James Branch Cabell (April 14, 1879 in Richmond, Virginia - May 5, 1958) was an American author of fantasy fiction.
In his lifetime he published some fifty books, most now forgotten, but his eighth book, Jurgen, A Comedy of Justice, (1919) was the one that caught public attention. The eponymous hero, who considers himself a "monstrous clever fellow", embarks on a journey through ever more fantastic realms, even to hell and heaven. Everywhere he goes, he winds up seducing the local women, even the Devil's wife. The novel was denounced by the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice; they attempted to bring a prosecution for obscenity. The case went on for two years before Cabell and his publishers won: the "indecencies" were double entendres that also had a perfectly decent interpretation, though it appeared that what had actually offended the prosecution most was a joke about papal infallibility. Cabell took an author's revenge: the revised edition of 1926 included a previously "lost" passage in which the hero is placed on trial by the Philistines, with a large dung-beetle as the chief prosecutor.
Other works include Figures of Earth, which introduces Manuel the Redeemer, who conquered a realm by playing on others' expectations - his motto Mundus Vult Decipi meaning "the world wishes to be deceived". (Jurgen makes a minor appearance at the end of Figures, as the small boy who was the last to see the Redeemer). The Silver Stallion is a sequel that deals with the adventures of the knights in Manuel's company after his departure.
Though now largely forgotten by the general public, his work was very influential on later authors of fantastic fiction. Robert A. Heinlein was greatly inspired by his boldness, and originally described his famous masterpeice Stranger in a Strange Land as "a Cabellesque satire", and a later work Job, A Comedy of Justice (with the title derived from Jurgen, A Comedy of Justice) has an appearance of the Slavic god Koschei (from Jurgen). Fritz Leiber's Swords of Lankhmar was also influenced by Jurgen. Jack Vance's Dying Earth books show considerable stylistic resemblances to Cabell; Cugel the Clever in those books bears a strong resemblance, not least in his opinion of himself, to Jurgen.
Other works include:
Something about Eve
The Cream of the Jest
Smirt, Smith, Smire (trilogy)
"...In the early part of the 20th century, there was a fantasy writer named James Branch Cabell who had a theory of writing as magick. His books (highly recommended, especially "Jurgen") are both funny and mythological... and it's easy to see how his process of creating characters was really a process of evocation and invocation." - Philip H Farber