Frank Frazetta, one of the greatest fantasy artists to ever stride this land, was born on this date (February 9) in 1928. I’m not even going to try to put the impact his art has had on my life into words, much less that of the fantasy field. Here are a couple of my favorite works of Frazetta’s.
The image on the left is the promotional poster for a Frazetta exhibit I saw in Austin last spring. That trip has really been on my mind today, maybe because the weather has been so unseasonably warm. The image was used on the cover of one of Karl Edward Wagner’s Kane books. You can read about my trip in this post.
Probably my favorite of the Frazetta Conan covers is the one shown on the right. It’s for Conan the Usurper. I saw this one at the Frazetta exhibit, and let me tell you, none of the reproductions do the images justice. It was awesome to stand in front of some of those paintings and see close up the detail and the brushwork. The painting were larger than what you see on a book cover, of course, and the detail really stood out.
I think the thing that has always captured my imagination about this picture is the snake. I hate snakes. There’s just something evil about them. I’m not sure why, but they’ve always given me the willies.
Frazetta is gone now, but his work lives on. While it might be easy to think that with his popularity, there will always be copies available to enjoy, that’s a dangerous way to think. Today hot property is too often tomorrow’s has-been, or worse completely forgotten. So take a moment over the next few days to admire a Frazetta painting, especially if it’s one you’ve not seen before or not seen in a while.
Update: Here are tributes by David J. West and Woelf Dietrich. They’re both worth checking out.
Born on January 24, 1911, C. L. Moore is one of the favorite writers around these here parts. As I stated a couple of days ago on Robert E. Howard’s birthday, I’m going to be focusing on a work by writers I’ve done multiple birthday posts on rather than trying to come up with something original in a tribute essay. Today’s story is “Jirel Meets Magic”.
Originally published in the July 1935 issue of Weird Tales, “Jirel Meets Magic” is the third story of the Lady of Joiry. It opens with Jirel leading a charge over the drawbridge of a castle, breaking the ranks of the defenders trying to stand against her, and calling for her soldiers to bring her a wizard named Giraud.
Why is Jirel attacking the castle? Who is Giraud? What is Jirel’s reason for wanting to kill him? Who cares? Moore’s writing pulls the reader in, sweeping him along at a breakneck pace. These questions will be answered, but for now all that matters is the heady rush of battle.
Well, sort of. Merritt’s birthday was actually yesterday, but classes started the day before yesterday. I was kinda busy.
Abraham Merritt was born on January 20, in Beverly, New Jersey. He died in 1943. Merritt was arguably the most highly regarded fantasy author of his day, with a fantasy magazine named for him after his death. He was an assistant editor and later editor of The American Weekly, a position which apparently left him little time to pursue his own writing. Even so, his work cast a long shadow over the field and his influence is still felt today, although most readers are probably unaware of that influence. Continue reading
J. R. R. Tolkien was born on this date, January 3, in the long-ago year of 1892.
The Lord of the Rings has cast such a long shadow over his life that it’s easy to forget that Tolkien was a university professor. I wonder what it would have been like to take one of his classes.
Of course, there’s a good reason that TLotR has cast such a long shadow over Tolkien’s life. The thing is a masterpiece. It’s been well over a dozen years since I last read TLotR. I may try to fit it in sometime later this year if things let up a bit.
Fritz Leiber was born 106 years ago, on December 24, 1910, in Chicago. He was one of the greatest writers of the fantastic the world has ever seen, being a major writer of fantasy, science fiction, and horror.
It’s hard to know where to start when discussing Leiber. Probably of greatest interest to readers of this blog would be his sword and sorcery series about the adventures of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. I’ve always enjoyed his horror stories, especially the ones he wrote in the 1940s. These days an urban setting for horror is nothing unusual. Back then it was still fairly new. Leiber set the bar for that type of horror story, and he set it high. He also wrote a great deal of science fiction, much of it involving time travel or cats.
I’ve not read many of Leiber’s novels, something I intend to correct over the next year. There’s been renewed interest in Leiber’s short fiction lately. Centipede Press earlier this year released Masters of Science Fiction: Fritz Leiber (one of two inaugural volumes in that series) as well as the two volume slip-cased Masters of the Weird Tale: Fritz Leiber.
Both of the above titles are sold out by the publishers, but fear not if you missed or weren’t able to afford them. (They weren’t cheap.) About a dozen or so years ago, give or take, Darkside Press/Midnight House published four collections of Leiber’s short work. And while those books are also sold out from the publisher (who is no longer in business, and weren’t cheap either), they’ve been reprinted in inexpensive electronic editions: Smoke Ghost; Day Dark, Night Bright; Horrible Imaginings; and The Black Gondolier. They are also available in trade paperback. They make great Christmas gifts for yourself.
Joseph Payne Brennan was born 98 years ago on this date, December 20, 1918. Brennan was a consistent writer of horror, dark fantasy, and weird fiction. He passed away in 1990. Primarily a short story writer and poet, Brennan’s work has fallen out of print. While it’s not impossible to find copies of his work, much of it is moderately expensive. It might be easier and/or cheaper to get copies of anthologies in which his work appeared.
I reviewed one of Brennan’s collections, the paperback Shapes of Midnight a few years ago. I was amazed when I looked up how much it cost on the secondary market at the time. It doesn’t appear to have gotten any more affordable.
Brennan’s work is worth seeking out. It tends to be of the more quiet style of horror rather than the grisly and gore drenched variety.
One of the most neglected and underrated writers of the mid-20th Century was Randall Garrett. If he is remembered at all today, it is for his Lord Darcy series, about which more in a bit.
Randall Garrett was born on this day, December 16, in 1927. He passed away in 1987. I’d like to think my knowledge of the early science fiction and fantasy pulp writers is fairly extensive, but on Twitter 1whoknewcthulhu (@srm991) is always posting birthday notices about writers I’ve never heard of. You should follow him if you aren’t already.
Or in this case, a favorite writer whose birthday I didn’t know. (Why wasn’t I aware of this? We share a birthday. At least we did while I was still having birthdays. Ever since I got married, I don’t have birthdays. I have anniversaries. That means I’ll always be [redacted] years old, while my wife will continue to age. For some reason she gets upset when I say this. But I digress.) Continue reading
As I’m sure you’ve figured out if you’ve spent much time at this site, I’m a huge Leigh Brackett fan. Today (December 7, 2016) marks her 101st birthday. I’ve been observing the occasion with looks at The Sword of Rhiannon, “The Sorcerer of Rhiannon“, and “The Veil of Astellar“. I’m going to try to work “The Enchantress of Venus” in sometime over the next week or so.
If you’ve not read Brackett, do your self a favor. Read her. There are very few writers who can write fast paced action adventure with complex and flawed characters like she can and do so with a sense of poetry.
Here’s a quote I found in which she explains what plot is. It’s a pretty good definition.
Poul Anderson was born on this date, November 25, in 1926. He passed away in 2001. It’s hard to believe that he’s been gone that long.
Anderson was best known for his science fiction, but he was also an accomplished fantasy author. I debated whether to post this tribute over at Futures Past and Present, but decided to go with the main blog.
It’s hard to go wrong with Anderson. I grew up reading his future history and from there branched out to his other works. In more recent years, I’ve read mostly his fantasy.
Unfortunately I’ve not read much of his work in recent years. Too many other things demanding my attention. The last thing I read by him was The Broken Sword. It had been part of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, and I had been intending the review to be my next post in my look at that line for Black Gate. Life got in the way, and I had to let some things drop. The BAF series of posts was one of them. Enough time has passed that I would need to reread the book before I reviewed it. Too many details have faded. Another project for a different day.
If you’ve not read Anderson, or not read much of his work, or not read him in a while (this would be me), do yourself a favor and check him out. He was one of the giants of the field, and it’s a shame that he may be forgotten by the younger generation. Much of his work is available in inexpensive ebook editions. NESFA Press has a series of his collected short fiction available in hardcover (in case anyone was wondering what to get me for Christmas).
Other than the Dublin Ghost Story Festival (which I can’t afford to attend), there’s not a lot happening this weekend of any significance. Which is fine, because there won’t be much to distract from observing HPL’s birthday today. I intend to read something by him later, provided both the two-legged and four-legged people in the house will leave me alone.
I thought I’d mark the occasion by sharing a few thoughts. It’s become particularly fashionable in recent years to bash the Gentleman From Providence. While this is nothing new, it seems to have gained momentum.
When I was younger, the most common complaint I heard was that Lovecraft’s prose was too purple. I didn’t pay that much attention to the criticism at the time because I was more into science fiction. It was only as my interest in fantasy began to eclipse my interest in SF that I really started getting into his work. I’ve always found his writing to be readable. While there is some merit to the complaints about Lovecraft’s style being outdated (which to a large degree boils down to matters of taste), they’re not a deal breaker for me. Continue reading