The Best of British Fantasy 2018 - Table of Contents

I'm very proud to reveal the table of contents for the inaugural volume of The Best of British Fantasy.

The anthology contains over twenty brilliant stories of the strange and fantastic, complete with mermaids, impossible quizzes, sorcerous rogues, magic swords, towering monsters, ghostly lovers, unreachable islands, numerous apocalypses, a particularly irritating local councillor, and bees.

You can pre-order your copy now, directly from the publisher.

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Fantasy Fridays

One of the most significant British fantasies? The impact of The Satanic Verses, 30 years on. More here.

Mimi Mondal on how "all worldbuilding is political".

Adam Roberts and Roger Luckhurst on Ballard's Crash.

The chemistry behind "book smell".

Terrific crowd-sourced list of female fantasy authors for International Women's Day.

Not fantasy, but... the steamy history of romance covers - why Fabio is important, and why Elaine Duillo is even more so.

Where to begin with Mary Stewart?

The Crystal Cave
The Crystal Cave

To my mind there are really only two kinds of novels, badly written and well written. Beyond that, you cannot categorize… ‘Storyteller’ is an old and honorable title and I’d like to lay claim to it.

Mary Stewart (1916 - 2014) is a British novelist, known for her significant contributions to multiple genres. She was of the most prominent - and critically-acclaimed - creators of the romantic thriller. Stewart then went on to write the Merlin series, a best-selling blend of history and fantasy.

Combining genres

Her romances and suspense books aren’t totally relevant to an ostensibly fantasy site, but they’re damn good books - and show how you can breathe new life into a genre by lifting/learning from others. Stewart is credited as one of the primary inventors of the 'romantic thriller', with young women facing peril in exotic locations.

Her books are also notable for a few different reasons:

Incredible scenery. The scenic descriptions are a masterclass, you can practically breathe the air. They’re worth reading for potential writers (especially of fantasy), as they bring landscape and location to life. Stewart took setting seriously, and noted that “research is most useful when dealing with place rather than action. After all, you're inventing almost all of the story anyway.”

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Fantasy Fridays

51YnENWR2nL._SX309_BO1 204 203 200_The 8 best curses in literature, courtesy of Julia Fine.

The UK's rich history of interactive fiction, and how the British Library goes about preserving it.

Also at the British Library, the Imaginary Cities installations, by artist in residence Michael Takeo Magruder. New, fictional cityscapes on display from 5 April.

A little off-piste, but a great New York Times profile of the classic Astounding magazine.

Also off-piste, but a shout out to the late, great Piccadilly Cowboys - the group of (British) writers who met in a central London pub and re-invented the Western. A little more here. And hoist a pint to Piccadilly Publishing, the company striving to digitise the group's (prodigious output).

Bonus (and, as is the trend, off-piste): Bompas & Parr and artist Lucy Hardcastle are offering the scent of other worlds in an interactive exhibition this weekend in London.


The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken (1962)

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The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

Joan Aiken's The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (1962) has been one of my favourites since childhood. And, even then, I knew that the covers were awesome.

Wolves is the first in a long series of Victorian-esque novels, as Aiken's adventures are set in a slightly alternate history. In the world of Wolves, King James III has ascended the throne and wolves have migrated to Britain through an 19th century version of the Chunnel. Curiously, the alternate history elements are merely set dressing, with the titular wolves - and the seemingly perpetual winter - are used almost wholly for atmospheric tension. They do come howling through at a few moments, but largely they pad around in the distance - a soft background of danger throughout.

(I wonder if this actually qualifies as environmental SF? The winter/wolves aren't plot elements, but they do change the tone of the book. Because of the cold, stakes are higher, help is more remote, the characters' decisions feel more absolute. Plus, wolves.)

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Fantasy Fridays

Harry_Potter_and_the_Philosopher's_Stone_Book_CoverDr Eleanor Janega's Going Medieval blog is an excellent resource for anyone interested in the (often grimy) truth of the Middle Ages. Plus, Janelle Monae references.

Design/Play/Disrupt, the video games exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, ends this weekend!

For the Love of Fantasy, a three day convention of all things Potter-y, is coming to Edinburgh this summer. One local school will be going full Hogwarts for the event.

A new novel, Becoming Mrs Lewis, revisits the story of CS Lewis's marriage to Joy Davidson - a story first made famous by Shadowlands.

How are we dealing with the apocalypse? Interesting article on The Atlantic, touching on how our inevitable cataclysmic demise is addressed in everything from Bird Box to The Good Place.


Where to begin with KJ Parker?

Devices and Desires
Devices and Desires

K.J. Parker is a cult author.

I don’t mean that in entirely in the colloquial sense, but in the semi-Lovecraftian waybooks talked about passionately, in hushed tones, by a cabal of true believers huddled in forbidden libraries and dark corners of basement bookshops. There are those that have stumbled upon Parker’s texts and worship them with a feverish intensity… and those that haven’t and are therefore unenlightened.

Needless to say, like any other cult, we Parker readers proselytise ceaselessly. There’s a gross, cosmic unfairness to the fact that we, who have been enlightened, are surrounded by the darkness of human ignorance. But, of course, we keep trying. The stakes are too high.

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Fantasy Fridays

ArtofthehobbitA collection of vintage illustrations from The Hobbit. As much as I love Tolkien's own renditions (that Smaug!), it is hard to compete with the legendary Tove Jansson.

Worldbuilding Magazine is a free publication edited and curated by r/worldbuilding. The latest issue is out now, featuring discussions of burial practices, toxicology, few hundred world-building prompts, and interviews with various experts (including independent British studio, Iron Compass Games).

The Barbican explores what it means to be British in a free exhibition of artistic works on 23 Feb.

Unbound are funding King Arthur's Death, a lovely new translation of the 14th century poem that inspired Morte d'Arthur. Michael Smith, the author, has also produced a beautiful set of linocut prints to accompany the work.

The Imagine Children's Festival runs through February at the South Bank Centre, featuring guests like Malorie Blackman, Chris Riddell, Jacqueline Wilson, Lauren Child, Philip Ardagh, and many more.

The Best Books of Our Time: 1901 - 1925

According to The Best Books of Our Time: 1901 - 1925, A clue in the literary labyrinth for home library builders, booksellers and librarians, consisting of a list of 1,000 best books selected by the best authorities accompanies by critical descriptions written and compiled by Asa Don Dickinson, Librarian of the University of Pennsylvania, Author of 1,000 Best Books. 

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