Allow me to confess my deep and abiding love for all things wild and free, dangerous and ancient, roguish, magical, and lost in a distant time. This can be Russian myths or Norse sagas, but it can also be something closer to the heart of the ancient world.
Now, I blame King Tut for this. I was still in grade school when his treasures and mask toured the U.S. in 1976, but I fell hard for the power of antiquity—the sheer rich stretch of time separating me and this young pharaoh. It’s been more than 4,000 years since the last pyramid was built. It’s tough to wrap your brain around how different things were, and it completely obsesses me at the same time. I remember learning that baboons took a role similar to police dogs in ancient Egypt, and the hieroglyphics looked like pure magic to me. History is more fantastical and bizarre than we give it credit for, sometimes.
Since then I’ve discovered the Arabian Nights, the folklore of the Levant and Ethiopia, the tragic story of the assassins, the movies of Ray Harryhausen, the marvels of Timbuktu, and the many journeys of heroes in tropical lands—the places where great kingdoms have risen, and every ancient figure from Solomon to Scheherazade made their mark. Not surprisingly, the Southlands contain humanity at its finest and most flavorful, and so I’ve spun quite a few adventures of the deserts, savannah, and the dry mountains.
And I can say this: the Southlands are a place where fantasy thrives. Just like the fantasy melting pot, it’s ripe for adventure. It can be so much more than just a Disney Aladdin or a bowdlerized film. It can be the stage for anyone’s best adventures.
Mind you, I don’t claim that the Southlands are wildly new inventions, any more than I claim Baba Yaga or King Arthur’s knights are. But the stories of mummies thrill me, especially if we add a twist. Say, maybe, that the mummies of the Southlands are often the remains of animal-headed god-kings, rather than humans of the usual type. And the stories of brave camel masters fighting their way through a horde of gnoll raiders are as exciting as any Marco Polo yarn. Tales of great wisdom, science, and magic from a golden age of Baghdad or Istanbul or Alexandria make me want to share big, bold fantasy adventures that echo with both history and pure invention. I want wide horizons for fantasy.
Which brings us to the big tent, the big canvas, the wide arena. The legends of Sumeria, Egypt, Arabia, and elsewhere are at least somewhat familiar, even if America has less immigrants from that part of the world than from Germany or Ireland. Certainly D&D and Pathfinder borrow heavily from this tradition: the genies, the City of Brass, war elephants, the chariot of Sustarre, and the whole of Al-Qadim is an argument that Southlands fantasy isn’t some distant fantasy for other people. It’s woven into the fantasy heritage I grew up on, and it’s something that deserves more and better treatment than it has received to date.
The last time I polished up a genie’s lamp was for Al-Qadim, but I’m more than ready to build a bigger, better, brighter set of fantasy tales in that vein, and I have a team of creative Kobold freelancers that have astonished me with their ability to meld real historical bits with high-fantasy of the highest caliber.
Join me, please, as Kobold Press expands and re-imagines a wild mix of pulp adventure tropes with fantastical history and wondrous new lands and new creatures. Join me, please, as we set forth for adventure under the pitiless sun of the Southlands!