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In Lands That Never Were: Tales of Swords and Sorcery from The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
edited by Gordon Van Gelder
Thunder's Mouth Press, 416 pages

In Lands That Never Were
Gordon Van Gelder
Gordon Van Gelder began working as an editor at St. Martin's Press in 1988 right out of college. He attended Clarion West in 1987, and edited The New York Review of Science Fiction from 1988-95. In January 1997, he replaced Kristine Kathryn Rusch as editor at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and bought the magazine in 2000. He lives in Hoboken, NJ with his wife, Barbara.

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction Website
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A review by Steven H Silver

If you look at the stories published over the last several years in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, you'll notice that many of the fantasy stories are modern or urban fantasies. It is surprising, therefore, that for his second thematic anthology, editor/publisher Gordon van Gelder has selected sword and sorcery as the theme. However, the assortment of stories which appears in In Lands That Never Were demonstrates that F&SF actually does print stories of swords and sorcery.

The collection includes a dozen stories dating back to the late 60s, however the majority of the tales were originally published in the last eight years, demonstrating that despite the feel of the stories published in Fantasy and Science Fiction, it still publishes heroic tales of sword and sorcery.

The term sword and sorcery conjures up images of Conan and his imitators, many of which were published in the pulps and do not denote a literary quality. The story which opens In Lands That Never Were is a tale of Conan by Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague de Camp, "The Hall of the Dead," which lays to rest the idea that sword and sorcery is pulp trash as surely as this anthology lays to rest the idea that F&SF doesn't publish swords and sorcery. "Ill Met in Lankhmar," Fritz Leiber's Nebula and Hugo Award-winning novella which details the first meeting of his comrades Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, is also included to both establish the credentials of the genre and F&SF's continuing role in it.

For those who feel swords and sorcery requires barbarians with bulging muscles, van Gelder provides Phyllis Eisenstein's cultural tale of magic and bards, "The Island in the Lake," and Chris Willich's story of a bard and thief, "King Rainjoy's Tears," both of which are lyrical in their writing and gripping in their plotting.

In the past few years, Charles Coleman Finlay has made quite a name for himself, ever since publishing his first story, "Footnotes," in F&SF.

Van Gelder has elected to include one of his more recent tales, "After The Gaud Chrysalis," which only saw its initial publication in June of this year. This tale is the second of a cycle Finlay appears to be beginning, yet it shows a depth of background and, fortunately, does not require knowledge of the first tale (although you should track "For Want of a Nail" (F&SF, 3/03) down and read it).

One of the unwritten aspects of swords and sorcery is that it has a strange connection with historical fiction. Even when it doesn't take place in our own world, when written properly, as these stories are, it feels as if it does take place in a world in which the world works properly and has a long history. Perhaps the strongest example of this is R. García y Robertson's "Firebird," which is set in a recognizable European Middle Ages with a twist. Not really surprising given his background and interests.

If you think the fantasy in the title of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction stands for urban fantasy, In Lands That Never Were will give you a pleasant surprise. If you enjoy reading stories of warriors and maidens, thieves and magicians, this collection will reunite you with classics and modern examples of wonder. The thematic anthologies from F&SF are a welcome addition to that magazine's long history of general anthologies which have been all too rare over the past twenty years.

Copyright © 2004 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a four-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings (DAW Books, January, February and March, 2003). In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is heavily involved in convention running and publishes the fanzine Argentus.

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