Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I'm spreading a bit of piratical erudition over at Last Free Voice. Avast ye scurvy dogs. -Dave Hardy

PS: Part Two: The Medieval Era is now online. -dh

Saturday, April 25, 2009


By Barrington Bayley

Every time I read a Barrington Bayley novel I am more astounded. While serving up the most thrilling of Space Opera, Bayley never swerves from exploring the world of ideas with rigor and honesty.

In this case Bayley begins with the old saw that clothes make the man and develops it into an exploration of the role of external image in creating one’s internal identity.

A tailor named Peder Forbarth joins a group of gangsters in salvaging a wrecked spaceship. Part of the loot is a suit of Prossim, a special fabric that creates a unique psychic bond with its wearer. The question is open as to whether the man wears the suit of the suit the man. Forbarth’s new togs involve him in the galactic rivalry of Ziode—a culture indifferent to sartorial elegance—and Caean where fashion is the drug of choice.

Meanwhile a scientific expedition has discovered two rival cultures. Both live in the airless space between planets. A group of Soviets have encapsulated themselves in robot “bodies” while their Japanese rivals are deep-space yakuza pirates flying naked between the stars.

The novel takes a wild ride through the world of spies, conspirators, prison breaks, and galactic intrigue to get to the secret of Caean and Prossim. It’s a wild ride indeed.

-Dave Hardy

Thursday, April 23, 2009


By Harold Lamb

The final volume of Harold Lamb’s Cossack adventures takes Lamb’s work from his heyday in the pages of Adventure during the late 1920s to work done for Colliers to the last Cossack-themed tales that appeared in Argosy and even The Saturday Evening Post. One senses that Lamb was aware that his era had in some manner passed. There is an increased interest in lost cities and folkloric beliefs in witches and vampires, though never to the point of out-an-out fantasy. By the latter days of Lamb’s career he was no longer writing head-long adventure for the pulps, but had fitted himself a new role as biographer of famous conquerors and an interpreter of Eastern civilization in the nervous early days of the Cold War.

-Dave Hardy

Saturday, April 18, 2009


By Karl Edward Wagner

Kane is the most unlikely of fantasy heroes, or indeed of any kind of hero. He is an educated gentleman with the appearance of a hulking, homicidal maniac. In fact, he IS a homicidal maniac, the first and greatest. What makes him so appealing is not that Kane is less of a SOB than the others he interacts with but that he is such a superb survivor, always staying a half-step ahead of the grisly end that invariably lurks.

Darkness Weaves was Kane's first outing. Avoid the first edition at all costs as it was very badly edited. In fact it was mauled. Subsequent editions show KEW's brilliance to full effect. Kane is recruited by a mad sorceress to overthrow an island empire. Kane, the sorceress, and a sub-aquatic horde of super-science using aliens form a trio of bad pennies , returning to wreak havoc.

Wagner was a master of pace, plotting, characterization and mood. The reader hangs on the edge of his seat, awaiting the next twist, the next betrayal in this slam-bang Sword & Sorcery novel. The macho-stylistics of revenge and ambition suffuse Darkness Weaves. One might say that KEW was the Quentin Tarantino of Sword & Sorcery. Or perhaps, Tarantino is the Karl Edward Wagner of crime movies.

-Dave Hardy

Sunday, April 12, 2009


It has been just over a week since I learned of the deaths of Jon McCowan and Steve Tompkins. It is bitter news and still hard to understand. I offer my depest condolences to their families.

Joan McCowan was one of the great ladies of Cross Plains. Her kindly smile was one of the special pleasures of a visit to that town. She gave so much in kindness and support to the fans who traveled to Cross Plains on their pilgrimages to the hometown of Robert E. Howard. Journeys that were about a writer, who is long-gone though his writing is with us still, became about the town, a living place filled with the resilient people of rural Texas.

Joan's passing was not unexpected. The gathering in her honor in December last year was something in the nature of a farewell. I only hope that Joan knew how much she meant to us.

The loss of Steve Tompkins was an unexpected shock. We only met once at World Fantasy Con 2006. How I wish we had more chances to talk. Steve was well-known as a critic of great talent and breadth of learning in the field of REH fandom (dare I say studies, for if anyone gave that high-sounding epithet to the readers of old-time pulp fantasy, it was Steve with his scholarly grasp of literature). He introductions to Kull: Exile of Atlantis and The Black Stranger honor the author and his creations with lively, insightful commentary. Steve's essays were a delight, something I eagerly scanned The Cimmerian blog for. They were lively excursions into the hidden connections of pop-culture, history, myth, books, film, and anything else. They made me run eagerly to the library to study up on Steve's latest topic. That is what Steve did for me, he gave a sense of adventure and excitement in scholarship. Sgteve's own words will show that far better than I can. A small sample follows below.

Bicentennial Bash at the Dank Tarn of Auber!

Sticking to the Poe-Boy Diet

The Conscience, and the Kisses, of a King

What a Mummer Wild, What an Insane Child

Something to Do With Deathlessness, Part One: Violence Reigns

Something to Do with Deathlessness, Part Two: Eyes We Dare Not Meet in Dreams

Something to Do with Deathlessness, Part Three: Splintered Shards of Time’s Reflection

Grinning, Unappeased Aboriginal Demons

The Chants of Old Heroes, Singing in Our Ears

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


I've got a new post up at Last Free Voice. It's a little piece on censorship, travel and free speech. And Spaghetti Westerns (mmm... spaghetti...) titled Too Dangerous for Canada! Yes, the title has an exclamation point. You got a problem with that? -Dave