Introducing New Edge Sword and Sorcery - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Introducing New Edge Sword and Sorcery

Alexander Wallace explores the resurrection of a classic genre.
I’ll admit that I’m not the most well-versed in Sword and Sorcery; I haven’t read Conan the Barbarian or the other greats of the subgenre, so I confess to ignorance to the subject matter that Oliver Brackenbury and his colleagues at New Edge Sword and Sorcery have ventured to resurrect from the grave much as Christopher Ruocchio and crew did for old-school planetary romance in Sword and Planet. I was offered the first issue for free by Mr. Brackenbury at the behest of my friend Sean Korsgaard at Baen, and here I shall dive into the first issue.

The issue wins points for me, a Filipino-American (although only by half, as shown by my very Scottish-sounding name) for starting off with an Asian-infused story, The Curse of the Horsetail Banner by Dariel R. A. Quiogue, a fun piece that takes clear influence from nomadic conquerors like the Mongols or the Huns, as well as their settled enemies like the Song Dynasty in China. To the magazine’s great credit, Brackenbury and company have put a strong emphasis on multiculturalism and tolerance while embracing what made people love this stuff in the first place. It’s an approach that I very much appreciate, as a Filipino-American raised on American and British science fiction from the 1940s through 1990s as collected by my white father.

I admit that cultural provincialism probably had a hand in making The Curse of the Horsetail Banner my favorite, but this is not to say that the other stories are bad, not at all! You have a gripping African-influenced story, Vapors of Zinai by J. M. Clarke, as well as a heist tale by David C. Smith, among others. These are all illustrated with art done by a wide variety of artists, all capturing the swashbuckling atmosphere the genre is renowned for. It most certainly increased the immersion of the whole thing.

But the fiction is not the only reason to read this issue. The nonfiction is just as good, just like a good issue of Clarkesworld or Asimov’s or Fantasy & Science Fiction. For one, there’s a great interview with Milton Davis that examines all sorts of subjects, from writing to African-influenced speculative literature to tabletop gaming; it helps that both Davis and Brackenbury are knowledgeable and well-spoken.

There are two pieces of genre history that were my favorite parts of the nonfiction. Cora Buhlert provides an overview of something I had never known: that a woman, C. L. Moore, was one of the most influential trendsetters in the genre with her Jirel of Joiry stories, which I now have to read. Buhlert also breaks down the portrayal of gender in the stories, which even without actually having read them was engrossing. The other was on the portrayal of gender in Robert E. Howard’s Sword Woman written by Nicole Emmelhainz, likewise enjoyable without having rea the material being commented upon.

It’s an impressive feat that a resurrection of a genre that I had no real exposure to ended up being so compelling to the uninitiated. Well, if this is what’s being advertised, then it looks like I ought to swear a few oaths and go on a few quests, because if this is the future of the genre, I want to be on that quest. Sword and sorcery was never dead, Brackenbury and company show; it was just lying fallow, and now we all get to reap the fruit of their sowing.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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