The SF Signal Podcast (Episode 112): 2012 Sword and Sorcery Mega Panel, Part 3

In episode 112 of the SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester and Jaym Gates (continuing the discussion from Part 1 and Part 2) sit down with a mega panel of authors to discuss modern Sword and Sorcery with the authors who are currently writing it.

This week’s panel:

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12 thoughts on “The SF Signal Podcast (Episode 112): 2012 Sword and Sorcery Mega Panel, Part 3”

  1. I’m standing at an omelet bar. Before me are bins of chopped tomato, diced onion, sliced ham, crumbled bacon, shredded cheese, sour cream, basil, chives, salsa, and (if I’m lucky) jalapeno peppers.

    I’m going to go with cheese, tomato (if it’s fresh), ham, onion, salsa and the aforementioned jalapenos.

    If you select bacon, sour cream, chives, and onions and hold the cheese, I’m not going to turn to you and tell you that you’ve made it wrong and what you have isn’t an omelet, even though it shares only one ingredient with mine (egg).

    Arrayed in the bin of useful tropes for the Swords & Sorcery author are such components as low-born characters, dirty back alleys, exotic locations, thieves and assassins (as protagonists), evil wizards, vile (often Lovecraftian) monsters, high action sequences, stakes more personal than epic, greed as a motivation, mere survival as a goal, many more…

    Select enough of the above, and your work may be S&S, even if it also contains things atypical for the genre (like armies, epic battles, noble-minded protagonists, world-altering stakes or smoked salmon and marsh mellows.)

    We would all agree that starships are a defining component of space opera, yet Kay Kenyon wrote a brilliant space opera quartet that contained neither starships nor space (nor opera).

    Subgenre is a direction that you face, not a fence you erect to rally behind. You walk towards or away from the top of the hill, upon the crest of which Conan and his opposite, Elric, can clearly be seen sitting enthroned in uneasy alliance, or you meander around on the lower slopes, or you go looking for interesting things in the valley between the S&S hill and the epic fantasy hill and other interesting geographic features.

    1. :Ahem:

      There IS a spaceship in Kay Kenyon’s space opera series, Lou, but very briefly and its a historical element. ;)

      The rest of your point is well taken. (And the books of the Quartet are some of my favorite books)

      The Omelet metaphor for subgenres. I think you’re onto something here.

    2. This “Subgenre is a direction that you face, not a fence you erect to rally behind. You walk towards or away from the top of the hill, upon the crest of which Conan and his opposite, Elric, can clearly be seen sitting enthroned in uneasy alliance, or you meander around on the lower slopes, or you go looking for interesting things in the valley between the S&S hill and the epic fantasy hill and other interesting geographic features.” I like quite a bit, Lou. Very evocative, well put.

  2. Good news, Jaym. I’ve read David Gemmmell too.

    Bad news–just one novel from his extensive oeuvre to date.

  3. Paul, since the spaceship was just in the prologue and entirely irrelevant to the world of the Entire, I thought it was a negligible spaceship. (And now I want to figure out how to navigate Negligible Space).

  4. I’m not done with it yet, but I concur with Scott and Doug about Elizabeth Bear’s Range of Ghosts so far…

    1. And of course, I completely spaced a new S&S series that’s coming out when we talked about new books on the podcast. Kelly McCullough’s “Fallen Blade” series, of which the first three books are already written and turned in. Duh. I put my lapse down to first podcast jitters. :)

      And for the record, I think Lou’s analogy is a good way to look at genre in general. It gets us out of the “putting things in boxes” mindset and helps us see it in a looser interpretation.

  5. I was thinking about the comment about an emerging trend of Arabic or Middle Eastern fantasy books. I think it has to be related to America’s decade of involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. It seems to me that the desert isn’t such an alien setting anymore.

    Maybe soldiers, and their sons and daughters, are eager to see a fantasy reflection of their war, much like Lord of the Rings was a reflection of trench warfare in WWI.

    Whatever the reason for the trend, I think it’s great!

  6. I thought the sword & sorcery podcasts were interesting. I would be interested to hear a similar episode in which Arthurian fiction is discussed. Though it’s not quite historical fiction and it often shares magical/supernatural elements with sword & sorcery and epic fantasy you don’t seem to hear it mentioned much in discussions of those genres.

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