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.

Dumarest by E.C. Tubb (1967 - 2008)

Mayenne by EC Tubb

It took me over 10 years to find all 33 books in the Dumarest of Terra series, a far-ranging and rollicking set of science fiction novels by Edwin Charles (E.C.) Tubb, concerning Earl Dumarest, formerly of Terra, who stowed away as a child on a spaceship and now, as an adult, finds himself very far from home and wanting only to return.

Earl possess genetically superior luck and is inordinately fast with his reflexes when he chooses to be (mostly to the detriment of those whom he reluctantly kills who barely have time to gasp “too fast, he was just too fast….” before they die of a chest wound).

He is usually described as of medium height, with brown hair, wearing nondescript grey clothing and carries a knife in his boot (though you would not know this from the 1970-1980s UK book covers which mostly feature him in blue denim and having a blond mullet any member of supergroup Poison would have been proud to have been seen in).

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Fantasy Fridays

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

The Independent gathers a list of fictional bands, including Discworld's very own The Band with Rocks in It.

In a Radio Times interview, JK Rowling continues to detail the Dumbledore/Grindelwald relationship. (The article notes that said detail is still absent from the ongoing film series.)

Book signings > concerts.

The rise of feminist fairytale retellings, via The Bookseller.

Another literary festival on the horizon: Stoke Newington (7-9 June). 

The Bradford Literature Festival has begun to tease its programme content, with the full whack released on 19 April. Guests already announced include Chris Riddell, Alison Weir and Simon Armitage. 

Phonogram (2006)

“I refuse to admit there is no meaning here. I will find meaning. I will force it.”
Lloyd, Phonogram: The Singles Club #6

For over a half century, the use of music and magic has stayed firmly rooted in the model Tolkien created: a bardic, Bombadillian tradition of sorcerous chanting. As a result, we've had wizards extemporising poetry and forcing rhymes. It is way of creating a functional metaphor for the otherwise inexpressible: a way of objectively measuring and comparing the immeasurable and incomparable. Music, like, presumably, magic, relies on wit, vocabulary, memorisation, and artistic prowess: therefore magic-as-music become a recurring metaphor. It was a way for the reader to understand the un-understandable. Music as an expression of an individual's magical skill was, and still is, the dominant paradigm - it can still be found happily chanting away in many a high fantasy series.

In the 1990s, the technology and production of music changed (well, it did in the 1980s, but it took a while for fantasy fiction to catch up). Music was no longer, if you’ll pardon the pun, a one-man band – the bard, furiously racking his memory for demon-repelling doggerel. Music itself began to be made in layers: songs and studios, productions and distortion, sampling and remixing, a task that could involve dozens or hundreds of people… or even one vocally-challenged youth with an Amiga, a kit-bashed mixing board and an army of samples. Stage presence was no longer required – nor, for that matter, a singing voice. Pop stars may swan around like kings and queens, but, as Faithless pointed out, “God is a DJ.”

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The Westmark Trilogy by Lloyd Alexander (1981-1984)

The Beggar Queen
The Beggar Queen

Lloyd Alexander's Westmark trilogy - Westmark (1981), The Kestral (1982) and The Beggar Queen (1984) - is a fusion of traditional fantasy, influences from other genres, and clear historical inspiration.

Westmark, the kingdom, is reminiscent of pre-Revolutionary France - a weak monarchy, a strong aristocracy and a vast number of schemers on all sides of the political spectrum. Theo, a printer's apprentice, is an accidental revolutionary. Although he thinks of himself as politically aware, he crosses the line when he prints a commission that hasn't been authorised by the authorities.

As the situation escalates, he's forced to flee his hometown, and the sheltered, if not comfortable, world in which he's lived. Theo quickly falls in with disreputable sorts - the thief Mickle, and the con-man Count Bombas - who are keen to open his eyes. Through his adventures with them, Theo begins to learn about the 'real' Westmark.

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More on The Best of British Fantasy

Via the latest newsletter:

The authors come from the full width and breadth of the United Kingdom, including both immigrants and expats. And their stories contain lethal mermaids, sorcerous rogues, magic swords (a mandatory), city-stomping monsters, ghostly lovers, unreachable islands, several apocalypses, one particularly irritating local councillor, and bees.

It is also fair to say that, as well as swords and monsters, The Best of British Fantasy also contains Brexit, identity, politics and politics and politics, class, dysfunctional and functional families, capitalism, immigration, feminism, despair and hope, grief and coping mechanisms, and a few thoughts on the housing market.


Michael Moorcock's 100 Best Fantasy Books

House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson

Michael Moorcock and James Cawthorn's Fantasy: The 100 Best Books is a terrific selection of classic (Western) fantasy. Organised chronologically, the authors' reviews are both passionate and snarky. 

Below, I've pulled out all 100 books (100+, really, as there are a few series), and added links to free, legal sources where I could find them. (Publication dates and titles are as the authors had them. Where possible, I've left series together, even when it screws with chronology.)

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Fantasy Fridays

Sorcerer to the Crown

FantasyCon is announced for 18-20 October, in the lovely city of Glasgow. And for BFS Members, the 'recommendations' list has opened for this year's British Fantasy Awards (check your emails, or, if you don't have the email, contact the BFA Awards Admin for the link).

Programme announced for the Northern Short Story Festival, this June in Leeds.

Zen Cho opens up about the long journey of her second book.

"Cats in Medieval Manuscripts", a talk at the British Library on 1 April (not a joke, I don't think).

AI generated D&D character bios. They're awesome. Also, fear Big Cat, for he is a big cat.