May 16th, 2005


Sword and Sorcery

What good sword and sorcery is being written these days?

I've always liked the sub-sub-genre of whatever larger sub-genre it's come from. Fantasy, heroic fantasy, high fantasy... shit, who can decide with all those labels out there? But I've always had a soft spot for it, even as it turns messy and slips into other sub-sub-genres like weird fantasy, or whatever. Think Moorcock's Elric. That's always been sword and sorcery to me. Of course, the father of it has always been, without a doubt, Fritz Leiber. Genre history even gives him the credit for coming up with the term sword and sorcery, which has always struck me as being unkind, since it's a horrible label to have in your legacy.

I like writing sword and sorcery. It's fun, but like pushing a cart of shit into the market when it comes to selling as short fiction. The current flavour of thinking is that it's out of favour with a lot of publications, which is their choice, but if you try your luck with a few you can receive such intelligent rejections as, "What a well written and interesting story. It's a shame you're wasting your time in this genre." It flows along with that mindset that says, "No elves!" as if the mere presence of an elf in a story was somehow the indication of trash. It's the equivalent of saying "No black people!" because of course, in speculative fiction, everyone knows that black characters are magical and wise and tell white characters what to do with their life. Elves are, I guess, the pointy eared (or winged) version of this. Never mind, of course, that neither have to be that character stereotype, but I guess it's also a point that there are enough unimaginative writers running around doing exactly that.

I've my own sword and sorcery series I've been messing around with, and I've sold four short stories for it. It also led me into doing some work for Gary Thomas' projects when he was at Cyberpulp, a dubious publisher when it came to royalties and the like, but Thomas has since moved to his own digs with RAGE m a c h i n e Books. Too early to tell how things will go from that, but the Magistria project kept me amused and might bring in a bit of a new audience, but only time will tell. It is, however, not what I'm looking for in sword and sorcery, and the series I've got hasn't appeared there. It appeared in Cat Sparks first Agog! anthology and I sold a couple to Ben Payne's Potato Monkey, but I stalled on the work about a year and a half ago with A Walking Tour of the Dreaming City taking up space and, to be quite honest, the general luke warm reception to the genre as a whole. I do it for fun, and when the work stops being fun, I just put it down for a while. It's always been the way with that sub-sub-genre.

Anyhow, I have the itch again, and a few ideas, but I also want to see what's being done out there, so if anyone knows of any interesting sword and sorcery being written (or something that might be it enough) list it down. Short stories, novels, I'm not fussed in it's form.

EDIT: Also, if you've any westerns, steampunk, and samurai fiction to recommend, that'd also be appreciative. I'm especially interested in seeing how westerns and samurai fiction work in good prose.
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