01 Sword And Sorceress Mass Market Paperback – Jan 1 1981
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Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
MZB must have been onto a good thing. In the nearly twenty years since the first publication, there have been 19 Sword and Sorceress anthologies to date. Having read all of these anthologies, I can honestly say that this remains one of the best. The originality of the stories, the quality, the variety; all of these elements make this particular shine out from the group. Out of the fifteen stories, four are written by men, including well-recognized authors Glen Cook and Charles de Lint. MZB prefaces each story with a short blurb about the author and a few comments of her own. These paragraphs, along with her introduction, enable readers to catch the glimpse of MZB's personality and some insight into why she chose the particular stories she's included in this anthology. It becomes clear that each story was selected with care, polished and set in place to augment this anthology. There are no "filler" stories here.
Readers skimming the contents will quickly recognize quite a few of the author names; Glen Cook, Emma Bull, Charles de Lint, Jennifer Roberson and Diana Paxson to name a few. For Emma Bull and some of the other authors listed, this is their first sale. That is an additional bit of delight in these earliest Sword and Sorceress anthologies. So many writers made their first sale, or were just beginning their careers at the time. As to the stories themselves, they are as varied as the authors. For sword and sorcery duos, "The Garnet and the Glory" by Phyllis Ann Karr and "The Rending Dark" by Emma Bull are good examples. For darker, emotionally charged reads, try "Severed Heads" by Glen Cook, or "Sword of Yraine" by Diana L. Paxson. On the lighter side there is "Taking Heart" by Stephen L. Burns, "Daton and the Dead Things" by Michael Ward, and the finale of the anthology, a short-short story by Dorothy J. Heydt, "Things Come in Threes". My particular favorite story-although I admit it is hard to choose just one, all of them have had a powerful impact-is "With Four Lean Hounds" by Pat Murphy. This is a beautiful, fairy-tale-esque story that is as powerful in its message as in its unfolding adventure.
Any reader who loves good fantasy, particularly short stories will likely enjoy this. Women readers especially-but in no way exclusively will appreciate the chance to read about women as protagonists of the epic fantasy story. When this was first published, there were much fewer female fantasy writers and stories available. This has changed dramatically over the intervening two decades. Despite that, it does not diminish the quality of this first anthology-and the stories remain as strong today as they were when published. On a side note-these are all fantasy reads-MZB as a rule does not include science fiction stories in any of her anthologies, although the right story can make her break the rule just a bit. If you can find this anthology, buy it-read it and treasure it.
Of the 15 stories here collected, I found 10 personably enjoyable enough to mark for rereading, including Phyllis Ann Karr's "The Garnet and the Glory" (a vaguely Fritz Leiber-esque tale featuring Karr's female warrior Thorn and sorceress Frostflower), Glen Cook's "Severed Heads" (in which a desert girl, assaulted by a mysterious rider, bears his son and then rides out in pursuit of him after he returns to steal the child away from her), "The Rending Dark" by Emma Bull (the first professional sale by the later author of War for the Oaks: A Novel), "Gimmile's Songs" by Charles Saunders (a Dahomean Amazon discovers romance and adventure in a very fantastical way), "The Valley of the Troll" by Charles deLint (a classic s&s tale by an author who later became best known for his "Newford" urban fantasies), "Blood of Sorcery" by Jennifer Roberson (a Cheysuli story set in the Universe of Shapechangers (Chronicles of the Cheysuli, Bk. 1) and its sequels), "With Four Lean Hounds" by Pat Murphy (a clearly fairy-tale-derived story of a young thief who discovers her roots and sets herself against her mother), Diana L. Paxson's "Sword of Yraine" (an introductory story featuring the author's best-known character, warrior-princess Shanna), Michael Ward's humorous tall tale "Daton and the Dead Things" (in which a nameless female warrior finds herself re-enacting Odysseus's encounter with the Cyclops), and Robin W. Bailey's "Child of Orcus" (based upon the historical fact that the Emperor Nero put female gladiators into the arena). Like much short fiction, these often have the weakness that space won't permit much exposition, and you may find yourself wanting to know more about the characters or their world. But they're all well done, with plenty of action and enough "strong women" to please anyone. This first in the series definitely promised well for those that followed it.
And she was perfectly correct in suggesting I start from the..well, start. Marion Zimmer Bradley was always a author, and editor, of high standards. She wanted to stay away from the White Male Sexism Fantasy but without going the other way and publishing a lot of Feminist Propaganda. As she herself pointed out in the introduction. While there are a few rape and revenge stories in the mix, some she allowed herself to add only after careful reading of those stories, she has done a great job as picking stories from the cream of the fantasy world, from well known authors to, at the time, new comers. I was VERY happy to see one of the first stories by Charles R. Saunders starring one of my favorite female characters, Dossouye, in the story Gimmile's Songs. I enjoyed all the stories and may look up the authors I haven't heard of before. Always nice to find new worlds or characters I may enjoy reading about! As this book was printed in 1984 there should be a LOT of work already out there by many of this, at the time, upcoming authors. Enjoy!
May I also suggest Amazons!?