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Some Heads Are Gonna Roll…


Cover of HEAD LOPPER #2

Reading Andrew MacLean’s new comic HEAD LOPPER was an exhilarating experience. It’s great to have a new fantasy-adventure comic–or Sword-and-Sorcery if you prefer–and this book is the best book of its kind since James Stokoe’s gonzo-brilliant ORC STAIN.

As you might expect from the title, HEAD LOPPER involves a lot of decapitations. Yet its cartoon-art style is so colorful and brilliant the gore factor never overwhelms the narrative. If Jack Kirby had done a CONAN comic, it might have been a lot like this. There’s a whole lotta Mike Mignola influence here too–which is always a good thing.

HEAD LOPPER also reminded me of the infamous fantasy tradition of the Severed Head. Reaching all the way back to the story of Perseus and the Medusa, perhaps even farther, this gruesome scene shows up again and again. Perhaps it has something to do with how our ancestors lopped off the heads of their enemies with great pride, often displaying them as trophies that eroded to skulls over time. Hell, the French lopped off so many heads at one point that they built a machine to do it faster! And yet they seem so civilized today…


Artwork by Enrich Torres.

It’s no coincidence that the climax of CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982)–probably the single best Sword-and-Sorcery movie ever made–is when Conan takes the head of the evil Thulsa Doom and brandishes it before the brainwashed masses. That moment of revenge breaks the wizard’s dark spell, but it’s really just payback for Doom’s beheading of Conan’s mother in the film’s first act.

I saw the movie as a 12-year-old, and I was shocked at the violence of that scene. But I’d already seen my share of severed heads on the covers of fantasy magazines and even a few novels. As early as 7 or 8 years old I was grabbing copies of SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN directly from the local convenience store rack. There were also mags like CREEPY, EERIE, and 1994–from the twisted geniuses at Warren Publishing. Thankfully Dark Horse Publishing has brought all of this great stuff back into print in terrific collections.


Artwork by the great Ernie Chan.

Enjoy these classic covers featuring the grand tradition of the Severed Head motif. Nothing says “Sword-and-Sorcery” or “Savage Tales” more than this particular pose. In this type of artwork horror and fantasy meet, mingle, and combine to form a chilling effect. Even Shakespeare did the Severed Head in MACBETH, and he kinda did it in HAMLET with Yorick’s skull.

This weekend I watched the first two episodes of BBC America’s THE LAST KINGDOM–a terrific historical drama based on the works of Bernard Cornwell–and there it was again at the end of ep one: The Severed Head motif. What better way to taunt your enemy than to display the head of his slain cohort? What single image says “conquest” more than the Severed Head shot? Call it Dark Fantasy, Sword-and-Sorcery, or Grimdark. Doesn’t really matter.

Whatever you wanna call it, one thing’s for sure: Heads will roll.


Artwork by Sanjulian.


Artwork by Big John Buscema.


Artwork by Enrich Torres.


WEIRDBOOK #31: Get Yer Weird On


Front Cover

The huge new issue of WEIRDBOOK (first issue since 1997!) is now available on Kindle  for only $3.99. The paperback version is also available for $12 + S&H. It’s a massive eldritch tome, as you can see from the Table of Contents below.

I’m honored to have a new dark fantasy tale, “Chivaine”,  appearing in the issue. The front cover is a painting by Dusan Kostic, while the back cover features work from the great Stephen E. Fabian, who did all the covers for the original WB run.

Editor Doug Draa calls this new issue ” a bridge between the magazine’s past and it’s future.” Doug has moved Heaven and Earth to bring Paul Ganley’s classic weird fantasy magazine back to life. Doug has partnered with John Betancourt at Wildside Press to make it possible. Get your weird on…

Full Table of Contents

Chivaine by John R. Fultz
Give Me the Daggers by Adrian Cole
The Music of Bleak Entrainment
by Gary A. Braunbeck 
Into The Mountains with Mother Old Growth
by Christian Riley
The Grimlorn Under the Mountain
by James Aquilone 
by Paul Dale Anderson 
Gut Punch
by Jason A. Wyckoff 
Educational Upgrade
by Bret McCormick
Boxes of Dead Children
by Darrell Schweitzer 
The Forgotten
by D.C. Lozar
Coffee with Dad’s Ghost
by Jessica Amanda Salmonson
Missed It By That Much
by Gregg Chamberlain 
A Clockwork Muse
by Erica Ruppert 
The Rookery
by Kurt Newton 
Wolf of Hunger Wolf of Shame 
by J. T. Glover
Zucchini Season
by Janet Harriett
The Jewels That Were Their Eyes
by Llanwyre Laish 
The Twins
by Kevin Strange
Princess or Warrior?
by S.W. Lauden
The City in the Sands
by Ann K. Schwader
by Frederick J. Mayer
Walpurgis Eve
by Kyle Opperman 
Sonnets of an Eldritch Bent
by W. H. Pugmire
Castle Csejthe
by Ashley Dioses
The Shrine
by Wade German
Bride of Death
by Dave Reeder
Modern Primitive
by Chad Hensley

 Visit the WEIRDBOOK homepage.

Art by Bruce Pennington

Sometimes you finish a novel, but the novel isn’t finished with you.

Last week I completed the revisions on my latest novel, a Big Weird Fantasy (title to be revealed later). I’ve been working so hard on this novel for so long (started in January then hit full-speed in June) that I hardly know what to do with myself now that my time is freed up again.

I went back to school in mid-August (I’m a high school teacher), so I had to go back to revising only during weekends and spare hours. But that was okay–I finish my first drafts during the summer, then do revisions. So for the past month-and-a-half I’ve been revising 2 or 3 chapters per week. It feels great to finally be done with the book and have it in my agent’s hands at last.

And yet…

Art by Zdzislaw Beksinski

Art by Zdzislaw Beksinski

Last night I couldn’t stop dreaming about the society of mechanical people that is the centerpiece of the novel. These “clockwork people” live primarily in a city called The Urbille, which is the center of a multi-dimensional Nexus connecting thousands of parallel earths. This novel is lingering in my consciousness longer than any other book I’ve written. Could it be due to the fact that it’s the best book I’ve ever written?

I have a theory (based on empirical evidence) that each project a writer completes makes him or her a better writer. This new book is my 5th novel, and I’m convinced at this point that it’s the best. The most ambitious. The most genre-blending. And possibly the most philosophical. But these are simply my thoughts about the novel as the writer who just completed writing it.

Art by Les Edwards

Art by Les Edwards

Writers tend to vacillate between thinking their latest work is the greatest thing ever and the conviction that it’s utterly worthless. I’m sure the day will come when my confidence in this novel as my “best ever” will begin to wane. Writers are often their own worst critics, and we’re far more sensitive about our work than we gladly admit.

Today I’ve got time to do this blog post–the first one since I dedicated all my time to finishing the Urbille novel–and I find myself wondering: Why can’t I stop thinking/dreaming about the clockwork people in my novel? Is my subconscious trying to send me a message? Or am I having literary withdrawal symptoms?

When I’m writing a novel I literally can’t stop. Even when I’m not at the keyboard my mind is constantly turning over concepts, characters, ideas, and details. This happens whether I’m awake or asleep. Indeed, some of my best ideas come from my half-awake mind. I chalk this up to the dream-state being a direct line to my subconscious. Sometimes the conscious mind can get in the way of what’s trying to bubble up from the pool of the subconscious mind. When I’m sleeping, that barrier no longer exists.

Art by Zdzislaw Beksinski

Art by Zdzislaw Beksinski

Writing a novel (at least for me) is all-consuming. It takes over my thoughts, actions, sleep patterns, dreams, musical choices, reading choices, entertainment choices. It’s hard to get “away” from the novel when you’re in the middle of crafting it. The only way out of that tunnel is through the far end, i.e. finishing the novel.

I imagine it’s a lot like giving birth. While a woman has the baby inside her, she changes her entire lifestyle to accommodate it and make it as healthy as possible. By the ninth month, she’s usually more-than-ready for it to come out of her body–the natural result of everything she’s been doing for the better part of a year. Yet after the baby is out in the world, there often comes a postpartum depression. That’s kind of how it is finishing a novel…

Art by Richard Corben

Art by Richard Corben

First there’s elation. “It’s done! By the Bones of Odin, it’s finally done!” Then there’s the come-down. “Oh, wow, it’s done. What do I do now? I’ve actually got free time.” You might think it would be the perfect time to start another novel, but that usually doesn’t happen right away. Think about it: Does a woman usually get pregnant again right after she’s given birth? Not if she has anything to say about it.

The last thing I want to do right now is start another novel. First, I’m working full-time so there’s no time to dedicate to it. Second, before you can write a novel you have to come up with an IDEA for it–and that can take months or years. Third, it takes a TREMENDOUS amount of ENERGY to conceive, draft, and perfect a novel. It wears you out. You need time to recover, just like a woman who has given birth.

Art by Bruce Pennington

Art by Bruce Pennington

The obvious choice would be to write a few short stories. Focus on short-form works until the next Big Idea for a novel comes along. For me, that usually doesn’t come until the beginning of the new year (or sometimes during the last couple weeks of the outgoing year). Writing short stories involves using different muscles than writing novels, although there are some commonalities.

Yet here’s the problem with writing short stories, at least the way I see it: In order to sell a story (i.e. get it published) you generally have to meet the editorial tastes of whomever is running the magazine you’re submitting the story to. That is, you have to write something that will “fit in” with what a publication usually publishes. However, the best short stories don’t come from following a publisher’s guidelines, they come from a writer’s personal inspiration and private conception. In other words, a writer of short stories has to make a choice: Are you going to write FOR a particular market? Or are you going to write exactly what you WANT to write?

Doing the second choice is where I am drawn to short stories. I’m not interested in “writing to the guidelines”–which is why I don’t sell many short stories. I spent 15 years trying to write something worthy of being published in WEIRD TALES. It was the Holy Grail of fiction magazines, and I started submitting stories back in college circa ’88/’89. I came back every few years with a new story and got a new rejection. But I also got amazing advice and critiques from the WT editors (mostly Darrell Schweitzer).

Weird Tales #340 Cover by Les Edwards

Weird Tales #340
Cover by Les Edwards

Eventually, in 2004, I managed to sell my first professional short story, “The Persecution of Artifice the Quill” in WEIRD TALES #340. (I actually sold two more Artifice stories to WT after that, but they never saw publication there because the magazine came under new management.) So after spending 15 years as an unofficial “apprentice” to one of the greatest living fantasy writers (Mr. Schweitzer), I’m not all that interested in honing my short story craft to meet the dictates of other editors. I learned from one of the best there is.

What I AM interested in is following my muse–creating stories that please ME, not an editor. Writing isn’t my primary source of income, which gives me the freedom to write only what I’m really interested in writing. It’s a great freedom to have.

I still sell short stories now and then. I’d sell a LOT more if I was willing to “write to the guidelines.” But I have a day job–I follow other peoples’ rules all day. I don’t want to follow anyone else’s rules when I write short stories. Especially rules that aren’t rules at all, but actually lists of editorial preferences. These preferences vary from editor to editor, and from publication to publication.

Art by Bruce Pennington

Art by Bruce Pennington

I have to admit, I wish there were more magazines out there (online and offline) that would let writers do their own thing. But most of them are looking for VERY PRECISE qualities in the fiction they publish. If you don’t write with those qualities in mind, you’re not going to get published in those mags. 

So I may crank out some short stories over the next few months. Or not. It depends on if I have any worthy IDEAS for short stories. And if I do have a worthy idea, if I do write a story, it may not find a market for months, years, or never. Seriously, I no longer have the patience or stamina to write story after story and send them out to magazine after magazine, rotating them in an endless cycle. Been there, done that–for two decades. I’d much rather write novels. 

Often I’ll write a story because there’s a themed anthology coming out and I’ve been invited into it–such as Schweitzer’s THAT IS NOT DEAD and CTHULHU’S REIGN. But for the most part I’m only writing the stories that fascinate me, that have to be told, that I can’t stand NOT to write. I regret the fact that I was so consumed with revisions on my new novel that I actually missed the window for the latest Schweitzer anthology.

Art by Bruce Pennington

Art by Bruce Pennington

It’s doing this–writing exactly what I feel most powerful about–that’s landed me my greatest success. For example, when Laird Barron picked “The Key To Your Heart Is Made Of Brass” for YEAR’S BEST WEIRD FICTION Vol. 1, I was very pleased because this is a story that no mainstream publishers wanted to take a chance on. It was rejected 9 times, then wound up as “Best of the Year.” I’ve written two more stories set in the Urbille universe, and now this new novel that blows the roof off that universe and expands it in fantastic ways.

So I find myself wondering two things in my newfound quiet time:

Why am I still dreaming about the clockwork people of The Urbille?


Art by Stephen E. Fabian


What am I going to write next?


UrbilleYe Gods, they’ve done it again!

The fine folks at the FAR-FETCHED FABLES podcast have audio-adapted another of my stories: “Flesh of the City, Bones of the World”.

“Flesh” is the second story set in the weird universe of The Urbille. The first was “The Key To Your Heart Is Made Of Brass,” which appeared in Laird Barron’s YEAR’S BEST WEIRD FICTION Vol 1.

FFF adapted “Key” a few short months ago. These stories are stand-alone tales, so it’s not necessary to read one to understand the other. However, you can hear both of them at FFF:

“The Key To Your Heart Is Made Of Brass” – Urbille 1

“Flesh of the City, Bones of the World” – Urbille 2

Both stories were originally published in FUNGI magazine. There is a third Urbille story, “The Rude Mechanicals and the Highwayman,” appearing in the newest issue of FUNGI (#22).  Eventually I’m hoping FFF will audio-adapt “Rude Mechanicals” as well.

I’m also in the process of finishing an Urbille novel—a Big Weird Fantasy that mashes genres together and spans hundreds of alternate dimensions. I don’t have an official title for it yet, but I should be done with the revisions and ready to send it to my agent by September. (Fingers firmly crossed.)

The Urbille novel features some of the characters from these stories, but it will also be entirely stand-alone. You won’t have to read any of the Urbille stories to pick up and enjoy the novel. But don’t let that stop you…


Sanctum Sanctorum


I really love this classic Bob Larkin painting of Marvel’s DR. STRANGE because it’s a perfect metaphor for writers and the writing process. He’s sitting in a contemplative position physically, but his spirit–his astral self–is roaming free. That’s exactly what it feels like to write a novel…your body sits in one place but your mind is roaming free, exploring realms of imagination…and making cosmic connections with the truth of existence, if you’re lucky.

I’m working on a Big Weird Fantasy novel right now, hence the lack of posts on this blog the last couple of months. It’s the most ambitious project I’ve ever attempted, and I feel like Stephen Strange exploring bizarre, Ditko-esque realms of psychedelic fantasy. Watch me crush these Mindless Ones, y’all.

Here’s to you, Dr. Strange. I look forward to your impending cinematic debut.


Front Cover

My story “Chivaine” will be appearing in the new issue of WEIRDBOOK (#31) from Wildside Press. Here’s a look at the front cover by Dusan Kostic. The back cover will be a piece by the great Stephen E. Fabian, who did all the covers for the original WB run. This issue is sort of a bridge between the magazine’s past and it’s future.

Doug Draa has done an immense job of resurrecting Paul Ganley’s classic weird fantasy mag, and it’s great to be a part of the first issue since 1997. The new issue is slated for an October release.

A brief excerpt: “Chivaine with his silver sword and gleaming mail. Chivaine with his lion eyes and quick limbs. Chivaine on his white horse strung with chains of gold and jewels. Chivaine. Bane of Invaders.”


UPDATE: Here’s the Table of Contents for WEIRDBOOK #31:

Chivaine by John R. Fultz
Give Me the Daggers by Adrian Cole
The Music of Bleak Entrainment by Gary A. Braunbeck
Into the Mountains with Mother Old Growth by Christian Riley
The Grimlorn Under the Mountain by James Aquilone
Dolls by Paul Dale Anderson
Gut Punch by Jason A. Wyckoff
Educational Upgrade by Bret McCormick
Boxes of Dead Children by Darrell Schweitzer
The Forgotten by D.C. Lozar
Coffee with Dad’s Ghost by Jessica Amanda Salmonson
Missed It By That Much by Gregg Chamberlain
A Clockwork Muse by Erica Ruppert
The Rookery by Kurt Newton
Wolf of Hunger, Wolf of Shame by J.T. Glover
Zucchini Season by Janet Harriett
The Jewels That Were Their Eyes by Llanwyre Laish
The Twins by Kevin Strange
Princess or Warrior? by S.W. Lauden


Back Cover

The City in the Sands by Ann K. Schwader
NecRomance by Frederick J. Mayer
The Shrine by Wade German
Bride of Death by Dave Reeder
Modern Primitive by Chad Hensley

UPDATE: There will also be a sonnet from Wilum Pugmire, as well as pieces from Ashley Dioses and Kyle Opperman, in #31.

Visit the WEIRDBOOK homepage.

TE-CoverWithLogoThe softcover -AND- eBook versions of
are now available!!!

Click HERE to order .


TALL EAGLE on Facebook
TALL EAGLE @ Ragnarok


Far-Fetched FablesThe fine folks at the FAR-FETCHED FABLES Podcast interviewed me about TALL EAGLE.

They’ve also produced an excellent audio adaptation of my story “The Key To Your Heart Is Made Of Brass” (from YEAR’S BEST WEIRD FICTION), read by the talented Eric Luke. I’m currently working on a novel set in the same world as this story, the weird world of the Potentates of Urbille.

Click over to Far-Fetched Fables, Ep. 60 and enjoy the weirdness…


TE-CoverWithLogoIt’s here! now has THE TESTAMENT OF TALL EAGLE available in Kindle format for only $4.99.

I’ll post an update as soon as the print version of the book goes on sale.

TALL EAGLE on Facebook
TALL EAGLE @ Ragnarok

TE-PartyPromoThe Grim Tidings Podcast did a Tribal Fantasy episode wherein we talked about THE TESTAMENT OF TALL EAGLE, the craft and business of writing fantasy, grimdark authors, and much more.

Check it out and give us a listen!

Read the complete Chapter 1: “On the Spirit Trail” now at

Read an excerpt from Chapter 4: “On the Blood Trail” at Grimdark Magazine.

THE TESTAMENT OF TALL EAGLE goes on sale June 8th.

TALL EAGLE on Facebook
TALL EAGLE @ Ragnarok


TE-CoverWithLogo“TALL EAGLE is myth-making of epic scope. Fultz has rapidly matured into a major fantasist.” — Laird Barron​ (Author of THE BEAUTIFUL THING THAT AWAITS US ALL)
“…vivid characterizations and thrilling action scenes…plays against the traditional faux-European inspirations of so many fantasy writers. A thrilling rollercoaster of a read!” — Mark Smylie​ (Author of THE BARROW)
“Fultz delivers the goods.” — Howard Andrew Jones​ (Author of DESERT OF SOULS)

“An addictively readable blend of adventure fantasy a la Edgar Rice Burroughs and Michael Moorcock with classic western pulp from authors like Max Brand. 4 OUT OF 4 STARS”– Paul Goat Allen​ (FULL REVIEW HERE)


TALL EAGLE on Facebook
TALL EAGLE @ Ragnarok

TALL EAGLE @ Grimdark

Cover art by Alex Raspad

Cover art by Alex Raspad

A brand-new excerpt from THE TESTAMENT OF TALL EAGLE is now available for reading at the Grimdark Magazine website.

This excerpt comes from Chapter 4 – “On the Blood Trail”, wherein Tall Eagle takes the warpath alongside Bear Killer. Here’s a sample:

“We painted our faces death-black, with two red lines on forehead and chin representing the spilled blood of our enemies. We consecrated our shields, arrows, bows, axes, and spears while the women urged us on with the high song of their screaming. In the cool wind of midnight we left the Winter Village and followed Bear Killer into the mountains, moving quiet as snakes through mounds of fallen leaves. The glow of the village fires faded as we marched toward the mountainous country of the Urkis.”

Read the full excerpt right HERE. 

And the complete Chapter 1: “On the Spirit Trail” is still available at

THE TESTAMENT OF TALL EAGLE goes on sale June 8th.

TALL EAGLE on Facebook
TALL EAGLE @ Ragnarok


600full-tanith-lee          “Though we come and go, and pass into the shadows, where we leave behind us stories told – on paper, on the wings of butterflies, on the wind, on the hearts of others – there we are remembered, there we work magic and great change – passing on the fire like a torch – forever and forever. Till the sky falls, and all things are flawless and need no words at all.”

–Tanith Lee

TALL EAGLE: Chapter 1

Chapter 1: “On the Spirit Trail”
is posted now at for free reading.

The book goes on sale June 8.    

TALL EAGLE on Facebook
TALL EAGLE @ Ragnarok

THE TESTAMENT OF TALL EAGLE will be published in June by Ragnarok Publications.

Nick Sharps interviews me in some detail about TALL EAGLE at the RagnaBlog.


TALL EAGLE on Facebook
TALL EAGLE @ Ragnarok





THE TESTAMENT OF TALL EAGLE will be published in June by Ragnarok Publications.

THE TESTAMENT OF TALL EAGLE will be published June 8 by Ragnarok Publications.

Ragnarok has announced June 8 as the release date for THE TESTAMENT OF TALL EAGLE.

The countdown begins…

A preview of Chapter 1: “On the Spirit Trail,” will soon be available for free reading at

Early in June a second preview of the novel–an excerpt from Chapter 4: “On the Blood Trail” — will appear at (also free)

YBWeirdFictionOn June 9 I’ll be guesting on the Far-Fetched Fables Podcast, which is presenting a special audio adaptation of my story “The Key To Your Heart Is Made Of Brass” (from YEAR’S BEST WEIRD FICTION, Vol. 1).

I’m also planning an appearance on the Grim Tidings Podcast to discuss “grimdark” fantasy, TALL EAGLE, and The Books of the Shaper. I’ll post the airdate here as soon as its confirmed.

TALL EAGLE on Facebook
TALL EAGLE @ Ragnarok


ORO: Opus Primum

Italian psychedelic doom-rock geniuses UFOMAMMUT have created some of the most haunting, inspiring, and downright exhilarating sounds of the 21st Century thus far. They’ve become crucial additions to my own “Music To Write By” playlist. For their album “ORO: Opus Primum” (2012) they did something I’ve never seen before–they made a psychedelic video not for a single track, but for the ENTIRE ALBUM. When I discovered this, I had to share it. So grab your headphones and enjoy this 51-minute trip into the astral psychosphere.

BTW, the band released a brand-new album recently called “Ecate”, named after the ancient goddess of sorcery…I wonder if we’ll get another album-spanning video this time.

Reviewer Paul Goat Allen gives THE TESTAMENT OF TALL EAGLE 4 out of 4 stars in his advance review of the book. Some highlights:

“…seamlessly fuses together elements of
fantasy, western, horror,
and even a powerful romance.”

– and –

“An addictively readable blend of adventure fantasy à la Edgar Rice Burroughs and Michael Moorcock and classic western pulp from authors like Max Brand, TALL EAGLE takes two tried-and-true categories (adventure fantasy and western fiction) and creates something utterly delectable…”

Read the complete review right HERE.

THE TESTAMENT OF TALL EAGLE is set for release in June 2015.

Interview @ WEIRD TALES

Probably my all-time favorite WT cover, painted by the great Stephen Fabian. This issue also featured Tanith Lee's masterpice "Kingdoms of the Air," which is what the cover illustrates.

Probably my all-time favorite WT cover, painted by the great Stephen Fabian. This issue also featured Tanith Lee’s masterpiece “Kingdoms of the Air,” which is what the cover illustrates.

Last year WEIRD TALES posted an interview with me at their website. However, some time later the site either self-destructed or was a victim of sabotage. In any case the interview has been lost along with the rest of their site. So I thought I’d run the interview here on my own page. Thanks to Doug Draa for doing the interview and to Laird Barron for linking it on his website.

WT: SEVEN SORCERERS was recently released and it concludes T-the Shaper Trilogy. Is this the last that readers will be seeing of The Shaper’s world?

JRF: Never say never. The three books definitely tell a complete story, culminating with a massive invasion. Currently there are no plans for a sequel series, however I do have an idea for a return to this world a hundred years later. Some of the characters would still be alive—giants are very long-lived and sorcerers may prolong their existence with magic—but when and if I return I’ll probably focus on the OTHER side of the world—the side we didn’t get to see in much detail in this series. I never wanted to be trapped or pigeonholed into a never-ending series. I’m anxious to spread my figurative wings and try some new things. I have a completely different series in the works right now, and I’m working on a project that’s also entirely different. Like most writers I want to stretch myself and conquer new ground, but I also have a soft spot for The Shaper Trilogy. So I might return to the Shaper’s world, but not right away.

My first pro sale, "The Persecution of Artifice the Quill" appeared in WT #340, with a cover by Les Edwards that evokes the faceless Vizarchs in that story.

My first pro sale, “The Persecution of Artifice the Quill” appeared in WT #340, with a cover by Les Edwards that evokes the faceless Vizarchs in that story.

WT: Having read your articles for BLACK GATE, your own blog, and the afterword to SEVEN PRINCES it is obvious that you have a deep love for vintage genre fiction. Do you feel that these older works deserve more attention from younger readers than they might be receiving?

JRF: Sometimes, yes. This is an issue no matter what creative field you’re in: In music people often ignore the originals in favor of third-generation imitations. It’s the same with film and comics, not just fiction. I think any self-respecting fantasy fan should do some research (it’s so easy in the Age of the Internet) and find out who came first, who originated the tropes of our genre, and who set the wheels of our genre in motion. There is a lot to love in the history of pretty much any genre. I understand that some people are only interested in what’s “new” and some don’t want to read stories or books written in what are considered “outdated styles.” But that argument holds no water with me. Certainly the works of Shakespeare and Poe are written in “outdated styles” compared to modern writers like Martin and King—yet both authors have created timeless work. If someone doesn’t read Lord Dunsany, for example, because it’s “too old,” that person is missing a lot of great stories. The same goes for Tolkien: I grew up with some friends who preferred more modern readers imitating Tolkien because they didn’t like Tolkien’s “outdated style.” I’ve always thought it was silly, too, when people refuse to watch black-and-white movies simply because they’re not in color. Those people are missing some of the best films ever made, and the same goes for readers who don’t read Shakespeare, Poe, Dunsany, Tolkien, and other old-school writers. Yet it helps to remind myself that the experience of all art is subjective. People should be free to like what they like. Personally, I try hard to keep a balance in reading/re-reading old favorites and new works, although I admit I’m drawn more to older books. I’ve always loved exploring used bookstores, and I can always find a treasure or two in them.

WT-ZamboulaWT: Do you think that these older works contain a special something that many contemporary stories and novels are lacking? Or do you think that such laments like the one I just expressed is simply nostalgia for the stories that introduced many reader s to genre fiction? (Asimov did once say that “The Golden Age is twelve.”)

JRF: Well, Asimov did have a point: Some of the books read in that “golden age” of around 12 years old (like the movies you see at that age) can really stick with you for life. It’s a very impressionable age and books/movies/comics often “imprint” themselves on young minds. For example, one of my favorite films is BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES. My mind knows that the first movie (PLANET OF THE APES) is a better film, but I saw BENEATH when I was like six years old, and re-watched it for years on television whenever it was on (these were the pre-VCR days). That movie imprinted itself upon me, and I will always love it. LORD OF THE RINGS imprinted itself upon me in the same way, although it happened at an even younger age. In my teens Moorcock’s ELRIC stories imprinted themselves. In my early 20s its was Tanith Lee’s FLAT EARTH series and the story-cycles of Darrell Schweitzer. But I also remember discovering Lord Dunsany at this time, reaching all the way back to 1911 to read A DREAMER’S TALES. So I think this imprinting happens early in life for most people, but for some of us (artists?) we continue to be imprinted by things we discover throughout our whole life. Perhaps this separates writers and creative types from “normal” people, who generally are too busy with living Real Life to keep being imprinted by works of art. Or perhaps that’s too simplistic and not accurate. Your question seems to be asking “Is it all just nostalgia?” and I have to say definitely no. There is a lot more to it, and here’s why: A great work of art is a great work of art. Let’s go back to Shakespeare again. His works are 500 years out of date, yet they still represent the best and worst of humanity, as well as some of the greatest stories every told by man. Timeless is the word. Great art is timeless. By its very nature Art defies time and space. Nowhere is this more true than in the realm of storytelling, an ancient art that has been with us since we were cave-dwellers.

FUNGI #21, the magazine's 30th anniversary issue.

FUNGI #21, the magazine’s 30th anniversary issue.

WT: I finally had the chance to read “The Key to Your Heart Is Made of Brass” and “Flesh of the City, Bones of the World” in the 30th Anniversary Issue of FUNGI. I found the world you’ve created therein (The Urbille) to be one of the most original settings that I’ve read in ages. Both stories were entertaining and extremely moving. Did you have any trouble placing them?

JRF: Ha! Yes, these stories were too damn weird. First “Key” (then later “Flesh”, which is its sequel) was rejected nine times by nine different editors. “Key” made the editorial rounds for four years before it found a home. One editor kept “Key” on her desk for a solid year before rejecting it, then another editor kept it for another year before declining to publish it. It was kind of surreal: Everybody had good things to say about the story, but for whatever reason they didn’t want to publish it. A third editor didn’t like the ending of “Key”, while a fourth editor thought I was trying to make some silly misogynist statement. However, I got so many positive comments about “Key” that I wrote a sequel to it—even though I hadn’t sold it yet—and then I sent the sequel (“Flesh”) on the same editorial round-trip journey. Both stories were rejected exactly nine times before Pierre Comtois asked to run them in the 30th Anniversary issue of FUNGI. This marked the first time I ever had two stories running in the same issue of any magazine. Now that the amazing Laird Barron has recognized “Key” and included it in his YEAR’S BEST WEIRD FICTION, Vol. 1, I feel entirely vindicated. I may write more stories in the universe of the Urbille. Possibly even a novel. A very weird novel.

WT: What would you be creating if you were to write purely for yourself and sales be damned. Or are you already doing this?

7Princeswallpaper-iphoneJRF: That’s exactly what I did when I wrote SEVEN PRINCES. I didn’t have an agent or a book deal. I had only the raw determination to “graduate” from short stories (which I’d been selling semi-regularly for a few years) and comics to prose novels. I started writing the novel on blind faith, with no constraints but my own imagination. I decided to write a “Big Fantasy Novel” and told myself “I will find an agent” and “I will get it published somewhere…somehow.” The first draft of the novel I entirely scrapped, came back the next year and wrote a new novel in the same world but set 20 years into the future. I usually have summers off from teaching, so that’s my main “writing season.” I started SEVEN PRINCES thinking “I will not rush this. It will take as long as it takes, and it will be everything I’ve always want to see in an Epic Fantasy.) I wrote exactly what I wanted to write, and I joined a local writers’ group to get priceless feedback on the early chapters. It took me three years to find an agent, and one year after I found him, he found me a deal with Orbit. The great thing about that deal was that I had carte blanche to write the second book (SEVEN KINGS) and third book (SEVEN SORCERERS) with very little editorial intervention up-front. However, I did get some good editorial feedback after each novel was completed, mostly from the terrific Tom Bouman (who is no longer with Orbit). Although I’m writing ostensibly for the “fantasy market” I don’t think about it in that way. I still write first and foremost for myself. If I can’t please me, how could I ever hope to please anyone else?

WT: If you could spend an evening over beers with any two writers in the world, one living and one dead, who would they be and why?

DEATH'S MASTER was the novel that made me an instant Tanith Lee devotee.

DEATH’S MASTER was the novel that made me an instant Tanith Lee devotee.

JRF: For my living writer I’d have to pick Tanith Lee. Her work is immensely inspiring. She is a true Storyteller of the highest calibre, not to mention a Fantasy Grandmaster. I’ve always wanted to meet her, but I’m sure I’d be tongue-tied and starstruck. But if I could get over that initial shock (perhaps a beer or two would do it) I’d love to discuss writing, storytelling, history, and the state of humanity with Tanith well into the wee hours of the night. For a non-living writer, I’d have to pick Clark Ashton Smith. Last summer I drove through Auburn, California, for the first time. It was late at night and it was a surreal experience—the tiny town where Smith lived and wrote all of his life. I wanted to find the place where his cabin used to sit and hold a vigil or meditate there. I’m hoping to make it back there when I have a bit more time to commune with his spirit. Smith is my favorite of the “big three” WEIRD TALES writers, and his dark fantasies have inspired me since I was a kid excavating his work from second-hand bookstores.

WT: Here is a list of names: Abraham Merrit, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, Darrell Schweitzer. I think that your writing includes you as the newest addition to this list. What is your opinion of that?

WT-Freas1950JRF: That is a very humbling compliment, so thank you very much. Smith and Howard are definitely among my strongest influences, as is Darrell Schweitzer. Darrell has given me great advice on writing, storytelling, and publishing for going on two decades now. I started sending stories into WEIRD TALES when I was in college—the late 80s. I’ve talked in many interviews about the many rejections I got from Darrell and the advice he gave me in those letters. Eventually, after 15 years of learning my craft and submitting to WT, he bought my first story “The Persecution of Artifice the Quill” for WEIRD TALES #340. [This story now appears in my collection THE REVELATIONS OF ZANG, where it begins a 12-story cycle.] A year or two later I finally got to meet with Darrell in person at the World Fantasy Convention, and have enjoyed the pleasure of his company a few more times since. But it’s not just the fact that Darrell has been a mentor—he is also one of the greatest living fantasy writers on the planet. His work speaks to me in a metaphysical way that feels like true sorcery. His writing is magic, and in a perfect world his many story collections would be far more widely appreciated. This often happens to true genius—it is misunderstood and unrecognized by all but a certain segment of society. It’s not often that one can gain the friendship of an author whose work has been so important to you. So I consider myself lucky to have earned the friendship of Darrell Schweitzer. I dedicated my first novel SEVEN PRINCES to him. (I have to admit that I haven’t read much by A. Merrit, though I am familiar with him.)

THE TESTAMENT OF TALL EAGLE will be published in June by Ragnarok Publications.

THE TESTAMENT OF TALL EAGLE will be published in June by Ragnarok Publications.

WT: Do your students read your stories? And what has been their reaction?

JRF: Most kids these days don’t read short stories—or at least they don’t seek them out. They’d rather read novels. Many of my students have read SEVEN PRINCES, and some have read the entire Shaper Trilogy. I teach at the high school level, and the students find it fascinating that I’m a “real author.” Of course the first two questions they ask are usually “Are you famous?” and “Are you rich?” And while I am neither, they still appreciate that they’re being taught to write (and read) by an actual writer who knows what he’s talking about. I also am sure to donate copies of my books to my school library so students can read them even if they can’t afford to buy them. Libraries are still so important, even in this age of digital entertainment. A book will never run out of batteries.




Cover art by Alex Raspad.

The talented Oksana Dmitrienko did three superb interior illustrations for THE TESTAMENT OF TALL EAGLE, and here they are for your viewing pleasure. Each image illustrates a key scene from the book, and I couldn’t be happier with the results. Oksana’s work has a real classic illustration feel to it. These images would have been right at home in a pulp magazine from the early 20th Century. (Click images to enlarge.)

Big thanks to Ragnarok Publications for going the extra mile on the artwork for TALL EAGLE. This is going to be one gorgeous volume inside and out.


“A second mountain sat atop the first. Yet the second mountain was made of glowing gold, beaded with shimmering crystals set in weird designs. The second mountain had been carved into slim, pointed spires like tremendous teepees of gold.”



“Like a vast centipede it crawled on dozens of segmented, pointed legs depending from its slug-like body. It was longer than eight horses standing nose-to-flank in a row. A great, stinking worm. It had crawled into our camp, and grabbed Bear Killer in its mouth.”



“Some grave battle wound had deadened the eye and torn away part of the face. A gleam of white bone showed below the left temple, surrounded by a furrow of pink, raw flesh. Despite this disfigurement, despite the bone-white eye and the mouth twisted into a grimace of hatred, I knew that face better than any living man’s.”

 THE TESTAMENT OF TALL EAGLE will be flying your way in June.