2012-01-31

A Place Where Tales Are Told

The always-lovable Chuck Wendig shared a most useful seize-the-New-Year’s-Day-kind-of-thing on his blog at the beginning of the month. I was rereading it again a little while back and was struck by #6 (“Stop Waiting”), because “waiting” has always been my own biggest problem as far as creative endeavors go. Like most people, i think about stuff i want to work on to a degree that inevitably eats up the time i should be spending working on stuff, and the list of books i know i want to write is getting dangerously long as compared to my probable lifespan. However, even beyond that, i’m one of those people who occasionally needs to kick himself in the ass even once i’m ready and committed to starting something. Because as i learned long, long ago, the period before you start something is the last time you can safely not worry about failing at that particular thing.

Thus, i want to announce a thing that i’ve been seriously thinking about doing ever since i entertained my first notions of self-publishing a little over a year ago, and which i’ve dreamed of doing since long before that, and which has been waiting all that long while for me to figure out what to do about it.

I love all kinds of fantasy and SF. However, heroic/epic fantasy (from J.R.R. Tolkien to C.S. Lewis, from George R.R. Martin to R.A. Salvatore, from Robert E. Howard to people without initials) will always have a unique place in my reader’s heart. Epic and heroic fantasy, for me, straddles the perfect line of defining worlds different enough from ours that they can accommodate the wildest extents of storytelling imagination, but similar enough to ours that we can easily see ourselves in the characters inhabiting those worlds. Not to say that all good fantasy and SF doesn’t do that, but epic fantasy for whatever reason has always seemed a kind of Jungian tabula rasa onto which story can be almost effortlessly inscribed. (For me, at least, this is the reason that Dungeons & Dragons has always been the most popular RPG, and that the most successful contemporary MMORPGs share a similar epic-fantasy pedigree. However, your mileage may vary in that regard.)

At this point in time, fantasy and speculative fiction are better represented in popular culture than at probably any point in contemporary cultural history. F&SF not only sit front and center in any discussion of popular fiction, films, and TV; they drive the “next big thing” trends at the highest levels of those media. From Twilight to Trylle on the real and virtual bookshelves, from Batman to The Avengers on-screen, from Harry Potter to Game of Thrones going both ways, we have slowly and thankfully lost the apologetic sense with which F&SF once hung its head and shamefully said, “This is a great genre story.” Rather, the readers who embrace the genres now say, “This is a great story,” and that’s all that matters.

However, this immersive popularity has the inevitable and unavoidable downside of “diluting” (for lack of a better word) the “fantasy brand” (for lack of a better phrase). When fantasy is everywhere, the concept of genre disappears quickly into a sea of subgenres, and then subsubgenres, all of them dedicated to making sure that your paranormal urban fantasy and my magical-realist arcanepunk don’t accidentally cross the streams or anything. And that’s all well and good — except that as fantasy takes over the world of literature one subgenre at a time, the iconic place at the center of the genre once occupied by epic and heroic fantasy faces more competition to be taken seriously than ever before.

I say taken seriously because i think epic and heroic fantasy should be taken seriously. I love sword-and-sorcery. I love action-adventure. I love a magical-medievalesque yarn that’s only and sincerely about white-knuckle excitement and nothing else. But it’s always been my belief that heroic and epic fantasy can and should be literature at every opportunity, and that the foundations of heroic fantasy offer a dramatic palette that’s perfect for stories built around what Faulkner famously and perfectly called “The human heart in conflict with itself.”

As such, i want to create an anthology specifically dedicated to serious, literary heroic and epic fiction. I want to create a vehicle through which writers can drive the heroic fantasy genre to the absolute limits of dramatic storytelling. I want to do this in a way that takes full advantage of the new world of publishing to redefine the paradigm of the anthology magazine.

(No, nothing overly ambitious there.)

Now, i know and understand that there are plenty of great periodical fantasy anthologies out there. Some (like Black Gate) even focus on epic/heroic fantasy. However, even as venerable institutions like Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction tentatively embrace the present by offering e-subscriptions through Amazon, they still essentially remain a product of the way things used to be. I want to produce a periodical anthology that embraces the way things are going to be — an ebook-only magazine with up-front pro rates plus full profit-sharing for the writers and artists involved in each issue. I want it to showcase both the best established talent and the freshest voices entering the genre. I want it to especially and specifically be a vehicle for stories that push the envelope of what heroic and epic fantasy can do. I want it to be a venue for works to which the only response can be, “This is a great story.”

For reasons that some of you will understand, i want it to be called
— a name that (for me, at least) hearkens to a place out of time, deep in mind, where stories of loss and sacrifice, of honor and betrayal, of love and vengeance, of heroism and villainy are told by firelight in the company of friends.

The reason i'm rambling on here is because i know that actually going public with this is one surefire way to get me to stop waiting to open the Green Griffon’s doors, and to actually start pushing this project to fruition. Because at my advanced state of middle age, the dexterity needed to actually kick myself in the ass is sadly long gone.

More details to come. Anyone who feels like dropping in before then, leave a message with Dave behind the bar.