Monday, September 29, 2008

Pulp Fantasy Gallery: Kothar

Published in 1969, Barbarian Swordsman is the first book of the Kothar series, written by Gardner F. Fox, best known for his involvement with DC Comics during its Golden and Silver Ages. (According to some, he was responsible for the Green Lantern Oath and the name of Guy Gardner is almost certainly an homage to him). The Kothar stories might be called science fantasy versions of Conan's adventures, taking place on a world called Yarth, which is either a parallel to Earth or indeed Earth many billions of years in the future, when science and magic have become indistinguishable. Astute readers will remember that Yarth has a place in D&D lore, so it's no surprise that Gary Gygax thought highly of the Kothar stories and considered them an influence on the game.

8 comments:

  1. Fox published several short stories in Dragon, which are well-worth looking up. I've really enjoyed his fiction, as much as REH's work (though so far, I liked Kothar and Kyric moreso than Bran Mak Morn...).

    Allan.

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  2. I bought a copy of this via Abebooks a few weeks ago. Gardner F. Fox is sadly very under-rated, but he had a lot of influence on Gary and on D&D generally. I wish Fantasy Masterworks would take a look in his direction, but I don't think they will.

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  3. Allan,

    I largely agree with you. I was never a big fan of Bran Mak Morn myself, even though I think the writing is excellent (some of Howard's best).

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  4. I wish Fantasy Masterworks would take a look in his direction, but I don't think they will.

    Maybe if we're lucky, Planet Stories will do a Fox collection at some point.

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  5. The Kothar books are a lot of fun (though the last 2 aren't as good as the first three) and capture the D&D spirit perfectly -- the blatant pastiche of elements, the undercurrent of keeping a straight face without being entirely serious, the fast-moving action, and of course the setting of "Yarth" where every place has a name from earth with a letter or two changed (exactly like Gygax's own AErth (which was originally called Yarth, even) and Lejendary Earth.

    I disagree, though, with your description of them as "science fantasy" since, except for being ostensibly set millions of years in the future, there are no "science" elements to speak of in these books, even less so than in Vance's Dying Earth books. These stories are straight swords & sorcery and could just have easily been set in the distant past (Hyboria) or another world entirely (Nehwon) as the future.

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  6. I disagree, though, with your description of them as "science fantasy" since, except for being ostensibly set millions of years in the future, there are no "science" elements to speak of in these books, even less so than in Vance's Dying Earth books.

    Perhaps I am misremembering them then, as it's been some years since I read them. Perhaps it's the Kyrik books?

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  7. "Perhaps I am misremembering them then, as it's been some years since I read them. Perhaps it's the Kyrik books?"IIRC, yes. Kyrik, Warlock Warrior, has some sort of strange "device" that's untold ages old locked up in the Big Bad Guy's tower. Kyrik has to sneak in through a sewer, or escape through one - I can't remember - in order to get to it.

    So yeah, there are hints to "super-science" of some sort here and there in Kyrik, but I can't rightly remember any in Kothar.

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  8. I realize that this post is terribly old, but despite Fox's involvement with Green Lantern, he isn't responsible for the Green Lantern oath. That honor went to Fox's friend Alfred Bester (author of the greatest science fiction novel of all time: The Stars My Destination).

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