The Swordsfall Universe Afrofuturism Interview
Listen To Article
Interview: The World Of Swordsfall
Described by Creator Brandon Dixon as a ‘dive into Pre-colonial Africa for all the rich lore you’ve never heard of. It’s an exploration into a world where the majority of the faces are dark, yet isn’t constrained to one corner. It’s a world where women hold power equal to men and the merit of ones soul is what propels them through life. It’s a world where spirits aren’t to be feared, they are to be embraced’, Swordsfall is an exciting new Afrofuturist/Cyberpunk Project that pushes the envelope both philosophically and aesthetically.
The Kickstarter campaign was fully funded in under 1 Hour, and is currently more than 600% funded, having raised in excess of US$36 000.00.
Its easy to understand why…Its imaginative and engaging.
In this Interview, Brandon shares his thoughts on the success of the Kickstarter Campaign, and breaks down the concept and world of Swordsfall.
Give us some background on yourself and journey as an Artist so far?
My name is Brandon and Iâ€™m the writer and creator of Swordsfall. Iâ€™m a lifelong gamer and all-around nerd. Like most gamers, I cut my teeth on early Nintendo games and it just stuck. Fast forward to high school and I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons, and Vampire: The Masquerade. The latter would end up being what going me into Tabletop games in the first place.
That early interest just sort of continued on as I went college and through life. I started on the early origins of Swordsfall back in high school and just sort of tinkered with it ever since. After watching Black Panther, I was so moved that I knew I had to do something in the same vein.
How does it feel to receive such overwhelming support for your project?
Itâ€™s amazing! And inspirational and a bit scary. I feel like I went from a no one to this potential face for diversity in gaming. Itâ€™s a lot to chew on. But I canâ€™t tell you how happy I am that everyone is really getting into the setting. I had fears when we launched that the interest might not be there.
Whats the inspiration behind Swordsfall?
In a weird way, there isnâ€™t one. It started off as almost a thought experiment. What if I had a world with a monotheistic nation at odds with a polythetistic nation. As I started working on symbology the concepts started to flow.Â As I was contemplating what would be the pillars beneath this world, I knew I didnâ€™t want to do the started Eurocentric fantasy trope. So, I started to explore what it would mean to build a world with Africa as its base.
Take us into the world/setting of Swordsfall?
Swordsfall is a story about the world of Tikor. The fictional planet which all the stories and game takes place on. The world is almost completely divided into two giant chunks of land. Only a small strip of land connects the two.
The world is full of magic and deities. The very deities that were there when Tikor was formed, are still there. Walking among the people. Each of the various lands; Garuda, Vinyata, Hawklore, Grimnest, Ramnos and Teslan, have their own beliefs, cultures and deities.
According to the Website, Swordsfall has 3 Arms…Correct?
Yes indeed. The three arms together is what makes it the project as whole.
Please elaborate on the 3 arms of Swordsfall?
Sure. The first arm is based on the website tool, World Anvil. The way the site works allows me to layout my world in a Wiki fashion. So not only does it help me keep the world in order, but it gives fans a way to read about the world. To get more in-depth lore on the various places, factions and people on Tikor.
The second arm is the novels and other literary fiction from Swordsfall. Before I expanded the project, it was originally going to be a book series. The World Anvil served as my world bible as I crafted the novels. As I worked on it I realized I had something more, something bigger than just books. There are those gamers out there who praise lore and story about all else. The WA is a great place to read about somethings, but it canâ€™t replace the feeling of reading a good book.Â As well, itâ€™s a way for me to show the huge metaplot that shapes the story of Swordsfall.
The third and final arm is the Tabletop RPG. Like I was saying about me earlier, Iâ€™ve always been a big Tabletop RPG fan. So, the thought of doing one with so much diversity was too tasty to pass up. Itâ€™s from this arm that the current Kickstarter is from.Â The Setting and Artbook stands as half of the pie that is the tabletop game.
Why did you take this approach?
I feel like I have the opportunity to really create something immersive. And using all three avenues will really help me show of the vast world. It also lets fans pick their favorite form to consume it in. Or all three if they want.
Who are the main Characters and what motivates them?
It depends on which your branch your talking about, the world or the novels. The world has a number of main characters depending on where you go. In the lawless area of Grimnest, the pirate lord Nubia is a major player. She leads the biggest pirate fleet in the world, Heavenâ€™s Fall. She desires nothing but unbridled freedom, and never at her cost. Only yours.
In Hawklore you have the God King, Hawken. A deity who decided heâ€™d rule his own nation rather than play the role of advisor. Heâ€™s guided by his own principle on how to guide humanity, and does so with godlike efficiency.
The main novels, End of an Era, follow a mix of characters from around the world. The plot revolves around the events that unfold after the Garudian deity, Mime, is assassinated. Bayeon is the Celestial Shield who failed to protect Mime and is determined to uncover why. Amino is a Shadowtail under the employ of the new Garudian King. He becomes embroiled in the events as he attempts to the King from lethal retaliation. There are far more, the novels have an eclectic group.
Do you draw any clear lines between heroes and villains?
I typically donâ€™t like to paint my characters as a hard black or white perspective. In real life we know that most people are more complicated than that. And in Swordsfall, I want it to reflect that reality. The good guy sometimes mess up. They betray their morals in the face of reality. The bad guys arenâ€™t so much human as they are guided by real desires. Theyâ€™re more than just craven beast that want to watch the world burn. People really bond with characters that transcend the two dimensional bonds of good or evil.
However, make no mistake. Itâ€™s clear who to root for and who not. But the line between the sides they are on is more blurry than distinct.
You seem to shine the light quite a bit on current historical debates on Human origins and Pre-History especially with the eras of Gods, Civilization and War which has been echoed in many so-called Fringe theories that are gaining momentum in Culture at the moment…Am I correct in this observation?
In a way. Itâ€™s more of a re-examination of how a society ends up the way it is. There are many elements of life that we consider to be standard. But really theyâ€™re just a culmination of hundreds of years of actions. Much of that goes back to blaming things on higher powers that have no clear ability to respond.
Swordsfall calls that out in a bit. Itâ€™s a lot harder to commit an atrocity in the name of a god, when that god is still alive. And only a days travel away. When you start realizing how many structures fall away in the face of a divine answer, it gets you thinking. If deities really were on this land, how different would things be?
The main war in Swordsfall isnâ€™t just a random conflict either. Itâ€™s why the novels are such an important part to the overall scope of it. Thereâ€™s many different events and decisions that lead up to this massive overnight war. And the reasons why, are vastly important.
Is Swordsfall an allegory for unacknowledged Human History?
More of an allegory of the famous line from House,
Iâ€™m putting that into question on every aspect of our life that depends on undefendable doctrine. Specifically colonial based.
Is Swordsfall a version of a dystopian History as opposed to future which is what most Science fiction deals with?
Swordsfall is very much not a dystopia actually. There are parts that are harsh and unforgiving, and I thought it was important to highlight those. The very reasons why humans would still rely upon divine intervention when they themselves have access to magic and technology. Nothing sends a person hurling to a sacred place of worship, like a disaster.
I really view it as more of an Alternate Earth. Or perhaps, Afro Earth. The world progressed in a similar way we know it in real life, except when it came to expansion there were no European colonists. The physical world of Tikor is meant to mimic Africa in a world sense. A place where the itâ€™s the terrain itself that poses the greatest threat. Itâ€™s the reason why the people havenâ€™t conquered every square inch.
Because history itself has shown that that is a large reason why native Africans didnâ€™t totally subjugate the land. A lot of the history which I research for Swordsfall is born out of those circumstances.
I donâ€™t necessarily think that something has to be far futuristic to be science fiction. Itâ€™s simply fiction with technology thatâ€™s based on physical and logical science. Must of the technology that does exist is fairly advanced and far out there. Simply because thatâ€™s whatâ€™s required for something to stand out in a land of magic.
I am quite attracted to the notion of the Mortality of the Gods and mankindâ€™s rebellion against the Gods that you seem to touch on…What are your thoughts on this?
It plays on the way that humans base everything in relation to themselves. If something lives longer than them, then it simply MUST be immortal. Regardless of no proof to one or the other, they assume that it must be. And if enough generations say it, and repeat it, it becomes the known truth. So, the finding out that the gods can die is grounding break. But only in the way that it breaks the paradigm they hold as truth.
As far as rebellion against the gods, I canâ€™t say a lot because weâ€™re getting into book spoilers. But I will say this. Itâ€™s more a case of jealousy of the gods.
What are your thoughts on Human History and the affairs of Gods and Men, in Ancient times?
Especially in regard to pre-colonial Africa itâ€™s quite interesting. The way humans back then had this familial relationship with their deities is very humbling. Itâ€™s this sense that when something is greater than you, you serve it. Not the other way around. In some ways I can see how it grounded them, and at the same time gave rise to much superstition.
The funny thing is that when you think about it, no matter if what your religion is, the concept of deities and spirits runs deep. In this deep-seated way to explain things. I even found myself blaming things on the gods of Swordsfall.
You also reference a vision of Pre-Colonial Africa…What are your thoughts on the conception of Africa in Afrofuturism?
I think itâ€™s really about taking the core idea of the spirit of Africa. This sense of local community that was so important and spreading that in your world. The phrase, â€œIt takes a villageâ€ is African in origin. Even when nations were separated and warring, youâ€™d still see communities dig in together. I think through Afrofuturism we can take those positive elements and try spread them to future ideas.
What role do you think Afrofuturism and Afropunk have to play in the imagining of African/Black identity both in Africa and the Diaspora?
I think at the very least it helps spur the imagination of black people everywhere. Especially kids. When you think about it, weâ€™ve really been left out of the sub-genre game. We seem to have to fend off of small scraps the media gets us. Even after the success of Black Panther it doesnâ€™t really feel like many industries have taken notice. I think as we invest in our own unique subgenres, we can find a way to create our own market. Our own identity. Something that can resonate across the Diaspora. Maybe even a way to link us all together again.
The cultural references and motifs in Swordsfall are quite broad, rich and universal…You have generously made use of artistic licence to reference a variety of Cultures ranging from Medieval Europe to the African Savannah…What was your objective in creating an Afrofuturistic work in this mould using such broad cultural strokes?
It would have been easy to have just make Swordsfall black. Only include Africa and be done with it. But I wanted to do more. I wanted to show a level of inclusion at its base. An entire world with multiple influences, but still black at its core.
Somethings as well I think we mistake for Medieval Europe when theyâ€™re truly African in nature. The influences of Carthage and Egypt on Rome are vastly understated in popular culture. Mythological creatures like the Griffin are African in origin. In a lot of ways thatâ€™s the rub of Eurocenturism, it effectively gets to paint everything in its own brush.
So thereâ€™s a bit of reclaiming in Swordsfall. Anything I find that that originated in Africa, no matter where it ended up now, gets placed in the world. And thatâ€™s what makes it feel so rich. I truly am adding in other cultures, all the different flavors that came from its shores.
What do you hope people can take away from Swordsfall?
That diversity and inclusion do not have to come at the expense of the world, story or excitement. You can create a world right off the bat thatâ€™s accepting, and not only will people of color enjoy, but the majority as well. One of the biggest supporters of Swordsfall have been white people. Especially white males. I think having a world thatâ€™s different but not exclusive to them, is something that is exciting.
And thatâ€™s how you truly make people better or accept diversity more. You bait them with a good time and then secretly open their mind to new things.
Anything else in the works that we can look forward to in the near future?
For the rest of the year the team and I will be working on getting these four books out from the Kickstarter. My goal is to develop a reputation for high quality books with amazing art and delicious lore. After those are done then Iâ€™ll be working on the Corebook for playing the game itself. Something which has been begged for since the first day of the Kickstarter.
After that, maybe I can finally finish this first book!
Your parting words…
It doesnâ€™t matter what your background is, thereâ€™s a place for you in Swordsfall.
Hope you enjoyed the Interview, and that you will consider pledging further support towards the Swordsfall Kickstarter Campaign.
In the meantime, the featured Home Page video this week is the experimental short Afrofuturist Film Noisegate from the mind of Vim Crony.
This week’s Home Page featured read is Afrofutrism 2.0: The Rise Of Astroblackness.