Andrew Offutt’s Swords Against Darkness

Can you name the 1970s sword-and-sorcery anthology series helmed by a fantasy author/editor, featuring original work from the biggest names as well as up-and-comers, that’s initial volume sported a Frank Frazetta cover and ran to five books in total? If you said Lin Carter’s Flashing Swords, you’re right!

But if you said Andrew Offutt’s Swords Against Darkness . . . you’re also right!

Following just a few years behind the launch of Carter’s seminal series, 1977’s Swords Against Darkness delivered more of the same to a reading public hungry to rediscover the joys of sword-and-sorcery during this silver age boom in interest in the genre that had its genesis in the pulp era of the 1930s (or maybe Homeric Greece, as per Offutt’s introduction).

The first volume alone boasts an impressive lineup: highlights include a masterpiece of a standalone tale from Poul Anderson, three entries in future classic series from Manly Wade Wellman, Richard L. Tierney, and Ramsey Campbell, a ripper of a David Drake tale, and the posthumous collaboration “Nekht Semerkeht;” Offutt’s completion of a story fragment from Robert E. Howard — possibly the last thing ever written by the father of sword-and-sorcery.

Cover by Frank Frazetta

Subsequent volumes, appearing hot on the heels of the first, would continue the sagas of Kardios, Ryre, and Simon of Gitta, as well as adding more tremendous names to the contributors’ list: Tanith Lee, Keith Taylor (with a Bard tale), Andre Norton, David C. Smith, Darrell Schweitzer, Charles Saunders (with an Imaro tale), Charles De Lint, Brian Lumley, Orson Scott Card, and Richard K. Lyon. Poul Anderson’s classic essay “On Thud and Blunder” would appear in volume III — the same volume Gary Gygax would list in the most famous ‘Recommended Reading’ List of all time, Appendix N.

Many other contributors published original sword-and-sorcery fiction within the covers of the Swords Against Darkness series and, while some of them would not emerge as household names in the genre, the quality of these tales largely stand the test of time.

Sadly, after five books in just a few years, publication problems with Zebra Books led to the untimely demise of what would come to be considered a classic anthology series of original sword-and-sorcery fiction.

Author: billward

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