Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Cover for Whetstone Issue 6 (Winter 2022)

Issue 6 (Winter 2022) will be published on Friday, December 16th, 2022. Here is the cover that is illustrated by the talented Maegan LeMay. 

Friday, August 12, 2022

Flashes of Wonder Prompt: The Reversal

UKA THE UNDYING, the zombie sorcerer, is experimenting with flashes of dark magicks to blast the minds of bards! Illustration provided by Mustafa Bekir.

"Flashes of Wonder" is posted irregularly. It will feature a sword and sorcery flash fiction prompt. -JRC


Sword and sorcery plots are exciting. They are linguistic devices engineered to increase our pulse and respiration and to trigger the release of certain hormones: adrenaline, cortisol, dopamine, and more. They are most exciting at their climax point, their point of highest unresolved emotional tension. What do we mean by unresolved? Great climaxes are interesting because they involve protagonists we care about whose fates are yet to be decided. And climaxes are interesting because the stakes are so high. Almost always climaxes result in a transformation, of the protagonist, of the world, of the reader. 

Directly proceeding the climax is what we call the resolution, the narrative events that allow the pent up emotional tension to be dispersed. In endocrinological terms, certain hormones like adrenaline, cortisol, and dopamine are neutralized by resolutions. But there is a unique plot device deployed by some storytellers: the reversal. The reversal comes just after the resolution. Whatever happened in the climax--success, failure, or transformation--is swiftly, and often dramatically, reversed. This tool of the reversal is useful because it can extend the tension and set up an even more intense climax.    

Using the visual prompt of the sorcerer's tower provided above, write a 500 word scene that involves a protagonist resolving a conflict, and then render a reversal that reverses that resolution and sets up an even more intense climax.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Flashes of Wonder Prompt: The Oval and the Nova


UKA THE UNDYING, the zombie sorcerer, is experimenting with flashes of dark magics to blast the minds of bards! Illustration provided by Mustafa Bekir.

"Flashes of Wonder" is posted irregularly. It will feature a sword and sorcery flash fiction prompt. -JRC

The Enigmatic Oval Room

There is an oval-shaped room. The floor is a seamless marble slab. Embedded in the marble slab are esoteric designs rendered in tiny threads of precious metal that glint and sparkle in the light. When anyone walks into this room, they are beset by vertigo, nausea, and a terrible sense of wrongness. If anyone lingers in the room, they get ear ringing, headaches, and bleeding from the nose and eyes; if they are foolish enough to linger, their skin becomes as wax and they melt and eventually disappear, evaporating like morning mist. If one listens closely, several sibilant whispers can be heard speaking in the room in tongues unknown.

Darko Suvin, a theorist of distinctively speculative fiction (i.e. science fiction, fantasy, and supernatural horror), developed the concept of "novum" in his famous monograph, Metamorphoses of Science Fiction (Yal UP, 1979). Suvin's "novum" are a fictional objects or entities that signal to the reader that the virtual world they are reading about is not constrained by established physical laws of known science. The unreal laws that govern this unreal world are different and mysterious. Accordingly, for Suvin, in much speculative fiction, "novum" cause a powerful artistic effect called "cognitive estrangement," a unique habit of mind, a form of intense intellectual hospitality that--and most importantly so--permits authors and readers to connect and harmonize over the hitherto unimaginable, e.g. bizarre plot hooks and conflicts that characters must respond to and sometimes (often) resolve through action. 

We offer the "oval room" (described above) as one of those "nova," as defined by Suvin. Using the "novum" of the enigmatic room above, write a sword and sorcery flash fiction of 400-800 words where a protagonist's desires are contradicted or impeded by the room and where that conflict is eventually resolved. In other words, write a story about how this room is encountered, how it throws up a roadblock to a character's pressing desire, and how that roadblock is overcome (or not) by that character.

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Saturday, July 9, 2022

Whetstone 6 Call for Submissions



WHETSTONE is an award-winning amateur magazine that seeks to discover, inspire, and publish emerging authors who are enthusiastic about the tradition of “pulp sword and sorcery.” Writers in this tradition include (but are not limited to) the following: Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, Jack Vance, Michael Moorcock, Karl Edward Wagner, David C. Smith, and many more. “Pulp sword and sorcery” emphasizes active protagonists, supernatural menaces, and preindustrial (mostly ancient and medieval) settings. Some “pulp sword and sorcery” straddles the line between historical and fantasy fiction; at Whetstone, however, we emphatically prefer “secondary world settings,” other worlds liberated from the necessity of historical accuracy. Published by Spiral Tower Press.

Managing Editor: Dr. Jason Ray Carney is a lecturer in the Department of English of Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia. He is the co-editor of the academic journal The Dark Man: Journal of Robert E. Howard and Pulp Studies and the area chair of the "Pulp Studies" section of the Popular Culture Association. He serves as the Academic Coordinator for the Robert E. Howard Foundation. He is the author of Rakefire and Other Stories (Pulp Hero Press).

Associate Editor: Chuck E. Clark lives in Southern Wisconsin with his wife and four children. He graduated from the University of Kentucky with a Political Science degree, apprenticed as a jeweler, joined the navy, and now fixes laser microscopes. He has been published in Whetstone and The August Derleth Society's newsletter, Sage of Sac Prairie. He loves collecting rocks, books, and whiskey.

Associate Editor: Luke E. Dodd is a scientist, devourer of music, and collector of hobbies. He is one of the three hosts of The Cromcast, a podcast dedicated to the works of Robert E. Howard and other weird fiction. He lives in Kentucky with his wife and son.

Submissions: OPEN (Issue 6)
• Submission deadline: Monday, September 12th, 2022, 11:59p.
• Editorial decisions: Sunday, October 23rd, 2022.
• Publication of Issue 5: Friday, December 16th, 2022.

Length: We prefer short, compressed stories that are nevertheless complete and cohesive narratives (1500 to 2500 words). These limits are firm. No more, no less. Stories over or under the limit will not be read. We mean it, friends! This limit serves two functions: (1) the limit is an artistic challenge. It takes skill to tell a compressed, punchy story. (2) We are an amateur publication and only pay a token honorarium, so save your longer works for better paying markets.

Style: We prefer “dialog light, action heavy” fiction with vivid imagery that is unselfconsciously literary but nevertheless takes joy in an occasional old word that gives the breath of antiquity. Please avoid typographical emphasis and variation--e.g. bolding, italicizing, underlining.

Publication, payment, and rights: Issues will be published as .pdf files. If work is selected for publication in WHETSTONE, authors will (1) be paid an honorarium of $10 and (2) will be asked to provide, by contract, "First North American Serial Rights." In our opinion, this means that copyright is NOT transferred. All copyright stays with you, the writer; however, you will have sold/transferred a form of "exclusive use rights" called "First North American Serial Rights" (FNASR). This is the right to publish your unpublished work for the first time, and ONLY the first time, no more. The important thing to remember is that some professional publications may ask for FNASR upon acceptance of a specific work; you are not legally permitted to provide those for that specific work after publication in WHETSTONE, for you have already rendered their use to us. In other words, once you publish a work in WHETSTONE, that works' associated FNASR have been sold/transferred. You CAN publish your previously published work elsewhere as a reprint but only as long as that publication does not require FNASR. This is a long way of saying that WHETSTONE is an amateur publication, meant for showcasing emerging talent for the consideration of professional markets (which is why we kept the word count so low). In essence: save your best work for higher paying markets!

Submit: Proofread standard manuscripts should be sent to the publisher at spiraltowerpress@gmail.com as .doc or .docx attachments. Include the following subject line: "WHETSTONE: [Last Name]." Please keep cover letters brief. A story title and a one- or two-sentence bio is sufficient.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

The Familiar's Four Gems, a Miscellany (Issue 8)


SPITTLEDRUM, the Four-eyed Demon, has scoured the internet for new eyes: four sword-and-sorcery gems! Illustration provided by Mustafa Bekir.

"The Familiar's Four Gems will be posted intermittently. It is a curated list of old and new digital resources for amateur sword and sorcery writers and readers; it will occasionally provide short reviews where appropriate. If you have something you would like to include, contact us. -JRC

Rakehell Magazine: Issue 1 Now Available: "Rakehell: a modern magazine of swashbuckling adventure! Rakehell hearkens back to the classic adventure heroes of yesteryear, like Robin Hood, the Three Musketeers, and Horatio Hornblower. We love today’s fictional rogues; Locke Lamora, Inigo Montoya, and Indiana Jones would all fit in here."

So I'm Writing a Novel (Podcast, Ep. 44): Interview with David C. Smith (Part 1): Interview with sword and sorcery author, David C. Smith, author of Oron, Tales of Attluma, Sometime Lofty Towers, and many more.

The Cromcast (Podcast): Howard Days 2022 - The Glenn Lord Symposium: "Hile, Cromrades! For this episode, we present another recording from Howard Days 2022! This recording from Friday, June 10th includes academic papers delivered by Drs. Dierk Guenther, Gabriel Mamola, and James McGlothlin. The panel is moderated by Dr. Jason Ray Carney."

The Las Angeles Review of BooksReading Sword-and-Sorcery to Make the Present Less Real: "CAN WE JUSTIFY reading fiction to make the present less real? In our modern attempts to defend the practical value of fiction reading, have we overlooked how the practice provides a valuable form of understimulation, an inoculation against an illness-inducing reality?"

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Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Whetstone Issue 5 Now Available!


Because the editors will be traveling to Howard Days in Cross Plains, Texas this weekend to celebrate the life and work of Robert E. Howard, we decided to release 
Whetstone Issue 5 a few days early. You can download it HERE. This issue includes several great stories. Thanks to Chuck Clark (Associate Editor), Luke E. Dodd (Associate Editor), and all the great contributors for helping us release this issue. We hope you enjoy it! -JRC (Managing Editor)