August 17, 2012

The Sapphire Goddess by Nictzin Dyalhis

Nictzin Dyalhis.  You would expect a character with such a name to inhabit the pages of a sword and sorcery story, as some Evil High Priest™ type but no – this is an honest to gosh byline. 

Nictzin Wilstone Dyalhis was a contemporary of Robert E. Howard, Lovecraft, Bloch, Kuttner, etc., one of the star contributors to Weird Tales, but also one of the rarest.  In a writing career spanning fifteen years, he only published eight stories.  I’ve only read two of them, The Sapphire Goddess and The Red Witch, both in the Echoes of Valor anthologies edited by Karl Edward Wagner (who was no slouch in the S&S world himself).

Weird Tales Cover-1934-02

In this story, a modern Earthman finds himself transported to another world where demons exist and magic works, and where, apparently, he has been a king. 

Adventures and mayhem follow, as he is led to believe that a wizard can restore his memory in exchange for his retrieving and delivering to the wizard a sapphire statue of a goddess.  I won’t spoil the ending for you, but let’s just say our hero finds the sapphire goddess is indeed the key to his past in more ways than one.

Sapphire Goddess mixes tropes of both the sword and sorcery and the sword and planet genres, stirs in some nice plot twists coming from the way magic works in its world, and includes a comical yet kickass sidekick. Makes me wish Dyalhis had written more of this stuff, or better yet, made more stories about the characters used here.

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