic (it's what killed him) or suffer from chronic writer's block (his good friend David Drake tells stories about some horrific episodes where he still hadn't finished books under deadline when it had been extended time after time; his Conan book was one of these), he would have published a Kane novel ever few years and would be considered one of the most acclaimed fantasy novelists of all time, with Kane being one of the greatest characters in the genre.  Wagner had come nowhere near writing his best stuff, and still won World Fantasy Awards for his fiction; it's sad to think that he may have reached his stride in his 50's and really write the "ultimate" Kane novel.  

The character of Kane is great because he's amoral, the ultimately self-centered killer who because of his immortality suffers tremendously, and takes that suffering out on the universe.  So many fantasy protagonists are good, or are fighting the bad guys, "just because it's the right thing to do".  The character of Kane puts that to the lie....

BTW it's worth your while to hunt down his three Adrian Becker stories (Satan's Gun, Hell Creek and One Paris Night) written near the end of his career.  The civil war era gunslinger who ends up battling the supernatural is a cross between Stephen King's gunslinger, Robert E. Howard's Kane and Jonah Hex.   Wagner states in an introduction he had been working on two Becker novels since the 60's; once again another unfinished project.  One Paris Night is particularly compelling and typical Wagner awesomeness; set against the 1870 siege of Paris by the Prussians, Becker and a friend are stuck inside a French cathedral with  a bombardment of shells crashing down around them...and begin to realize they are being stalked by a werewolf...and they have no silver. Typical kick-ass Wagner... :D

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Post Posted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 11:33 am 
 

killjoy32 wrote:oh i think they are a blast. it is just the kinda swashbuckling flash gordon/doc savage sci-fi ish stuff that i like for a good ol' leisure read.

i really like the stories a lot. simple and raw and you get a damn good read out of it. not everyone cup of tea i guess, but it always did the job for me.

i dont know how many novels i have, maybe 30-40 or so. i got them really really cheap in a market one time, many years ago. my mum thought i was mad, spending my pocket money on "them stupid books". you wanna hear what she says now, seen as i still have them, many moons later :)

some novels in my collection come and go, happily, these are ones that will always stay, as i constantly go back and read them again and again.

Al


Well, if you can make it to the US next year I'll try to round you up a set.  They turn up at used bookstores piecemeal; anything over #50 is hard to find but we can get you started....shouldn't take that long to put together a set!  Matter of fact I have 10-20 extras lying around here somewhere I'll dump on you at Gencon...

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Post Posted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 11:36 am 
 

I loved the Kane figure for his complicated nature.
One of the AD&D campaigns I ran in the mid-80's featured a major NPC based on a cross between Kane and Kurgan from Highlander.
I was using the Valley of the Ancients Judge's Guild map for the setting and Tarantis as the main city.
Wagner had some great settings to draw from, too bad his output was so low.  :(


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Post Posted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 6:26 pm 
 

My absolute favourite non-Tolkien fantasy/ sci-fi work of fiction would have to be Blair's Dodgy Dossier, a loose collection of part factual/ part fictional snippets culled from the Internet and edited (sexed-up I think is the official term) into an all-action, though somewhat strained, struggle between the stereotypical forces of good and evil. Blair's world is every bit as epic as Tolkien's with Manichean goodies and baddies littering the text, but obviously he didn't have a thousand pages in which to develop a remotely plausible plot or add any substance (whatsoever) to the central characters. Still, it's arguably the most influential fantasy publication of recent times. Damn hard to get hold of though, except in PDF format. And you might have trouble getting the author to sign it.

  

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Post Posted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 10:06 pm 
 

FormCritic wrote:
Misericorde is not a good story.  It features Kane exhibiting a sort of multi-dimensional jumping talent that also appears in the modern Kane stories.  Nobody has a chance against Kane because he jumps in and out of shadows and generally lords his complete superiority over everyone.  It might have gotten good.  I stopped reading.


I missed your mini-review earlier, Mark.

I disagree with your assessment though. I think Misiericorde is Wagner's finest Kane story, bar none.  It may be one of the only PERFECT short stories he ever wrote.  Everything works in this story....the conniving rich royal lady, Tamaslei; the sinister Vareishei clan and the gloomy, forbodding, unassailable Altharn Keep (An aside:  If a set of baddies and a location have EVER cried out more for an adaption to a D&D campaign as this, I've never seen it, EXCEPT for Wagner's story Cold Light); the plotline, unique for a Kane story (Kane is hired to avenge a friend and find a stolen/lost crown by killing all four Vareishei siblings); the ironic statements Kane makes as he takes down the siblings one by one ("Your have committed only a few mistakes, but regrettably this is not an art in which one learns though experience"), the weird way Kane somehow steals the souls of the Vareishei and places them into jewels (glossed over in a few paragraphs, but deserves to also be used in a D&D campaign), and the ironic/twist ending I didn't see coming the first time I read the tale. Honestly, I can find hardly a word out of place...I actually love Kane's dialogue thoughout the story, especially when he is first taking the job and outlining his "moral code"....great stuff.

Seriously Mark I trust your judgement on most things...but on this you are waaaaay  off.  I just read it for about the 100th time again last night to see if maybe I was missing something....
About the ONLY complaint I have with the story is that basically Kane is invincible in this story, a talent not evidenced in earlier Kane tales.  But I think that's partly the point of the tale....Kane is stronger than Wenvor, sneakier than Ostervor, more cunning than Sitilvon, and older than even Puriali suspects....they are a horrific clan of murderers, rapists, poisoners and torturers, but in the end, Kane is eternal, and Kane is simply better than them.  

I have never seen the multi dimensional jumping ability you state in this story...I think Kane is just damn sneaky, and as evidenced by the scene with Ostervor, he knows the secret passages of Altern Keep even better than they do (he's older than the Keep after all...maybe he's the one who built it?) and is able to take out all the siblings one by one because of it.  Remember the story is one of the few NOT told from Kane's point of view....his unerring ability to appear at the right place at the right time shouldn't be mistaken for teleportation. He reminds me of Batman in the comics...Commissioner Gordon turns his back, he is talking to Batman, he turns around, Batman is gone.  Batman didn't teleport away, he's just quick and sneaky, like Kane. Kane is a figure that lives in the shadows and edges of the world, and I think this story shows it better than most(he surprises Tamaslei at least twice but suddenly appearing in her room while she is elseways occupied).  

If nothing else the description of the Vareishei clan and their mountan fortress is one of the best setups Wagner ever used for a story....

At First Just Ghostly starts out with an interesting 80's protagonist named Cody Lennox...right off the set of Miami Vice.  (He even has a linen jacket and a five o'clock shadow beard.)  Lennox is a bit too autobiographical, since he is a drunken horror novelist who is on his way to a convention in London.  Then the protagonist meets Kane, who is a smug, know-it-all prat who pops in an out of space and time to mystify Lennox and bore the reader to death.  Kane is opposed by Satan/Sathonys and there is no God...because Kane killed him.  The fragment is aptly titled.  Maybe Wagner could have fixed it had he lived.


I don't know what happened to Wagner, as it's been said maybe it was the alcohol. But his ability surely degraded with stuff like this and the really crappy erotic horror.  

Writers like to use writers (or their lesser cousins, journalists) as protagonists because a writer is the coolest, smartest, most observant and sensitive character a writer can think of.  For example, easily half of Stephen King's protagonists are writers and most of the other half are equally autobiographical to some extent.


Yep, agree entirely. I never saw Lady in the Water by M Shamalamarama but doesn't he play a writer that is told by a superntural being he's destined to be the greatest writer in the world someday?  MARY SUE....... :D


What is almost worth the price of the book is Wagner's closing essay about why and how he created Kane....and the literary decisions he made in presenting the stories.  Foremost is the explanation of why Kane characters talk like 20th century people.  (Because that is how they sound to themselves...which makes excellent sense.)


Wagner's essays in Twilight Zone magazine need to be collected....he was just plain incredible when it came to knowing the history of horror literature, backwards and forwards.  EVerything I've read by him non-fiction wise is fascinating. He's one of the very few writers I've read that I would have loved to have just hung around all day to hear talk....

All of this ignores that fact that the rest of Midnight Sun is just plain awesome reading.  Kane is an original take on fantasy literature in which the villain is the hero.  As Wagner points out in his essay, villains are more interesting than heroes.  Kane cannot be thought of as an anti-hero because anti-heroes are usually dolts or too flawed to live.  Kane is an evil dude who is usually just a bit less evil than whoever or whatever he is trying to rob/con/bring down/take over/curse.  


Kane is the ultimate amoral product of a man cursed to live forever...cmon, does any of us think after walking the earth a few thousand years we wouldn't be uncaring, soulless and jaded ourselves?  I mean, Kane is older than freaking Dracula...and we know how that dude turned out.....

Along the way, Kane fights enough lurid, bloody battles  to sate the gore lust of any Conan reader.  (Darkness Weaves was the next novel I read after finishing Tolkien at age 14.  Parts of the story literally made me gag with delight.)  Wagner has the distinction of all the Robert E. Howard fans of creating a character that exceeds his idol's work.  Anyone who has ever suffered through a Brak the Barbarian story knows this is true...now there's a trivia question for fantasy readers!


Darkness Weaves is just a great story, can't add to this....

Reflections for the Winter of My Soul is possibly the best fantasy story ever written.  (Your nominations are....?)  Raven's Eyrie and Lynortis Reprise might challenge for the second and third spots.  Cold Light is a nice tale of a D&D paladin gone wrong.


Reflections is one of the best fantasy werewolf stories every written...and the coolest way to kill a werewolf I've ever read.  Cold Light is another D&D scenario waiting to happen...both also show Kane in a different light than usual, more reflective and reactive, more pensive, less evil--- they both almost read like Conan tales if you ask me.

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Post Posted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 12:22 am 
 

megnelwil wrote: with Manichean goodies and baddies littering the text,


I always promise myself...one day I'm going to remember what "Manichean" means.


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