Dreams in the Fire (2011)
Edited by Mark Finn and Chris Gruber, Cover by Jim and Ruth Keegan.
Dreams in the Fire contains stories and poems inspired by Robert E. Howard. Proceeds go to Project Pride, the community organization from Cross Plains, Texas, that takes care of the Robert E. Howard House and museum in Cross Plains. All the authors in this collection are long-term fans of Robert E. Howard, and though not all are professional writers, their passion for Howard’s work shows clearly through. Even those who have not been widely published bring their best to these tales, and they can all feel pride in their work. Here’s my take on the pieces.
Introduction by Rusty Burke: Discusses Robert E. Howard Fandom, particularly the group known as REHupa, which almost every contributor to this collection is either a current or past member of.
“A Gathering of Ravens” by Charles Gramlich: My story about a sword slinging female warrior.
“The Rhymester of Ulm” by James Reasoner: A thief robs a bard of his magic pen. Or does he? Reasoner is the biggest name author in the collection.
“The Word” by Rob Roehm: “Carl Macon owned the land, all of it.” A flash fiction western style tale about taking a stand.
“This Too Will Go Its Way” by Barbara Barrett: A fine poem that evokes a strong sense of nostalgia.
“CSI: Kimmeria” by Robert Weinberg: Weinberg is also a widely known name. This one is written as a kind of play. I’m not the most sensitive guy but I thought I detected a satirical and humorous edge.
“Bloody Isle of the Kiyah-rahi” by Christopher Fulbright: Robert Howard wrote many pirate stories and this one is a fine tribute to that genre.
“Son of Song” by Frank Coffman: A tribute to Howard and my favorite poem in the collection.
“Avatar” by Jimmy Cheung: Good sword & sorcery fiction. It had my favorite opening line of any of the tales: “It was a corpse city infested with the living.” I would like to see an expanded version of this at some point.
“Belit’s Refrain” by Barbara Barrett: Belit is my favorite female character from the Howard stories. This was a very nice poem that captured her essence.
“Now With Serpents He Wars” by Patrick R. Burger: A Knights of the Round Table story. I much enjoyed the use of sorcery in this one.
“Best to Let it Lie” by Danny Street: A poem that captures the kind of nihilistic outlook on life that Howard’s poetry often expressed.
“Two Dragons Blazing: A Tale of the Barbarian Kabar of El Hazzar” by Angeline Hawkes: Kabar must find a way into hell to save his beautiful sister.
“The Nights’ Last Battle” by Amy Kerr: A long poem that captures Howard’s voice well when he was writing his more bombastic style of poetry.
“Sailor Tom Sharkey and the Phantom of the Gentlemen Farmer’s Commune” by Mark Finn: A humorous tale that reflects the kind of storytelling that Howard handled so deftly with his humorous boxing stories of Sailor Steve Costigan.
“I Am a Martian Galley Slave!” by David A. Hardy: My favorite story in the collection. The use of language is superb and the characterization is excellent. This one deserves to be nominated for an award.
“A Spirit on the Wind” by Frank Coffman: Another fine tribute to Howard by Coffman.
“Dead River Revenge” by Chris Gruber: This was my second favorite story in the collection. Lots of brutal action and a setting that recalls the Conan story, “Beyond the Black River.” The character of “Billy” is the most Howardian character in the collection without being a pastiche of a Howard character.
“The Moon” by Barbara Barrett: A very short, almost haiku ode to the battle between the sun and moon.
“No Other Gods” by Gary Romeo: Essentially a Conan pastiche, although using a character named Tanan.
“A Meeting in the Bush” by Morgan Holmes: Not so much a story as a sketch of an interesting meeting between two iconic characters in the jungle. I think you’ll be able to figure out the characters pretty easily.
“Blades of Hell” by Don Herron: An appropriately bloodthirsty ending poem.
Afterword by Mark Finn: Talks a bit about putting this project together.
Notes on the Contributors: Short pieces about each of the featured authors. You get to find out how most of them are connected to Howard fandom.
I highly recommend this collection, and it’s for a very good cause.