Rediscovered: Charles Saunders

You can tell that at the time Cheryl Cline wrote her article on Sword-and-Sorcery for Portable Storage 4 she was unaware of the death of Imaro creator Charles Saunders.

Like most, I only got the news late in the year.

“Heard this afternoon that Charles Saunders died in May from natural causes,” Morgan “The Morgman” Holmes told me a couple of months ago. “Hopefully it was a quick heart attack and not cancer or kidney failure. I last heard from him around a year ago. He was excited to tell me that some entity was interested in adapting Imaro, I believe for cable T.V. I was beginning to wonder about him as I had not heard anything since then. Now we know.”

Kevin Cook got in on the news, saying “What would be ironically awful would be for Imaro to become a screen sensation after Charles Saunders’ death. From what I have been reading, he had become something of a recluse in his last years after the newspaper he was writing for shut down. No telephone, no cell, no wifi, his only contact with others being a weekly use of a library computer to send emails.

“He told no one about his declining health either.

“I was following his work in Dark Fantasy and The Diversifier and similar small press zines back in the day, mid 70’s onward — with Imaro finally coming out from DAW Books in 1981. I also corresponded with him back then. He did tell me that his favorite correspondent was Karl Edward Wagner because of their mutual interest in boxing. After he stopped writing fantasy he was writing biographies and proposed screenplays about some neglected black Canadian boxers from early in the 20th century.”

Morgan and Kevin both carried on a correspondence for awhile, even I exchanged a few letters when I wrote an article Charles wanted on the topic of Bran Mak Morn pastiches for a zine he was editing. Real letters back then, with stamps and stuff.

Leo Grin of The Cimmerian Press was just telling me that he had a run of back-and-forth emails with Saunders, launched in the wake of Steve Tompkins’ death — Tompk had given Saunders’ work especially close critical attention.

If something like full-fledged Saunders Studies ever get going, I bet lots of background material lurks out there.

Looking over some of the current online writeups, one thought did suddenly surface.

Saunders fled to Canada to avoid the draft for Viet Nam. Not that I care — no one will ever convince me that the Viet Nam War was anything but stupid — nonetheless the thought:

“Kind of odd that a draft-dodger would end up writing all this violent Sword-and-Sorcery fiction. I guess that’s why they call it fantasy.

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