March 18th, 2013
Cavaliers of Mars is about the contrast between the sadness of a dying world and the frantic vitality of its last renaissance. So there’s a sense of melancholy to it, as well as a reckless energy and a sense of laughter at the morbid and absurd.
That laughter is a trait of the better sort of heroes. Fritz Leiber wrote of Fafhrd and the Mouser:
There is something in the inmost core of you… [s]omething that lets you laugh in a way that only the Elder Gods ever laughed. Something that makes you see a kind of jest in horror and disillusionment and death.
Howard described Conan as:
…black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth.
More famously, Raphael Sabatini wrote:
He was born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world is mad.
I have a suspicion Leiber was referencing Sabatini. In part, it’s the friction between romance and cynicism.
But I wonder if that laughter is something that could go into the mechanics. The jovial at the morbid, the gigantic mirths that follow the gigantic melancholies. The echoing laughter of the Elder Gods.
What would you call that trait?