Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Trip to the Used Book Store

Due to the economic "Great Recession" and the fact that our house is now packed with books tighter than a can of sardines, we're beginning to slow down book buying.

Back last year when the "Haunt" (Larry Roberts, Shane Ryan Staley) was still in rave function, and before it was pared back late last year, I often ogled the massive libraries of some of the antiquarian collectors, but mostly - like dear Larry Roberts - marvelled at how immaculate and neat their collections were. Then I would look at my unruly stacks and crowded - nay overhanging and tumbled off - book shelves. *sigh*

However, I digress.

Today, at the Westport Road Half-Price Bookstore, I saw a book that was somewaht overpriced, but I do like to support book stores, and do like to stimulate the economy - the LOCAL economy - and I did have a 15% off coupon (that was declined, becuase they offered me a 20% discount to refill out my email card).

It is (was?) the Fantastic Swordsmen, ed. by the late, and sometimes maligned, L. Sprague de Camp.

Since college, I've been a sucker for all things Robert E Howard, and to have a 50 cent Pyramid book in my hands again, ahhh (were books once 50 cents? Yes, I remember those days and the paperback racks at the drug store well).

Pyramid ^ R-1621 50c

the mightiest warrors of legend and saga in tales of weird heroic fantasy

The cover screams! Even had I seen this in 1967, as an 11 year old, I think I would have said, "Hype!".

But, I looked at the murky, unsigned (Jack Gaugan?), barbarian ensnagged by water-soaked tentacles of some green, alien Kraken and I rhapsodized in my mind of squids. Then, I spun the book over (encased in a plastic polybag, and taped shut, also marked $2.00) and read further :

Storming the gates of Hell for glory, plunder, or fair ladies - warring with wizards, setting slashing swords against sinister spells, might against magic {Did Stan Lee write this copy?} - here are THE FANTASTIC SWORDSMEN in eight incomparable tales of heroic fantasy by Robert E. Howard {hmm, so far so good}, H. P. Lovecraft, Robert Bloch, Henry Kuttner, and other masters of the weird adventure.

Uh, H. P. Lovecraft? Sword and Sorcery?

I wanted to rip open the scotch tape right then and there and figure out which sword slashing hero I'd missed by the pencil of Lovecraft. Was there something that de Camp knew, but the legions of Lovecrfatians have kept hidden away all these years?

I thought, Randolph Carter? No. The Batrachian Prince of Innsmouth? No. The Hound? My curiosity was up, and so like buying a $2.00 lottery ticket {which I actually don't do since gambling is against my faith}, I put it into my green "save the earth" chinese-made recycle-book- bag, and ran off down the aisle in search of other bargains heedless of where in the world I'd put them when I got home.

Before I tell you which story and hope you don't go off to "Da Google" it, I will mention that I did stumble across - in the magazine racks - 50 cent copies of late 1980's F&SF (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction). There were thirteen stuffed in a bin made for time magazines, and so I rescued them. I used to get them all back in the day, and was 95% usually disappointed at many of the stories as being sad retreads of ideas since SF was quickly hitting the wall in the 1970's and 1980's.

And of course, thus why the very clever L. Sprague de Camp, came along with his colleague Lin Carter, and a few others, and dusted off REH's stories, mixed a little Kuttner in, and added some new, pretty interesting characters, and launched (some might say rescued from the cliff of oblivion) high fantasy fiction.

Of course, well nigh 45 years later, the Sword and Sorcery genre is limping like an wizened beggar, except for those sales from die hards, now grown up teenagers of the 70's - and ow VAMPIRE FANTASY is all the rage.

OK, Ok, back to the answer.

"The Other Gods". (dated 14 August 1921)

Here is a Wikipedia article on it:

deCamp writes a lengthy article prefacing each story, but no time to type it or excerpt it right now save to mention this pericope, "...of the fifty-two stories he sold, they lie in two groups ... Cthulhu Mythos ... and the Kadath stories...".

Very interesting theory.

There is more historicity in the preface to the story, but that shall have to wait until a later entry.

One more point, there is a MAP of "The Dreamland of H.P. Lovecraft", if you can believe that. This and the others in the book were done (anonymously?) by Jack Gaughan (1930–1985).

Well considering inflation, and 20% off, I guess $1.60 for a 50 cent, 1967, paperback isn't too bad for a piece of history.


1 comment:

Creature said...

Hey Chrispy:
I just recently got an old 60's version of an L. Sprague deCamp book myself, "The Tritonian Ring." In it we find the very cthulhuesque squid-faced god Entigta."
Have a Great Day!!!
John (aka, the "Creature")


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