For Geek Smash, Colin O’Boyle includes both The Sword & Sorcery Anthology and Lovecraft’s Monsters among the 7 Super Spec-fic Books for Your Summer.
In the words of Conan the Barbarian (at least, the one from the 1982 movie), here’s what’s best in life: “To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.” And you’ll see plenty of that sort of thing in this anthology of sword and sorcery stories. The tales of derring-do run the gamut in age from those written by Robert E. Howard and his contemporaries (so, around the 30s and 40s) all the way up to George R.R. Martin.
Obviously some of the older stories are a bit problematic in terms of their authors outlooks on race/gender, but I was pleased to find some strong female protagonists in there too. “Become a Warrior” by Jane Yolen, for example, features a young girl whose father–the king–is slain in battle, and rather than become the prize of the conquering army, she strikes out into the wilderness to grow in power (and plan her revenge). “The Sea Troll’s Daughter” by Caitlín R. Kiernan is another story to defy expectation, and not just in the “women can be strong characters too” category, but also because it shows that someone can physically be a monster but that doesn’t mean their behavior has to be monstrous.
The second short story collection on my list, “Lovecraft’s Monsters” is a must-read for any fans of the Cthulhu Mythos. For those of you not familiar with the Mythos, please say “Hastur Hastur Hastur” while looking into a dark mirror and a representative will be along shortly to familiarize you with the genre. Alternatively, you could click on the link above, or read the following brief description. Essentially, the Cthulhu Mythos is a shared universe centered around the world created by HP Lovecraft. It features dark, otherworldly creatures, but not in a vampires/werewolves “otherworldly” sense. Instead, Lovecraft’s monsters are strange things from beyond the stars, usually so strange that human beings who encounter them go mad from the experience.
This collection, put together by Ellen Datlow, features stories set in this shared universe, and most of them are pretty creepy. In one, a woman who can communicate with animals is asked to connect with people from the town of Innsmouth (who gradually turn into fish-human hybrids over time). In another (rather Steampunkish) tale, a group of explorers sets out into the jungle to rescue an English rose in their mechanical craft, only to learn that something evil lurks in the dark lake they find.
View the rest of O’Boyle’s selections at Geek Smash.
For info on The Sword & Sorcery Anthology, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover art by Jean-Sébastien Rossbach. Design by Elizabeth Story.
For more information on Lovecraft’s Monsters, visit the Tachyon site.
Cover and illustration by John Coulthart.