The pulp fantasy revival of the late 1960s and early 1970s is the background against which our hobby arose. It's important to remember this for a number of reasons, chief among them being that the content and style of those pulp fantasies were quite different than the latter-day fantasies that followed in their wake. The historical amnesia of this fact has, in my opinion, made it much harder for gamers not immersed in that culture to understand the early days of the hobby and the RPGs it produced.
As a genre, pulp fantasy is distinguished from other types of fantasy by its format as well as its content. The short story, the novelette, and the novella are the preferred forms of pulp fantasy fiction. While there are novels in the genre, they're fewer in number and are often little more than a collection of smaller works strung together by linking material, which is why they often have picaresque qualities that set them apart from the epics many nowadays tend to associate with fantasy. These qualities are the ones that, in my opinion, early gamers seized upon when crafting their own games and campaigns and it's the rejection of the same that led to the decline of the Old Ways.
Whatever his merits as an author in his own right, Lin Carter was one of the most important and influential editors during the pulp fantasy revival. He put together numerous collections of swords-and-sorcery literature, including the Flashing Swords! series, which ran from 1973 to 1981 and ultimately encompassed five volumes. The series included contributions from many of the prominent members of the Swordsmen and Sorcerers' Guild of America, a literary group dedicated to the promotion and popularization of the S&S genre. During its existence, the Guild presented a Gandalf Award for contributions to "heroic fantasy," which just goes to show that, at the time, the fine distinctions guys like me make weren't recognized and writers like J.R.R. Tolkien were considered as part of "the club," despite the clear difference in their content and style from authors like Leiber or Vance.
Flashing Swords! #1 consists of four novelettes. The first is a story of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser entitled "The Sadness of the Executioner." The story itself concerns Death, his role in Nehwon, and how Lankhmar's most famous pair of adventurers fit into his plans. It's a terrific story that, I think, nicely exemplifies the pulp fantasy ethos, on both a personal and a "cosmic" level. "Morreion" by Jack Vance is a tale from his "Dying Earth" series, which would later re-appear in his 1984 book, Rhialto the Marvellous. "Morreion" is particularly of interest of fantasy gamers looking for one possible way to represent "space" travel. Ioun Stones are also prominently on display here. Poul Anderson's "The Mermaid's Children" is another installment in his fantastic medieval quasi-series that includes books such as Three Hearts and Three Lions and The Broken Sword. It's just as good as its predecessors and as suffused with sadness. Rounding out the book is Lin Carter's own "The Higher Heresies of Oolimar," which is by far the weakest piece in the whole thing. If ever there were any question that Carter had no shame, it's fully on display in this silly piece, which comes across as exceedingly amateurish.
Regardless, Flashing Swords! #1 is well worth a read if you can find it. Its four stories -- yes, including Carter's -- are a very good encapsulation of the pulp fantasy revival: three-quarters genius and one-quarter hack-work. Come to think of it, that description might fit the old school movement too ...