Review: Flashing Swords! 1
I just finished reading the first volume of Flashing Swords!, the Lin Carter edited anthology series from the seventies that featured many members of SAGA, the sword and sorcery writers guild. This volume had a pretty good introduction by Carter and four stories: “The Sadness of the Executioner” by Fritz Leiber, “Morreion” by Jack Vance, “The Merman’s Children” by Poul Anderson, and “The Higher Heresies of Oolimar” by Lin Carter. The anthology was, in all honesty, a very mixed bag. I really liked two of the stories, ambivalent about one, and disliked the other.
The strongest story in the anthology is Vance’s “Morrieon.” Taking place in the Dying Earth, this story explores the desire of a group of magicians for IOUN stones. In their pursuit of the magic dampening stones, the group humorously rescues the wizard Morrieon from the last planet at the end of the universe, only to be faced with his mood swings. This story perfectly mixes fantasy with a science element so fantastic as to be magic. And it is a trip of decadent, nigh incompetent wizards.
The next strongest story is Leiber’s “The Sadness of the Executioner.” This gem of a story follow the Nehwon personification of Death as it tries to fill a quota by killing Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser. The shortest story of all, this is still an excellent gem. As funny as “Morrieon,” this story is a great introduction to Leiber’s tales.
I am rather ambivalent toward’s Carter’s “The Higher Heresies of Oolimar.” The story itself has a good basis, but is totally incomplete. Indeed, I feel cheated because the promised story is deferred for a side quest. And the story takes on a campy pastiche approach towards the idea of sword and sorcery. To be honest, it should have been more thoroughly edited and revised.
The weakest story is “The Merman’s Children.” I really disliked this story. Anderson is a wonderful writer, but this story is just riddled with problems. The protagonists are stupid and I do not feel anything for their plight. I recognize that fictional characters are typically stupider than their real world counterparts, but still. I just got tired of it after a few pages.
In general, I think this anthology is a good introduction to these four writers (and my first introduction to them). With this in mind, I am looking forward to Leiber and Vance, but more ambivalent towards Anderson and Carter.