Tuesday, October 12, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 63

This is an ongoing series looking at books that influenced me as a fantasy author.

The First Book of Swords
by Fred Saberhagen

The First Swords: The Book of Swords Volumes 1, 2, & 3The year was 1983. I was 13 years old. I was perusing the fantasy shelves of my favorite book store in my hometown, looking for something different. I stumbled up Fred Saberhagen's The First Book of Swords.

Why did I buy this novel? Could it have been the interesting cover with flashy sword and the painted artwork inlaid inside the blade's handle? Could it have been the interesting plot, 12 magic swords created by the gods and tossed down to the mortals to see what mischief would occur?

I don't remember. But I believe it was probably all of the above.

Saberhagen's writing style wasn't flashy, nor was it complicated or overly literary. It was fairly straight-forward, down-to-earth, almost blue-collar writing. I could appreciate that at 13 and I still appreciate it now at 41. The story was key here, with the characters running a close second. That was fine with me. I do like my mammoth literary novel reading from time to time, but I also enjoy stories that are just stories.

And I think, as a writer, that's much of what I took away from this novel and the many others that followed in the series -- that sometimes a story is just a story, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Up next: Sometimes the Magic Works


Paul R. McNamee said...


I only discovered Saberhagen in the past few years. I very much look forward to cracking the covers of his books.

You're right about his style. To me, he also feels like storytelling came to him very naturally. Whether he slaved to make it appear so, I don't know.

I feel that he writes tales like Bradbury - but without the purple prose.

I've read some of the Berserker tales, and the Empire of the East trilogy. I haven't even touched his Vlad Tapes(Dracula) stuff yet.

There is a very good forward in the Baen collection, Of Bersekers, Swords & Vampires. It was written by his wife, and mentions that part of the concept of Swords was developed with computer games in mind. Fred saw the potential, even way back when. (The collection comes out again this month - mm paperback edition.)

Ty Johnston said...

Paul, I no longer have it in my possession, but that very first copy of The First Book of Swords had a short afterward that actually mentioned a game being developed for the Swords premise. I'm guessing nothing came of it, but you're right, the man was looking ahead even back then.

Charles Gramlich said...

I will always remember the first book for its opening. "In what felt to him like the first cold morning of the world, he groped for fire." What a great great line.

Ty Johnston said...

Yep, that whole opening scene with Vulcan was pretty awesome.