My Hugo 2019 Favourites

Back in June I set myself the goal of reading as many of the finalists for this year’s Hugo Awards as possible, and in the end I was pretty happy with what I managed. So on the awards night at Worldcon I bustled into the auditorium, ready to cheer for my favourites… and not a single of my top picks won! I wasn’t too crestfallen, since I also liked the ones that did win, but it goes to show you how varied tastes are when it comes to awards. Apparently some of the categories were decided by a slim margin of votes, so there was stiff competition.

In light of this, and since everyone always talks about the winners, I thought I’d take this opportunity to give a shout out to some of the finalists which didn’t win, but which I personally thought were fantastic. Continue reading

Attending Worldcon Dublin 2019

Between trying to read as many books before the Hugo voting deadline as possible,  finalising a draft of a novel, going to Worldcon, going on holiday, and getting all my wisdom teeth out (a nice treat I saved for my return home), it’s taken a while to find the time to blog again… but I’ve finally managed it, so I thought I’d share a few pics and experiences I took away from my first World Science Fiction Convention.

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Casting a Vote in the 2019 Hugo Awards

I often like to look at which books get nominated for fantasy and science fiction awards. A nomination doesn’t always mean I’ll like a book, because I’ve come across winners I’ve loved and others I’ve hated, but I enjoy finding out whether I agree with the choices. I rarely actually vote in any awards, either because I can’t, or because I don’t have time to read the shortlisted entrants before the deadline, and I don’t like to choose without having considered them all.

This year, however, I’m going to WorldCon, so for the first time ever I’m able to vote in one of the biggest SF&F awards out there: the Hugos! I’m pretty excited about it, so I decided I’m going to try to read the finalists in as many categories as I can before the online ballot submission closes on July 31st.

I’m a slow reader, so I don’t know how many I’ll manage, but here are the main categories I’m going to attempt: Continue reading

The Best Fantasy and Science Fiction Books I Read in 2018

So this post is coming ridiculously late in the year, after everyone else has long finished their reflections on 2018… but I got so side-tracked doing that fantasy decades series that I never gave a shout out to my favourite reads from last year, which seemed a shame. So I figured: better late than never!

I read lots of wonderful books, but I’ve chosen the 5 that most impressed and bewitched me. For each I’m just going to say why I loved them (in a spoiler-free way), so if you want to know in more detail what they’re about, you can click on the links to read the blurbs on Goodreads. Continue reading

Elements of Steampunk

This week I’m excited to bring you a guest post from steampunk writer Katherine McIntyre. Kathryn recently released the third book in her adventure-filled Take to the Skies series, and is stopping by to give a glimpse into the world of steampunk and its historical roots:

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When checking out a novel, movie, or some form of art termed ‘steampunk,’ certain elements have surfaced enough times to have become hallmarks of the genre.  Even folks who aren’t savvy with the trend have come to recognize the assortment of gears, the Victorian style gowns, and the many pairs of goggles as steampunk.

Where did these elements come from? Continue reading

Knocking People Out: Easier in Fiction Than in Real Life

During some recent TV viewing I noticed a few characters getting a little too conveniently knocked out, which got me wondering how many of the ways writers commonly use to render characters unconscious are actually plausible. To try and answer that, I did a little researching and wrote an article for Fantasy Faction about how true to life these fictional “fade to blacks” might be. Here’s the link in case the topic is of interest to anyone following along here:  Continue reading

A Streak of White Hair: Fantasy or Reality?

I recently wrote an article on Fantasy Faction about characters who have “skunk stripes” in their hair. I wanted to find out why these occur both in fiction and real life, and how plausible “natural” white highlights really are. My investigation led me to some interesting answers, so I thought I’d share the article link in case the topic is intriguing to anyone following along here:  Continue reading

The 5 Best Fantasy and Science Fiction Books I Read in 2017

Happy New Year! It seems the feasting and drinking are over and it’s time to start making good on those resolutions… one of which, in my case, was to return to blogging – so I’m back! I thought I’d kick off 2018 by taking a look at some books that brightened the past year for me. These aren’t necessarily books published in 2017 (in fact, most weren’t), simply a selection from the books I happened to read over the last 12 months.

I’ve picked 5 favourites – I read and enjoyed other wonderful fantasy and sci-fi books in 2017, but these were the ones that most stood out, enchanted or impressed me: Continue reading

What Fantasy Authors Can Learn from Marvel Studios

This week I’m excited to bring you a guest post from writer, English teacher and Marvel fan Josiah DeGraaf, who blends the fantasy and superhero genres in his writing. He takes a look at what fantasy authors might learn from the successes of genre-mixing in superhero fiction:

If you aren’t much of a superhero movie fan (or even if you are), the upcoming slate of movies Marvel alone is trying to push out may seem rather exhausting. 10 more films in the next three years with plans through 2027? It’s no wonder you have people like Spielberg predicting superhero films will go the way of the Western and burn out in the near future.

Yet, despite all the films churned out by Marvel and DC, moviegoers keep purchasing tickets without any signs of stopping. Superhero stories are a (relatively) narrow genre—and yet many viewers (such as myself) regularly see two to four superhero films a year, despite the criticisms Marvel’s received for weak villains and paint-by-number three-act stories.

How has Marvel been able to keep selling tickets without running into genre fatigue? There are multiple reasons, but there’s one I’d like to focus on: Marvel keeps the genre feeling fresh by mixing it with other genres. This is a skill that not only budding novelists can be taking advantage of—but a skill some of the best fantasy authors today are using to craft unique and brilliant stories. Continue reading

Those First Few Pages: 8 Hooks That Get Me

One of the criticisms I often hear levelled at books is that they take a while to “get interesting”. Even well-crafted first chapters can be a tad slow if the characters, world and story haven’t fully sunk their claws in yet. Nonetheless, I think most readers know to stick with a promising book even if it’s not immediately riveting, because they will be rewarded if and when those claws do sink in. Some of my favourite books had beginnings that didn’t powerfully hook me, so I don’t expect to be utterly wooed from the first line, or even the first few pages.

Occasionally, however, I am. Some books have striking openings that grab me and tug me forward, creating a level of excitement I might not normally expect for at least a few chapters. I always find these beginnings impressive, and enjoy trying to pinpoint what it was about them that drew me and other readers who raved about them in so completely. So for this post, I thought I’d do just that, and look at few “hooks” from beginnings that enthralled me: Continue reading