Welcome to the Flaming Faggot

Callovia is called "the boundless empire" yet you have managed to find its northern border - a notorious roadhouse deep within the Madrasan Marches on the edge of the wilds of Llanvirnesse. The sign above the door reads "Flaming Faggot," which would suggest a cozy, homey inn with fresh biscuits served at teatime if not for the severed troll heads mounted on pikes at the gate.

As you cross the threshold the raucous din quiets momentarily as all eyes dart to the door and calloused hands drop instinctively to well-worn sword hilts. The threat, instantly assessed, is dismissed and roadhouse patrons go about their business hardly missing a beat.

Grim, hard-eyed men huddle around tables in close conversation thick with conspiracy; caravan guards gamble away their earnings; Caemric rangers sit close to the fireplace cooking the damp of the Black Annis from their clothes as they warm their innards with Red Dragon Ale; minstrels play and buxom wenches dance for the pleasure of men who pay them little attention - until they need a companion to warm their bed.

As you approach the bar, a huge, bald barman with a greatsword slung across his back slides a mug of freshly-pulled ale towards you, its frothy head dripping over the rim.

"Pull up a seat, lad," he says, "and let me tell you a tale of high adventure."

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Margaret Brundage: Queen of the Pulps

In celebration of the recent launch of my sword & sorcery campaign, The City States of Lemuria, I want to dedicate several posts this month to the works of Weird Tales cover artist, Margaret Brundage (Dec 9, 1900 - April 9, 1976), whose paintings dominated the covers of the magazine for most of the 1930's, setting the tone for heroic fantasy iconography, perhaps for all time.

When Brundage took her portfolio to Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright he immediately put her to work as a cover artist and her first published cover was for the Summer 1932 issue of Oriental Stories.

Oriental Stories, Summer 1932

She painted her first Weird Tales cover for the September 1932 issue, and went on to illustrate sixty-six covers for the magazine, including all nine of the Conan covers.

Weird Tales, September, 1932

Original painting used for September '32 cover

Many of her covers featured sadistic scenes of nude women in bondage, often with lesbian overtures, that are provocative even by today's permissive standards, but must have been truly scandalous in the 1930's.  The covers were, indeed, controversial, and many Weird Tales readers criticized them as trashy, misogynistic and lurid.  But Farnsworth Wright noted that the covers featuring a Brundage nude made money, while issues with more modest covers lost money.  So there is little doubt that despite the puritanical protests, the covers were a big draw.  Indeed, one of her most provocative covers,  featuring a nude blonde in bondage being whipped by a scantily-clad brunette, illustrating the Conan Story, "The Slithering Shadow," in September, 1933, was largely responsible for selling the issue out.  Not only did sex sell then, as it does now, but sex has been inextricably linked to the heroic fantasy and horror genres at least as far back as the 19th century.

Weird Tales, September, 1933
Brundage was the reigning cover artist for Weird Tales until Farnsworth Wright resigned as editor, and the magazine was sold.  She was paid $90 per cover and, as is the tale with many creative minds, her work was never truly appreciate during her lifetime, but now commands a high price and in 2008 her first Weird Tales cover sold for $50,000.

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