Taking the Low Road

March 7, 2019

    The book I am currently prompting, “The Sword of Cullen,” came out over two years ago on Amazon Kindle. It was the first in a series of books about a sword-wielding barbarian named Cullen Redgust. The novella reached the top 60 in the fantasy category a couple of months after its debut. Not bad. Unfortunately, I had rushed the story out too fast and as a result, there were a lot if typos. I’ve since gone back and revised a lot of errors and added new scenes, new dialogue.

   A lot of my critics say I’m copying Robert E. Howard. Hardly, because I only read a page of one Howard’s books years ago and gave it up. He stuff was unreadable, the prose too flowery. Cullen is actually based more on Achilles, especially Brad Pitt’s portrayal of the mythical superhero in the movie “Troy.” Actually Conan, Achilles, Beowulf, Hercules, Cu Culanin (from which I derive the name Cullen) are archetypal figures in folklore, part of what Joseph Campbell in his book “A Hero with a Thousand Faces” calls “the heroes journey.” Basically, a strong resourceful individual ventures into the unknown, fights supernatural creatures, and then returns with a marvelous gift that he will bequeath to his fellow villagers.

   That was more or less the theme for most fantasy literature, well heroic fantasy, until the advent of high fantasy in the 1970’s. The heroes’ journey became more complex, the settings moving from earth to alternate realities and the protagonists from barbarians to characters with special powers. The concept even spawned role-playing games such as “High Fantasy” and “Dungeons and Dragons.” But “high fantasy” genre follows the same tired script, one shamelessly borrowed from Tolkien, a dark lord has a large army and the protagonist, against all odds, must defeat it. “Low fantasy” is more versatile, the hero could be on various sort of missions and there might not even be any sorcery involved. I have bashed epic fantasy on different websites, incensing fantasy lovers and even causing one popular epic fantasy writer, Stuart Thaman, to bash me on Goodreads, giving me terrible reviews while using an alias. 

   My Cullen series is “low fantasy” with admittedly a few elements of “high fantasy” thrown in. Cullen is extremely adept with a sword, he has to fight two adversaries who have taken over his country, one mortal and one supernatural. A common enough theme, but Cullen is from an alien world, magic is not that common (either contrived from potions or wielded by a satanic creature named Khangi), and swords usually settle a dispute. To me, the concept is revolutionary. It’s an answer to this stale epic fantasy, a mélange of past and present. There is no one formula as in a “high fantasy” adventure. Once Cullen has dispensed with his foe and saved his countrymen, he can move on to other adventures, other opponents. The story has no ending.




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