July 28th, 2006


Druss Stood Against The Hordes, But In The End, Even Druss The Legend Fell

David Gemmell, writer of many heroic fantasy novels in the vein of Conan the Barbarian, died this morning at 57.

The article doesn't go into too much detail about what caused it, but a heart bypass two weeks ago was mentioned.

This is just terrible news. If you've never read a Gemmell book . . . well, they pretty much were all the same, but it never really mattered. They were all ripping yarns of heroic fantasy, tinged with both moral ambiguity and an underlying sense of moral forthrightness, coupled with a pretty good grasp of military history and characterization. You cheer for the anti-hero protagonists as they do horrible things all in the name of an objective sense of right and wrong.

And now he's dead.

Fantasy nowadays is full of either love stories, riffs of Tolkien, or world-building tomes that begin series that never seem to end. Gemmell just seemed to want to do his thing, play his variations of a theme of strong but flawed men (and women) protecting the weak when no one else would, and tweak his story-telling (which drastically improved with later books, but always had a clear and sturdy foundation). He wrote books in which you could almost imagine Errol Flynn leaping from chandeliers and dueling with the evil foe through a spectacular set.

I had, in my head, a trilogy of tales that would be my "Gemmell" books. Every fantasy author has their "Tolkien" books, even if they wrap 'em up in such a convoluted bow that they're nearly unrecognizable, and I do too. But not many have "Robert Howard" or "Gemmell" books. I don't know if I'll ever get a chance to do any of them, but now that he's gone, I don't know if I'll be able to do my "Gemmell" books justice. And I just know they'll be seen as pale imitations of the master.

That won't discourage me, though. What better tribute to an artist who inspired you than to try to show him just how he inspired you? I'm someone who believes in an after-life, so who knows? Maybe one day, David Gemmell, spirit, will read my books over someone's shoulder and enjoy them for a few hours. It's the least I could do for him.

Aaron "The Mad Whitaker" Bourque