Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bitter Steel by Charles Allen Gramlich

I can safely say Charles Allen Gramlich's stories introduced me to the world of Sword and Planet and Sword and Sorcery. I have watched fantasy films but haven't read much in the genre, the closest being a lone Tarzan book and part of a C.S. Lewis title, which really isn’t all that close. Mr. Gramlich’s posts on Robert E. Howard’s Solomon Kane and his own Talera novels (I still have to read the third in this fine series) whet my appetite and now BITTER STEEL: TALES AND POEMS OF EPIC FANTASY has blown the hinges off the door.

I carried my Kindle with me the day our daughter was born. I had about five stories left to read in the STEEL collection, and it was the perfect way to pass the time while waiting for labor to progress before heading off to the hospital, and then the day-and-a-half hospital stay following the birth. I'm no authority on this genre so I'm not going to attempt to discuss it beyond that I enjoyed the book and would recommend BITTER STEEL without hesitation. But I will say, when I read part of STEEL's "Sundered Man" to my four-day-old daughter, she was as quiet and attentive as can be. (A future Fantasy writer? Maybe.) Also, I was inspired so much by the antho that I've begun composing my own fantasy world of characters. We'll see if anything comes from this but it's an enjoyable escape from my beloved westerns and crime stories.

Any fantasy series, short stories, or novels you would recommend?


Chad said...

Ah, man, Sword and Sorcery/Swords and Planets were my first fictional loves.

Robert E. Howard, of course. Nothing beats the Fafhrd and Grey Mouser books by Fritz Leiber. The Elric/Hawkmoon/Corum/Eternal Champion books by Michael Moorcock. C.L. Moore's Northwest Smith and Jirel of Joiry. Any of the Planetary Romances by Leigh Brackett (she of screenplays for The Big Sleep and The Empire Strikes Back).

David Cranmer said...

After posting this, I realized I have read quite a few short stories from talents like Leigh Brackett. I just always grouped them under science fiction. (And recently I read Edmond Hamilton's (Leigh's husband) THE SUN SMASHERS.)

I just looked up the Fafhrd and Grey Mouser books. I'm intrigued.

Scott Parker said...

I've got Fafhrd and Grey Mouser book #1, but haven't read it. Probably later this year. When you daughter is aroudn 5 or 6, read the Narnia books to her. I've only read the first Conan story, but was wonderful.

The one book that has multiple genres-as-adjectives listed before it is Perdido Street Station by China Mieville. It's part SF, part fantasy, part steampunk, but completely original and mind-expanding. I've not read anything like it before or since. It's think, dense, but, ultimately, rewarding.

Leah J. Utas said...

I love the pulp fantasy/SF stuff from the 40s. Dunno if it's what you're after, but Planet of Peril by Otis Adelbert Kline is a fave.

Charles Gramlich said...

Check out Karl Edward Wagner's stories about Kane. They are very good. And I like DAvid Gemmell's Druss the Legend stories as well. In fact, I like most of Gemmell very well.

And thanks for the kind comments. Glad you enjoyed.

David Cranmer said...

Scott, You may have mentioned the Fafhrd and Grey Mouser to me before because I see I already have it listed in my to buy list. So now it is a must.

Leah, I am a 40’s pulp kid! That’s where BEAT to a PULP’s inspiration originates. PLANET OF PERIL is duly noted. Merci.

Charles, I didn’t know about the Wagner stories and definitely would enjoy that. Thanks.

Chris said...

I second everything Chad said (Howard is my all time favorite). Besides Tarzan, Burroughs of course wrote the great Mars stories. His contemporary, Otis Adelbert Kline, also wrote some great sword swinging Mars stuff (Kline was also Howard's literary agent).

I have a subscription to Planet Stories, which is awesome for reprinting some of this stuff. Might be worth your time to check out, David.

I love this stuff. Crime stories are a relatively new, acquired taste for me. But the fantasy stuff is what made me a reader in the first place.

Chad said...

Ah, hell, I forgot about Karl Edward Wagner. Definately, yes, Kane, man, Kane.

China Mieville is mind-blowing. Perdido Street Station, while not an easy read, is genius. The Scar is also good and set in the same world. I dug Iron Council a lot, though I thought his politics (which I agree with) were a little too preachy in that one. Looking for Jake has some amazing short stories. The one about the sentient street that moves from place to place is trippy. The City and The City, a very weird police procedural about a murder in two cities that occupy the same space, was astounding. Kraken, his most recent one, I thought, was okay.

Ron Scheer said...

I've often felt a little guilty around Charles because sword/sorcery has never gained a foothold in my literal mind. I have this problem (and I consider it so) with almost anything that requires such a radical suspension of disbelief. I actually went several years once without the ability to read any kind of fiction at all.

The deliberate strangeness of fantasy (the use of odd names as one example) makes imaginative involvement in its world effortful - like picking up a textbook for a college course in a field you know nothing about. Maybe someone has a "cure" or a work-around for this condition. I'd be happy to hear of any remedies.

Reb said...

When your daughter gets a bit older, you can introduce her to the Xanth novels by Piers Anthony, any Heinlein for yourself, Ray Bradbury, Mercedes Lackey, Anne McCaffery, the Myth series by Robert Asprin. Terry Goodkind, David Eddings, David Duncan, Steven Brust, Terry Pratchett, Bernard Cornwell, Stephen R. Lawhead. I could go on, but, I think that is a good start ;)

Deka Black said...

David, maybe you can try withthe Dying Earth books by Jack Vance. Or, when yo daughter is abit older, Amulric by Robert E. Howard.

David Cranmer said...

I’ll check out the Planet Stories, Chris. Thanks.

Chad, I just checked out Mr. Mieville's bio. Definitely a well respected author of the New Weird.

Ron, I know what you mean. I appreciate a writer like Tolkien but when the names and places becomes convoluted and you need to refer to a glossary to follow I lose interest.

Reb, When I was in Montenegro I rescued (a story there) a Heinlein book. I haven’t read it yet but am looking forward to it. And I appreciate all suggestions for Ava’s future reading. Her collection is already off to a top start.

Randy Johnson said...

I'm a bit late. Everybody seems to have covered most everything I would have suggested. All good recommendations of course. Moorcock's Mars book not mentioned though.

G said...

Not sure what I could recommend in the fantasy genre and sub-genres, but I can tell you what to stay away from: Robert Jordan's unwieldy "Wheel of Time" series.

Fortunately, volume 14 should be out by 2012 or 13, which ends the series.

I also remember tackling one called "The Chronicles of Thomas Convenant the Unbeliever" parts one and two. The one thing that made me crack open this unwieldy series was that the lead character suffered from leprosy.

I don't think that I'm helping much here, but apparently I got to remembering things while I was reading your post and the comments.

Alyssa Goodnight said...

Evidently your wait for the birth of your daughter was very relaxing...I wonder if your wife can say the same. :)

No fantasy suggestions that I can think of, but PFB loved the Larklight series by Philip Reeve.

Anonymous said...

Along with the rest I say Howard and Moorcock. I will also add Fred Saberhagen's Empire of the East. It's a big fat book sometimes masquerading as a trilogy.

It takes place in a post apocalyptic world with a lot of sorcery and a little bit of leftover science. Great characters and a great world. But stay away from his books with the word "sword" in the title. Empire is his only really good s&s book

Dan Luft

David Cranmer said...

Randy, I have bought more books at your suggestion (James is a close second) than anybody else. So Moorcock's Mars has been added.

G, Things to avoid will lead to the good stuff, right? Btw have you read BITTER STEEL? Lots of sharp stories in this antho. I know you will enjoy.

Alyssa, She is still recovering. We had a couple restful nights and then last night a fussy baby. But the good news is we are both off from work and can support each other in the napping department. Larklight series. Duly noted because you have not steered me wrong yet.

Dan, I am a sucker for apocalyptic world and what you described is what I'm scribbling about now. I will check it out to see how it is really suppose to be done.

pattinase (abbott) said...

You will always equate the event with his writing. Nice thing for CG too. I wonder if it will affect Ava's reading tastes.

G said...

I read Bitter Steel over the winter and enjoyed it so much that I put a nifty review up on my blog afterwards.

Truth be known is that Charles is turning into one of my favorite writers, with you a very close second.

David Cranmer said...

Patti, I have a feeling I will read everything to this little girl as the years go by.

SECOND! I'm not sure I can live with that, G. I will double my efforts!