Accepting the Existence of Magic

Image: Floating Woman in Forest

Photo by Andrei Oprinca via Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If you’re a paranormal fantasy reader you might find this scenario familiar:

The main character, Mary Sue, has finally cottoned on to the fact that things around her aren’t quite what they seem. In fact, things are getting downright weird. The various laws that govern time and space and normality in her world are breaking to pieces around her. In short, she’s encountering the supernatural… either that or she’s just mad. This is a fantasy novel, however, so you can be 99% sure it’s not madness.

The trouble is, Mary Sue continues to insist that she is mad. Continue reading

Exotic Names: 7 Languages That Inspire Fantasy Authors

Image: World Globe

Old Globe. Photo by Kenneth Lu via Flickr CC BY 2.0

You open a book and come across an unusual place or character name. Maybe it’s got some strange consonants packed in. Maybe it even has an apostrophe or two. You’ve got no idea how to pronounce it… but if you’re used to reading fantasy this probably hasn’t fazed you. Exotic invented names are commonplace in this realm.

Some fantasy names might stand out in your memory: perhaps famous ones like Isengard and MordorAzkaban and Quidditch, Targaryen and Dothraki. Others might not. Regardless, the majority of them are not as made-up as they seem. Continue reading

How Did You Read Your Books Last Year?

Image: Books, Audiobooks and eBooks

This is going to be a very brief and non-very-fantasy-focussed post, but I’m curious to hear about other people’s reading and book buying habits.

For interest’s sake, I decided to work out stats on what format I read my books in last year (with the help of Goodreads). Here is the spread: Continue reading

My Favourite Fantasy and Science Fiction Books in 2014

Image: Sydney Harbour New Year's Fireworks 2013

Only one more day left in 2014! And even though this isn’t really a review blog (though I do mention books I’ve enjoyed), I thought I’d follow in the footsteps of several other bloggers I’ve seen recently and take this opportunity to list a few of the best fantasy and science fiction books that I’ve read this year. Continue reading

5 Ways to Keep Your Dragons Fresh

Image: Fire Breathing Dragon

“The Dragon of Hell”. Photo by balt-arts via Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0

Dragons are popular creatures, particularly in epic high fantasy. If you pick up a fantasy book at random, I’d say the chance of you encountering a dragon at some point during that book are high. In fact, doing a brief and highly unscientific survey of my fantasy shelf, I’d say about 15% of them involve dragons in some way (and i’m sure if I read exclusively epic fantasy that percentage would be higher). Personally, I’m not someone that actively seeks out dragons, but I always enjoy a well-wrought dragon when I encounter one.

The question is, when there are so many dragons out there, how do fantasy authors make their dragons feel fresh and interesting? Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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