Thursday, October 22, 2009

Heroic Fantasy Quarterly - The Interview, Part 1

So, as some of you may already know, Adrian Simmons and Dave Farney -- my friends and fellow writers -- edit the strong-outta-the-gate online magazine, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, now in its second issue.

I've been wanting to sit down and talk with them about this new endeavor for a long time (we haven't had a face-to-face conversation in more than a year), so I'm excited to be able to bring you an interview with these guys. When they answer a question, they really answer a question, so I've broken the interview into parts; for instance, this first entry only covers one question.


Note: In the discussion below, KB refers, of course, to me.

artwork c. Norimichi Tanaka

1) Who are you, and why are you here? No, seriously, tell us a little about yourselves, how you met, and why you've collaborated to give the world this dandy little magazine known as Heroic Fantasy Quarterly?

Adrian Simmons: Hobbies include backpacking, writing, taekwondo, traveling. Fantasy devotee. Science fiction enthusiast. Train aficionado. Fan of the Irish whiskey. Sometimes, while traveling by train, I'll work on writing while enjoying the Irish whiskey. Fifteen minutes of fame on the Internet. Not above italicizing.

David Farney: I enjoy writing, and my reading tastes are much like my musical tastes: all over the board. I’ve taken a recent interest in speculative poetry. I’ve decided that Copenhagen pouches go with red wine as tastily as smoked cheese and crackers. My mom thinks I’m a hick. My wife still thinks I’m cool.

Adrian: How we met is a bit of a funny story. There is this writing conference in Oklahoma— OWFI—it is mostly older women writing prairie romance. My second year there, I'm in the book room and I see another thirty-something male. He looks a little lost among all the estrogen. We fall to talking and I ask what he writes, and he kind of quietly says that he's working on a fantasy novel.

I press the attack: About what? He sheepishly asks if I know anything about the end of the world in Norse mythology. Not only do I know it, I know the gods who survive it.

I've never seen a guy look so relieved! A kindred spirit! We hung around off-and-on for the weekend, and kept in touch ever since.

David: I don’t have much to add to the “how we met” part except to say that OWFI was my very first writer’s conference, so this along with the preponderance of quilters and cowboy writers left me feeling doubly lost. And young! But Adrian found me, and then we found the three or four other young people there—

KB (in an aside): I was there, and I remember how cool it was to find a fellow fantasy enthusiast!

David: —and we ended up having a good time. In addition to discussing Norse myth, I’m pretty sure Adrian and I talked a little Conan or Robert E. Howard at that conference. Kindred spirits indeed!

KB (in another aside): I recall eating lunch with you two at a Korean restaurant, Conan on the big screen TV in the corner. Fun times.

David: Which kind of ties in to the present and why we’re doing HFQ. Some six years later, I’ve turned 40. But I discovered fantasy fiction in seventh grade and for the next few years read as much Howard, Moorcock, and (to a slightly less extent) Tolkien as I could lay my hands on. I was blown away. In the years since, I’ve had real trouble finding any fantasy I enjoyed as much. The “wow” factor simply wasn’t there. So, for me, founding HFQ is about a couple of things:

First, I’m sure it involves mid-life issues and re-capturing my youth or something; indeed, I’m happy to report I have re-experienced that fantasy “wow” factor by reading and publishing stories at HFQ. Even some of the stories we didn’t publish scratched that itch.

Adrian: We put together HFQ because we love the genre and got tired of seeing S&S [sword-and-sorcery] be the whipping-boy of the genre-writing world.

We wanted to bring back a little adventure, a little action, a little enjoyment of a tale well told and the shameless visceral thrill where the good guy gets the bad guy within arm's distance and messes him up good!

We felt there was something wrong with the world if there wasn't a market paying three digits for S&S that came out more than once a year. Plus, a quarterly S&S e-zine was the only set of criteria we could agree to work on together.

David: Adrian touched on the second motivating factor: a market need for adventure fantasy. There’s tons of good fantasy out there—both online and in print—and there seems to be no shortage of its various subgenres: urban, dark, high/traditional, etc. But particularly online, the subgenre of heroic fantasy (adventure/sword & sorcery) is underrepresented.

I worry that adventure fantasy stands at the brink of extinction. But I also sense there are plenty of us out there who may have discovered heroic fantasy by playing Dungeons & Dragons when it first came out, and I think this effect isn’t likely to happen in future generations.

So I hope we’re not only preserving but creating new interest in heroic fantasy, and providing a different variety of fantasy in the short form department—something we can hopefully introduce to our nieces and nephews and kids and grandkids who sure as hell aren’t going to discover adventure fantasy by playing D&D and finding a list of authors in Appendix N like we did. Nope–their imaginations are atrophying away in front of game consoles.

I’m pretty sure Adrian would agree with all that.

--- to be continued ---

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