Something elsewhere made me think of Poul Anderson’s classic essay “On Thud and Blunder” about sword-and-sorcery authors who don’t bother to consider the how and why as well as the what. I wanted to check when it was first published and link to the online text.
It was first published in Andrew J. Offutt (ed.), Swords Against Darkness III (Zebra Books, 1978) and reprinted online by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers’ Association. Anderson’s essay was the predecessor to Diana Wyne Jones’ book The Tough Guide to Fantasyland (first edition 1996, revised 2006 – Wikipedia).
Over on another place, I have been talking to Jean Henri Chandler the fencer and RPG writer about the trope of poisoned weapons. Writers of adventure stories in the 20th century loved this trope. In Robert E. Howard’s “Black Colossus” a beast is defeated with a poisoned dagger, while in Hour of the Dragon a poisoned needle protects a treasure and can kill with a scratch. Tolkien’s Witch-King wields a cursed knife whose wounds cannot be healed by ordinary medicine, and in the Warhammer setting Dark Elves or Dark Eldar love their poisoned daggers and flechette launchers. Brian Jacques’ villain Cluny the Scourge has a poisoned barb on his tail, and Jack White’s Arthurian novels (goodreads) have poisoned needles too.
This passage is so extraordinary that I want to quote it for later use even if I don’t have the words in me to say anything about it. It was published shortly before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Also in the command center: (Ukrainian army battalion commander) Oleksander’s sword and crossbow — a nod to... Continue reading: The Power of Fiction