I write Sword and Soul stories and novels. What? That's the first reaction I usually get. After a few moments the inquirer ususally begins to put things together. Sword and Sorcery is one thing, but Sword and Soul? If we're standing face to face they look at my chubby brown face and the pieces fall into place. Aha! Sword and Soul is Sword and Sorcery with black people! Then the puzzled look reappears. Why?
To answer that question we have to go back to the beginning, to the writer credited to inventing the Sword and Sorcery genre, Robert E. Howard. Many of us have been exposed to his influence one way or another, either through reading his short story collections or if you're old enough, reading his stories in the old pulp fiction magazines of the thirties. Robert E. Howard created many facinating characters during his brief life but the one that stands out in most minds in Conan, the Cimmerian barbarian brought to life in movies by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Howard's stories were filled with brutal action, monsters and magic. Howard was also one of the few writers who frequently included black characters in his stories. Despite this, he was still a product of his times. The black people of Howard's fictional world were fierce and formidable, but they were usually led by a person of fairer complexion.
Fast forward to the early seventies. A young man by the name of Charles R. Saunders became enamored with the Conan mythos.( http://charlessaunderswriter.com/) As he read these stories an idea formed, the result being Imaro. Imaro was a hero destined to be created, the result of the cultural and political explosion affecting African Americans during the sixties and seventies. Here was a character just as strong and courageous as Conan, but he was black. His world, Nyumbani, was a fictional reflection of ancient Africa, its people based on the various kingdoms that existed on the continent prior to European intervention. It was Charles who invented the phrase Sword and Soul when asked to describe his brand of fantasy fiction.
Jump ahead ten years. After years of thinking about it, I finally try my hand at writing. I, too was a great fan of Howard's Conan, and like Charles I noticed the depiction of black characters in his prose in addition to the lack of black characters in the genre overall. Add to the mix my love of history and the idea came to me to create fantasy stories based on African history, culture and mythology as a way to entertain and educate. At this time I wasn't aware of Charles' wonderful Imaro stories. Since that time I've had the priviledge not only to meet Charles, I now consider him a friend and a kindred spirit. He happily offered to write the introduction to Meji Book One, and we continue to communicate, commensurate and collaborate on our Sword and Soul adventures.
So to answer the question, Sword and Soul is fantasy fiction based on African culture and mythology. I write it because it gives me an opportunity to showcase my heritage in an exciting and absorbing format. It's a wonderful journey. I hope you'll join me.