Why Gods Are Usually Better Left Off-Stage in Fantasy

Call me old fashioned, but a God in fiction should have god-like powers. What exactly are those? Well, a snap of the fingers and they can bring drought, famine, flood or plenty, kill hundreds, create hundreds, change the world or influence people’s lives and fates. Hell, they are usually the ones that created the world in the first place. Most importantly, their powers trump everyone else’s. If they’re a god, they’re more than everyone else: they’re the ultimate power.

This leads me to why I often have a problem with gods traipsing around centre-stage in fantasy novels, TV shows, or films. If they’re no longer a mysterious, largely absent and only mildly-interfering power, they can become problematic. Here are a few reasons why (and I’m well aware other people may not mind these things as much as I do!): Continue reading

Getting The Last Line: 10 Kinds of Closing Sentences Used in Fantasy and Sci-fi Novels

Writers spend a good deal of time fretting about the opening sentence of their novel, just as readers enjoy quoting first lines from their favourite books. This is understandable, given so much is riding on that first impression. But what about closing lines? What about the final words that resolve the story and linger in a reader’s mind after they shut the book?

I’d hesitate to say last words are any less difficult to write. How do you leave the reader with strong positive feeling toward the book, and – in the case of a series – entice them to continue? And how do you do it without succumbing to cliché or melodrama, or tying the ‘happily-ever-after’ ending up so neatly that people roll their eyes? Continue reading

Why I Write Fairy Tales: Wee Folk and Wise

This guest post is brought to you by Deby Fredericks, whose blog Wyrmflight has taught me many an interesting dragon-related fact and myth. She recently edited an anthology of fairy and folk tale-inspired stories called Wee Folk and Wise, and has shared some reflections from Matthew Timmins, one of the collection’s contributors, on the age-old appeal of fairy tales: Continue reading

Crows and Ravens in Fantasy

Dragons are strongly associated with fantasy fiction, so much so that they have become a symbol for the genre. Given that these imaginary beasts only inhabit the realms of fantasy, fairy tale and legend, and thrill many a reader, this makes sense. However, I’d argue the humble crow or raven pops up in fantasy books and films just as often, even if it is sometimes in a more symbolic or background role.

Since I love crows, and recently changed the look of my blog to feature a crow rather prominently, I thought this might be a good excuse to take a closer look at these sometimes under-appreciated birds and their prevalence in speculative fiction. Continue reading

Why Auroras Are Like Magic

I recently ventured north of the Arctic Circle in the middle of winter. As you can probably tell from the title of this post, it wasn’t just because I wanted to frolic in the snow, ride husky sleds and marvel at the rare appearances of the sun (though I enjoyed doing all of these things), but because I wanted to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, which are more likely to be spied during the darkness of long winter nights.

Incredible videos like this one – a time-lapse of images taken from the International Space Station – had whet my appetite for auroras: Continue reading

How Long Should a Fantasy Book Be?

It’s a question often asked by aspiring authors wondering if their manuscript is several thousand words too long or short, but it’s also an intriguing one for readers to consider: is there an ideal length for a fantasy novel?

Every book is different and for any suggested word or page count you see, you are likely to encounter several popular fantasy books that are outside of it. Nonetheless, as someone who reads a lot in the genre and has also submitted work to competitions, agents and publishers, I thought I’d tackle this topic from three different perspectives:

  • how long popular published fantasy novels are,
  • how long the industry (agents, publishers, competitions) prefers them to be,
  • how long readers prefer them to be.

Continue reading

The Magic of a Brilliant Book Brilliantly Read: The Gentleman Bastards Audiobooks

The Gentleman Bastards is a much-loved fantasy series that is particularly popular in audiobook format. Fans who’ve listened to the audiobooks regularly recommend them, the narrator Michael Page has won awards for his performances (including his narration of The Lies of Locke Lamora), and author Scott Lynch has made no secret of the fact he thinks Page does a brilliant job: Continue reading

My Top 5 Fantasy and Science Fiction TV Series

I’ve long been a fan of fantasy and sci-fi TV shows, and although I don’t have time to watch as many as I would like (I guess I’m reading too many books!) if a good one comes along I’m liable to get addicted. For example, I recently finished watching the first season of Westworld and had to force myself not devote all my waking hours bingeing on it. The experience had me trying to remember which other fantasy and science fiction shows had a similar effect. After some thinking, I’ve narrowed it down to the five I like most: Continue reading

Book Stats for 2016

I love bookish statistics, and what they reveal about people’s reading habits. I enjoy it when I come across them on other blogs (for example on Magic of Books), so even though I didn’t read a huge number of books in 2016 compared to other people I know, I thought it might still be fun to see what the stats on the humble selection I did read look like… and to satisfy my nerdy appreciation for graphs and charts. Continue reading