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Meet the Publisher: Paolo Greco

Paolo Greco is the author of The Book of Gaub, Wulfwald, and in conjunction with Yochai Gal, published Beyond the Pale and Magen Chaim. They were kind enough to answer some questions for me.

Question. Firstly, you've been producing some of the most uniquely weird projects to come out of the OSR, and never seem to visit the same idea more than once. Can you talk a little bit about your inspirations? Do you go into a project with a specific tone in mind, or does it evolve during the process?

Answer. Thank you! I think my different background and reading preferences strongly influenced what I make: I'm one of the few Mediterranean Old School publishers, and my fantasy milieu comes more from history and real world mythology than the "Fantasy Genre". As a matter of fact, except for Fantastic Realism writers (like Calvino, Borges, Saint Euxpery, and Pratchett in its satirical Discworld), Lord Dunsany, Pratchett, and Ursula Le Guin, I never read fantasy: as a genre I find it mostly boring, and picking Lord of the Rings for my summer reading in high school was a terrible choice that I still regret. My books are definitely more informed by non-fiction, for example history and science at large, politics, and real-world magic. Something I'm way, way more mainstream about is my cinematic inspiration: being an '80s kid, I absolutely snorted the adventure movie and anime genre. I watched Boorman's Excalibur so many times the VHS tape wore off. Hanno's Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water and Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade are also fundamental inspirations, and so are titles like Highlander, Akira, Blues Brothers, Saint Seiya.

Something else I cannot leave out is having grown up in Italy, and how much it affected my aesthetic: in the way to my dad's office I walked past a renaissance gothic cathedral, medieval palaces, roman ruins, and modern arcades, all of them wholly integrated in Milan's urban matrix. I do not relate at all to the OSR grimdark "aesthetic of ruin", and to be honest I find it very English, small-c conservative, and sad in a way that does not yield anything worthwhile: looting for personal gain is fun, but there is a core twinge of backward grief about loss, and no intention to work on that grief. I'd rather work on that grief, reclaim those ruins,  and use them to enrich our lives. If that strikes you as a more positive Renaissance attitude, you would be right: in what I write there is a glimpse of an upward trajectory, hinting at the possibility of a new Golden Age. Even Beautiful yet Lost, that is about nostalgia, grief, and ruins, is ultimately about recovery.

Q. Wulfwald seems to be a pretty significant departure from your earlier work, in the scope. How has it been working on a larger, more ambitious project like this? I think the box set -- and especially the cloth map -- is going to be a pretty amazing project.

A. Thank you! Wulfwald was a big project, but it ended up much bigger and deeper than expected. It's my second boxed set, and the box and the map and the physical components were, paradoxically, the easiest part: the only problem was finding a manufacturer that could handle the box with a cloth map. The real issue with producing Wulfwald was the amount of material: during layout and dev-edit it became clear that it could not fit in four booklets, but needed five, and some of the material needed more work, and towards the end we felt there were meaningful gapes and Lee went back to the desk and wrote more. Throw in some bad health on my side, political instability making shipping through Suez impossible, and communication issues with the printer and that's all the ingredients for being one year and two months late.


Q. One of the main themes that seems to run through your work is that of the outsider, or the outcast. If it's not too forward, how much of this is informed by your life experiences? 

A. Alienation has been a constant experience in my life. Autism, ADHD, being queer, trans, migrant, nerdy: I never had a chance to fit in. Wulfwald is about criminal outcasts resorting to murder and terror to fit in society, Beyond the Pale is set in a Jewish community, Chthonic Codex was written in part as a satire against my postgrad at Glasgow University, and wizardry in general is the field of what is beyond the experience, ken, and familiarity of most people. 

Q. Finally, can you talk a bit about any upcoming projects you might have in the works or are thinking about once Wulfwald is put to bed? Do you have anything, or anyone, you'd like to plug?

A. After Wulfwald we did Beyond the Pale. Written by Yochai Gal (of Cairn fame), it's an Old School horror-ish adventure based on Jewish mysticism and folktales. It took Yochai years of research and writing, and beside me the production team is all Jewish. The kickstarter went well, and the result is a pretty hardcover. Now I'm actively working on a few projects:

  • Mike Monaco's new edition of Burgs & Bailiffs, a complete Old School European Medieval setting book.

  • Beautiful Yet Lost, an exploration game of diaspora and the pain of homecoming. Delve in the ruin of your old civilization, trying to recover what's left of your dying culture.

  • Dawn of Thaumaturgy, a supplement book to play Old School before spells and magic items were invented. No clerics or wizards, but exorcists binding spirits, cunning folk and their arts and remedies, and astrologer-smiths gathering meteors to forge swords from out of this world.

  • A very secret project that I do not want to jinx :)

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