REVIEW: New Edge Sword and Sorcery Magazine

Last Updated on February 7, 2023

Genre labels are funny, aren’t they? Grimdark. Cyberpunk. Hopepunk? ‘Swords-and-sorcery’ has been bandied about for almost a century, and still the average consumer doesn’t know what the hell it is. Does it have swords? And sorcery? Must be sword and sorcery, right? Nah. Not really, but that’s an argument for another day. What’s important is that sword and sorcery is back and screaming for vengeance! Readers who prefer outsider protagonists, cruel sorcery, and a hearty helping of Weird now have options beyond what was popular in the 30s and 70s. That’s right; we may well be facing a third wave of the genre that brought us Conan, Kane, and Elric! One such publication offering new and exciting tales of flashing blades and eldritch evils is New Edge Sword and Sorcery Magazine.

Dear reader, it’s absolutely worth your time.


Editor Oliver Brackenbury has assembled an impressive ToC for this first issue (#0). Beyond the striking cover (by fantasy artist Gilead), you’ll find beautifully laid out pages filled with stunning art, fast fiction, and persuasive essays that probe and highlight various aspects of the genre. Every entry is strong, but there were a few standouts for me.

Dariel R. A. Quiogue’s tale of Orhan Timur is pure old-school S&S, deeply rooted in its historic influences. Its words are worth a thousand pictures, and you can all but feel the cool wind of the steps blowing through your hair. Those who dig Robert E. Howard and Harold Lamb will surely enjoy The Curse of the Horsetail Banner.

The non-fiction standout for me is C. L. Moore and Jirel of Joiry: The First lady of Sword & Sorcery by Cora Buhlert. Though I host a sword and sorcery podcast called Rogues in the House, I was woefully ignorant to the career of C.L. Moore and the adventures of her trail-blazing heroine, Jirel of Joiry. Buhlert’s essay goes a long way in educating readers about these seminal tales.

Exquisite art has always accompanied these sorts of adventure tales, so any good sword and sorcery magazine worth its salt must bring the visual goods. This first issue is bursting with excellent black and white illustrations from folks all over the globe. Hardeep Aujla and Morgan King’s pieces stood out for me, taking me back to a time before robots who can’t draw hands got into the mix. Yeah, I said it.

While the entries in the magazine are strong on their own merits, it’s worth noting the magazine’s ethos is as a blazing banner, literally defined and laid out in detail. Sword and sorcery has a tradition of fleet storytelling and strong protagonists, where underdogs can, and often do, triumph over laughable odds. These tales are rarely concerned with world-shaking stakes, instead focusing on human desires and inclinations. This genre has also, like so much of what was written in the past century, offered some unseemly racist and sexist content, some of it beyond just the “views of its day”.

To focus on what makes S&S truly shine, Brackenbury has leaned into the human element, the outsider’s perspective, and the thunderous, thrilling trappings of high adventure yarns. The magazine also puts in the work to boost voices of those traditionally underserved and underrepresented in genre fiction.

One might hear this and suggest it’s the quality of the stories that ultimately matters. I agree! But it’s a fake idea to suggest you have to sacrifice quality for variety, and I would also add that storytelling is richer when we’re treated to tales by those outside our immediate demographics. I found ample proof of that in New Edge Sword and Sorcery Magazine, and so can you.

Meanwhile, the presence of a story by S&S veteran David C. Smith, and non-fiction by S&S scholars Howard Andrew Jones and Brian Murphy, makes it pretty clear they’re only looking to add people to the genre, not cut them out. “Made with love for the classics, and an inclusive, boundary-pushing approach to storytelling” is the short version of their ethos, seen even in their badass battle-axe logo that looks to both the genre’s past and future.

The digital formats of issue #0 are available for the low price of FREE; or you can pick-up a soft or hardcover copy via Amazon for the cost of printing. You can find all of that through www.newedgeswordandsorcery.com.

There’s also a 30 day Kickstarter for issues #1 and 2 and that absolutely warrants your contributions. Issue #1 even includes a brand new story by fantasy legend Michael Moorcock! Check out the Kickstarter campaign page to see who the other 20 authors, and 19 artists, are.

 

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Matthew John

Matthew John

Matthew John is an English Language Arts teacher and employee of Monolith Games (Conan, Batman: Gotham City Chronicles). He lives with his wife, two children, and countless cats and dogs in Nova Scotia, Canada. When time allows, he likes to write short fiction, waste time at the gaming table, and chat sword and sorcery on the Rogues in the House Podcast. His work has been published in Skelos (SkelosPress), Weirdbook (Wildside Press), and Robert E. Howard’s Conan the roleplaying game (Modiphius Games).