Friday, January 22, 2010

January - Doorway to Fantasy.

January, named after the Roman god Janus .. or the Opener of Doors, could not be more fitting.

In the month of January we have the births of some of the greatest Weird tale or Fantasy writers .. of all times.. It's arguable, that without two of these, there would be no " Fantasy " genre at all.

On January 3rd, 1892 in Bloemfontein South Africa, one, John Ronald Ruel Tolkien was heralded into the world, He went on to create the seminal work of what is now " High Fantasy ".. in " The Lord of the Rings ".. but thats only the tip of the iceberg, he also translated Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, helped to rehabilitate the Poem Beowulf from its place of unimportance and elevate it to its rightful place as one of if not the most important works of English literature..(I can hear the grinding of teeth in a thousand, thousand, high school classrooms from where I sit).. He worked tirelessly on his chosen field, Philology, or the study of the history of words.. helped edit the Oxford English Dictionary.. and created thousands of pages of back story and legendarium in his " Middle Earth Setting " ..

On January 13th, 1893, Clark Ashton Smith was born in Auburn California.. His work is probably the least well known on this list today, but thats a shame, as his works display an immense imagination, they are alternatively humorous and frightening, filled with bizarre sites and sounds and descriptions of all manner of weird places.. I'm glad that the majority of his work is back in print now, however It isn't yet in affordable editions.

On January 19th, 1809, Edgar Allen Poe was born Boston Massachusetts, The Weird Tale had met its master, His life was tragic and short, Lost love, Alcoholism, and a lifetime of not being taken seriously, But just last year he was immortalized on his bicentennial with a Stamp from the USPS.. He has finally taken his place among the greats of American literature. The world would be a much less interesting place without him.

January 22nd, 1906, a boy named Robert E. Howard was born in Peaster Texas, He would only live to see 30. But in this short life, he single handedly created what is today known as " Sword and Sorcery " with his character " Conan The Cimmerian " (Known to most as Conan the Barbarian due to the abysmal John Milius Movie) .. If Tolkien is the wise father of Fantasy, then Howard is the Uncle who has too many beers and tells the raucous and sometimes spicy stories of Adventure, women and battle. while Tolkien began to receive recognition for his Middle Earth Series in the 80s, culminating eventually in the Peter Jackson Films. Howard has yet to really receive his just rewards.. But his star is rising.. He has been featured in the two volume " American Fantastic Tales " released by Library of America.. and we can only hope this leads to a Howard Specific volume in that venerable series.. It's only right for him to be able to sit on the shelf next to one of his heroes Jack London, His friend H.P. Lovecraft and predecessor in the weird tale.. Edgar Allen Poe. Howard tragically took his own life in 1936, the reason for this has been bandied about endlessly, but mainly no one really knows why he did it, and to accept at face value any of the theories.. especially if they come courtesy of anything L. Sprague DeCamp wrote .. should not be undertaken lightly. In his short life time he produced an enormous number of short stories and several novels.. a Large number of these are in print now, Through Bison Books, Wild side Fantasy, and the soon to be 10 volume series from Del Rey books.. Not to mention an extremely protective and active fan base. Do yourself a favor.. Skip the movies and read the books.

And lastly, but certainly not least.. we come to C.L. Moore, Born January 24th, 1911, I can hear you scratching your head.. " who is C.L. Moore " .. She was probably one of the most important writers to come out of Weird Tales, Fantasy stopped being a Boys Club when her character Jirel of Joiry was published.. Inspired by Howard and along with her Husband Henry Kuttner, This Secretary from Indianapolis Indiana didn't so much smash the glass ceiling, as walk in with broadsword drawn and slay the installation crew. She is alas not remembered much these days, but the majority of her work is in print courtesy of Paizo publishing. Her other big character was Northwest Smith of Earth, and along with Kuttner they wrote Mimsy were the Borogoves .. Which was recently adapted into a film, " The Last Mimsy ".

So all of these Pathfinders of the field, who lit the drop zones for the future waves of Fantasy writers to follow, were all Born in January, the month of Janus, the God of Doors.. Doors to Fantasy, Adventure, Sorcery, Darkness, Evil, Far Away Lands, Beautiful Women, Dangerous Men ( And Women).. all I can say is without them, the world would be a much more boring place.

while, not nearly as interesting.. mine is this weekend as well.

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