Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Flashes of Wonder Prompt: Setting as Character Contrast

UKA THE UNDYING, the zombie sorcerer, is experimenting with flashes of dark magics to blast the minds of bards! Illustration provided by Mustafa Bekir.

"Flashes of Wonder" is posted irregularly. It will feature a sword and sorcery flash fiction prompt. -JRC

Setting as Character Contrast

Vivid setting in sword and sorcery can bear thematic weight. A swamp can suggest sorrow and decay. A desert can evoke hopelessness and austerity. A verdant jungle can bring to mind sensuous vitality. Indeed, "setting" can almost become "character" in sword and sorcery. 

Consider Robert E. Howard's famous description of Cimmeria, Conan's homeland, as rendered in poem "Cimmeria."

Vista on vista marching, hills on hills,
Slope beyond slope, each dark with sullen trees,
Our gaunt land lay. So when a man climbed up
A rugged peak and gazed, his shaded eye
Saw but the endless vista - hill on hill,
Slope beyond slope, each hooded like its brothers.

The colorless and monotonous land that Conan abandons to begin his life of adventure in the various vibrant kingdoms of the Hyborian Age adds a imporant dimension to his character. Could it be that Conan is uniquely Conan because he is a Cimmerian, a mirthful man fleeing a sorrowful and sad landscape?

Write a sword and sorcery flash fiction that uses setting to contrast a character. For example, write about a just warrior in a lawless slum, a pious monastic in a sensuous temple of profligacy, a sage scholar in a barbarous, illiterate frontier. Focus on "extreme close-up" details: flora, fauna, matter, dynamic activity. 400 words.

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Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Familiar's Four Gems, a Miscellany (Issue 7)


SPITTLEDRUM, the Four-eyed Demon, has scoured the internet for new eyes: four sword-and-sorcery gems! Illustration provided by Mustafa Bekir.

"The Familiar's Four Gems will be posted intermittently. It is a curated list of old and new digital resources for amateur sword and sorcery writers and readers; it will occasionally provide short reviews where appropriate. If you have something you would like to include, contact us. -JRC

DMR Books: Boris Vallejo at 80, by Brian Murphy. "If you grew up in the 1980s it was impossible to avoid Boris Vallejo’s influence. Love him or hate him, he is inextricably intertwined with all things sword-and-sorcery, sword-and-planet, and fantasy art in general."

Tales from the Magician's Skull: Bran Mak Morn, Doomed King, by Bill Ward. "Bran Mak Morn emerges out of Howard’s fascination with the Picts – but not the Picts of modern, sober archaeology – rather the Picts of turn-of-the-century pseudo-scientific conjectural anthropology, the sort of thing that was available for a young Howard to read."

The Cromcast: Karl Edward Wagner's, "Raven's Eyrie." "Hail, Cromrades! We return with discussion of another story as we continue down the Left-Handed Path! Here we discuss 'Raven's Eyrie. Be sure to check out our story list for details and links to ebooks!"

REH World: The Robert E. Howard Museum. "Thanks to Arlene Stephenson and Rusty Burke I have put together an information page about the Robert E. Howard museum, run by Project Pride in Cross Plains, Texas. Just click on the brochure to read all about it."

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