Titling this transcript of my Virtual Fantasy Con interview with Rob Matheny couldn’t have been easier, as Rob is the unstoppable force behind the Grim Tidings Podcast and the Facebook Group Grimdark Readers and Writers. The VFC ran on Facebook October 15-21, 2017, and Rob was my fourth guest to stop by my virtual booth for an interview. Author Jeff Pryor dropped by the booth too, and we talked about Rob’s love of wrestling, grimdark fiction, and unicorns. Oh, and I dropped in some unabashed flattery hoping Rob will someday invite me on his show!
AMJ: Welcome Rob. Give us a grim tiding.
RM: Monday without coffee! What could be grimmer? Other than that, hello and thanks for having me here.
AMJ: Thanks for joining me. You recently celebrated your 100th episode of the Podcast. What inspired you to start it?
RM: Yes 100 episodes! We started the podcast around April of 2015. By that point our Facebook group Grimdark Fiction Readers & Writers had been going for about a year, and someone had mentioned starting a podcast. I’d actually been wanting to start one for a while, and so we decided one day to give a solid look at what it took to get one started. We recorded our first episode and it just seemed to click. I suppose we’re doing something right. Or we’re just too daft to stop now.
AMJ: Did you have any sort of broadcasting or journalism experience, or was it really just two guys deciding to speak publicly about stuff they liked?
RM: For me personally, I actually have a degree in radio broadcasting and have been in commercial radio since about 2000 with a specialty in production. Though I rarely did much behind the mic, the podcast was a chance to emerge from my shell. For my cohost Phil, his background is in education and he currently resides and teaches English abroad in Japan (though he has a slow Southern accent that sounds like sweet honey molasses). But yes, I do have a background in broadcasting and currently work full time as a producer. I do think that my professional background in broadcasting has helped the show, I try to make it as listenable as possible.
AMJ: I saw Jeff Pryor lurking in here and wanted to invite him to jump in with questions if he wants.
JP: I just want to know if Rob got hit with any flying chairs last night.
RM: No, but I wished! (For those who don’t know I’m a huge pro wrestling fan and attended a RAW live event in Portland.) It was a great time for sure.
AMJ: That’s another question I have for Rob. Are your love of grimdark and your love of pro wrestling related?
RM: I would say my love for Grimdark and pro wrestling are ABSOLUTELY RELATED. It’s all about story, character, action, intrigue, there are many overlapping elements! In fact, I think I may have to write a blog post about this…
AMJ: Back to the podcast. It is very listenable, and you both have voices that are easy on the ears.
RM: Wow thank you, and kind of you to say!
AMJ: I understand that your Joe Abercrombie episode is the most-downloaded. Do you consider him your biggest “get”?
RM: I’d have to say we’ve had quite a few big “gets”. Joe Abercrombie, R. Scott Bakker, Steven Erikson, in addition to some other greats who may not be as grim, including Richard A. Knaak and Raymond E. Feist. And in most cases, we were able to connect to those authors through other guests who’d already done the show.
JP: I am going to have to dig up the Feist one. I’ve listened to a few, but not that one.
RM: Thank you for listening Jeff! For the full show archive, best to drop by thegrimtidingspodcast.podbean.com.
AMJ: Networking is everything. Who else would you like to have on as a guest?
RM: Yes, networking is EVERYTHING. We’ve been so honored to get some many great guests in a short time. I’d love to get George R.R. Martin on the show, of course. I feel he is the biggest name in Grimdark and fantasy in general presently. It’d be great to chat with Mark Lawrence, Brent Weeks, Peter V. Brett, and Myke Cole. Some other guests who I’d like to chat with would include Janny Wurts, Brandon Sanderson, and Patrick Rothfuss. We major in Grimdark, but we minor in everything else. We like to highlight bigger names, and smaller names doing big things. Really the questions right now isn’t “if”, it’s “when?”
AMJ: My husband worked at the same company as Peter Brett while he was writing Warded Man. I interviewed him shortly before the Skull Throne came out.
RM: We really haven’t had a chance to highlight Brett’s series on the show, and would love to get him on to chat about it. People would do well to go pick up a copy of The Warded Man to get started!
AMJ: It is definitely one of my favorite fantasy series. Now that it’s concluded, it might be an excellent time for him to come on and talk about what’s next.
RM: I agree completely
AMJ: When did you discover grimdark as its own thing (as opposed to “merely” dark and/or gritty speculative fiction), and what drew you to it
RM: I discovered the term on … believe it or not … a podcast. It was an old episode of Adventures in Scifi Publishing where they had a roundtable chat with some writers doing grimdark. It was then I knew. That was the word for what I liked. That dark and gritty fantasy that had the punch and realism I liked. I had no clue just how momentous hearing that term would be. Shortly thereafter I created the Grimdark Fiction Readers & Writers Facebook group, as there simply wasn’t a Grimdark group at the time. Since then the group has continued to grow, and grow, and grow.
AMJ: I discovered the term when my friend Autumn M. Birt said, “my work is more noblebright than grimdark,” and a lightbulb went off. I looked it up on Wikipedia and thought, wow, that’s what I do! Although my work is way more like GRRM’s than Bakker’s.
Now, we’re getting close to the end of our time, and I have to ask: what is the deal with you and unicorns? Why do you hate them?
RM: Quite the contrary! I have a borderline unhealthy obsession with unicorns that I really can’t quite explain and I love them so! What’s not to love really? Magical? Mythical? Mystical? Dreamy? Also magical? In some weird way, it could be my personality trying balance itself by the complete onslaught of grim stories and media I expose myself to. Perhaps my brain needs magical horses to balance out the unending barrage of despair and violence and bleakness? Hard to say really. But if you friend me on Facebook, which anyone is welcome to (facebook.com/robmatheny80), expect an unyielding stream of unicorns to flood your newsfeed (in addition to metal videos and nihilism memes)!
AMJ: Aha! You’re ribbed so often about it I thought you had a serious aversion to them.
RM: It’s kind of obnoxious, I know!
AMJ: Well, let’s finish off with the Unicorn Ouija. Thanks for stopping by, Rob! It was awesome getting to know you better.
RM: Thank you so much for having me, this was a blast! I hope everyone gets a chance to check out the show and READ MORE GRIMDARK!
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