Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Armchair BEA: Novellas/Short Stories
Now it is time to give a little love to those little stories in your life. Share your love for your favorite shorts of any form. What is a short story or novella that doesn’t get the attention that it deserves? Recommend to readers what shorts you would recommend they start with. How about listing some short story anthologies based upon genres or authors?
It will come as no surprise to my regular readers that I love short stories. There's something about a bite-size chunk of fiction that really appeals to me, and I really enjoy working in that format myself, which is why my first book was a collection of short stories. It's no coincidence that most of my favorite authors, such as Mark Twain, Ray Bradbury, and Robert E. Howard, were masters of the short story. Today, I'll be talking about one of Howard's tales of Solomon Kane, The Footfalls Within.
I've covered REH's Solomon Kane work a couple of times before, and as with those posts, this story is found in the collection The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane, which reprint all of REH's Kane work in their original form, unlike the edited versions found in some other reprint collections. The story begins as Kane runs afoul of a group of Islamic slavers, and is captured while attempting to free their captives. Their leader has heard of Kane, and has special plans for him once they reach their destination. The group encounters an ancient structure along the way, and things quickly go downhill from there. This story is a very concise twenty pages, and its relentless pace keeps it moving so quickly you could swear it was half as long. As with most fiction from the early twentieth century, there are a few cringe-inducing lines reflecting the common prejudices of the time, but REH was rather progressive in his views for that era, particularly for a Southerner. (I say that as a Southerner, where I routinely see that some of those views are, sadly, still disturbingly common. Definitely not the majority, however.) That said, this is a rock-solid adventure story with a wonderful pulpy tone, plenty of action, and some solid characterization work on Kane himself. With the religious zealotry and many of the prejudices you'd expect from a sixteenth century Puritan, Kane is certainly not the most likeable of REH's characters, but he is one of the most interesting. Highly recommended for lovers of classic adventure fiction, and these Del Rey REH reprint volumes are the perfect place to dive in!