One of the great living SF and fantasy writers, Michael Moorcock is known more for his avant garde work, and his support of other writers pushing the boundaries of genre, than for his genre work. He is now a recognized literary figure in the UK, a significant contemporary writer. Nevertheless, he has deep roots in genre fiction, and his love for certain genre works and writers (for instance, Leigh Brackett, Charles Harness, and Alfred Bester) is long-term and enduring.
“Lost Sorceress of the Silent Citadel” is an exercise in nostalgia, a swashbuckling planetary romance that brings back Mars as an exciting setting for SF adventure for an audience that knows better but is still willing to indulge in it. It is primarily an homage to Leigh Brackett, whose science fantasies became an alternate paradigm for space opera, but also to her honorable tradition, which now (we say with some regret) prospers more in the media than in the SF literature. Moorcock succeeds both because of his sincere feelings for Brackett’s achievements and because of his sheer talent and experience at writing fantasy and science fiction adventure.
Moorcock says of Brackett, “Echoes of Leigh can be heard in Delany, Zelazny and the whole school of writers who expanded SF’s limits and left us with some fine visionary extravaganzas.” And, “It turned out that I didn’t quite have her penchant for interplanetary romance, but her example and her influence runs clearly through every Earth- or Mars-bound fantasy adventure story I have ever told and through virtually every other fantasy adventure story that has been told since!”
Without further ado, Tor.com is proud to present “Lost Sorceress of the Silent Citadel” below, originally published in Mars Probes (2002).
David Hartwell is an editor for Tor Books.