Maybe for a lot of you this year was all steampunk all the time. But for me, everywhere I looked there I saw sword-and-sorcery, sort of a mini renaissance of the genre. Now, maybe this was a weird confluence of circumstance on my part. I did meet three people this year who I feel are players in this renaissance.
First, I met John O’Neil, editor of the fantastic Black Gate magazine, who published a gigantic, 384-page issue this year. Black Gate has been one of the few consistent places over the past several years to find good, quality fantasy short fiction. And even rarer, a place to find straightforward sword-and-sorcery action. It was a real pleasure meeting John and getting a chance to talk to him about fantasy and magazines earlier this year.
I also met Jason M. Waltz, the publisher behind Rogue Blades Entertainment. Jason is probably the most passionate person about sword-and-sorcery that I’ve ever met. Jason publishes sword-and-sorcery short fiction anthologies. That’s it. Yes, the covers are your typical musclebound guy with a sword fighting some beast. They’re the type of cover that would normally put me off (Take this with a huge grain of salt, I don’t like book covers that have people on them at all.) but Jason’s so earnest about what he’s doing that I had to check them out. Anthololgies like Rage of the Behemoth and Demons come to mind as a few good titles that he’s put out. If you’re looking for some new writers in sword-and-sorcery, this is a great place to find them.
Finally, I met Scott H. Andrews, the man behind Beneath Ceaseless Skies, which I’ve written about before. Beneath Ceaseless Skies is probably my favorite new magazine, and they just celebrated their second anniversary earlier this year in October. They publish a new issue every two weeks, and an issue consists of two stories. So, they’re not putting out as much content as a place like Asimov’s, that’s still almost 50 new stories every year. It’s not all sword-and-sorcery, but they don’t shy away from it, either.
But for me, the most important sword-and-sorcery event from this year was Lou Anders and Jonahtan Strahan’s anthology Swords & Dark Magic. This anthology collected a phenomenal list of authors: Joe Abercrombie, C. J. Cherryh, Glen Cook, James Enge, Steven Erikson, Greg Keyes, Caitlin R Kiernan, Tim Lebbon, Tanith Lee, Scott Lynch, Michael Moorcock, Garth Nix, K. J. Parker, Michael Shea, Robert Silverberg, Bill Willingham, and Gene Wolfe.
There’s a new Black Company story, which is worth the price of admission on its own, in my opinion. Add to that one of the best Elric stories I’ve read in years and I’m already at the checkout with the book. But there’s so much more!
This is a great book for fantasy fans, much less sword-and-sorcery fans. Gene Wolfe’s story is, as expected, amazing. Garth Nix revisits the world of Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz, which should delight readers. I hadn’t read much Tanith Lee or Caitlin R. Kiernan before this book, and I’ll definitely be seeking out more work from them now.
The Scott Lynch story is probably my favorite, but it’s about a library, and I work as a librarian so it’s hard for me to be objective about it (but it’s really good, trust me!). Honestly, there isn’t a bad story in this book. If you’re a fan of fantasy, you’ve probably already heard of it, but if not, you’ll be very happy to pick up a copy.
Now don’t get me wrong, I like steampunk a lot. I’m writing a book about for the American Library Association. But if you’re tired of it, maybe a little sword-and-sorcery is just what you need!
John Klima is the editor of Electric Velocipede, which won the 2009 Best Fanzine Hugo Award and has been nominated four years in a row for a World Fantasy Award. He also works full-time in libraries, surrounded by books. It’s a lovely thing, actually.