Kane is a literary character created by Karl Edward Wagner in a series of sword and sorcery novels and short stories between 1970 and 1985. The stories are set in a grim, pre-medieval world which is nonetheless ancient and rich in history. In some of Wagner's later stories Kane appears in the present day — for example, as a drug dealer in "Lacunae" and as a somewhat suspect publishing magnate in "At First Just Ghostly".
Little is known about Kane's origins. Like the Biblical Cain he is a powerful, left-handed man with red hair, said to have killed (strangled) his brother Abel, and has been cursed by a mad god with an eternal life of wandering. Nevertheless, he is vulnerable to wounds, and it is said that he can be killed "by the violence that he himself created". Kane is portrayed as both an excellent warrior ("I kill things," he tells Elric in "The Gothic Touch". "It's what I was made to do. I'm rather good at it") and an accomplished sorcerer, who spends the millennia wandering from one adventure into the next. Also like the Biblical Cain, Kane is marked as a killer - very few people can look him in the eye without qualms. His father's name was Adam and his stepmother's name was Eve.
He is often compared to Conan the Barbarian (partly because Wagner also wrote several Conan stories), but is quite different in that he is a devious character with a more somber and reflective outlook on life than Conan and none of the latter's dislike of sorcery. His creator described him as a character "who could master any situation intellectually, or rip heads off if push came to shove". Kane is unconcerned with common morality, since no human relationship can ever last more than a small fraction of his lifetime (although the daughter he fathered in "Raven's Eyrie" turns up as an adult in the modern-day "At First Just Ghostly"); and he frequently ends up on the wrong side in the conflicts in which he involves himself, often to his own detriment. A common theme running through all Kane stories is the hero's weariness with his own immortality and his attempts to give his existence meaning.
- Bloodstone (1975)
- Dark Crusade (1976)
- Darkness Weaves (1978) (editorially altered abridgement published in 1970 as "Darkness Weaves With Many Shades")
- Death Angel's Shadow (1973)
- "Reflections for the Winter of My Soul" - Kane meets an enemy who knows him
- "Cold Light" - a knight's quest to kill Kane
- "Mirage" - Kane discovers that death is not the answer to his problems
- Night Winds (1978)
- "Undertow" - Kane's mistress attempts to escape from him
- "Two Suns Setting" - Kane witnesses the death of the last of an elder race
- "The Dark Muse" - Kane's poet friend takes inspiration from a journey to chaos
- "Raven's Eyrie" - a previous victim attempts revenge
- "Lynortis Reprise" - the survivors of a siege meet a betrayer
- "Sing a Last Song of Valdese" - a wizard's revenge
- The Book of Kane (1985)
- "Reflections for the Winter of My Soul", "Sing a Last Song of Valdese", "Raven's Eyrie" and:
- "Misericorde" - a girl demands her lover prove himself
- "The Other One" - the gods are sometimes merciful; Kane is less so
Kane also appears in "Lacunae", collected in Why Not You and I? (1987), and in "At First Just Ghostly", "Deep in the Depths of the Acme Warehouse" and "The Gothic Touch", collected in Exorcisms and Ecstasies (1997). This volume also includes the fragment "In the Wake of the Night" and an early version of "Lynortis Reprise".
- ↑ Karl Edward Wagner, interviewed in Horror magazine, October 1994