Joshua Gillingham and Outland Entertainment have an exciting fiction anthology called Althingi: The Crescent and the Northern Star currently up on Kickstarter and is in the last few days of the project. We talked a little bit to Joshua about the book to give you some more reasons to jump over to the Kickstarter project page and back it.
Outland Entertainment: First off, what was the impetus to put together Althingi: The Crescent and the Northern Star?
Joshua Gillingham: Back in the Spring of 2020 (just as COVID was ramping up!) I signed on with Outland in a publication deal for the card game Althingi: One Will Rise as well as an untitled anthology of fiction based on the game. Outland editor Alana Abbott suggested that I contact Muhammad Aurganzeb Ahmad about the possibility of doing a ‘Viking x Muslim’ anthology of historical fiction; she had discovered him through his work on the Islamic Science Fiction Project with his previous anthology, A Mosque Among the Stars. I called Muhammad up and that was the start of it all! Over the course of the next six months, we drafted a list of authors and signed contracts with them to write for the anthology. Honestly, the talent on this roster is absolutely stunning, with fourteen best-selling authors from around the world; some had a background in Viking or Norse fiction while others had a background in Islamic-centered fiction. The six months following that we worked through first drafts and final edits. I’m proud to say that we now have a fully finished collection of stories which is currently on Kickstarter and 85% funded with over $10,000 of backer support!
OE: Why a short fiction anthology, what makes that a good vehicle for Althingi?
JG: In the card game Althingi: One Will Rise, there are all these Viking characters who are gathering in Iceland for the annual gathering that was held at a place called Thingvellir (now a National Park in Iceland). Lada Shustova, a Russian artist and Viking re-enactor, created all this amazing art for these characters as featured on the cards in the game. However, the name and the illustration was all there was. That was a perfect launching point for the anthology – authors were given a choice of characters and then wrote the story to fill in their background through the narrative. It was a really cool way to tie the game and the stories together into one cohesive tapestry!
OE: What is something new or interesting that you’ve picked up while working on this anthology that you didn’t realize before?
JG: Honestly, one of the most amazing parts of this project for me was stepping into the role of editor. I have a fantasy trilogy out (The Saga of Torin Ten-Trees) and have worked on other Outland projects such as Old Norse for Modern Times as part of the Vikingverse World, as well as designing the card game Althingi: One Will Rise. To be in the director’s seat alongside Muhammad was a really cool experience as I’m used to being ‘in front of the camera’. To see each of our fourteen authors bring something unique to the project was incredible and it was humbling to put the whole thing together; arranging, channeling, and polishing all that talent in just one book was a daunting task!
OE: What could readers who don’t know much about the source material get out of this anthology?
JG: This book is a really interesting entry point for fans of historical fiction who are not as familiar with the Viking Age. As one of our authors put it, this is not ‘rape and pillage’ Viking fiction at all (a problematic trope within Viking fiction); instead, it is an incredibly nuanced portrait of Vikings and Muslims coming into contact in a time when most history text-books focus only on Christendom on mainland Europe. If that sounds interesting, this book is for you!
OE: What could readers who are more experienced with the source material get out of this anthology?
JG: Even someone like myself, who is fairly well versed in Viking history, will be surprised by the multitude of varied connections that Vikings and Muslims shared. Working with Muhammad gave me access to Arabic texts and, while this is not an archaeological research publication, the authors did incredible work researching the backgrounds of their chosen settings and integrating their story into real history. This book is a perfect read for anyone who thinks they know all there is to know about Vikings and would like to open up some new frontiers of knowledge!
OE: Why do you think that someone should back the Althingi Kickstarter and get this book?
JG: If you believe that we need to highlight traditionally under-examined historical connections, both to enrich our understanding of our communities today and to challenge inaccurate historical narratives such as white supremacy, this project is a chance to put those beliefs into concrete action. Projects like this don’t happen without backer support and I’ve been so excited to see hundreds of people jump on board to make this happen. This is an open invitation to back the Kickstarter and join an international community of people passionate about bringing this cross-cultural history to life!
Joshua Gillingham is an author, game designer, and editor from Vancouver Island, Canada. His fantasy trilogy The Saga of Torin Ten-Trees (Crowsnest Books) is a rollicking, riddling, troll-hunting adventure inspired by the Norse myths and the Icelandic Sagas. In partnership with Outland Entertainment, he has created the trans-media Althingi universe set in Viking Age Iceland, featuring the card game Althingi: One Will Rise and the groundbreaking anthology Althingi: The Crescent & the Northern Star which explores the under-examined historical connections between Vikings and Muslims. Find out more about Joshua on his website at joshuagillingham.ca.