All artwork on this post by the fantastic Bruce Pennington

The great James Enge (A Guile of Dragons; Blood of Ambrose, etc.) has posted a fascinating article on “Heroic Fantasy & Imagined History” at his Ambrose & Elsewhere blog:

http://jamesenge.com/2012/10/10/aged-in-oaken-heroes-heroic-fantasy-imagined-history/

James makes a good point (as he always does) about the Middle Ages being not only historically inaccurate, but also the root of most heroic fantasy cliches. There are so many ways to create unique and interesting settings for Heroic Fantasy (and/or Sword-and-Sorcery), that it’s become passe to use the medieval era for these types of tales.

As both reader and a writer I prefer fantasy settings that are as far as possible from our own reality. Or, to quote Edgar Allan Poe:

I have reached these lands but newly
From an ultimate dim Thule —
From a wild weird clime, that lieth, sublime,
Out of Space — out of Time.

These lines from Poe’s poem “Dream-Land” crystallize what draws me to worlds of fantasy in the fiction that I read (and write). Most readers of Heroic Fantasy and/or Sword-and-Sorcery share my goal of exploring that “ultimate dim Thule”—that unknown land of strange kingdoms, dark terrors, and brave heroes who represent the better aspects of our own human nature.

Visit James’ blog to read more about this topic.

Meanwhile, here’s the entire Poe piece, which just happens to be one of my favorite poems:

Dream-Land
by Edgar Allan Poe (1844)

By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named Night,
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have reached these lands but newly
From an ultimate dim Thule —
From a wild weird clime, that lieth, sublime,
Out of Space — out of Time.

Bottomless vales and boundless floods,
And chasms, and caves, and Titian woods,
With forms that no man can discover
For the dews that drip all over;
Mountains toppling evermore
Into seas without a shore;
Seas that restlessly aspire,
Surging, unto skies of fire;
Lakes that endlessly outspread
Their lone waters, lone and dead, —
Their still waters, still and chilly
With the snows of the lolling lily.

By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named Night,
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have reached these lands but newly
From an ultimate dim Thule.

By the lakes that thus outspread
Their lone waters, lone and dead, —
Their sad waters, sad and chilly
With the snows of the lolling lily, —
By the mountains — near the river
Murmuring lowly, murmuring ever, —
By the gray woods, — by the swamp
Where the toad and the newt encamp, —
By the dismal tarns and pools
Where dwell the Ghouls, —
By each spot the most unholy —
In each nook most melancholy, —
There the traveller meets aghast
Sheeted Memories of the Past —
Shrouded forms that start and sigh
As they pass the wanderer by —
White-robed forms of friends long given,
In agony, to the worms, and Heaven.

By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named Night,
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have reached these lands but newly
From an ultimate dim Thule —

For the heart whose woes are legion
’T is a peaceful, soothing region —
For the spirit that walks in shadow
’T is — oh ’t is an Eldorado!
But the traveler, traveling through it,
May not — dare not openly view it;
Never its mysteries are exposed
To the weak human eye unclosed;
So wills its King, who hath forbid
The uplifting of the fringéd lid;
And thus the sad Soul that here passes
Beholds it but through darkened glasses.

By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named Night,
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have wandered home but newly
From this ultimate dim Thule.