Outland’s very own Ian Stuart Sharpe went Viking with what was billed as the “Vinland Invasion” of the Jorvik Viking Festival in the UK. You might not be old enough to remember the British Invasion, but you still feel its effects. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the...
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Media Contact: Gwendolyn Nix email@example.com DARK FANTASY NOVEL ACQUIRED BY OUTLAND ENTERTAINMENT Novelist Kate Martin joins Outland Entertainment family with The Soulless KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI (MARCH 2, 2020)—A new dark epic...
Hello folks! So, coming in February, will be a campaign for our latest anthology - Where the Veil is Thin. Featuring stories from David Bowles, Seanan McGuire, Glenn Parris, Shanna Swendson, Gwendolyn N. Nix, L. Penelope, Alethea Kontis, Linda Robertson, Grey Yuen,...
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Hello everybody! We're well aware that we've had multiple announcements for the launch of APEX: The Collected Edition on Kickstarter and apologize for that. We were excited about getting the game back out there and we made announcements prematurely. To that end, I...
Fox & Willow, an online grim fairytale series, has been acquired by Outland Entertainment. Written by Allison Pang and illustrated by Irma ‘Aimo’ Ahmed, Fox & Willow debuted in April 2012 and has maintained a strong fanbase ever since. Following the runaway princess, Willow, and her mischievous fox spirit companion, Gideon, the overarching plot…
Hello everybody! I know that we announced the hard launch date for the Kickstarter for APEX: Collected Edition yesterday. When we announced that, we felt pretty sure we were ready to roll, but we had a significant amount of feedback on the campaign. Because of how the...
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Outland’s very own Ian Stuart Sharpe went Viking with what was billed as the “Vinland Invasion” of the Jorvik Viking Festival in the UK.
You might not be old enough to remember the British Invasion, but you still feel its effects. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Kinks – cultural icons who are somehow still performing today – crashed into the American rock and pop scene, changing music for ever. The Sixties became a counter-cultural force, full of peace. Love and vitality.
Of course, it isn’t the first time Europeans have turned up on North American shores. That all started when Leif Erikson (c. 970 – c. 1020), a Norse explorer from Iceland, was blown off course, centuries before Christopher Columbus. According to the Sagas of Icelanders, he established a Norse settlement at Vinland, tentatively identified with the Norse L’Anse aux Meadows on the northern tip of Newfoundland in modern-day Canada.
Outland published the first novel in the Vikingverse series, The All Father Paradox, in 2018, and we choose Leif Erikson’s Day (October 9th) as the launch date.
I’m British by birth, but I also have Canadian citizenship – I always felt a sense of kinship with Leif’s wandering, and a deep fascination with the Vikings. From the freezing North to the heat of Spain; from the riches of the East to remote Vinland in the West, the Vikings travelled far, leaving their mark across the world through trading, raiding and discovery.
So, when the second book in the series was ready to publish, I wondered if I couldn’t go one better. Not just an authorial reading in a local bookstore. The key thing for me – all these years after Erikson landed on Canadian shores – was to give something back to the Norse community, whether they wanted it or not. I decided to do Leif’s journey in reverse. A Vinland Invasion!
The proud legacy of the Northmen is celebrated at the annual Jorvik Viking Festival, now in its 36th year, in the north of England. History fans and Viking reenactors immerse themselves in the Norse legacy, with city-wide events exploring the stories of these great travelers. There are living history encampments, talks, tours, and dramatic combat performances – not to mention mead on tap.
After a few emails, I was accepted into the Festival Fringe program, to be hosted by the Travelling Man store. I was also due to be accompanied by fellow Canadian author, Jordan Stratford of Wollstonecraft Detective Agency fame (whose own Norse novel, Winter by Winter, comes out in March 2020). Sadly, Stratford had to drop out at the last minute, leaving me to voyage on alone.
I’ll let the photographs attached to this blog speak for themselves. This year, the Festival suffered from the wiles of Loki, inclement weather put paid to the Battle Spectacular that serves as a Grand Finale. But I did get to meet a whole horde of people who are brimful of enthusiasm for the period, and who relish authenticity and adrenaline.
The question remains how to top all that when I finish the trilogy. Does Asgard take bookings?
…And Why Pit Such a Cheery Legend Against the Horror of Zombies?
by John Mayer
Although this very question sounds paradoxical, the horror genre has always been at its best when it injects the shocking, the gruesome, the profane, the unknown, the ugly with the everyday lives of people and when it pits horror against cultural homeostasis. This conflict creates tension in a story and of course anyone who has taken a college creative writing course 101 has been taught that conflict moves a storyline. Frankenstein befriends a little girl, he admires a gentle flower; Dracula enters the peaceful and safe bedroom of sleeping damsels, and Satan started out as an angel and the favorite of God. And, every Stephen King piece starts with some idyllic setting, beautifully detailed before all hell breaks loose.
So, as long as we have had horror stories they have frightened us with evil entering into everyday life. Current horror fads, such as the slasher movies, echo this age-old formula. The happy, good-looking, care-free teenage culture is preyed upon by an evil maniac. Popular horror films of the last two years such as Get Out and Us, by Jordan Peele are set in pleasant everyday life, then the horror comes. The winning formula for fundamental scariness. Peele builds the atmosphere of ‘living the good life’ in both films then, BAM! It all goes horrifically bad. Many theologians posit that this is the most frightening horror of all, when the evil doer has no clear reason why they are choosing these people are their victims.
Recently, the Zombie genre has taken up subjects such as gentile setting of Pride and Prejudice (The film: Pride and Prejudice vs The Zombies) and the iconic Abraham Lincoln (vs Zombies), daring to pit zombies against cultural icons. Santa vs Zombies takes these recent treatments even further into our cultural ethos and challenges us to consider Santa at war with Zombies. Think about it, in our story we have Santa Claus, possibly the one purely joyful (jolly) tradition that is untouchably good and never associated with evil. Even God has enemies, has vengeance, inflicts his wrath on sinners, but Santa is pure joy and giving and kindness. In our story our Santa is all that, but he starts out tired because of the conditions in the world and the disbelief in him that is widespread. Like a Jordan Peele set-up, Santa innocently prepares for ‘one last ride’ on this Christmas night to spread joy and good cheer as always. But, when he arrives at his first stop he plops right into an apocalypse!
With only a limited time left, join the cheerful fray and support Santa Vs. Zombies on Kickstarter here!
ABOUT SANTA VS ZOMBIES
Meet Santa. He’s having a mid-life crisis. He hates his job and wishes he was doing anything else other than being Santa. He’s just going through the motions and that’s why he doesn’t notice the zombie apocalypse until it’s almost two late. Saved by two kids, he at first tries to get back to the North Pole only to discover that his reindeer have been eaten. On the run and just trying to survive, Santa befriends the kids and falls in love with their recently-divorced mother. Soon Santa rediscovers his Christmas spirit and does everything he can to save Christmas for the kids—even if it means his own death.
ABOUT JOHN MAYER
John Mayer is a well-published author both in fiction and non-fiction with three previous novels, two screenplays and a performed stage play. With over twenty non-fiction books published. His latest, Family Fit: Find Your Balance in Life, which was published by Healthy Learning, one of the world’s foremost publishers of instructional materials for health/wellness, fitness, exercise, sports medicine, and camp professionals.
Mayer’s day job as a clinical psychologist specializing in violent behavior has him consulting to law enforcement regularly. His 10,000 Twitter followers (@DrJohnMayer) (@jemayerbooks) look to his daily tweets for advice on psychological issues. He is an associate staff psychologist for Doctor on Demand (doctorondemand.com ) as well as a provider (Telemedicine) on DoctoronDemand.
Mayer is also a writer for a cable TV series, The System, that is currently in production with the pilot episode completed.
ABOUT KOJI STEVEN SAKAI
Koji Steven Sakai is the founder of Little Nalu Pictures LLC and the CEO of CHOPSO (www.CHOPSO.com), the first Asian English streaming video service. He has written five feature films that have been produced, including the indie hit, The People I’ve Slept With. He also produced three feature films, a one-hour comedy special currently on Netflix, and Comedy InvAsian, a live and filmed series featuring the nation’s top Asian American comedians. Koji’s debut novel, Romeo & Juliet Vs. Zombies, was released in paperback in 2015 and in audiobook in 2016; his graphic novel, 442, came out in 2017. In addition, he is currently an adjunct professor in screenwriting at International Technological University in San Jose.
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth”.
See, that’s where the Christianity has it all wrong. All good Vikings knew the real story of how it all really began. The same way it will all end.
Ginnungagap was the great emptiness before there was the world, flanked by two inhospitable realms. There was Muspelheim, crossed by endless rivers of boiling poison and vast lakes of fire; and Niflheim, where icy volcanoes spewed forth frozen mists and arctic waters. Sparks and smoke met layers of rime and frost in the yawning void and from them came the first being.
A Jötunn, Ymir, appeared in the melting ice. From his sweat, the first Jötnar were born. Ymir fed on the milk of the primeval cow Auðumbla, also born of the meltwater. She licked the blocks of salty ice, releasing Búri, who was large, powerful, and beautiful to behold.
In time, Búri’s son Borr had three sons: the gods Óðinn, Vili, and Vé. The three sons of Borr had no use for Ymir and his growing family of cruel and brutish giants, so they attacked and killed him. So much blood flowed from the body that it drowned all the other giants except for two—Bergelmir and his wife escaped. They stole away in a hollowed-out tree trunk, a makeshift boat floating on the sea of gore to safety, to a land they named Jötunheim, home of the giants.
From Ymir’s body, the brothers made the world of humans: his blood, the seas and lakes, his flesh, the earth, his bones, the mountains and his teeth the rocks. From his skull, they made the dome of the sky, setting a dwarf at each of the four corners to hold it high above the earth. They protected the world from the Jötnar with a wall made from Ymir’s eyebrows. Next, they caused time to exist and placed the orbs of the sun and moon in chariots which were to circle around the sky.
Finally, the three brothers built their own realm. Ásgarð, a mighty stronghold, with green plains and shining palaces high over Miðgarð. They built the rainbow bridge Bifröst to link the realms. The Æsir, the guardians of men, crossed over the bridge and settled in Ásgarð.
There the gods would dwell, ever vigilant, until Ragnarok, the long-heralded last battle, where the monstrous Jötnar set about destroying the entire cosmos. Fenrir, the great wolf, consumes the world so swiftly that even the sun is dragged from its zenith and into the beast’s stomach.
The Jötnar have a pivotal role in Norse mythology. To the men of the North, the Jötnar had the power of oncoming storms, roaring volcanoes, and the clamorous oceans – in some sense, they were the personification of the merciless and indifferent power of Nature. They were the sires of the gods, their spouses and lovers, their constant foes and their inevitable doom.
And while the Jötnar are described as a race of beings distinct from the gods – as well as other creatures such as humans, elves, and dwarves – they are somewhat ambiguously described, both in their physique and their character. Some jötnar, such as Skrymir (who is known also as Útgarða-Loki), are depicted as being of an immense size, thus giving rise to the translation of the word ‘jötunn’ into English as ‘giant’.
Some jötnar, such as Skaði, were said to be extremely beautiful – in the Poetic Edda poem Grímnismál, Odin mentions the “ancient courts” of Þrymheimr, noting that the jötunn Þjazi once lived there, and that now his daughter Skaði does. Odin refers to Skaði as “the shining bride of the gods” and in some tales, the pair go on to marry and give birth to nations of kings. Some scholars go so far as to suggest that Scandinavia may be related to the name Skaði (potentially meaning ‘Skaði’s island’).
Other Jötnar were hideous. It is told in Snorri Sturluson’s Gylfaginning that at Baldr’s funeral his wife Nanna died of grief and was placed alongside him on his pyre. Hringhorni, Baldr’s ship, was the largest of all such vessels and was to serve as the god’s funeral ship. No one, however, could seem to launch the boat out to sea. The gods then enlisted the help of Hyrrokkin, who came from Jötunheimr, arriving on a giant wolf with vipers as reins. When she dismounted, Odin summoned four berserks to look after the animal but they were unable to control it without first rendering it unconscious. With her seismic strength, the giantess rolled the boat into the water.
In the Vikingverse, these stories and characters are more than just ancient myth. In the way that the Bible forms the daily bread of many devout Christians, the Jötnar are part of the fabric of society and its belief system.
Let me give you an example:
We were all recently horrified by the fire at Notre Dame. Social media was full of people’s personal memories, their own connection with the great stone cathedral and all and relics. We felt all felt a sense of profound loss.
All of a sudden, the Gargoyles on the roof were suddenly leering out of memory, all across the internet. Not bad for a beast used by the Catholic Church to illustrate evil.
French legend tells of St. Romanus, bishop of Rouen, who delivered the country from a monster called Gargouille. La Gargouille is said to have been the typical dragon with bat-like wings, a long neck, and the ability to breathe fire from its mouth. Multiple versions of the story are given, either that St. Romanus subdued the creature with a crucifix, or he captured the creature with the help of the only volunteer, a condemned man. In each, the monster is led back to Rouen and burned, but its head and neck would not burn due to being tempered by its own fire breath. The head was then mounted on the walls of the newly built church to scare off evil spirits and used for protection.
The parallels with the Jötnar are clear. Primeval, indefatigable titans who tread heavily in our nightmares, the bane of Christianity. Demons to be defeated and cast into the Abyss. Trophies to be mounted on the wall of our proud monuments.
Now imagine a world were Christianity had been put to the Viking sword, where there was no Mother Church left to determine who was a saint and who was a sinner, no Catholic priests to stem the pagan tide and contain the wild, untrammelled beliefs of the Northerners. Forget Armageddon, Hellfire and the Antichrist. The world doesn’t end with a bang, or a whimper. It ends with a horde of unstoppable Jötnar.
The Vikingverse is the alternate universe that results when Odin escapes his doom at Ragnarok; a parallel timeline where Vikings rule seas and stars and the storied heroes of mankind emerge in new and brutal guises drawn from the sagas. Hang on tightly, ’cause the Free World just got thrown to the wolves and the meek shan’t inherit this Earth.
ABOUT IAN STUART SHARPE
Ian Stuart Sharpe was born in London, UK, and now lives in British Columbia, Canada. Having worked for the BBC, IMG, Atari and Electronic Arts, he is now CEO of a tech start up. As a child he discovered his love of books, sci-fi and sagas: devouring the works of Douglas Adams, J.R.R. Tolkien, Terry Pratchett, and George MacDonald Fraser alongside Snorri Sturluson and Sigvat the Skald. He once won a prize at school for Outstanding Progress and chose a dictionary as his reward, secretly wishing it had been an Old Norse phrasebook. The All Father Paradox is his first novel.
It is one of the most iconic scenes in modern cinematic history: Indiana Jones is in a desperate race against the Nazis, a lone hero battling against the entire German war machine to prevent an ancient artefact of immense power from falling into the wrong hands.
Of course, as is often the case, the truth is stranger than fiction. Nazi Germany really was obsessed with uncovering ancient texts and lost knowledge, and had a special division devoted to the pursuit of artefacts: the Ahnenerbe. This shadowy organization began as a prehistoric research institute, devoted to exploring German ancestral heritage. From inception, the group’s founders were obsessed with the legend Atlantis and the mystical powers of “Blood and Soil.” Himmler soon incorporated the group into the feared SS, but they remained an ideological factory, a thinktank, with fifty different branches and more than one hundred research projects in the field—archaeological expeditions and excavations seeking proof or propaganda that could advance the worldview that Germans were the master race.
Norse mythology spoke to the men of this new, resurgent Germany. The sagas recalled an age of unity, a timeless purity that existed in Northern Europe. The popular imagery of Vikings as a fierce warrior culture, willing to defend their lands in the name of Valhalla, resonated with the SS: the double sig-runes they used as their insignia represented victory. The Ahnenerbe craved links to the bold, brave North.
One such link was the venerable Snartemo sword, found on a farm in 1933 by two farmers, buried in a hidden tomb dating back to the early 6th century. Inside the tomb were rare fabrics, bear claws, and a magnificent sword. A sword with a gold-plated hilt, entwined with ornate geometric patterns.
In Hitler’s own words, this ancient symbol “signified the mission allotted to us—the struggle for the victory of Aryan mankind.” Germans had become obsessed with swastikas the moment Heinrich Schliemann discovered the hooked cross on the site of ancient Troy in the 1870s. They linked it to similar shapes found on German artefacts and concluded that it was a “significant religious symbol of our remote ancestors”—the remote ancestors that gave legitimacy to Himmler’s outlandish claims, pseudo-science, and fake history. The swastika was like the Nazi North Star.
In 1936 an International Congress was held in Oslo, with a special exhibition of the Snartemo sword discovery as the main attraction. The Ahnenerbe were, unsurprisingly there in force, following their guiding star towards glory. So much so that some Norwegian archaeologists foresaw a problem, and, with great pragmatism, hid the Snartemo sword and its swastika hilt in a vault of a remote bank. Only a few academics knew of the plan, and these Norwegian Indiana Joneses kept their secret well. The invading German forces were never able to find the original and made do with a replica, recreated from drawings.
Not so long ago, the swastika meant something very different. In the years following the sensational discovery of Troy, the symbol popped up everywhere, in vogue as a good luck charm: in Rudyard Kipling’s signature, on Coca-Cola pendants, Carlsberg beer bottles, American army shoulder patches, and even Boy Scout merit badges. Charles Lindbergh had one emblazoned on the nose cone of the Spirit of St. Louis in 1927.
The swastika genuinely does have a long history, used as sacred symbol in pre-Christian religions by Hindus, Shintoists, Odinists, and Druids. The sign usually represented the sun, and the original Norse name for it was the fylfot. Vikings used it as a decoration on a bucket found on the Oseberg ship dating to 800 AD. A version of a swastika, the sun cross, adorns the top of the Gosforth cross which is central to the novel, The All Father Paradox. The antagonist of the novel knows the power of symbols only too well: ““This leathery old binding, these spindly tattoos, they tell a saga. These marks are the birthright of my people; they bind me to the dead.”
Today, continuing Nazi connotations mean that swastikas are beyond redemption in the West. But in many senses, the same ideological war once waged by the Ahnenerbe continues on other fronts. Norse symbols, once coveted by the Nazis for their raw power and ancient heritage, are now contested by rival groups of pagans, Neo-Nazis, and advertisers seeking to exploit them for their own benefit. Vikings themselves have become a symbol, representing at best adventure, risk, individual spirit, and daring and at worst, xenophobia, purification of ethnicity, and male violence. There is a berserker rage felt keenly by those white males who feel under siege by immigrants and #MeToo, an anger that some modern politicians have encouraged (and it is a sentiment that the antagonist in the novel is happy to exploit too).
But this imagery is largely mediated through popular culture rather than from the original folklore of North Germanic pre-Christian Europe. Simply put, the way we perceive Vikings today has little to do with the reality of the Viking Age and everything to do with the way we want to see ourselves. It is the greatest of ironies that Vikings, once demonised as the scourge of Europe, are now a talisman for those who are mortally afraid.
Perhaps it is time to stop hiding in the illusions of the past and start building a future built on practical reality. If the story of the Snartemo sword teaches us anything, it is that when people try to use their heritage and symbols as weapons, the true sons of Vikings will just sensibly and quietly spirit them away.
The modern Ahnenerbe
In the dying days of summer 2018, posting and commenting as @vikingverse, I came across an Instagram post. Using the tag #VikingFacts and the slogan “Facts. Not Revisionism”, the account was proclaiming that:
“The Aesir are your ancestors and not gods”
The reference to gods is an “Abrahamised mistranslation.”
It seemed the Ahnenerbe were still peddling their own warped reality. Imagine: Thor, Odin, Loki and Heimdall—all part of the family. The DNA testing kit business would go into meltdown.
I wondered, did the poster really believe his post? On what grounds?
There is a long tradition of linking myth with real historical events or personages. It’s called Euhemerism, and it supposes that historical accounts become myths as they are exaggerated in the retelling, accumulating elaborations and alterations over the centuries.
It’s a great propaganda tool in any argument. The early Christians, hostile to paganism, embraced euhemerism in attempt to undermine the validity of pagan gods. Cohortatio ad gentes, they would cry—”Those to whom you bow were once men like yourselves”.
Several centuries later, presumably to curry favour with King Hákon Hákonarson, Snorri Sturluson euhemerised Thor as a prince of Troy in the prologue to his Prose Edda, thereby linking his King to the very cradle of civilization and the Norse gods in one deft sentence. In all likelihood, this one book helped Himmler “join the dots” to his hoped-for past glory and predecessors.
I pointed out some of this background to the poster, mentioning that Æsir is the plural of áss, which is attested in other Germanic languages, like the Old English ōs, and for good measure, adding that the word had been traced back through its Indo-European roots to Sanskrit. It quite definitely meant God, I posted, and the Christians hadn’t meddled with etymology.
There was a momentary flurry of abuse, and then I was banned, my comments deleted. The rest of the account drips with misogynism and machismo—I should have looked more closely. After some research, I found out that the owner of the account is a Frenchman. Suffice to say he doesn’t speak Old Norse, or have a military background, or any of the other things he claims.
I like to think there is a different between writing fantasy and living it, but clearly for some people, the line is somewhat blurred.
IAN STUART SHARPE
Ian Sharpe was born in London, UK, and now lives in British Columbia, Canada. Having worked for the BBC, IMG, Atari and Electronic Arts, he is now CEO of a tech start up. As a child he discovered his love of books, sci-fi and sagas: devouring the works of Douglas Adams, J.R.R. Tolkien, Terry Pratchett and George MacDonald Fraser alongside Snorri Sturluson and Sigvat the Skald. He once won a prize at school for Outstanding Progress and chose a dictionary as his reward, secretly wishing it had been an Old Norse phrasebook. The All Father Paradox is his first novel.
Not in a crazy way, you understand. You just learn to spot the signs, to realize that something is off-kilter. For example, in the year 793AD, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, there were plenty of foreboding omens. “Excessive whirlwinds”, lightning. Fiery dragons were seen flying in the sky. As if that wasn’t bad enough “great famine followed.”
And then, at the beginning of another long, drizzle-bound British summer what should show up but a “ravaging of wretched heathen men” who promptly destroyed God’s church at Lindisfarne and kickstarted the whole Viking Age. Some might argue that if the monks at Lindisfarne had been a little better at reading the tea leaves, we might not be here, discussing this book.
“Never before has such terror appeared in Britain…The heathens poured outthe blood of saints around the altar, and trampled on the bodies of saints in the temple of God, like dung in the streets.”
It must have seemed like the end of the world.
In my case, it was June 2016AD. My eSports company had just been ground into the dust by a doomstack of unfortunate events. Trump was already the presumptive nominee for the Republican party and then, to add to the sheer caprice of the moment, the UK voted for Brexit. I felt something like a monk at Lindisfarne, wondering which way the wind was blowing, and whether Norsemen might arrive on the tide. And that’s not a political comment, more a reflection of all the churn and change.
The world suddenly was full of “Holy F*ck!” moments. My reaction to it all was to become a new Anglo-Saxon Chronicler, to hold up a cracked mirror to the end of the world as we knew it.
Q: Why should others read the book?
ISS: There is an early episode of the British TV series Doctor Who, in black and white from 1965. I remember it from reruns: a rogue Time Lord plans lure the Harald Hardrada’s Vikings to the coast and destroy their fleet with an atomic cannon. This Time Meddler insists his plan will stabilise England and benefit Western civilisation.
It’s a nice idea. The thought that you could make the world a better place. The notion that you could reclaim what was was rightfully yours. Change the past – kill Hitler before he rose to power and save a generation from slaughter. Save the world, resurrect the girl – it worked for Superman.
What if? It’s a question we should all ask. We should all walk a mile in another man’s shoes, open ourselves to a little alternative perspective. Or else the world is just little bits of history repeating.
Q: What makes this story unique?
ISS: Who doesn’t like a nice Norse saga, full of Vikings raping and pillaging?!
Well, that’s not this book. Not all of it anyway. The fact is that the Scandinavian civilization had a rich and vibrant culture – unique art forms, a deep oral tradition, a sprawling trade network, a yearning for adventure and prestige. This is a book full of characters drawn from the pages of history, but it is really a story of a civilization.
On numerous occasions, the Norse came within a hair’s breadth of seizing the great cities of the age: London, Paris, Hamburg – and the greatest prize of all, Constantinople, the City of the World’s Desire. Imagine if the Trickster God had been with them, rather than against them. The What If in question isn’t far-fetched.
Those “wretched heathen men” could have ruled Europe, and likely the world.
Moreover, most Viking books dwell on the past, but I wanted to examine a Norse present. I wanted to transplant a warrior culture, built on slavery, but with a democratic bent and one where women were often heralded rather than hidden. And I wanted to examine how their myths and icons might grow without the influence of Christianity, the world of seidr and spirits, and see how it stretched over the centuries.
Q: How does it compare to other books like it in the genre?
ISS: There aren’t that many perspectives on Norse culture and civilisation that really highlight their true legacy. I recently took my family on a tour on Denmark, visiting hill forts, museums and re-enactments. I was amazed at how little they knew about these people. Viking were the bad guys. (Just ask Doctor Who). They wore horned helmets. They were raiders and barbarians. Even the best “Viking literature” doesn’t do more than reinforce old tropes.
That’s because history is written by the victors, and the Vikings, for all their legendary heroics, well, they lost.
But the Vikings are still with us, if you know where to look. The Old Norse rót is still apparent among the tangle of Anglo-Saxon, French and Latin. The language of the Vikings may have become subdued over the centuries but make no mistaka about it – from byrðr (birth) until we deyja (die) – the raw energy of the Norse shapes many of our words. Just look at a Viking the rangr way, and he might þrysta (thrust) a knifr into your skulle. For the more literary, even the word Kindle comes from the Norse kynda – to light a fire. And that’s an important part of the book. Just as Tolkien had his Elvish (and he borrowed much of his lore from Old Norse stories), the All Father Paradox is peppered with Old Norse. It might look strange. It might make you pause and think.
In doing a bit of research looking for a dark-fantasy-related topic for this article, I sought something that I knew at least a bit about, something I felt strongly about, and something where I could add meaningfully to the conversation. Many things were considered, from angles on escapism vs. exploration, to writing some kind of how-to. Then the search engine offered me a Pinterest collection, women in dark fantasy.
All the boxes on my requirement list could be check off with that topic. Excited, I clicked it, expecting Ellen Ripley (Alien), Sarah Connor (Terminator), Aeowyn (LotR), Sarah Williams (Labyrinth), Hermione Granger (Harry Potter series) Buttercup (The Princess Bride).
The images that came up were all art of scantily clad, large-breasted and small-waisted women.
I called myself naïve and a mental conversation began.
On one hand, I totally understand why the sexualized images persist and who they are for.
On the other, I cried, “Will we ever get past this?” But honestly, even my naïve side doesn’t think we will. Those characters have a place and there will always be readers who want stories that contain them.
In the midst of this frustration, my next thought was, “I’m straddling that line myself.”
It’s true. The cover of Jovienne (my seventh novel, the first of the Immanence Series, was released last year; it is currently unavailable unless you buy it either used or directly from me – but that’s another story) featured a young winged woman standing atop a building and wearing lingerie. It’s a striking cover and I’ve heard many admiring remarks about it. I loved it when I first saw it, and I love it equally now. As book covers go, it’s a great one. But maybe I’m biased because I know that inside those pages, when Jovienne is given ‘sexy’ armor, she rejects it. It’s a plot point.
Fantasy and Science Fiction are well known as genres where perceptions and social constructs are often reexamined, where the best- and worst-case scenarios are explored, respectively, as aspirations and warnings. They are also the genres filled with damsels in distress who are rescued by virile, womanizing heroes.
As a teen, I devoured as much Sci-Fi and Fantasy as possible. I was ravenous for it. Some of my favorites were Laurana and Goldmoon and even Kitiara of Weis & Hickman’s Dragonlance. They were strong and capable and given respect. And there’s Del, from the Sword Dancer series by Jennifer Roberson. But when those stories ran out, and over and over the books I picked up featured a hero and not a heroine, I began to write my own.
Always, my stories have seemed to step away from what was typical.
In my first series, Persephone Alcmedi is definitely not the average UF heroine. She’s demure and unassuming, and she wears a tee shirt, hoodie, jeans, and hikers. She’s a heroine who doesn’t have sex in every book, and one whose power – and the overarching plot – is linked to her pagan spiritual journey. An additional difference is that most UF novels were set in a closed world or an open world, but I split the difference and gave them a recently opened world – meaning people had mixed reactions to vampires and werewolves being real, and the government was struggling to figure out things like legislation and special law enforcement.
As for my upcoming work, my short story that will appear in the second Blackguards anthology, Knaves features an older knight who happens to be a woman, and she is facing something that, while not unique to modern life, is something which I have not seen addressed in fantasy.
I know where the genre has been, and it has come far, but there is yet a long way to go. I am excited to be a part of the genre, to have produced work that reflects those changes, and I am eager to see where we go next.
About Linda Robertson
Linda will be appearing at International Horror Hotel and Film Festival June 2 and 3 in Richfield, Ohio, at DragonCon in Atlanta over Labor Day weekend and World Fantasy Convention Nov. 1-4 in Baltimore, Maryland.
Working as Linda Reinhardt she composed, created, and produced an original musical score for Jovienne, which is available on Spotify and iTunes.