Episode 2.4 ‘Bloodstone’ Part 2 – Chapter XV: Lord of Bloodstone thru Epilogue

Italian Kane
Art by Maren


Originally Published: 1975 by Warner Paperback Library

Lo! Now arrives the conclusion of our coverage of Karl Edward Wagner’s Bloodstone. Such a large undertaking to try and tackle a novel in only two episodes. I feel like so many topics and themes hit the cutting room floor. One such subject was the role of horses in fantasy literature and Teres’s faithful horse Gwellines!

Bloodstone was translated into German in 1989 and then into Italian in 1991. I really loved the portrayal of the ring in the Italian cover so I wanted to display it here. It looks almost as if the ring is oversized and more girdle like. It gives the feeling of the power of the ring and also references how slippery the ring was until it began fusing itself to Kane.

Deuce Richardson, who we previously mentioned in the ‘Undertow’ episode, brought up another possible influence on Wagner’s work. This time the link is between Wagner’s Bloodstone and A. Merritt’s Dwellers in the Mirage.

Dwellers in the Mirage was originally published in Argosy Magazine split into six parts Argosystarting in January of 1932. It was written by the very interesting, world traveling, occult book collecting Abraham Grace Merritt or A. Merritt. We know Karl Edward Wagner read Merritt because of the inclusion of Merritt’s book Burn, Witch, Burn on Wagner’s list of Best Supernatural Horror Novels so a possible connection is not out of left field. Below are some of the connections that first stood out to me. This could certainly become its own blog post.

-The Ring: In Bloodstone the Ring is Kane’s connection with the space entity Bloodstone. It grants him access to Bloodstone and its power. In Dwellers, Leif Langdon also comes in possession of a ring. A ring that gives him the power to summon the horrible kraken space God Khalk’ru. The ring also starts him on the path of gaining knowledge and skills from a previous life. Both evil space creatures are tricking followers into powering their bids for power.

-Red Harvest Factor: In both stories the protagonist is going back and forth between two warring sides. The reader is often not sure which side they are really working for. In the end Leif helps the ‘good guys’ whereas Kane helps himself like a true hero-villain.

-Mind Control: Both tales have the ring exerting force over the bearer. It controls their decisions to a certain extent and the lead becomes unpredictable. In Dwellers it has more to do with a Blavatsky style past-life.

-Liebe zum Wolf: Love interests in both stories are warrior women who are associated with wolves. Teres is the daughter of ‘The Old Wolf’ and the chapter of her escape from Ristkon is titled ‘She-Wolf’s Fangs’. Lur, one of Leif’s two love interests in Dwellers, literally controls a pack of intelligent wolves into battle with her.

Maybe you see some of the connections, maybe you don’t. Either way, Dwellers in the Mirage was a fun pulpy read, perfect for sitting on the beach or surrounded by nature this summer.

Summoner's Pit
The Summoner’s Pit Demo

I have the link for Graven Rite here. Please check them out and support their work. Below find the lyrics for their song ‘The Bloodstone Ring’ on their demo album The Summoner’s Pit.

For aeons laid under earth and the rock, the relic waits in forgotten lore.
He who wields it becomes one with the stone come from the stars on another’s form.
Unholy glow, the guarded city of woe, the awful light from an ancient hall.
And so it falls to a thief with a past longer than Man would dare recall.

The Bloodstone Ring will find it’s hand.
All the lands would bow before the man turned god.
The power of the ages to command.
A thrall to the gem, it will seek dominion once again.

Two armies massed before the wasteland of rot to fight the beasts and the risen dead.
And the Daughters kill so that their pleas to the Gods might grant reprieve from that which they dread.
The Demon Moon can only stall the defeat, the witch’s tide would sweep the dome.
But the book reveals the only way to avail is to kill the one who bears the Stone.
Thanks for listening and don’t forget to join us in two weeks for our coverage of The Dark Muse.
Original Music: F. N. York
Narration: Alex Malcolm Mills
The Bloodstone Ring: Graven Rite
Special Thanks to Deuce Richardson for pointing me in the direction of A. Merritt and Dwellers in the Mirage. Also, for nerding out with me about all the possible connections.

Episode 2.3 ‘Bloodstone’ Part 1 – Prologue thru Chapter XIV: Flight into Nightmare

Bloodstone 1st
Art by Frank Frazetta


Originally Published: 1975 by Warner Paperback Library

Excited to be covering the novel that got me hooked on Wagner. A Special thank you to the John Hay Library and Brown University for allowing me access to the original Bloodstone manuscript and the ur-text Wagner wrote as a high school student.

Including a photo of my trip to the library below.

Join us again in two weeks when we cover Part 2 of Bloodstone.

-Jordan Douglas Smith

And don’t forget you can buy this book cheap here.

Original music: F. N. York

Photo by Jordan Douglas Smith

Episode 2.2 ‘Two Suns Setting’- Hear me, Sabertooth!

Two Suns Setting art-Steve Hickman
Art by Steve Hickman

Two Suns Setting

Originally published: Fantastic, May 1976 edited by Ted White

Awards: Won 1977 British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story, Nominated for 1977 World Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction

Happy to be back with another Kane episode, and such a great story too.

In my recent library delvings, I came across a great article in the  February 1978 issue of The Science Fiction Review called ‘Glimpses of the Third World Fantasycon’ by Mark Mansell, a reviewer of genre fiction in the late 70s and early 80s.

The article is Mark’s report from the Third World FantasyCon in L.A. It was the year when Wagner had both ‘Two Suns Setting’ nominated for Best Short Fiction and ‘Dark Crusade’ nominated for Best Novel. Mark describes picking Karl and his wife Barbara up from the airport on the first day of the Con. This was his first time meeting Wagner in person who he previously only had correspondence with. After check-in, Mark spent some time with Karl and Barbara and was introduced to Wagner’s

Glimpses of Third Fantasy Con
Art by Stephen Fabian

friend the editor Stephen Jones.

This seems to be his only interaction with Wagner besides attending a panel Wagner was on covering Epic Fantasy. It seems Wagner made a nice impression, Mark closes the article by saying:

“In closing, I’d like to thank everyone who made my first convention so (memorial) memorable, whether through friendship or kindness, made knowingly or unknowingly: Karl and Barbara Wagner, Stephen Jones, Harlan Ellison… You all may not remember my name or why I’m thanking you, but each in your own way made it a very special weekend for me by being very special people. Thanks.” (SFR No. 24 Vol. 7 No. 1 p. 37)

During the episode, Jonathan mentioned the appearance of giants in the bible and I wanted to share a couple of verses. It’s worth noting the word ‘giant’ is not always translated and in some versions left as Nephilim.

Two Suns 2nd art- Josh Kirby
Art by Josh Kirby

“There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.” (Genesis 6:4, King James Bible)

“And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.” (Numbers 13:33, King James Bible)

I also wanted to leave you with the opening poem of Robert Chambers’ King in Yellow that I referenced at the end of the episode.

Along the shore the cloud waves break,
The twin suns sink behind the lake,
The shadows lengthen
In Carcosa.

Strange is the night where black stars rise,
And strange moons circle through the skies
But stranger still is
Lost Carcosa.

Songs that the Hyades shall sing,
Where flap the tatters of the King,
Must die unheard in
Dim Carcosa.

Song of my soul, my voice is dead;
Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed
Shall dry and die in
Lost Carcosa.

Cassilda’s Song in “The King in Yellow,” Act i, Scene 2


That is all for this episode, join us in two weeks for Part 1 of Bloodstone, the first novel in the chronology. If you are reading along we’ll be covering through Chapter XIV: Flight into Nightmare.

original music: F. N. York
Narrator: Jordan Douglas Smith

Episode 2.1 ‘Undertow’-Never Bring your Demon to a Sword Fight

Whispers #10 Undertow
Art by Frank Utpatel


Originally published: Whispers #10, August 1977, edited by Stuart David Schiff

Awards: Nominated for 1979 Balrog for short fiction

I’m very excited to be starting off a new season of The Dark Crusade especially a season that is focused on Kane. This season I’m joined by comic writer Jonathan Gelatt. You can check out his webcomic Outrunners here. If you love Akira and The Warriors, you’re going to love his comic.

The connection between ‘Undertow’ and ‘Jane Brown’s Body’ is a strong one. I suggest checking out the original article by Deuce Richardson over here. ‘Jane Brown’s Body’ is a fairly short read and very fast paced. The author Cornell Woolrich led a very interesting life. For such an accomplished and adapted author, he was very reclusive. His aversion to going out caused a leg infection to worsen and resulted in an amputation. He even skipped the premiere of Truffaut’s adaptation of his own The Bride Wore Black in NYC. Upon his death, he left his literary estate to Columbia University which he had attended but never graduated from. Columbia was to use the funds to start a Journalism Scholarship in his mother’s name.

I built off of Richardson’s idea by putting forward the notion that the story Wagner wroteJourneyToTheUnknown_1.01 may be based more on the Journey to the Unknown episode than the Woolrich story. You’ll have to listen to the episode to understand why. Sadly, it’s speculation only and we will probably never know where the inspiration came from. We can, however, enjoy the wonderful opening sequence of Journey here. Reminds me a bit of Wagner’s opening to In the Pines. Coincidence?

Join us in two weeks when we cover Karl Edward Wagner’s adventuresome tale ‘Two Suns Setting’.

original music: F. N. York
Narrator & Kane: Alex Malcolm Mills
Dessylyn: Laura Maxfield
Mavrsal: Jordan Douglas Smith



Kane is coming!

Art by Ken Kelly

Kane is coming! I’m excited to announce Season 2 of The Dark Crusade will be starting next week- Thursday, July 5th, 2018. The entire season will be dedicated to Karl Edward Wagner’s dark fantasy character Kane.

With the new season comes a new co-host. I’ll be joined by comic book writer and sword & sorcery enthusiast Jonathan Gelatt. We’ve had a great time delving into the stories and are excited to share our thoughts. This season is the perfect season to start listening because all the Kane stories are easy to obtain as e-books, there is no excuse not to read along! Season 2 we’ll be covering Wagner’s collection Night Winds and his novel Bloodstone. Click here for buying options.

I’ve decided to read the stories in the order chronological to Kane’s life and NOT in order of publication. The hope is this will lend some insight into the arc of Kane’s life. We’ll be using Dale E Rippke’s timeline which you can find here on his blog The Darkstorm Files. Join us in one week when we cover the classic Kane tale ‘Undertow’.

-Jordan Douglas Smith



Echoes of Valor (1987) – Part 4: Wet Magic by Henry Kuttner

Karl Edward Wagner rounds out his collection Echoes of Valor with a modern Arthuriana story ‘Wet Magic’ by Henry Kuttner (1915-1958). This story was originally published in Unknown Worlds, February 1943. To date, Echoes of Valor is the only other place this story has seen print since. There has been a recent resurgence of re-prints of Kuttner’s work —Paizo’s Planet Stories collections and the F. Paul Wilson and Neil Gaiman backed Hogben collection from Borderlands Press—but even those are a few years in the past. I think Wagner’s inclusion of this story really has saved it from obscurity.

I’ve never knowingly read a story by Kuttner before however, that doesn’t mean I’ve never read a Kuttner story. Wikipedia lists seventeen names that he published under in addition to his own. He was also known for co-writing with his wife C. L. Moore —creator of Jirel of Jorey and Northwest Smith—so seamlessly neither could remember who wrote what. Wagner says “…Kuttner’s extensive use of pseudonyms would seem to indicate an author of multiple personalities, and to one extent this holds true: Henry Kuttner was an extremely versatile writer.” Wagner goes on to explain that Kuttner was a master of adapting his style to match the masters of whatever genre he was writing in. He quotes Robert Bloch as saying “Hank never became a superstar, because he was so versatile. He never became known for one style, one theme, one famous story.”

I think his most famous story now is ‘Mimsy Were the Borogoves’ which was adapted to film under the title The Last Mimsy in 2007. I’m certainly intrigued by his span of work, I feel like Kuttner is the type of writer where I’ll have to read a large body of work to get a sense of his style. I’m looking forward to the Kuttner stories that are included in Echoes of Valor III.

The story ‘Wet Magic’ stands out as being quite different from the first two stories in the collection in that it takes place in modern times, that being 1943 when it was written. An ex-Hollywood star turned pilot is shot down by a pair of German Stukas over Wales and parachutes to safety through the heavy mist. Through a series of comedic misunderstandings and intrigues, including a tree that kicks and an invisible maiden, the pilot Arthur Woodley finds himself trapped in the underwater lake kingdom of Morgan le Fay. He encounters several characters from Arthurian legend who either help or hinder his escape and eventually he has a final confrontation with Morgan.

Of the three stories in this collection ‘Wet Magic’ stuck with me the most after I finished. It has definitely been the story I’ve put the most brain power into turning over in my head. I was caught off guard by the slow tonal shift it carried from a goofy fairy-tale into a more serious fantasy. There was a gossipy bride to be and a drunken hiccupping wizard that had me wishing for flashing swords and mighty thews. The story reeled me in when it began to discuss the return of King Arthur at England’s time of greatest need. What better time than World War II? It also brings in the idea of myth changing as time progresses and that in turn changes reality. Arthur Woodley denies the call to action and the boon of Excalibur because ultimately he doesn’t feel worthy. Eventually, his plans go to hell and he has to confront Morgan anyway but now, without the help of Excalibur. The ending was a complex examination of failure and how to continue to move forward with heart.

I enjoyed all three stories in Echoes of Valor, I think it’s a pretty good anthology. It’s different from other anthologies I’ve read in that it contains just three stories. This gives each story a bit more heavy lifting to do. You can’t skip ahead to the next story without skipping 1/3 of the book. As I’ve said earlier in this series it’s fairly apparent Wagner’s goal with the collection was to save lost stories. Do I think Wagner was successful? Ultimately, yes. Adept’s Gambit perhaps didn’t need the assist, but the other two did and as a collection it was enjoyable.

Echoes of Valor (1987) – Part 3: Adept’s Gambit by Fritz Leiber

Wagner’s second selection for Echoes of Valor is a sword and sorcery tale from Fritz Leiber (1910-1992), the first written, but not published, Fafhrd and Gray Mouser story “Adept’s Gambit.”

Art by Ronald Clyne

Before the Fafhrd and Mouser stories were published, starting in the August 1939 issue of Uncanny, Leiber had been sending these stories around to his circle of friends. One of those friends happened to be H. P. Lovecraft who Wagner quotes as saying “Someday I hope the Fafhrd cycle will get into print, leading off with Adept’s Gambit.”

However, “Adept’s Gambit” wasn’t the first to be published. It eventually saw the light of day in an Arkham House collection of short stories by Leiber titled Night’s Black Agents —published in 1947. Wagner explains that this book became rare and the story wasn’t widely available to readers until 1969 when it was collected in the narratively chronologically ordered Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories– Volume 3 Swords in the Mist. Leiber, in order to have his cycle of stories fit together seamlessly, did some re-writes. Being an earlier story, “Adept’s Gambit” is set in our historical world rather than the world of Nehwon that Leiber would ultimately create.

Art by Jeff Jones

In Swords in the Mist Leiber adds a connecting story “The Wrong Branch.” In that story, the Gray Mouser takes a left instead of a right down one of the tunnels of the multi-dimensional lair of Ninegauble (their multi-eyed patron). Taking this ‘wrong branch’ leads the duo to our world, the magic alters their speech and memories so it’s as if they have always lived here.  At the end of “Adept’s Gambit” in the new version included in Swords in the Mist, the worlds blend and our world slips away like a dream leaving them back in Nehwon. The version that Wagner included in Echoes of Valor is the 1947 definitive text unearthed for our reading pleasure.

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser get caught up in a power struggle between a woman, her brother (a magical adept), and his master. The whole reason the duo gets involved is that whenever Fafhrd and the Mouser kiss a woman she turns into a hog or a snail respectively. They set out on a quest to quell this ailment and realize they are being treated like pawns in a game.

This story is not one of the strongest Fafrhd and Gray Mouser stories, probably due to the fact that it was one of the first written. The banter between the duo is always fun and probably my favorite part of Leiber’s swordsmen. With a dictionary in hand, I was able to greatly enjoy those sections of the story. Leiber has wonderful swordplay in his later stories however in this particular one I was confused what was happening at certain moments. I’ve seen this story get criticism, for the story the woman reveals about her past and how this slows down the action and is not needed. I enjoyed getting to hear her story, but I will agree with those critics that it was a big tonal shift. What I especially enjoyed about that section was the breaks in her story for Leiber to describe what the travelers were currently doing. It was an interesting experiment in telling two progressing stories, past and present, in a parallel way.

Leafing through the two editions-1947 and 1969-I couldn’t spot many differences. It’s nice to have the clean definitive text easily readable again, but definitely not crucial. Looking at the first two stories in Echoes of Valor, I can detect a motivating force for Wagner being the preservation and rediscovery of fading or lost classics. Not only do I admire this, but it motivates me to keep Wagner’s own stories from fading away or being lost.