Steven Shrewsbury Interview
Posted: Mar-10-2015 at 9:33am
Sex Violence, and Sword and Sorcery
An interview with Steven Shrewsbury
by Ray Kane
STEVEN L. SHREWSBURY, the creator of Dack Shannon and the Majestic Universe, is the author of nearly 325 tales published online or in print. His most recent release is "Whore of Jericho" a controversial hardcore sword and sorcery novella release in trade-paperback and electronic form from Pitch-Black Books. A brash, and often combative figure, Shrewsbury laid bare some of his opinions of sword and sorcery fiction and the role of violence in modern fiction in the following interview, conducted just after the official release of "Whore of Jericho."
What's wrong with fantasy fiction these days? Why do you feel hardcore sword and sorcery has been given such a short shrift by the publishing establishment?
SS: Sometimes in these politically correct days, it's easier to go with the flow. Hyper sensitivity has sank down even into the realms of barbaric lust and bloodshed. I also feel many tales are written from a Role Playing Game POV. While this industry has kept interest in the genre, I wonder if certain book series carry on, ad nauseaum, because of a gamer mentality. Oh, it isn't all bad, by any means, but I oft wonder if in the fantasy section of a bookstore if the covers were rearranged on the books, if it'd make a difference.
Counter question: what's right with fantasy these days?
SS: One of the bright spots, Dave Gemmell, just died. I think the fact that folks are still taking a stab at it, putting their hearts and creative minds to it shows that the genre has life in it. There are a variety of forms and tastes. I reckon every things runs in cycles, like history or bad sports. There should be a variety. I suppose it's like any other business. A generation has been spoon fed a certain product so they are accustomed to that safe menu. Read Anne Rice. Read Stephen King. Then go read Clive Barker. Big difference. Same genre. There seems plenty of room in horror for that sort of diversity, yet, fantasy appears lacking.
How important are detailed descriptions of violence to sword and sorcery fiction?
SS: A tale or book rings pretty flaccid without it. One has to be believable, even if a writer has never really cut off a limb or disemboweled a dragon (Or, as in my forthcoming book THRALL, beaten a man to death with a dwarf) too little is not enough. I read stories where men or women "quaff ale" and I wonder if the author has ever really drank a beer in their lives, much less ale... or an Irish Car Bomb. Same with sex. It doesn't have to be something this side of Penthouse Letters, but make it real.
With violence, well, know your art. Understand the body and what it can do and tell your tale.
How do you stay so busy?
SS: The tales & books just stand up and demand to be told. I'm a better story teller than writer. Life teaches one lessons and gives you the push. Experience life, get out amongst people and live. That triggers the muse. Just last night at work we were discussing some crazy story in the news and I got a new idea for a book.
Got any tips for new and aspiring SF writers? Any secrets you feel like sharing?
SS: Write everyday and read as much as you can. When you read, it doesn't have to be SF or fantasy. Read horror or westerns, non-fiction, too. They can make the mind shift and teach you something about storytelling. Keep learning, keep studying the craft of writing. Listen to critics, but don't become obsessed with pleasing them. Some are just jerks and one cannot satisfy everyone.
What gets you up to keep writing?
SS: The spirit of Robert E. Howard grips my shoulders and, like they say in the Mob movies, I got no choice. Seriously, it's like an inborn need to tell stories. Bram Stoker winner Brian Keene said something to the effect of, a real writer writes because they have to... not just financial gain or glory... the need to write. That and some stomp-ass metal music and Johnny Cash gets me going. If someone buys me a beer or a few shots of Protestant whiskey, that helps as well.
What's in your pockets right now?
SS: Knife and a comb. My dad used to say he had whup-ass in his left pocket. My left pocket has a hole in it, which means the whup ass has rang down my leg... so I get it's kick ass now.
Tell me something about yourself that'll surprise everyone.
SS: I love Jesus. I think he's seriously all right. I also like Schnauzers, but not as much as Jesus. They are grumpy pricks like me.
What are you working on now?
SS: Next draft of horror novel TORMENTOR. A barbarian novel with Maurice Broaddus called BLACK SON RISING. Finishing up KING OF THE BASTARDS with Brian Keene. More BEDLAM work with Peter J. Welmerink. A slew of new Rogan short stories. Prepping for release of my DELIRIUM hardback BLACK RIBBON OF JOSEPHINE. Reminding folks to buy WHORE OF JERICHO from PITCH BLACK BOOKS.
Who are good writers to watch?
SS: In fantasy? Angeline Hawkes is an excellent writer and deserves to break out. She will. Peter Welmerink is better than he knows. Christopher Heath is doing great stuff. I do enjoy Nathan Meyer as well as David Wilbanks. Some cross genres folks that are horror as well are Nate Southard, Maurice Broaddus, Christopher Fulbright, Randy Chandler, Tim Curran and Jason Brannon.
Are you a sexist person? Do women write as good of sword and sorcery as men?
SS: I love women. I'm a big fan of them. Some of my best friends are women. I love and respect ladies a great deal. Angeline Hawkes has more balls than several male writers out there. Marion Zimmer Bradley is a great writer. As with most things in life, personal preference should be your guide. I can honestly say I've read as much fiction by women as men in any genre (save for maybe westerns) that I don't care for. If a writer sucks, an alternate set of orifices cannot change their ability.
Are you personally an aggressive person?
SS: Me? I'm a sweet ol' teddy bear (laughs for real). Sure I am. Ya gotta pick your spots, but yes, I'd say so.
What's your favorite medieval weapon?
SS: Tempted to say chastity belt, but I reckon an axe. I grew up on a farm (still live on one) and there wasn't much call for swords. I can use an axe. Many folks who write probably have never (and could never) pick up a real claymore or broadsword, much less use one. Oh, I can do both, but I would say the axe is more personal.
Who's a better writer Robert E. Howard, or Karl Edward Wagner?
SS: Oh, easy, Karl Edward Wagner. Howard is a better storyteller, though. KEW has better chops and has indeed harsher, but if REH had been born later, who knows? I love REH more personally, but I'm a realist.
WHORE OF JERICHO novella from Pitch Black Books.
copyright © 2006, Ray Kane
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