During the Xmas holiday in 1975, Adrian conceived the concept of his enigmatic and shadowy character, the Voidal, a warrior doomed to wander the limitless worlds of a bizarre omniverse, in search of his past, his identity and his soul. Inspired by a combination of fantasy works, including Clark Ashton Smith, HPL and the extraordinary French artist, Philipe Druillet, it was the beginning of a strange and tortured odyssey, a dark fantasy that was finally brought to a climax nearly 40 years later.
The character first saw print in a chapbook from Spectre Press (UK, 1977) THE COMING OF THE VOIDAL , illustrated by Award winning British artist, Jim Pitts.
For a number of years, Voidal stories and tales of his unusual sidekick, Elfloq the familiar, graced the pages of several small press magazines, such as Weirdbook and Fantasy Crossroads, all of which, sadly have now folded. The saga broke into paperback when Astral Stray, an Elfloq story, was published in Heroic Fantasy, an anthology edited by Gerald Page and Hank Reinhardt, DAW Books (USA 1979). The story also enjoyed a reprinting in Lin Carter’s Year’s Best Fantasy Stories, volume 5, DAW Books (USA, 1980).
Carter commented on the story: “...as inventive as Jack Vance, with much of Michael Moorcock’s brooding gloom...”
The publication of the saga has been as fraught with problems as the life of the unfortunate hero himself. Several of his potential appearances were thwarted when magazines folded. When Adrian first collected the stories into a revised trilogy of books in the early 1980s, Tower Books (USA) drew up a contract for them, but went bust almost immediately! This was followed shortly after by a contract with Starblaze (USA) and they got as far as producing a (superb) cover for volume 1 and a draft for volume 2. But they, too, went bust before any further progress could be made. It was beginning to look as though the curse upon the Voidal was far reaching indeed.
There were some successes, however, as some of the stories were published abroad – in Holland, Belgium, Germany and Italy, mostly in stylish anthologies, in company with some of the writers who had inspired the Voidal’s creation.
When John Betancourt’s Wildside Press approached Adrian in the late 90s about the possibility of his doing some work for them, Adrian suggested to their editor, Sean Wallace, that they might want to consider publishing the Voidal saga. Adrian had completely revised the 3 books, rewriting most of the early stories and adding completely new tales to the saga and drawing the whole work to a dramatic climax in which the various secrets surrounding the Voidal are revealed. Adrian used an introductory character, Salecco, a banished demi-god, to “edit” the saga, linking each story with ironic comments (which reflect the anguished journey of the books as much as the character).
Wildside have subsequently published all three volumes in handsome trade paperback editions. These are: OBLIVION HAND (2001) with a cover by Jim Pitts, THE LONG REACH OF NIGHT (2011)and SWORD OF SHADOWS (2011). All of the original stories are included and each volume gives a reference to them and their original appearances, or in some cases, planned appearances. Adrian was also able to acknowledge the support he had had over the years from various colleagues and friends in the dedication pages.
One of the stories in the saga, Dark Destroyer, is set in Lovecraft’s Ulthar and deals with a suitably repulsive Mythos deity and it was included in SWORDS AGAINST THE MILLENIUM edited by Mike Chinn, Alchemy Press (UK, 2000) It was also reprinted in the Wildside Press ebook, THE CTHULHU MYTHOS MEGAPACK (usa, 2012).
There are 2 Elfloq stories that do not appear in the 3 volumes, individual tales of the familiar’s own wanderings at times when he is parted from his master. These are:
The Glass Castle, which appeared in Fantasy Annual no 4, edited by Philip Harbottle and Sean Wallace, Cosmos Press (UK 2000) and Demon’s Eye View in STRANGE PLEASURES, edited by Sean Wallace, Wildside Press (USA, 2001).
"The 1970s was a golden age for sword and sorcery fiction in the small press. Young writers such as Charles Saunders, David C. Smith, Lew Cabos, David Madison, Charles de Lint, Richard L. Tierney breathed new exciting life into the genre in crude, saddlestapled magazines such as Space & Time, Fantasy Crossroads, Dark Fantasy, and Fantasy Tales to name a few. One of these young Turks was Adrian Cole. Cole hails from Devon in Britain, Solomon Kane country. He represents the fantastic edge of sword and sorcery fiction. Oblivion Hand (Wildside Press) is a collection of stories culled from those magazines 30 or more years ago. All feature the Voidal. The Voidal is a sort of destroying angel used by the Dark Gods to work their will and vengeance. Stripped of memory, in each story, he attempts to gain knowledge of who or what he is and regain his memory. To describe the stories, think of H. P. Lovecraft writing sword and sorcery, returning to the Dreamlands but written in his later, darker style. There is some Michael Moorcock influence present with the idea of the “omniverse” and the Voidal being sent to different dimensions. Cole uses words to create names in the manner of Tolkien. Names such as Tallyman, Nighteye, Windwrack appear. Cole combines simple Anglo-Saxon words to create new ones. He has a very unique style and good command of language. Fans of Clark Ashton Smith take note though I would not call Adrian Cole’s writing style Smithish. Generally with collections anymore, I like to space the stories out one a week or even one a month to prevent repetition. I ended up reading one per day. Years ago, I had read “Astral Stray” in the anthology Heroic Fantasy which I mentioned yesterday. The story failed to make much impression with me twenty-five years ago. Turns out “Astral Stray” is a sort of bridging story on how the imp Elfloq came to serve the Voidal. Reading the stories sequentially was the way to go. Reading these early stories by Cole gave me a greater appreciation for his greatest work, the Omaran series. This is Cole’s big four volume fantasy series that includes A Place Among the Fallen, Throne of Fools, The King of Light and Shadows, and The Gods in Anger. I once described the series as reading as if Tolkien had written for Weird Tales. I consider it to be one of the most important fantasy series of the 1980s. I have a fever and the only prescription is more sword and sorcery. Oblivion Hand helps feed that hunger."
- Morgan Holmes, REHupa (The Robert E. Howard United Press Association)