Friday, February 6, 2009

RE: Zothique as a basis for the Suel Empire?

Date sent: Tue, 2 Sep 1997 09:27:34 +0300
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Subject: [GREYTALK] RE: Zothique as a basis for the Suel Empire?

From: Gary R Welsh
…a lot of critics say that Vance was (overly) influenced by Dunsany, CAS and maybe Cabell, but I don’t think anyone would argue over Vance finding his own voice.

Most definitely can it be said that Vance had indeed his own inimacal style. As for your earlier comments about the dangers of writers adopting the style of their heroe’s, then a good example IMO would be Michael Shea. He writes his own followup to Vance’s ‘Eyes of the Overworld’ called ‘A Quest for Simbilis’, which IMO is a limpid pastiche of JVs. He then much later writes ‘Nifft the Lean’, which is probably one of the best fantasy novels ever written. Shea’s descriptions of the various demonic subworld’s is absolutely chilling….. .

Talking of Clark Ashton Smith, I’ve just finished reading his ‘Tales of Zothique’. For those not yet in the know, Zothique is described as the last continent, set in a time in the farflung future, as the sun is beginning to gutter out. Deserts and other such desolate tracts carpet the face of Zothique, sweeping up to the very walls of monolithic cities where dwells the last races of mankind, who has returned to the use of magic, and has become decadent, jaded, and corrupt. All manner of iniquities, tortures, debaucheries, and foul magery is practised. Primarily written in the 30’s and 40’s, it’s dark stuff, macabre but not horrific.

It also struck me what a great font of ideas this collection of tales is for those people in the process of creating a campaign in the Suel Empire; the characters, creatures, and places described could easily be used as a basis for campaigns set either at the decadent end of the Suloise, or for any last bastions surviving in ‘current times’. Steve Kurtz’s excellent ‘Complete Guide to Necromancers’ makes mention many times about the necromancers who figure heavily in CAS’s stories. Such mages, lording over crumbling cities in the shadows of the Sulhauts, could be in possession of much forgotten and powerful necromantic lore : the basis of a high level campaign, perhaps.

So, if your players have become complacent, send ‘em off for a stint in the city of the Charnel God, spend some quality time the Weaver in the Vault, or have them relax of the cannibal-infested jungle isle of Naat!


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