the second best barbarian is out of print

February 27th, 2014 by paul

imaro_cover_paintingCharles Saunders' Imaro might be the best sword-and-sorcery successor to Robert E Howard's Conan the Barbarian. In my opinion, Imaro beats C. L. Moore's Jirel of Joiry by a hair and Gardner F Fox's Kothar the Barbarian by a mile. (Kothar's pretty hacky but, I admit, I love it anyway.)

Imaro is a black hero in a vast fantasy Africa. The African plains setting gives Imaro plenty of room to flex his muscles, and plenty of beasts to overpower, sorcerers to kill, and ruins to plumb. Compared to this setting, fantasy Europe seems claustrophobic, but I guess there are more literary agents in fantasy Europe: Imaro is out of print. After its debut in the 70s, there wasn't a reprint of the original Imaro stories until 2006. Now those are out of print as well. Look how expensive Imaro books are on Amazon: even used copies are $40 to $100. The cheapest way to get the first book is actually the $21 audiobook.

I have the 2006 reprints of books 1 and 2, and I thought that was all the Imaro there was. I just learned that Charles Saunders is still publishing Imaro books on Lulu. Maybe the best living sword-and-sorcery novelist doesn't have a major book contract (??). And at $20 each, those Lulu books look damn cheap compared to the Amazon prices. The biggest barrier to entry for a new reader is finding a copy of Books 1 and 2.

Here's my recommendation for the budget-conscious barbarian lover:

Buy the audiobook of Imaro for $21

Buy Imaro 2: The Quest for Kush audiobook for $14

Imaro 3: The Trail of Bohu on lulu for $20

Imaro 4: Dossouye on lulu for $20

Imaro 5: the Naama War on lulu for $20

19 Responses to “the second best barbarian is out of print”

  1. Mike Monaco says:

    I think Saunders gets overlooked because he is a little outside the “mainstream” of fantasy hacks. Not sure if it is the publishers (who assume the fantasy audience just wants more bad Tolkien & Howard imitators) or the readers (who really are as parochial and narrowly focused on pseudo-Medieval Europe as publishers think). Could it just be that the majority of fantasy fans, being white middle class guys, are turned off by Saunders’ setting?

    I think I first saw his work in an issue of Dragon, and he also wrote a (non-Imaro) story for the sequel to Niven’s “The magic goes away” that was one of the stronger stories.

  2. Thanks for the heads-up. Looks like it’ll be good inspiration for the Spears of the Dawn RPG.

    Time to hit the used book stores!

  3. paul paul says:

    @Anthony: yeah, imaro works well with spears of the dawn. It’s a good thing to read, or give to players who want to know what kinds of things are possible.

    @Mike: yeah, I agree about fantasy fans. It is a white group and I’ve seen vacant stares when african fantasy is mentioned. I feel like a couple more awesome books could blow the lid off it though: “oriental adventures” is reasonably popular because people have familiarity with the tropes. The good thing about a lot of fantasy fans is once they find something they like, they are eager for more similar stuff: I know that’s how I am, and that’s how we ended up with so much tolkeiny stuff in the first place.

  4. NUNYA says:

    IT AM ARE A CULTYOURAL THING BLOG OF HOLDING GUY — NOT A “WHITE GUY” THING. WHAT AM ARE YEW, A FUKKING RACIST??

    WHAT MYTHO-CULTYOURAL BACKGROUND IS MOST COMMON TO US IS AM ARE MOST POPLAR!!

    OR AM WE SPOSED TO BE ALL GAGA OVER AN ESKIMO, INCAN OR HINDU FANTASY SOME HACK AM ARE DECIDE TO WRITE TOO?

    WHY? CUZ YOU AM ARE LIKE IT?

    FUCK OFF AND CHOKE ON YOUR SLOP, FOCKING SWINE!!!1

  5. paul paul says:

    lol racist

  6. Mike Monaco says:

    It’s a shame too because African legends and myths have some really cool — and horrific — ideas. There’s a fairytale I read in a collection once where this gigantic caterpillar eats children and it’s up to the village women to slay it with grain-pestles and firewood axes, for example, which is crazy and totally D&D. There’s some great Zulu stuff too. The mini-series “Shaka Zulu” had some fantastic witchery going on.

  7. NUNYA says:

    PS. – TAHT IS ME, NUNYA.

    HUGS AND KISSES BICH.

  8. HHOPSTER LEVITTOWNE says:

    I HOOPSTERE ELVITTOWNE WAS SO EXCITED TO SEE ANOTHER ORC WASSE POTSTING ON BLOGOFHOLDING.COM FOR SOMETIMES I HOOPSTER LONGETH FOR A SHEILDSISTRE OR EVEN A SHEILDBROTHRE OF MINE OWNE RACE!!!! AND ORCS ARE NOTTORIOUSELY RACCISTE BECUASE OF THE DESYRE TO EAT ELFS BUT ONNE THE OTHER HONDE I HOOPSTRE MAYE OR MAYE NOT BE A HALFBREEAD DEPNEDNING ON DOE YOU HAVE A ONNE DROPPE RULE FORRE RACCISTE ORCS USUAYLLY DO AND ASLO I HAVE MARRYED A SALAD. BUT! THOUGHE MY HART BRIMS WITH JOYE TO REGARDE A RACIST ORC FORRE REASONS OF NOSTALHGUA (I THINKE IN PARTCIULAR OF SUSAN LEVITTOWNE MYN SISTRE COMPLAYNGING “IME NOT RACCIST BUT IDNT IT REVERSE RACCIST FOR THOS ELFS TO LIVE IN THE NEXTE PLANNED COMMUNITYE, AND A TEARE COMES TO MYNE EYE THINGIKING OF SUSANS FLOWRD APRONE ANDE BRUNSIHED BUCEPS) I HAVE CHOSENN A NTOHTER PATHE AND THAT BE COSMPOPOLITIAHSME WHICH IS WHYE I WEARETHE A HATTE WITH A FEATHERRE AND SINGETH THE SONGGES NOT ONLY OF ORCISHHE BLOODSHED BUT OF YE OLDE FAKE RENAISSANCCE EAUROPE ANDDE OF THE GREATE PLAINES OF FAKE AFRICK ANDDE SO ON. I TURNE REGRETTFULLY FROMME YE OLDE COSY RACISTTE CAPS AND TOARDS THE LITERRALL FEATTHERED CAPS OF CIVILIZATTIONE AND WRITEN BOOKES AND I THINKE THIS BOOKE ALSO DESPITE ITS GRATE CIVIILIZATION OF BEING WRITENN ASLO SOUNDES LIKE THERE IS MUCCH RENDING OF FLESSH AND FANGGED ANIMALLLES FROM WHICHE TROFIES CAN BE CUTTE AND ALSO SMASSHING OF ELDRITCH CREAPS SO WHATS NOT TO LYK FOR BARBARYANS OIRCS AND CIGVILIZED GUYSS BOTHE

  9. Raoul Ferintuishun says:

    Try reading some native american legends and tales. They’re pretty stream of consciousness and many times non-sensical with a heavy dose of non-sequiter added for good measure. Par example, mosquitos were created when a beaver chewed the head off a troll and then a hero/warrior threw the head into a swamp. For no reason. Yeah.

  10. Mike Monaco says:

    @Raoul — There are some awesome giants and what not in Amerindian myth too. But I think fairy tales of all cultures have some really “illogical” or even surrealist stuff. A lot of English fairy tales have no rhyme or reason — at least as they have been recorded. I imagine that if you could back far enough, most of the stories would have some sort of logic to them, it’s just lost through translation, retelling, etc. There is a legend from the Native Americans of the Pacific NW where a girl with a harelip (not a beaver) kills a giant by bashing her head in with a mallet after nailing her ears to the ground by pretending to be just piercing her ears (not a simple beheading) and the giant’s revenge is that her body dissolves into a swarm of mosquitoes. So there is some kind of trope there… maybe your story just lost the “revenge curse” element? Or the one I heard is an attempt to rationalize elements of your story? I wish I had the time to study folklore more seriously…

  11. paul paul says:

    Also, speaking of Spears of the Dawn: SotD author Kevin Crawford’s new project looks interesting: a game/conversion kit that lets you play old D&D adventures with one DM and one player. Couples D&D??

    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1637945166/scarlet-heroes-rpg

  12. Claire Claire says:

    These comments about folktales and scholarship got me thinking about how fantasy might be one of the only responsible ways to “do” a certain kind of myth/folktale scholarship–there’s always that impulse to create a back-formation version of ancient history/culture/religion using the myths and stories we have left as clues (you know, like Casaubon’s Key to All Mythologies, but also real-life writers like James Frazer and Robert Graves and Jessie Weston.) And that impulse usually results in kind of unsteady history. But to do a kind of creative scholarship through fantasy, which is less a guess than a wish, might be the best we can do! It seems like Saunders might have done that with Imaro, and Tolkien certainly did, and I’ve been rereading _The Mists of Avalon_ and realizing Marion Zimmer Bradley does a pretty nice job of tying together Arthurian myth with these little traces of (probably discredited) Briton history and theology we have lying around.

  13. paul paul says:

    @Claire: That’s a very interesting point, and a great way to tie fantasy and sci-fi together as “speculative fiction”. Usually fantasy isn’t that speculative (“what if a farm boy could defeat a bad guy?” doesn’t count) but as an examination of the wispy knowledge on the ends of history, Mists of Avalon is sort of like a Ringworld or something else that does the same for science. Speculative fiction has definitely driven science research (http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/ten-inventions-inspired-by-science-fiction-128080674/?no-ist), and it would be interesting if fantasy could do the same for history scholarship.

  14. NUNYA says:

    WAIT – STAHP!!1 IS THIS A ART/HISTORY CLASS OR A RPG BLOGGING??
    THE TIN ARE SAY THIS AM A RPG BLOGGING, SO WHAIR IS MY FREE MAP AND ONE PAIG DUNJIN AT, BICHES??!

    ALSOS @ CLAIRE IS FINELY TEH ONLY PARSON TO MAIK AN ORIGINAL AN INCITEFULL COMMENT IN A HOLE THRAED AND IS HEARBY DECLARED TEH WHINNER!!1 INTERNETS AWARD AND TICKRETAPE PARADE TOBE ANNOUNCED CLAIR!

    SAWRY PAULBOT AND MIKEYMONACO, YEW POSRES GET TEH SECUND AND THURD PLACE PRIZES (BOTH ARE TEH SAME, FREE SNIFFING OF MY DAWG’S BUTT). ONE EACH FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY.

  15. {Points to DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS sign.}

  16. Urizen says:

    I contest your ranking (Kull #1, Conan #2) but to be fair I haven’t read Imaro yet. However, I am fully in the digital age so the lack of print copies is a non-issue. I mean, agent these public domain by now? That’s a free epub, beats a book IMO.

  17. I don’t leave a ton of comments, but after browsing a few of the responses on the second best barbarian is out of print

  18. choop says:

    No love for Cohen the Barbarian? I know Pratchett is comical, not serious, fantasy but come on that guy is all kinds of awesome.

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