Sword & Mythos is a brilliant anthology exploring the intersection between the Cthulhu mythos of H.P. Lovecraft and the Sword and Sorcery genre of Robert E. Howard and C.L. Moore.
I’ve had trouble with Lovecraft. I loved his stories when I was younger, although I read a few too many at once and started laughing every time another nameless horror would show up. I mean, yes, horror is better implied than described, but still.
When I was reading his stories, I didn’t realize how deeply they were based in and on his virulent racism. Phenderson Djeli Clark has an excellent article on it, “The ‘N’ Word Through The Ages: The ‘Madness’ Of HP Lovecraft”. Since then, I find myself unable to re-read his works, although I still love the feeling they gave me back when I was a kid.
These genres have been inherited by writers who don’t build their fiction on fear of other races, who are themselves diverse, and who view women very differently. As the Introduction says, “we are not the same writers they were.” This book has redeemed genres that I loved but which felt so tainted by their forbears that I had trouble reading them. From Iceland to Indonesia, Mexico to China, these stories lit up my imagination.
Stories which stood out for me included “Jon Carver of Barzoon, You Misunderstood” by Graham J. Darling. This is the shortest story in the collection, but beautiful in its simplicity. “Truth is Order and Order is Truth” by Nadia Bulkin tells the heart-wrenching story of the royal princess, forced from her kingdom and leading the people to her mother’s homeland. “The Bones of Heroes” by Orrin Grey is cunning and perfect. “Black Caesar: The Stone Ship Rises” by Balogun Ojetade centers on a whole family fighting together – fifteen generations of warriors.
I even loved the essays at the end of the book – they gave me a lot more understanding of the crossovers between Howard and Lovecraft. Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s essay about Manos: Guerrero Indomito was fantastic, parts of his story being echoed in the Witcher stories that I love – the monsters are not the ones who are truly monstrous.
The only thing I really didn’t like about the anthology? The descriptions of jaws being cracked apart. Everything else, I can deal with – that just makes me twitch. Which… is probably what they were going for, of course. So, well done! But aaaaaargh.
I unreservedly recommend this book. It’s fantastic, a wide range of stories that will capture your imagination. Perhaps they will not all hit home for you, but there will be several in there for everyone that will connect perfectly.
Stories and Essays included:
The Iron Hut by Maurice Broaddus
Jon Carver of Barzoon, You Misunderstood by Graham J. Darling
Sun Sorrow by Paul Jessup
The Wood Of Ephraim by Edward M. Erdelac
Truth is Order and Order is Truth by Nadia Bulkin
Spirit Forms of the Sea by Bogi Takács
The Bones of Heroes by Orrin Grey
Light by Diana L. Paxson
The Serpents of Albion by Adrian Chamberlin
The Call of the Dreaming Moon by Thana Niveau
Black Caesar: The Stone Ship Rises by Balogun Ojetade
And After the Fire, A Still Small Voice by Catherine Tobler
No Sleep For the Just by William Meikle
In Xochitl In Cuicatl In Shub-Niggurath by Nelly Geraldine García-Rosas
The Sorrow of Qingfeng by Grey Yuen
Conan and the Cthulhu Mythos by G.W. Thomas
Sword of Cthulhu by G.W. Thomas
What’s So Great About Sword and Planet? by Paula R. Stiles
Spanish Conan: Manos, Guerrero Indomito by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Mexican Belit: Conan Goes Viking by Silvia Moreno-Garcia