Monday Heroic Fiction

Tales 1 smallerWork continues behind-the-scenes with Tales From the Magician’s Skull as Joseph finalizes the Kickstarter preparations. I can hardly wait to point the way, but you’ll have to wait just a couple more weeks. There are many things about working with Joseph that I like, and one of them is his careful preparation.

I haven’t been reading nearly as much the last month, as my wife and I discovered Parks & Rec, and have been watching it in the evenings. We don’t usually binge watch television like this, but it’s nice to have a positive show about people you like. It kind of feels like the 2nd-5th seasons were the best, but we’re watching to the end. In the shortened 7th season I’m finding myself laughing out loud several times an episode again, even if some of the main plot lines feel a little forced and sometimes indulgent.

But that’s not heroic fiction. I wanted to share something that was, and that’s the Blades books by Kelly McCullough. I’m most of the way through one of them, Bared Blade, and it reads something like Zelazny and Chandler co-writing a fantasy detective story in ancient China. Except that by “detective” I mean that there’s a problem to be solved and a sort of professional trouble-shooter who’s a former assassin for the goddess of justice. That means that, unlike so many other blokes in cloaks, he was only offing the bad guys. Aral is a force for good, or at least strives to be, the fantasy equivalent of Chandler’s knight in the battered trench coat working his weary way through a corrupt but beautiful city.

bared bladeI made several new friends at GenCon this year, one of them being Kelly, and when I got home I sat down with a pile of books from friends old and new that I had encountered there. Owing to the Parks and Rec viewing, Kelly’s is the only one I’ve gotten very far with. I’ll have details about any others I like in coming months.

Bill Ward and I have started making notes about the Corum books. I’ve been holding things up a little, because if I’m not writing or working on the Kickstarter or providing the daughter with essay writing advice as she’s applying to college, I’m a little low energy. Anyway, at some point we’ll announce we’re almost ready to have another read through.

Lastly, I’ve another recommendation. Ages ago, before I started serious work on finalizing Tales From the Magician’s Skull, I read issue 11 of Grimdark magazine for Black Gate. I’m WAY overdue getting up a review, but I ended up with two thumbs way up. I like grimdark fantasy but don’t seek it out preferentially. It has a lot of the same tone I like from sword-and-sorcery but I find that when everyone’s in gray and everything is covered in crap and smells I don’t enjoy spending as much time there. I was afraid Grimdark magazine would be like that, and it isn’t. There was a nice variety of stories and plenty of sense of wonder in amongst that sense of horror. I’ll finally finish a long review and discuss it at Black Gate, but my thumbnail is two thumbs up. There’s a talented editor aboard there and I’m going to subscribe. If you’re not familiar with it, you should take a look.

11 Comments on “Monday Heroic Fiction

  1. Zelazny owes a lot to Raymond Chandler. I always thought of This Immortal as being the trials of Hercules rewritten on a post-apocalyptic earth by Chandler. I can’t wait to hear what you think of the Corum books and Grimdark.

    • Ooh. That’s a really cool analogy I’d never heard, Matthew. I like that a lot.

      Definitely agree that there’s a huge Chandler influence on Z. Heck, the opening to Nine Princes reads an awful lot like a middle scene from Farewell, My Lovely.

      • I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that the opening of Nine Princes was specifically written to homage that scene in Farewell.

        • If you can recall where you read it, I’d like to track down that article myself!

  2. I reviewed that issue of GDM a few months back and found it pretty solid. Adrian Collins has published a consistently good magazine. I’m looking forward to reading/reviewing the anthology they kickstarted earlier this year, EVIL IS A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE

    • I really need to subscribe. He’s also a real gentleman, as I’ve discovered after exchanging a few emails with him.

  3. My wife and I love Parks and Rec. Ron, Andy, and April are my favorite characters, but all of the characters are enjoyable. For those who haven’t seen it you should “Treat Yourself” and give it a shot. Howard, once you finish the series do yourself a favor and look up all the P&R bloopers on youtube.

    • Thanks, AJ, I probably will. I’m with you — Ron, Andy, and April are my favorites, although I’d add in Leslie as well. She reminds me of an exaggerated version of my wife, always trying to fight the system (and the occasional greedy or stupid person) to get the right thing done. Except that Leslie usually gets to win, which is nice to see.

  4. Clearly I’m going to need to be adding Kelly McCullough to my nigh-infinite TBR list.

    Parks & Rec is great. Once you’ve wrapped that, if you want another sitcom (that’s much less of a commitment), I’d recommend The Good Place — Kristen (Veronica Mars) Bell dies and is welcomed to The Good Place by Ted Danson, the Power in charge of this particular slice of the afterlife. Problem: She’s there by accident, and is now desperate to avoid being discovered & sent to The Bad Place. Very sharp writing and surprisingly deep discussions of morals & ethics.

    • Thanks for the rec. I remember hearing something about that right when it came out, but nothing since. Is it still being produced?

      • I believe season 2 is coming soon, or possibly is already out. I just watched season 1 on Netflix and was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t expect to enjoy it quite so much.

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