Friday, April 23, 2021

Brackett & Moorcock - Leigh Brackett, Astonishing Swordmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, & Michael Moorcock's 'Kane of Old Mars'

 Today we're going to dive into a very different Mars then readers might be familar with. A Mars that sits in the sights of three very distinctive authors of Sword & Plantary fiction 

Its been a very busy couple of weeks & its only getting busier. So during this St.George's day it seems like the perfect opportunity to return to the shores of Mars. DM Ricky & DM Steve have been riding my behind now for some weeks & today's blog entry picks up with Michael Moorcock's Kane of Old Mars saga. Yes we've covered this saga in these two blog entries here & here. Michael Moorcock's Kane contrasts utterly with other Martian or Barsoomian heroes. Why?!  The Kane series is a homage to Edgar Rice Burrough's Barsoom stories; "Michael Kane is the principal character, a Vietnam veteran that goes into physics and ends up on Mars during one of his experiments. He tells the author of the book his tales of adventure and the life he made on Mars. Typical of Moorcock's Eternal Champion stories, Moorcock's hero is a philosophical man who hates war (except Elric), but is good at it when he needs to be. Through Kane, Moorcock speaks of how fear affects us and causes us to do the wrong thing (kill, hate, etc.). Kane tries his best to remedy that with logic and compassion." All of the above comes from Michael H. Weekley Amazon review on Kane of Old Mars. We've read all of this before. What you haven't read is the fact that recently 
Sea Kings of Mars and Otherwordly Stories By Leigh Brackett  (Fantasy Masterworks) has come back into my collection. Why back because an ex friend of mine stole my copy. 

Everything about Leigh Brackett's Mars & even her solar system is completely in line but opposite with Michael Moorcock's Kane stories. The reason for this simple Kane solves his problems with his brain,brawn, & heart. Brackett's heroes & anti heroes solve their problems with ultra violence, fists, honor, determination, & despration. And before we go further yes the Kane stories are homages to Edar Rice Burroughs, Leigh Brackett, & the Pulp stories of Moorcock's youth. 
But what strikes me are the contrasts of C.L. Moore's North West Smith Stories & Leigh Brackett's  Sword & Planet  stories in Sea Kings of Mars and Otherwordly Stories  along side Michael Moorcock's Kane of Old Mars. The meta take away from these stories is the fact that our solar system had other tenants & land lords in long forgotten ages ago. And the neighborhood didn't always get along. Lovecraftian gods & alien races carved out their own niches in this solar system landscape. At some point in the far future millions of years Ragnorok happens & the old gods of Mars return. But are they all that old!? 

If we do a cross comparison between the gods or aliens of Kane's Mars & say Elric's Old Kingdom are we simply looking at old celestial masks for the forces Law & Chaos?!  Gods of Law in the Young Kingdoms (written by Charles Green- with large contributions from Richard Watts)  has some excellent references for the cults of Law for the fifth edition Stormbringer rpg. These along with the CHAOS CULTS OF THE YOUNG KINGDOMS BY CHARLES GREEN stand in sharp focus to some of the stories in all three of the cited sources in this blog post. 

But already the OSR & the Stormbringer fifth edition crowd is howling for my blood & souls. Calm down this is a mental excercise. Since the fact is that mankind is on a colonial expansion kick in Leigh Brackett & C.L. Moore's stories. Then we have to turn to Clark Ashton Smith's tales especially The Seedling From Mars.  This entity along with CAS's Mars cycle give us a seemless background for the peperation of the Mars life forms on a 'dead mars' of the far future:

These tales contain the Martian Lovecraftian Satan which means that Vulthoom might be in point of fact 'old Reg' from Michael Moorcock's Von Bek tales. A being whose closely connected with the Black Sword & might be connected with several artifact swords of Mars itself. 
This revelation is nothing new & has been put forth in several Barsoom & Brackett fanzines over the years. After the gods of Earth die in Ragnorok then the Martian races & gods retake Mars in a nasty event. Humanity on Mars might well be in the very smallest minority. The forces of the balance shift the pendulum again. This could help to explain some of the forces & entities that we see in the Kane of Old Mars series. 
But Kane's position as an eternal champion is an interesting one. He's more of a figure of balance in these stories then one of Law or Chaos. His use of his mind instead of ultraviolence contrasts sharply with the situations he finds himself in. 
The legacy of Kane compared to the tone of AS&SH is both an interesting one & one could work well to pull the PC's into the eye of a storm that a Mars that a campaign that  uses all three authors as source material offers. 

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