Happy Endings

So I’m reading the last book of The First Law Trilogy by James Abercrombie. For thousands of words and hundreds of pages I’ve been enthralled by his engaging characters and electric dialog as I follow the characters on their various adventures and challenges. As I near the end of the last book I get a uncomfortable feeling. A few pages later that feeling becomes a reality. This is not going to end well. I’m disappointed. I still recommend the trilogy to anyone who is a sword and sorcery fan, but I have to admit my recommendation is dimmed by the fact that the ending is so downbeat.

I’m a fan of happy endings. I like the good guys to win and the bad guys to fail. I know that life is not always like that, that sometimes the good guys fail and the bad guys win, and sometimes nobody wins and everybody loses. But I read fantasy fiction to escape into a world that is better than the one I live in. I like to lose myself in these worlds. And although I know there will be tragedy and adversity in these stories I have the satisfaction that in the end everything will turn out fine. So I’m not a fan of the current trend in Sword and Sorcery. These days most books give life to the saying, ‘Life’s a bitch and then you die.’ Honestly, if I want to be overwhelmed with bad news I’ll watch the news. If I want to deal with abuse  I’ll read a non-fiction book. But when I sit down to read a sword and sorcery tale I want to leave all the reality behind.

Apparently I’m in the minority. In this world of cynicism and ‘keeping it real’ even our fantasy has become too real.  I also understand that some, if not much of this has nothing to do with readers and but more with what publishers think we want to read. These books do sell, but I wonder how may people like myself have stopped reading fantasy because if this trend. So I have to be careful what I select now. I lean heavily on reader reviews. I don’t want to get into a great story and come across a brutal rape scene or get involved with a good character that ends up becoming a psychopath.

I want to keep the complexities of real life in real life. When I read, give me the good fantastic.

The State of Sword and Soul

Changa and Panya

It’s been almost three years since I took the plunge into writing Sword and Soul. Since that time I’ve become friends with the man who started it all, Charles R. Saunders, and I’ve met other men and women who dream of exciting tales  in an African based setting. So with that in mind I’ve decided to do an annual assessment of the state of Sword and Soul in hopes that it will spur more writers to participate in this sub genre and inform others of what’s been, what is, and what’s going to be. So here we go!

MVmedia

I’ll begin with what I know best. I started 2011 with the release of Changa’s Safari, the first of four books about my world ranging hero. The safari actually was to begin last year but production glitches pushed things back until January. Early reviews have been great and I hope they will continue. Changa’s Safari II should be available late 2011 or early 2012.

Meji continues to grow slowly but steadily. A couple of recent reviews have sparked a few new sales and as always I’m beating the streets to find new fans. There are a few things in the works that could give us a big boost but I can’t mention them until they are confirmed. Overall I’m pleased with what I’m seeing. I just need to put more marketing muscle behind what has turned out to be a pleasant surprise.

My second project for this year is also my most ambitious project to date. Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology, is a collaborative effort with Charles R. Saunders. It’s a coming out party for Sword and Soul, a collection of stories and artwork designed to strengthen the foundation and push the boundaries of the genre. Griots consists of 14 stories and 14 images, each story written by a different writer and each image by a different artist. The writers range from the well known to the unknown and artists along the same lines. With twenty-eight participants Griots is sure to get a bunch of shout outs. I’m confident that readers will be very please with the results. Look for Griots to be released this summer.

Charles R. Saunders

No Sword and Soul update would be complete without talking about Mr. Saunders. Those of you who have followed Imaro over the years were finally rewarded with the outstanding conclusion of his adventure. But Charles is not done yet. More Imaro stories lie in the future.  A collection of Imaro stories are in the works which will hopefully be released this year.

Also on the horizon is a follow up to Charles’ female warrior, Dossouye. Dossouye II is also in the works, with more adventures about the the fierce warrior and her bovine companion, Gbo. Both projects are sure to be exciting and satisfying and I know I can’t wait to see them both.

Timbuktu Chronicles: Aida and the Chosen Soldier

New Voices

Nothing can grow without new blood. Fortunately that new blood is active in Sword and Soul. I’m always excited when I come across new authors writing Sword and Soul, so imagine my joy when I discovered Timbuktu Chronicles in my local Barnes and Noble a few months ago. Anthony Kwamu, another fantasy fan who decided to do something about the lack of people of color in the genre, penned this fine story and published it on his own. I’m currently enjoying Anthony’s tale and will post a review once I’m done.
Three other up and coming authors bear mentioning as well. Dexter Gabriel, a.k.a. Djeli Anansi Griot just recently had his excellent story Shattering the Spear published by Heroic Fantasy Quarterly. Dexter’s story, Skin Magic, will appear in Griots. Dexter is an up and coming force in Sword and Soul. I’ve had the privilege to read his manuscripts and I’m convinced it’s only a matter of time before he joins the ranks of the published.
Melvin Carter, another contributor to Griots, has a writing style reminiscent of Robert E. Howard with the wit of the city. I’m planning on publishing a collection of his short works in 2012. Kirk Johnson is another Griots writer who bears watching out for. He’s currently working on a collection of stories that MVmedia will get the honor of publishing as well.
All in all the state of Sword and Soul is good. We still have a long way to go but the word is spreading. How far will we go? I have no idea. I do know that the genre will continue to grow as long as we continue to produce quality stories and attract new readers and writers. And as far as I’m concerned, it’s a done deal.