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Thursday, October 8, 2015

GUEST POST: Sword & Sorcery on the High Seas by Seth Skorkowsky


I was seven or eight years old when I discovered Treasure Island and fell in love with pirates and sailing adventures. Not real pirates, mind you. Real pirates were the most terrible kind of people who led miserable lives. However, the romanticized depiction in Treasure Island captured a magical excitement that’s simply irresistible. While Treasure Island is not fantasy, it contains the essence of what I also love in Sword & Sorcery fiction.

Unlike Epic Fantasy, where our heroes quest to accomplish some greater good, such as killing an evil overlord, Sword & Sorcery heroes quest to fulfill more self-serving goals. Sailing to an uncharted island in search of buried treasure is a perfect example of what a Sword & Sorcery hero would do.

Sword & Sorcery has regularly incorporated ships and the sea. The more notable sailing heroes include Sinbad and Jack Sparrow. If we turn back to what is possibly the very first Sword & Sorcery adventure, we find The Odyssey, a story about sailors trying to get home and their adventures along the way. Of course each of those examples have the title "Captain" before the hero's name. One could argue that they're heroes because they're sailors. However, there are other sailors within the genre that were heroes long before they boarded ship. Conan spent many adventures pirating and exploring. The infamous thieves Fafhrd and Gray Mouser sailed across Newhon, eventually settling far away from smoky Lankhmar to live on Rime Isle.


The high seas provides a huge variety of storytelling potential. In addition to lost riches, we might encounter monsters inhabiting these exotic islands or lurking beneath the waves, eager to gobble up our heroes. It provides us human threats, and allows us swashbuckling fights as combatants swing on ropes from ship to ship. Finally, there’s the sea itself, the ultimate threat, ready to drown our hero or cast them adrift to die of thirst and heat. It’s a spectacular backdrop for fantasy adventure.

Each ship gives us a closed world, leaving all the politics and issues of the cities and nations behind it. This act of fleeing the established world allows the reader to also escape alongside our heroes. Each port, island, or ship that they encounter provides a new and exciting obstacle and adventure unto itself. The lure of escape is what draws us and causes even our most landlubbing Sword & Sorcery heroes to occasionally throw off the shackles of the familiar world, board a ship, and sail to unknown adventures.

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Official Author Website
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Dämoren
Read Fantasy Book Critic Interview with Seth Skorkowsky
Read "Building The Perfect Revolver" by Seth Skorkowsky (guest post)

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: Seth Skorkowsky was born in Texas in 1978. He currently lives in Denton, Texas, with his wife, and works for the University of North Texas. His short story "The Mist of Lichthafen" was nominated for a British Fantasy Award (long list) in 2009. Dämoren is Seth's debut novel and was recently nominated and shortlisted for the Reddit Fantasy Stabby Award for "Best Debut Novel."

He recently signed a two-book deal with Ragnarok for his "Black Raven" sword-and-sorcery collection. When not writing, Seth enjoys travel, shooting, and tabletop gaming.

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