Thursday, June 11, 2015

Guest Blog by Steven S. Long - Five Fantasy Authors You Probably Haven't Heard About But Should Check Out - June 11, 2015

Please welcome Steven S. Long to The Qwillery.  Steven has a story in the upcoming Champions of Aetaltis anthology, which is presently being funded on Kickstarter (here). Note: I'm a backer.


The Champions of Aetaltis anthology contains over a dozen superb Fantasy stories. But the Fantasy genre is vast and deep, and there are many fine authors out there you may not have heard of or read — especially in this dissolute age, when the old masters of the genre are often nowhere to be seen on bookstore shelves so that there’s room for the latest Urban Fantasy tale or paranormal romance epic. Here are five relatively little-known authors you should check out:

1. Elizabeth Boyer

Back in the Eighties and Nineties, Elizabeth Boyer wrote over a dozen novels set in a world drawn heavily from Norse myth and legend. The heroes — often seemingly ordinary people drawn into events beyond their control — have to cope with the machinations of dark elves, dwarves, trolls, evil sorcerers, and other such menaces. Her writing is charming and fun, not really making any serious demands on the reader but providing plenty of entertainment.

Critics and fans generally consider Boyer’s first series, “War of the Alfar,” to be her best. It includes such works as The Sword and the Satchel, The Elves and the Otterskin, and The Thrall and the Dragon’s Heart. Her later works, the “Wizard’s War” and “Skyla” series, aren’t quite as good but still worth your time if you liked her earlier novels.

2. Lin Carter

Although often scorned because of his many pastiche stories in imitation of his favorite authors, and the work he did “finishing” a lot of fragmentary Conan stories, Carter’s worth paying attention to for two reasons.

The first is that while much of his original Fantasy is largely forgettable, there are more than a few gems among the vast body of his work. (And even more if you don’t mind the pastiche nature of many of his series, such as the Thongor tales [imitative of Conan] and the Zanthodon novels [imitative of Pellucidar].) Most of his best stories are collected in his anthology Lost Worlds, though you should also track down the oft-anthologized “Vault of Silence,” an excerpt from his novel Kellory the Warlock.

The second, and more important, is his skills as an editor/anthologist. In this regard he’s best known for helming the Ballantine Adult Fantasy and Flashing Blades series. During the Sixties and Seventies, Carter worked tirelessly to track down and publish the works of many early Fantasy masters (including James Branch Cabell, Lord Dunsany, and H. P. Lovecraft). Most of the volumes in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series, plus his many other anthologies (such as Kingdoms Of Sorcery, Realms Of Wizardry, Golden Cities Far, and The Young Magicians), are worthy additions to any Fantasy fan’s library.

3. Lord Dunsany

Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, the eighteenth Baron Dunsany (dun-SAY-nee) was a man of many accomplishments: a veteran of the Boer War and World War I; a skilled safari hunter; a chess expert who once played world champion Capablanca to a draw; fellow of the Royal Geographical Society; animal rights activist; a playwright who once had five plays running simultaneously on Broadway. But despite all that he’s remembered today for his Fantasy works. These include a few novels (such as The King of Elfland’s Daughter and The Charwoman’s Shadow), but his strength as a fantasist lies in the short story form.

His stories — found in collections like Time And The Gods, Beyond The Fields We Know, The Gods Of Pegana, and At The Edge Of The World, but also included in countless anthologies — are wondrous, whimsical, evocative, and fantastical in a way that can only be described as “Dunsanian.” In 1973, Ursula K. LeGuin wrote that all Fantasy writers went through an early stage of imitating Dunsany. While that’s sadly no longer true, his influence can easily be seen in, among other things, H. P. Lovecraft’s “Dreamlands” stories (and my personal favorite among Lovecraft’s ouevre, “The Doom That Came to Sarnath”).

Many of his stories fall into the category of High Fantasy (“The Sword of Welleran,” “The Hoard of the Gibbelins,” “The Fortress Unvanquishable, Save For Sacnoth,” “The Distressing Tale of Thangobrind the Jeweller”), but range into many other sub-genres of the field, including Urban Fantasy (“The Coronation of Mr. Thomas Shap,” “The Wonderful Window,” “The Three Sailors’ Gambit”). Most remain in print today as part of various collections, or are available free online. If you can find a copy, I’d recommend the anthology Gods, Men, And Ghosts, which has beautiful illustrations by Sidney Sime.

4. John Morressey

Best known for his humorous chronicles of Kedrigern the wizard, Morrissey also wrote other Fantasy stories. Most noteworthy among these are the Iron Angel Trilogy (Ironbrand, Greymantle, Kingsbane) and The Time Of The Annihilator, obscure but engaging Low Fantasy novels recounting an epic that spans centuries and several generations of heroes. His “Conhoon of the Three Gifts” tales, about an Irish wizard, are also great whimsical fun. Unfortunately they’ve never been collected into a single volume, so you have to track them down individually.

5. Jack Vance

Of the five authors listed here, this is the one you’re most likely to have heard of, since his early “Dying Earth” stories inspired the magic system in Dungeons & Dragons (often known these days as “Vancian magic”). But don’t see that as either the be-all-and-end-all of his work or a reason to pass him by, for there are few (if any) authors who can match Vance for style, evocative language, and strange, wondrous places and cultures.

Vance mostly wrote Science Fiction; his unfortunately small output of Fantasy consists primarily of two series. The first is the “Dying Earth” stories (The Dying Earth, The Eyes Of The Overworld, Cugel’s Saga, and Rhialto The Marvellous) about Earth aeons from now where the sun’s slowly expiring and magic has returned. The second, the Lyonesse Trilogy (Lyonesse [or Suldrun’s Garden], The Green Pearl, and Madouc), has some Arthurian influences but goes well beyond them to tell a tale of heroism, schemes, and warfare on the mystic island of Lyonesse.

One of the things that really sets Vance’s work apart, aside from his writing style, is that cleverness, quick wits, and a good heart are the main attributes of his heroes — not strength of arm or skill with a sword, though they may possess that as well. He provides plenty of great examples to inspire your own writing or gaming characters. If you consider yourself a Fantasy fan, you owe it to yourself to read his stories.

Press Release

Heroic Fantasy Anthology Assembles Dream Team of Authors

The finest authors in science fiction and fantasy band together to bring a new fantasy world to life.

May 18, 2015—Ann Arbor, Michigan—Seventeen of the greatest science fiction and fantasy authors working today have come together today to bring a new fantasy world to life in CHAMPIONS OF AETALTIS, a heroic fantasy anthology from Mechanical Muse. Michael A. Stackpole, Elaine Cunningham, Larry Correia, Cat Rambo, Bill Willingham, Lucy A. Snyder, David Farland and more are contributing pulse-pounding tales of adventure to this ambitious crowdfunded project.

The Kickstarter for the project takes flight on May 18th, although many of the stories are written and work on the book is well underway. The anthology is a first for Mechanical Muse, but they’ve recruited a team of seasoned experts to help put the book together. With one successful Kickstarter already under their belts, it’s expected that the campaign will be a huge win for both Mechanical Muse and fans of fantasy adventure.

Among the industry pros tapped ensure the project’s success is award winning editor John Helfers. During his sixteen-year tenure at Martin H. Greenberg’s Tekno Books, the largest commercial book packager in the nation, Helfers worked with a host of well-known authors and co-editors including Charlaine Harris, Mercedes Lackey, and Kevin J. Anderson. He’s edited more than one hundred anthologies for major publishers such as DAW Books, Tor, Baen, and many others.

“It’s extremely exciting to be part of this project,” said Helfers. “Aetaltis is an amazing fantasy setting, and the authors helping to bring it to life are some of the best around.”
Fans are in for a treat when the anthology is released at the end of this year, since the contributing authors are a veritable who’s who of the fiction, comics, and game industries. New York Times bestsellers, USA Today bestsellers, Eisner Award winners, Bram Stoker Award winners, and multiple authors with more than a hundred published books and stories mean that readers will find a treasure trove of top quality stories inside.

The Kickstarter campaign for CHAMPIONS OF AETALTIS launches on May 18th and runs through June 23rd. For more information about the campaign and the world of Aetaltis, visit


  1. According to Amazon, it's John Morressy and unfortunately, he doesn't have anything on Kindle ;-(

    1. Thank you for pointing that out. Fixed!