Howard Andrew Jones' exciting announcement yesterday of a new magazine, Tales from the Magician's Skull, is great news for swords & sorcery. My fantasy/sci-fi knowledge is pretty broad, but Howard's depth of S&S knowledge is amazing, and way beyond mine. If anyone can give Adrian Simmons and Co. over at HFQ a run for their money, it's Howard.
But then it's not a competition. It's a new berth for stories that don't really have enough editorial support for my tastes. Aside from HFQ and Swords and Sorcery Magazine, there's no magazine or site wholly dedicated to S&S. Cirsova's a smashingly good publication, but its focus is on a wide range of pulp stories, with as much sci-fi as fantasy. Grimdark Magazine's been better than decent, but again, S&S, particularly as inspired by Appendix N is not its focus. Skelos is good but publishes very little heroic fantasy. Beneath Ceaseless Skies, once upon a time, deigned to publish some very good heroic fantasy, but that seems like it was way back in the Year One. A few others - Lackington's, Pulp Literature among them - include a story now and then, but there really aren't many more places to read new S&S.
There's a bunch of magazines that I still keep up as links here at STUFF I LIKE, but I don't ever really look at them. I keep them there just because at this point, why not? Someone passing through here might get a sudden urge to visit Clarkesworld.
When I first started blogging, there seemed to be a real renaissance going on in S&S. Jones' Dabir & Asim, Enge's Morlock Ambrosius, and Fultz's Shaper series (all Black Gate alumnus you may notice) were fresh and seemed to be getting the proper attention. Milton Davis was publishing. Rogue Blades was still a fully functioning operation.
Now, I'm not so sure the revival I touted five years ago ever really happened. I swim in S&S weekly (sometimes daily) and I'm not sure I see it as a genre that's growing - in publications or readers. Grimdark has grabbed hold of much of those who would have been S&S's audience in its blood-streaked, grimy hands. I have yet to see a review of any of Davis' books reviewed on any major site except Black Gate. Dabir & Asim are on hiatus and Rogue Blades is silent. Fultz is no longer with Orbit.
It's not all disappointing. HFQ, and now TftMS, will roll out pure S&S on a regular basis. Fultz, Enge, and Jones are all still writing. Davis is a self-publishing juggernaut. The fine folks at Castalia House and Alex at Cirsova are waging a war for Appendix N and pulp goodness, which, while not solely dedicated to S&S, still conjures up some pretty boss stories. Also, their non-fiction goes a long way to keying readers into the history of the genre. Dave Ritzlin has published a trio of solid anthologies.
I'm not sure exactly what I'm getting at here. I guess I'm just examining where S&S is at and where it might be going. To the latter point, I really don't know. If Goodman Games thinks there's enough of a market for a whole new mag, I'll take that as a good sign. Maybe I should just be happy good writers are still weaving good S&S stories. If the genre became "huge" (whatever that would mean in these atomized days) it would probably mean just lots more terrible stuff like Robert Jordan's Conan pastiche. I'm rambling, so I'll call it a day on prognostication. I'd much rather hear what other readers have to say.