Wyrd Question Daze : Oliver Brackenbury

photograph by Ardean Peters

Hi there!
My name is Oliver Brackenbury. I write screenplays, novels, and short stories. I also host two literary podcasts (So I’m Writing a Novel…, and Unknown Worlds of the Merril Collection), and I recently launched a career as an editor, with New Edge Sword & Sorcery Magazine.

That last one just had its first issue launch on the very last day of September, and I’d encourage people to check it out for free as an ePub/PDF download, as well as softcover & hardcover formats priced literally as cheap as possible, at cost. Our hope is to get people into this inclusive, boundary-pushing short fiction magazine with issue #0, so they’ll want to help crowdfund issues #1&2 in February. Our extremely low-intensity mailing list is a great way to make sure you’ll be the first to hear about new issues or crowdfunding campaigns for new issues.

And the fact that my intro is almost entirely creative projects does a fine job of implying, correctly, that I’m a very task & goal-oriented person…but I do try to make sure I pause to appreciate the world around me now and then.

Where did you come from and where are you going?

I’m from the small, Southern Ontario village known as Carp, where I grew up just around the corner from a now-defunct five story deep Cold War bunker the Prime Minister would theoretically flee to with his wife & cabinet if the missiles flew.

Nowadays you’ll find me in Toronto with all the other reprobates. Where am I going? Somewhere I get to dedicate as much of my life to writing – and editing, publishing, etc – as possible without having to starve, or fail to pay enough attention to other key things in life like nature or my partner.

What preoccupies your mind these days?

Hahaha THE MAGAZINE. Wow, just so much mental bandwidth. Good thing I love it.

Name a favourite taste, touch, sound, sight and smell

Taste: Salted caramel.
Touch: Corduroy.
Sound: A strong breeze passing through leafy branches.
Sight: Looking straight down the middle of a long road, old trees leaning in from either side all the way.
Smell: Fall leaves on the ground

Describe one of your most vivid dreams or nightmares

Recently my beloved little man, my little Siamese cat – Sam – died more or less of old age. The night afterward I had the most vivid, 8K IMAX etc dream about him sitting on his favourite footstool, leaning forward to nuzzle me as I lay on the couch. Knowing, in that way you know things in dreams, this was his visiting me from wherever he is now, I wished him well and let him know he was welcome to visit again any time he liked. Then I woke up.

Whether it was something fantastic or just my brain processing grief, I’m deeply grateful we got to say goodbye to each other one more time

Have you ever had an uncanny experience?

Honestly that dream felt a little uncanny, but I can think of one other thing. “Uncanny” might be pushing it, however when reading your question my mind went straight to an experience from eleven years ago where I stood on the end of a very long pier in California, at Venice Beach.

It was close to midnight, and the pier was long enough that I was actually free of pretty much all the light pollution. Looking out to sea you could forget what was behind you for a moment, and just focus on the vastness of the ocean, those inky black depths. I remember it really gripped my chest, this sensation of just how truly small one is compared to the Earth they live on, just how far down the surface of that ocean is. It was really something, as plain Jane as it sounds read off a page.

How does your sense of place affect the way you express yourself?

Well, it affects my mood, which of course feeds into whatever it is I’m trying to write. If you mean something beyond “Writing by hand in a nice park on a sunny day makes me write a bit cheerier than in my dark office on a rainy day”…I suppose it can help provide the clarity to express myself more accurately.

What has particularly touched or inspired you recently?

I recently had cause to re-read the final chapter in Brian Murphy’s book Flame & Crimson: A History of Sword & Sorcery. That chapter is called “Why Sword & Sorcery?” and I find it quite inspiring, even moreso now I’m the editor of a magazine seeking to help give the genre a real shot in the arm.

It’s a whole chapter, so that’d be too much to quote here, however I will say that one key element is his discussion of the idea of Sword & Sorcery “re-enchanting” the world. To provide a condensed quote:

Fantasy fiction transports us beyond the boundaries of our normal lives…and upon returning enables us to see the world from a new perspective, through a process called re-enchantment. Re-enchantment is not false optimism, but is a stroke of lightning on the printed page, awakening readers to new possibilities and potentialities. As Ursula LeGuin wrote…fantasy offers somewhere else, a vision of other worlds that dispel despondency. “The literature of imagination, even when tragic, is reassuring, not necessarily in the sense of offering nostalgic comfort, but because it offers a world large enough to contain alternatives, and therefore offers hope.

This really speaks to some of what I hope to achieve with New Edge Sword & Sorcery magazine.

Tell us a good story, anecdote or joke

Hahaha, ah yes, a question that makes me freeze on the spot when asked it in person.
But I will say I’m a fan of this old joke from Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

““Those who believe in telekinetics, raise my hand.”


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