Ep 48 – Interview with Steve Babb of Glass Hammer

Oliver finally dives into the musical side of sword & sorcery by speaking with author & composer Steve Babb, of the band Glass Hammer!

https://stephenrbabb.com (FB)
www.glasshammer.com (Twitter, Youtube)
Buy Skallagrim – In The Vales of Pagarna
The Lay of Lirazel

Available in Kindle, softcover, and hardcover!

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Ep 47 – Interview with Kirk A. Johnson

I spoke with Kirk about his new book The Obanaax and Other Tales of Heroes and Horrors.

We cover the afternoon movies which helped form Kirk’s idea of what heroes should be, his own first collision with Conan and Frazetta, why martial arts films were such a big thing in the black community back in the day, is Robin Hood S&S?, Fafhrd & Grey Mouser in The Wire, the film Thief remade as S&S, S&S and the hard boiled crime genre, periods of great economic strife being ripe for S&S, the folly of trying to write a story that “isn’t political”, Kirk’s first short fiction sale (to Milton Davis’ firs Griots anthology) and his journey developing as a writer, Charles Saunder’s Imaro, his first rejection and the importance of the feedback given within, what he’s proudest of in how his craft has evolved since his first publication, Kirk’s approach to using violence in his stories and necessary limits with gore, MONDO VIDEO, sword & sorcery as a genre of the body, “The Big Book of Sword & Sorcery Farts”, a key scene in The Northman, Kirk’s attitude on when to speak more plainly and when to turn the prose a brighter shade of purple, working people from life into your out there fantasy genre tales, the joys of being published with or having your work shared by authors you admire, the real life African cultures Kirk drew from in his worldbuilding, mixing invented language in with real ones, Jack Vance’s “The Dragon Masters” and the importance of using context to help your reader absorb invented language without needing to check a glossary, the journey of writing his new book, “Spear & Fang”, the animated series “Primal’, Kirk’s experience so far with self-publishing, tells us about BookBaby,

Buy the book!
Far Afield Press’ site (on Facebook, and on Instagram)
Kirk on Twitter
The State of Black Science Fiction-NYC, a group Kirk is a member of which you too may wish to join.
Beef, Wine and Shenanigans – a fun podcast Kirk co-hosts!

Click the image to go where you can buy the book!

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Ep46 – Fresh Blood and New Thunder! Bringing New Readers to Sword & Sorcery, with Sof Magliano

Oliver experimented with sending six S&S tales to a younger, contemporary fantasy fan, then got her reactions, and discussed promoting sword & sorcery to younger, more diverse audiences.

Among other things, we discuss the work of Robin Hobb, the dilution of the term “sword & sorcery” and other branding issues, living in a character’s head, struggling to connect with Tower of the Elephant, reading trope-setting classics as a contemporary reader, connecting more with emotion-driven sword & sorcery, backfiring magic, quick-moving plots and pacing, how Sof felt S&S has a unified feel and how it differs from the broad trends of contemporary fantasy, Brian Murphy’s definition of sword & sorcery, short stories as a break from the 500+ page installations of trilogies or longer, the evolution of Sof’s own writing, how DO we recommend S&S to people who don’t read it – young and old, why telling someone something is short isn’t actually a great selling point, how S&S’s outsider protagonist tradition primes it for more diversity in its protagonists and appealing to people outside the classic white cishet male demographic, best online platforms for reading younger audiences and the challenge of self-reinforcing popularity, the importance of making books look pretty on social media, the strong art tradition of sword & sorcery, the “convincing you to read based on aesthetic” TikTok format, author newsletters, the fallacy of expecting self-published authors to do everything a publishing house can do, changing trends in fantasy cover art, this thing called “Google”, Sof’s own novel she’s working on, Elizabeth Olsen’s early film “Martha Marcy May Marlene”, and more!

Sof’s Bookstagram!

The six stories I assigned Sof to read for our discussion. You don’t have to read them, but maybe you’ll want to?
1) Tower of the Elephant by Robert E. Howard (Free!)
2) Black God’s Kiss by C.L. Moore (Free!)
3) Mzee by Charles Saunders (Flick through to page 60)
4) Return of the Sorceress by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
5) The Second Death of Hanuvar by Howard Andrew Jones (Featured in Tales from the Magician’s Skull issue #3)
6) The Gate of Mist by Cora Buhlert (Absolute last story in this free magazine)

Click through to check out Sof’s Bookstagram!

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Ep45 – Interview with David C. Smith (Part Two)

David C. Smith remains a lovely and talented author with whom Oliver spoke for so long we decided to split the interview into two parts. Here’s that second part!

In this half we discuss the 80’s sword & sorcery publishing implosion, the importance of adapting to changing tastes and not just telling the same limited range of stories ad infinitum, how expanding something – like a genre’s possibilities – means more and doesn’t take away what’s already there that people like, the fallacy of thinking you can write a story with no theme or message or opinions or “politics” in it, David’s latest novel (Sometime Lofty Towers), avoiding the white savior pitfall and otherwise best practices when writing fictional indigenous peoples, the history of The Other in western civilization, cultural appropriation, writing outside
“the usual sword & sorcery template”, silent film and westerns, Unforgiven, earning the trust of the reader so they’ll follow you through dark passages (of writing), philosophy in sword & sorcery starting right at the beginning with Robert E Howard, asking yourself if there’s enough meat on a character’s bones, how David’s writing style has evolved since he wrote the first Oron book, David’s influences, the exercise of typing up stories by a beloved author, David’s plans to republish his Oron novels, the importance of reading widely, learning by teaching, diagramming sentences, what has kept David writing all these years, David’s opinion on where to start if you want to begin exploring his work, and more!

David’s Author Site
David on Goodreads
The Gonji series David mentions
David’s silent era film mystery novel “Bright Star”
Tales of Attluma and Sometime Lofty Towers
Dark Muse

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Ep 44 – Interview with David C. Smith (Part One)

David C. Smith is an author whose career began in the 1970’s during the second wave of sword & sorcery, he still writes to this very day, and Oliver felt very lucky to get the chance to have this epic, first-ever two-part interview with him!

In this first part we cover David’s original aspirations to work in film, the incredible role having the right English teacher can play in your life, discovering Conan, the real life model for Norman Bates, how Lord of the Rings helped David see Robert E Howard more clearly, the grounded nature of sword & sorcery and how it contrasts to make the weird elements shine brighter, too many elephants in too many towers, “when everything is special than nothing is”, the 70’s fanzine community and the role it played in David’s career, zine letter’s pages as the “online” forums of the pre-internet era, David’s first time selling one of his stories, getting his first rejection out of the way, the value of feedback with rejections and getting roasted in the letters column, selling his first novel – Oron, using zines to promote sword and sorcery today, how David distinguishes S&S from Heroic Fantasy, trying to attract fans of the romance genre to S&S, how only having serious musclemen protagonists and stories limits things, when there was a midlist in publishing, the second wave of sword and sorcery, how the Esoteric Order of Dagon played a key role in David’s career, potentially finding direct influences on Lovecraft’s invention of weird cultist language, David’s line between fan fiction and true pastiche, the Greek style heroic arc, the truth behind a rumor Oliver heard about David being called in to finish a Karl Edward Wagner novel, Black Vulmea, and more!

David’s Author Site
David on Goodreads
Sword & Sorcery: “An earthier sort of fantasy” Goodreads Group

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Ep 42 – Writing Anxiety with Mike Harrington

Oliver discusses with Mike the ways anxiety has affected them when trying to write, and how Mike overcame a thirty year block to end up making his first ever short story submission!

Subjects they cover include playing Dungeons & Dragons leading to creative writing, the potential long-term impact of complimenting your child’s creativity, the validation brought by writing, a state of flow found when writing and the peace found within it, the merits of escapism, the editor in the back of your head, nurturing empathy through writing and reading, when writing anxiety first truly manifested for Mike, conflating an author’s writing in a character’s voice with the author’s own self, how writing anxiety can manifest and be triggered, the whole “always have a notebook handy” thing, outlining, the fallacy of seeking the One Right Method, “well, that isn’t realistic…”, feeling “behind” other writers or on your reading, comparing ourselves to what others show of themselves, the myth of the “self-made man”, the compulsion to tell stories, how Mike got over thirty years of writer’s block, the importance of finding a good writing community, learning to accept where you are, the advice Mike would give the Mike of a year ago (when he was still stuck), writing as a process of discovery and self-discovery, what kind of writing makes Oliver anxious, “REAL writers write every day…”, the story Mike wrote for his first ever submission, the importance of reading broadly, and more!

Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg
Vettius and His Friends by David Drake
Since recording, Mike has dared to make an author Twitter account for himself!
The Whetstone Tavern Discord
Black Gate
The Silver Key (Brian Murphy’s blog!)
Howard Andrew Jones’ author page
Imaginary Cities: A Tour of Dream Cities, Nightmare Cities, and Everywhere in Between by Darran Anderson

Please consider: Supporting us on Patreon and Buying Oliver’s Books!

Ep 41 – Sword & Sorcery & Feminism, with Nicole Emmelhainz

Oliver and Nicole Emmelhainz discuss her essay on feminism and sword & sorcery, “A Sword-Edge Beauty as Keen as Blades: The Gender Dynamics of Sword-and-Sorcery“!

This covers things like Weird Tales Magazine, Robert E. Howard and Conan, Jirel as “Alice in Wonderland with a big sword”, Howard and Lovecraft’s correspondence with each other as well as fellow Weird Tales writers like Moore, S&S writing as “an opportunity to expose gender as fundamentally performative in nature”, growth and change in Conan, the flexibility of sword and sorcery, what Nicole sees as the necessary qualities for an S&S story to be feminist, defying gender roles, the body as a vessel for victory, S&S as a very body-centric genre, good old barbarism vs civilization, queer possibilities in S&S, an intriguing ambiguity in the ending of Black God’s Kiss, what might be a “trans utopic space” in sword and sorcery?, the potential for expanding the space of sword & sorcery along lines of gender & sexuality, cozy fantasy, and more!

Nicole’s Essay
Gollancz collection of all six Jirel of Joiry Stories
Read Black God’s Kiss for free here
Dehumanizing Violence and Compassion in Robert E. Howard’s “Red Nails”, an essay Nicole mentions, written by her husband Jason Ray Carney
The Whetstone Tavern Discord
The Dark Man Journal of Robert E. Howard and Pulp Studies
That cool trans-centric “zombie” apocalypse novel Oliver mentions, Manhunt
The episode of The Appendix N Book Club focused on Jirel of Joiry, featuring friend of the show Cora Buhlert. Good if you want to hear different angles on the story Black God’s Kiss, hear more about the other Jirel tales, and consider the TTRPG possibilities in those stories.

Oliver’s fav paperback cover for the Jirel stories. Click for a link to a bad cover, but an affordable, accessible edition…or have fun hunting at your local second hand book shop!

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Ep40 – Founding a Literary Magazine, with Nat Webb

Returning champion Nat Webb joins us to discuss his recent founding of a literary magazine, Wyngraf!

Their discussion covers alternate titles for the magazine, defining cozy fantasy & backpack fantasy, conflict in stories and other things that can drive story, writing delicious food scenes, the cozy fantasy scene on Reddit and elsewhere, getting into short stories, his first submission and rejection and what he learned from it all, self-publishing a novel, discovering a love for the technical side of publishing, taking submissions in for the first time, putting one of your own stories in your own magazine, being transparent about the numbers behind your business, paying forward all the writing advice you’ve been given, working with an artist on a cover commission, choosing to pay authors and how much, deciding how often to release new issues, the importance of actually finishing a project, knowing when to stop with a project, Legends and Lattes and other reading recs, refreshing sincerity vs ironic distance, “coffee shop AU” explained, “numbies” explained, how sometimes the thing you bang out quickly resonates with people far more than the thing you slaved over forever, ins and outs of the Kindle Select program, the merits of publishing flash fiction, and more!

Wyngraf on Twitter
The cover artist for issue #1 of Wyngraf is Sâmara Lígia (her other Instagram).
The swashbuckling magazine Nat announced like five days after we recorded is called Rakehell.
Nat’s Author Site
Nat’s previous appearance on the show, where Oliver consulted him on a work-in-progress.
Some magazines Nat mentions that he likes: Tales from the Magician’s Skull, Whetstone Magazine, and Tales and Feathers.
That Harry Otto Fischer origin story for Grey Mouser can be found here on page 28.

Click the image to check out http://www.wyngraf.com

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Ep37 – Interview with Chase A. Folmar

Author, and Associate Editor of Witch House magazine, Chase A. Folmar joins Oliver to discuss his upcoming sword & sorcery novella, Frolic on the Amaranthyn.

Chase and Oliver discuss his sword & sorcery and creative writing origin story, that sweet spot of horror and action, mood and plot, finding your voice as an author, the importance of reading outside the genre you write most, elevator pitching, writing a story centered on an established romantic couple, finding that right combination of the unique and the familiar, beauty & horror and the uncanny valley, the Decadent Movement, good old civilization vs barbarism, what do morals mean at the absolute end of time, why Frolic is not a novella and not a short story or a full length novel, 500 page fantasy door wedges, the strengths of the novella format, the benefits of constraining your writing, the singular focus and very personal stakes of sword & sorcery, Robert E. Howard’s The Hour of the Dragon, the problem with the world always ending, scifi as the literature of ideas and fantasy as the literature of settings, weaving the world of a story into the action of the plot, how audiences are about as genre savvy as they’ve ever been in human history, how long it took to make the novella a reality, the joy and frustration of editing, beta readers and feedback, use of language and accessibility vs trying to create the sense of entering another world, Branden Sanderson (who I keep calling “Brian”…) and that big ol’ Kickstarter of his, heavy metal and sword & sorcery, broad appeal vs niche interest, defining success on your own terms, trends in cover art, literally judging a book by its cover and how that’s a pretty fair thing to do when looking at self-published work, Ballantine Fantasy covers, and more.

Frolic on the Amaranthyn is available in ebook and softcover from Amazon
Sable Star Press Facebook Group
Chase’s author site
Goran Gligovic – cover artist for Frolic
Witch House magazine

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Ep36 – Interview with Cora Buhlert

Cora Buhlert is a Hugo-nominated author and genre scholar who Oliver was lucky enough to meet through his research for the novel, and he’d love for you to meet her too!

Oliver and Cora discuss her falling in love with the very American body of work known as pulp fiction while she grew up travelling the world, the survival of dime novels in modern Germany, the irresistible pull of forbidden fiction, Thundarr and He-Man, “the best thing that happened in Germany in 1989”, European sword and sorcery comics, a book store that “must have been designed by time-lords”, mediocre movie tie-in fiction, the potential future of sword & sorcery, how S&S heroes are usually outsides who aren’t chosen ones – they choose themselves, marginalized characters and identity, the “token Irishman in space”, how people often miss that Grey Mouser isn’t white…, the whitening of S&S heroes of color in the cover art, “he’s not black, it’s solar rays!”, a trans sword and sorcery protagonist and other characters we’d like to see, the historical precedent for trans S&S protagonists, how The Witcher has many stories which qualify as sword & sorcery, She-Ra as sword and sorcery, the Lancer Conans and the last time sword & sorcery had a big revival, Grimdark, Brian Sanderson, short & sweet sword & sorcery as an alternative to bloated epic fantasy tales, mosaic and fix-up novels, Lin Carter should get his due as an editor, Cora’s intriguing character Richard Blakemore aka The Silencer, The Shadow with Alex Baldwin, writing two novels a month (!), the Lester Dent pulp writing formula, Batman: The Animates Series and The Grey Ghost, how the pulps brought us Batman (and superheroes in general), how Batman (1989) stole its plot from a Spider novel published in 1934, writing a story written by a character you created, keeping your history straight while also having fun when writing a period protagonist, writing a pulp character who falls in love with his own genre, putting more modern storytelling elements in tales framed as having been written long ago, sexual violence and censorship in the old pulps, C.L. Moore writing about sex and drugs as an UNMARRIED woman (!) in the 1930s, weighing creative impulses against what a genre suggests should happen, Galactic Journey, winking at the present when your writing from the perspective of the past, linguistics and writing, THE HORRIBLE TRUTH ABOUT CANADIANS AND THEIR BILINGUALISM, advice on self-publishing, looking outside the Amazon ecosystem, selling literature like ham at a deli, and what makes “a Cora Buhlert story”.

Cora’s Author Page
Her self-publishing imprint, Pegasus Pulp Books
Cora on Twitter as @corabuhlert

The Sword & Sorcery round table discussion Oliver mentions
Flame and Crimson: A History of Sword-and-Sorcery by Brian Murphy
Galactic Journey

Interested in those European sword & sorcery comics Cora mentioned?
After the interview she provided me with the following list:
Aria by Michel Weyland from Belgium: Aria is a warrior woman with a very 1970s haircut who fights evil and also winds up adopting a little girl. Started in 1979 and is still going on. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aria_(Belgian_comic) Not to be confused with the Image comic of the same name.

Storm, art by Don Lawrence, writted by Dick Matena, Martn Lodwijk and others including Roy Thomas, from the Netherlands: This is actually sword and planet, but it might as well be sword and sorcery. The titular hero is an astronaut who gets lost in time and winds up in a post-apocalyotic Barbarian future and hooks up with a local warrior woman whom I know as Roodhaar (Redhair), but who’s apparently called Ember in English language editions: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storm_(Don_Lawrence) Started in 1977 and is also still ongoing.

Thorgal by Jean Van Hamme and Grzegorz Rosinski, also from Belgium. This is basically the Viking Superman, a humanoid alien raised and found by Vikings. Thorgal is also a family man and has a wife and several children. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorgal Started in 1979 and is still ongoing as well.

Alix by Jacques Martin, also from Belgium: This is more historical than S&S, but the aesthetics are similar. Alix is a young Gaul sold into slavery, who winds up being adopted by a Roman Patrician and is perpetually torn between Rome and Gaul. This is basically a serious version of Asterix. Started way back in 1948 and still has new adventures coming out, though Jacques Martin has passed away by now:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Adventures_of_Alix

Ghita of Alizarr by Frank Thorne. This one is actually American, though I first encountered it in Dutch translation. This was Frank Thorne going further than the Comics Code allowed him to do with Red Sonja. Early Franco-Belgian-Dutch comics can be very prudish, but by the late 1970s no one cared about bare breasts and vague sex scene, so it wound up on the same shelf as the others. Started in 1978. https://comicvine.gamespot.com/ghita-of-alizarr/4005-1348/

Eric de Noorman (Eric the Norseman) by Hans G. Kresse from the Netherlands: Eric is a Viking who has fantastic adventures. He’s also a family man and has a wife and a son. I encountered it via reprint collections. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_de_Noorman

De Rode Ridder (The Red Knight) by Willy Vandersteen and others, also from Belgium. Johan is a wandering knight who has adventures, many of which are supernatural. Started in 1946 and is still ongoing as well, though Vandersteen passed away around the time I discovered the series. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Rode_Ridder

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