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About Brian Murphy
Brian Murphy (born 1973) discovered Robert E. Howard in the pages of Savage Sword of Conan in the early 1980s, sparking a lifelong love of fantasy. He went on to read widely in fantasy and science fiction before discovering his true passion lay in sword-and-sorcery fiction.
Murphy started writing about fantasy on the web in 2007 and was recruited to join a group of bloggers at The Cimmerian, a website dedicated to Howard, J.R.R. Tolkien, and heroic fantasy. Since then he has been published in numerous print publications and online venues, including The Cimmerian journal, Black Gate, Mythprint, REH: Two-Gun Raconteur, The Dark Man, DMR Blog, Skelos, Tales from the Magician's Skull, and SFFaudio.com.
Murphy’s essay “The Unnatural City” (from The Cimmerian, Vol. 5 No. 2) was nominated for Outstanding Achievement—Essay at the first annual Robert E. Howard Foundation awards in 2009, as was his “Unmasking ‘The Shadow Kingdom’: Kull and Howard as Outsiders” (from REH: Two-Gun Raconteur #14) in 2011. In 2021 his first book, Flame and Crimson: A History of Sword-and-Sorcery, won the Atlantean (best book) by the Robert E. Foundation.
By day Murphy works for a healthcare publishing company. He enjoys heavy metal music and is an on-again/off-again player of Dungeons & Dragons and other role-playing games. He is married and lives with his wife and two daughters in Massachusetts. To learn more about his interests and writings please visit The Silver Key: http://thesilverkey.blogspot.com/.
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The Many Children of Conan
Little did then-obscure Texas writer Robert E. Howard know that with the 1929 publication of “The Shadow Kingdom” in the pulp magazine Weird Tales, he had given birth to a new and vibrant subgenre of fantasy fiction.
Sword-and-sorcery went from pulp obscurity to mass-market paperback popularity before suffering a spectacular publishing collapse in the 1980s. But it lives on in the broader culture and today enjoys a second life in popular role-playing games, music, and films, and helped give birth to a new literary subgenre known as grimdark, popularized by the likes of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series.
Flame and Crimson: A History of Sword-and-Sorcery provides much-needed definitions and critical rigor to this misunderstood fantasy subgenre. It traces its origins in the likes of historical fiction, to its birth in the pages of Weird Tales, to its flowering in the Frank Frazetta-illustrated Lancer Conan Saga series in the 1960s. It covers its “barbarian bust” beneath a heap of second-rate pastiche, a pack of colorful and wildly entertaining and awful sword-and-sorcery films, and popular culture second life in the likes of Dungeons & Dragons and the bombast of heavy metal music.