Unfettered, edited by Shawn SpeakmanAt long last, Unfettered, a fantasy anthology edited by Shawn Speakman, is available for purchase. So, please excuse me while I have a little fangasm.

If you’re unaware of the anthology, Unfettered has a history that stretches back to Speakman, owner of The Signed Page, being diagnosed with Hogdkin’s lymphoma in 2011. Uninsured (due to a past cancer diagnosis), Speakman did the only thing he could think of to deal with the monumental medical bills accrued during his cancer treatment: he called his friends, he made a book.

Oh, yeah… his friends include Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, Naomi Novik and Lev Grossman. Each author contributed an original short story to the anthology and, as the title suggests, were not restrained by an overall thematic structure as is often the case with anthologies.

Authors and stories included in the anthology:

Foreword by Patrick Rothfuss
Introduction: On Becoming Unfettered
Imaginary Friends by Terry Brooks
How Old Holly Came To Be by Patrick Rothfuss
The Old Scale Game by Tad Williams
Game of Chance by Carrie Vaughn
The Martyr of the Roses by Jacqueline Carey
Mudboy by Peter V. Brett
The Sound of Broken Absolutes by Peter Orullian
The Coach with Big Teeth by R.A. Salvatore
Keeper of Memory by Todd Lockwood
Heaven in a Wild Flower by Blake Charlton
Dogs by Daniel Abraham
The Chapel Perilous by Kevin Hearne
Select Mode by Mark Lawrence
All the Girls Love Michael Stein by David Anthony Durham
Strange Rain by Jennifer Bosworth
Nocturne by Robert V.S. Redick
Unbowed by Eldon Thompson
In Favour with Their Stars by Naomi Novik
River of Souls by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson
The Jester by Michael J. Sullivan
The Duel by Lev Grossman
Walker and the Shade of Allanon by Terry Brooks
The Unfettered Knight by Shawn Speakman

The slam dunk here looks like Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson’s “River of Souls,” which is a deleted sequence from A Memory of Light, which explores the off-screen actions of Bao, the Wyld, who Wheel of Time fans might recognize by a different name. With Jordan’s Wheel of Time series concluding earlier this year, this on-the-cutting-room-floor excerpt from the series is one last chance to dip a toe into Jordan’s world.

I’ve not had a chance to read through the entire anthology, but a meander through its pages, along with the handful of stories I have read, Unfettered seems to live up to its promise of being one of the most comprehensive and exciting anthologies of mainstream fantasy released in years. The Table of Contents won’t set anything afire for pushing boundaries, but the (admittedly male-heavy) list of authors includes Sanderson, Carey, Abraham, and Rothfuss, and looks to provide a variety of short stories that is sure to please readers.

Unfettered can be purchased now from Grim Oak Press, Kobo, Nook and Kindle.

Disclaimer: I provided editorial feedback to Todd Lockwood on his story, Keeper of Memory, which appears in Unfettered.

  • Michael J. Sullivan June 25, 2013 at 4:11 am

    Thanks for helping to get the word out. I did the ebook formatting for the anthology, and so I got to read all the books ahead of everyone else. It was an honor to contribute and to help Shawn in anyway. I love seeing the fantasy and science fiction community pulling together in this way.

  • Shawn Speakman June 26, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    “The Table of Contents won’t set anything afire for pushing boundaries…” What Table of Contents would for you, Aidan? Just curious. Might have to consider that for the next anthology.

    ” (admittedly male-heavy)” This is true, from first glance, but you don’t know the 10 female writers who said they couldn’t join the anthology for various reasons. Just want to make it clear that, for the writers I asked, it was almost exactly split 50/50 genders. Think about the biggest female writers working today — and I likely asked them to be part of UNFETTERED. :)

  • Aidan Moher June 27, 2013 at 6:16 am

    @Shawn — Me, of course! ;)

    In seriousness, I feel that for an anthology to really push at genre boundaries in the way that I mention, I’d like to see something that thematically engages with some of the current trends and issues that the genre and fandom are dealing with that moment (right now, I’d consider that to be ‘grimdark,’ and many of the gender and social issues that have long plagued the community.) I understand, though, that that’s not what you were going for, and you’ve assembled an all star cast that features a lot of the genre’s best and brightest. I’d also apply the same ‘criticism’ (though I don’t really consider it a criticism, just an observation), to Jonathan Strahan’s Fearsome Journeys, which features a significant amount of my favourite authors (Lynch, Bear, Abraham), but doesn’t really step outside of the comfort zone of its thematic ties.

    Hope that makes sense!


    Also, thanks for the clarification about the female authors invited. That’s great news. Maybe they’ll be in for the second volume!

  • Shawn Speakman June 27, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Have you read the entire anthology, Aidan?

  • Aidan Moher June 27, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    As I made clear in my article, I’ve not read Unfettered in its entirety. I’ve read some of the stories. I’m familiar with all but one or two of the authors. Once I finish them all, perhaps I’ll be proved wrong about the anthology’s engagement with the community.

  • Shawn Speakman June 27, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    Well, that’s exactly my point. I don’t want to jump down your throat on this but I think it is constructive criticism for your blog and its future Hugo Award-nomination aspirations. You really shouldn’t make broad sweeps like you did in your article about an anthology you haven’t read yet. For one, ten of the stories are experimental in nature (i.e. very different from what those writers are known for, what YOU know them for). When it comes to pushing boundaries, many of my writers pushed their own boundaries and I think their readers are going to be surprised.

    As for gender, one of the best short stories I’ve ever read on that topic is in this anthology. It is dark and gritty and grim and goes places that are going to make readers feel very uncomfortable IF they see what the writer is doing. As far as “grim dark,” why is that pushing boundaries? And if it is, doesn’t Mark Lawrence have a story in Unfettered? ;)

  • Aidan Moher June 27, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    I look forward to having the chance to discover that for myself in the coming weeks.


  • Justin June 27, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    That last comment is pretty insulting, Shawn. I’d recommend letting the fiction speak for itself in the future.

  • Shawn Speakman June 27, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    I’d love to let the fiction speak for itself, Justin. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen in this instance and I wanted Aidan to be made aware of his words and what he is conveying to his readership. He should read the fiction before making broad generalizations. Period. Otherwise, he is insulting the book. I hope you can appreciate that.

  • Justin June 27, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    Actually, he can say whatever he wants.

    He’s the READER. Welcome to the paradigm between PUBLISHER and READER. If he wants to insult the book that’s the prerogative of the READER. The READER is not your PUBLICIST.

    Once you hit the print button you lost control brosef, sorry.

  • Shawn Speakman June 27, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    If he had actually READ the book, Justin, absolutely. But he HASN’T. End of story, “brosef.”

  • Aidan Moher June 27, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    Alrighty guys, we’ve all had our fun here. Let’s move this discussion along and encourage reader’s who have finished the book join in and discuss some of their favourite stories and how it compares to some of the other great anthologies that’ve recently come out (like Fearsome Journeys, which I mentioned above!)

  • Ross June 27, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    Would you say these stories are all “fantasy stories” in the traditional sense, or are some Sci Fi, Urban Fantasy, Steampunk, etc. I bought it either way (and I’m a little bummed I bought the actual hardcover and haven’t received it yet) but I’m anxious to see what kind of setting these tales are based in.

  • Shawn Speakman June 27, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    Thanks for the purchase, Ross! I’ve begun shipping out copies but it’s going to take me at least three weeks to do it, maybe a bit longer if I get pushed into Comic Con.

    There are a couple urban fantasy. There are a couple science fiction. There are two contemporary pieces that have little fantasy. There are two humorous pieces. And of course, several that are set in the same worlds of those writers. It’s a nice menagerie of storytelling.

  • Ross June 27, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    Awesome, sounds good Shawn. I pre-ordered back in October, so a couple more weeks shouldn’t be too bad;) Best of luck.

  • Shawn Speakman June 27, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    If you ordered that early, Ross, your order will be one of the first to go out, more than likely I’m shipping in the order I received the orders. Unless you ordered the S&N edition of the book. The signature pages are still making the rounds and won’t be completely signed for another few months, more than likely.

  • HF June 28, 2013 at 1:33 am

    How pathetic, to go after a reviewer/advertiser whocalls your book “one of the most comprehensive and exciting anthologies of mainestream fantasy released in years”.
    The straightforward observation, that none of its contributors are known for outside-the-box literature, does not constitute an insult nor does it require the reviewer/advertiser to have read all of the stories – it is a simple fact, obvious to everyone familiar with SF/F. To come here for the sole purpose of castigating the reviewer/advertiser is ridiculous. Get a hold of yourself, man!

  • Aidan Moher June 28, 2013 at 8:54 am

    Just to reiterate to everyone, while I appreciate the support, and I still stand by my statements in the above blog post, I hope that this comment thread can return to discussing the Unfettered anthology and its stories. Shawn and I have discussed our disagreement in private and come to an understanding. It’s all water under the bridge now. Shawn an I are friends and I want this area to be a place for positive discussion about what I think is a watershed anthology and one of the most important publications of the year. I’ve worked hard to create a positive, energetic community here among my readers.

  • Shawn Speakman June 28, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    HF, this is a simple issue. Aidan wrote:

    “The Table of Contents won’t set anything afire for pushing boundaries.”

    Aidan has agreed that he has virtually NO IDEA what’s in that Table of Contents. He hasn’t READ THE BOOK. So how can he make a statement that the book won’t “set anything afire?” He can’t. He hasn’t read it and doesn’t know if it will set anything afire or not.

    Aidan agreed he was off base with his comment and will be reviewing the book after he has read it. If THEN he feels it didn’t set anything afire, then he is free to post that review and I won’t care one bit. But until then, for him to review the book before having read it is not only insulting to me as an editor but also insults EVERY SINGLE WRITER in the anthology.

    I won’t stand for that.

    If you can’t see that, then we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

  • Tom S. June 28, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    This has become a pretty spirited discussion. There are some good points made by many people.
    One – a review of something that hasn’t been read yet does lack teeth and credibility.
    Two – it IS a critic’s right to criticize anything they like, but see number one.
    Three – Who the hell cares what the ToC and it’s “boundary-pushing” abilities? I’ve read enough sci-fi / fantasy over the years to stock a public library, and the ToC is there for one purpose only – to tell me what I’m going to find in the book.
    That said, having read something from about 2/3rds of the authors listed, I’m greatly anticpating this book.
    So, I think all of us as fantasy book readers need to just sit back and relax and enjoy what Speakman has put together here.

  • TJ Erickson June 28, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    I’m going to chime, in, and give my 2 cents, as it’s a public forum, and I, Aidan, and Shawn all have a right to our opinions (for now anyway). Do I think Aidan should have phrased that differently? Yes. If you’re going to try to be serious about being a reviewer, you have an obligation to your readers to actually make an informed commentary, or else you’re no better than Faux ‘News’. And he’s been around long enough that he should be aware of that.
    That said, Shawn also needs to let this go. This is his baby, and like a lot of parents he has a hard time hearing criticism (real or inferred) about his paper child. It’s funny, we are all really good at being critical, and really bad at being kind. Aidan didn’t mean to criticize, just to comment that the book didn’t strike him as being a stretch for the genre. And Shawn reacted like a lot of paper child parents do, and took it to heart. I look forward to seeing Aidan’s final take on the collection, and seeing if his final views match his early thoughts, or if he is pleasantly surprised by where some of these stories go. And now I’m off to wait patiently for MY copy of Unfettered to arrive, and to wait even longer for my copy of ‘Winds of Winter’.

  • Aidan Moher June 28, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    Folks, let’s not mistake news items for reviews.

  • Shawn Speakman June 28, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    That’s exactly why having a review in the middle of news doesn’t make any sense, Aidan. Whether you intended to or not, you critiqued the book without having read it.

  • Shawn Speakman June 28, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    I’m done with this conversation. You guys, knock yourselves out. I have thousands of books to ship out and they aren’t going to do it on their own, unfortunately. Cheers!

  • Stefan (Far Beyond Reality) June 28, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    I don’t know if Aidan edited the original post or not, but as I see it now, he only offered any kind of criticism of the Table of Contents. I don’t believe it’s necessary to have read the book to comment on the Table of Contents. We’ve seen plenty of discussion in the past about perceived bias or shortcomings in anthologies even before those anthologies have been published. If anything turned me off from purchasing this book, it’s Shawn Speakman’s reaction, not Aidan’s post.

  • Bill Cornette June 28, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    Lots of back-and-forth. Oh, well, my 2 cents worth. I have never seen a review of a ToC before, so this is a first. I read a review to get some insight into the text (e.g., level of character development, cohesive plot, historical/technical inaccuracies, ability of the author to write an English sentence) and maybe to warn me about some idiosyncrasies (e.g., the unusual technique used in telling the story of The Dog Stars by Peter Heller) so I know if I want to spend my time reading it (in the case of The Dog Stars, I did read it and enjoyed it). As a knowledgeable science fiction/fantasy/non-fiction reader of over 50 years, I know and have read works by most of the authors in Unfettered: a few I love dearly, a few I like, and a couple I am not fond of. I can judge the ToC on my own. BTW, I bought the Kindle version to read now and the S&N (#30) version. I am in the middle of another book, but will read Unfettered next.

  • Sean S. June 28, 2013 at 10:49 pm

    I agree with TJ. We all have our own opinions and are entitled to them. I also think that Aidan should have read the whole book before writing a review of it. Just because the Table of Contents is “male heavy” as he put it does not mean that it can not push boundaries. There is nothing to say that the next Anthology Shawn publishes will not be “female heavy”. As Shawn mentioned he did ask a lot of the female authors he knows but they could not participate at this time. Also Aidan did critique the book instead of just the table of contents, he could have worded things differently but there again everyone writes differently. I for one am glad to have this anthology in my library.

  • Rick Mohl June 29, 2013 at 2:32 am

    As I have not read any of the stories in UNFETTERED yet. I am looking forward to doing just that. Of all the authors who contributed a story, I have only read the works of two–Terry Brooks and Shawn Speakman. Terry Brooks name speaks for it’s self. UNFETTERED would sell on his name alone(which is precisely the reason that I’m buying it). As for Shawn Speakman, here is an emerging new author, with one book already to his credit and sequels on the way. After reading Shawn’s debut–THE DARK THORN(which I thoroughly enjoyed)–I believe that before long, Shawn will become a mainstay in the genre of Fantasy-Fiction and a household name. I do know that he already has quite a large fan base with more being added day by day. Perhaps “fan base” is the wrong term, perhaps it should be a large “friends base,” because, by looking at the list of friends who contributed a story to UNFETTERED, Shawn keeps some pretty good company. Friends who heard a call, and unselfishly answered that call. We should all have friends like that. So in closing, let me say that when I do receive my copy of UNFETTERED, It will find a place of honor on my bookshelf(right next to THE DARK THORN). Thank you for your time. R.L.M

  • Rick M. June 30, 2013 at 1:07 am

    Ok, let’s break this down somewhat–“At long last, Unfettered, a fantasy anthology edited by Shawn Speakman, is available for purchase.”– This book has been long in the making.– “So, please excuse me while I have a little fangasm.”– I don’t even want to touch that one.– “If you’re unaware of the anthology…”– The knowledge of this book has been by word of mouth, websites, a few other media means and by an inner circle of friend, a good portion of the general public will probably never hear of this book.– ” Speakman did the only thing he could think of to deal with the monumental medical bills….. he called his friends, he made a book.”– I believe Shawn had one other option,bankruptcy. And who wouldn’t give to have friends like Shawn has. And what a book he made.–“Each author contributed an original short story to the anthology and….. were not restrained by an overall thematic structure.”–Everything here is brand new and it was a free for all.–“The slam dunk here looks like Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson’s “River of Souls,” which is a deleted sequence…..” — A bonus, but it sounds like it’s not quite an original but it never saw the light of the press.–“I’ve not had a chance to read through the entire anthology, but a meander through its pages, along with the handful of stories I have read, Unfettered seems to live up to its promise of being one of the most comprehensive and exciting anthologies of mainstream fantasy released in years.”– Ok, this is pretty self-explanatory- hasn’t read the book from cover to cover but has meandered through some pages(meander-to move aimlessly and idly without fixed direction). Some stories have been read in their entirety, and it looks like the book is going to be a big success–” The Table of Contents won’t set anything afire for pushing boundaries…”– Now this is where I have to stop and scratch my head. Set what on fire? And push what boundaries? It seems, and this is only my opinion, that it won’t set the literary world on fire and will not surpass any boundaries of mainstream anthologies? It will fall short? What I get from this review is that UNFETTERED is “damn good” and then it is just “damned.” My opinion only. I have not read UNFETTERED myself yet and the keyword here is “yet.” I relish the chance to read authors that I have never read before. Other than Terry Brooks and Shawn, I have never read the works of the other contributors. It’s my felling that the book would sell– and sell well– on Terry’s name alone. Perhaps in time, Shawn and Adian will see how silly this all was and will kiss and make up.