The Law of Wolves: A Short Fable by Schuyler Hernstrom

lawofwolves

Two years ago I was brought out of my crap-fantasy induced ennui when I discovered Cirsova and the budding indy scene that was beginning to develop around that awesome magazine. The top issue, so far unsurpassed, was Cirsova #5. The centerpiece was Schuyler Hernstrom’s The First American. It blew my fucking mind. Here, after all this time searching for that elusive fantasy goodness I craved I finally found an author that delivered.

I immediately looked him up and bought his short story collection Thune’s Vision. Pure fucking metal.

This is hands down one of the best short story collections I’ve read in a long time. Hernstrom writes like a savage clone abomination of Robert Howard and Jack Vance. Barbarians, reptilians, shamans, witches, walking dead, and all sorts of dark gonzo madness fill the pages of this collection. Thune’s Vision is the Fantasy version of an underground death metal LP that you can only pick up at an invite-only exclusive show held in some cave in the middle of a dark wood. I read the whole collection in one sitting and immediately had to run to the gym to knock out a few sets of deadlifts so I could feel somewhat worthy. Read it now.
Last year I was fortunate enough to get a chance to check out an early draft of one of his stories, The Law of Wolves. It was the best short story I’ve read all year. It stuck with me and I thought about it and its critically important moral numerous times since reading it.
Finally a few weeks ago Hernstrom decided to publish it along with the first in a series of Mutant & Motorcycle post-apocalyptic novellas called Mortu and Kyrus in the White City.
The Law of Wolves is Hernstrom’s at his best. His take on the traditional Medieval European fable through a lens tinted by Lord Dunsany and Black Metal. The Law of Wolves is a moral fable that tells the truth, a much-needed antidote to the diabetes-inducing fantasy force fed to us by the House of Mouse. The Law of Wolves is a story about the price of turning your back on family, duty, and tradition. An honest truth about what happens when you play with fire, or in this case wolves.
Schuyler Hernstrom is the best independent fantasy writer out there. Read his collection Thunes Vision, read Mortu and Kyrus, and most of all read The Law of Wolves.

Cirsova Magazine

If you follow this blog or my other online rants you might remember that three years ago I almost completely gave up on new Fantasy and Science Fiction. I waded through endless endless idiotic short stories, nihilistic postmodern trash. The standard garbage in modern anthologies and magazines. I was so sick of modern SFF that most of 2016 I only read nonfiction, mystery, crime, and police procedurals. I even left American writers behind and spent a lot of time reading Nordic Noir.cirsova

Then I discovered Cirsova Magazine and my love of Fantasy was rekindled. Issue Five was my favorite, outstanding stuff. Raw and exciting, I felt like I was re-discovering the genre again. The two standouts were Misha Burnette and Schuyler Hernstrom. After all this time searching I finally found short stories that were exactly what I wanted to read. Work that challenged me and brought back the love of Fantasy that left me due to the nihilistic poison I imbibed for so long.

Discovering Cirsova was great, not just for the fantastic stories, but for the supporting community. Finally, I found readers and writers that loved the same kind of Fantasy that I’ve always loved. On top of that, connecting with other writers who share the same influences yet come from different backgrounds has completely changed the way I approach my own writing and opened my eyes to some fantastic fiction I would have missed otherwise.

Cirsova is now entering a new era and I highly recommend that you go ahead and grab all the back issues. Some of the best underground indy SFF writing around. Get the latest issue right here!

You can find my writing in another pulp magazine that is newer on the scene but just as solid, Storyhack. Well worth the read.

 

 

Pre-Tolkien Challenge: The Sword of Welleran

PreTolkien

I decided to start the challenge by going back to the beginning of the 20th century by reading Lord Dunsany’s The Sword of Welleran. Edward Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany, is considered by many the father of modern fantasy and credited as a major influence by Lovecraft, Tolkien, Howard, and even contemporary writers like Neil Gaiman.Dunsaney

The Sword of Welleran is his most popular short story and hands down one of the best, if not the best fantasy short stories I have ever read. These past two weeks I went back and re-read it several times and even listened to an audio version. Lovecraft said that Dunsany was the greatest prose writer of the day, after reading this story I agree.

The Sword of Welleran is about a magnificent city, a city of pure beauty, the city of Merimna.

I have never seen a city in the world so beautiful as Merimna seemed to me when first I dreamed of it. It was a marvel of spires and figures of bronze, and marble fountains, and trophies of fabulous wars, and broad streets given over wholly to the Beautiful. Right through the centre of the city there went an avenue fifty strides in width, and along each side of it stood likenesses in bronze of the Kings of all the countries that the people of Merimna had ever known.

It was a proud city built by war and protected by its ferocious and honorable heroes, Welleran, Soorenard, Mommolek, Rollory, Akanax, and young Iraine. Heroes that now are long dead and the current inhabitants have become ignorant about the art of war. They wonder the magnificent streets dreaming about the ancient ways, dressed like the warriors of the past, but in fear of the outside world.

But there was one young boy,

He was five years old, and they stood before the great glass casket wherein lay the sword of Welleran, and his mother said: “The sword of Welleran.” And Rold said: “What should a man do with the sword of Welleran?” And his mother answered: “Men look at the sword and remember Welleran.” And they went on and stood before the great red cloak of Welleran, and the child said: “Why did Welleran wear this great red cloak?” And his mother answered: “It was the way of Welleran.”

He dreamt of Welleran and the heroes, and he dreamt of a time when men were brave and defended Merimna.

Outside the city walls, the old enemies congregated, they began to realize that the heroes were gone, that no real men lived in Merimna that could stand up to their hordes. So they came, they came in the night.

Then the sun set, and it was the hour when the bats and the dark creatures are abroad and the lions come down from their lairs, and the desert robbers go into the plains again, and fevers rise up winged and hot out of chill marshes, and it was the hour when safety leaves the thrones of Kings, the hour when dynasties change.

Check out that line, wow, it sent chills down my spine. The short story ends in with a magnificent and moving climax that left me feeling completely inadequate about my writing.

But most of all it made me think about heroism, honor, duty, home, country, and family. This short, 10,000-word story moved me. Published in 1908 yet completely applicable today. Merimna, a beautiful culture built by honorable strong men whos descendants enjoy its glory but have forgotten how to lift a sword in her defense from the hordes of barbarians outside ready to plunder.

The theme of a magnificent martial civilization in decline is all over Tolkiens work. Gondor is Merimna, and the theme of having to embrace the violence a hero abhors to protect your home.

At the end of Welleran you have this amazing line, one of the greatest in all fantasy literature:

And Rold said: “O sword, sword! How horrible thou art! Thou art a terrible thing to have come among men. How many eyes shall look upon gardens no more because of thee? How many fields must go empty that might have been fair with cottages, white cottages with children all about them? How many valleys must go desolate that might have nursed warm hamlets, because thou hast slain long since the men that might have built them? I hear the wind crying against thee, thou sword! It comes from the empty valleys. It comes over the bare fields. There are children’s voices in it. They were never born. Death brings an end to crying for those that had life once, but these must cry for ever. O sword! sword! why did the gods send thee among men?” And the tears of Rold fell down upon the proud sword but could not wash it clean.

This line is echoed years later in Lord of the Rings, spoken by Faramir:

“War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.”

I honestly came to the challenge and expected to read a few fun stories, sword and sorcery types. Instead, I read Dunsany and everything I thought I knew about fantasy was demolished. I’ve spent the last two weeks devouring his work and won’t stop until I’m done with everything I can find. Reading modern fantasy without going back to Dunsany is like eating just a bit of frosting and some sprinkles instead of the whole magnificent piece of cake.

So, stop what you are doing, put on some headphones, turn some music on, and read Sword of Welleran.

But I’m warning you, once you dive into greatness modern junk becomes unbearable. Trying to read shit like Crapfuss after Dunsany will feel like a teenager listening to Britney Spears after discovering The Ramones.

 

Pre-Tolkien Fantasy Challange Roundup: Part II

PreTolkien

We are on week three of the Pre-Tolkien Challenge and the whole adventure has been very successful. A lot of great people have joined up and written about their favorite fantasy work from a great era of fiction. Check some of it here in the Pre-Tolkien Challenge Roundup: Part I.

Reading the classics of Fantasy and Science Fiction, writing about the great stories and great authors, and having good discussions is critical now more than ever. The relentless Cult of Resentment is constantly attacking every single pillar of our civilization and culture. Today the festering anal fissure of science fiction and fantasy Tor.com vomited another “problematic” book burning screed where the author flat out said that Lovecraft should never be recommended and that Tolkien makes him uncomfortable. Read the garbage here.

Of course once you look deeper you realize that the writer of the piece is a fantasy author himself. A creepy, balding, gummy creep with a pedoface like no other. He shits on the classics, shits on Tolkien and then hustles creepy cheap Narnia ripoff YA. Described by Kirkus “paid” reviews as “Madeline is white and blonde, Jason is Chinese-American, and their culturally diverse friend group in the Sunlit Lands includes an Apsáalooke and a Native Hawaiian boy. For Narnia fans who enjoy heavy snark, this is a must-read.”Check that part out Narnia fans who enjoy heavy SNARK. 

These two bit poverty pimp hustlers want to memory-hole and destroy the greats of our genre and replace their work with their own cheap soulless garbage. This example being Tor.com is appropriate, after all, Tor is the home of John Scalzi, the scribe of resentment who made a career rewriting Hadelman, Heinlein, Herbert, and Piper, but snarky. Fuck snarky. Nobody likes snarky. The snarky teenage girl trope was invented by pedo 80s movie writers. It isn’t real except maybe in the damaged mind of former child actors.

So, yes fellow pulp warriors. This isn’t just a fun exercise where we blog about our favorite stories. This is us taking the field against enemies that hate everything we love.

So, without further commentary, check out these posts:

Once again, these posts are awesome. I’m sure I’ve missed a few, so I will go through all my Twitter mentions and comments, and I have a few more of my own pending. Lets keep the conversation going. Lets talk about what made the old pulps and the old writers great. Because if we don’t we cede the ground to people like the Tor crowd who are hell bent on tearing down and destroying.

 

Tolkien and Modernity — Jeffro’s Space Gaming Blog

Part two of Jeffro going hard on Tolkien. Good convo in the comments and across Twitter.


Tolkien was ahead of his time. And that’s precisely what I object to about him. And you know it’s real. People experience a culture shock when they go look up his forgotten contemporaries that they don’t with his work. You can see it, too, in where people struggle with him. I tend to like the […]

via Tolkien and Modernity — Jeffro’s Space Gaming Blog