Mort by Terry Pratchett (1987)

Mort by Terry Pratchett

I would likely also nod to the way that myth, folklore and fantasy have always ultimately been one of our finest tools for telling ourselves stories about what happens beyond the last page as it were - ‘what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil’ as Shakespeare had it - but really I’m here to talk about Mort, not death, and while the latter may be somewhat unavoidable in the long run I am here to fully recommend introducing yourself to the former as soon as possible.

Mort is the fourth book in Terry Pratchett’s epic Discworld sequence, but to my mind it’s actually one of the best titles to introduce new readers to his work.

His first two books, The Colour of Magic and its direct sequel The Light Fantastic are hilariously re-readable romps for SF&F fans where the territory is instantly recognisable even if Terry’s books are the notable exception on the fantasy bookshelf because they don’t bother to include a map.

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The Woven Path by Robin Jarvis (1995)

The Woven Path

When I try to explain why Robin Jarvis’ books are so compelling to people who haven’t read his work, I reflexively reach for the word un-patronising. It’s the best way I can explain it; the reason I was so drawn to Jarvis’ books when I was young. Yet as an adult, I found myself hesitating before giving The Woven Path to a distinctly worldly ten-year-old; not because I thought he might roll his eyes at the teddy bear on the cover, but because I was concerned the book might leave him an emotional wreck. 

And yet, this is precisely what I loved, and still love, about Jarvis. As a kid who was small for my age and looked younger than I was, I inevitably ended up being talked down to, and so was always on the look out for things that might be trying to patronise me. At first, I was doubtful of the Jarvis books I encountered, with their garish, cartoony covers. But then I opened The Alchymist’s Cat, book one in the Deptford Histories trilogy and…

How wrong I was.

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Best of British Fantasy - Launch Shindig

From the publisher:

On the afternoon of Saturday 1st June, 2019, NewCon Press will be hosting a Fantasy Fan-Dingo, unveiling two fabulous new anthologies, Best of British Fantasy 2018 (edited by Jared Shurin) and Legends 3: Stories in Honour of David Gemmell

The party will be in the upstairs function room at The Star of Kings, starting at 1.00 pm. There will be free wine, there will be free beer, and a bar once they run out. There will also be a Scribble of Writers (there's no official collective noun for a group of authors, but this one appeals to me).

Please join us - it looks like a lot of the BOBF contributors will be there, making it a real buffet of the very best!

Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines (2001)

Mortal Engines
Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

There’s something pleasingly difficult to categorise about Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines series. Is it YA? Science fiction? Post-apocalyptic? A resource-constrained dystopia? Should it be classified as steampunk?

You could make convincing arguments for and against each of these propositions, but regardless of what you decide, it is determinedly its own thing. A wildly inventive romp, traversing continents and leaving deep impressions on every page. And, if elements of the world Reeve builds conjure echoes of Brexit, or Trump’s wall building, or a myriad of urgent environmental concerns, then that’s because the scope he plays with is so undeniably epic.

Mortal Engines, the first in the quartet and published back in 2001, begins sometime beyond the 35th Century, a long time after the Sixty Minute War, with London chasing a small mining town across the dried out bed of the old North Sea.

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Fantasy Fridays

The Fellowship of the Ring

Cute promotion for Good Omens - a music video from the Chattering Order of St. Beryl.

Helen Donohoe on the power of Young Adult fiction:

In many ways, young adult fiction is the most serious literature in contemporary culture. Its serious intent expresses itself in ways that many critics struggle to comprehend, but some of the bravest stories right now are being told in the young adult form.

StoryCon: a new, free convention in Scotland for teenage writers and illustrators!

The shortlist for the Women's Prize has been announced.

The Tolkien movie cometh, prompting much discussion.

Which Witch? by Eva Ibbotson (1979)

Which Witch?
Which Witch? by Eva Ibbotson

Rats (literary ones) have been a big influence on me. From James Herbert’s horror stories at an age when I shouldn’t have been reading them to Alan Moore’s use of a rat king as a fearsome science-fiction weapon in The Ballad of Halo Jones, they’ve been present in many of my formative genre reading experiences.

It was no different when I came across fantasy, and discovered a book that contained one of the most memorable use of rats I’ve ever read. It still sticks in the mind with incredibly clarity now, and I first read it over thirty years ago. The sequence was so disturbing to me that I read it many times over because I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It fascinated me to find something so grotesque in a book of light comic fantasy, and it taught me something new: behind every happy tale there lurks a darkness that fantasy can confront, particularly when it’s aimed at children.

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"4 British Fantasy Books I Love that No One Else Has Read" by Kirsty Logan

The Dribblesome Teapots
The Dribblesome Teapots by Norman Hunter

1. The Dribblesome Teapots, Norman Hunter

This has been one of my favourite books since I was about 7. It's a collection of surreal and funny fairytales set in the world of Inkrediblania, where a queen promises half her kingdom for a teapot that doesn't dribble, a man wears coloured ribbons on his arms to tell people the day of the week, and people are called the Earl of Lateleigh, His Decorative Flamboyance Prince Rococo of Okoko, and Ferdinand Fitzluvly (the court tailor, of course). As well as being a feat of imagination, Hunter's wordplay delights me every time I read it. It's been a huge influence on me as a writer: it encouraged me to use my imagination, make use of fairytale tropes, and play with language.

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Fantasy Fridays

TBOBF2018 CHARCOAL EDIT non sigThe Best of British Fantasy 2018 has a cover! Check out more of Matty Long's excellent work here. BOBF is currently available for pre-order (including the limited edition!) exclusively through the publisher's page. Get your click on.

Infocom source code has now been uploaded to GitHub. Jason Scott explains why this is such a historical moment.

The (in)famous 'Appendix N' - the reading list that inspired Gary Gygax in the creation of Dungeons & Dragons. (It is helpfully on Goodreads as well.)

Easter treats: join the author of The Unicorn Prince at Waterstones Middlesbrough this Saturday while Manchester has a Mermaid party!

For slightly more grown-up fantasy fans: John Connolly visits Newcastle on the 23rd and Liverpool on the 28th.

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize shortlist has been released.

At the Mountains of Madness by Ian Culbard (2010)

At The Mountains of Madness
At The Mountains of Madness

When Herge-style artwork meets one of Lovecraft's most popular works, the result is going to be notable - either as a resounding failure or a genius success. Fortunately for the reader, INJ Culbard's ballsy re-interpretation of At the Mountains of Madness is definitely the latter.

In his adaptation, Culbard successfully surmounts two critical challenges.

First, he's forced to condense one of Lovecraft's longest works into a graphic novel. "At the Mountains of Madness" is a big short story (actually, serialized novella). As well as the adventure component, the heart of "Mountains" is an entire history of Lovecraftian Earth. Imagine the task when it comes to converting this eons-spanning, immensely detailed info-dumping into a readable graphic novel. Keeping Herge in mind, it would be the equivalent of a Tintin adventure in which the intrepid reporter stumbles into a pyramid and finds the whole of Egyptian cosmology written on the walls... 

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Fantasy Fridays

The Guardian (and John Boyega!) asks: why is Game of Thrones so white?

"Reaction below the line and on fan threads was mostly variations on a similar theme of historical accuracy and the challenge that black actors present to the audience’s ability to suspend disbelief. Because, presumably, ice zombies and dragons are perfectly plausible, but fully rounded non-white characters would be a stretch too far?"

Aeon points out that the crime genre has its own problems.

And, hey, so does romance. (Although this Guardian piece shows the long shift in the genre, and how there may be a light at the end of the tunnel.)

Joanne Harris retells a (very appropriate?) ballad on Twitter.

The author of Lost in a Good Game, on the emotional and personal role of video games in his life.

The shortlist for the Jhalak Prize has been announced.