Editorial Sneak Peek

Tales 1 smallerToday I thought I’d provide a sneak peek at the editorial I’m drafting for the first issue of Tales From The Magician’s Skull, which is a behind-the-scenes look at how it came together and what it’s all about.

First, though, is a video of all the cool stuff Joseph Goodman had at the Goodman Games GenCon booth. There were treasures galore, and not just for gamers. You should have seen all those old fantasy paperbacks! Joseph’s love for Appendix N fiction was behind Dungeon Crawl Classics from the start, and he’s trying to get that fiction much easier to find for all interested parties… and, as this magazine shows, devoted to trying to get more fiction in print inspired by similar sources.

Now, the editorial.

Strange but true: this project didn’t begin life as a magazine, and I didn’t plan to be its editor. It happened like this. In 2015 Joseph asked if I’d be interested in contributing some fiction to the 2016 Goodman Games GenCon Program Guide. I naturally said yes, just as I said yes when he asked last year if I wanted to write a story for the 2017 Program Guide.

Tales 2After I turned it over he wondered if I knew any other authors who wrote in a similar vein, because he’d decided to add more stories. Once again I naturally told him yes. I’ve been published with a lot of writers over the years who like to craft the same sort of fiction, so it was actually harder to narrow down their numbers rather than to hunt them up.

Once Joseph had more stories it wasn’t long before he proposed publishing them all in a separate magazine, along with a final few to round things out. When he mentioned he’d need an editor I don’t think he realized just how hard he was about to be lobbied.

You see, I’ve long had two editorial daydreams. The first was to travel back in time and become a story editor for the original Star Trek. The second, and slightly more plausible, was to edit a magazine publishing great adventure and horror stories that wouldn’t have been out of place in some of the grand old magazines of the past.

I’ve briefly had an opportunity to do that before, first with a little e-zine titled Flashing Swords, and later when John O’Neill brought me aboard to help with the final issues of Black Gate.

amberThis time, though, if I could convince Joseph to let me aboard, I’d be helping to shape the voice of a print magazine from the very first issue! It was an amazing opportunity, and I didn’t just throw my hat in the ring, I somersaulted into the center myself. I must have been convincing, because here I am.

As for what we’re publishing here and going forward, it has a lot to do with Appendix N, the recommended reading list near the back of the original Dungeon Master’s Guide. It wasn’t just a list, it was a touchstone for a lot of young fantasy readers back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, me included. Some time late in the 1970s I copied down that appendix and rode my bicycle to the library, the bookstore, and the used bookstore (and for the bookshelves of friends) and discovered a world of adventure.

I’d be lying if I said Appendix N fired my desire to write, because I’d already dreamed of becoming a professional writer and even scribbled some fiction. But Appendix N changed the kinds of stories I wanted to tell. Before it, I was pastiching Star Wars and Star Trek. The first books I found from the list blew the doors off my imagination, starting with Leiber’s Swords Against Death (which I still consider the best collection of Lankhmar stories) and Zelazny’s original Chronicles of Amber.

After those, the way was opened and I’ve never really looked back. I still enjoy some good space opera, but I fell in love with heroic adventure and I’ve been writing in some related flavor of it ever since.

What Joseph and I hope to do with Tales from the Magician’s Skull is blow the doors off of someone else’s imagination by publishing stories rooted in that same rich fictive soil that produce different and delicious flavors of thrill. Tales with the drive and color and vivid originality from days of yore that feel familiar without being derivative, and new without breaking with the past. We fervently hope to provide these tales for many issues to come, and we sincerely hope you’ll join us for the ride.

Swords Together!