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Saturday, 30 April 2022
Wednesday, 27 April 2022
I am taking a short break from reading submissions for Swords & Sorceries: Tales of Heroic Fantasy Volume 4 to attend Chillercon in Scarborough on Friday the 27th May, mainly to attend the launch and signing for the Brian Lumley Phantasmagoria Special which will be held at 4.00 p.m.
Sunday, 24 April 2022
This is my retro review of Dark Crusade, which was published in the Karl Edward Wagner Phantasmagoria Special.
DARK CRUSADE by Karl Edward Wagner
In Dark Crusade we see Karl Edward Wagner’s immortal antihero Kane at his finest – and most evil: honourable by his own idiosyncratic standards, yet capable of carrying out the worst deeds imaginable, heroic yet villainous, courageous yet cruel, indifferent to the suffering of others yet able to reach out and help the most vulnerable on a whim. He is without doubt the most enigmatic character in heroic fantasy.
The novel starts when Orted, the defeated leader of an outlaw band, is on the run after a bungled raid on the city of Ingoldi. Badly wounded, he is fleeing through the labyrinthine alleys of the city when he is offered refuge by a priest of the obscure and unsavoury god Sataki. Though suspicious, Orted is too desperate to quibble. When he follows the priest into his temple, though, he is clubbed senseless and awakens to find himself spread-eagled on a stone altar, about to be sacrificed. Which is when things take an unexpected twist. Perhaps because he is stronger than most of those previously offered by the cult’s priests, instead of being drained of life by Sataki, Orted is filled with some of the god’s spirit. Which is how the outlaw becomes Sataki’s Prophet, a man without a shadow.
The following day, led by Orted, the priests go out into the city to recruit followers at a local market, where most of the crowd are seduced by the demon’s spirit inside Orted and become consumed with hatred for those who refuse their new god. And so begins the Dark Crusade, in which religious fanatics slaughter their enemies, sacking city after city and massacring anyone who fails to follow Sataki.
That is, until this ragtag army meets its first defeat when it comes up against one of the finest armies in the region, whose heavy cavalry turn its advance into a panic-filled rout.
Which is where, ever the opportunist, Kane comes in.
The Immortal Swordsman uses the Prophet’s defeat to offer his skills to him as a general to train the mob into the semblance of a real army, at the same time using Orted’s plundered wealth to hire mercenary cavalrymen who will be loyal to him, not the cult. Kane cynically intends to use what the Prophet has created to carve out an empire before assassinating Orted and taking everything for himself.
Or so he hopes.
As a foil to Kane, we have the general Jarvo, who begins the story as the arrogant leader of the cavalry that defeats Orted’s mob. Already hideously scarred by Kane after he tried to have the swordsman removed as a rival to power when they were members of the same army, he is unexpectedly defeated when he again attacks the Prophet’s army, unaware of the changes Kane has made in the meantime - or the mercenary cavalry Kane has recruited. But Jarvo proves difficult to kill and miraculously, if painfully, begins to recover from the injuries he sustains at the battle. Afterwards he helps to forge a new alliance amongst neighbouring kingdoms to oppose the Crusade.
This is an involved story, with intricately woven power struggles in a barbaric world. Kane treads the chasm between hero and villain superbly well. Though he is thoroughly amoral there is, bizarrely, something almost heroically noble about him. Orted’s possession by the demon Sataki is credibly described, still a man beneath the alterations wrought upon him. And his crusade, though filled with fanatical violence, is credibly disparate, filled with the kinds of greed and opportunism that are all too easily recognisable.
Though set within a fantasy world, this is a book that has whispers of the real world in it – and lessons about the ongoing dangers of religious zealots. It is also incredibly well written and a great read.
Thursday, 14 April 2022
Here is a short video of me leafing through the latest proof copy of The Fantastical Art of Jim Pitts which will be published later this month in hardcover.
Pre-order copies are available for £25 plus postage and packing. After publication the price will rise to £30.00 plus p&p.
Since we brought out The Fantastical Art of Jim Pitts in 2017 Jim has been constantly busy, including interior artwork for Elak: King of Atlantis and After Nightfall & Other Weird Tales, covers for Phantasmagoria magazine, and a host of other projects, with new techniques and fresh designs.
The Ever More Fantastical Art of Jim Pitts will be a fitting sequel to the first volume, published in hardcover and packed with black and white and full-colour illustrations.
Friday, 8 April 2022
pleased to have woken up this morning to find my latest
"Lovecraftian" story, The Psychic Investigator, which stands at just
over 12,000 words, has been accepted for inclusion in the Halloween
issue of Lovecraftiana magazine.
Friday, 1 April 2022
Payment is £25 per story regardless of length, plus a contributor's copy. The book will be published as a paperback and ebook. If a hardcover version is published we will pay an additional £25. Contributors can also buy extra copies of the book through us at cost price.
Please send your submissions as attachments (doc or docx) headed "Submission - Swords & Sorceries 4" to:
You can send in more than one submission, but we will not accept more than one story per writer.
Although we prefer original stories we are prepared to consider reprints. Please inform us where and when it was previously published.
You can send in simultaneous submissions, but please let us know at once if your story is accepted elsewhere.
There is no limit on the size of submissions.
rejections and acceptances will be sent out by email at the end of the
first week in June. Please don't enquire about your submission before
And good luck!
In the past we have received a number of stories that may be fantasy but are not swords and sorcery. If you are unsure what the swords and sorcery genre is, why not get a better idea by checking out volumes 1 - 3:
The contents of Volume One are:
THE MIRROR OF TORJAN SUL - Steve Lines
THE HORROR FROM THE STARS - Steve Dilks
TROLLS ARE DIFFERENT - Susan Murrie Macdonald
CHAIN OF COMMAND - Geoff Hart
DISRUPTION OF DESTINY - Gerri Leen
THE CITY OF SILENCE - Eric Ian Steele
RED - Chadwick Ginther
THE RECONSTRUCTED GOD - Adrian ColeThe cover and all the interior artwork is by Jim Pitts.
The contents of Volume 2 are:
The Essence of Dust by Mike Chinn
Highjacking the Lord of Light by Tais Teng
Out in the Wildlands by Martin Owton
Zale and Zedril by Susan Murrie Macdonald
The Amulet and the Shadow by Steve Dilks
Antediluvia: Seasons of the World by Andrew Darlington
A Thousand Words for Death by Pedro Iniguez
Stone Snake by Dev Agarwal
Seven Thrones by Phil Emery
The Eater of Gods by Adrian ColeIllustrations by Jim Pitts.