Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Wagner, Karl Edward

(1945-1994) US writer and editor who wrote several Sword-and-Sorcery novels before working almost exclusively in the Horror genre. KEW's first novel, Darkness Weaves with Many Shades (1970; rev vt Darkness Weaves 1978) serves to introduce his Antihero Kane, an immortal warrior clearly in the tradition of Robert E Howard's Conan, but in whom can also be seen aspects of Melmoth and other Gothic-Fantasy archetypes. Kane is further distinguished from his barbarian brethren by his intelligence, introspection and humour.

Kane's adventures continue in Death Angel's Shadow (1973), Bloodstone (1975), Dark Crusade (1976) and several stories, which are collected in Night Winds (coll 1978) and The Book of Kane (coll 1985). Over the course of these, KEW gradually amplifies his grim protagonist's characteristics while developing many intriguing secondary characters and continuing to provide some welcome twists. The Kane books helped reinvigorate the S&S subgenre, providing some interesting variations to a category that had previously been moribund. The series is marked by a propensity toward supernatural adversaries, a tendency that seems to portend KEW's later move to horror.

KEW also worked more directly with Howard's legacy, writing a sequel to the Bran Mak Morn series, Legion from the Shadows * (1976), plus the Conan novel The Road of Kings * (1979) and the screenplay for an unproduced Conan Movie, and re-editing several Conan titles for Berkley.

With David Drake, KEW cowrote Killer (1985), a historical fantasy set in Imperial Rome and involving a contest between a beast hunter and a supernatural creature. KEW's short horror fiction is extremely accomplished, although marked by an increasingly dark, brooding tone in later years. Horrors are hidden beneath the surface in both ".220 Swift" and "Where the Summer Ends"; in the former, an updating of Arthur Machen's "Novel of the Black Seal", a Lost Race of degenerate "little people" lead a subterranean existence in the Appalachians, while in the latter a prolifically invasive vine known as kudzu, imported from Japan, threatens to overgrow areas of the US South and conceals the presence of nasty creatures beneath its green carpet. KEW won a World Fantasy Award in 1983 for his Vampire/Reincarnation novella "Beyond Any Measure", and won three British Fantasy Awards for his short fiction, plus a Special British Fantasy Award for editing (1983).

As editor, KEW was responsible for 15 volumes of DAW's Year's Best Horror series, which included some fantasy, and for the three-volume Echoes of Valor series, which reprinted S&S tales from the Pulp era. He also briefly tried his hand at publishing, acting as a partner in the firm Carcosa (winner of a 1976 World Fantasy Award for Special Award), which during the 1970s published single-author collections of pulp-era material by Manly Wade Wellman, E Hoffman Price and Hugh B Cave. [BM]

other works: Sign of the Salamander (1975 chap); In a Lonely Place (coll 1983); Why Not You and I? (coll 1987); Unthreatened by the Morning Light (coll 1989 chap).

as editor: The Year's Best Horror anthologies #8 (anth 1980), #9 (anth 1981), #10 (anth 1982), #11 (anth 1983), #12 (anth 1984), #13 (anth 1985), #14 (anth 1986), #15 (anth 1987), #16 (anth 1988), #17 (anth 1989), #18 (anth 1990), #19 (anth 1991), #20 (anth 1992), #21 (anth 1993) and #22 (anth 1994), assembled as HorrorStory, Volume 3 (1992) containing #8 and #9, HorrorStory, Volume 4 (1990) containing #10, #11 and #12, HorrorStory, Volume 5 (1989) containing #13, #14 and #15; the Echoes of Valor anthologies, being Echoes of Valor (anth 1987), II (anth 1989) and III (anth 1991); Intensive Scare (anth 1990).

Karl Edward Wagner


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.