As part of my proud geek heritage, I’m a fan of Conan (the barbarian, not the late-night talk show dude. He’s cool too, but I can’t claim him as part of my sub-culture. Sorry). I’m not a obsessive fan, but I’ve read a number of Robert E. Howard’s Conan tales, and appreciate (and have been inspired by) the pure pulpy goodness found therein. I’ve also read enough to know that the true fans despise the post-Howard Conan tales penned by Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp.
So I felt a twinge of apprehension — and yes, even guilt — when I picked up an old but serviceable paperback copy of Conan of the Isles written by these two. But it was 50 cents and I was in the mood for some sword and sorcery. How bad could it be?
Conan the barbarian, wearing a glass diving helmet and oxygen tank, walking across the ocean floor, fighting a giant octopus… when suddenly, a giant shark appears and saves him by attacking the eight-legged freak!
What next? Dinosaurs? Robots? Well, I’ve not finished the book yet (And I will finish it, no matter how silly it gets. It’s my curse.) so maybe I’ll discover that it ends in a battle between a T. Rex and Voltron, but after Underwater Fight Club, I won’t be surprised by much.
I love me some pulp fantasy. But after this, when it comes to Conan, I’m sticking to Howard.
This is it. The final installment of the pulp fantasy story Amber and Stone is here for your reading pleasure. Maybe you’d like to take a moment.
Breathe it in. Savor the flavor of the last adventure-soaked page.
Perhaps you’d like to read the previous installments again (or for the first time) to capture the full experience of reading the whole story. Before you dive once more into the unnamed world of bounty hunters and magic rocks, I’d like to say thank you for joining me on this journey. It’s been fun, and I hope we can do it again soon.
Admit it. You thought last week’s installment of Amber and Stone was the last, didn’t you? “A little abrupt,” you thought, “But still, a satisfying conclusion. The sword-to-sorcery ratio was right on, and the violence was exciting without being over the top. A good ending.”
But you were wrong. There’s more today. And there will be more next week, but after that… Well, I can’t promise we won’t see more Amber ever, but her current adventure will be over.
Yes, it’s Friday! When we were young, we celebrated this day as one of drunken excess and building up a reservoir of glee that will, come Saturday morning, turn into a slowly draining lake of burning shame. But we’re older now, slower, and our revels are likewise more genteel. We have families now. Jobs that don’t pay exclusively in beer or cash under the table. Maybe even retirement plans beyond a suicide pact at age 65. But we still like to have our weekend-starting fun: the bingo parlor, some TV… a new installment of Amber and Stone. I can’t promise the pulp fantasy will be more fun than playing bingo, but odds are good it’s better than whatever’s on TV.
As is tradition here in the Hardy Tales corner of the Darrellverse, I’m linking to a new piece of free short fiction from the web: Monster from Dead End Fiction. Check it out!
Good morning, class. Your assigned reading for today is the latest installment of Amber and Stone, a pulp fantasy classic feature both swords and sorcery. In this segment, you’ll find our protagonists back at school and — yes? Chuck? You should have thought of that before class. Can’t you hold it? Fine. Here’s a pass. But be back in five minutes, or I’m sending The Retriever after you.
I know, I know! I promised you swords and sorcery in Amber and Stone, but you’re asking, “Where’s the sorcery, Darrell? Where’s the sorcery?”
Fine. You want sorcery? It’s right here, in this week’s installment. There’s so much pulp sorcery, it makes Harry Potter look like Conan. (Okay, maybe not, but I find the image of HP with a loincloth and a giant sword amusing.)
Do you thirst for adventure? Do you hunger for danger? Do you relish the thought of flashing blades, ferocious beasts, and fearsome women with swords? Then come on down to Amber and Stone, the fantasy story guaranteed to fill you up with pulpy goodness, one week at a time. This week’s special is light narrative interlude with a hint of sweetness and a wafer-thin crust of machismo.
If you’re still hungry after the entree, might I recommend a selection from our dessert tray:
- Wil Hindmarch’s Wired Tales - Yes, I mentioned it last week, but it’s worth brining up again. Each month, Wil writes and publishes short stories inspired by the previous month’s issue of WIRED magazine. The first issue is out (it’s free), and it’s a guaranteed good read, and pleasing to the eye to boot.
- Jack Mangan’s Memories of an Undead Sun – The latest “chain story” hosted by Michael Stackpole features a flying saucer and more questions than answers.
- Mike Oliveri’s Inazuma – Horror writer Mike Oliveri shares a killer short story in PDF or ePub.
Amber’s back! Okay, she’s only been gone since last Friday, but if you’ve been waiting with bated to breath to find out what happens next in her rousing tale of swords and sorcery, you can breath now. This week’s installment is here, and it features furry, fangy creatures with a taste, it would seem, for human flesh.
I’d like to take a moment to pass along the online fiction I’ve been reading this week. Once you’ve feasted your eyes on Amber’s latest episode, I’d encourage check out these folks for dessert:
- Wil Hindmarch’s Wired Tales - This is just awesome. Each month, Wil writes and publishes short stories inspired by the previous month’s issue of WIRED magazine. The first issue is out (it’s free), and it’s a guaranteed good read, and pleasing to the eye to boot.
- Derwin Mak’s The Shephard’s Blessing – This is the latest in a string (chain?) of “chain stories” spearheaded by Michael Stackpole. By pure coincidence (given this week’s musings), it’s a story of Lovecraftian colonial America.
- Bryan Young’s The Whiskey Doctor – When he’s not making movies or writing comics, Bryan’s working on short stories, like this one. No pulp here, but solid storytelling and sense of place.
Last Friday, I introduced Amber, a pulp sword-and-sorcery heroine who hunts bounties for money – a bounty hunter, if you will. This Friday, we pick up the story with part 2, in which Amber’s bounty turns out to be more popular than she had anticipated. And when you’re a wanted man, “popular” isn’t such a good thing to be.
There’s just something about a woman with a sword.
Maybe it’s Freudian. Maybe it’s the juxtaposition of beauty and danger. Maybe it’s the twist on the more traditional man-with-sword image that gives me a grin and whispers in my ear, “This is gonna be so cool!” like some sugared-up 13 year-old rolling his first D&D character.
Today, that woman is Amber. Her first adventure, Amber and Stone, starts here, with the introduction of an unremarkable, balding man with two secrets — one he knows, and one he’s about to discover. I’ll be releasing new installments of Amber and Stone for the next few weeks. (Don’t worry; it’s short.) After that? Who knows. I think Amber’s got a lot of story potential in her.
She is, after all, a woman with a sword.