UL BANNER

9/19/2013

Ingredients for a Fantasy France Sandbox

Been delving into the work of James Branch Cabell this week for the first time ever. Long been familiar with the author's name via Michael Moorcock, who references Cabell's Jurgen often as an inspiration for his Elric saga. Cabell wrote for the slicks during the early 20th Century, when young H. P. Lovecraft was still cutting his teeth as a writer (to give it some context). Much of Cabell's work concerns a fictional French province called Poictesme (pronounced "pwa-tem") -- a place not that far off from the early Medieval/legendary time of King Arthur and Camelot, rife with monsters and powerful magic-users. If you have an ear for the lyrical quality of Lord Dunsany or William Morris, then you're sure to eat Cabell right up and be combing your beard for crumbs after.

I have to wonder if Clark Ashton Smith and C. L. Moore were fond of Cabell's milieu. Smith contrived a similar ersatz French province called Averoigne and set a number of short stories there. Moore -- an author just as formidable and inventive if not as poetic as Cabell and Smith -- gave us yet another Gallic holding called Joiry. Are there other imaginary French provinces created by contemporary fantasists?

With just these three (Poictesme, Averoigne, Joiry) it seems a sizable section of legendary France could be constructed, hexed and numbered.



 

7 comments:

  1. After reading CAS and watching Le Pacte des Loups, I was about ready to make a 17th cent "muskets & magic" french provincial map. I'm not sure if the age of Latin speaking Dukes would have a unique flavor for gaming.

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  2. I'd heard of this guy for years but kept getting him mixed up with James Clavell, the guy who wrote Shogun. Only recently did I realize what I was missing.

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  3. I've heard that Smith was probably aware of Cabell, but Moore's story seem larger in keeping with just the historical adventure genre like Howard engaged in (the "The Forest of Villefrere" for instance).

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  4. James Branch "tell the rabble my name is" Cabell was an American national treasure and his name should be mentioned in the same breath as Twain's or Poe's. It is a shame he is not more well known.

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    1. I'm beginning to agree with this sentiment! It's not often that I get bleary-eyed reading anything but 'Figures of Earth' was just that convincing. Reading 'The Silver Stallion' now and enjoying it immensely.

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  5. If you were going to overlay or shoehorn, where would you put Poictesme, Averoigne and Joiry? Specifically say in relation to Burgundy (which is a region I'm keen on)?

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    1. I'll have to research that one and get back to you. Joiry is the most nebulous of the three and could be in any forested region of northern France.

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