Swords & Sorcery [genre]

I’ve got a lot of oldies on my iPod. Playing right now is Lords Of The Ring by Styx, released on their 1978 album ‘Pieces of Eight’.

That got me thinking: The mid-to-late-'70s seemed an especially good time for Swords & Sorcery and Post-Apocalypse stuff. I first read The Hobbit in the mid-'70s, and interest in Middle Earth seemed abundant at school amongst a certain crowd. Dungeons & Dragons was published in 1974. Heavy Metal magazine came out in 1977. There was The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever in 1977. Styx released their LsOTR song in '78, and half a dozen years later This Is Spinal Tap poked fun at the rock-group-meets-Middle-Earth schtick.

Just stuff that came to me when the song played.

Lord of the Rings had been published in the 1950s, but it got big when Ballantine books published it in paperback in the US (after Ace books had published an unauthorized version, as recounted in a thread I started a couple of months ago. Some have attributed LotR’s ultimate publicity to that initial event). I first heard of it in the late 1960s, by which time it was already a hit on college campuses. Heck, the parody, Bored of the Rings came out in 1969.

But with LotR popular, they began scrambling for other fantasies. There had been a fantasy paperback market before this, but this breathed new life in as Ballantine published E.R.R.Eddison’s ungodly long books (The Worm Ouroborous and others), Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy, and Lin Carter started scouring for “Adult Fantasy”, collecting the works of Clark Ashton Smith and others.

Ace had published LotR, as noted, and now republished Silverlock. Lancer had already been publishing Robert E. Howard’s Conan books, and his other works, and now stepped that up. The comics, quick to spot a trend, took it up. Marvel brought out Conan the Barbarian comics, followed by King Kull, Howard’s other hero. DC retaliated by buying the rights to Tarzan and then also publishing Edgar Rice Burroughs’ other series – Carson of Venus, Pellucidar, and John Carter of Mars. Marvel retaliated by publishing Gullivar of Mars, based on the book by Arnold that some claim Burroughs cribbed John Carter from. DC put out Sword and Sorcery, featuring Fritz Leiber’s Fahferd and the Grey Mouser. Sadly, it only lasted six issues (Marvel arguably retaliated by introducing the characters Fafnir and Blackrat into the Conan stories. They quickly got killed off.)
This was all before 1973, so it predates most of the stuff in the OP, but it shows that there was a fertile interest in Sword and Sorcery in novels, magazines, and comics from which games and rock music could draw. (Even before Thomas Covenant, by the way, Terry Brooks had come out with The Sword of Shannara, which was practically plagiarism, but it spawned a whole series. )

I’ve always heard that Fritz Leiber invented the term “sword and sorcery.” In fact, he did!

His Fafhrd & Grey Mouser stories satirized the genre as it was being invented, with adult heroes possessing actual senses of humor. (Much more sophisticated than Conan!)

The Tolkien paperbacks moved things to a higher level. And Lin Carter’s paperback collection (I had them all!) showed everyone the older roots. But the* oldest* roots go back to the very beginning of story telling. Who would you rather read about? Normal, average people leading normal, average lives? Or great heroes fighting mighty battles against eldritch forces?

One personal, early favorite: Poul Anderson’s Three Hearts & Three Lions.

So the term ‘Sword & Sorcery’ has been around since before I was born, eh? I did not know that.

Just to be clear, I’m not claiming that the mid-'70s was the boom time for S&S; just that it was a boom time, based on stuff I mentioned in the OP.

I still have my D&D set in the white box. Actually, I have two sets; but I’ve only played with one of them. I know that the one I played with has Greyhawk and Blackmoor, Eldritch Wizardry, and I think Gods, Demi-gods & Heroes. I haven’t played since the '80s, and now, A) There’s no one around to play with; and B) I doubt anyone I could possibly find would be playing by the '70s rules.

Something else I remember from the mid-to-late-'70s is a S&S ‘micro-game’ called Melee. (There was also Wizards, and the science fiction Ogre.)

My wife, the music history professor, refers to that music as “Elf Rock”.

Ah, the Metagames Microgames. I used to draw my own versions of the robots from Rivets in class when I got bored.

BTW, I think the apotheosis of elf rock was the concept album Olias of Sunhillow by Jon Anderson. Even the title is epic: Sun-fucking-hillow!

Quoting Wikipedia: “The album tells the story of an alien race and their journey to a new world due to catastrophe. Olias, the title character, is the chosen architect of the glider Moorglade, which will be used to fly his people to their new home. Ranyart is the navigator for the glider, and QoQuaq is the leader who unites the four tribes of Sunhillow to partake in the exodus.”

Well, the 70’s band Elf did lead Ronnie James Dio to Rainbow, possibly the sword-and-sorceriest band of the entire 70’s {although Uriah Heep ran them pretty close, and Led Zep actually had Nazgul and Gollum in their songs}.