Fantasy Authors Read 1-Star Reviews

I stumbled across this series of videos the other day: a whole host of famous fantasy and sci-fi authors (including Patrick Rothfuss, Joe Abercrombie, John Scalzi, Laini Taylor, Jacqueline Carey, Elizabeth Bear and more) reading scathing 1-star Amazon reviews for their books aloud. It’s pretty funny. My favourite is the third video. Continue reading

The Special Effects You Don’t See

Image: Barn from The Landing Short Film

Image from the short film The Landing

A fleet of space ships swoops into battle, a dragon flexes its wings, a superhero uses their incredible powers… in films and TV shows, these are the kind of scenes where you’re likely to comment on the amazing (or not so amazing) special effects. Their very nature, as things that don’t exist, will make you more inclined to scrutinise them, and decide whether you are impressed or unimpressed by how they have been brought to life on screen.

What we rarely notice are the copious special effects that re-create real things. Continue reading

A Few Tips on Buying Books as Gifts

A friend or acquaintance starts to tell you about a book – a wonderful book that you absolutely must read. They describe how this book changed their world, how they can’t recommend it enough. You see the sparkle in their eye as they reflect on the memory of reading it. So surely, you think, you really must go out and read this book?

Well, if you’re like me, that all depends.

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A Terrible Beauty

Nicola Alter:

An interesting post about antique rifles over at mctuggle.com – it seems it wasn’t only sword-smiths that put effort into intricately adorning and crafting their weapons of choice. If medieval fantasy lovingly describes the inscriptions and ornamentation on blade hilts, I can imagine more contemporary fantasy describing the intricate woodwork and metalwork on some of these.

Originally posted on M.C. Tuggle, Writer:

Weapons hold a special place in all cultures. The tradition of a special bond between the weapon and its owner is one we see often in history, folklore, and literature. Think of the samurai’s katana, Thor’s Mjölnir, Arthur’s Excalibur, Bilbo’s Sting, and Davy Crockett’s Ol’ Betsy.

This morning, I attended a presentation at the Charlotte Museum of History on the Mecklenburg Longrifle, a fine and highly sought-after weapon produced here in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Michael Briggs, the author of The Longrifle Makers of Guilford County and The Longrifle Makers of Forsyth County & Davidson County, displayed some breathtaking pieces from his personal collection, and generously identified and discussed longrifles that audience members brought in.

Audience
Author Michael Briggs examining a longrifle.

North Carolina had nine different schools, or regional styles, of longrifles. Those distinctive styles were the outgrowth of the culture of the settler population. The predominant Scots-Irish and…

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What Did Tolkien Think of Fantasy Fiction?

Image: Door to Hobbit House

Inside The Hobbit Hole of Bilbo Baggins. Photo by Trey Ratcliff Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

We all know J.R.R. Tolkien wrote fantasy fiction. He was the brilliant mind behind The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, a creator of intricate and enthralling new worlds, and one of the founding fathers of the genre. You can rarely talk about fantasy fiction without mentioning Tolkien… but I think his skill in writing fantasy was not the only thing that made him the legend he is today.  Continue reading

Genre is Not a Dirty Word

Image: book store with genre shelf labels

Photo by Ian Collins Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0

I’ve encountered quite a few fantasy and science fiction authors – famous and popular ones at that – who, when asked about their decision to write in the genre, say something along the lines of “oh, well, I just write what I write and someone slots it into a genre later, I don’t think about what genre I want to write in”. There’s often this additional implication that ‘genre’ is a dirty word – that is the oppressive tool of publishers and bookshops. Books get hemmed in and categorised by this evil notion of genre, and their authors get pigeon-holed as ‘fantasy writers’ or ‘crime writers’.

Frankly, I never understand this. I love the word genre.  Continue reading

History in the Potterverse and Other Magical Worlds

Image: Hogwarts Castle

Hogwarts Castle, Wizarding World of Harry Potter (by Jeff Kays Flickr CC BY 2.0)

If you’ve read the Harry Potter series, the name Bathilda Bagshot might be familiar to you. You may even recognise her as the author of Hogwarts, a History, a book to which Harry’s friend Hermione regularly refers in the series. Whenever the characters need to know something about the ancient castle they go to school in, Hermione is there, spouting “historical” facts from Bagshot’s work to help them solve their problems.

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Sex Scenes in Fantasy Novels: When Do They Work?

Image: Orchid at the Pittsburgh Botanic Gardens

Orchid at the Pittsburgh Botanic Gardens

Growing up, most of the fantasy novels I read didn’t have sex scenes. Perhaps they had a little romance, maybe some kissing, but nothing I would classify as a proper sex scene, or even an illusion to a sex scene. A few, of course, did have scenes that were a little raunchy… but I remember finding those awkward and out of place. Continue reading

The Danger of Believing in Witches

Image: witch burning

In a few more days it will be Halloween, and I’d say there will be a good many witches wandering the streets. You know the look – a pointy crooked hat, a black cloak, a long warty nose, maybe even a broomstick. The kind of thing you’d see in a rendition of The Wizard of Oz or Hansel and Gretel. Fantasy stories are so often populated by witches that we barely bat an eyelid at their mention. We dress up as them, sometimes even wish we could be them, and fantasise about receiving our letter from Hogwarts. What we rarely give a thought to is that a few hundred years ago, a witch was more than just something from a fantasy story… and it was one of the last things you’d want to pretend to be.  Continue reading

Learning a Fantasy Language? Apparently There’s an App for That

Image: Galadriel's Lament (image by Roberta Cortese, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

I work part time at an institute that runs classes in a whole range of foreign languages. Real-world languages, that is – like French and Arabic and Japanese. On our feedback forms at the end of each course, we ask students to suggest any new languages that they would like us to offer in the following year. One day a colleague came to me, confused, with a feedback form in hand, and asked:

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