I used to have a friend, a big red-bearded Carolinian name of Karl Edward Wagner, who was one of the absolute best dark fantasy writers I’ve ever read. He was, in my eyes, one of the three best sword & sorcery writers of the 20th Century, the other two being Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber, and his horror fiction blew most of his peers out of the water. In other words, he was a master. His stories won awards, he was a gifted anthologist, and he was a great guy to go on a bender with at a SF convention.
Karl died in 1994. A nice tribute can be found here.
Karl created a dark sword & sorcery hero who should stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Conan of Cimmeria, but unfortunately recognition of Karl’s work never filtered far outside the envelope of genre. That hero was Kane, an immortal warrior cursed by “a mad god” to wander the world for some long forgotten sin, perhaps the first murder. Kane was a true anti-hero, just as likely to be up to no good as he was to be helping someone, and was a fascinating character with a lot of depth.
And Karl wrote like John L. Sullivan threw fists.
Well, perhaps the day will come that Kane is better known to the masses. Tonic Films, which is owned by one of the producers of the recent horror flick Cabin Fever (itself contending for an Independent Spirit Award for Outstanding Achievement), has acquired the rights to Karl’s book Death Angel’s Shadow, a book of three Kane tales, and are planning to film the first story, “Reflections for the Winter of My Soul,” with the possibility of filming the other two if that one does well.
Here’s hoping they do Kane even a quarter as well as Karl did…