Monday, June 4, 2012

Pulp Fantasy Library: Out of the Eons

Thanks to reader Daniel Eness, I was finally able to obtain a copy of the first -- and, so far as I know, only -- issue of a Dragon magazine spin-off called Dragontales. Appearing in August 1980, this Kim Mohan-edited periodical described itself as "an anthology of all-new fantasy fiction." There's no introductory editorial or explanatory text anywhere. Instead, what we get are ten short stories by a variety of authors, some of whose names will be familiar but most of which won't be: John L. Jenkins, Ruby S.W. Jung, Carl Parlagreco, Roger Moore, David F. Nalle, Janrae Frank, Martin Mundt, Marie Desjardins, and of course Gardner F. Fox, whose contribution is another story of Niall of the Far Travels -- the only one I was missing, which is why I'm very thankful to Daniel for having sent this magazine to me.

Entitled "Out of the Eons" (not to be confused with the Lovecraft tale with a similar title), this short story continues in sequence with all of its predecessors, making Fox's final published Niall story a strange outlier. Of potential interest to historians of the hobby is that the illustrations accompanying this tale are by Kevin Siembieda, who'd already been doing artwork for Judges Guild by this point in time and would soon go on to found Palladium Books. "Out of the Eons" begins with the Far Traveler unwittingly freeing a being called Adonair, who is described by a goddess in human guise as
"A god-being from far away -- so far that even we gods and goddesses have only heard faint whispers of his birthing place. He came here eons ago, liked what he saw about him and made this world his own."

She shuddered. "But he was evil. Evil! He made men his slaves, his -- playthings. Against him the people cried out. We heard their calls, their prayers, in those other -- spaces -- where we dwell. We heard, we came. We fought Adonair and reduced him to a green flame, but we could not kill him. And so, as a green flame he has dwelt here for uncounted centuries."
Reading this passage I'm reminded that one of the things I like most about the Niall stories is the way Fox describes the gods of the setting. The phrase "god-beings" is used often, which suggests to me that they are "gods" in the way similar to Lovecraft's Great Old Ones -- they're immensely powerful and otherworldly but not necessarily "divine" in the usual sense. Adonair definitely has a Lovecraftian vibe to him, I found myself thinking of Gygax's Tharizdun, even though I'm certain that dread deity had been created well before this story was published.

In any event, "Out of the Eons" places the gods at front and center. Through the intercession of one deity, Niall is taken in his dream to a council of the gods, where the All-Father, their seeming leader, elects to send a goddess named Thallatta to Niall in human form so as to aid him in returning Adonair to his prison. Niall must do this not because of any special destiny but because he was responsible for freeing Adonair in the first place. Thalatta, on the other hand, seems to have taken a powerful liking to Niall, for reasons that become more apparent as the story progresses.

"Out of the Eons" is, like most of the entries in Niall's saga, a fun read. I must admit to liking this one more than some, because of the additional details it gives about the gods and their relationship to the world of mortals. That surprises me a bit, since, in general, I prefer deities to remain aloof and even unknowable in fantasy settings (that's certainly the tack I took in Dwimmermount) rather than as undeniably involved and/or meddling in human affairs. Yet, that's just what we get in "Out of the Eons" and I loved it. Go figure.

4 comments:

  1. "We fought Adonair and reduced him to a green flame, but we could not
    kill him. And so, as a green flame he has dwelt here for uncounted
    centuries."

    "Adonair" reminds one of "Adonai," one of the names of God in Judaism and occult literature, but the description of "green flame" is strongly reminiscent of "Tulzscha," a deity or deity-like being mentioned in HPL's "The Festival." It leads me to wonder if Fox wasn't a reader of Lovecraft.

    As for the issue itself, the cover looks very familiar, as if I'd seen it, but I don't recall this separate publication. I wonder if I received it as part of my Dragon subscription?

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  2. I'm glad it made it safely into your athenaeum. There was some concern that because the postman's adage "Neither sleet, nor hail, nor dark of night" did not explicitly include "Canada," the mission might be thwarted. I have only read two of the other Niall stories that you have reviewed, but Out of the Eons was my favorite, precisely because of its weird spirits.

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  3. had I known you were looking for it, I would have sent you mine. it is wretched, even for a tsr fan boy.

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  4. As far as I could tell, Dragontales was a bit of gateway marketing to news stand fantasy fans of 1980.

    Back then, magazine format titles like these were available (not all, everywhere, but a decent sampling) in every Walden's, Hallmark, grocery store and Woolworth's:

    Omni
    Destinies (I know it wasn't magazine format, but it was usually wedged up front with the other sci-fi/fantasy magazines, not the books.)
    Fantastic
    Dark Fantasy
    Fantasy Macabre
    Futuristic Tales
    Maybe Twilight Zone (it started up around that time)?

    Plus the regular mass market sci-fi and fantasy titles!

    Heck, even subscription-only Gallileo broke into news stands for a few issues in 1980.

    So the news stand was a good place to introduce potential new gamers to D&D.

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