RRR 31 Karl Edward Wagner's Kane the Mystic Swordsman

By Roy Mathur, on 2014-03-02, at 14:02:00--14:39:21 GMT, for Roy's Rocket Radio, Listen

I'm Ill(ish)

Not too much to chat about this week, other than I'm feeling a little under the weather. Possibly lingering man-flu.

The cold weather isn't helping. There was even a thick layer of ice on the car yesterday!

Podcast Cover Art

I changed the cover to the podcast, so now you can see me in my full, resplendent glory. Or not.


Expect lots of other changes in the coming days.

Amazon Studios

Amazon has got into the TV business.

Betas (2013)

Looks to be a quite enjoyable, though very adult, look at a San Francisco startup and the ridiculous circus involved in getting a high tech startup going.

It was refreshing not to recognise any of the actors apart from a very funny Ed Begley Junior as a complete nutcase "angel" investor who is the owner of a high tech venture capital accelerator.

How many times in this podcast am I going to say "high tech"? Your bets please!

Barbarella (Upcoming)

Much as I hate reboots and I love the Jane Fonda movie, I have to say yes!

And I have read that they are going back to the comics by Jean-Claude Forest.

Bosch (Upcoming)

This is the screen adaptation of the very popular series of novels by Michael Connelly about an LAPD homicide cop.

There is also an interesting article I found about Network TV vs. Amazon TV.

The Centenarian (Doctor Who Short Trips) (2006)

Library find.

A Big Finish anthology of the life a times of the Doctor as seen through the eyes of Edward Grainger, who keeps bumping into him.

Seems like a fairly diverting book from Big Finish.

Kane the Mystic Swordsman

Since I don't have too much else to chat about this week, I thought I'd talk to you about my all-time favourite fantasy character, Kane the mystic swordsman. Described as Conan on LSD, he is the brainchild of Karl Edward Wagner, an American psychiatrist turned genre writer. His own story is fairly colourful.

Wagner conceived the character as the true face of biblical Cain, cursed by a mad god to wander the Earth after killing his brother. He is basically Conan seen through glass darkly, with a good dose of the, gothic, Romantic, and Byronic anti-hero thrown in for good measure. It is no surprise that Wagner was both a Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft fan.

Darkness Weaves (1978, though published in another form in 1970)

The first novel (though the last one I read) and it really sets the tone for the series with back alley deals, assassinations, black fortresses, hideous sea monsters, black arts, torture, mutilation, journeys down dank, dark passages; the works in fact.

In the novel Kane is hired to wreak chaos by a mad witch. Blimey.

Death Angel's Shadow (collection) (1973)

Here we have a lovely little collection of stories in which Kane involves himself with werewolves (Reflections for the Winter of My Soul), vampires (Mirage), and worse of all; some really repellent normal human vigilantes (Cold Light). I do get the feeling Wagner was trying to say something in that particular story.

Bloodstone (novel) (1975)

In Bloodstone we see Kane in his role as mad scientist; really, really loopy scientist in fact, lording over the toad people!

Dark Crusade (novel) (1976)

My favourite because it was my first. Borrowed from Bellingham library. The library is where I would escape, and it's where I revised for exams and where Mum first took out a sci-fi book for me years earlier. It finally closed in the 1990s.

In the book Kane, a mysterious, ambitious general allys himself with an ex-bandit, turned demonic cult leader. The battles are vast, characters real and true, and the violence intense. If there's a book that defines the beginnings of dark fantasy for me, then this is it.

Night Winds (collection) (1978)

Another collection. Particularly notable is the first story, Undertow, in which Kane, an utterly insane sorcerer, has a go at bride-making; a sort of spin on the Bride of Frankenstein.

Quite disturbing and memorable.

The Book of Kane (collection) (1985)

This is a collection with all the Kane stories.

Very rare and very expensive. You're looking at c. GBP 200, even on Amazon.

Tell Me Dark (Karl Edward Wagner and Kent Williams 1992)

This is a comic book that I have yet to read.

Gods in Darkness: The Complete Novels of Kane (2002)

Just a collection of the novels, but expect to pay through the nose.

Midnight Sun: The Complete Stories of Kane (2003)

These are just the stories and some poetry. More moolah.

Before fleeing the mortal coil at the unripe age of 49, Wagner also wrote for TV, and in other genres. Most of his work has a wonderfully, shuddery dark edge and always leaves you wanting more. He is the sort of writer I come back to time-and-time-again and has influenced my own attempts at writing sword and sorcery.

As you can see, every few years a publisher will try and make a buck off this long dead author. I'm not sure who owns the estate, but it does bug me no end. Luckily, I bought most of his work over many years before it was even thought of as being in any way valuable. Today a reader would be completely out of luck if they wanted the books, legally speaking that is.

To conclude, I like his work for many reasons, but one of the foremost is that it doesn't feel dumbed down. It feels more like dark action fantasy for the thinking and arty adult. Try some!

He wrote for many other anthologies too, so seek him out.

Mobile World Congress and New Smartphones, Including Nokia's X Series Android Phones and Mozilla's Twenty-Five Dollar Phone

24-27 Feb, Barcelona.

Nokia's Android X series phone X, X+ and XL. Starts around GBP 70, but you get what you pay for.

There's also the Mozilla USD 25 dollar Firefox OS phone, which the VP of Mozilla sounded remarkably bullish about, boasting of Mozilla's domination of the browser market. Hey, I'm a user. Listen, there's a lot of good stuff from Mozilla, but it's not a done deal.

Geeking Out

Also let me know what you are up to out there. I know that people are downloading the show, because I check! So get in touch with ideas and suggestions. Tell me what you are watching, reading, coding, and writing.

Get geeking out people and don't let the weather put you off!