Saturday, December 10, 2011

Lord of Chaos

A timeline of Kane's adventures
Version 3.0

Disclaimer: the following is a probable timeline using the sources in the Kane saga by Karl Edward Wagner. The numbers on the left are Kane's age, except for the last seven, which are dates. Nothing in this chronology should be considered official, although I attempted to make it as accurate as possible. At the bottom of the list are the facts that I had to work with, along with a discussion of the 2.0, 2.1, and 3.0 updates.

Oceans have receded, possible ice age, several ancient alien races living on Earth
God perfects the first man after many attempts, a Golden Age begins, Kane born
Kane rebels against God, kills his brother Abel, Kane is marked by God, Golden Age ends
God disperses mankind across the Earth
Carsultyal founded on the ruins of a prehuman city
Events of In the Wake of the Night, Kethrid rebuilds the Yhosal-Monyr
Kethrid begins the voyage of Yhosal-Monyr, collects the knowledge of Elder Races
Kane joins Kethrid on his voyage, Alorri-Zrokros compiles the "Book of the Elders"
Kethrid disappears on his final voyage
Kane reappears in Carsultyal, starts practicing sorcery
Carsultyal has become the greatest city of mankind's dawn
Events of Undertow, Kane has become the envy of Carsultyal's mages
Kane journeys to Hell and speaks with a Demonlord, presumably Sathonys
The spirit of discovery in Carsultyal begins to stagnate
Kane's sorcerous studies take off in alien directions
Amderin the mage begins to craft a set of sixteen muses in Carsultyal
Carsultyal's sorcerers drive Kane from the city, events of Two Suns Setting
Events of Bloodstone, Carsultyal is in decline
Kane begins practicing sorcery in the city of Ashertiri
Kane rules from the Obsidian Throne of Ashertiri
Kane extends the dominion of Ashertiri across vast regions of the Northern Continent
The sorcerers of Carsultyal attack and destroy the ill-fated empire of Ashertiri
The Halbros-Serrantho capital (the Old City) is visited by Kane
Halbros-Serrantho move their capital to Enseljos, the Old City is abandoned
Carsultyal has experienced a "strange fall" and is no longer inhabited
Kane is a crime-lord in Enseljos, events of The Dark Muse
Halbros-Serrantho begins the road to empire, annexing several neighboring realms
Kane begins practicing necromancy from a stronghold atop the Halbros Mountains
Kane consolidates his rule and begins demanding tribute from the countryside
Several expeditions attempt to unseat Kane, all fail
Kane uses his skills to aid Halbros-Serranthro in the Imperial Wars
Halbros-Serrantro becomes known as the Serranthonian Empire
Tiring of Kane's depravity, the combined forces of the Serranthonian Empire destroy Kane's citadel
The rape and death of the maiden, Valdese, and the torture of Korjonos
The Dualist Heresy begins in the northern Serranthonian Empire
Kane stirs up civil unrest as an assassin, events of Sing a Last Song of Valdese
The Serranthonian Empire descends into civil war, several provinces successfully declare their independence, including Chrosanthe
King Janisavion of Chrosanthe is assassinated
Chrosanthe is in the middle of a civil war, Kane is renown as an assassin there
Events of Misericorde
Consumed by civil war, the Serranthonian Empire falls, breaking up into hundreds of city-states
Masale of Wesvetin decides to carve an empire, declares war on Lynortis
After two years of bloody siege, Lynortis falls due to Kane's treachery
The "Age of Shattered Empires" begins, the northern continents fall into barbarism
Kane and Jeresen of Waldan put Roderic on his brother's throne
Events of Lynortis Reprise
Kane becomes a bandit in the Myceum Mountains
Kane burns the Raven's Eyrie Inn, the Lartroxian Combine put a price on his head
Kane's daughter, Klesst, is born, Ionor makes a pact with Sathonys, the Demonlord
Events of Raven's Eyrie
Kane is a general in Sandotneri
Events of Dark Crusade
Kane spends a year recovering from his ordeal in the Tower of Yslsl
Events of Reflections for the Winter of My Soul
Kane is wandering the Southern Lands
Kane melds a number of pirate vessels into the Black Fleet in the isles south of Lartroxia
Kane is such a success that he becomes known as Red Kane the Pirate Lord
The Black Fleet is destroyed at Montes, Kane escapes
The remnants of Kane's Black Fleet raid the coast of the Southern Kingdoms
Kane is performing sorcerous experiments in the Myceum Mountains
Kane is raiding caravans in the deserts of Lomarn
Events of Cold Light
Kane fights a towering demon with a broken sword
Kane joins the army of Talyvion of Chrosanthe, rises to the rank of lieutenant
Jasseartion takes his brother's throne in Chrosanthe, events of Mirage
Kane travels to eastern Lartroxia, where his band of mercenaries enters service in the army of Andalar, Kane rises to general of Andalar's armies, events recounted in The Other One
Kane is a general in the Lands east of the Myceum Mountains, gathers an army of one hundred thousand men and razes the city of Andalar
Kane returns to Lartroxia South, discovers that the Lartroxian Combine has placed a price on his head
Events of Darkness Weaves
Kane returns to roam the Southern Lands
Kane is a bandit leader in eastern Lartroxia, framing events presented in The Other One

Unknown Date
Using his accumulated knowledge and power, Kane learns to open the doorways between space and time, and to travel to alternate realities for a limited time
Unknown Date
On several journeys through space/time gateways, Kane first meets Elric of Melniboné and later Prince Corum Jhaelen Irsei. Around this time he begins to repair a damaged spaceship he has discovered.
Unknown Date
Kane learns the whereabouts of a supposedly undamaged spaceship transducer, events of The Gothic Touch
Unknown Date
Presumably using his rebuilt space ship, Kane makes his way to his Creator's abode and manages to kill him along with most of his minions.

1974 A.D.
The poem Midnight Sun, the Kane stories shift to a modern-day setting
1980 A.D.
Events in Lacunae, Kane begins accumulating wealth and power by the takeover of an illegal drug lab in New York's Soho district
1982 A.D.
Kane has risen in wealth and power as the owner of Kane,Ltd., based in New Orleans, events of Deep in the Depths of the Acme Warehouse
1985 A.D.
Kane learns to master the manipulation of real time, near time, and time time.
Aug 1987 A.D.
Kane is now the head of a powerful international corporation, and is in London for the Harmonic Convergence, events of At First Just Ghostly

Notes on the Timeline

Special note on the Version 2.0 Update:-Last year, when I first developed the timeline, I stated to my friends that I would change it only if I recieved proof that my timeline was wrong in any way. Last week, I recieved a copy of an article about Kane that Steve Trout wrote back in 1979. Attached to the article (and its timeline) was a letter from Karl Edward Wagner critiquing the article. While most of Wagner's letter talks about how the Kane stories are "free-standing" and not meant to be read in chronological order, he did provide a glimpse into how the stories are arranged:

"This is not to say that a chronological order does not exist - rather, that it's a far more complex pattern than most fans realize. The novels can be placed in order easily enough, again keeping in mind the gulfs of time and distance. Also, within the story collections (DEATH ANGEL'S SHADOW, NIGHT WINDS, and the projected SILVER DAGGER volume) the stories are arranged in chronological order; but again there is a gap of time - about a century in DAS, over a thousand years in NW and SD - so that the stories straddle the novels and the stories of the other collections. The stories are gathered to center on a mood or a theme, and not a specific connected period of events. Thus the novels would run IN THE WAKE OF THE NIGHT (still in progress), BLOODSTONE, DARK CRUSADE, DARKNESS WEAVES, with the stories scattered in between, from "Undertow" to "The Other One" - keeping in mind that the stories in each collection are in chronological order within that collection itself. Simple, isn't it?" K.E.W.

Well, yes and no. It meant I needed to move Raven's Eyrie forward to fit after the events of Lynortis Reprise. That was easy enough (although I noted on the Steve Trout timeline that he had it placed in the same order that I placed it; a pretty clear indication that the internal evidence of the story argued for a later placement). I moved The Other One to immediately in front of Darkness Weaves (it fits much better here than where I had it; I'm really happy about this one). I had to squeeze all of the events between Reflection for the Winter of My Soul and Mirage into a space of less than a century (I think I've got it into ninety years), which created a fairly drastic renumbering of the years of the events after Dark Crusade, not to mention a few before. All of this was fairly simple.

Unfortunately, there is one story that I could not reconcile with Wagner's chronology. Sing a Last Song of Valdese cannot be placed as the final chronological story in NIGHT WINDS. It has to take place before the events of Lynortis Reprise. Here's why. Reflection for the Winter of My Soul states that the Serranthonian Empire fell one hundred years prior to the story, and that Kane was in Lynortis when it fell a century earlier. Dark Crusade states that the Dualist Heresy that fanned the flames that brought down the Serranthonian Empire occurred several centuries prior to the story. Now Reflection for the Winter of My Soul takes place only five years after Dark Crusade so this means that the Dualist Heresy started at least one and possibly two hundred years before the Serranthonian Empire fell. Since in Sing a Last Song of Valdese the Dualist Heresy is well underway, it HAS to take place before the events of Lynortis Reprise(remember Kane was in Lynortis when the Serranthonian Empire fell, and Lynortis Reprise takes place thirty years later). A placement after Raven's Eyrie guts the timeline and makes it for all intents and purposes useless. This isn't to say that Wagner was wrong; he could have fixed the timing of the other stories to fit his chronology. Unfortunately he died before he saw fit to do this, so we are left with a chronology with an artifact in it. Whether this matters or not I will leave up to you.........


Update 2.1, May 1, 1999:-I received an email from Scott Wyatt (who worked on the bibliography for EXORCISMS AND ECSTASIES) and he was kind enough to relate to me that Karl Wagner did indeed know that Sing a Last Song of Valdese was out of order in NIGHT WINDS. It seems it was placed as the final story for artistic considerations. He also provided me with a much more logical reordering of the "modern-day" Kane stories, which I have adapted for this timeline. I should never have to change it again. Thank you, Scott!


Update 3.0, April 22, 2002:-After reading and re-reading the various Kane stories, I came to the conclusion that The Gothic Touch is not one of the modern tales. See my article "Rethinking The Gothic Touch" to see how I came to my conclusions.

***notes on the stories***

Bloodstone:-Kane is found to be 450-500 years old (Teres is 25, and she estimates that Kane was twenty years older than she was. He claimed to be over ten times that number in years, hence 450-500). The voyage of Kethrid was over 400 years before events in the story.

Reflection for the Winter of My Soul:-This story takes four years after the events of Dark Crusade. Kane spent one year recovering from Yslsl's Lair. The Serranthonian Empire fell one hundred years prior to the story. Kane was in Lynortis a century earlier, when the city fell.

Cold Light:-Kane was practicing sorcery in the Myceum Mountains 5 years prior to the story. 10 years previously Kane was a pirate attacking the Thovnosian Empire. The year prior was spent raiding caravans in Lomarn. The cities of Lartroxia seem to be independent city-states.

Mirage:-One year prior to the story, Kane was a lieutenant in the army of Talyvion of Chrosanthe. 200 years previously, Chrosanthe experienced a terrible civil war.

Dark Crusade:-The story takes place during the Age of Shattered Empires. The Dualist Heresy that fanned the flames that brought down the Serranthonian Empire occurred several centuries prior to the story. Kane was a general in Sandotneri one year previously. Ashertiri was destroyed a millenium prior to the story.

Undertow:-Kane is practicing magic at the height of Carsultyal's glory.

Two Suns Setting:-Kane has been alive "a few centuries." Mega-fauna (sabertooths, great sloths, cave bears, woolly mammoths) have been extinct for some time. Carsultyal has started into decline.

The Dark Muse:-The Old City was abandoned two hundred years before the story. Kane's familiarity with the city implies his having visited it before it became deserted. The mage Amderin sculpted the Dark Muse centuries ago during Carsultyal's declining years.

Raven's Eyrie:-Kane has been a bandit in the Myceum Mountains for the past ten years. He destroyed an inn and fathered Klesst 8 years prior to the story. Lartroxia's cities have combined into an alliance. Kane has talked to the Demonlord previously.

Lynortis Reprise:-The fall of Lynortis occurred thirty years prior to the story, placing it some 70 years prior to Reflections. 15 years before the story, Kane and Jeresen put Roderic on a throne.

Sing a Last Song of Valdese:-Kane aided the Serranthonian Empire in its imperial wars and his keep was destroyed "centuries ago". Valdese was raped and killed 49 years prior to the story. The Dualist Heresy is in full swing.

Darkness Weaves:-Kane claims to have only recently come into the Lartroxian Combine and has had some successes as a general in several campaigns to the east of the Combine (part of this is recounted in The Other One). The tale of Red Kane the Pirate Lord takes place two centuries prior to the story. Lynortis Reprise, Bloodstone, and the stories of Death Angel's Shadow all take place before Darkness Weaves. The book also has vignettes about Kane fighting a demon, as a necromancer, as king of a country, and killing his brother, Abel.

The Other One:-The story takes place in the eastern part of Lartroxia South, because of mention of jungles, veldts and Banyan trees. I placed the story as I did because Karl Wagner stated in a letter written in 1979 that this was the last of the short stories when placed in chronological order. It also fits in really well as occuring immediately preceding the events of Darkness Weaves.

Misericorde:-While the historical parts of the story suggest an early placement in the saga, the latter part sets the tale firmly at the time of the Southern Kingdoms, after the fall of the Serranthonian Empire. Kane also states that the stars have changed since he was born, which would seem to indicate a considerable period of time. The kingdom of Chrosanthe is in the midst of a lengthy civil war, quite possibly the one mentioned in Mirage.

In the Wake of the Night:- This story takes place shortly after the founding of Carsultyal.

The Midnight Sun:- This poem is the first of the 20th century stories. I dated it as 1974, the date it was first published.

The Gothic Touch:-It is difficult to date this story until you realize that Kane is carrying his Carsultyal Blade, can travel to parallel worlds through space and time, and is seeking a spaceship transducer. It is dated to shortly before Kane kills his Creator.

Lacunae:-A modern story that seems to take place before At First Just Ghostly because of Kane having just recently joining up with Blacklight, and still trying to perfect his special drug.

Deep in the Depths of the Acme Warehouse:-Not much to report about this story. Kane is a record producer in New Orleans. Blacklight makes an appearance.

At First Just Ghostly:-This story takes place in London during the Harmonic Convergence. Klesst, Blacklight, and the special drug all make appearances in this story. Full scale war with Sathonys. Fun stuff!

Special note on Ashertiri:-While it never states anywhere in the saga that Kane was the King of Ashertiri, several items make me assume so. First, in Dark Crusade, Kane digs into the ruins of Ashertiri, at the exact spot where he knew a fire elemental was imprisoned. Second, in Reflections, the bard sings a song pointed directly at Kane in the language of Ashertiri knowing full well that he will understand it. Third, there is the vignette in Darkness Weaves that shows Kane as a king on an obsidian throne shortly after the events of Bloodstone. Finally, Carsultyal destroyed Ashertiri when it attempted to create an empire on the Great Northern Continent. If that doesn't sound like something Kane would do, I don't know what does.

Copyright 1999-2012 Dale E Rippke
All rights reserved

Rethinking The Gothic Touch

By Dale E. Rippke
Caution! This essay contains spoilers about THE GOTHIC TOUCH

Of the entire Kane saga set out by its author, Karl Edward Wagner, the only really difficult tale to place is his final Kane story, THE GOTHIC TOUCH. The tale is a bit of a mixed bag; it reads like one of the old “heroic fantasy” Kane stories, yet contains elements of the more “modern” ones. The story is usually placed amid the modern Kane stories, but I intend to show that it doesn’t really belong there.

THE GOTHIC TOUCH is the story of how Kane manages to open a gateway between his world and the world of Elric of Melnibon√©. He enlists Elric and Moonglum’s help to recover a treasure that exist beneath a ruined castle. Of course, the treasure ends up being something entire different than what Elric expects.

There is one plot point that makes THE GOTHIC TOUCH appear to be one of the “ancient days” tales:

1. Kane’s appearance and weapons.

There are a number of plot points that make THE GOTHIC TOUCH appear to be a “modern” story:

1. Kane has the ability to travel between parallel worlds in space/time.

2. Kane is attempting to retrieve a transducer that helps to power a space ship.

3. Kane is carrying a nuclear weapon.

4. Kane is on the run and trying to escape from an unknown pursuer through time and space.

I intend to show how an examination of each of these points can lead to a very interesting conclusion.

Appearance and weapons.

Kane is described in the story as “clad in mail, leather breeks and high boots, and a flapping black cloak”. He is carrying a long sword made of odd-looking metal, which he claims was made in Carsultyal “long ago and far away”. This is pretty much how he is described in nearly all of the “ancient days” heroic fantasy stories.

Kane in the modern stories wears modern clothing (biker leathers and pin-striped suits). He doesn’t carry his sword in any of these stories, but does carry a cosmic ray laser in AT FIRST JUST GHOSTLY.

If a “modern” Kane changed into armor to fit in with the manner of dress on Elric’s world, then you would still have to ask why he went to all the trouble to enlist Elric’s help when he could have just brought his cosmic ray laser instead (after all, he brought a nuke). I am nearly positive that THE GOTHIC TOUCH takes place before the “modern” stories, but a long time after the “ancient” yarns. 

The ability to travel between parallel worlds in space/time.

In THE GOTHIC TOUCH, Kane is able to hold a gateway open for a very limited time at great effort. We are not positively told whether this ability is magical or some type of technology. There is at least one of the “ancient days” stories where the ability to interfere with time by magical means is inferred; MISERICORDE. Kane is promised the ability to travel between worlds by the Bloodstone entity in BLOODSTONE, although this would be accomplished through the application of its alien technology instead of magic. Whether it taught him how to do this is in question, although it certainly showed him that teleportation within the same world was possible.

The “modern” story LACUNAE showed that he had mastered the ability to teleport at will without apparent technology and in AT FIRST JUST GHOSTLY, Kane showed both the ability to teleport at will and to manipulate time in various fashions, all without any apparent technology (it is implied though, since his other weapons use some fantastic manners of tech). 

Kane’s ability to open a gateway in space/time between parallel worlds in THE GOTHIC TOUCH is one that he has acquired fairly recently (within several years of the beginning of the story). It is apparent that he has used it quite a bit since he claims that this is his second meeting with Elric (the first being sometime in Elric’s future) and that he has also had dealings with Corum. We get the impression that magic is involved, since Kane declares that opening a gate “is a feat any sorcerer could carry out”; Elric suspects that this is a lie. Kane also seems to need to mentally concentrate to keep the gateway open; this implies the mental discipline found in certain types of magic (to be fair, Kane does describe the process in tech terms like “trans-dimensional warp” and “losing time phase” while keeping the gate open).

Even if the ability to open a gateway seems inclined to be more magical than technological, it is probably a toss-up as to its placement amid the tales of Kane. I could literally place this story anywhere in the unknown history between the “ancient, magic-using” Kane and the “modern, tech-using” Kane.

The attempt to retrieve a transducer that helps to power a space ship.

This is actually one of the better arguments for an earlier than “modern” placement for this story. According to Wagner, Kane left his creator and came to earth in a flying saucer (according to LACUNAE it looked like the hubcap of a 1957 Chrysler 300C). THE GOTHIC TOUCH even states that the metal in Kane’s Carsultyal blade is made of melted-down starships. The unwritten novel IN THE WAKE OF THE NIGHT was supposed to chronicle Kane’s discovery of an elder-earth spacecraft during Kethrid’s voyages. In BLOODSTONE and in fantasy conventions around the country, Wagner always made the case that Kane’s primary motivation was to get off our Earth and attempt to return to his creator’s abode.

In the “modern” tale AT FIRST JUST GHOSTLY it is obvious Kane has been off-planet. First of all, he claims he has already killed his creator (who lives off-planet). Also, he has a cosmic ray laser that is powered by two black holes locked in an antimatter matrix. Just where are you going to find the technology to make a weapon like that on Earth?

The thrust of THE GOTHIC TOUCH has Kane attempting to retrieve a crashed starship’s transducer from Elric’s world and time. This implies that Kane has a need for it; that he has already obtained an undamaged spaceship to attach it to. This would place THE GOTHIC TOUCH between the “looking-for-a-way-off-planet” Kane of the “ancient” stories and the Kane of the “modern” stories who has already gotten off Earth and killed his Creator.

The appearance of the nuclear weapon.

This would seem to place THE GOTHIC TOUCH firmly amid the “modern” tales. Suitcase nukes are a pretty recent weapon here on Earth. So why is this not the case here?

Because there is evidence that Kane utilized nuclear weapons prior to the modern stories. In LACUNAE (the first of the “modern” tales, chronologically) Kane mentions that he used to build atomic bombs, and that they are overrated. When did he do this? He hadn’t been in our “modern” time very long, as he was just beginning to establish himself in our world by creating designer drugs. If he learned enough about atomic bombs to be able to build one, then this almost certainly had to have occurred before he appears in our “modern” era. His knowledge came from someone else. This isn’t as crazy as it sounds…

The text of THE GOTHIC TOUCH makes it clear that the nuclear bomb Kane carries has been stolen from someone else. Someone who is able to follow him through space/time to retrieve it. Since the people of our “modern” era don’t have the ability to pursue someone across time and space, the weapon cannot be from our world. This also means THE GOTHIC TOUCH does not have to be placed within the context of the “modern” tales. 

Kane being on the run and trying to escape from an unknown pursuer through time and space.

In THE GOTHIC TOUCH, Kane is being pursued by “certain forces who wish me no good”. These forces, like Kane, have the ability to travel across time and space. They are intent on stopping him from using the nuclear weapon he carries. Kane plans to use the nuke to seal the gateway between worlds, so his pursuers can’t follow him anymore. So who are these “certain forces”?

Well I find it hard to believe that Kane would be on the run from any group of humans, no matter how technologically advanced they were. The Kane described in THE GOTHIC TOUCH is so strong and deadly that it would take a pretty large group to take him down. His desperation to close the gate permanently seems to indicate someone or something bigger and badder is after him.

This really only leaves three possible groups that would be consistent with Wagner’s saga of Kane: Extraterrestrials, the evil forces of the Demonlords, or the good forces of the Creator.

The Earth prior to the advent of man was inhabited by a variety of extraterrestrial visitors, such as the Brvenn, Tuhchiso, Scylredi, and Krelran. For the most part these alien colonists were either gone or degenerate by Kane’s age. And I think we can pretty much discount visiting Extraterrestrials, since THE GOTHIC TOUCH implies that Kane is only able to open gateways between parallel versions of our world and no mention is made of contact with anyone from Outer Space yet.

I also think we can rule out the forces of the Demonlords. Even in the “modern” tale AT FIRST JUST GHOSTLY, when the source of Kane’s power is literally astronomical, the forces of darkness live by a sort of “You don’t mess with us and we won’t mess with you” philosophy, until Kane marks Cody Lennox as his own minion. The Demonlords live to spread Chaos and Kane is really only a human who does just that. For most of the “ancient days” series the Demonlords and Kane have had a sort of alliance against his creator.

That leaves the “Good” forces of Kane’s Creator to consider. Several things make me feel that these are those “certain forces who wish me no good”. First of all, the Angelic minions of the Creator seem to keep Kane under observation (this is what chapter 5 of DARKNESS WEAVES is about). Secondly, they are no fools; they have to realize that if Kane completes his spaceship, he could cause major trouble for them. And lastly, if you don’t think Angelic forces would wield nuclear weapons, then you don’t remember the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by an angel wielding “fire and brimstone”. 

There is one final clue about who this force might be that I would like to touch on. Wagner wrote that Kane was being pursued by “certain forces who wish me no good”. I find this an intriguing use of the language. Why did he use the term “wish me no good”? “Wish me no good” doesn’t equate with wishing someone evil or even harm. It’s sort of a neutral phrase. I equate it with the withholding of good intentions. The Demonlords certainly wouldn’t be able to withhold good intentions and to Extraterrestrials the term would probably be meaningless. If this is the case than it could be a clue pointing toward the Angelic forces of good being those “certain forces who wish me no good”. Of course, I could be reading something into the story that really isn’t there. But it is pretty interesting…

In Conclusion

I think it’s only fair to acknowledge the overriding story arc to the Kane saga was Wagner’s insistence that Kane was finally able get off planet to kill his creator. How he accomplished this must have been pretty spectacular since AT FIRST JUST GHOSTLY claims that he not only killed God, but destroyed ALL of the forces of good. Kane annihilated Heaven! It certainly makes for the greatest untold story in the Kane series.

THE GOTHIC TOUCH shouldn’t be considered a “modern day” story, because it never was one. It was the setup story leading to the tale of how Kane was finally able to kill his creator. It all fits; Kane on the run with a nuclear bomb he stole from the angels, managing to elude them long enough to recover the one part he needed to make his spaceship fly, and then setting off the bomb so they couldn’t follow him as he planned his mission to kill God. 

I told you this was going to go someplace interesting…

Rethinking the Gothic Touch essay Copyright 2002-2012 by Dale E Rippke

All rights reserved

Reflections of a Midnight Sun

By Dale Rippke
This article originally appeared in REHUPA #167

In 1970, Karl Edward Wagner unleashed upon the world a new character in the Heroic Fantasy vein, a perfect human killing machine named Kane. Kane was an immortal, cursed to wander the Earth until killed by the violence that he himself had created. While not as popular as Robert Howard's Conan character, the Kane character seems to have carved out a respectable niche for himself.

The thing I find most fascinating about Kane is that there is a subtle story arc that is alluded to in the published saga, but never directly addressed. It is the reason why Wagner describes Kane as the Black Prometheus.

Now in Greek mythology Prometheus gave the gift of fire to mankind and was punished by the gods for it. Did Kane give a gift to mankind as well? We know he was the first man on Earth to murder another. Was that the gift? Or was there another?

This story arc was supposed to have been made clear in a loosely related trilogy of Kane novels. Their titles were BLACK EDEN, IN THE WAKE OF THE NIGHT, and AT FIRST JUST GHOSTLY. Two of these novels were started but never finished. They were to delve into who and what Kane really was.

The first book of the trilogy was to be called BLACK EDEN. While I do not know with absolute certainty what the book is about, I believe that the title refers to a "corrupted paradise". This implies that BLACK EDEN is the novel of Kane's origin. The plot of the novel can be discerned by collating those snippets of information concerning Kane's origins as recounted in the various published stories. His origin seems to have been patterned after the Biblical Cain, however there are some differences.

Some time after the fall of the Elder Races (due to wars over the Earth's dwindling resources in the new Ice Age) an alien god referred to as the "Creator" fashioned a race after his own image, and named that race "man". Unfortunately, this "Creator" didn't take into account that his imperfections would mirror themselves in his new creation. He placed his new men and women in a sheltered, Golden Age paradise and interacted with them in much the same way that you or I would interact with pets for our amusement. It is not stated with any certainty whether this paradise was actually on the Earth or within this god's abode. One gets the impression that mankind existed in this paradise for some time, as they became quite numerous and apparently highly civilized.

One of these "First Men", was Kane, a son of Adam (Eve was his stepmother, presumably Lilith was his mother). Kane decided to be the master of his own destiny and rebelled against this god's authority. He spurred the infant race of man to independent will by provoking them to rise in rebellion against their "Creator" and his stifling paradise. Kane's own brother and the "Creator's" favorite plaything, a man named Abel, initiated an attempt to thwart Kane's defiance. It failed when Kane violently strangled his brother before the smoking altar of his temple. Thus Kane gave the gift of murder, as well as rebellion, to mankind. 

Despair racked the mind of the "Creator" god when he finally recognized that his own imperfections were the actual cause of mankind's rebellion, so he cast man out of paradise and scattered him across the face of the Earth in an act of abandonment. For Kane he reserved a special punishment.

Because of his propensity to murderous violence, the "Creator" decided to recreate Kane into the very avatar of that violence; a biological weapon along the lines of a Terminator type cyborg. It is unknown how much of this was done genetically and how much he was augmented mechanically (most likely done through nano-technology). Mechanical and organic life melded to become the perfect killing machine. His speed, strength and stamina were increased. His conscience was either removed or greatly reduced (THE GOTHIC TOUCH implies his soul was removed) and he was given immortality and immunity to disease. Finally, he was given the glowing blue eyes of an insane killer (allowing him to see in the dark) so that everyone could recognize him for who he was. The "curse" behind this was that Kane could only die by the same violence that he had introduced to the world.

It is not certain how long it took to complete this transformation, but somewhat under a century seems to have passed before Kane reappeared on the Earth stage (BLOODSTONE states that man had wandered the earth somewhat over five hundred years, but that Kane was only somewhere over 450 years old). What also seems certain is that it was finished prior to the rebellion of the angels and their subsequent war with "God". Apparently, this war was to be modeled after John Milton's PARADISE LOST. The "re-created" Kane ended up with a little too much intelligence and free will and escaped his "Creator's" control. I imagine the role Kane played in this war was probably that of a catalyst. BLACK EDEN would have made for a very exciting book!

IN THE WAKE OF THE NIGHT was the second novel of the trilogy and was planned to have been about 150,000 words (twice the size of BLOODSTONE). Fantasy author David Drake states that Karl had written the opening chapters of the novel, but only an excerpt of the prologue has ever seen the light of day. Several friends of Karl's remember the other bits and pieces of the novel. One remembers a fight scene and another recalls a part describing a crashed space ship. 

What I have deduced from the various clues (some of them contradictory) I've had to work with is pretty interesting, to put it mildly. The book seems to be about Kane's fall to Earth and his attempt to return and kill his creator.

IN THE WAKE OF THE NIGHT begins with the discovery of an elder race shipwreck by a human visionary named Kethrid and his resolve to rebuild the ship into a vessel to be used to explore, discover, and restore elder race science and technology to the world. He names his ship the Yhosal-Monyr. Kethrid was the greatest mind of his age, and it was because of him that his home city of Carsultyal became the preeminent city in the early history of mankind. His voyages took place around a century after mankind's Diaspora. 

Kane's first appearance in the novel deals with his escape on a spaceship that he pilots to the Earth and manages to destroy in a crash-landing. He is fleeing from the war between the angels. I do not know whether this war would have been fleshed out as a major part of this book or in BLACK EDEN. If it appeared in the latter then it would have been told as a one or two page flashback in IN THE WAKE OF THE NIGHT. It would also have introduced a continuity error in that BLOODSTONE has Kethrid recounting the legend of a Kane cursed by his god to wander the Earth shunned by mankind; a legend that couldn't have taken root if Kane only appeared on Earth at the beginning of Kethrid's voyages.

I do not know how Kane and Kethrid got together. At any rate, Kane joins Kethrid on his voyages of discovery. Kethrid is obsessed with finding the fallen cities of the Ancients so he can unlock their secrets for the benefit of mankind. Kane could care less about mankind. He has come along in an effort to discover an ancient technology that will allow him to leave the Earth so he can rejoin and kill his "Creator".

Interestingly enough, the book was to be unlike Wagner's other novels, and did not feature Kane as leading an army or a navy. It also would not have focused on Kane as the primary character of the book; Kethrid was to have taken that role. Kane is Kethrid's close friend and advisor and he plays a major part in the discoveries that the Yhosal-Monyr uncovers. The two make several voyages and the knowledge they return with forms the core of Carsultyal's civilization. The book is about those voyages.

The novel was supposed to have ended with man's first rocket launch from the city of Carsultyal. I would imagine that this was Kane's attempt to return and kill his creator. At any rate, the launch was obviously not successful.

We know from BLOODSTONE that Kethrid, his crew, and the Yhosal-Monyr disappear on his final voyage and are never heard from again. Whether this happened prior to or subsequent to the rocket launch is unknown.

After the end of IN THE WAKE OF THE NIGHT Kane begins his long road of discovery that is chronicled over the course of three novels and eleven short story/novelettes. He develops the nihilistic philosophy that Chaos is a kinetic force that must wage eternal war against the stagnant principle of Order. His actions in the pursuit of this philosophy range from lust for power to boredom to revenge, and we are only given hints in the stories as to his actual motives. The best view of his outlook came in the novel BLOODSTONE, where he attempts to explain to Teres that his mastery of the Bloodstone is a key that will allow him to unlock the doors of the infinite. He is still trying, after a half millennia, to get the hell off the Earth! 

Another interesting fact makes itself apparent during the course of the series. Living through the passage of millenia has made Kane insane. The form this insanity takes manifests in his performing deeds that are not always in his own best interest. The cold-blooded games and schemes that he spends years on can be swept away in a moment of berserk rage. In doing so he risks the violent death that he was promised by his creator; a death that he dreads yet, paradoxically enough, longs for. I imagine reason behind Kane's inconsistent behavior was best summed up by Karl Wagner's best friend John Mayer: Imagine knowing for a fact that God is out to get you.
"Ride on through the night, Kane, alone,
Like a comet that comes and destroys,
And drives on.
Play the game to the end, Kane.
Maybe this time."

The first hint that he ever succeeded in leaving the Earth was recounted in a poem written by Karl called THE MIDNIGHT SUN. The poem recounts how Kane comes to appear in the 20th century. It was written fairly early in Wagner's career, and first published in 1974. It established early on the thread of a story arc that is really only hinted at until the publication of the "modern" Kane tales. 

THE MIDNIGHT SUN is the first mention of Kane to be linked with our current age. It shows some of the inner workings of his mind and why he does what he will. It states that Kane is a true lord of Chaos and will brook no control by the forces of Law. It also implies that he has destroyed his "Creator":
"I vanquished Law once, I'll conquer yet again--
And force upon Mankind the Freedom he fears--
And dead gods I will again defy…"
This will not be the last time Karl Wagner returns to this theme.

Besides the poem, there are four other tales of Kane that take place in "modern" times. These are LACUNAE, DEEP IN THE DEPTHS OF THE ACME WAREHOUSE, THE GOTHIC TOUCH, and AT FIRST JUST GHOSTLY. The first two add nothing of real substance to Kane's story arc. The final two do, and it is these I will take a special look at.

THE GOTHIC TOUCH establishes that Kane is now able to travel between alternate realities/universes to pursue his ultimate plan. He is attempting to acquire a weapon to be used against a powerful unnamed enemy. This enemy has sent agents after Kane in an attempt to stop him. The weapon must be rare and pretty powerful, as Kane is carrying a portable nuclear device with him to seal the gateway behind him! While it could probably be argued that THE GOTHIC TOUCH is not one of the modern day tales, the presence of the nuke would seem to place it there.

Things really get wild in AT FIRST JUST GHOSTLY. Originally planned to be the opening chapters of a 100,000-word novel of the same name, AT FIRST JUST GHOSTLY would have been the third and final part of the trilogy arc. As a novelette, the story finds Kane in conflict with his former acquaintance, Sathonys (Satan), and for once, the two opposing powers are evenly matched. The story is complex and shows Kane in a completely different light than his stories usually do. He is not the primary character in the story. That role is reserved for a man named Cody Lennox: a wild card with the ability to manipulate synchronicity. Kane enlists Lennox's aid in an attempt to prevent Satan from manifesting Hell on Earth during the Harmonic Convergence. That Kane is the only person who can do this is made clear when Lennox asks him why the forces of Good don't intervene:
(Kane) "Because there are no good forces."
(Lennox) "So, then. You don't believe that there is a God."
"There was a god."
"Well, then. Where is he now?"
"I killed him," said Kane.

AT FIRST JUST GHOSTLY would have made for a great novel! Just from what information was given in the novelette, it appears that the plot of the novel would have been a war and probably the conclusion of that war between the final evil forces of control (Law) in the universe and the default forces of good led by Kane (Wagner referred to it as "the epic struggle between Bad vs. Evil")! Since it was presented in the novelette, the novel would also have presumably given us a look at how Kane killed his "Creator". An author of murder who would dare bestow that gift upon the very gods themselves!

The subtle story arc that I have alluded to runs throughout the Kane Saga. It is about a man who perceives outside, imposed control on one's self to be the greatest crime. This man then sets out to seek a way to eliminate the forces that would control him, thus in effect, becoming a Lord of Chaos. In doing so, he would also free the universe of those forces and by association, the whole of mankind.

It is pure, unadulterated speculation on my part that Kane was built as a weapon by his "Creator" to be used against any uprising by the more militant of the rogue angels. And somehow these angels managed to co-opt Kane and enlist his help on their side, presumably by showing how his "Creator" was controlling every aspect of his life. Kane threw his lot in with the rebellion (RAVEN'S EYRIE practically states as much), even through the newly fallen angels were using him in much the same way as his god was. Eventually he recognized that their control was just as pervasive, and he fled on a spaceship to get away from all of the controlling influences and to decide what he wanted for himself. 

Kane eventually came to the realization that the only way he could be free of everyone's control would be to destroy the sources of that control. In the process of freeing himself he would sever the human race's connection to the gods and free them to be the masters of their own destiny, for good or evil.

Kane's time on prehistoric Earth showed him honing his skills for an attempt to free himself if and when the time came. He was actively looking for a way of striking back at the forces that created him. 

While we are never made privy to the details, it appears that Kane was successful in his attempt to destroy his "Creator". What is really astounding is that he not only managed to kill god, but that he also totally removed the inimical forces of Good from the universe. In all fairness, the minions of the Demonlord probably destroyed their share.

Kane must have realized fairly quickly that his destruction of the forces of good would have dire consequences for mankind, so he refocused his sights on the only other forces left, those of Evil. While the stories give no clue as to whether he was successful, I'm betting that anyone who could kill God could destroy Satan and his forces. He freed mankind from the dictates of the hostile forces that surrounded him. 

That is why I believe Karl Edward Wagner referred to the immortal Kane as the Black Prometheus. His gift wasn't fire, but freedom. Real freedom.

Reflections of a Midnight Sun essay Copyright 2001-2012 by Dale E Rippke
All rights reserved

Phantasmal Tomes

By Dale E. Rippke

In 1970 a new fantasy character strode onto the stage of Heroic Fantasy. He was an immortal anti-hero called Kane, and his adventures were written by fantasy/horror author Karl Edward Wagner. Wagner wrote five actual books about Kane, three novels called Darkness Weaves, Bloodstone, and Dark Crusade and two short story collections, Death Angel's Shadow and Night Winds. What isn't as widely known is that at least four (and possibly as many as six) other books about Kane were in the planning stages by Wagner, but never completed. What follows is a look at those phantasmal tomes.

Black Eden

This book would have been the first novel in a trilogy examining who and what Kane actually was. This book would have been the story of Kane's origin. From information gleaned from the published saga it appears that it probably would have contained the creation of Mankind by its creator-god and it's placement in Paradise, Kane's rebellion and his murder of Abel, the aftermath (mankind scattered across the Earth) and Kane's recreation into the Bane of Man. The novel also would have possibly dealt with the rebellion of the Angels and Kane's role in the revolt, in large part a retelling of Milton's Paradise Lost. It would have ended with Kane's escape to Earth in a flying saucer, although this part may have actually been a part of the beginning of In the Wake of the Night. There are no written parts of this book in existence.

In the Wake of the Night

This book would have been the second novel in the trilogy examining who and what Kane actually was. Planned to be about 150,000 words, it was primarily concerned with Kethrid's voyages of discovery aboard the Yhosal-Monyr. Kane, for the first time, would not be the lead character in the book; Kethrid took that honor. He sailed around the oceans of Earth's dawn, searching for the ruined cities and lost technologies of the vanished races of Elder Earth. Kane, who has recently crashed on the Earth in a spacecraft, joins Kethrid on his voyages of discovery. Kane has decided that he must leave the Earth, find and kill his creator. The book was going to end in the (unsuccessful) launching of mankind's first spacecraft from the city of Carsultyal. Occasionally during sci-fi fantasy conventions Wagner would tell his friends one of several differing versions of the tale. Though at least several chapters of the book were written, all that remains today is an excerpt from the preface of In the Wake of the Night and a poem called Kethrid's Dream.

Silver Dagger

This was to have been a collection of revenge-themed short stories and novelettes that take place during several periods of history over Kane's immortal lifespan. Only two tales originally targeted for this proposed book exist, The Other One and the excellent Misericorde.

The Midnight Sun

This is a conjectural book. While a book of this title was never actually planned by Wagner, it would have eventually existed due to its contents. It would have been a collection of all of the modern-era horror tales featuring Kane. This collection probably would have taken its title from a poem within it by the same name. Besides The Midnight Sun there are several published short stories that would have appeared in it. There are two psychodramas, Lacunae and Deep in the Acme Warehouse. Another story called The Gothic Touch, which featured Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melniboné would have been part of this collection.

At First Just Ghostly

This book would have been the third and final novel in the trilogy examining who and what Kane actually was. Planned to be about 100,000 words, only the first fifth of it was ever written. The book would have revolved around a war between Kane and the hostile forces of evil lead by Sathonys (Satan), as seen through the eyes of a man named Cody Lennox. Presumably at some point in the novel we would have learned how Kane was able to kill his creator. A novelette also called At First Just Ghostly comprises all that is left of what should have been the coda to the Kane Saga.


Not much information is known about this book. A publishing contract was made with Wagner in the early 80's commissioning this Kane novel. The book was never started and the content of it was never made clear. It's entirely possible that it is simply the work-in-progress title for Black Eden.

Phantasmal Tomes essay Copyright 2001-2012 by Dale E Rippke

All rights reserved