As one of the S&S genre’s few female writers, Violette’s essay presents a fascinating look into the mind of a unique voice in the field. Here’s the link:
Violette says its the honorable characters that draw her to the genre, citing Fritz Leiber’s FAFHRD AND THE GREY MOUSER, C.L. Moore’s JIREL OF JOIRY, and Roger Zelazny’s DILVISH THE DAMNED as primary influences. Very nice list indeed. I share her passion for Leiber’s tales, and of course her love of the Sword and Sorcery genre as a whole.
I discovered Leiber’s genius late in the game (it was 2004), and it felt like I had found the “missing link” in my own writing. Soon after reading Lieber’s tales of Fafhrd and the Mouser, I had a major writing breakthrough. I then wrote “The Persecution of Artifice the Quill,” which became my first professionally published story (WEIRD TALES #340).
Violette also makes a fascinating (and accurate) comparison of Sword and Sorcery with noir fiction. There is certainly something in common between the determined, down-on-his-luck detective punching and drinking his way through a mystery and the brawling swordsman (or rogue) swashbuckling his way through a dark land of menace and strange sorcery. If not for the irony and strong humor that runs through Leiber’s FAFHRD AND MOUSER tales, they would indeed be as dark as most noir fiction.
When it comes to sheer darkness in the realm of fantasy fiction—or Sword and Sorcery—nobody beats the great Clark Ashton Smith. His ZOTHIQUE stories were some of the darkest S&S tales ever written. CAS loved his wizards and sorcerers far more than his blundering barbarians and claymore-wielding warriors. None of Smith’s characters were safe in the weird and demon-haunted worlds he invented.
In fact, Smith seemed to relish following the typical S&S pattern (wherein the daring heroes march bravely into peril) and then breaking it completely by having his heroes die horribly in the end. Such tales began as S&S, but ended more like horror. Breaking and mixing genre traditions is often the mark of a truly talented writer, and Smith did this time and time again with superbly weird and gorgeous stories such as “The Weaver in the Vault,” “The Dark Eidolon,” “The Death of Ilalotha,” and “The Isle of the Torturers.” (To name only a few.) I know of at least one such instance where his editor actually made him change the ending to a happy one before publishing the story.
Smith is one of the main reasons I write fantasy, and even though I don’t actually label my work as “Sword and Sorcery” the influence of that genre is unmistakable. My journey through the corridors of fantasy began with J.R.R. Tolkien, took me through the worlds of Robert E. Howard’s CONAN and KULL into Michael Moorcock’s ELRIC, and all the way back to Lord Dunsany’s masterful fantasies from the early 20th Century. Tanith Lee’s FLAT EARTH books also struck a deep chord with me, as did Darrell Schweitzer’s many metaphysical S&S stories, and H.P. Lovecraft’s tales of the DREAMLANDS.
Usually when I get to talking about my influences I can’t stop. But that’s how we writers are—we are so passionate about the authors and books we love that we preach, exult, and promote them past the point of all moderation. So let me just end this post by saying that the main reason I write Fantasy Fiction (call it Sword and Sorcery if you want to), is because I freakin’ LOVE it.