CHARLES SAUNDERS, MASTER OF SWORD + SOUL (MF Galaxy 027)


Charles R. Saunders is the ground-breaking founding author of the genre called sword and soul, which employs the mythic structure of Eurocentric sword-and-sorcery inside an African-based fantasy setting. As you’re about to hear, Saunders’s innovation arose in response to the profoundly racist dimensions of North American publishing, especially inside fantasy.

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Born in Pennsylvania in 1946, Saunders achieved a degree in Psychology before moving to Canada in 1969. He lived in Ottawa for fourteen years, and since 1985 has lived in Nova Scotia. He’s been a community college teacher, research assistant, civil servant, journalist, editorialist, and copy editor.

Never one to let anyone stop him, Saunders has authored of seven novels including Imaro, The Quest for Cush, Dossouye, and Abengoni: First Calling, and four books on African-Nova Scotian history, including Sweat and Soul: The Saga of Black Boxers from the Halifax Forum to Caesar’s Palace, Spirit of Africville, Share & Care: The Story of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children, and Black & Bluenose: The Contemporary History of a Community. 

This episode’s conversation comes from deep inside the catacombs of the Grand Lodge of Imhotep. It’s a never-before aired interview we recorded by telephone on August 10, 2008. Saunders discusses:

  • Why come he came to Canada
  • How he achieved an Africentric point of view
  • Why young African-Americans and African-Canadians liked science fiction in the 1990s, despite how much the genre excluded or mistreated them
  • The racist imagery inside science fiction and fantasy including in Robert Heinlein’s novel Farnham's Freehold and in JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings
  • Contemporary authors of Africentric science fiction and fantasy he admires such as Nalo Hopkinson, Nnedi Okorafor, and Carole McDonnell
  • What it’s like to be told by Euro-North American publishers that African North Americans don’t read, and
  • The troubled publishing history of his own classic novel Imaro



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