Sword-and-Sorcery Kickstarter

hulk computerSo here’s a cool thing. This probably isn’t the Kickstarter you expected me to announce (that one’s still a couple of weeks out) but it’s good news nonetheless. Earlier in the year I was asked if I wanted to write a story for a new sword-and-sorcery anthology from Zombies Need Brains. I said yes, and now the Kickstarter is live, which means sooner or later my story will be in print along with those written by some other fine folks. You can find all the details in the official press release below. And here’s the link.

Begin hereafter the press release:

The latest Kickstarter from Zombies Need Brains is now live! We have three new anthologies–THE RAZOR’S EDGE, GUILDS & GLAIVES, and SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR–with some stunning anchor authors, special reward level, stellar early backer and high backer incentives, and a bunch of stretch goals that we’d really like to reach ASAP. Keep in mind that as soon as the Kickstarter funds, we’ll do an open call for submissions to all three of the anthologies for all of you writers out there! Check it out, choose a reward level that works for you, and then BACK THE PROJECT! Featuring Troy BucherSC ButlerPatricia BrayGerald BrandtWilliam C. DietzDb JacksonChris KennedyKay KenyonSharon LeeSteve MillerSteve PerrySeanan McGuire, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., Jacey BedfordGini KochJuliet E McKenna, C.E. Murphy, Kristine SmithKari SperringDavid FarlandDavid B. CoeJames EngeEsther Friesnerr, Howard Andrew Jones, and Violette Malan.


16 Comments on “Sword-and-Sorcery Kickstarter

  1. Stumbled upon your blog earlier this week. Thanks for the great posts. I’ll def check out the KS.

    Quick(?) question though: For you, what makes a sword-and-sorcery story? I.E., what are the in-story elements that make a tale s&s as opposed to it being some other subgenre? Thanks!

    • Thanks for stopping by. As to how I define s and s, it’s funny you should ask.

      I think my sword-and-sorcery definition post was among the first things I ever posted on the blog. You can see it here:


      And there’s lots of other observations about s & s if you click on the Sword-and-Sorcery category over on the right side of the page.

      • Thanks for the info! I’ve read many of your S&S posts already, but missed that one. So many of the defining elements you give are–or could be easily reworded to be–basic literary standards for most publishers nowadays. It’s similar to “pulp fiction” in that regard. Maybe just goes to show how far ahead of his time REH–or Weird Tales–was.

        Also makes me wonder why short fiction isn’t more widely sold. With the advent of tablets, iBook, kindles, and all-digital magazines in general, bypassing the expensive print/ship/stock/sell food chain, it seems like there SHOULD be a resurgence of high quality Weird Tales’esque fiction emags for tablet-reading (PDF and web-based mags will always be DOA, in my opinion) that sell for 99 cents a month and leverage the vast digital user base to generate profit, versus the way things are now: fiction mags that are $8+ and make money via fewer readers paying more. Maybe no one has had the balls yet to push an emag based on that biz model yet? Dunno.

        Final question! Are there any S&S-heavy fiction mags you’d recommend for fans? Thanks!

        • I’ve long wondered why short fiction collections aren’t a draw anymore. Given that we’re all that much busier than we used to be, you’d think that short story anthologies would be in demand, because you can just dip in and read one tale each night. But the market tells us that isn’t so — anthologies, even in popular series, never sell as well as novels. You can look behind the scenes at sales figures and see this.

          And this can be perfectly encapsulated by an experience I had working the Black Gate booth at a convention one time. Black Gate, as you may or may not know, was a thick, gorgeous magazine. A prospective buyer came up and hefted the magazine and looked quite delighted. When she asked what it was, I told her it was a magazine stuffed full of heroic fiction and before I could continue my spiel she quickly set it down. “I only like really long books that I can sink my teeth into,” she said. And promptly wandered off.

          She’s not alone. I’ve heard that before. A lot of today’s fantasy readers wouldn’t enjoy reading the old Conan or Lankhmar collections. They want doorstop fantasy. Even interconnected short stories don’t please them.

          I happen to think that if we build it they will come, and if we deliver regularly with enough strong sword-and-sorcery stories, we’ll do better than stay afloat, but time will tell. Hopefully if we provide great content people will help spread the word.

          I’m not as up on the magazines as I once was. I know that Heroic Fiction Quarterly is a good stop, and so is Grimdark magazine, which scratched my sword-and-sorcery itch with the issue I read. I hear good things about Cirsova and Weirdbook, and Skelos has some tasty sword-and-sorcery (although it’s not currently available it should be again soon). There may be other I’ve temporarily forgotten.

          • Another challenge for anthologies is the “heavy lifting” the reader must do. Each time they start reading a new story, albeit short, they need to enter a new world and get their footing.

            Whereas a “book they can sink their teeth into” allows them to linger and get comfortable. This is also a reason series do well – once you’ve read the first book, the reader is already familiar with the world and main characters when they step inot the later books.

            It’s an odd little psychological backfire, and it doesn’t afflict me, but I can see where some people would have that issue.

  2. Paul, I think you raise great points. Even I’ll admit that it can be jarring to switch characters and styles.

    I don’t understand why people aren’t interested in anthologies of short stories about the same characters, though. Even an anthology collecting Harry Dresden short stories doesn’t sell as well as a Harry Dresden novel. I wonder if it’s a generational difference. My first real sword-and-sorcery reading was collections of tales about the same characters, and it’s still my dream to have a couple of series of books that are collections kind of like the ones I grew up reading.

    • I’m a lifelong speculative fiction fan. Reading has been (and is) one of my main hobbies throughout life. While I go through periodic Netflix binges, I haven’t had cable TV in 11 or 12 years and rarely watched it even back when I had it. My Top 10 novels are fantasy. I’m a male in my late 30s and have plenty of disposable income. I own hundreds of print books, hundreds of ebooks, and dozens of audiobooks. Like everyone else, I have demands on my time and thus prefer my media in smaller, faster, high-quality doses.

      I am literally the perfect audience for fantasy fiction magazines.

      Yet I virtually never purchase any short-fiction anthologies and only rarely buy short-fiction magazines. Why? Here’s a break down of of my reasons (I apologize if it’s a jumble, but it’s late for me).

      1) Basic free market stuff: “For the amount of money I pay, I feel like it’s not worth it.”

      I go to bookstore. I see speculative fiction magazine X. It looks awesome. I buy it (typically they run from $8 to $10). I go home. There are many stories, from novellas to short stories. (The last copy of Asimov’s I bought has 17 stories and the last copy of SF&F I bought has 8.) I read a little bit of all before skipping the ones I’m not interested in, and really only read and enjoy 1-3 of them. Now, let’s compare that with a novel.
      (1A) I’m paying the same amount (or more) as a novel, yet am deriving waaaaay less entertainment value from the product.
      (1B) Another perk for novels is that I actually get to pick and choose which one I want, so I *know* beyond any shadow of a doubt that there’s a high chance I’ll enjoy the story and thus get my money’s worth.
      (1C) There’s also the whole consumer-empowerment-effect bias that comes into play here. I.E., because I choose the novel I’m more likely to give it many more chances to win me over before abandoning it. “But wait!” some may cry. “Why not just skim the short stories in magazines the same way you do novels?” Been there, done that. It’s not worth it. The effort I put into doing that for EACH short story is equivalent to the same effort I put towards skimming a novel, yet the reward is so much larger for finding a winning novel. Additionally, fiction mags require several suitable stories in one issue before they hit the “purchase-worthy” sweet spot.

      Bottom line: When I drop $9 on SF&F, I’m not paying $9 for 260 pages of high-quality content, I’m paying $9 for about 30 pages of high-quality content. Maybe. There have been SF&F’s where I actually have not enjoyed a single story. Seriously. (I’m not saying the stories sucked, just that none clicked with me, so I effectively wasted my time.)

      You know, I would have sworn that I had a #2 and #3 to drop as well, but now that I’ve come to it… I really think it does just boil down to the cash. I rarely buy Asimov’s/Analog/SF&F nowadays but when I ask myself “What would it take for me to buy one of them, knowing that I’d likely only enjoy a subset of tales?” I respond instantly with “Cheaper price.” If they sold for $1 per magazine, I would buy them without question and without skimming stories, completely sight unseen.

      If only we had some kind of “app store for ebooks” that reaches billions more consumers than Barnes & Noble ever did, at all hours of the day and night, no matter where they are, and using this far-flung system, publishers could electronically mass-distribute their product with minimal cost for years on end and thus tap into the power of the masses chipping in small amounts over time… But we all know that’ll never happen, so keep churning out that paper Asimov/Analog/SF&F! 😉

      (The above paragraph was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, but in retrospect it reads a bit too sarcastically. I’m only picking on Asimov/Analog/SF&F because they’re basically the ubiquitous brick-and-mortar standard bearers.)

      Possible Question: “What about short-story anthologies about the same character/universe/etc.? Why don’t you buy them?”
      Same answer as above, really. It doesn’t matter if they’re written about the same character or by my favorite author, the price is too high. In other words, since they’re all about the same character yet not a singular novel, then that means that you’ve got some *stinkers in there. You’ve got some lackluster yarns. You’ve got some experimental pieces. All of which are GREAT! <3 Just don't expect me to pay novel-sized prices for such a product.

      *I've never seen a short-story compilation–no matter how amazing–that had 100% equally enthralling, entertaining stories. Though the three Conan volumes come really close.

      Caveats: As I get about to the end, more things keep occurring to me. Like the fact that some reader retraining does have to take place for readers to "trust" short story compilations. Also, there's a way to do digital mags "right" and a way to do them "wrong." Also, niches are king, queen, and all the rest of the nobility–if Asimov's/etc. only published stories in a niche I loved, I'd buy it sight unseen and maybe even pay the current per-issue price. Also, marketing is mandatory. There has to be a plan, even if it's just user-driven viral marketing. So many speculative fiction magazines were born, lived, and died throughout my adult life and here I am, scrounging through second-hand shops online to get old copies (because the mags were awesome) yet I never knew they existed at all when they were in print. It amazes me. I'm always on the web and frequent tons of genre-specific sites, forums, and blogs (like this one, now). I go to cons and darken the doorsteps of bookstores and game stores. How did knowledge of their existence not reach me??

      Jeez, I need to stop and get to bed. Sorry for the rambling, wall of text. Hopefully you can derive some helpful input from it.

  3. It sounds you’re expecting to have the same amount of an emotional buy in for a short story that you get from a novel.

    I think that’s the biggest problem with the average reader not buying short stories anymore. They compare them to novels. They expect the same thing out of a short story as they do a novel. You won’t get that in most.

    Short stories are supposed to be like have a nice chat with someone. And novels are more like going on a date and spending the evening with that person.

    If you’re still interested in trying the format again i recommend two things. First try finding more specific anthology topics that appeal to you. Like Jason E Thummel has a collection called In Savage Lands. They are all short sword and sorcery tales. I found every story to at least be enjoyable.

    The second thing is to lower your expectations. It seems like your expecting every short story to give you the same amount of emotional buy in as a novel.

    That is rarely going to happen. Just keep a couple anthologies on hand. Some nights, if you only have 20-30 minutes to read you can grab a short story collection and read a complete tale in that time. That’s what i use them for.

    • Mormegil, that’s great advice. I’d been mulling how to respond to RDA, but you’ve found a better way to state what I was thinking.

      It’s true — there’s a rare short story that will hold up to a novel in pleasure and that you’ll think about time and again.

      Used to, I’d read through an anthology of same character stories straight through. These days I read a little, then shift to something else and allegedly come back. I do LOVE same character collections, if I love the character.

      But I also love leafing through a magazine or anthology that’s either centered around a subject I like (say, sword-and-sorcery) or edited by someone whose taste I agree with. Getting a collection from someone with similar taste is sort of like getting a mix tape (I’m dating myself, I know) from someone who digs the same stuff you like, but who has found out about some all new bands that will probably rock you.

      Like Mormegil, I dip into anthologies gradually, for the most part, unless I’m REALLY in the mood for that kind of fiction. I worked my way through a great hardboiled detective anthology earlier in the year and enjoyed nearly every minute. But then it was known as one of the finest collections of its kind.

      • Either I’m not comprehending what you guys are saying or vice versa. 🙂 Are folks perhaps reading into what I wrote and not reading what I wrote? Or perhaps focusing on the short stories I didn’t like and trying to figure out why? (If so, that’s a whole different conversation!)

        I understand the allure of short VS long tales and generally what the differences are. I have no expectations that shorts will be as emotionally robust as longs.

        Feel free to ask me anything else if it’ll help with understanding. This is a topic near and dear to my heart, so I’m motivated to assist–especially if it involves a new S&S mag!

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