Steel Remains mixes noir and fantasy, with a big twist

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Best-selling SF author Richard K. Morgan moves from SF to fantasy with his new novel The Steel Remains, a book that grew out of his enthusiasm for old-school sword and sorcery.

"I grew up reading guys like [Michael] Moorcock, Karl Edward Wagner and Poul Anderson, and I'd always thought it would be fun to have a crack at something in that line," Morgan said in an interview.

But rather than simply write in that same tradition, Morgan thought it would be interesting to mix a noirish sensibility into the genre. And by noir, he's not just talking about dark and gritty: He's talking about the full array of "protagonist self-loathing, corrupt social systems and hidden agendas, enemies more internal than external, guilt, betrayal and lack of clean resolution," he said.

The novel follows the adventures of Ringil Eskiath, aka Ringil Angeleyes or the Hero of Gallows Gap—a burnt-out warrior aristocrat fallen on unjustly hard times. But if that sounds at all like a standard-issue sword-and-sorcery character, think again: Ringil Angeleyes is gay.

"He grew up a scion of a noble family in the north, escaped the suffocating strictures of his upbringing by embracing his sexuality and pursuing it in the shady underworld corners of society, where it could—for the right price—be allowed free rein," Morgan said. "He was subsequently punished in a particularly horrible way for his transgressions and deeply marked for the rest of his life."

After fighting in a war with the Scaled Folk, Ringil grows weary of soldiering and goes off to hide in a small village in the mountains near the site of one of his famous victories. "Here, at least, his 'degenerate' sexual impulses are tolerated, since, A, he did save the place from destruction in the war, and, B, he's known to be pretty f--king hard and very fast with a blade, so you wouldn't want to piss him off," Morgan said. "And here he can earn a living of sorts from telling embellished versions of his exploits in the local tavern. It's not quite the life he was used to in the bosom of his ancestral home, but since his ancestral family largely despise him for what he unrepentantly is, he's prepared to make the trade and stick with his self-imposed exile."