The Pulp fiction era was the golden age of storytelling. It was a time when the focus was on telling thrilling and wondrous stories without the need to force politics or social commentary down our throats. These days, we forget that not everything has to be political. Not every work of fiction must paint a portrait of some perceived wrong or injustice. Sometimes, a work of fiction can just be about telling a great story. Recently, I discovered a great anthology book championing a movement called the Pulp Revolution. Inside are works by seventeen writers who have a passion for storytelling. The stories cover a wide range of genres, so there’s a little something for everyone. But there are a few stories in particular that caught my interest, and The Knights of Aos Si by N.A. Roberts was one such work.
As you can likely guess from the word “Knights” in the title, this story is securely set in the fantasy genre, but the real question is what type of fantasy?
The work is an interesting mix. The setting is similar to the Arthurian Legends. The main characters are members of the “fair folk.” The great Oberon leading the Knights from atop the mountain. The enemy they are set to face is a witch and her brood. While that does sound like something right out of Shakespeare – the writing gives us a different vibe. The way the story is told and the way things are described is more akin to Robert E. Howard – the man who created Conan the Barbarian.
So just imagine if the Arthurian tales were written like a story set in Hyborian Age and you’ll get an idea of the story feels like.
While I won’t spoil anything, because I’d much prefer you go read this story for yourself, but I do have a few comments on the story itself.
The Knights of Aos Si is a perfect example for a new wave of pulp fiction. It’s simple. It takes place in a fantastic setting. The writing style and the characters instantly transport you into this strange new world. There is a clear good side and clear bad side, with just enough humanity on either side to make them feel grounded.
But what truly makes it a perfect example of pulp fiction is its adherence to escapism. For those unaware of pulp fiction’s history, the genre became nigh essential to the American psyche during the Great Depression. And it’s easy to imagine that living through the darkest time in American history would be a difficult thing indeed. It was a living nightmare for many. Pulp fiction gave thousands of people a way to escape that constant nightmare. Suddenly people could fight aliens on the moon, explore ancient cities below the sea, encounter terrifying monsters, or seduce the beautiful femme fatal.
Pulp fiction allowed people to escape reality for a time. That extreme pressure day to day life placed on their sanity was eased. And the way pulp fiction did that was by staying loyal to escapism. Read almost any pulp story from the golden age of pulp. You’ll find a lack of politics and a lack of social commentary. Pulp fiction is meant to take its reader on an adventure. And that’s what you’ll find in The Knights of Aos Si. A perfect loyalty to the art of story.
This is a collection of short stories and novel excerpts from writers associated with the PulpRev movement in the latter half of 2017. PulpRev is a literary movement aimed at restoring the spirit of the old pulp adventures, not just the aesthetic, and has roots in the Appendix N and OSR movements.
Note: This anthology is intended as a sampler, and stories within are very short (2,500 words or less). John C. Wright’s contribution is available for free at his website. This anthology itself is available for free for those who sign up for the PulpRev mailing list by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Subscribe.”