Friday, October 5, 2018

Deep Pulp

Currently, I'm alternating my reading time between two pulp science fiction novels from the 1960s: Lin Carter's Tower of the Medusa and Gardner Fox's Warrior of Llarn. Neither writer is hailed for their great literary accomplishments, though Gardner Fox made substantial contributions to Silver Age comic book history. Both write in a style that harkens back to the days of the actual pulp magazines (which, in Fox's case is where he got his start) and whatever their deficiencies can occasionally turn out a serviceable yarn.

originally published in an Ace Double
Carter has a flare for world-building, if occasionally done in too formulaic and always pretty derivative sort of way. He has a "genius" of combining subgenres that no one had put together before: His Lemuria stories, for instance are basically Conan in a Edgar Rice Burroughs yarn. His Gondwane tales are a faux Vancian mix Oz, Flash Gordon, and the Dying Earth. Tower of Medusa here feels a bit like a C.L. Moore riff in conception: In a future interstellar civilization where less of old knowledge makes ancient tech seem as magic (or maybe it was a fusion of the two?) a tough guy thief and his side kick are coerced into a difficult job: the theft of a jewel called Heart of Kom Yazoth. The story reads more like Moore's husband Henry Kuttner in his early pulp stuff. It has none of Moore's atmosphere. Still, it's an above average Carter effort, I feel like.

Warrior of Llarn is a Sword & Planet yarn. Earthman Alan Morgan gets transport to a distant world by means as yet mysterious. He saves a princess and gets involved with a war between two civilizations. The level of technology of the world is a bit higher than Barsoom, and Fox provides a Dune-esque (a year before Dune) explanation for why people with energy weapons might still use swords. Like Fox's earlier Adam Strange stories for DC, the planet has suffered a nuclear war in the past, which is the cause of it's strange creatures and current lower level of civilization. Fox's story is old fashion, even quaint in many ways, but he's accomplished at delivering the goods. It is not boring.