'Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,' the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. 'Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.'

-Robert E. Howard
Beyond The Black River

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Thursday, July 9, 2020

Whetstone, Issue 1. A review

Recently a new Sword & Sorcery anthology came across my social media feeds, if you have been around the Sword & Sorcery or Weird Fiction circles you will know that we have quite a few small publishers putting out various collections of these sorts of fiction such as Skelos Press or Rogue’s Blade Entertainment, so seeing another one wasn’t a large surprise, but it was welcome.  

Whetstone bills itself as an “Amateur Magazine of Pulp Sword & Sorcery”, and the first issue contains 10 stories across 60+ pages and is free, so I thought I should check it out. 

The editor of this anthology is Jason Ray Carney, who teaches creative writing at Christopher Newport University.  He is also an editor on “The Dark Man: Journal of Robert E Howard and Pulp Studies”.  We are off to a good start, which only continues to get better.

Thumbing through the PDF, I immediately notice that the cover and seal credits are given to Bill Cavalier, whom I do not personally know, but he is someone I certainly know of.  It is a hard name to miss among the fans of Robert E Howard.   You can check out more of his art here, “http://www.billcavalier.com/”.

Clearly, the Anthology has strong roots in pulp from within the scholars with a love of Robert E Howard.  Whetstone is a PDF anthology with the following submission guidelines.

Length: We prefer short, compressed stories that are nevertheless complete and cohesive narratives (1500 to 2500 words). These limits are firm. No more, no less.
Style: We prefer “dialog light, action-heavy” fiction that is unselfconsciously literary but nevertheless takes joy in an occasional old word that gives the breath of antiquity.


And so as you would expect from those guidelines the stories in this anthology are short, quick reads and I could generally get through a couple of them in my 45-minute commute on the train.  Settings and ideas run from wizards vs. heroes in classic fantasy settings to more indigenous settings and everything in between.  I believe it is a good cross-section of pulp and sword & sorcery.

I am not going to review each story here, although I may talk about them in the future as there are some that have intrigued me.  For my personal tastes, a random guy with no writing experience or training in English, each story had its good points, but some I certainly liked better than others. Some just needed more room to breathe as they had excellent ideas others felt more like a snippet from a larger story.  The shortness of the fiction left me unable to really get to know the setting and the characters.

For me, the pros of the stories and the quickness of the reads outweigh the negatives and I look forward to seeing more glimpses of new worlds and to where this anthology of Sword & Sorcery goes in the future.  You can find Whetstone for yourself by visiting their blog at https://whetstonemag.blogspot.com/

Remember this isn't the end times, this is humanity working together to save as many lives as we can through a proven methodology for fighting a new virus. Stay Strong.

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!

 


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