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.
Fan page: lindarobertsonbooks
“Mr. Broaddus, you need to start a Creative Writing Club.” Thus began a four week campaign in which different members of my eighth grade class wore me down and I agreed to run an after school program. We ended up with nearly a dozen intrepid souls in our merry band, including two sixth graders. Each one with a story (or novel or series of novels) in progress.
Maurice BroaddusThe timing of the call to write for the Knaves anthology couldn’t have been more perfect.
It gave me an opportunity to write alongside my students, which is always one of my favorite ways to teach creative writing because it demystifies the process in very practical ways (minus the profanity when I got stuck…though my kind-hearted middle school students offered to fill that in for me, but for the sake of me wanting to keep my job, I declined their helpful offer).
So that out time together wouldn’t degenerate into “goofing off with Mr. Broaddus” (I’m not admitting that on rare occasion my time with my eighth graders may have slid into this), I outlines a series of topics for us to discuss: brainstorming, world-building, plotting, beginnings, scenes, middles, dialogue, endings, and revision. The thing about eighth graders, especially ones who believe that after school they are “off the clock,” is that they “listen” in different ways. To the casual observer, it may have looked a lot like them insulting one another, throwing paper wads, attempting to listen to music, and cruising the latest Fortnite skins. However, when it came time to write, they were all business.
With this in mind, I wrote “Daughter of Sorrow.” This story features a heroine named Rianna (I’m not admitting that I had a student named Rianna who declared herself my favorite student. I will say that if you notice in any of my work produced between the fall of 2017 and spring of 2018 the phrase “Rianna is Queen,” know that she was prone to “editing” my drafts). She’s facing the prospect of going to high school. And as many people have rightly assumed, high school is a place full of assassins. So it’s handy that her father happens to be one who has been training her and allowed her to tag along (remotely) on some of his missions.
Writing is often a very solitary art form, which has always frustrated me a little because I hate the idea of extended periods of isolating myself to create. So whenever possible, I have tried to find ways to make my art/process as communal as possible. Surrounding myself with eighth graders to brainstorm and plot is a lot like attempting to write in the Thunderdome. On the flip side, they poured that same energy and passion into their own work, too. In our final meeting, we did readings of our work. And it was obvious they really paid attention. In fact, in a moment I still think back on with pride, it was one of our sixth graders who wrote a piece so profound it ripped out our hearts and sent us spiraling into our feels.
So “Daughter of Sorrow” is dedicated to my Creative Writing Club who are eagerly awaiting to see it in print (and whom I have promised to buy copies for). They were my critique partners, they were my editors, and they were my inspiration (I won’t lie: I bawled like a baby at their promotion ceremony). However, right after their graduation, my sixth graders came up to me and said “Mr. Broaddus, you need to start a Creative Writing Club.”
About Maurice Broaddus
Maurice Broaddus is an exotic dancer, trained in several forms of martial arts–often referred to as “the ghetto ninja”–and was voted the Indianapolis Dalai Lama. He’s an award winning haberdasher and coined the word “acerbic”. He graduated college at age 14 and high school at age 16. Not only is he credited with inventing the question mark, he unsuccessfully tried to launch a new number between seven and eight.
When not editing or writing, he is a champion curler and often impersonates Jack Bauer, but only in a French accent. He raises free range jackalopes with his wife and two sons … when they are not solving murder mysteries.
He really likes to make up stories. A lot. Especially about himself.
Thanks to our awesome backers and readers, the Kickstarter for our anthology, Knaves, has been a success!
Four hundred eighty-nine backers came together and invested $15,342 to make Knaves happen. Not only will this anthology be produced, but the authors will all get their raises, bringing them up to ten cents per word. Not only that, but we can so close to the art stretch goal that we are considering adding Nicolás Giacondino’s wonderful Knave-inspired artwork to the book.
One of the backer rewards for Knaves was for the backers to get the all-new editions of Blackguards, which will be called Scoundrels and Brigands. We’re pleased to announce that these books will have one brand new story in each volume, one by New York Times bestselling author Elaine Cunningham, and the other by Zin E. Rocklyn, who also wrote a story for us for Kaiju Rising 2!
This Kickstarter is set to deliver in November, 2018, and we can’t wait for readers to see it!
I remember watching Phantom Menace in the movie theater wondering what the movie was missing. There was awesome Jedi action (and way better choreography than the original trilogy). The music was fantastic. Tatooine looked pretty much the same, and pod racing was pretty nifty. (It was even more fun as a segment in later Star Wars video games). But there was some core element of Star Wars I felt was just absent.
It didn’t take me more than a few times watching it to realize that what the film didn’t have was Han Solo.
I don’t mean Han Solo literally. What I wanted was a loveable rogue. (You’ll note that I found a TV Tropes link for the character type–that’s how common it is). It’s all well and good to have the earnest hero in the center of things. That’s kinda their job. But there needs to be someone around with a smirk and a wink and a hard edge—a little too cynical to believe in the mythic importance of everything around them (even if they’re later proven wrong). Sometimes it’s their job to undercut the narrative, to give it a little breathing room so the audience can laugh. Pretty typically, their witticisms are the ones people leave the theater quoting. They’re not in this story for the higher mission of the plot. They’re in it for some selfish reason.
But not really. Because when the chips are down, they show up to help save the day.
Or, actually, they don’t.
Even though I grew up with the Han Solo type of scoundrel and grew into the Malcolm Reynolds kind of scoundrel (as a freelancer, “I do the job, and then I get paid” became a mantra for me), I’ve developed a bit of a taste for the varied palate they can offer. Around the time I was loving Firefly, I was also reading Steven Brust’s “Vlad Taltos” series. Which centers on a character who is, effectively, a crime lord in at least a portion of his novels. He’s an assassin. He’s not a nice man. But he’s affable, the kind of narrator you want to follow on whatever mission it is he’s undertaking. And, even when it’s not really the right thing, you want him to win.
I followed Mark Henry’s “Amanda Feral” series, which is narrated by a zombie socialite. Who eats people. Sometimes they’re not even bad people, it’s just that she’s a zombie, and. Well. It happens. And while the whole experience of hanging out with Amanda is kind of like being a spectator to a train wreck, it’s a glorious spectacle.
More recently, there’s Marvel’s Loki, whose Road Movie-like dialogue with Thor was the best thing about Thor: The Dark World. Never quite knowing what side Loki is on is a big part of his appeal—but, even moreso, that he’s ambiguous with charm. If you want to talk about a fan favorite character—I think it’s probably a safe bet that there’s more fan fiction about Loki on the Internet than any of the Marvel heroes. (I’m not going to actually go count them, but I stand by my suspicion).
And while characters like Kate Daniels and Curran Lennart from Ilona Andrews’s “Kate Daniels” series are absolutely the heroes—they’ve got a bit of a edge on them as well. Kate, a former mercenary, private investigator, and also the daughter of one of the universe’s big evils, isn’t always good at playing nice. Curran, who for much of the series is the leader of all the shapeshifters in Atlanta, creates a code for his own people, but doesn’t always play nicely by the rules of non-shapeshifters. They’re a pair for whom the default response is to hit the problem with a sword, and to do so with a gleeful, maniacal smile that makes bystanders scared for their lives.
Fantasy and science fiction thrive on the morally ambiguous characters who can reel you into their stories and make you want them to win, even when they’re the bad guys. While I’m no psychologist, I suspect there’s something cathartic about rooting for the scoundrel. When you’re part of a community (a family, a town, a nation), it’s important to follow the rules—but it’s not always fun. Diplomacy is hard. Sometimes just getting along with other members of your community is hard.
Rooting for the guy who doesn’t have to follow those rules? Sometimes, that’s exactly what we need. In all the varieties possible.
As Han says, “There aren’t enough scoundrels in your life.”
Anton Strout is the author of urban fantasy, including the Simon Canderous paranormal detective series and the Spellmason Chronicles. He’s also the host of the Once and Future Podcast. He’s going to have a story in the fantasy anthology Knaves from Outland Entertainment, now on Kickstarter!
There are words and phrases from what one reads that stick with you throughout your entire life. From the moment you read them they inspired or changed you. As a teen, the now clichéd “Carpe Diem, Seize the Day” from the film Dead Poet’s Society was life changing, but it was reading that always struck to the core of my heart when it came to shaping who I was as both a person and as a writer of the fantastical.
No one was as pivotal to who I became in both respects than Douglas Adams. My first exposure was to the PBS import of the BBC television series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Immediately I HAD TO HAVE the books and made my mother take me to buy what was then just the Hitchhiker’s Trilogy. I still have the broken spined, falling apart hardcover, coated in dried green slime from a toy accident years ago. Then I consumed the radio plays on cassette, and bought the annotated transcripts to read along with.
There are a million turns of phrase that the late Mr. Adams wrote over the years that stick with me:
- “Don’t Panic.”—the words inscribed on the guide itself, and an obvious choice as a life motto.
- “Life. Don’t talk to me about life.”—Marvin the Paranoid Android, moping about in his usual depressed state
- From the planet builder Slartibartfast, best known for winning an award for designing Earth’s Norwegian fjords:
Slartibartfast: I’d far rather be happy than right any day.
Arthur: And are you?
Slartibartfast: No. That’s where it all falls down of course.
But the one that has always stuck with me is:
This planet has – or rather had – a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movement of small green pieces of paper, which was odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.
To a 12-year old kid, it just seemed funny, but it also made me think. Adults were weird, anyway. Why would they obsess over these little green pieces of paper? The idea was absurd—later causing me to strive in my own fiction to capture even just a fracture of Mr. Adam’s genius/humor—but his words were also spot on about the human condition. These were IMPORTANT WORDS, important thoughts! As I grew up and became an adult myself (a debatable point, I know), I found the words stuck with me.
I’ve been financially stable as well as pathetically poor, but rarely have I suffered at the hand of that ebb and flow. Money is always welcome and nice to have and all, but I’ve never let a lack of it determine my happiness. It’s been a pretty healthy attitude, focusing me instead on what truly makes me happy—family, writing, rampantly consuming all manners of nerdery…
Such a complexly written yet simply logical line transformed my entire attitude about the true answer to life, the universe, and well, everything. Words…powerful stuff indeed.
For Immediate Release
Contact Melanie R. Meadors
Same Assassins, Thieves, and Mercenaries, Different Packaging
Outland Entertainment Gives Blackguards a Facelift
May 9, 2018—Topeka, KS—Outland Entertainment is please to announce a new look and edition for the anthology Blackguards, dividing the book into two volumes and including two never-before-seen stories.
Blackguards, originally published by Ragnarok Publications, was a massive volume containing stories from some of the best dark fantasy and grim dark authors in the industry. It was so big that there was an e-book only supplement, The Blackguards Blacklist, containing stories from talented authors that were not available in print.
“Because of the large page count of the book, printing this book became prohibitively expensive,” says creative director and owner of Outland Entertainment Jeremy Mohler. “Dividing the book into two will not only allow us to release it in a financially feasible way for both readers and publisher, it will let us make room so that all the Blackguards authors interested can be included in the print editions.”
The new volumes, entitled Brigands and Scoundrels will have all new cover art by Daniel Rempel, and editing will be done by Alana Joli Abbott and Melanie R. Meadors (with first edition credit going to JM Martin). The books will have stories in them by Bradley P. Beaulieu, Lian Hearn, Rob J. Hayes, Anthony Lowe, Anthony Ryan, Linda Robertson, Cat Rambo, Erik Scott de Bie, and many more. Not only will the books have stories that appeared in the original anthology, but each volume will feature a brand new story from fantasy authors not included in the original volume or the ebook companion.
Backers of the upcoming Knaves anthology Kickstarter (May 15) will have a first chance to see the new books. Ebooks and physical copies of Brigands and Scoundrels will be offered as backer rewards for Knaves. Afterwards, both Brigands and Scoundrels will be available online and in bookstores.
Contact: Melanie R. Meadors For Immediate Release
Announcing Knaves: A Blackguards Anthology, Coming to Kickstarter in May!
Outland Entertainment to Publish Collection of Anti-Hero Stories
April 18, 2018, Topeka, KS—Outland Entertainment is pleased to announce they will be publishing a new collection of stories where protagonists’ moral compasses don’t always point north, and where villains are the heroes of their own stories.
Edited by Alana Abbot (Kaiju Rising 2), and Melanie R. Meadors (Hath No Fury), this collection of fourteen short stories will include authors Mercedes Lackey and Dennis Lee, Anna Smith Spark, Cullen Bunn, Cat Rambo, Shanna Germain, Anton Strout, Walidah Imarisha, Linda Robertson, Clay Sanger, Kenny Soward, Maurice Broaddus, Sabrina Vourvoulias, Toiya Finley, and Lian Hearn, with an introduction by Howard Tayler. The editors sought out some of the best authors in the business, making sure their list was as diverse and representative of their readership as possible. Outland Entertainment is dedicated to making a difference in publishing by trying as hard as they can to have everyone’s voices heard.
This anthology will be funded through Kickstarter, with backer rewards that include print and digital copies of the books, “Tuckerizations” of readers (where the author includes their name in some way in the story), copies of other Outland anthologies, and more. As the campaign funds, stretch goals such as granting a pay raise for authors and creating interior artwork for the book, among others, will be announced. Outland has had several successful Kickstarters in the past, including the recent Kaiju Rising 2: Reign of Monsters, which is currently heading to the printer and will be sent to backers immediately after. Outland’s goal is to keep the campaign as simple as possible in order to make fulfillment to campaign backers fast and streamlined.
Outland Entertainment is a publisher of fiction, games, and comics. They also provide creative services, helping creators focus on the fun part of their job while they take care of business needs, hiring artists/writers/colorists/etc, and other things to help make projects run smoothly. You can learn more about them and their team at http:// outlandentertainment.com.
There’s a saying that goes around (books are written on this topic, and serious research done by anthropologists) that storytelling is what makes us human. If storytelling is that core to our identities as people, it’s no surprise that we like to ingest stories in so many different ways. We consume click-bait headlines that lead us to (probably) true stories, our favorite movies through our preferred streaming systems, high definition video games or tabletop RPGs, the latest issues of a comic or latest updates of a webcomic, and (gasp!) print books.
And you know what’s fun? When you can see stories in more than one format. I am an old school Star Wars fan, and as a teen I hit the sweet spot of getting my Star Wars in multiple formats (before, of course, the explosion of new Star Wars stories). Not only did I watch the films over and over again, but my public library bought every single new Expanded Universe (EU) book as it was published. I devoured them. I was ecstatic when Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade got married in a comic (the only Star Wars EU comic I still own). Eventually, being a grownup got in the way of keeping up with the EU, in part because so many books got published, but I still dabbled. And I loved it.
Fast forward not only to the new Star Wars canon (I have Elizabeth Wein‘s Cobalt Squadron on my desk, and if you’re not reading the Marvel run on Star Wars that started in 2015, you are missing some awesome stuff), but to my job at Outland Entertainment. Creative Director Jeremy Mohler and I have had a lot of discussions about our visions for the company. We have these fantastic comics, anthologies, and games that we publish, and we love them. But what could we do to make those projects even better?
And this is our answer: Let our readers dig into our stories in all of the formats they want.
Having grown up with shared world projects that spread across media formats, and having written fiction, comics, role-playing games, and interactive novels, taking Outland in a transmedia direction made sense. We already had three formats we were publishing. Tying them together and giving readers more of the worlds and characters they loved across all our platforms has given us a mission. It’s also made us look at each project we take on and say, “How would this look as a game? Or a comic? Or a novel?”
If you’re a table top gamer, you may already be looking forward to the Shotguns & Sorcery RPG, a game based on Matt Forbeck’s fantastic novels (which we’ll be bringing out in omnibus format, complete with a brand new Max story). Matt is also on board to create an S&S comic. All three formats: one awesome world to explore.
If you’re a comic fan, you may have picked up Nightfell. We’ve started development for an RPG in that setting, as well as a novella to dig deeper into the world through prose. If you’ve come to us through fiction, such as the Blackguards anthology…well, we might just have some surprises in store for you coming up.
In the meantime, I’ve got a little bit of Star Wars reading to catch up on.
About Alana Joli Abbott
Alana Joli Abbott is the author of the novels Into the Reach, Departure, and Regaining Home, the interactive multiple choice novel app Choice of Kung Fu and was the writer for the webcomic Cowboys and Aliens II. Her game writing has been featured in Steampunk Musha, the award winning Serenity Adventures, and Dungeon and Dragon magazines. Alana has visited ancient ruins around the world; sung madrigals semi-professionally; and recently earned her black belt in Shaolin Kempo Karate. She lives near New Haven, CT.