Sifting Through a Sword-and-Sorcery Definition
Sep17

Sifting Through a Sword-and-Sorcery Definition

Sifting Through a Sword-and-Sorcery Definition by Brian Murphy When Michael Moorcock asked readers in the May 1961 issue of Amra to “put a tag” on the style of fantasy he was writing with his Elric stories, he cast a wide net, letting it drag through a sea of stories that readers today would likely consider heroic fantasy, high fantasy, or sword-and-sorcery—or all of the above: We have two tags, really — SF and “Fantasy” —...

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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Voidal
Jun04

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Voidal

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Voidal by Fletcher Vredenburgh Ten years ago, I had largely given up on fantasy, swords-and-sorcery in particular. Fortunately, I discovered a few writers that pulled me back in, among them several veterans of Tales from the Magician’s Skull: Milton Davis, Howard Andrew Jones, and Adrian Cole. Kicking me right between the eyes with his stories of accursed interplanar wanderer, the Voidal,...

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Under the Spell of Keith Taylor’s Bard Songs
May07

Under the Spell of Keith Taylor’s Bard Songs

Under the Spell of Keith Taylor’s Bard Songs by Brian Murphy Tomorrow all will be known, and you’re not aloneSo don’t be afraid of the dark and coldBecause the Bard’s songs will remain ~ “The Bard’s Song,” Blind Guardian A characteristic of good sword-and-sorcery is earthiness; even if not set in some ancient age of our own earth, sword-and-sorcery nevertheless is typically gritty, even grimy, in its realism. Joseph McCullough once...

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465 Submissions Later…
Apr20

465 Submissions Later…

465 Submissions Later… The Skull would like to honor the interns who have been laboriously, er, gloriously toiling away in the submissions cave. The final tally is in: 465 manuscripts were submitted in our recent open call! Soon we will have a final accounting of the acceptances and rejections. Until then, we give special recognition to interns #56 and #44, who have demonstrated an outstanding ability to discern sword and sorcery...

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Brian Murphy’s Gateways to Sword-and-Sorcery
Apr16

Brian Murphy’s Gateways to Sword-and-Sorcery

Brian Murphy’s Gateways to Sword-and-Sorcery by Brian Murphy Growing up I lacked access to sword-and-sorcery fiction. Stories of muscled barbarians and curvaceous women clinging to mighty thews were available only in drugstore wire-spinners or in the adult section of the local public library. Both were sadly out of reach of my meager allowance and the limited access afforded by my juvenile library card. If it didn’t exist in the...

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Amra Who? Inside Conan’s Secret Identity
Jan12

Amra Who? Inside Conan’s Secret Identity

Amra Who? Inside Conan’s Secret Identity by Bill Ward Quick trivia question: what is Conan holding in his hand when we are first introduced to the character? It’s not the bloody head of a Stygian priest or the becrimsoned blade that severed it. No, it’s a pen. Or, to be more accurate, a stylus – King Conan is improving the map of his Kingdom of Aquilonia when first we meet him in “The Phoenix on the Sword,” filling...

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Where to Start With Robert E. Howard
Jan01

Where to Start With Robert E. Howard

Where to Start With Robert E. Howard by Bill Ward Robert E. Howard (1906-1936) was a giant and a father to giants, his literary creations so potent that they have informed popular culture and permeated mass consciousness down to the present day. But their very ubiquity can obscure and deceive – if two people strike up a conversation about Conan, are they actually talking about the same Conan? What’s going on with all of these...

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Brian Murphy’s Flame and Crimson: A History of Sword-and-Sorcery
Dec01

Brian Murphy’s Flame and Crimson: A History of Sword-and-Sorcery

Brian Murphy’s Flame and Crimson: A History of Sword-and-Sorcery by Bill Ward In Flame and Crimson (2019) Brian Murphy has crafted no less than the first book length history of the sword-and-sorcery genre, from its origins and antecedents right down to its reflection in the popular culture of the present day. It is a work both indispensable and long overdue, one that fills a gap in our collective bookshelves while establishing...

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The Gothic Tradition and Sword and Sorcery
Oct30

The Gothic Tradition and Sword and Sorcery

Gothic Fiction and The Transgressive Supernatural, or, The Sword and Sorcery Protagonist Has a Sword! by Jason Ray Carney Sometime around 1790, something intangible happened. Trying to settle on any single definitive event is like trying to determine exactly when a pot of water began boiling. It can’t be done. The most we can do is point to a few bubbles: Immanuel Kant boldly defended the scientific method with his Critique of Pure...

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Defining Sword & Sorcery
Oct16

Defining Sword & Sorcery

Defining Sword-and-Sorcery by Howard Andrew Jones At Bride of Cyclops Con—happening right now!—there is an entire track based around sword-and-sorcery. We encourage you to check out the entire schedule and be a part of the con. Before we get to that, though, Tales From The Magician’s Skull editor Howard Andrew Jones takes a minute to define exactly what sword-and-sorcery means… The term “sword-and-sorcery” gets bandied...

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The Cosmic Horror of Sword & Sorcery
Oct09

The Cosmic Horror of Sword & Sorcery

The Cosmic Horror of Sword & Sorcery by Bill Ward The bones of sword & sorcery lie close to the skin, and one sure blade-stroke is enough to lay them bare for all to see. There is plot-driven pulp action there, at the core, but supporting that is a foundation of swashbuckling historical adventure, and expectations of encounters of the picaresque and the exotic kind. To be sure we can also see the unsentimentality of the...

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In Remembrance of Charles Saunders (1946-2020)
Oct04

In Remembrance of Charles Saunders (1946-2020)

by Bill Ward The world of adventure fantasy and sword & sorcery has grown a little dimmer with the passing of Charles Saunders in May of this year at the age of 74. Though best known among genre fans for his Imaro saga, Saunders worked diligently as a journalist and historian, with much of his focus over the years devoted to the Black Canadian experience, most especially as it pertains to Nova Scotia, which Saunders called home...

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