I'm a huge fan of Grimdark Magazine. They bring out a lot of awesome material, so it goes without saying that I sat up and noticed with editor Adrian Collins told me about his project, The King Must Fall, which has a stellar ensemble – go check out the Kickstarter page when you have a moment. I can't wait to read the anthology when it's out. In the meanwhile, Adrian has stopped by my blog for a quick Q&A...
Nerine Dorman (ND): Was there a particular creative brief that you put together for the authors for The King Must Fall?
Adrian Collins (AC): Definitely. For The King Must Fall I asked each author to write a story about a king or authority figure being deposed. I didn’t specify if they had to be simply removed, or killed, or if the attempt even needed to be successful – I can’t wait to see what they all come up with.
However, I think the most interesting part of this story is that the theme wasn’t my idea. I was trying to think of how to follow up Evil is a Matter of Perspective and just wasn’t having anything cool coming to mind. Out of the blue I received an email from Bradley P Beaulieu telling me about an idea he’d had for an anthology, but just didn’t have the time to drive – and because I love stuff like this, The King Must Fall was born!
ND: That's quite the stellar cast you've got going for your contributors. Which are the stories you’re most looking forward to?
AC: That’s a hard one to pick. Just because I haven’t published them before, I’m really looking forward to seeing Daniel Polansky and Kameron Hurley’s short stories.
ND: Did you think that certain themes will come through – I find this fascinating as an editor of anthologies myself, that there are often ideas that echo in the submissions – as if they have inadvertently drawn from the same well.
AC: I’m with you! One of the things I love most about building and reading anthologies is seeing how each creator puts their own angle or spin on the theme. Sometimes there will be similarities, and sometimes an idea completely out of left field will blow you away.
For The King Must Fall I’ve received four first drafts, and a few of the other authors have sent through their ideas on what their stories will be, so I’m feeling really confident that they will all be thematically on point. And based on the authors we have, I know they are going to be dark AF and diverse in delivery.
ND: What have you, as editor, enjoyed the most about putting together the anthology?
AC: I actually love the process of it. Pulling together all of the authors by leveraging years of author and artist relationships, speaking with printers and distributors and shipping companies, deciding how it’s going to look, planning out the financial requirements, timeframes, etc – all of the tiny pieces of a publishing project that eventually turn into a book. This is the stuff that I love doing. We already have stories coming in, and I’m loving reading them. I can’t wait to show the final product to our customers.
ND: Congratulations for funding this via Kickstarter – what, in your opinion, makes a Kickstarter campaign so successful?
AC: In short, a clean, clear product that’s marketed really well makes a successful Kickstarter. Compelling content, an engaging video, rewards that can be grown upon through stretch goals, and consistent market engagement through advertising.
There’s also so many things that can go wrong during a process that’s often 6-9 months long. I’ve listed five key learnings from the three Kickstarters I’ve run over on Booknest.eu.
ND: Things in the industry have been, well, weird of late. What are some of your tips and tricks for keeping your publishing endeavours alive?
AC: GdM has experienced a pretty solid period of growth throughout the pandemic, to be honest. Key to where we are at the moment has really come down to a key structure change we implemented about 18 months ago: we split GdM into two arms – the publishing side, and the online content team – and got the right people in place to drive both.
The online content focus drives web traffic to our site and products. It’s created additional and improved revenue streams and grown our brand in the market, which has helped us thrive.
Other than that, the article I wrote for Fantasy Hive, called Starting and Running an Ezine in a few Simple, Soul-destroying Steps covers it in the further detail.
ND: In the stories that you publish in GdM, what are the elements that you are looking for specifically? What makes you perk up when you read a submission?
AC: I’ve been looking for and finding the same thing for seven years: a grim story told in a dark world by a morally grey protagonist. Authors will blow me away with an anti-hero story that matters. A perspective that perhaps makes me recoil at first, and makes me want to engage more by the end. There doesn’t have to be a single drop of blood, but you need to show me grey morality.
And I can’t reiterate that enough: blood, guts, and sexual violence do not a grimdark story make (especially that last one, just leave it out please). It’s the anti-hero and the grey morality that win me over.
ND: Who are three up-and-coming voices in the grimdark genre you believe people should pay attention to?
AC: This is actually a hard question for me to answer. Before GdM I used to have time to read 50-60 books a year. Now I’m lucky if I get through ten. I’ve fallen behind the times on new authors I’m afraid!
I will say that P Djèlí Clark, RF.Kuang, and Anna Smith Spark are three authors where I can’t wait to see what they release next.
ND: What do you love about grimdark fiction?
AC: I love that it feels more human. It feels like a story with somebody I know at the helm – like actual people and not indestructible superheroes are involved. I can relate to these characters because I can be and have been a screw up, and grimdark heroes are generally just bigger screw-ups trying to do better, but screwing up more.
More about Adrian...
Adrian Collins runs Grimdark Magazine and loves anything to do with telling darker stories. Doesn't matter the format, or when it was published or produced – just give him a grim story told in a dark world by a morally grey protagonist and this bloke's in his happy place. Add in a barrel aged stout to sip on after a cheeky body surf under the Australian sun, and that's his heaven.
Adrian and his team are currently working on The King Must Fall through Kickstarter.