In his foreword to The Sword & Scorcery Anthology (Tachyon), David Drake writes, “Good sword and scorcery has character and all the other elements of good fiction generally; but the thing S&S must have is story.” And then, as though to prove his point, the balance of the book goes on to illustrate the story of sword and sorcery from the very beginning, from Robert E. Howard’s 1933 short story, “Tower of the Elephant,” right through to “The Three Monarchs” by Michael Swanwick, which makes its very first appearance in this anthology.
With so much time and breadth to be represented in a single powerful genre, there is a great possibility for misstep, but seasoned editors David G. Hartwell and Jacob Weisman manage to stay on track, choosing stories that evoke the best of the evolution of the genre, while creating an anthology that’s really worth reading and that it seems likely will illuminate newcomers to sword and sorcery for many years to come.
The 20 stories here do a great job of representing sword and scorcery over the years. Michael and Linda Moorcock’s “The Caravan of Forgotten Dreams” from 1962 is an S&S classic, containing all the tropes and twists that would later come to hallmark what was then a fledgling part of the subgenre. Joanna Russ, Ramsey Campbell, Jane Yolen, George R.R. Martin and other authors who make up the very cornerstones of sword and sorcery are represented here. “This is storytelling as the Cro-Magnons practiced it,” Drake writes. “And this is the essence of sword and sorcery fiction.”
Hear! Hear! ◊
Lincoln Cho is a freelance writer and editor. He lives in the Chicago area, where he works in the high-tech industry. He is currently working on a his first novel, a science-fiction thriller set in the world of telecommunications.