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1d6 Questions With…Oliver Brackenbury

I’m starting a new feature on the blog that I’ve wanted to do for a long time, now. I know a lot of cool people, creative and otherwise, who are doing cool things, and I’m going to interview them from time to time in the hopes that you will get to know them, as well.

Oliver Brackenbury is screenwriter and author currently living in Toronto. He’s written screenplays, short stories, and novels of a fantastic nature, and now he’s turning his attention to editing with a new magazine, currently funding on Kickstarter. He was kind enough to answer a few questions about Sword and Sorcery and his new project.

1. Sword and Sorcery may be one of the most loosely defined sub-genres in fantasy fiction over the last 75 years or so. How does New Edge Sword and Sorcery drill down past the clutter and more importantly, why?

Oliver: New Edge Sword & Sorcery takes the genre’s virtues of its outsider protagonists, thrilling energy, wondrous weirdness, and a large body of classic tales, then alloys inclusivity, mutual creator support, a positive fan community, and enthusiastic promotion of new works into the mix.

Why? Because Sword & Sorcery is a powerful, flexible sub-genre with an impressive canon of classic tales, and an incredible potential for inclusive, boundary-pushing storytelling which is still totally recognizable as being S&S.

2. Pop culture has been more likely to utilize Sword and Sorcery as a storytelling genre ever since the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. Some of these offerings have been great; others, not so much. Are there any examples of new Sword and Sorcery films or television in the zeitgeist at the moment?

Oliver: I would say The Northman definitely qualifies, and though elements of it feel more High Fantasy to me, one could fairly point to The Witcher. GoT: House of the Dragon, like its predecessor, certainly has a lot of S&S DNA in there. Matt Smith’s character is the spitting image of Michael Moorcock’s Elric!

3. Let’s talk about your magazine, currently funding on Kickstarter. How did this idea come about?

Oliver: It was unexpected for me even though, in early 2020, I did have vague thoughts about putting out a speculative fiction magazine. I’d just fallen in love with Tales from the Magician’s Skull and decided to reach out to its editor for advice. Howard Andrew Jones, a real mensch, gave me an hour of his time over the phone. I soon realized a magazine wasn’t something I was ready for, and put the idea aside.

In June of that year, I began serious work on my still untitled Sword & Sorcery novel, using a string of short stories to tell the tale of the adventuring life lived by a northern isle barbarian named Voe.

A year later, in 2021, I decided to launch my podcast, So I’m Writing a Novel . . . as a way of building an audience for the book while I wrote it, alternating between behind-the-scenes craft-focused episodes following me writing the thing, and interviews with cool authors, editors, and publishers -— mostly in the Sword & Sorcery scene.

After another year, in which I’d befriended many interesting people by interviewing them and spending time in the Whetstone Tavern Discord, a conversation on the server about “how we get more young and diverse people into sword & sorcery?” began. An incredible energy was uncorked, sparking three straight days of intense discussion in which “New Edge Sword & Sorcery” was brought up as a possible term for a body of values, and rallying flag for a new wave of Sword & Sorcery popularity!

By June, some Tavern-goers were suggesting I do a New Edge Sword & Sorcery anthology. I thought about it, remembered what I’d called Howard about two years ago, then said, “How about a magazine? And would anybody want to help me put it together?” The answer to both was a resounding “Yes!”

Since then, working almost entirely with other Whetstone Tavern patrons, I’ve assembled & published issue #0 of New Edge Sword & Sorcery, then done all the hard work to get things together for the Kickstarter to pay for issues #1 and #2. It couldn’t have happened without the Tavern, which I wouldn’t have come to without the podcast, which wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t writing that novel. It all seems so clear now as I type this, but it was a very organic evolution filled with unexpected turns.

I’m so happy it all went down the way it did. I’ve really enjoyed putting together a new Sword & Sorcery short fiction magazine! If enough people back the Kickstarter for issues #1 and #2 then we’ll get to do more, benefitting from lessons learned and an actual budget to pay people. I’d love that.

4. Will the magazine include any reprints of any kind, either prescient fiction and poetry, or any forgotten diamonds in the rough?

Oliver: Currently the answer is no, as our focus is on creating and promoting new work. However, if we get to make more issues of the magazine we’ll also begin plans to eventually publish special themed issues, anthologies, and novellas. Any one of those could involve reprints, and I will confess there is one author’s five story run with a now largely forgotten character who I’d love to collect & publish.

For now we’re honoring the classics mostly in our non-fiction, with one historical S&S profile per issue, such as the profile on C.L. Moore in issue #0, and the ones we have planned for Cele Goldsmith and Charles Saunders in issues #1 and #2. The essays also have potential to cover classic territory, such as issue #0’s essay by Nicole Emmelhainz on gender in REH’s Sword Woman tales.

5. One of the pervasive and eternal laments is that “Magazines are dying,” followed closely by “no one buys anthologies.” I know this to be untrue, but how do you plan to overcome this ingrained bias?

I actually made a video update for the Kickstarter where I do my best to present reasons why people should read short fiction magazines. In it I discuss:

I made this is in part because while the modern Internet has helped breath new life into the format – I’ve no idea how I’d have started NESS before broadband – it’s true that most people don’t read them.

So I’m trying not to wear the blinkers which are so easily worn when you’re neck deep in a specific scene, laying out for people strong arguments like that video, and presenting strong evidence in the form of the highest quality magazine I can produce, as well as endorsing the best work I see amongst my peers.

6. What are you most looking forward to with this project? Are there any authors you’re excited about working with?

Oliver: “All of them” is a cheesy answer, however it’s true. There’s not one member of our ToC, author or artist, whom I’m not jazzed to work with or I wouldn’t have invited them in the first place.

However, it would be pretty disingenuous of me not to say there’s an extra spark when I think about how the Kickstarter succeeding means I’ll get to work with Michael Moorcock, a living legend with no dust on him, an author as important to Sword & Sorcery as Robert E. Howard, C.L. Moore, Charles Saunders, or Fritz Leiber.

Bring it on home for us: what’s the pitch?
Oliver: As the campaign ends very soon, 8am EST on Saturday, March 4th, I’d encourage people to head straight to the Kickstarter. We have a pretty cool campaign video, samples of work by our artists, and interesting updates for everyone to enjoy.

Some cool stuff about the two issues we’re trying to fund includes:

Folks may also wish to check out our website, where there are links to download issue #0 in digital formats for free, buy physical formats at cost, and…head to the Kickstarter, naturally.

We can also be found on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

But mostly, mostly I’d say folks should run, not walk, over to the Kickstarter!

You heard the man!  Hie thee over to the link and help them cross the finish line.

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