The Territories: Volume 1co-edited by Chad Dundas and Jonathan Snowden is a shared worldwide anthology set in the “recognizably but fictionalized” territorial era of professional wrestling of the 1980s. The book contains ten works of fiction, written by ten different authors, including contributions from Dundas and Snowden, each writer grappling with fictional wrestling territory, and the various wrestlers, promoters, and fans within.
The history of the printing of the book is also interesting. It is published by Hybrid Shoot, who also made Way of the Blade and Shamrock: The World’s Most Dangerous Man (written by Snowden). Funding for the book was made possible through Indiegogo, and readers can still visit Indiegogo to purchase The Territories in ebook or hardcover form. According to the publisher’s description of The territories“Set in a funhouse mirror of our own world, The territories leaps into the pro wrestling madness of the 1980s, presenting the business as we loved it – wild, unruly and a bit off balance.
The cornerstone of The territories is “The Big Hoss,” a short story by Chad Dundas, a 44-year-old podcaster, journalist, novelist, husband, and father of three from Missoula, Montana. Dundas wrote “The Big Hoss” before he and Snowden began collaborating on The territories. Initially, Dundas thought “The Big Hoss” would simply live on his computer for the rest of his life, then he casually mentioned his history to Snowden, who told him about his idea for a shared universe set in the Territories. of wrestling, “like planets in a solar system”, and Dundas revised “The Big Hoss” to better fit The territories. But “The Big Hoss” isn’t Dundas’ first foray into wrestling writing. Dundas previously wrote a short story called “The Rightful King of Wrestling”, published in 2013 by Thuglit, a detective fiction magazine, which led to the eventual publication of his first novel, World Championa work of historical fiction set in the professional wrestling world of the 1920s, and which happens to be related to The territories.
“The Big Hoss” by Chad Dundas occupies the first third of this anthology and is an excellent introduction to The territories. In “The Big Hoss,” readers are introduced to our protagonist and narrator, “Real Deal” Dallas Hostettler, a 6-foot-6, 275-pound “beef” who was chosen to drive and tag along with “Maniac.” Frontier States Wrestling Heavyweight Champion Mack Savage. Hostettler lacks “experience and a better body,” while Savage is a “broken old mule,” so they’re a classic odd couple, on steroids (literally). “The Big Hoss” is told from the perspective of an older, wiser Hostettler, almost 40 years older, in fact, and the world he describes feels fleshed out and lived in. Frontier States Wrestling, comprised of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Montana, Wyoming, and East Washington, is the first of 16 fictional territories featured in The territoriesand it’s full of new characters, but Dundas does a great job of introducing a cast of characters that presumably fictional Hostettler fans may already know, so he doesn’t patronize readers by providing too much information about each introduced wrestler and promoter.
After all, a wrestler who might just be a footnote in “The Big Hoss” can get his own full treatment later, either in the first volume of The territories, or future collections. This anthology rewards close readers who pay attention to seemingly minor details and characters (hint: a belly scar depicted in “The Big Hoss” comes up in another story), and really works to validate the Russian drama teacher’s quote. Konstantin Stanislavski: “There are no small roles, only small actors.
Every story in The territories is enjoyable in its own way, and there’s enough variety for every reader to have their favorites, but in addition to the Dundas short story, some personal favorites are ‘Iblis, Come To Me’, Nick Mamatas’ story on the fanaticism fueled by Satanic Panic; “Take Notes, Meatloaf,” by Richard Fifield, which centers on a wrestler-turned-actor living and rehearsing in Los Angeles before the 1992 riots; “The Job” by Jason S. Ridler, a pithy story about an idiosyncratic drifter/jobber with an unnatural tolerance for injury; and Ben Fowlkes’ “Doomsday, Destroyer of Worlds”, which sufficiently concludes the first volume of The territories telling the story of Doomsday’s short-lived tenure in Memphis, a face-painted “six-and-a-half-foot steroid freak” who is more famous for his nonsensical promotions and in-ring injuries than his “work rate “.
With multiple authors working in a shared literary world, Dundas said continuity was the biggest hurdle he and Snowden faced in creating. The territories, so they created a “history bible” that described the “luminaries” of this world and described the history of the 16 territories. After contributors have expressed interest in writing for The territoriesDundas and Snowden have shared “the bible” with their authors, so they can use it as inspiration or reference when writing their stories, and if readers are interested and want to read “71 Pages of basic documents bringing this strange new world to life,” they can download The Territories: The Bible for free on Gumroad.
For the first volume, Dundas and Snowden reached out to writers they had established relationships with and who were close to their hearts, including former graduate school colleagues, but for the second volume, Dundas said they had “spread their wings” to invite new contributors. One of the many great things about The territories is that co-editors Dundas and Snowden have only scratched the surface of this shared universe, so as long as they continue to find qualified writers who want to write about the fictional territorial struggle, we can hope that readers will rewarded with numerous other volumes of The territories.
Finally, I think it is important to recognize the artist for The Territories: Volume 1. Marco Bucci fills the cover with vivid illustrations of some of the wrestlers debuting in the anthology, such as “Maniac” Mack Savage, face painted Doomsday, “Dungeon Master” Demian Rex and Ronnie “Brick Wall” Brooks. Additional artwork can be seen online, where you can see renders of trading card versions of Doomsday, Rex, and Brooks. It is to be hoped that Bucci will continue to be the artist of subsequent volumes, and I cannot help but assume that actual printed trading cards of these and other wrestlers from The territories would be a fun bonus and collectible.
Dundas confirmed that he and Snowden are hard at work on volume two of The territories, which should be available for purchase by the end of 2022, and that Hybrid Shoot will also release this second collection. Dundas ends his story for The Territories: Volume 2as well as the draft of his third novel, and he currently co-hosts the podcasts Death in the West and Co-main event.
The Territories: Volume 1 (Hybrid Shoot), edited by Chad Dundas and Jonathan Snowden, is available as an ebook or hardcover on Indiegogo, Gumroad, and Amazon.