The Battle of the Bookshelves

Image: Bookshelves

Okay, it’s not really a battle. But when you look at the two bookshelves in my house – two identical IKEA monstrosities – there’s an obvious difference.

The one on the right is stuffed with autobiographies and memoirs and a myriad of non-fiction… books on economics and the Internet age and business and psychology and politics. Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom cosies up next to Jared Diamond’s Collapse, and a rather ominous book titled The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. Continue reading

The Book Was Better: Watching vs Reading Fantasy

Image: Harry Potter DVDs and Book

It’s not uncommon to hear people complain that a film didn’t do justice to the book it was based on. Maybe you’ve even been the person doing the complaining. I know I have.

Sometimes a film version of a book just flat-out disappoints. Sometimes it highlights all the wrong parts, or cuts out your favourite bits, or is badly acted, or poorly shot, or presents the climactic moments in a way that drains them of all tension. Of course on the flip side, some film renditions can be great, and there are several out there that have delighted fans.

However, my intention here is not to bemoan the flaws and strengths of various film adaptations. Rather, I’d like to acknowledge something that I think will always affect our reception of book-to-film adaptations: Continue reading

A Brief Note on the Value of Escapism

Image: Wooden Door Amongst VinesI spend a good portion of my day either reading books, writing books, listening to audiobooks, or watching TV shows and films. I occasionally ask myself if this is wasted time: time spent not living my own life. Should I be having more experiences out in the real physical world rather than in these imagined worlds in my head?

I was pondering this question again the other day, and rather than just dismissing it with my usual “of course it’s not wasted time, fiction is awesome! Escapism is awesome!” response, I thought I’d actually try to pinpoint what it is that makes me feel this way. Continue reading

Does Loving Epic Fantasy Make You a Monarchist?

Image: Royal Wedding Mug

Okay, admittedly that seems like an odd question. But if you’ve ever stopped to think about the attitudes to royalty presented in fantasy stories, particularly epic high fantasies, it’s not so absurd. There is a very obvious bias toward royalty, and the idea that a person born into a role is the most rightful and qualified person to perform that role. Continue reading

Judging a Book by Its Name: 10 Common Trends in Fantasy Titles

Title Trends and Fonts (Orbit 2009)

Chart showing most frequent fantasy book titles and fonts in 2009, Orbit Books, http://www.orbitbooks.net/2010/08/19/the-chart-of-fantasy-art-part-4-title-trends/

People often talk about how difficult cover designs are to get right, and the role they play in selling books. Titles – the things plastered all over those covers – are a less frequent topic of discussion.

Given how responsive we are to images and colours, covers probably are more important. Still, if you’re online, or talking to other book lovers, sometimes the title is the only thing you see or hear. Continue reading

Do You Ever Think of the Scriptwriter When Choosing a Film?

Image: Writing

If you’re anything like me, when you are deciding which films you might like to see at the cinema or hire at home, the scriptwriter is not high on the list of things you factor in.

Perhaps you pay attention to the director, or you look at the actors, or maybe you just go on the premise or genre alone. Maybe you even factor in the studio (personally, I know I’ll watch anything Pixar brings out). Continue reading

Why the End of the World Will Never Get Old

Image: Xmen - Days of Future Past

I recently went to the cinema to see the latest X-Men film, Days of Future Past. I’m a massive fan of the X-Men series, and to date none of the films have disappointed me. This newest instalment was no different. I loved it. A thoroughly entertaining and gripping addition to the franchise.

However, it gave me a slightly different emotional experience to the other six films. Not in a bad way, I still enjoyed it, but the experience of watching it just felt a little… different.  Continue reading

Please, No More Love Triangles

Photo: Twilight Saga, New Moon

I’ll be honest, it has to be a brilliant, addictive, or particularly unique paranormal romance to tempt me to read beyond the first book. Even then, I’m hesitant. And it’s not because I don’t enjoy the genre. I love a well-crafted supernatural romance. I’m not even turned off by the copious vampires and werewolves. Sure, I’ve seen a lot of them, but if they’re done well, they’re still enthralling.

The reason for my hesitance is that I’m thoroughly sick of love triangles. Continue reading

Why We Read Fantasy: Is There a Secret Ingredient?

Illustration: Witches with Cauldron

For years, perhaps since the earliest fantasy criticism, authors and critics have touted the element of ‘wonder’ as being central to fantasy, and to some extent, science fiction.

We’re often told that it’s why we’re drawn to the genre, that it’s this particular intangible, magical feeling of awe that we are seeking when we dive into Middle Earth, linger in the corridors of Hogwarts, or encounter the many worlds and peoples of Star Trek.  Continue reading

On Pesky Childhood Influences: Are Your Ideas Really Yours?

Photo: FernGully Cave Scene

Image from FernGully (1992)

Have you ever had a moment where you realised that an idea you had—one you thought was brilliant and original and entirely yours—turns out to be someone else’s? And I don’t just mean someone beat you to it. I mean you actually got the idea from another person, then forgot about it?

In a story I’m writing I have been planning a pivotal scene: one where two characters finally kiss. I’ve had an idea for a romantic setting for a long time and I thought this might be the opportunity to use it. Continue reading