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  • Writer's pictureMilton Davis

A Sword and Soul Primer

What is Sword and Soul? A good question deserving a good answer. Sword and Soul is Sword and Sorcery and epic fantasy based on African history, culture and traditions. It finds its inspiration and its reason for being in the stories of Robert E. Howard, particularly those of his most well known hero, Conan. For the next few weeks I'll be discussing Sword and Soul and highlighting specific books that are 'required reading' for anyone interested in the subgenre.

Charles R. Saunders

So how did Sword and Soul begin? The concept has probably gestated in the minds of many writers, but it finally came to fruition in the mind of Charles R. Saunders. Charles was a fan of Howard's Conan, but as an enlightened Black man of the seventies he was disappointed with Howard's handling of Black people in his works. So he decided to put his skills to use to create a character that in his own words 'could kick Conan's ass.' The result was Imaro, an Illyasai warrior who roamed the world of Nyumbani battling various foes as he sought his true identity. The short stories were published in various magazines before Imaro's adventures were finally published as novels, the first released in 1981. I won't go into details about the novels here; I'm saving that for later blogs. After the initial release, Charles left the fiction writing world for a time, frustrated with publishers and how they handled his groundbreaking character. However, Imaro continued to thrive among Sword and Sorcery diehards due to the quality of Charles's prose and the uniqueness of his iconic character.

The original Imaro Series

Sword and Soul languished for a time while Charles applied his talents to journalistic pursuits. But in 2005, Charles returned to fiction with the re-issue of his Imaro series by Nightshade Publishing. The revival turned out to be short-lived; Nightshade dropped the series after the release of the second book of the series.

Imaro novels by Nightshade

But all was not lost. Richard Tyler, a.k.a. Uraeus, reached out to Charles and offered to publish the remaining Imaro novels. He also introduced Charles to a fairly young man who had begun to take the same journey as Charles in creating African based Sword and Sorcery for the same reasons albeit twenty years later, Milton Davis. Charles and I have worked together ever since, determined to continue to tell Sword and Soul stories and encourage other writers of the African Diaspora to do the same.

So what are the must read books of Sword and Soul? Ten years after our meeting, the number of writers producing African based fantasy is still small. However, with the recent release and success of Children of Blood and Bones by Toni Adeyemi and Black Leopard/Red Wolf by Marlon James, such stories have stepped into the limelight. My list reaches back to Sword and Soul books released over the past forty plus years, most written by Charles and I and each contributing a significant perspective to the genre.

1. Imaro - Charles Saunders 2. Dossouye - Charles Saunders 3. Meji - Milton Davis 4. Griots - Edited by Milton Davis and Charles Saunders 5. Griots: Sisters of the Spear - Edited by Charles Saunders and Milton Davis 6. Once Upon A Time In Afrika - Balogun Ojetade 7. The Constant Tower - Carole McDonnell 8. Changa's Safari - Milton Davis 9. Abengoni: First Calling - Charles Saunders 10. Songs of The Sunya: Tales From The Sands of Time - Mansa Myrie 11. When Night Falls - Gerald L. Coleman

As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, over the next few weeks I will be writing about each of these books, explaining their significance to the genre and sharing the authors' inspirations. Stay tuned.

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