Shawn Speakman’s Unfettered (Grim Oak Press, 2013) was released to well deserved fanfare and celebration. Not only did it have a star-studded line-up featuring fan favorite authors such as Patrick Rothfuss, Jacqueline Carey, Tad Williams, and Naomi Novik, it was also a near-and-dear project for Speakman’s friends and family. In 2011, Speakman was diagnosed with cancer—he was successfully treated, but accrued massive medical debts as a result. Unfettered was born from his desire to pay off that debt and avoid declaring medical bankruptcy. Many prominent authors donated stories to the project, and the book was a huge success for Speakman personally and for science fiction and fantasy readers everywhere.
“These stories remind readers that modern fantasy fiction rests firmly on Beowulf,” said John Ruch of Paste Magazine in his review of Unfettered. “In that ancient monster-slaying tale, generosity and fellowship prove the hallmarks of a king, and braving indescribable horrors and pains defines a hero. Speakman’s book, in style and substance, in community and bravery, stands as a worthy heir to the Beowulf tradition.”
Unfettered has continued to find new readers, even three years after its first publication, and Grim Oak Press recently revealed a new edition of the anthology with an additional story and a brand new cover from Todd Lockwood. Hot on the heels of this announcement, Grim Oak Press has unveiled the sequel to the critically-acclaimed anthology, suitably titled Unfettered II. Once again, all the proceeds from the project are going to the fight against cancer, and to Speakman’s newly launched not-for-profit, Grim Oak Shield.
I caught up with Speakman to discuss the anthology series, his efforts to rally science fiction and fantasy against cancer, his wonderful mother, and when readers can expect to dive into Unfettered II.