Archive for January, 2013


Frazetta-LlarnOne of the biggest influences in my life—especially when it comes to my imagination and my writing—is the great Frank Frazetta. Widely considered as the greatest fantasy artist of the 20th Century, his paintings for books and magazines in the 60s and 70s sold millions of copies and inspired generations of artists who came after him. To my mind, he is the single greatest painter of the 20th Century, and his work is pure distilled imagination given physical substance.

Around 1979, when I was about 10 years old, my grandmother bought me a copy of THE FANTASTIC ART OF FRANK FRAZETTA Book 1, the first of a 3-book series collecting the best of Frank’s paintings from the previous two or three decades. I remember staring at each of these paintings for what seemed like hours—going back to the book again and again. Later in life I acquired massive hardcover Frazetta artbooks, containing even more of his amazing paintings and lush pen/ink drawings.

warrior-of-llarn

(Click to see super-large image)

As a lifelong Frazetta fan, I thought I had seen ALL of Frank’s published paintings. Yet while surfing the web the other day I happened upon a bonafide Frazetta image that I had never seen before. It was like finding a precious diamond lying on my doorstep.

The 1964 science-fantasy novel WARRIOR OF LLARN by Gardner F. Fox featured a Frazetta painting on its first edition cover—yet for some reason this painting was never reproduced in any of Frank’s art books or tribute volumes (at least as far as I know). Thankfully someone scanned a large version of this antique book’s gorgeous cover and posted it online.

Discovering a “lost” Frazetta painting was the thrill of my weekend, so I wanted to share it here. Instead of analyzing Frank’s inventive work on this little-known image, or talking about his stunning use of color, his dynamic sense of frozen movement, I will instead let the painting speak for itself.

I haven’t read the novel, and I’m more familiar with Fox’s legendary comic book writing than with his prose, but this image that Frank dreamed up for the cover inspires me nevertheless. Like most of Frank’s paintings, there are a hundred different stories that could be told based on this one image.

Frank Frazetta passed away in 2010 but his legend and his legacy reamain to thrill and inspire new generations. Like all truly great art, it is timeless, ageless, and speaks directly to the soul. This “lost” cover painting is a great example of these transcendent qualities.

best-selling-frazetta-onebest-selling-frazetta-legacyFfrazettaself

Thanks to i09 for this glorious 9-minute animated fantasy adventure called THE REWARD.

A product of Denmark’s The Animation Workshop, it has to be seen to believed. An amazing and wordless journey that carries a timeless message, it manages to be thrilling, wondrous, and original, while dealing with some of the most classic fantasy tropes. It’s just brilliant, so I had to share it.

As i09 recommends: “Drop everything you’re doing and hit play…”

SK-UKCoverEarly reviews of SEVEN KINGS are starting to come in. Here’s a quote from one of them that had me grinning from ear to ear:

“Tarantino and Tolkien have a literary
love child and his name is John R. Fultz.”

–Ani Johnson, THE BOOKBAG

As a huge fan of both J.R.R. Tolkien and Quentin Tarantino, I am humbled and tickled by this statement. Ani goes on to write:
“Fultz creates filmic mind-pictures with few words, contrasting scenes of beauty, devastation and spectacular battles. He can extract strong emotions with only a few words…”
Click here for the complete review.

———————————–

FALCATA TIMES says of the book:
“…when you add cracking characters to the wonderful sense of prose, the cracking descriptiveness of the world and of course the twisted nature of the plot, all round makes this a series that you’ll have a
hard time putting down.”
Click here for the complete review. 

———————————–

RT BOOK REVIEWS says:
“Book two in Fultz’s imaginative visionary tale is the epitome of fantasy. His worldbuilding is in a class by itself. His battle scenes explode with inconceivable actions, his imagery and descriptive narrative gives voice and life to his awe-inspiring characters and his heroes and nightmarish creatures give face to his epic tale.”

(Order SEVEN KINGS right here.)

 

RobertEHowardWhy do I love the works of Robert E. Howard?

Emerald jungles filled with scalp-hungry picts. The primordial perfection of axe and spear. The clang of steel on steel beneath tattered banners, and the dying howls of winged terrors. Lost temples and fantastic jewels, mounds of gold steeped in the glow of eldritch flames…

The thunderous cadence of tribal drums and clouds rushing grey as death. Ruby-eyed witches and bloody claws trailing torn flesh. The primal rush of muscle and bone…battle cries like phantom bats above the field of honor. The stench of Stygian darkness where serpents gleam and glide, as terrible gods demand red sacrifices…

The sorcerer who peers beyond and calls up fiends from Hell…the clash of iron and the defiance of tyranny. The triumph of the noble savage against the cruelty of opulent empires. Colossal spiders and spitting vipers. The turn of a supple leg, the heaving of breasts and swirling of gossamer veils. The crushing embrace of bronze arms, the blazing passion of life against the black gloom of death…

The galloping hosts of antique nations, the cry of a night-beast wailing at the moon. The precarious dance of flesh and metal, the arcs of flying crimson. Spilling viscera. The brutal grace of prehistoric combat, the strength of arm and gnashing of teeth. The sparkling visions of a misted age, the mysteries of old worlds heavy as dreams…

Fraz60

CONAN artwork by Frank Frazetta

The Cimmerian snow and glaciers, the breath of northern myth…the sweltering desert where vultures stalk parched prey…the rise of Slave to King…the simplicity of might making right in a world tossed on seas of blood.

The damsels in distress and the avenging hero…the lantern jaws and sapphire eyes. The glittering towers collapsing in shards…

The ancient world transmogrified, embroidered with the brilliants of legend, steeped in the wine of epic storms. The blood and thunder.

The broad-shouldered lug and the skull-faced horror…the sting of a whisper in darkness. The dripping dagger and the broken blade…

Crumbling continents and rushing seas, the cataclysm of evolution…Atlantis and the descendents of Valusia. Tiger totems.

Solemn kings brooding on golden thrones…the serpents that walk on two legs…the wizards haunting graveyards and the bones that rattle and walk in moonlight…the Valley of the Worm.

The mystic spell of language…the well-turned phrase and the phantasm of imagery. The tales of obsession, the obsession with tales.

The poetry of doom and the marching specters…the man, the legend, the visionary…

The spectacular stories, the gripping yarns, the wonderfully weird tales…

Immortality wrought in ink and parchment.

All this and more…that’s why I love REH.

Happy Birthday, Bob.

Kull-Bolton

KULL artwork by John Bolton

(This tribute was originally published at http://www.blackgate.com on Jan. 2010)

WE’RE TALKING EPIC…

The wonderful Gail Z. Martin (ICE FORGED) interviewed me recently. Since we both write Epic Fantasy, the result was a pretty fascinating discussion. Check out the interview at the Orbit website right here.

In perfect symmetrical beauty, I also interviewed Gail on the same subject, and Orbit has posted that interview here.

SP-Cover    SK-Cover                                 

Seven Years Later…

SK-CoverSEVEN KINGS, in stores today, takes place 7 years after the momentous events of SEVEN PRINCES.

The third book of the Shaper trilogy, SEVEN SORCERERS, will take place only
7 DAYS after the events of SEVEN KINGS.

While each book delivers its own ending, each one is only a part of the greater, over-arching story.

Today the first SEVEN KINGS review came in, so I thought I’d share it right here:

     “Book two in Fultz’s imaginative visionary tale is the epitome of fantasy. His worldbuilding is in a class by itself. His battle scenes explode with inconceivable actions, his imagery and descriptive narrative gives voice and life to his awe-inspiring characters and his heroes and nightmarish creatures give face to his epic tale. The novel stands well alone, but the series should be read in order.

 

Tuesday: SEVEN KINGS

SK-CoverThere will be blood…and thunder.

This Tuesday the book drops in the U.S., U.K., and Australia. While you’re waiting for the novel, hop over to Black Gate and read my story “When the Glimmer Faire Came To the City of the Lonely Eye.”

The SEVEN KINGS launch party will be Saturday, January 19, 1:00 pm, at Borderlands Books in San Francisco. 

There will be a reading, and I’ll be signing books for anybody who shows up.

I’m pleased to report that SEVEN PRINCES, the first volume of the series, recently appeared on the Barnes & Noble Book Club’s BEST FANTASY RELEASES OF 2012 LIST. 

SP-Cover

Pieter_Claeszoon_-_Still_Life_with_a_Skull_and_a_Writing_Quill

Pieter Claeszoon’s “Still Life with a Skull and a Writing Quill” (1628)

As of today www.BlackGate.com is featuring one of my never-before-published short stories:
 “When the Glimmer Faire Came to the City of the Lonely Eye.”

Artifice the Quill and his troupe of mystical Players arrive at a haunted city where the power of storytelling might be the cure to ancient curse. Read the story for free right here. 

This is the second story of Artifice the Quill to be published by Black Gate. The very first Artifice story ran in Weird Tales back in 2005 (“The Persecution of Artifice the Quill”). These tales exploring Sorcery As Art take place in the World of Zang, an entirely separate fantasy realm than my Books of the Shaper novels (SEVEN PRINCES, SEVEN KINGS, SEVEN SORCERERS).

There are about a dozen stories in the Zang sequence, some of which were published in past issues of Black Gate magazine (“Oblivion Is the Sweetest Wine,” “The Vintages of Dream,” and “Return of the Quill“). Now that the print version of BG is on indefinite hiatus, BlackGate.com is featuring exclusive online fiction. I’m thrilled to have the “Glimmer Faire” story finally available to the public there. So please click over to the BG site and enjoy “When the Glimmer Faire Came to the City of the Lonely Eye.”

You’ll not soon read another story quite like it.

SEVEN KINGS: The Art

SK-CoverNoLogoThe great Rich Anderson has outdone himself once again with his cover art for
SEVEN KINGS.

Here’s a look at his brilliant piece without all the cover text. I love the castle in the background and the golden sunlight glimmering through the red fog of war. The baroque crowns and helms are also something special. 

Reminder: The official SEVEN KINGS launch party will be Saturday, January 19, 1:00 pm, at Borderlands Books in San Francisco.

Bay Area fantasy fans–represent!

Pre-order your copy of SEVEN KINGS right here.

SK-UKCoverThe official SEVEN KINGS launch party will be Saturday, January 19, 1:00 pm, at Borderlands Books in San Francisco.

If you’re in the Bay Area, please come down, have a cup of joe, and help me celebrate the release of my second novel.

There will be a reading, and I will do impressions upon request.

Be there! 🙂

piea2f7c1095c3913a@largeSEVEN KINGS is my second novel, and it’s being released in about two weeks (January 15). Accordingly, I’ve been thinking retrospectively about my first novel, SEVEN PRINCES, and I am firmly convinced that SK is a better novel than its predecessor. Considering that the second book in ANY trilogy is usually better than the first, it only makes sense that the third book is often the best of the three–or at least the most satisfying.

This definitely applies to the trilogy of all trilogies, LORD OF THE RINGS. From the first time I read Tolkien’s masterpiece way back in my pre-teen years, I knew that RETURN OF THE KING was inarguably the best and most rewarding of the three books. Succeeding re-reads of the trilogy later in life only confirmed my judgment. And why not? In RETURN we get the culmination of Frodo’s long and perilous quest, the romantic payoff of Aragorn’s saga, the final confrontation with the hordes of Mordor, the death of the Witch-King, the skyborne Nazgul, the Seige of Gondor, and a host of other wonders.

In fact, if you ask me, each book of ANY trilogy has to be better than the one preceding it. Otherwise, why should readers keep going? The narrative must enthrall and compel the reader, all the way to the grand climax of book three. There is no doubt in my mind that The Books of the Shaper series does this. SEVEN PRINCES laid the groundwork, SEVEN KINGS deepens the conflict, and SEVEN SORCERERS (Jan 2014) will bring it all to an earth-shaking climax that will make the entire journey worthwhile. The Big Payoff: That is what the third book of any trilogy must be.

The first book of a series–especially if it is an author’s First Novel–must be good enough to leave a reader wanting more. Otherwise, there is no point to writing the second and third books. Yet not all First Novels are the first volumes of a series. When a fantasy author’s First Novel is a stand-alone book, it has to deliver all the excitement, wonder, and adventure of an entire trilogy. These days fantasy publishers are mainly looking for the next big series, so it’s becoming more and more rare to find a First Novel that is NOT the beginning of a multi-volume epic.

One of my favorite First Novels is THE WHITE ISLE by Darrell Schweitzer. This single-volume epic fantasy is a superb tale of love, death, and sorcery set in a bizarre land of myth and strangeness. Darrell is one of my favorite writers, and he is mostly known as a top-flight short story writer and essayist. He has written hundreds of great short stories, yet only a handful of brilliant novels that expand the boundaries of epic/high fantasy and sword-and-sorcery. A stylist of the highest order, his writing has been compared to Lord Dunsany, Clark Ashton Smith, and Ursula K. Le Guin. He is also widely known as the former longtime editor of WEIRD TALES, for which he won the World Fantasy Award (along with George Scithers).

THE WHITE ISLE was Darrell’s first novel-length work. It first ran as a serial in FANTASTIC STORIES back in 1980. Later Schweitzer revised the story and Owlswick Press published it in a gorgeous hardcover as part of the Weird Tales Library in 1989.

isle1

“The wizard towered over him, his long gray beard infinitely mysterious, and it seemed to Evnos that there could be nothing finer to have such a beard, and to practice magic. When Theremderis was not holding court and making the boy sit still with him to receive ambassadors and lords, the wizard dwelt high above everyone else in the Tower of Eagles, so called because of the birds carved in stately procession just beneath its battlements. More than anything else, Evnos wanted to learn what the wizard did up there. One day, he decided to find out.”
–THE WHITE ISLE, Chapter 1: The Prince

THE WHITE ISLE tells the tragic history of Prince Evnos of Iankoros, a man who loved his wife so much that he follows her into the land of death and steals her back from the Death God Rannon. Yet this epic journey is only the first act of the story: Evnos is both knight and wizard, yet his obsession with bringing back his dead love leads to the destruction of his people and his entire kingdom. It is the folly of his all-consuming love that leads Evnos to madness and oblivion, yet his only daughter Amadel, raised in a kingdom of ghosts and ruins, must pay the price for his colossal hubris.

The magic here is deep and infinite; it infuses the world of Evnos and the cosmos that birthed it. There are no other gods left in this world–it has been abandoned by all but the Death God, who stays only to torment the souls of the dead. Schweitzer presents an existence that is inherently unfair, a cosmic jest where humanity exists only to die and serve the whims of the sadistic Rannon. A great world-serpent glides about the edges of the planet, keeping the continents and oceans from sliding into the void. There are books of ancient wisdom, which Evnos studies to learn the arts of sorcery, and there are strange horrors lurking everywhere.

Darrell’s lyrical language is silk-smooth, and he delivers imagery that is fantastic, often breathtaking, as well as horrific and terrifying. Most writers shy away from stories that are so rich in magic. They ration out tidbits of wonder here and there, keeping readers hungry for more. Yet Darrell works with Great Magics, and he is not afraid to spin them in metaphysical, existential, and metaphorical directions. Prince Evnos possesses the power to level kingdoms and defy godlings, yet not the wisdom to see that he uses it only to serve his own obsessions. His power grows as his humanity dwindles, and in the end he is nothing more than a mote of stubborn defiance spitting in the eye of the Great Dark, refusing to obey the dictates of a universe that has been set into the configuration of a nightmare.

isle2

Amadel is the living daughter that Evnos’s magic plucks from the corpse of his dead bride. Much like Shakespeare’s Prospero, the tormented wizard-prince raises his child in isolation. Amadel brings to mind the mythic stories of damsels locked in towers awaiting a mighty hero to come along one day and free her from bondage. Yet the entire island of Iankoros, where father and daughter live among the bones of a dead kingdom, is Amadel’s “tower” –and her dread captor is also the father she loves. The irony of her plight only binds her more tightly to her island prison. Yet how can any parent–even a wizard–keep his child from discovering the truths of the greater world? The more Evnos tries to keep Amadel isolated, the more she seeks to escape the dead isle and begin her own life.

THE WHITE ISLE delivers all the mythic adventure, human pathos, and magical grandeur of most fantasy trilogies, but does it in a single slim volume. Darrell’s young imagination was on full overdrive here. After this first novel would come THE SHATTERED GODDESS, followed by his masterful MASK OF THE SORCERER, a book that some have called one of the greatest fantasies ever written. The seeds of MASK’s greatness are all there in THE WHITE ISLE, as is the undercurrent of horror and nightmarish phantasmagoria that is a trademark of Darrell’s fiction.

Another terrific aspect of the book are the illustrations by the great Stephen E. Fabian, who has illustrated a majority of Schweitzer’s works over the years. Every one of ISLE’s 15 chapters begins with a Fabian illustration, and each one is a masterwork of pen-and-ink that perfectly fits the style and tone of the narrative. The Owlswick edition also has a full-color Fabian wrap-around cover. There are few writer/artist combos that can hold up to Schweitzer/Fabian, who achieve a true synergy whenever they work together.

THE WHITE ISLE, like all of Schweitzer’s novels, is a must-read for fantasy fans of any age. Not only is it one of the best First Novels of the 20th Century, it is an under-appreciated classic that reveals a master of the craft at the beginning of his career.

Although the book is sadly out of print, hardcover copies can be found on eBay (directly from Darrell’s own bookstore) for as low as $4.99. For Kindle readers, Wildside Press has released an eBook version for $2.99. At either price, it’s a steal. I recommend the hardcover because it’s such a splendid production–but all that really matters is that you read the book and discover how great it is for yourself.