Everything You Wanted to Know About Oliver Brackenbury
Oliver Brackenbury is one of those unique authors who has done it all. From screenwriting to podcasting to writing a novel to founding a magazine, he's checked the box. Oliver was kind enough to share his writing and publishing journey with me as well as share a wealth of resources for readers and writers.
1. Tell me about your journey as a writer. You have had experience in writing in so many different
mediums. How did you find your way into podcasting, screenwriting, novels, and magazines? How did
you break through to publication in these different realms, and what advice do you have for others based
on your own journey and experience?
Oh man, that’s basically asking me my life’s story, but I’ll to keep this concise as I can. Growing up I loved
writing and telling stories since before I could actually write on paper – I dictated my first story to my
mum – and it was no surprise that I went on to study English Literature with a Film Studies minor in
I spent my twenties largely working hard to polish my craft and figure out where I wanted to live while I
did that. I wrote mostly short films and webseries, as well as all the practice writing you never want
anybody to see again because it’s so rough, but you had to do it to get better.
In my thirties I started to feel confident enough to try things like writing my first novel, which was
published traditionally through a small press I queried and applying for a prestigious TV career
development program at Canada’s National Screen Institute – where I got in!
Since then I’ve yet to have a TV show made--that’s super difficult-- but have been paid for my
screenwriting and have a couple of projects I’m still hoping to get on the screen. In prose I tried
self-publishing for my second novel, wasn’t too jazzed about that experience, and am now writing my
largest publicly accessible speculative fiction archive and discovered I liked it. So I thought I’d try to
build an audience for my third novel, while writing it, by doing a podcast where I share my work on the
novel as it’s written. I also mix things up with literary-focused interviews.
For now I’ll tie this off with that advice you requested. There’s an awful lot I could give, however, I’ll
focus on two things that have benefited me the most. First, do the work more than you talk about it.
Promotion is very important, naturally, but just talking about the things you want to write won’t actually
write them. Second, make friends. Get involved with writing communities, even do some volunteer work if you can, while focusing on being positive and building friendships. Nothing in life is guaranteed, but do that and I reckon things can’t go too badly for you.
2. What inspired you to create a magazine, and what is the significance of "sword and sorcery?" Who
is on your team and what roles do you have in its creation?
The magazine came out of spirited discussions last spring on the Whetstone Tavern discord about how
to grow and diversify Sword & Sorcery. I’d been thinking about founding some kind of short fiction
magazine on and off for a couple of years, and this gave me the point of focus for that which I’d been
I think Sword & Sorcery is a great, distinct fantasy subgenre. What separates it from fantasy at large has
had countless column inches spent on it, so for brevity’s sake I’ll give my quick definition, and then why I
think the genre’s great.
Sword & Sorcery tells short, episodic tales with historical and horror-tinged influences of outsider
protagonists with personal motivations, facing dark and dangerous magic. I think it’s a great genre partly for its long history, going back to the pulp magazines of the 1930’s, and partly for its potential for the future.
For example, S&S is a great place for characters from marginalized backgrounds. With its focus on
outsider protagonists who succeed because, not in spite, of who they are, I think S&S is ripe for more
stories centered on people who haven’t had a great deal of representation in popular fiction until quite
recently. It's also highly flexible; I often say “S&S can be a lot of things and still be S&S.” Its leaner tales make it easier to sample a wide variety of authors, and S&S protagonists pretty much always punch up.
Though they often are motivated more by greed, glory, or other forms of self-interest, S&S protagonists
are forever stealing from, fighting, and otherwise striking back at the cruel, corrupt people who fancy
themselves masters of the universe. It’s almost entirely lacking Chosen One narratives, or a “muggle”
style device teaching readers you literally have to be separate from and above the rest of us puny humans
in order to be special. For all these reasons and more, I think it has a lot of potential for growth, and I’m optimistic it may be on the cusp of a new wave of mainstream popularity.
Back to the origin of the magazine: in short, I teamed up with a few members of the Whetstone Tavern
discord to form a core staff of four. I’m the editor in chief, basically the captain of the ship, while
Nathan Web handles Layout & Design, Jordan Douglas Smith is our copyeditor, and Kevin Beckett mans
the sails of our social media. Also Tania Morrison, an old friend of mine, transcribes interviews from my podcast for use in the magazine. I like to see how one thing I’m doing can benefit another, which is how you have an episode of my podcast where I did mini-interviews with the fiction authors in issue #0, for example.
3. What can readers expect from your magazine? What is your mission, and how is it unique as a
publication? If someone wanted to publish their work with you, how would they do it? What are other
ways we can support your publication?
What readers can expect in New Edge Sword & Sorcery are excellent short stories paired with original
art and thoughtful articles related to the genre, including essays, interviews, and book reviews. They can
also expect a high quality magazine with layout and design carefully assembled by people who love
books as objects, as well as for their content.
What distinguishes it?
The magazines most on my mind while designing my own were the two I love the most — Tales from the
my heart and am just using them as a point of comparison in my answer, by no means slagging off
either. As with all S&S magazines, our goal is sharing with readers the best stories, art, and articles we possibly can! Now, the differences…
The magazine is available in hardcover… something I’m not currently aware of with any other S&S
magazine. Keeping an eye to financial accessibility and personal preferences, there is also softcover and
ePub formats. Whether you’re into having beautiful objects on your shelf or just want the bloody
stories, we’ve got you!
We’re also focused on experimentation in storytelling, art, and the magazine format itself. Take art:
while the popular pulp and OSR/D&D styles you encounter often in the S&S scene will always have a
home at our magazine (I love what the Skull does with the former, and Whetstone with the latter), I also
want to experiment with other styles as we move forward and I can actually pay artists. I hear money
makes it easier to get people on board? There’s also been some exciting talk already about messing around with non-Western storytelling structures and themes you don’t often come across in S&S, such as environmentalism. As I say, I think flexibility is truly one of the genre’s greatest strengths.
I sometimes imagine it as a truly wild wrestling ring with posts, perhaps seven, akin to Brian Murphy’s
excellent genre definition in Flame & Crimson: A History of Sword & Sorcery, that clearly mark
boundaries. Yet what runs between them? A strong, highly elastic rope for authors to stretch and
bounce off of, executing all kinds of cool, exciting moves!
We’re “Rated R.” Some mags, like the Skull, prefer to keep things PG-13 to help draw in younger
audiences. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that, but we’ll be leaving the door open for adult themes, violence,
and sexuality. Despite the magazine’s name, we’re not edgelords over here. Said violence and sexuality
will be approached thoughtfully, with the latter ideally considering a variety of perspectives, while also
serving the stories they’re present in.
Then there’s our intentional approach to inclusion, and inclusion statement (found on our website and
in the magazine). We most certainly are not the only people who care about inclusion. However I am
currently unaware of any other S&S magazines taking my highly intentional approach to inclusion or
who choose to have a statement of inclusion within their pages
If you want to learn more about inclusion as it relates to the magazine and my take on S&S, I’d
recommend this Bobby Derie Deep Cuts interview I did which focuses almost entirely on that aspect.
“Inclusion” is just one word, but by gum you can end up saying an awful lot about it.
If someone wanted to be published in our magazine right now…
I would just say “Thank you!” and “Please be patient.” For at least the first few issues I will only be
taking in stories through direct commissions because I am, frankly, intimidated by the prospect of
tackling a submission pile. That said if we manage to make it to issue 5 or so, then I think I would like to
try and get over that fear, especially if I have some good slush readers.
Other ways to support the magazine
Hands down the best ways you can do it are to support us in our February Kickstarter! Back it, tell
people about it, encourage people with big platforms to help advertise it…
Joining and sharing our super low-intensity mailing list is great, too. We’ve sent one email in the past six
months, letting people know issue #0 was out, and we do raffles where one random member of the
mailing list is chosen to receive one or even two free contemporary S&S books! Being on the mailing list also ensures you’ll hear about our Kickstarter for issues 1&2 on the launch day, meaning you won’t miss the opportunity to get a first-day backer exclusive bookmark featuring original art which will never be shown anywhere else! Otherwise, telling folks about our website, where you can still get issue #0 for free in ePub/PDF formats, is grand. You can also help boost us by following and sharing us across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Heck, you can even find us on Mastadon at @firstname.lastname@example.org
4. What are you most excited about in future editions of the magazine? Are there any authors you're
excited to work with or stories/art that you're excited to share? What is your goal for 2023?
My main goal for the magazine in 2023 is to knock the Kickstarter for issues 1&2 out of the park!
In terms of creators I have to be coy about that for now and just say that I’m bringing everybody back
from issue #0 to spread them across 1&2. The other half of the authors and artists? Well, you’ll have to
follow us on social media for the contributor reveals we’ll be doing across the last two weeks of January.
Beyond that, I‘m very excited to put out more issues of the magazine, to eventually publish one-off
“Special Issues” which would be like magazine-length anthologies focused on a single hook or theme (ex.
Pirates!), and grow to publishing book-length anthologies and novellas. Overall, if I can help substantially contribute to the popularity, diversity, and variety of S&S storytelling, authorship, and fandom while paying creators a good wage, then I’ll be a happy guy.
5. What have you most enjoyed writing in 2022 and why?
Probably my short story “Hunter” for how it surprised me by bursting into my head only two weeks
before a deadline I had another story lined up for. I’m glad I listened to that burst of inspiration because
Writing "Hunter" allowed me to play with a character who had been more or less in my head since I was a
teenager and to take a break from the character in my novel-in-progress. I still love that character, Voe,
but she’s almost all I’ve written for over a year now, so it was nice to get in the head of someone else,
someone very different, who let me play with things like poetry and pigments.
6. What have you most enjoyed reading in 2022 and why?
Oh gosh, there was some stiff competition, but I think it was a craft book: “Several Short Sentences
About Writing” by Verlyn Klinkenborg. I find most craft books turn me off by trying to promise The One True Way to Write (My Way), but this one does two great things. First, it gives you tools instead of One True Way, and secondly, this is what really set it apart for me, it helps you see your own, already existing skills more clearly. The mental de-cluttering this book gave me was so very welcome after decades of reading all kinds of writing advice. It helped me enjoy the act of writing more, and better appreciate the fiction I read.
7. What are you most excited to write in 2023 and why?
I’m excited to write as much as I can of the first draft of my novel-in-progress, which has been getting
thoroughly outlined since July 2021 and was birthed by a short story I wrote the first draft of in 2019!
8. What are you most excited to read in 2023 and why?
Lord of a Shattered Land, which will be released in hardcover on August 1, 2023. It’s by Howard
Andrew Jones and will be the first in a series of Sword & Sorcery novels. Set in a fantasy world, the
series is based on the cultures of the ancient Mediterranean, with Hannibal of Carthage inspiring its
hero. He is driven by a singular purpose: to find what remains of his people, who were carried into
slavery across the empire, and free them from subjugation by any means necessary.
Hanuvar is the character of Howard’s who first made me fall in love with his writing, which I discovered
in issue #3 of Tales from the Magician’s Skull – Howard’s most excellent Sword & Sorcery magazine. I’ve
also taken a Heroic Fantasy writing class with Howard, and he’s generally been a real swell guy when
we’ve chatted. I really want to see him continue to succeed, and I’m very curious to read Hanuvar in
book format after several years of short stories in magazines.
9. What questions, themes, or ideas drive you as a writer and creator? What kinds of characters and
stories inspire and drive you?
I’m drawn to anything which gives me a chance to say something I feel strongly about and to challenge
myself to improve my skills, to think outside my own box. The specifics of that has changed a lot over
the years…but I guess I can say for sure that I’m always drawn to characters who have a strong sense of
self and, ultimately, won’t let other tell them who they are. Challenging the status quo also has a way of
cropping up in my work over and over. I want to break new ground, in myself and the world outside myself!
10. What else should we know about you as a writer/person?
Oh man, I’ve told so much already. I think I’ll just say that if people want to follow what I do at large,