Golden Age Sci-Fi 75 (59)

By: Joshua Glenn
November 5, 2016

One in a series of 75 posts about the best science fiction novels published during the genre’s so-called Golden Age (from 1934–63, according to HiLobrow’s Josh Glenn’s periodization schema). For the complete Golden Age Sci-Fi 75 list, click here.

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Poul Anderson‘s Three Hearts and Three Lions (1953/1961).

Often inadequately classified as a work of fantasy (I’ve classified it this way myself), Three Hearts and Three Lions is that rarest of phenomena: a fun, ingenious blend of science fiction and fantasy alike. When Holger Carlsen, a Danish-born American engineer who during WWII returns to Denmark to join the resistance (in an effort to smuggle out a physicist who alone can end the war), is grazed on the head by a bullet, he is transported to a parallel Earth — a medieval fantasy-land where Charlemagne is king, and trolls and unicorns wander the woods. Stranger still, Holger discovers a knight’s equipment (emblazoned with three hearts and three lions) and horse waiting for him; and he knows how to use the weapons and speak an archaic form of French. Soon, he becomes embroiled in an epic showdown: the forces of Faery are poised to overthrow humankind and their allies who support Law over Chaos. Embarking on a quest for an anti-chaos WMD, the legendary sword Cortana, Holger is joined by a gruff dwarf, a swan-may, and a Saracen knight; he is also aided by his understanding of science and engineering — because “magic,” it turns out, is indistinguishable from advanced technology.

Fun fact: Anderson’s obsession with Northern European legends, and his admiration for medieval virtues — developed further in The Broken Sword (1954) — directly inspired the game Dungeons & Dragons. His notion of a battle between Law and Chaos, and that of the Eternal Champion, were also directly influential on Michael Moorcock’s creation of Elric of Melniboné.

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GOLDEN AGE SCIENCE FICTION at HILOBROW: Golden Age Sci-Fi: 75 Best Novels of 1934–1963 | Robert Heinlein | Karel Capek | William Burroughs | E.E. “Doc” Smith | Clifford D. Simak | H.P. Lovecraft | Olaf Stapledon | Philip K. Dick | Jack Williamson | George Orwell | Boris Vian | Bernard Wolfe | J.G. Ballard | Jorge Luis Borges |Poul Anderson | Walter M. Miller, Jr. | Murray Leinster | Kurt Vonnegut | Stanislaw Lem | Alfred Bester | Isaac Asimov | Ray Bradbury | Madeleine L’Engle | Arthur C. Clarke | PLUS: Jack Kirby’s Golden Age and New Wave science fiction comics.

ALSO SEE: 50 Best Scientific Romances (1864–1903) | Radium Age Sci-Fi: 100 Best Novels of 1904–33 | Golden Age Sci-Fi: 75 Best Novels of 1934–1963 | 75 Best New Wave Sci-Fi (1964–83) Novels | The 200 Greatest Adventure Novels of All Time | 101 Science Fiction Adventures

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Read-outs, Sci-Fi

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