Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Join the Sorcerer's Guild Today, See the Worlds

The time has come to start thinking about nominations for the next Harper's Pen Award. That means it's time to unlock the adamantine doors of the Sorcerer's Guild and open our membership drive.

The Sorcerer's Guild is an autonomous anarcho-syndicalist collective of fans, editors and authors of the short fiction genre commonly known as Sword and Sorcery (cue lights, smoke, thunder). We gather once each year to trade spells and knitting patterns and select the winner of the presigious and lucrative Harper's Pen Award. The 2009 winner was John C. Hocking for his story "The Face in the Sea" published in Black Gate #13.

Beginning this year, you must be a member of the Sorcerer's Guild to nominate a story for the Harper's Pen. Cruel, I know, but we must maintain some standards. Luckily, joining the Sorcerer's Guild is not only easy, it's rewarding, because we are prepared to offer the first 100 new members a pdf download of Black Gate #14. Yes, that's right - by joining today, you will receive a free magazine of the some of the best Sword and Sorcery short fiction being published today. How can you say no?

Send me an email to harperspen@gmail.com and let me know if you are a fan, author, or editor, and which issue of Black Gate you would like to receive. Supplies are limited to the first 100 who join, so don't delay. If you already know which stories you would like to nominate, include them in your email. You can nominate up to five stories, including your own.

But beware! Once you join the Sorcerer's Guild, you can never leave, for death awaits you with nasty big pointy teeth.

The Structure of the Sorcerer's Guild

I've just updated the post about the Harper's Pen Award, detailing how the Guild will nominate and select the winner of the Harper's Pen. Check it out.

Friday, April 16, 2010

How Should The Sorcerers Guild Work?

As you know, or as I hope you know, The Sorcerers Guild exists to determine the yearly winner of The Harper's Pen Award. The award is meant to promote the Sword & Sorcery genre in short fiction. For the first year, I selected the finalists and chose the winner, to help get things started and because I wasn't sure how I wanted to get things started, but my plan is to get more people involved, especially readers and fans, not just writers and editors. 

So what I have is a brief outline of the organization and how I expect it to work. This is a rough draft, so if you have other ideas, especially better ideas, please feel free to discuss.

Each December, the nomination period opens. Only members of The Sorcerers Guild may nominate a story, but anyone can join. By joining this facebook group, you are already a member. Members will receive a certain number of nominations - I'm thinking 3 or 5. Those stories that meet a minimum threshold of nominations (to be determined) go onto a Long List.

Now for the fun part. Each year, I will provide a certain amount of seed money. For 2009, I hoped to get contributions to help increase the pot, but I only received one contribution of $10 for the entire year. Clearly we cannot rely on contributions, so I came up with the idea of a second level of membership, called The Wizard's Conclave. Membership in The Wizard's Conclave costs $5 (open for debate), in return for which you get to chose a certain number of stories from the long list (say, 3) to make the short list. Also, there may be goodies in association with joining during one of the membership drives. I plan to hit up publishers for promo copies of their magazines/anthologies to give to those who join The Wizard's Conclave. If you know anyone, or have something to donate, please feel free to contact me.

So now we have the Wizard's Conclave, and the $5 membership fee goes directly into the Award. The Wizard's Conclave chooses the short list of stories from which the finalists and winner will be selected by...

The Council of Elders. The Council consists of a certain number (to be determined) of randomly-chosen members of The Wizards Conclave. Council members are screened to prevent anyone with a short list story (either author or publisher) from serving on the Council. (This has the added benefit of tilting the Council toward the fans.) The Council members choose their top ten stories for the year, with the top story being the winner of The Harper's Pen. Or perhaps a winner and a several honorable mentions, rather than a top ten.

What do you think? Will it work? Would you pay $5 to join, especially if you got a free book or magazine out of it? Please feel free to post your ideas.

(This is cross-posted at The Sorcerers Guild discussion board on Facebook. Please feel free to pop over and join the discussion, or to leave comments here.)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Small Gathering of Friends

The Sorcerers Guild is now on Facebook. It's time to open the doors, so pop on over and sign up.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

News of the World

The new issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies is out, with stories by Nancy Fulda and Tom Crosshill.

In other news, it appears your host has won the first Barry Hannah Memorial Competition.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Swords & Dark Magic anthology

Here's an anthology sure to generate several finalists for The 2010 Harper's Pen Award. Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword and Sorcery published by Harper Eos, edited by Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders. It's due out June 22, and here's the table of contents:

"Introduction: Check Your Dark Lord at the Door" - Lou Anders & Jonathan Strahan
"Goats of Glory" - Steven Erikson
"Tides Elba: A Tale of the Black Company" - Glen Cook
"Bloodsport" - Gene Wolfe
"The Singing Spear" - James Enge
"A Wizard of Wiscezan" - C.J. Cherryh
"A Rich Full Week" - K. J. Parker
"A Suitable Present for a Sorcerous Puppet" - Garth Nix
"Red Pearls: An Elric Story" - Michael Moorcock
"The Deification of Dal Bamore" - Tim Lebbon
"Dark Times at the Midnight Market" - Robert Silverberg
"The Undefiled" - Greg Keyes
"Hew the Tint Master" - Michael Shea
"In the Stacks" - Scott Lynch
"Two Lions, A Witch, and the War-Robe" - Tanith Lee
"The Sea Troll's Daughter" - Caitlin R Kiernan
"Thieves of Daring" - Bill Willingham
"The Fool Jobs" - Joe Abercrombie

(ht Saladin Ahmed)

Finalist Notes - Tomb of the Amazon Queen by Michael Ehart

Tomb of the Amazon Queen is the longest of the eight finalists and the largest is scope. It reads like part of a much larger work. Nishi and her adopted daughter/fellow adventurer Miri have a number of problems. One, they are constantly hunted by the soldiers of the temple of Ishtar, because Nishi attacked it some time in the past. Two, Nishi is bound by a curse of some sort to a fearsome beast - The Manthycore - and this curse keeps her alive, making her a legendary being. But Nishi is seeking a way to end the curse. In the midst of a sandstorm, they take refuge with a group of Amazon-ish women warriors, whose path inevitably brings them all together at the tomb of their queen.

Both the story hook and the adventure hook are brilliant and engaging. The story begins in the middle and moves forward from there. Having taken out a party of temple soldiers, Nishi summons the Manthycore to feed and to frighten the one soldier she has allowed to survive, so that he can return and warn the temple to stop sending soldiers to hunt her.

The setting, ancient Iraq and Syria, is wonderfully depicted, with plenty of historical detail. As with most desert stories, the environment plays a direct role in the plot, when a sandstorm drives Nishi and Miri to take shelter with, and thus meet and befriend, a band of Amazons.

Nishi and Miri are great heroic characters - Nishi the old warrior who has lived for hundreds of years and become a legend, and young Miri, who is a talented archer. Less well-defined are the Amazons - seven archetypical sisters whose names tended to blend together as I was reading.

There is mayhem aplenty, with several good battle scenes in just the right doses. The action breaks up long periods of narrative in which we learn about the characters, their relationships, and their goals. And although there is only one monster - the Manthycore - and he physically appears only once in the story, his prescence is throughout, driving the plot.

If there is a weakness in the three M's (monster, mayhem and magic), it is the magic of the story. There is the curse bond between Nishi and the Manthycore, which keeps Nishi alive and allows her to heal more quickly, and the magical quest of the rubies that Nishi has undertaken to break the curse, but all of the magical moments seem to occur offstage. It's a subtle magic, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but I'd have liked to see a bit more of it.

The catharsis is pretty good, with a sense of loss and regret, but the ending felt hurried and was the weakest part of the story, as neither the conflict nor the curse is resolved. In this it is a realistic ending, but it doesn't deliver as strongly as a tighter ending might. As lengthy as this story is, I felt it should have been longer, as the final potential conflict between Nishi and the Amazon ends somewhat anticlimatically. If Tomb of the Amazon Queen is part of a longer work, I can understand why, but it was this very feeling of an incomplete, unrealized ending that prevented me from selecting this otherwise worthy tale.

Update: Michael tells us that his story is part of a larger tale, The Tears of Ishtar, which just came out last Friday from Cyberwizard Productions' Ancient Tome Press.