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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Ep35 – Interview with Ryan North

Oliver has a fun, informative discussion with author Ryan North, whose new book “How to Take Over the World: Practical Schemes and Scientific Solutions for the Aspiring Supervillain” is now available for pre-order.

They discuss having one footnote for each day of the year, cramming more jokes in the margin to make a comic have more bang for your buck, experimenting with the limits of what a format can do, why they’re “choosable-path” adventures that he’s written, the benefits of working in a younger medium that isn’t fully explored, having unlockable characters in your book, white elephant books, publishing a book that may provide a guide to doing dangerous things, knowing when to stop doing research, when one chapter should be two, the cult of Scrivener (of which Oliver is a member), apps that help you focus when writing, working “in a distracted way”, Ryan’s method if integrating handwritten notes with his mostly digital process, knowing when a cool fact is usable in your work, the biosphere experiment, Jon Lomberg and the Voyager Golden Record, originality, how novel’s are fine THEY’RE FINE, how working in an unpopular medium can be a safety net, things to try for and try to avoid when writing a popular science book, The Core (2003), optimizing workflow as a writer, methods of learning which work best, wasted keystrokes, productivity, work/life balance, trying to separate your sense of self-worth from your work, social media, steak-umms and the bleakest thing Ryan has ever seen in his life, the best time to post about your parent’s death so as to increase the viral impact, “content”, how the work has to interest you, grindset, trying to appear cool & productive at all times, how Ryan doesn’t like to be conscious for more than six hours at a time, task-switching between a variety of projects, Lev Grossman on how forgiving fans can be of plot holes, how the concept of a “real author” is a fake idea, Ryan’s life philosophy re: fate and control over one’s life, Vonnegut, the core value of most characters in his work, how Ryan definitely isn’t DB Cooper, and there’s even a wee cameo by Ryan’s dog Noam Chompsky.

You can also see a couple of babies in an interview from 2008, which Oliver may have still been figuring out his interview style…(Part one, part two).

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Ep34 – Interview with Dariel Quiogue

Oliver chats with Philippine author Dariel Quiogue about his sword & silk novel, “Sword of the Four Winds”!

Their discussion covers portrayal of war elephants in history and stories, Alexander the Great being a war criminal to some, Carter & De Camp (and Nyburg) Conan tales, Howard Lamb’s Khlit the Cossack stories (a huge influence on Robert E Howard), drawing from Asian history for his stories – including an intriguing alternate path for Genghis Khan, wanting to write more fiction based in where you’re from, being anxious about a lack of experience to the world limiting your fiction, how late in history Dariel feels you can set a story and still have it feel like sword & sorcery, the “Sword & Sorcery attitude”, portrayal of sorcery in fiction and childhood fears, the cynicism of some classic S&S, Shōgun by James Clavell & Frank Herbert’s Dune, the Howardian cycle of civilization and barbarism, “can you be better than a monster?”, how his work as a photographer influences his writing, playing the Conan soundtrack while writing, gore levels in S&S, Homer, how much detail to put in a fight scene, how Conan is often misrepresented as one who triumphs through strength rather than wits, what makes a grand military battle scene captivating,  Mount & Blade: Warband, staying in the zone when you write, The Age of the Warrior by Hank Reinhardt, playlists to write by, writing on paper vs screen, Scrivener, the fantasy writing scene in the Philippines, Charles Saunders, the Savage Sword of Conan, and more!

Dariel’s author website.
Dariel’s Ko-Fi which, as of this blog post, is funding toward the goal of commissioning cover art for his next novel.
Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan, which Dariel mentions, free on Gutenberg
Those comic links we promised in the interview:
The artist who illustrated SOFW for Dariel, Raymund Bermudez: https://www.deviantart.com/mccat

Click through to check it out! This is what Oliver read that made him want to talk to Dariel.
And this is Dariel’s upcoming novel! Click through for an excerpt you can check out.

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Ep33 – Interview with Jason Ray Carney of Whetstone Magazine

Oliver speaks with the editor of “Whetstone: Amateur Magazine of Sword & Sorcery”, covering a wide variety of subjects germane to running a semi-pro literary magazine, online community, and good old sword & sorcery.

Oliver and Jason get to some INTERESTING places in their far-reaching discussion, including subjects like: writing workshops, working class literature, modernist literature, R.A. Salvatore as a literary gateway drug, starting a literary magazine & the origin of Whetstone, why he feels you shouldn’t send your best work to Whetstone, “mid-list exposure”, submitting for ultra low acceptance rate magazines, elevated language, Clark Ashton Smith, grading English papers by engineers, Jason’s role as academic coordinator for the Robert E. Howard foundation, Walter Benjamin, how a genre rooted in our past like sword & sorcery can give people an inspiring vision of something new, Elie Wiesel’s The Trial of God, defending fiction, defining your identity by speaking back to power, how sword & sorcery can help you get through a rough patch (or at least how it helped Oliver), how a World of Warcraft guild inadvertently birthed a vibrant Sword & Sorcery online community, what people generally mean when they say “no politics!”, what make a Discord server function well as a community, the digital humanities, Gather, advice on starting a writing community online or IRL, best principles for same, self-promo human spambots, the difference between useless negativity and letting someone know when they’re stepping into a tar pit, writing conventions, formative experiences with teachers good and bad, tools over dogma, the possibility that the American style of creative fiction workshops homogenizes fiction, when compliments are worse than criticism, Jay’s recent opera project, and….MORE.

Jason on Twitter (@jrcarney52)
Spiral Tower Press
Whetstone: Amateur Magazine of Sword & Sorcery
The Whetstone Discord Server
Witch House: Amateur Magazine of Cosmic Horror
How Sword & Sorcery Brings Us to Life by Jason
1932, The Year of Conan: Sword and Sorcery and Historical Pessimism (mentioned in the interview) also by Jason
Bride of Cyclops Con – Best of Sword and Sorcery panel (Feat. Jason as a panel member)
The Black Gate interview with Jason that I cite in one question – it covers lots of neat stuff that we didn’t get to.
An essay Jason wrote about the opera he was involved in, The Trial of God

That creative writing book, all about rethinking how we teach writing craft, that Oliver mentioned – Craft in the Real World by Mathew Salesses
The MUSE Writers Center
The Program Era by Mark McGurl

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Ep32 – Interview with Jordan Smith of Dark Crusade

This episode will introduce you to fantasy & horror author Karl Edward Wagner, as well as his iconic sword & sorcery supervillain, Kane!

Oliver and Jordan discuss subjects like The Carcosa Papers, the magic of seeing author’s original notebooks (and fantasizing about others feeling that way seeing yours), getting deep into why Kane stands out from other well read S&S protagonists, Kane as villain, as manipulator; as being almost secondary to his own stories, erotic horror, how Wagner’s psychiatry education enhanced his writing, reading an author’s personal issues in their work and then connecting them to your own, and a whole lot more!

Oliver is also made to feel a non-zero amount of video game shame.

The Dark Crusade podcast (DC on Facebook, on Instagram)
The Spine of Night – A totally awesome, new rotoscoped sword & sorcery film featuring Lucy Lawless, Patton Oswalt, Richard E. Grant, annnnnd Jordan Smith!
Jordan Smith’s professional editing site

What was Oliver talking about with The Noid?

Logo art by Andrea Sparacio

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Ep24 – Interview with Michael Curtis

Since Oliver greatly enjoys the role-playing games & adventures written by Fritz Leiber scholar Michael Curtis, while Leiber’s Fafhrd & Grey Mouser stories have been a great source of inspiration for Oliver’s novel-in-progress, you better believe he was excited to talk with Michael about: Why people should read the Fafhrd & Grey Mouser stories, how these characters so defined by their friendship were born of a real life bromance, what defines Leiber’s writing style, what makes F&GM’s home – Lankhmar – the ultimate fantasy adventure city, how Michael made writing RPGs his career, what it was like poring over Leiber’s original papers at an archive in Houston, and more!

Michael Curtis on Patreon
Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG products by Michael Curtis, who has recently become their Director of Product Development.
Michael also writes articles for Goodman Games, such as this one on Lord Dunsany
The Society of Torch, Pole, and Rope – Michael’s game design blog may be dormant but it still contains many fascinating things to pore over.
Michael Curtis Visits Leiber’s Legendary Lankhmar Library in Houston
Lankhmar 101 – A video panel discussion about DCC: Lankhmar, led by Michael Curtis.

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Ep23 – Interview with Julian Bernick of Spellburn

Julian Bernick has written across a wide variety of mediums, so Oliver discusses with him getting burnt out on novels, the Appendix N Reading List, writing for role-playing games, Jack Vance’s Dying Earth series, writing lyrics as the lead singer of several bands, and more – but the focus of this interview is poetry, gothic horror, and how Julian combined the two in his most excellent book Castle Bash: A Record of the Most Unfortunate Doings at Castle Bash – As Told by an Unnamed Poet who was Never Seen Again!

A narrative poem in the Romantic tradition, Castle Bash is Byronic in character, Gothic in atmosphere, Romantic in outlook and Lovecraftian in scope. When a bastard poet is given safe haven and patronage at the tenebrous Castle Bash, mystery, passion, and the forces of hell converge upon its benighted inhabitants.

Spellburn Podcast / iTunes / Twitter
Whistling Shade Magazine, where Julian serves as an editor of poetry.
Julian’s RPGeek page
Some of Julian’s earliest storytelling can be found in this Dungeons of Yesteryear feature.
If you’d like to hear Julian talk more about his game design career…
Here’s three contemporary poets Julian recommends:
Chelsea Minnis
Freddie Seidel
Michael Robbins

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