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Sword and sorcery

Sword and sorcery (S&S) is a fantasy sub-genre featuring muscular heroes in violent conflict with a variety of villains, chiefly wizards, witches, evil spirits, and other creatures whose powers are—unlike the hero’s—supernatural in origin. The term was suggested by Fritz Leiber to Michael Moorcock in 1961.

But the subgenre is much older than this. Ultimately—like much fantasy—it has its roots in mythology and Classical epics such as Homer's Odyssey, but its immediate progenitors are the swashbuckling tales of Alexandre Dumas (The Three Musketeers (1844), etc.) and Rafael Sabatini (e.g., Scaramouche[?] (1921), itself rooted in the Italian commedia dell'arte) - although these all lack the supernatural element - and early fantasy fiction such as E. R. Eddison[?]'s The Worm Ouroboros (1922) and Lord Dunsany's The Fortress Unvanquishable, Save for Sacnoth (1910). But S&S proper really began in the pulp fantasy magazines.

Seminal S&S

Seminal S&S books and series include

Other pulp fantasy fiction - such as Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars stories - has a similar feel to S&S, but, because alien science replaces the supernatural, is better described as science fantasy[?].

S&S Heroines

Despite the early work of C. L. Moore and others, S&S has had a very male bias. Female characters are too often distressed damsels to be rescued or protected. Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword and Sorceress anthology series (1984 onwards) redressed the balance. Bradley encouraged female writers and protagonists: the stories feature skillful swordswomen and powerful sorceresses. The series was immensely popular and Bradley was editing the final volume at the time of her death.

Although a minor character in one of Howard's Conan stories, Red Sonja of Rogatine was a popular female S&S character in a comic book series Roy Thomas, a series of novels by David C. Smith and Richard Tierney, and an unsuccessful film, Red Sonja (1985), directed by Richard Fleischer.



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