A Means to Freedom and the Kane Hardcovers: Get ‘Em While You Can

TC editors advertising (I refuse to use the term “pimping”) their personal literary items for sale has a long history here on the blog.  Check out this post by Leo Grin (and several subsequent).

Times are dire here in serpent-haunted SEK. Musing on such, a decision was reached by yours truly. Time to lighten the load for the journey into the future.

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“Jane Brown’s Body” and “Undertow”

I just read the newest entry from Ryan Harvey, one of the ace bloggers over at Black Gate. It concerns Cornell Woolrich’s 1938 novella, “Jane Brown’s Body.” From the sound of it, it’s a fine little science-fictional horror tale. The plot can be briefly summarized: a scientist revives the newly-dead body of a beautiful young woman. Later, a young gangster abducts the woman from the scientist who he believes has “enslaved” her. Action and horror ensue.

Now, as someone who has read his share of Karl Edward Wagner’s works, but very little of Woolrich’s, I have to say that the plot outlined by Ryan Harvey seems to possess some likeness to that of KEW’s “Undertow.” That tale is a short story in the “Kane” series written by Wagner in 1977, about forty years after “Jane Brown’s Body.” For those who fear spoilers, my advice would be to stop reading about now.

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Wagner October Reprise


It has been quite a month for fans of Karl Edward Wagner. For days following the dawn of October 13, there were memorial pieces posted all over the Internet, testifying to KEW’s continuing, vibrant legacy. We here at The Cimmerian did our part.

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Samhain at The Cimmerian, 2009


As a colder-than-normal October wanes into November, the Light Half of the year gives way to the Dark Half of the year (as they would say in old Ireland), with a hunter’s moon on the rise.

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Lost in Loss


Karl Edward Wagner chose to attend the University of North Carolina largely because he would be able to meet one of his favorite writers, Manly Wade Wellman. Wellman had been a writer for the old Weird Tales pulp, among many others, though he no longer wrote fantasy or horror. As they became fast friends, Karl convinced Manly to return to the fold. Frances Wellman wrote that Karl became a loving friend for the rest of his life.

Considering that Karl’s relationship with his own somewhat distant father was strained –and what father would want his son to give up medicine for writing, as Karl intended to do and eventually did? — it seems likely inevitable that Manly would become both mentor and father-figure to the “big Dutchman”, as he called him. Conversely, Manly’s own son Wade seems likely to have been a disappointment to him, as David Drake reports he was living in a “charity hostel” because of substance abuse issues at the time of his mother’s death. Not that Karl was free of substance abuse issues himself, of course.
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More Elegies in Honor of KEW


Over on the REHupa blog, Morgan Holmes has written a fine essay about Karl Edward Wagner. Returning the serve, Scott Oden, author of the upcoming Lion of Cairo, has posted this in remembrance of the Man From Knoxville and his most famous creation, Kane, on his “Echoes of Forgotten Ages” blog. In addition, fantasy author, David J. West, reports an interesting KEW-related dream over on his blog. (Continue reading this post)

Reflections Upon Karl Edward Wagner, Fifteen Years Gone



  Karl Edward Wagner (1945 -1994) died fifteen years ago today. I never knew Karl. Nevertheless, his work as an author, essayist, editor and REH scholar has affected my views regarding the entire field of weird literature since I was barely a teenager. I believe that he should be remembered and due attention paid.

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In addition to the twenty-one Conan stories that Howard actually wrote, there has been a plethora of Conan pastiches, written by various authors, in an effort to fill gaps in the Cimmerian’s career.
While Howard did leave a few very brief fragments and outlines for other Conan stories — which have been completed through “posthumous collaboration” — later writers have”revised” non-fantasy adventures to turn them into Conan stories, and have further diluted Howard’s Conan through a vast body of frank pastiches.
These are not Conan stories — not Robert E. Howard’s Conan — and have no more validity in relation to the stories than any Conan stories you might yourself decide to write. {…} It is a matter of spirit.

Karl Edward Wagner, forward to “Hour of the Dragon,” Berkley paperback, 1977.
It’s never been said better.

American Fantastic Tales: Terror and the Uncanny From the 1940s Until Now (Library of America)


John Collier • Tennessee Williams • Truman Capote • Shirley Jackson • Vladimir Nabokov • Ray Bradbury • Harlan Ellison • John Crowley • Joyce Carol Oates • Stephen King • Michael Chabon • Tim Powers • and 30 others

“What remains when the conscious and functioning self has been erased is mankind’s fundamental condition — irrational, violent, guilt-wracked, despairing, and mad.” — Peter Straub

In order to provide some closure in regard to my post last week, which discussed Terror and the Uncanny From Poe to the Pulps, I thought it fitting to take a quick look at Volume Two in the Library of America’s American Fantastic Tales series. Above, you can see a list of the marquee authors featured in this volume,as well as a blurb from series editor, Peter Straub (which paraphrases Lovecraft’s “oldest emotion” axiom, by the way).

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In the Beginning: a Kane Chronology story


Fellow blogger Brian Murphy has indicated wanting to hear more about the part of my bio that reads: “he broke into the fantasy critical world in the gamer’s magazine Sorceror’s Apprentice, with an essay on Karl Edward Wagner’s Kane which ultimately prompted the author to correct his own previous statements about the character’s chronology.”

So this is for him, and hopefully some others will be interested. Sorceror’s Apprentice #3 (Summer 1979) had the Trout Kane essay (which dealt with the interesting aspects of the character) along with a first stab at the chronology.

This was the story listing, which took the clues from the stories regarding the status of Carsultyal, the Habros Serranthon Empire’s rise and fall, and other clues.

Two Suns Setting
The Dark Muse
Sing a Last Song of Valdese
Lynortis Reprise
Reflections for the Winter of my Soul
Cold Light
Raven’s Eyrie

Spacing in time is, of course, wildly varied — sometimes years, sometimes decades, mostly centuries and sometimes many many centuries, but for the most part obscure. There are really only a few that you can nail down.

So, oddly, the first book published is the last Kane novel to read. Karl noted in his remarks that “The Other One” is the last of the short stories, placing it just before DARKNESS WEAVES. I had probably not located a copy of that story yet.

With “Misericorde” four years in the future, obviously it’s not in the list, and I don’t know that I’ve ever tried to place it, though I think Joe Marek or Dale Rippke may have. Both have added on to my work, though I don’t think either of their versions are currently available.

In an afternote to my article, Karl asserted all the story collections were chronological within each book, which would move “Raven’s Eyrie” back to right after “The Dark Muse” and I guess he knew best on that one. But it would also reverse the positions of “Lynortis Reprise” and “Sing a Last Song of Valdese”; which is impossible according to the internal evidence, and I wrote him and told him so and why. So then he remembered that he had preferred to have the closing line of “Valdese” be the closing line of the book, and so had switched them.

In his letter admitting he was wrong, he said my point was “well-made and correct” and he appointed me “Kane Chronologist 1st class, with all privileges and obligations attendant on that rank.” I ran this letter in REHupa #40, but otherwise its been little-known.

John Mayer made a comment a while back on the Wagner Yahoo group that Karl didn’t really want the readers to know the chronology, so they wouldn’t be sure whether Kane would survive a particular adventure or not. Apparently, he never expected anyone to notice the switch.

Brian adds: Thanks for sharing, Steve. You’ve achieved your own small piece of heroic fantasy immortality.