Poul Anderson’s The High Crusade: An Appreciation by Diana L. Paxson

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Poul Anderson’s The High Crusade in the pages of Astounding magazine (later to be known as Analog that very year). In celebration, Baen Books is releasing an anniversary paperback edition on Tuesday, September 7th, with appreciations from some of science fiction’s greatest names.

Tor.com will be posting these appreciations throughout Monday and Tuesday of this week, courtesy of Baen Books. These appreciations originally appeared at WebScription, where you can also sample the first few chapters of The High Crusade.

My love for Poul Anderson’s work goes back to the mid-fifties, when I found a copy of a grimly evocative Viking story, The Broken Sword, in the Santa Monica Public Library and read it cover to cover standing by the New Acquisitions bin, then ran home without writing down the title or author. Thus, when I picked up The High Crusade a few years later, I had no idea that this delightful book, with its accurate albeit intentionally skewed view of the Middle Ages, was by the same author.

It was only when a fellow grad-student at Cal Berkeley invited me to a party at Poul’s house in Orinda in 1965 that I realized Poul Anderson was one of those rare authors who could write brilliantly in any style.

By the next year I had been absorbed into the local science fiction/fantasy community, in which he and his wife Karen were leading lights. It was a revelation to encounter people who not only read and analyzed literature, but through fandom, lived it. It was from this community that I drew the inspiration and people to take the next step and put together the first Tournament, which led to the formation of the Society for Creative Anachronism. The High Crusade with its combination of authenticity, humor, and adaptability, has always seemed very close to the spirit in which we founded the SCA.

Diana L. Paxson is a fantasy writer and author of the Westria, Wodan’s Children, and Hallowed Isle series of books, the Avalon series in collaboration with Marion Zimmer Bradley, and much more. In addition to her writing, Paxson has served as Western Regional Director of the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA), plays and composes music for the folk harp, and designs and sews period costumes.


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