Fantasy Newsletter is, as best I can determine, no more. I am making an effort to contact Dr. Elliot, who conducted this interview. If you have contact information I will soon have an email link to an account I intend to set up just for this page (spam, you know).
Interview with Karl Wagner by Dr. Elliot, July 1981
Karl Edward Wagner
Dr. Jeffrey Elliot
Born December 12, 1945, in Knoxville, Tennessee, Karl Edward Wagner is the youngest of four children (one sister, two brothers). His parents, Aubrey Joseph Wagner and Dorathea Johanna timber) Wagner, were both graduates of the University of Wisconsin. A self-made man, his father moved to Knoxville in 1934 to work for the Tennessee Valley Authority; he retired as chairman of the board of directors of TVA in 1978.
Karl Wagner grew up in Knoxville, attending Central High School there. He went on to Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, receiving his A.B. (cum laude) in history, and graduating Phi Beta Kappa.
In fall, 1963, Wagner moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina ‘There he attended the University of North Carolina School of Medicine graduating from that institution in 1974 with his M.D. The following year Wagner took his residency in psychiatry at the John Omstead Hospi tel in Buttner, North Carolina. While in medical school he participated in a Ph.D. program in neurobiology at the University, of North Carolina.
Not currently practicinq, Wagner makes his living as a full-time free-lance writer, He began writing for publication in 1960. His first sale, Darkness Weaves, was published in 1970 by Powell Publications. Since then, he has published numerous works, among them, Death Angel’s Shadow, Bloodstone, Dark Crusade, Night Winds, Legion from the Shadows, and The Road of Kings. Forthcoming volumes include, In the Wake of the Night. Queen of the Night, and In a Lonely Place.
In addition to the above, Wagnor has edited the authorixed Conan series for Berkiey/Putnam: The Hour of the Dragon, The People of the Black Circle, and Red Nails.
He is also the editor of The Year‘s Best Horror Stories, an annual collection from DAW Books, beginning with Series VIII. The editor of Carcosa, a small press book publishing project, he is a regular columnist for Fantasy Newsletter. In addition to his American sales, his work has been published in Britain, Cernany, and Italy, and he has had stories translatecl into French and Dutch as well.
A leadinq writer in the fantasy field, he is the recipient of numerous awards, chief of which are the British Fantasy Award (Best Short Story) in 1975 for his tale, “Sticks,” and again in 1976 for “Two Suns Setting.” In addition he was awarded the World Fantasy Award (for Caroosa) in 1976 and Thu Phoenix Award in 1978.
Karl Edward Wagner and his wife, Barbara Ruth (Mott) Wagner, reside in Chapel Hill, where they share their home with their German shepherd, Kelly, and black cat, Shakespeare. When he is not writing, Wagner enjoys films, guns, cars, football, rock music, fishing travel and Jack Daniels Black Label.
Elliot, Why, after completing your residency in psychiatry, did you choose to pursue writing as a career as opposed to going into practice?
Wagner: It’s kind of a long Story. I had always wanted to write
fulltime. I’d been trying, ever since I was a freshman in high school,
to get stories published. I was realistic enough about it to understand
that, in the first place, I might never get anything published, and, in the
second place, if I did, It could be awfully hard to make a living.
So, I planned on going into medicine from high school days, too. I thought
that it would be a lucrative career, and that it would furnish me with material
I kept writing all through college and into medical school. When I was a first-year medical student, I would cut labs and stay back in the dorm and work on Kane stories that I was trying to sell at the time. I was trying to sell Kane stories all through high School and college, too, but with no success.
About the time I finished my second year of medical school, I finally sold my first book, Darkness Weaves. The summer that Powell bought the book from me, I was living in a log cabin in the North Carolina mountains, working in a medical clinic. I thought, “Fine. I sold a book. That’s good. I might be able to write as a hobby or something. Well, I then sold a second book during my third year of medical school (which is the worst year, as anyone who has been through medical school can tell you). Paperback Library bought Death Anqet’s Shadow and expressed interest in another Kane book I was trying to complete at the time, Bloodstone. That was at the end of my third year of medical school and- .1. had lost patience with that Scene.
This was 1969 to 1970 - the height of student activism. I was into a lot of other ideas and things that my classmates weren’t into. The situation in medical school was incredibly repressive in terms of any kind of intellectual freedom. One of my classmates wore a black armband after the Kent State massacre and was told he was going to have to take his surgery rotation over again - nine weeks of pure hell - just because he was demonstrating interest in something other than medicine. That was the way medical school was, and I just didn’t want any part of it. So I dropped out of medical school to finish Bloodstone.
I did a brief stint in a Ph. D. neurobiology program, and decided, “To hell with that, I don’t need to be a student. I can be a ful- time writer. “I spent about eight months working full-time to complete Bloodstone. At that point, Warner bought what had then been Paperback Library from Coronet Communications. The editor remained the same; she had liked the Kane books, but the new owner decided that they would phase out their science fiction line because it wasn’t very profitable for them.
I got a letter from my editor saying, “This is the saddest letter I ever hope to write. 1 am returning the manuscript for Btoodatone, unread. We are unable to buy it. I’m not even sure that we’ll ever publish Death Anger’s Shadow.” This was the spring of 1971. All of a sudden, my budding literary career just came crashing down on my head.
I spent about two years working on other books, trying to sell them to other publishers, with no success at all. Death Angel’s Shadow finally came out in the summer of 1971, and it sank like a stone, the same way Darkness Weaves had done three years previously. No one noticed it. Sales were terrible. After a couple of years of trying to make it as a writer, with my parents being very patient and supporting me, I decided that it was time to realize that it wasn’t going to work: that I would go back to medical school, and grow up and earn a living. So I went back to medical school, figuring that my literary career was all washed up.
Instead, Death Angel’s Shadow evidently did well enough that Warner Books finally decided to spring for Bloodstone. Bloodstone, due to some fortuitous circumstance, was graced with a Frank Frazetta cover. Because it had a Frazetta cover, it sold very well, and Warner decided that they wanted some more Kane books. Meanwhile, I had obtained an agent, and he had arranged for me to do some Bran Mak Morn pastiches for Zebra flocks. By now, I had graduated from medical school, was in the middle of a residency in psychiatry, and had sold two books that I hadn’t even written yet. Even psychiatry, despite what other M.D.’s will say, is too demanding a profession to allow you to have the concentration you need for writing, and certainly for writing novels. I had to make a choice then whether to drop my practice, write full-time, or else tell my agent, “Well, I guess I’m just not going to have time to do these books. I’m sorry.”
This was one of those times, I felt, when I had to lay aside the small securities and do what I wanted with my life, instead. Otherwise, I could see myself twenty years down the road ~ a nice, prosperous pyschiatrist somewhere, sitting around at a cocktail party, listening to someone mentioning that so-and-so had just sold a book, and then saying to someone, “Oh, yes, I once could have made it as a writer,” and he would smile politely and wonder when this silly old fart was going to shut up.
I knew that I had an M.D., and that I could always be a psychiatrist. If there were publishers around, I thought, who really wanted to buy my stuff, I had better strike while they were still crazy! So I quit medicine and started writing full-time. I’ve been doing that for three years now, and 1 haven’t regretted that decision for a minute,
Elliot: What are the major psychological rewards you derive from writing?
Wagner. Probably the most obvious one, I think, is the boost to
your ego, whether it’s realized on the conscious level or not. To begin
with, a person has to have a fairly powerful ego to think that anything he
writes down is worth someone else’s attention to read. If you think
you’re creating something that’s worth other people’s atention,
then when you finally do convince a publisher somewhere that people
would like to see this, and the book is published and people are nice enough
to buy it and say that it’s a pretty good book, you get a nice little
On other levels, there’s something to be said for knowing that a story or a book you’ve written has impressed someone enough to give them a nightmare, or to make them want to write themselves, or just to send you a letter saying, “Boy, that sure was a good book. I read it in half an hour!’ You feel like you’re doing something that’s worthwhile and that people appreciate it. That’s one of the things, I might add, that you don’t get in psychiatry. Psychiatry is the one medical specialty where your patients don’t thank you. There were too many manic-depressives who would say to me, when I was trying to get them to taper off their manic phase on lithium, “Doc, why do you want me to come down to your level?,” or schizophrenics who argued, “I’m perfectly happy the way I am. Why do you want me to think otherwise?” And I couldn’t really come up with a good answer to that, which is another reason that I decided to do something else for a while.
Elliot: Why did you choose to write fantasy, as opposed to some other form of literature?
Wagner: It was always my favorite stuff to read. That goes back
to Grim’s fairy tales and Norse myths, which were considered good
reading for children since they didn’t contain sex and violence
and horrible things like that.
As a kid, in addition to having been brought up on gruesome fairy tales, I was fond of horror comic books. This was in the early ‘SOs. before the Comics Code Authority took all the violence Out of comic books. They were always my favorite ones, probably because my parents wouldn’t let me buy them, and I had to read other people‘s copies, or sit around the comic stand and read them until tire manager would throw me out of the store. There’s something about fantasy that appeals to most people. Maybe they outgrow it, or have it drummed out of them at a certain stage in their adult lives, but fantasy gives free rein to your imagination, and it also has the ability to frighten you. Everyone likes scary stories and ghost stories, especially kids. On a camping trip, you would sit around tine fire and tell spooky stories. You can sit around as an adult and think back on the books you road as a kid. Most of them - the ones that were good stories for children about good little boys and good little girls and had happy endings - you‘ve completely forgotten. You remember tire stories that frightened you, the soy te that von weren’t supposed to see that gave you a nightmare. Terror is a very profound emotion. Imagination is a talent that’s fun to employ. When you put the two of them together, you create an imaginative setting in which the reader can be thrilled or terrified.
Elliot. Did your formal academic training - which was fairly traditional - hinder your development as a writer?
often wondered about that. I don’t think it really hurt me. There were times when
I might rave been writing or doing something more enjoyable instead of studying
stuff that didn’t interest me. But then, anything that you do in life
can be valuable to a writer. Look at someone like Theodore Sturgeon,
for example, who held all sorts of different jobs early on. At one point,
he operated a bulldozer, and later he wrote a story called “Killdozer,” which
I think is one of the five or six best modern horror stories, if he had never
operated a bulldozer, be probably wouldn’t have written that story
To are, the a atmosphere of modern medicine is stifling, and medical education is a dehumanizing experience. But then, I had come into medicine from a liberal arts background. In some fumbling way, I was trying to follow the Renaissance ideal of the man who can write prose with one hand and take out an appendix with the other. This, at one point, was the ideal: the well-rounded man. One of my history professors said very gruffly to me during graduation activities, “Well, here’s young Mr. Wagner, who’s going to go out and attempt to bridge the gap between the arts and sciences.“ I’m not sure that I bridged any gap, hut I certainly stumbled into the ditch midway between.
The medical background, th~ discipline itself, is useful. Most people don’t understand that being a writer doesn’t mean that you stay home all day and goof off. Writing is awfully hard work. Few things are more frightening than sitting down at a desk and looking at a big ream of blank typewriter paper, and realizing that you have to put words that make sense on every single page of that paper before your job will be done. There’s lot of mechanical drudgery as well as intellectual effort that’s called for in writing. Any kind of good formal education will give you training and self-discipline. The difference is instead of writing a term paper for a professor, you‘re writing a book for an editor somewhere. Even worse, once the editor takes it, you’re going to have tens of thousands of readers out there who are going to pass judgment on it. Of course, by the time that they decide they don’t like it, they’ve already bought the book, so you’ve gotten yours! It’s nice, however, to have them think that their $1.95 was well spent.
The only time I’ve tried to use my medical background for a story was in one called “The Fourth Seal,” in which I drew upon some Iectures on epidemiology about the cyclical nature of the plagues that strike mankind. For dialogue and characters, I drew upon conversations that I had had with any colleagues during labs and after rounds, that sort of thing. This story, for all its factual medical background, was rejected by the first two editors who saw it. One of them said it was a pretty good story, but the ideas in it were just too far-fetched to be true. Another editor looked at the tale and commented that it was a pretty good story, bunt that the characters just didn’t ring true, and had I ever listened to a real maniac talk before... Stuart Schiff at Whispers, maybe because he was a dentist and had enough medical background to appreciate the true horror of the story, bought it. The lesson from this is that if I want to write stories about immortal warriors, werewolves, vampires, and sorcerers - can get away with that. If I try a factual background, it’s too unbelievable for people to buy!
Elliot: Despite the difficulty in placing the story, do you find that your knowledge of psychology proves helpful when it comes to creating believable characters?
think it’s useful. A criticism that is frequently leveled against
writers, especially in science fiction and fantasy, is that their characters
are unbelievable because the writers themselves are shy, retiring types
who don’t relate to the real world. You’ve got some writer trying
to describe brawny barbarian soldiers sitting around a bar and getting drunk,
and perhaps this writer is a person who doesn’t drink and would never
go into a bar, and if he did, it would never be with rough types like that.
Or you have people writing torrid love scenes who are Casper Milquetoast
In psychiatry, you see a lot of people’s minds spread Out before you, like someone has broken open a television set for you to put back together. You see certain aspects exaggerated and thought processes that are really bizarre. When you see things in an exaggerated form, it makes them easier to understand when you see them in a more subtle form. When you sit in a room and talk with a paranoid- schizophrenic for an hour or so, you know how the thought processes of paranoia work within the brain. Paranoids are usually very well put-together people. They can be very rational within their fantasies, as opposed to most schizophrenics who have such complete disintegration of the personality that talking to them is like paging through a phone book or catalog at random and pulling out a sentence here and there. You can understand thought processes better by seeing them in bizarre, exaggerated forms. A physician understands the human body because he has learned how to heal it. A psychiatrist learns about the human mind as he attempts to heal it.
Elliot: What are the salient characteristics of a Karl Edward Wagner book? What qualities make it distinctive?
Waqner: The character of Kane makes those books distinctive
and sets their tone. In the Kane books, there is no clear—cut good
or evil, as opposed to Michael Moorcock’s Elric, with whom Kane is
sometimes compared. However, Moorcock is very much obsessed with the forces
of law versus chaos, order versus evil, light versus darkness. That’s
a nice fantasy universe, hut it certainly isn’t very realistic.
In the Kane books, there is no good or evil, other than in the eye of the beholder. Kane’s actions are often despicable, and other times they’re laudable, depending on your point of view. He’s certainly more of a demonic than a heroic figure. Actually, he’s not even the hero of the books. Usually, there’s another character in the book or story who’s sort of a reader—identification character, somewhat less inhuman than Kane. The demonic nature of Kane, I think, appeals to a lot of people. It’s something very much different.
When I created the character of Kane in high school, it was in part a reaction to a lot of things that I’d read that I didn’t particularly like. I’d read all the Burroughs stuff - the Martian books and the Tarzan novels. His characters, John Carter or Tarzan, are too Simon-pure. You can predict that if some person should save John Carter’s life, then John Carter is going to be his friend forever. Forty-two chapters later they’re going to meet in the arena and John Carter is going to refuse to kill the other guy and they’ll battle their way out of the arena and go on to rescue yet another princess.
Kane, on the other hand, in Bloodstone, has his life saved by a soldier, and then kills the man because there’s a chance that this person might interfere with Kane‘s plans. Kane is an immortal, which makes his point of view and motivations entirely different from those of normal humans, or even those of normal villains. Still, the people that Kane is involved with are frequently despicable types. Kane, being very good at destruction. often manages to wipe out enough of the unsavory types to be considered a hero. But it’s not being done for the purpose of righting wrongs. It’s being done for Kane’s 050 purposes.
Perhaps Kane is a hero for the ‘60s or ‘7Os, the way Conan was very much a pulp hero. Where Conan succeeds - and this is where Howard’s genius came through despite all the pulp taboos and editorial meddlings - is that Conan was a very, very dangerous person. He is a barbarian, and he acts according to his own code of honor. Farnsworth Wright, editor of Weird Tales, mistakenly considered Conan a chivalrous hero, and he rejected two of the Conan stories that had Conan trying to rape the female leads, instead of rescuing them. If I had tried to write about Kane in the ‘30s, I don’t think I could have gotten anyone to publish him. Certainly, not in the pulps. Possibly some hardcover publisher night have thought that Kane would make a good arch-fiend, like Fu Manchu, but I would have had to include a series hero to battle Kane all through the books.
There’s a change in popular taste, today. Take westerns, for example-the corny matinee movies compared to the modern western films. A lot of people say that heroic fantasy is the western of the science fiction~fantasy field - good guys in white hats, bad guys in black hats, with a shootout at the end. Everything’s swell, the farmer’s daughter is rescued, and the hero rides out of town, looking for new adventures. There are probably some fantasy writers who write like that. Kane is more like what Sam Peckinpah might have in mind. Kane is a brother of The Wild Bunch, as opposed to The Lone Ranger Rides Again.
Elliot: In the past, you’ve described your work as “acid Gothic.” Could you define the term? How is it reflected in your writing?
Waqner: It was probably more a bit of whimsy than anything
else to call it that. John Mayer always liked that term. It nay be appropriate.
What I was trying to say is that it’s an attempt to write Gothic fiction
in the sense of the Gothic trappings of dark atmosphere, heavy mood, supernatural
happenings, but yet do it with modern approach and technique. I called it “acid” because,
at the time, the inspiration of LSD and a few other things were starting
to crystallize the images that I wanted to reproduce in my writing.
In the Gothic novel, there really isn’t a hero, certainly not in
the modern sense of the hero in fiction. The hero-villain is
the chief protagonist, and while he’s portrayed as a person who is
admirable for his heroic qualities (that’s heroic in the grand
scale sense, not the dime novel sense), on the other hand, he’s an
evil person, in the sense of Christian morality, at any rate, Kane is that
sort of character.
I was interested in the Gothic novel. I liked them because they were excellent horror novels, and they were written in a sort of imaginary medieval world setting. I see myself more as a writer of horror stories than I do as a heroic fantasy writer. What I wanted to do with Kane was to write Gothic horror stories.
It seems today that in order to be known as a horror writer, you must always set your stories in small New England towns, or California towns, or New York City. You have your typical American family enmeshed in strange, shadowy horrors, nightmares, witchcraft, and stuff. That’s been done well and poorly, but it’s certainly been done enough.
In Death Angel’s Shadow , I used Gothic vampires and werewolves in an epic fantasy story. At the time, I thought it hadn’t been one. As it turned out, it had been done in century by Creenbough and later by Crockett. but I didn’t know that until years later. Instead of writing a werewolf story that was set in Los Angeles, I wrote a werewolf story in a heroic Fantasy milieu with Gothic trappings. So “acid Gothic” was an attempt to merge different genres, different motifs, different concepts, unto a synthesis that hadn’t been done before, using modern writing ideas and experimental techiiilques.
Elliot: In what ways have your experiences with, LSD and other mind-altering drugs proven artistically enlarging?
Wagncr: You don’ t nave to look
further than Coleridge, for example, for the strong effect of opium on
the imagination. Writers are frequently trying mind-altering experiences.
One age, it’s opium, another age, it’s absinthe. Hashish was
very big at one point. Marijuana was the clandestine drug of tine ‘‘lost
generation.“ At one point, bootleg hooch, was big. In the ‘60s.
LSD dominated the scene, and had advantages over in lot of the others
I think the main thing that it did was that it tended to alter your perceptions. You aren‘t opening the doors of perception, but you’re altering perception so that you’re seeing reality from a different point of view. It’s getting the different perspective, the different view, that enhances your understanding of significances and relationships.
It’s like the old story about the blind men trying to describe tine elephant, each one hanging onto a different portion of its anatomy, and saying. “An elephant is like a snake,” “An elephant is like a wall.” “An elephant is like a tree. With mind-expanding drugs, after you’ve been hanging onto the elephant’s foot, you go apart from yourself and see the whole elephant.
A lot of writers - Lovecraft is an example - have said they’ve gotten visions in dreams that they’ve later used for stories. You don’t dream a novel or trip a novel, but you maybe get an inspiration. In a story that I did, “The Dark Muse,” the opening passage was an acid trip. The final chapter of Dark Crusade. “In the Lair of Yslsl,” is a collection of all the bad trips that I could think of at the time. That’s the acid coming into the Gothic. If I had been writing during prohibition, my nightmarish happenings in some of the Kane books night have been due to hangovers from bathtub gin.
Elliot: Does your fiction contain a personal message? Do you write with that objective in mind?
Wagner: Yes. I try not to make it as horribly obtrusive as a “message,” but
there are little bits that people can pick up on. Kane is written to be
enjoyed on multiple levels. Some people will pick up a Kane book for
a good, quick action read. Other people will want to look a bit deeper
and find other things, whether it’s an in-joke, a head-game, or some
of my own philosophy of life. The antiwar motif is recurrent in the
Kane books, which makes the gratuitous violence charge an interesting criticism.
Dark Crusade, which is probably the most intricate of the books. includes sin epigraph from William Blake’s London: “And the hapless Soldier’s sigh Runs in blood down Palace walls.” Dark Crusade is about that: ordinary people who are caught up in the cogs of society, of a social movement, which they have no control over. You must either conform or die. If you do conform, you’re destroyed by becoming one of the soulless members of a mass Society. War is the means to power. Those who hold the power reap its rewards; those who win that power for them earn only slavery and death.
Kane’s ally and eventual chief antagonist in Dark Crusade, Orted Ak-Ceddi, was based on Billy Graham and Richard Nixon - a religious zealot with mass political power and no scruples about increasing his power. (The Vietnam War and Watergate were all too real when I was writing Dark Crusade.) After the final battle, Orted escapes, the leader who has brought about the slaughter of millions of people. Some fans speculated from this that I must be planning on writing a sequel. Well, I wasn’t. On the contrary, Death Angel’s Shadow, published three years earlier, mentions in the first story that Kane eventually caught up with Orted and killed him. Kane did this for his own purposes, though; he had been double-crossed and wanted revenge. He wasn’t trying to right wrongs. The point I was making by having Orted escape is that the leaders are never punished. In war, the leaders never go out and die, the generals stay at their desks, the politicians stay in the State House. but they keep sending the soldiers out to die for the causes that they believe inn. At the end of tire war, the generals shake hands and go out to plot other wars. The politicians are re-elected, or else go off to San Clemente and live off the taxpayers. In war, it’s the soldiers who suffer and the civilians who suffer, while the leaders who start the wars reap the profits and share none of the risks.
Efliot; In Night Winds, one of your stories contains the line “Security equals boredom equals stagnation equals death.” Is this also part of your own personal philosophy?
Wagner; Yes, that’s a bit of my philosophy. Also, it’s
a part of the underlying philosophy 0f the Kane series. In a settled existence,
nothing changes, and, if it can‘t change, it eventually
deteriorates. A society or civilization can exist for only so long, then
it has to undergo so severe a transformation that it results in the
disruption of that society in order to move onto another level.
Kane is a motive force. He may be destructive, but wherever he goes, things have changed when he’s gone. He’s like a comet or a glacier. No matter how well entrenched the status quo, once Kane becomes involved, there’ll be some changes made.
that statement? [sic; looks like a misprint in the original publication]
It’s a philosophy that might have grown Out of the late ‘60s, when there was a tremendous feeling of individual helplessness in the face of society. The Vietnam War was kind of the culmination of that - being sent off by a society you detested to defend that society for a cause that was against your principles (and immoral even according to the principles of that society), and being powerless to do anything because you were only an individual against am entire society. You had a feeling that this was going to go on and on, and that the only way you were going to stop it was to tear it all down. There’s still a feeling of desperation - that when a situation is intolerable, it must be changed, and if violence will change it, so be it.
Elliot: You’ve said that the “raw material” for
your books comes ‘mostly from a mood… rather than an idea.” What
did you mean by that?
Wagner: There are various approaches to writing a story. One is to write “idea stories”: get an idea for a story, plot it out, write it down. On the other hand, I usually write to create a certain mood - often as a response to having experienced that mood. An example would be “Mirage,” a vampire story in Death Angel’s Shadow.
The inspiration came while doing acid and listening to an album by one of the early psychedelic rock groups, Ultimate Spinach. “Sing a Last Song of Valdese,” one of the stories in Night Winda, grew out of a mood I experienced in the North Carolina mountains. Obray Ramsey was playing some mountain ballads on his banjo, and I was probably crocked on White Lightning at the time. While he was singing, I suddenly got this flash - an eerie feeling of the dark mountains and the loneliness of lost love. Rather than simply tell a story, I’m trying to recreate a mood or an emotion. I’m more interested in atmosphere than action, both in what I read and what I write. If a story achieves the moment that I want, then I’m satisfied.
There are some people who will argue that a sword and sorcery story always has to have some mighty warrior in the center stage, brainlessly hacking and thewing all about him at all tines. Well, Kane’s not that type of character, and I’m not that type of writer. I try to write the sort of stories that would interest me if I were reading them, and, if I’m lucky, maybe someone else will find the stories of interest, too.
Elliot: In the past, you’ve taken umbrage with the term “sword and sorcery.” Why?
Wagner: It’s simply labeling
the genre with the clichés that too many people see as being heroic
fantasy’s hackneyed limits. You might as well call it “blood
and thunder,” or “thud and blunder,” even. It’s
like calling all mystery stories “whodunits” or “cops
and robbers,“ or calling all westerns “horse opera.” or
calling all science fiction “space opera.” To condemn an entire
genre for the clichés of one trivial aspect of it, I find very irritating.
I know a lot of science fiction fans and writers hate the tern “Sci-fi.”
“Sword and sorcery” conjures an image of yarns about girls in brass bras who are in constant danger of losing then, and mighty warriors with eighteen—foot—long swords killing wizards and monsters faster than thought. A sword fight every other page, kill a monster every other chapter, and rescue a girl at the end - there’s your sword and sorcery yarn
Science fiction has gone a long, long ways past the old days of space pirates and bug-eyed monsters, even though the most successful things in science fiction lately have been space opera - Star Wars, for example. Science fiction itself, as a genre has become far more literary, far more innovative than standard space opera fare.
There’s also a lot more to epic fantasy or heroic fantasy than sword and sorcery. Would you call Tolkien’s work “sword and sorcery?” You could do that. You’d have to change the titles to something like “Frodo and the Magic Ring.” Covers and blurbs are never very descriptive, and they’re almost always misleading. Imagine something like “Frodo the Invincible,” with
[some text apparently missing here]
up a situation for a cliché, and then have violated the cliché.
There’s the one I mentioned in Bloodstone, where the
soldier saves Kane’s life, and then, a few pages later, Kane runs
a spear through his back. Kane was grateful for having his life saved,
but he didn’t want the guy to get in the way of something else.
The best example is “Undertow,” another story in the Night Winds collection, where your typical sword and sorcery barbarian comes to town and confronts Kane. Kane is playing the role of an evil sorcerer, in what would be a standard Sword and sorcery plot. I gave the barbarian hero a name I thought summed up all of the clichéd names: “Dragar.” About two years after I wrote the story, Dell Comics brought out a sword and sorcery comic book with a character named “Dagar” in it, so I must have been on the right track.
The hero in “Undertow” is a big, blond, fearless barbarian who comes into town and falls in love with a beautiful girl who is the captive of the evil sorcerer who has the entire town at his mercy. The barbarian has a magic sword and all the standard trappings. The difference is that the evil sorcerer he is up against is Kane, and not all is what it seems to be, including the girl that he falls in love with. The structure of “Undertow,” going back to mood stories, was based on Last Year at Marienbad, a French film that I saw and admired because it distorted linear time. The scenes are Out of sequence, and are frequently repeated from another character’s view of reality. In fact, the film was so disjointed that, when I originally saw it, they ran a couple of the reels out of sequence. No one noticed it at the time. “Undertow” is structured so that objective realities take precedence over linear time, creating a disjointed sequence of events, like the ebb and flow of a nightmare.
Interview with Karl Wagner by Dr. Elliot, July 1981 (Posting elements as time permits)
Dr. Jeffrey Elliot
INTERVIEW ~ Part II
Elliot; In one interview, you stated that, as a young reader, you often identified more with the villain in a story than with the hero. What is the psychological appeal of such characters?
Waqner; Anyone who analyzed that would probably say it was childhood
rebellion, adolescent rebellion, an identification with the aggressor.
Especially for young people, it‘s common that they identify with
the villain of the story. Without going into analytic detail, I always
liked the villains because they were the ones who were usually doing
something interesting in the story, who literally got the plot going. The
villains were kind of heroic figures to me.
Captain Nemo, in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, was one of my favorites. The movie must have cone out around the time I was pushing ten or eleven. I really identified with Captain Nemo. Here’s this guy who has lost his wife and family to some unspecified foreign power, but instead of being down in the dumps about it and deciding to join the monastery, he’s made himself an atomic submarine, and is cruising around having swell adventures, sinking his enemies’ ships right and left.
Then there was Peter Pan, the immortal bad boy. As a kid, I could identify with that. Peter Pan doesn’t have to go to school, doesn’t have to grow up. He can stay up all might if he wants to. He lives in Never-Never Land, fights pirates and consorts with mernaids and battles Indians, instead of having to get up in the morning and brush his teeth and go to school.
I can’t say whether everybody has this feeling of empathy with the villain or not; I know that a lot of people do. People will say to me, “I’m not really sure if I like Kane, but he certainly is fascinating.” Well, I hope he is fascinating, but I’m not really asking people to like him, like falling in love with Mark Hamill in Star Wars.
The villain, at least to me, is the most interesting character. In fact, Kane was my attempt to combine things that I liked in various villains. Other writers do it by combining things they like in various heroes. That could be what Ian Fleming did with James Bond. On the other hand the main strength of the James Bond books, and the movies, too, has been the villains.
As a rule, the villain is someone who is extremely intelligent - an expert criminal, an arch-fiend, a master genius - and who is somewhat weak, usually an old man.
Fu Manchu, for example, is one of my favorite villains. He always had to have henchmen do his dirty work, though. He could never really wade in there where the blood was thickest. and dispatch people with blows right and left. Sometimes, the villains are the big, dumb brutal ones - the Lee Marvin types. These are the heavies who have physical power, but no brains. And then there are the nice, little. suave, nasty villains, like Peter Lorre or Charles Laughton. for example, who can invite their victims to dinner, sit there drinking fine wines and quoting choice bits of poetry, and planning on vivisecting them within the next fifteen minutes before the soup is served.
Kane is a sort of combination of all of these. He’s a master genius, who also is powerful enough to handle his end of the fight and then some - and then, along with the intellectualism, has a psychotic streak in him, kind of a combination of Fu Manchu and Dracula and Billy the Kid, with maybe a touch of the giant from “Jack, the Giant Killer.”
I do see evidence that people tend to be more fascinated with the villain than the hero. You’d be hard—pressed to find anyone in the U.S. who hasn’t heard of Dracula, But if you ask the man in the street who Jonathan Harker is, virtually no one would know. You remember the arch-fiends, but the poor, beleaguered heroes who spend the whole novel trying to undo what the villain is doing, you can’t even recall their names.
Elliot: What makes Kane such a memorable character? Why is he so popular with readers?
Wagner: Any series character is going to get a following.
Collectors tend to be obsessive-compulsives who want the “entire
set.” Darkness Weaves, when it came out from Powell in 1970,
languished on a few porno stands and disappeared. Then, when Kane caught
on and people began finding out that there was an earlier Kane book that
no one had read, I had dealers tell me they had waiting lists of maybe
twenty-five customers wanting that hook.
Maybe Kane inspires a fanatical following, because he’s a different series character. A lot of people identify with a character who is a rebel and gets away with it. Kane is a character for the modern age, a unique character, not a pseudo-Frodo or a pseudo-Conan. Kane knows that he has been damned by his god. He’s not about to turn to religion and try to beg forgiveness. Next time God sees him coming, God better run.
Elliot: How do you view those critics who fault the Kane series for excessive violence? How legitimate is that charge?
Wagner: “Gratuitous violence,” I think, is
the term that has been used in association with Kane. I maintain that it’s
not gratuitous - it’s essential to the story. The Kane books are
certainly very violent, and if violence isn’t your thing, read about
Hobbits. I do, however, feel that Kane is a realistic portrayal of violence.
There are a lot of different types of epic fantasy, which is one of the
reasons I hate the tern “sword and sorcery.” If you like fairyland
fantasy with beautiful princesses and enchanted castles and dashing
young minstrels and cute fairies and elves, that‘s one sub-genre
of epic fantasy, and you’re welcome to it. On the other hand, if
you read a Kane book and are appalled because people are fighting
with edged weapons and getting cut, don’t call it “gratuitous
violence.” Simply say that it’s not your thing, and if you
don’t want to read it, go read another fairyland fantasy book, instead.
Sam Peckinpah again becomes an irresistable analogy. He’s been criticized for “gratuitous violence,” because in The Wild Bunch, when people are being shot with .45s and shotguns, there’s a splash of blood and the person is knocked head over heels. But this is what really happens when you get hit at close range with a load of double-aught buck, as opposed to the old westerns where somebody gets shot by a .45 at point-blank range, clutches his chest and says, “Oh, you got me!” and slowly crumbles to the floor.
Some fans think that armed warriors, swinging swords at one another, can fight a battle without anybody being hurt. You cut your finger peeling a potato, and it hurts. Imagine that you’ve just been slashed with a six-foot long sword, and it’s your entrails that you’re looking at. People start swinging edged weapons, and things have a way of being cut off and cut open, and people bleed a lot when they’re taken apart. Combat is violent, and that’s the reality of it.
Dark Crusade probably drew the most fire for “gratuitous violence.” The book itself was inspired by the wars of religion in Europe. Over the period of centuries, civilized people destroyed towns, laid waste to other countries, killed and tortured millions - all in the name of religion. Was the violence in Dark Crusade an unrealistic portrayal of religious war? If you think so, talk to the Huguenots after the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. Ask them if violence was a realistic mode of expression in religious argument. You need only go back to World War II, when, if you were Jewish, into the oven you went. Reality was the nightmarish absurdity of six million people being killed because of their ancestry. If you write a novel about World War II, should you be accused of “gratuitous violence” because you mention the Holocaust? Or because you mention that a flamethrower cooks people alive when it hits them? This is violence, certainly, but. it’s realistic. If this sort of realism offends you, watch “The Waltons.” Take fantasy instead of reality.
Elliot: How would you respond to the charge, made by some critics, that Kane hasn’t caught up with the women’s movement - that women are treated in the series as subservient to men?
Wagner: Any critic saying that has definitely never read
any of my work. That’s a criticism that you could level at Howard,
but then Howard was writing for the pulp audience of the ‘30s, when
pulp heroines were, by editorial decree, no more than beautiful things
to be rescued.
As a matter of fact, some of my friends who are active in women‘s lib. including friends who are militant lesbians, have rather liked the women in the Kane series because they weren’t the standard “Conan, oh, save me, save me!” types. For example, the character, Teres, in Bloodstone, is certainly a liberated woman. Teres is a woman who is very much in charge of things; she certainly leads her own life and is not subservient to anyone. I think that you could say that Teres is the first liberated woman to appear in an epic fantasy novel-and by that I don’t mean she’s simply Conan in drag. The female lead in Dark Crusade is, again, a person who does not follow the standard fantasy clichés. Kane doesn’t go about rescuing women, which is a standard plot in sword and sorcery stories. However, because some critics label a book as “sword and sorcery,” they automatically assume they already know what it’s going to be about. And they never read the damned book, because they don’t like sword and sorcery. Critics are the first to judge a book by its cover and look no further. I read an astonishing review of Bloodstone where the reviewer was not at all familiar with the character or any earlier books, and started writing the review as a diatribe against pseudo-Conan trash. About half way through the review, he evidently started to read the book.
He completely changed his opinion of the book and the character, but he
didn’t have the afterthought to go back and correct the misinformation
he was ladling out with invective in the first half of the review, before he
ever read the book and found out that Bloodstone was
not another “Bongo the Barbarian Rescues the Princess” novel.
The women in Kane are very independent characters. Kane is not a romantic lead, nor do the Kane books follow the old formula of boy-meets-girl and so on. I don’t think there’s any way someone could read a Kane book and say that the women are the helpless-girl stereotypes. A criticism might be made that the women in the Kane stories are frequently amoral, calculating, and quite ruthless, but not that they are simpering girls in diaphanous gowns.
Elliot: In an interview, a few years back, you stated, “Ten years from now, I may grow up and find I want to do something significant for society other than write this escapist, juvenile fare.” Is this how you really feel about what you’re writing?
Wagner: No. I was being sarcastic with that comment. When you go into free-lance writing after already having set up a nice medical career, you have a feeling that, “Gosh, I’m having a good time. There must be something bad about this.” Some people that would bother. It doesn’t bother me. It’s sort of like being on an endless summer vacation, and you keep thinking that eventually it will be the end of August and you’ll have to go back to school or have to start earning a living or something. It’s the old view that you shouldn’t enjoy what you’re doing. Working for a living is supposed to be drudgery, something you hate. Very rarely do you find people who are doing what they want to in life, and who are making a living doing it. Right now, I am. My opinions or attitudes may change, and I may someday be sitting behind a desk in a three-piece gray suit and a narrow tie, advising my young patients that they ought to make something out of themselves in life and not to give rein to their day-dream fantasies. Right now, I doubt it. At the beginning of Peter Pan, Barrie writes that “all children but one grow up.” I’m like Peter Pan. I may be the one who has never grown up.
Elliot: How do you select the names for your characters? Where
do they originate?
Wagner: Generally, they’re imaginative. There are a number of approaches you can take on names. One of the things that Howard did in the Conan series was to give the characters semi-mythical names, for the most part. He said that the names would sound familiar because we still had vague memories of this earlier age. That’s why some of his characters have Latin nines, some have Spanish names, some have Italian names, and some of the place names are almost real place names - instead of India, you have Vendhya. I find this irritating. It’s the sort of thing a kid does - garbled borrowings from stories and Movies without any real awareness as to what’s appropriate.
Another approach is what Tolkien did, where you are almost creating your own language, but using a really well-researched, scholarly basis in Celtic myth and Celtic languages. It comes across authentic as all hell, although you may need a glossary.
Still, another approach is to try to create names that do not have an imediate identification with a classical or medieval European milieu, which is what I usually try to do. One of the cliches of “sword and sorcery” is that you usually have a pseudo-Arabian Nights setting, or a pseudo-Classical setting, or maybe a pseudo-Nordic setting. The Kane stories are set on different continents in an age before history begins. It wouldn’t make sense for the names to sound like something out of Bullfinch’s Mythology.
Elliot: As you view it, what part of being a fantasy writer is learned, and what pafl is innate?
Wagner: It would certainly vary with each writer. I’m
one who believes very firmly that you have to have the ability to write
within you, or else all the creative writing classes you take and
the authors whom you study will avail you nothing. It’s a lot like
being an artist. You can take art history courses study the works
of the masters, and speak about art in the most expert manner, but you
still couldn’t create a memorable painting. You have to have something
in you, some ability to tell a story, to communicate ideas, to take what
is in your head and put it on paper in recognizable fashion so that the
reader will be able to recreate in his imagination what you were saying.
You’ve got to have that talent, or else taking creative writing classes
and studying Russian authors won’t help you.
I was a History major as an undergraduate, then attended medical school for my professional training. The only creative writing courses I’ve attended were a couple that I’d been asked to sit in on and explain what it is to be a “writer.” Maybe if you read my stuff, you’ll say, “Obviously, he’s never had a creative writing class.” On the other hand, you do have to have a certain amount of technical skill; otherwise, all you may do is come up with some great idea, but never be able to communicate it because you lack the technical skills required to write prose fiction.
Technique is something that you’ll pick up, though, if you’ve got both the talent that it takes to write and the drive, the determination, or killer instinct, whatever it takes to keep working at it until you get it right. For myself I picked up technique by reading a lot of other writers whose work I enjoyed; I’d find myself reading things I disliked, and wondering, “Why didn’t I like that?” When I read things I liked, I thought. “Is this an effect I can duplicate? Is this an effect I can use in my own writing?”
Early on. a lot of fantasy fans read Lovecraft. They think, “Boy, Lovecraft is great.” So they sit down and start wiring stories, using four or five adjectives for each noun, and manage to say “el— dritch,” “blasphemous,” and “squamous” at least three times in each paragraph. They are trying to duplicate the more glaring aspects of Lovecraft’s prose technique, but that’s not really what’s good in Lovecraft, I’m fond of him, although I admit that he’s a terrible stylist. To my mind, what’s impressive about Lovecraft is his profound cosmic negativism: the idea that mankind is confronted by horrors that are completely beyond his comprehension, forces against which he is powerless, and when he begins to realize these horrors exist, they inevitably destroy him.
Elliot: Speaking of technique, how conscious of technique are you as you write? Is experimentation an important objective?
Wagner: I’m very conscious of technique, and very
interested in experimenting with it, With the stories in Night Winds, for
example, each one is an experiment in technique or theme. In “Undertow,” time
is out of sequence. I did that to create a deliberate nightmarish
effect in the story. Robert W. Chambers is said to have created deliberate
barriers to final comprehension - rather like an artist
who chooses to draw a formless, nebulous horror instead of, say, a carefully
delineated werewolf. There are times when you want to do one, and times
when you want to do the other. If all of your horrors are vague and
formless, your readers will decide that you don’t really know what’s
happening yourself. In “Sing a Last Song of Valdese,” Kane
is off-stage, but is central to the story. He is incognito, seated
among a group of travelers who are discussing Kane as a legand, and his
identity and presence are essential to the denouement.
One reason that I like to write epic fantasy is that there is a lot of room for, experimentation in the genre. It has the potential to be the most imaginative genre of any of them. In epic fantasy, you can create your own universe, and you can make your own rules - just so long as the result is convincing. It makes me mad when some critics dismiss the genre as simple-minded fare, “thud-and-blunder” stories for nine-year-olds. Some books may be that way, but you still have many other writers - Le Guin, Zelazny, Vance, Peake, to name just a few - who are not writing that sort of epic fantasy. You can’t judge a genre by considering only the worst examples of it. If you do, you’re a far bigger fool than the writers you’re sneering at.
Elliot: How would you describe your audience? Do you write with a particular reader in mind?
Wagner: Actually. I write with myself in mind, and I hope that
if It’s a successful story, it will appeal to enough readers to
be worth their attention as well. Usually in a story, I’m trying
to achieve a cdrtain effect. I’m writing something that interests
me. I don’t start by thinking, “Well, let’s see, the
average reader of a sword and sorcery story is a thirteen-year-old
with forty-seven pimples and vocabulary of a six-year-old. Therefore,
this story should be keyed to a grade-school detention hail audience.”
The Kane stories are written on multiple levels. I hope the reader can pick up the book and
[Apparent typo in original; best guess made at rearranging text]
read it through without being bored. For many fans; it’s enough
that there’s plenty of action, a couple of plot twists, and it’s
a good read. But there are other fans who have gone through and reread
these books half a dozen times or so, picking up new little head trips
each time There’s a lot of in-joke stuff in the Kane stories. For
example, chapter titles are frequently taken from songs or from other
book titles, and worked in for readers to boggle over. If you want
to find deeper symbolism or hidden meaning, you can play that game, too.
There are people who read deep symbolism into stuff, sometimes even when
the author claims there was no symbolism intended.
The Kane books are intended for sophisticated audiences. I’m hoping for a bit more than the standard “Give me a sword fight on every other page and kill a monster each chapter” type of audience. I’ve had military buffs who have read Dark Crusade tell me that the cavalry techniques are very convincingly portrayed. I spent about six months researching heavy cavalry, the pre-firearms period. On the other hand, I’ve had fans say, “You spend so much time on detail, you bog down the action in the fights.” They prefer a story where a bunch of men get their swords and armor, jump on their horses and ride out and fight, and, by the end of the day, only the good guys are left standing. If I don’t like what I’m doing, it doesn’t get written. That’s one reason why I’m such a notoriously slow writer. If it’s a successful book, it’s the way I wanted it to be.
Elliot: How concerned are you with impact? How would you like to affect your reader?
Wagner: I think that any writer would like to have his work
be remembered. This goes back to the basic egotism of a writer. It’s
nice to think that what you have to say is so good that somebody wants
to read it. It’s even nicer to think that people may want to read
it for years to come.
I think that Kane has already made an impact on the genre. The character is recognized as an original one, the books are considered innovative, As proof that Kane has arrived, I now have imitators. Whether or not my books are still in print twenty years from now, I think there will be hardcore fantasy fans who will remember Kane and will still have battered copies of the books around on their shelves.
Elliot: Do you have to be in a particular mood to write? For example, do you have to feel gloomy in order to write something downbeat?
Wagner: There‘s a temptation to assume that writers must
always think or look the way they write. For example, if you were to
meet Robert Bloch, you’d be expecting some gloomy, cadaverous character,
probably with a nervous twitch and all the sense of humor of a mortician.
Instead, you’d find a very pleasant, enormously funny man. He’s
extremely witty. In fact, he ought to have his own talk show on late-night
television. Or take Gahan Wilson. You might expect someone about 3’4”,
probably with tusks and a half-formed Siamese twin growing out of one
shoulder. Again, he’s a very pleasant, humorous, polished gentleman.
Another temptation is to assume that a writer exorcises his own evil spirits in his writing in order to work out the gloom, the depression, the anger, the rebellion, or whatever else is bottled up inside of bin. However, this isn‘t necessarily so.
Writing demands enough attention to craftsmanship that you have to be in a fairly “up” mood in order to write. If you’re really depressed, you don’t want to sit around and obsess over comma splices or such. On the other hand, some of what I write does reflect moods or feelings that I’ve experienced at one point.
Probably the most depressed story that I wrote was “The Last Wolf.” which I completed on my twenty-fifth birthday. I had been trying to break into professional writing - I had broken in, and then I really hadn’t after all. My writing was being rejected right and left. I’d get lovely rejection slips from people like Fred Pohl, saying, “Well, this Kane story is certainly different for its type, and it’s quite good for its type. But we don’t publish this type of story.”
As a result, I wrote a story about the last writer on earth - literature having died out, not because of governmental intervention, as in Fahrenheit 451, but just because of popular apathy. Why read, when there’s television? The writer in “The Last Wolf” is making his last stand when nobody gives a damn any more. His agent tries unsuccessfully to get him to compromise and write some scripts for television, suggesting a new television situation comedy about a Vietnam POW camp, and another hit situation comedy about bomb-throwing hippies back in the ‘60s - all of this being nostalgia by then. If somebody had told me in 1957 that there would be a hit television situation comedy about funny hoods and the ‘50s scene, I would have hit them. At any rate, at the time, I was feeling like, “to hell with it.” I was really burned out, pissed off, and wrote this story kind of portraying that mood.
Elliot: Does writing come easily to you? Do words flow smoothly and effortlessly once you get started? Do you agonize over such things as word choice. syntax, etc.?
Wagner: I have a Roget’s Thesaurus, but
I seldom use it. it’s on top of an old radio speaker, buried beneath
my copy of Stone’s Glossary of Arms and Armor, several
manuscripts, and a 1978 calendar, which shows how often I use it.
I find that a dictionary is a far more useful tool to me. I’ve
got a pretty fair vocabularly, and I can usually think of the word that
I want, even though I might have to make sure how it is spelled or be
sure I have the right shade of meaning. A dictionary is more useful
for that. A thesaurus is what got Clark Ashton Smithinto trouble. People
talk about Smith’s rich vocabulary. What Smith actually was doing
was dipping into a thesaurus and frequently using the wrong shade
Clearly, word choice varies from writer to writer. Nobody writes the same way. I tend to compose in visual forms, and then try to reconstruct these images in prose with just the right word or phrase. Some people have said, after reading my work, that it was like being there, like watching a movie. I’m very much influenced by movies, and try to reconstruct cinematic imagery in words rather than film.
Elliot; Finally, what were your reasons for establishing Carcosa? What satisfactions do you derive from publishing your own line of books?
Wagner: I was reading it. collecting it, and writing
it, so I thought I might as well publish it. It started because I’m
a collector of pulp magazines. I was aware of some excellent writers,
very popular in their day, who had been unjustly forgotten because
their work had not been reprinted since the pulp days.
On the other hand, the amateur presses were reprinting any scrap of scribblings by famous writers like Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft, or Clark Ashton Smith. Or, if you wanted to buy a lavishly illustrated hardcover boxed edition of a book by a famous writer that was available in paperback anyway, you could do so. But if you wanted to read some of the best stories by less well known writers like Manly Wade Wellmam, or E. Hoffman Price or Hugh B. Cave (to name the three writers that we’ve published so far), you’d better have an extensive collection of rare pulps, because otherwise you weren’t going to read them. Their stories had not been reprinted, the authors had been forgotten, and they probably weren’t going to be reprinted.
So. with the help of a couple of friends in Chapel Hill, I started Carcosa with the idea of bringing out big collections of the best stories by some of these other excellent writers of the pulp era. Being a collector, I thought it would be nice to bring out the kind of book that collectors dream of and publishers refuse to produce.
We wanted to produce hardcover editions with nothing spared in terms of materials and binding quality - lavishly illustrated by major artists - thick books that you could sit down and read over many evenings, as well as display proudly on your shelf. And, we wanted to bring out the book at the lowest possible price so that average fans could afford the thing. It seemed an impossible thing to bring off, but we did manage to do it.
Fans are enthusiastic about our books, and our authors have begun to receive the recognition they deserve. The thing I’m happiest about, though, is that all three writers whom we’ve published so far have become active again in the fantasy field, after having been out of it for a long time. Wellman recently has sold four fantasy novels to Doubleday. Price has just sold his third fantasy novel to Ballantine. Cave has sold new fantasy novels to Avon and Dell. They got recognition in their lifetime, which is important. I’m sure that Lovecraft and Howard Would be very flattered to see all the fans they have now, but it’s too late for that.
~ Karl Edward Wagner & Jeffrey Elliot