New Kurval Sword and Sorcery Novella Available: The Black Knight

This June is turning out to be sword and sorcery month for me. Two weeks ago, I had a sword and sorcery story called “The Gate of Mist” come out in Whetstone Magazinea story which got this nice response by my fellow Whetstone contributor J.T. Howard.

And today, I’m pleased to announce that The Black Knight, the next story in my Kurval sword and sorcery series, is now available wherever e-books are sold.

“The Black Knight” is longer than the previous Kurval stories, since it’s a full length novella. It is also darker, which is why it has a content warning.

The Kurval series is strongly influenced by Robert E. Howard, particularly the Kull stories and three King Conan stories (“The Phoenix on the Sword”, “The Scarlet Citadel” and “The Hour of the Dragon”), while my other sword and sorcery series, the Thurvok series, is more influenced by Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and Gray Mouser.

“The Black Knight” brings in yet another influence, namely C.L. Moore’s Jirel of Joiry. I revisited the first two Jirel of Joiry stories, “Black God’s Kiss” and “Black God’s Shadow”, last year, which also gave me some insight into the core themes of that particular branch of sword and sorcery. All of this eventually influenced “The Black Knight”.

Sword and sorcery protagonists are usually loners, but my own characters tend to acquire supporting casts. Thurvok was initially supposed to be a lone adventurer, but by the end of the first story, he picks up Meldom. Sharenna joins the team in the third story, Lysha in the fourth.

Kurval has also acquired a supporting cast of his own by now. There’s the vizier Izgomir, who basically serves as a foil to Kurval. Count Ragur Falgune and his wife Nelaira were originally intended as one-of characters, but they stuck around. We also learn a bit more about Ragur (and more about Kurval and his background, for that matter) in this story. Finally, there is Ungolf, the executioner who takes great pride in his work. Ungolf also appears in King’s Justice, the first Kurval story written, though he doesn’t acquire a name until this story. Finally, Kurval also picks up yet another supporting character in “The Black Knight”, a characters we will certainly see again.

So accompany Kurval, as he faces…

The Black Knight
The Black Knight by Richard Blakemore and Cora BuhlertThe Lords of Angilbert have been a thorn in the side of the Kings of Azakoria for decades, refusing to pay taxes or to accept the authority of the throne.

King Kurval of Azakoria inherited the conflict with the Black Knight of Angilbert from his predecessor. Determined to bring the Black Knight to heel once and for all, Kurval besieges Castle Angilbert. But when he finally comes face to face with the mysterious Black Knight, he’s in for a shock.

The law demands that the Black Knight be executed for treason. However, Kurval does not want to sentence the Black Knight to death, especially once he learns that the Lords of Angilbert have a very good reason to hate the Kings of Azakoria.

But is it even possible to find a peaceful solution or can the feud with the Black Knight of Angilbert end only in bloodshed and death?

The new sword and sorcery adventure by two-time Hugo finalist Cora Buhlert and her occasional alter ego, 1930s pulp writer Richard Blakemore. This is a novella of 33400 words or approx. 112 print pages in the Kurval series but may be read as a standalone. Includes an introduction and afterword.

Warning: This is a dark story, which contains scenes of a violent and sexual nature.

More information.
Length: 33400 words
List price: 2.99 USD, EUR or GBP
Buy it at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Netherlands, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India, Amazon Mexico, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, Google Play, Scribd, Smashwords, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel,, DriveThruFiction, Casa del Libro, Vivlio and XinXii.

Posted in Books | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Loki Visits “Lamentis” and Talks to Herself

Another Wednesday, another episode of Loki. For my takes on previous episodes (well, just two so far), go here.

Warning! Spoilers behind the cut! Continue reading

Posted in TV | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Loki Meets “The Variant”

Another Wednesday, another episode of Loki. For my takes on previous episodes (well, just one so far), go here.

Warning! Spoilers behind the cut! Continue reading

Posted in TV | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Cora Talks About Old SFF Elsewhere

“But what’s new about that?” some of you will ask. She always talks about old SFF somewhere.

However, today I had not one but two items coming out elsewhere. The first is my latest post over at Galactic Journey, where I talk about the science fiction anthology Orbit 1, edited by Damon Knight (and also about a lost whale on the Rhine). Orbit 1 is not only a very good anthology, where even the weaker stories are worth reading, but it’s doubly remarkable, because the table of contents is fifty percent women – in 1966.

Of course, we know that the “Women did not write SFF before [insert date here]” claims are nonsense, but it’s still nice to find an anthology or a magazine with a fifty percent famel table of contents in the 1960s, when all-male table of contents were the norm rather than the exception.

In some ways, the stories in Orbit are works of their time – 1960s/70s concerns about overpopulation pop up a few times as do the even older obsessions about racial memory and “Oh my God, we might devolve!” which pop up in SFF all the way back to the 1930s – but in other way, the stories feel remarkably modern. The stories deal with how humans can relate to the Other (usually represented by aliens), how to communicate with beings of different cultures, whether violence is really the best solution (spoiler alert: It’s not) and the dark sides of colonialism and imperialism. The story that most clearly criticises colonialism and points out that even initially good intentions can lead to bad outcomes is by Poul Anderson of all people, i.e. not an author anybody would accuse of being a strident Social Justice Warrior. Though this was likely written before the rightwing libertarian brain eater virus that spread through the SFF community in the 1960s and 1970s and beyond got Anderson.

ETA: In a stroke of cosmic serendipity, James Davis Nicoll has also just reviewed Orbit 1. Check out his thoughts here.

ETA 2: Apparently, I’ve also pissed off some people by daring to give the James Blish and Thomas M. Disch stories a low rating.

However, I’m not just at Galactic Journey today. I’m also the special guest in episode 97 of the Appendix N Book Club, a great podcast (which I featured as part of my fancast spotlight here) which discusses the inspirational works listed in the Appendix N of the original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Masters Guide.

In this episode, we discussed Xiccarph, a collection of Clark Ashton Smith’s interplanetary tales which came out in 1972 as part of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series, even though the stories date from the 1920s and 1930s.

I have two Clark Ashton Smith collections on my book shelf, but the first time I tried to read him, I bounced off Clark Ashton Smith’s work. This is not Smith’s fault at all – I was basically challenged to read Smith by someone who was convinced I was too stupid to understand him, which obviously did not make me inclined to enjoy the experience. Though the stories and the haunting atmosphere Smith creates were clearly memorable, because I found that I could recall details of several Smith stories, even though it has been more than twenty years since I first read them.

So I was happy to be given a most excellent excuse to revisit Clark Ashton Smith’s work. I appreciated his work a lot more the second time around. Indeed, one thing I’ve found with many of the authors associated with Weird Tales is that I enjoy their work more upon rereading it – including things like the Conan, Jirel of Joiry or Northwest Smith stories I liked the first time around, too. Though I still think that Clark Ashton Smith is best savoured in smaller doses.

Anyway, just listen to the episode and then listen to the other 96 episodes of the Appendix N Book Club, because it is a really great podcast.

Posted in Books, Links | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

New Story “The Gate of Mist” available in Issue 3 of Whetstone Magazine of Sword and Sorcery

I have two links to share today. First of all, my friend and fellow Best Fan Writer Hugo finalist Paul Weimer has revived the popular Mind Meld feature, where several SFF authors and fans answer the same question, at nerds of a feather.

This edition of the Mind Meld asks the following following question:

Congratulations. You have been given a Star Trek style holodeck, fully capable otherwise, you can bring in anyone you want, hold a roomful of people but not an entire Worldcon in it,  but you can only program it to be fixed to one time and place or the verse of one fictional work or series.

Where/what do you program your holodeck for? (Star Wars and Star Trek are off the table!)

Visit nerds of a feather to read the answers of Fonda Lee, K.B. Wagers, Beverly Bambury, Arturo Serrano, Mikalea Lind, Camestros Felapton, H.M. Long, Claire O’Dell, Maurice Broaddus, Catherine Lundoff, Elizabeth Bear, Andrew Hiller, K.B. Spengler, Nancy Jane Moore, Shelley Parker-Chan and myself.

I have to admit that Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar and Robert E. Howard’s Hyborian Age were on my shortlist of possible places to program my holodeck for, before I decided on a setting with indoor plumbing and less chance of random and brutal death.

Whetstone Issue 3Therefore, it’s only fitting that my other announcement concerns new sword and sorcery fiction. Because issue 3 of Whetstone Amateur Magazine of Sword and Sorcery just came out today on the 85th anniversary of the death of Robert E. Howard, founding father of the sword and sorcery genre and creator of Conan, Kull, Bran Mak Morn, Solomon Kane, Dark Agnes and many others.

This issue includes my story “The Gate of Mist” as well as new sword and sorcery tales (as well as at least one sword and planet story) by N.A. Chaudhry, Michael Burke, Jace Phelps, Chuck E. Clark, Scott Schmidt, Luke E. Dodd, J. Thomas Howard, Ethan Sabatella, T.A. Markitan, L.D. Whitney, Rob Graham, George Jacobs, Richard Truong, B. Harlan Crawford and Dimitar Dakovski with an introduction by editor Jason Ray Carney and a great cover by Mustafa Bekir.

My story is called “The Gate of Mist”. It’s another story that originated during the 2020 July Short Story Challenge. At the time, I called it “Brokeback Mountain”, but with warrior monks and cloud monsters (and a happy for now ending), which is still an appropriate description. Come to think of it, the fact that “The Gate of Mist” is an LGBTQ+ story makes it doubly appropriate, because June is also Pride Month.

So what are you waiting for? Get issue 3 of Whetstone here.

ETA: Here’s a review of Whetstone Issue 3 by J. Thomas Howard, who is also one of the authors who appear in this issue.

Posted in Books, Links, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Loki Finds His “Glorious Purpose”

“Glorious Purpose”, the first episode of Loki, Disney’s latest Marvel related TV offering, became available for streaming today. I’m not sure if I’ll do episode by episode reviews of this one, because it’s a lot of work, but here are my thoughts on the premiere.

Warning! Spoilers behind the cut! Continue reading

Posted in Comics, TV | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Fanzine Spotlight: Ansible

I initially started the Fanzine/Fancast Spotlight project to highlight Hugo-eligible fanzines, fansites and podcasts. For more about the Fanzine/Fancast Spotlight project, go here. You can also check out the other great fanzines and fancasts featured by clicking here.

The Hugo finalists for 2021 have long since been announced, but I want to keep the project going, because after the Hugo nominations is before the Hugo nominations. And besides, there are still a lot of great fanzines, blogs and podcasts out there that I haven’t covered.

Today’s featured fanzine is a true classic. Ansible is a six-time Hugo winner in itself, while editor/writer David Langford has won a staggering twenty-one Hugo Awards for Best Fan Writer.

Therefore, I’m pleased to welcome David Langford to my blog:

Ansible Logo

Tell us about your site or zine.

My fanzine is the newsletter or newszine Ansible, which tries, maybe not always successfully, to cover highlights of the SF and fan scene from a British viewpoint while struggling to retain a sense of humour. Once upon a time Ansible appeared only in printed form — mimeographed in the early years from 1979, just as in The Enchanted Duplicator. There was a gap in the continuity after the 1987 UK Worldcon where Ansible won its first Hugo, but I started afresh in 1991 and have kept to a monthly schedule ever since. Charles Stross first posted the electronic text (sent to him on floppy disks) to Usenet, for several months in 1993 before I caught up with his cutting-edge technology; email and website distribution soon followed.

Who are the people behind your site or zine?

In theory it’s just me. In practice I couldn’t keep going without all the correspondents who send obituaries, interesting news snippets, more obituaries, convention news, too many obituaries, and contributions to such regular departments as As Others See Us and Thog’s Masterclass. The first collects notably patronizing or ignorant comments on the SF genre from the mainstream media, with special attention to authors who write science fiction but prefer to pretend they don’t (Margaret Atwood once explained that SF was “talking squids in outer space” and since she didn’t write that she had to be innocent of SF contamination). Thog’s Masterclass is for embarrassingly or comically bad sentences in published fiction, not always SF — as well as the usual genre suspects, the Masterclass has showcased such luminaries as Agatha Christie, Vladimir Nabokov and Sean Penn.

Why did you decide to start your site or zine?

My unconvincing story is that it’s all the fault of Peter Roberts, the long-time UK fan who throughout the 1970s published what was then our national SF/fan newsletter, Checkpoint. By 1979 he’d grown weary of it and looked around for some gullible young lad to take over the subscription list, though not (he insisted) the title. That lad was myself, and the first issue of Ansible appeared at the 1979 UK Worldcon. Peter’s words in Checkpoint #97 — “Checkpoint will be folding with the 100th issue, that being more than enough for any sane fan editor” — have regularly returned to haunt me, most recently when I published Ansible #400.

What format do you use for your site or zine (blog, e-mail newsletter, PDF zine, paper zine) and why did you choose this format?

All of the above. I always do the printed Ansible first, which since 1991 has been a single sheet of A4. The mailing envelopes are traditionally stuffed during a pub lunch, replaced since March 2020 by a simulated pub lunch at home. Each issue then hits the website as a two-page PDF identical to the print version, and as an HTML page with a few extras at the end. Next comes a plain-text version for the email list, the other email list for people who are paranoid about Google Groups, Usenet and so on. There are a couple of blogs that don’t actually host Ansible but announce and link to new issues, which I also do on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Thus, by madly embracing every format I can cope with, I can evade difficult questions like “why did you choose this format?”

The fanzine category at the Hugos is one of the oldest, but also the category which consistently gets the lowest number of votes and nominations. So why do you think fanzines and sites are important?

Force of habit. After all, I’ve been reading fanzines for very nearly fifty years (gulp), writing for them since 1975 and publishing them since 1976. My wife says helpfully supportive things like, “Isn’t it time to retire?”

In the past twenty years, fanzines have increasingly moved online. What do you think the future of fanzines looks like?

Like today but more so? I privately regret the increasing move to podcasts and other audiovisual channels, because I love the printed word and also have serious long-standing hearing problems. Hence the tasteful UK fan catchphrase of the 1970s: “that deaf twit Langford”.

The four fan categories of the Hugos (best fanzine, fan writer, fan artist and fancast) tend to get less attention than the fiction and dramatic presentation categories. Are there any awesome fanzines, fancasts, fan writers and fan artists you’d like to recommend?

Having grown up in primitive fannish times when it was considered rather ostentatious to type in a straight line or pay attention to page margins, I’ve been impressed by some of today’s high-class printed fanzines such as the recent memorial double issue of the late Bill Bowers’s Outworlds, William Breiding’s Portable Storage, Michael Dobson’s Random Jottings and Bruce Gillespie’s long-running (since 1969!) but still amazing SF Commentary. Outside the realm of impressive production values, Fred Lerner’s quietly literate and erudite Lofgeornost is also much appreciated here. I suppose I’m out of touch with the fannish Zeitgeist, since none of the above is a current Hugo finalist. All of them helped goad me to produce my own POD fanwriting collections Beachcombings and Don’t Try This at Home, if only for something to send in trade.

As already indicated, I don’t have anything to say about fancasts… but must gratefully mention the fan artists who brighten up Ansible, currently Brad W. Foster, Sue Mason and Ulrika O’Brien in rotation. With occasional guest appearances by the late Arthur “Atom” Thomson, just for the nostalgia value.

Where can people find you?

The main Ansible site, which archives all the back issues and supplements, plus Ansible’s predecessor Checkpoint:

Thog’s own site, explaining the origins of this barbarian critic and including the infamous Thog-o-Matic Random Selector with its “I Feel Unlucky” button:

Social media:

Posted in Fanzine Spotlight | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

First Monday Free Fiction: Countdown to Death

Countdown to Death coverWelcome to the June 2021 edition of First Monday Free Fiction.

To recap, inspired by Kristine Kathryn Rusch who posts a free short story every week on her blog, I’ll post a free story on the first Monday of every month. At the end of the month, I’ll take the story down and post another.

As you may know, I just published Tales of the Silencer, a collection of all Silencer stories to date. Therefore, it’s only fitting that this month’s free story is a Silencer story, namely the very first one, Countdown to Death.

So follow Richard Blakemore a.k.a. the Silencer as he faces his…

Countdown to Death

“SILENCER TO FACE HANGMAN” the headline screamed. Blood red letters, two inch high, running through a rotary press at a rate of five hundred pages per minute.

Jake Levonsky grabbed a paper from the press and scanned the opening paragraph:

Appeal denied — Vigilante to be executed on Tuesday

Today, the governor revoked the final appeal of Richard Blakemore, which means that Blakemore will die in the electric chair on Tuesday.

The local writer and playboy brought many a criminal to justice in the guise of the masked vigilante known as the Silencer, a pulp character of his own creation. Earlier this year, Blakemore was found guilty of murdering the mobster Antonio Tortelli…

“Bullshit,” Levonsky exclaimed and flung the paper into a corner. The fresh ink came off on his fingers and he rubbed them carelessly in his pants.

“Jake, I realize that you’re biased.” Randall Whitman bent down to rescue the paper Levonsky had so casually tossed. Even at a print run of five hundred thousand, he still hated to see even a single paper go to waste. “After all, the man used to work for you.”

“Richard Blakemore didn’t just work for me.” Levonsky puffed his omnipresent cigar. “He is my star author, damn it! The mainstay of my magazine line.”

“And a convicted murderer.”

“Bullshit,” Levonsky roared, loud enough to momentarily drown out the printing press, “I know Richard Blakemore and I know that he didn’t murder anybody.”

“But he was found guilty…”

“A gross miscarriage of justice.”

“There were witnesses…”

“Criminals. Mobsters. Liars, one and all.”

“There was also evidence. Even you can’t deny that, Jake.”

“False. Fabricated.” Puffs of cigar smoke punctuated every single word.

Randall Whitman drew on his pipe “They found Blakemore’s fingerprints all over Tortelli’s mansion,” he said, “They found Blakemore himself, unconscious, in Tortelli’s garden.”

“He was framed.” A perfectly formed smoke ring escaped from Levonsky’s mouth. “Richard Blakemore would never have been so stupid.”

“And what about the full Silencer costume found in Blakemore’s house. Coat, hat, mask, bulletproof steel vest, twin .45 automatics. Just as described in the magazines, to the last detail. What was Blakemore doing with that stuff?”

Levonsky shrugged. “He had all that stuff to try out how it would feel to be in the Silencer’s shoes, to wear that costume and all that equipment. Richard always researched his stories very thoroughly.”

“Come on, Jake. He had the costume and all that, because he was the Silencer. Maybe he really wanted to try out how it felt at first, but then something snapped and he started to believe that he was his own character.” Whitman took another draw of his pipe. “I mean, most of those pulp authors are more or less crazy. That’s probably what happens when you crank out a full-length novel per month. Blakemore just went too far and now he’s paying the price…”


This story was available for free on this blog for one month only, but you can still read it in Countdown to Death> or the collection Tales of the Silencer. And if you click on the First Monday Free Fiction tag, you can read this month’s free story.

Posted in First Monday Free Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Some Thoughts on the 2020 Nebula Award Winners

The winners of the 2020 Nebula Awards were announced last night. The full list of winners may be seen here. For my comments on the finalists, see here.

The virtual ceremony was livestreamed, but I didn’t watch, because I was busy with other things and so only noticed that the ceremony was already going, when I saw a winner announcement on Twitter.

So let’s take a look at the winners.

In a decision that will surprise no one, the 2020 Nebula Award for Best Novel goes to Network Effect by Martha Wells.  The Murderbot stories are widely beloved and also really great, so I’m not at all surprised to see it winning.

The winner of the 2020 Nebula Award for Best Novella is Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark. This is a most worthy winner and probably also my favourite of the three novellas on the Nebula ballot that I have read. Horror normally doesn’t do all that well in the Nebulas and Hugos, so it’s interesting that this year’s Nebula Award goes to an explicit horror novella.

The 2020 Nebula Award for Best Novelette is “Two Truths and a Lie” by Sarah Pinsker. It’s a great story and very worthy winner, though I like the “Shadow Prisons” triptych by Caroline M. Yoachim a little more.

The winner of the 2020 Nebula Award for Best Short Story is “Open House on Haunted Hill” by John Wiswell. It’s a fine story, which is also a Hugo finalist in this category. We also have another spooky story winning, though it’s not explicitly horror. And come to think of it, “Two Truths and a Lie” is a spooky story as well.

The 2020 Andre Norton Award for Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction goes to A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher. This is a truly delightful book and I’m very happy that it won.

The winner of the 2020 Nebula Award for Game Writing is Hades. As I’ve said before, I’m not a gamer, so I can’t say much about this category (and I’m not sure if I will vote in the special videogame category of the Hugos this year). That said, I know that Hades is a very popular game. It is also a Hugo finalist.

Finally, the 2020 Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation goes once again to an episode of The Good Place. This is the only Nebula winner this year that I’m not happy with. Not just because I can’t stand The Good Place, even though it is a terrible show and its popularity is a complete mystery to me. But yes, apparently a lot of people really like The Good Place. This is also its first Nebula win, though it feels as if it has won more often, probably because Hugo voters keep voting for the blasted thing and the Hugo and Nebula ballots occasionally blur together in my memory.

And honestly, does The Good Place need to win a major SFF award every single year? We are currently living in a golden age of SFF TV and streaming shows with more great shows than any one person can watch, unless you never want to do anything except watch TV. So why on Earth does The Good Place keep getting nominated for (and winning, in the case of the Hugos) major genre awards, when there are so many other great genre shows out there?

There were a lot of good films and TV episodes on this year’s Nebula ballot. The Mandalorian, The Expanse and Lovecraft Country are all good TV shows*, which have never won a Nebula, though The Expanse won a Hugo once. Lovecraft Country also won’t be getting a second season and was ignored by the Hugos, so this was its only chance of winning anything. The Old Guard was a great fantasy action movie and updated the Highlander concept for the 21st century. I still haven’t seen the Birds of Prey movie, but I doubt that it’s worse than The Good Place.

At least, this will be the last year that The Good Place will win anything, because the show ended last year. Still, I feel sorry for all the good works that didn’t win because The Good Place keeps clogging up the genre awards.

A couple of special awards were given out as well. Nalo Hopkinson receives the 2020 Damon Knight Grand Master Award. The recipient of the 2020 Kevin J. O’Donnell Jr. Service to SFWA Award is Connie Willis. Finally, the 2020 Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award goes to Jarvis Sheffield as well as posthumously to Ben Bova and Rachel Caine. All are excellent choices and I’m particularly glad to see Rachel Caine recognised, because her Weather Wardens books did not nearly get the attention they deserved.

All in all, the 2o20 Nebula Award winners are a good, if largely uncontroversial selection. Even the win for The Good Place is not really controversial, even though I find the show terrible, because it is a popular show. One trend that’s notable is that the three short fiction winners all either straddle to border to horror or – in the case of Ring Shout – are explicit horror stories.

Those who worry that women are taking over the major SFF awards will hopefully be pleased that this year, two of the five Nebula winners in the fiction categories are men. If you include the game writing and dramatic presentation awards, which were both won by men as well, you even get four male and three female winners. But I bet that the usual suspects who worry about the poor widdle men being shut out of SFF awards will complain that the wrong men won or something like that.

*Even if Lovecraft Country has a character quote a Lovecraft poem that was not published until the 1970s, twenty years after the show is set, it still was a good show.

Posted in Books, Film, TV | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Retro Review: “The God in the Bowl” by Robert E. Howard or Conan Does Agatha Christie

The Coming of Conan the CimmerianNo, not that way. Get your mind out of the gutter!

Before I dig deeper into the science fiction and fantasy of 1946 (for more about Chicon’s 1946 Retrospective project, see here), I want to go back to the early 1930s to revisit one of the more unusual Conan sword and sorcery stories. This review will also be crossposted to Retro Reviews.

“The God in the Bowl” is one of the first batch of Conan stories that Robert E. Howard wrote. According to Patrice Louinet’s essay “Hyborian Genesis” in the back of the Del Rey edition of The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, “The God in the Bowl” was written in March 1932 and was the third Conan story written, following “The Phoenix on the Sword” and “The Frost Giant’s Daughter”.

Unlike the two previous stories, “The God in the Bowl” remained unpublished during Howard’s lifetime and appeared for the first time in the September 1952 issue of the short-lived magazine Space Science Fiction. Why on Earth editor Lester del Rey decided that a Conan story was a good fit for a magazine that otherwise published such Astounding stalwarts as George O. Smith, Clifford D. Simak and Murray Leinster will probably forever remain a mystery.

Space Science Fiction September 1952As for why I decided to review this particular Conan story rather than some of the better known adventures of our favourite Cimmerian adventurer (which I may eventually do), part of the reason is that the story just came up in a conversation I had with Bobby Derie on Twitter. Besides, I have been reading my way through the Del Rey Robert E. Howard editions of late and realised that there are a lot of layers to those stories that I missed when I read them the first time around as a teenager.

I don’t think I read “The God in the Bowl” during my first go-around with Conan or at least I don’t remember the story. And I’m pretty sure I would have remembered it, simply because it is such an unusual story. Because “The God in the Bowl” is a locked room – pardon, locked museum – mystery set in the Hyborian Age and features Conan as the prime suspect.

Warning: Spoilers beyond this point! Continue reading

Posted in Books, Retro Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments