Sunday 23 July 2023



David A. Riley: Steve, you’ve been prominent in the swords and sorcery genre for some time now, not only as a writer but as editor and publisher with your own imprint Carnelian Press, through which you brought out two fanzines, The Hyborian Gazette and Twilight Echoes – Tales of Swords & Dark Magic. Which came first, the writing or the publishing, and can you give us a rundown on your career so far?

Steve Dilks:
 With the fanzines, I just wanted to get something up and running really. The whole REH community was getting pretty boring to me. I wanted to get out of the whole debate, argument and counter argument thing and put something creative out there. I saw a lot of talent lurking in the peripheries, and I wanted a place to express that; a place where I could shout; “Come and look at what these guys are doing!” A lot of great artists and writers ended up getting involved. On that front, The Hyborian Gazette was a real success. It attracted a lot of interest, but it was too much for me to keep up with the demand. I decided to stop doing it, mostly for my own sanity. I was printing it by hand in my bedsit and taking trips to the Post Office everyday but making zero money. Twilight Echoes was an off-shoot where I planned to showcase new talent in the sword & sorcery genre. The idea and execution were great, but it flopped. No one bought it and the whole s-&-s scene exploded a couple of years later anyway with much better realized products.
As for my own writing, that was already there. My first proper sale was in 2019 when Weirdbook published my SF story, ‘The Idols of Xan’. I’m currently wrapping up a novelette for Jason M Waltz’ swan-song anthology, Neither Beg Nor Yield, which should be out sometime early next year.

DAR: Which other writers have been the biggest influences on your own sword and sorcery stories?

SD: Ok, I’ll come clean. I’m influenced by all of them! Even the bad ones! Why not? Sometimes it’s just a mesh of everything and nothing. Even other genres!

DAR: Like many sword and sorcery writers your stories have a number of continuing characters, like Bohun of Damzullah. Do you think this is an important feature and something readers prefer?  

SD: For me, it’s a fun thing to do and those who like the Bohun stories enjoy reading them. There’s just something fun about the serial format, following a character on a journey through a pre-classical world, exploring strange cities and hostile landscapes.

DAR: What are your feelings about sword and sorcery novels? These are not common, and some people feel the genre is better suited to the short story and novelette formats. Robert E. Howard only completed one Conan novel. Do you think you would ever venture into attempting one yourself?

SD: I’m actually writing a short s-&-s novel at the moment. I’ve never quite got why people think they’re not common. There are literally hundreds. I could do you a top ten list of my favourites right now! The only reason sword & sorcery was written in shorter formats was because they initially started in the pulps which catered for the short-story market. But even then there were exceptions. A. Merritt’s The Ship of Ishtar, for instance, was published in 1924 and Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword came out in 1954. There have been thousands of sword-&-sorcery novels since the ‘60s. Michael Moorcock wrote a fair few— The Eternal Champion, the Elric, Corum and Hawkmoon books. So did L. Sprague de Camp. Lin Carter did a series or two as did John Jakes and Gardner F. Fox. Then there were Karl Edward Wagner’s Kane novels, David C. Smith’s Oron, James Silke’s Death Dealer series…

DAR: Do you ever worry what constitutes a true sword and sorcery story or are you flexible in your attitude to the genre? Some people seem highly interested in laying down rules and lists of what’s needed to qualify as such. Does this bother you at all?

SD: Nope. If a story is well written it doesn’t need to worry about any of these things.

DAR: Print on demand and the increase in indie publishers has obviously had a big impact on the genre in recent years, with magazines like Savage Realms Monthly and the increased number of anthologies that seem to pop up with impressive frequency at the moment, as, of course, have online magazines such as Swords & Sorcery Monthly, not to mention eBooks – and, more recently, audio as well. Do you sometimes fear we could face an eventual glut of the market and that today’s apparent popularity might result in tomorrow’s boredom?

SD: Absolutely. It will happen, and go the same way the whole Cthulhu obsession did a few years ago. But as Lovecraft himself once wrote— ‘That is not dead which can eternal lie…’

DR: Where do you see the genre going next? Do you expect to see it shrink once more or, because of the proliferation of POD and indie presses, do you see it soldiering on? After all, without a reliance on the big publishers anymore, so long as there is a substantial enough core of fans out there to keep the genre alive, it will remain so. If so, who will be the next giants as such in the genre. In its golden age there were the likes of Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith, followed by Henry Kuttner, Fritz Leiber, C. L. Moore, Michael Moorcock and a handful of others.  Who do you see as today’s? Or is there instead a vast proliferation of names too numerous to mention?

SD:  So long as the stories are good and the writers, editors and publishers are true to their craft there will always be readers. Those that will make a name for themselves in the genre will be those that can also write beyond it. All the writers you just mentioned are known for other things. Believe it or not, Howard’s biggest success in his lifetime were his humuorous western stories featuring Breckenridge Elkins—which everyone should read by the way. Kuttner was a diverse hand who worked in SF, horror and fantasy. Leiber won the Hugo Award for The Big Time and wrote critically acclaimed horror like Conjure Wife and A Spectre is Haunting Texas. Moorcock edited New Worlds and wrote The Dancers at the End of Time, A Cure for Cancer and Gloriana. A genre is only as healthy as the stimulus behind it. 


For more information about books by or including stories by Steve Dilks use the following links:

Steve Dilks UK


For information and news across the swords and sorcery genre join the

Swords & Sorceries: Tales of Heroic Fantasy Group 


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