The two parts of this fun book are each a suite of short stories centered on one of Moore’s characters in a different fictional world: the swords and sorcery of Jirel of Joiry (Black Gods) and the space opera of Northwest Smith (Scarlet Dreams). The entire book is full of evocatively hallucinatory fantasy and outre eroticism.
Jirel of Joiry is interesting as being a scarlet-haired “woman girt with a sword,” formulated independently from Howard’s Red Sonya (let alone the Red Sonja later created by Roy Thomas). It is almost as if the fictioneers of the pulp era were tuning in to some Platonic Idea of the Scarlet Woman. In this connection, see also the April Bell of Williamson’s Darker Than You Think.
The book is an attractive but cheaply-bound trade paperback issued in 2002 by Gollancz under their “Fantasy Masterworks” imprint. The cover shows a detail of the head of Medusa from a painting by Caravaggio, which is in allusion to the seminal Northwest Smith story (and Moore’s first-ever-published—and much re-published—fiction) “Shambleau.” Although “Shambleau” is indeed the story of encountering on Mars the creature which is the basis of the Medusa legend, Moore doesn’t describe her as looking like Caravaggio’s portrait at all. [via]
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