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Topics - Lermontov

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It's time for another round of the esoteric and the downright weird at this year's Fortean Times Unconvention. The Blue Dogs of Texas, Fortean Themes in Doctor Who, A History of Talking to the Dead, Wired for God, Queen Victoria's Stalker, Amazing Dope Tales, Sex and the Poltergeist, Fantastic Taxidermy, Magical Landscapes and Vampire Rabbits among the talks and what's not to like?!

On the Sunday 3pm, there will be a Writer's Panel: Forteana and Fiction with Adam Nevill, Mark Chadbourn and Natasha Mostert talking about influences in their work and fiction in general. The panel is tastily sandwiched in between Lucky Skeaping singing bawdy Elizabethan street songs and a panel on the current state of Ufology. There will be a dealer room and Psi tests going on and all sorts of fun stuff!

Details of the event and the talks over the two days (University of Westminster Baker St Campus, London, 10am onwards, doors open 9.30am) can be found Here:

http://www.forteantimes.com/events/uncon2010/

And a list of the talks here:

http://www.forteantimes.com/events/uncon2010/3952/talks_and_speakers.html

If anyone is interested in having a stand in the dealer room message me and I will give you the details.








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Promote Your Projects / Richard Wright -Co-Founder of Pink Floyd R.I.P.
« on: September 15, 2008, 11:06:56 pm »
Deeply sad and shocking news today that he passed away, cancer.  Always the most self-deprecating member of Pink Floyd without Richard Wright much of their magic simply wouldn't have been there. Those gorgeous spacey chords in 'Us and Them', just for starters.

If anything personifies fantasy and the fantastic in sound it is Floyd's music and Richard Wright was an integral part of that. He will be much missed.

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Last year, with the sad passing of Heroic Fantasy author David Gemmell   - a man who in writing terms was as grizzled but as seasoned and resilient as perhaps his greatest creation, Druss the Legend and whose literary powers showed no signs of flagging even when his heart finally gave out on him at his writing desk - there was much talk of honouring his memory with an award in his name by British Fantasy Society members, me among them. Suggestions were made, discussion ensued, dissent and disagreement abounded and the debate enlivened the Forum for some time.

It came to nothing.

Perhaps it was an indication of how disparate the world of sword and sorcery fantasy is: Heroic, Epic, Romantic, Supernatural, 'World and Time Shift' (my clumsy label) and any other  tags one can think of - and all that just under the description of  what many would think as stemming from 'traditional' (an inadequate, inappropriate and imprecise word, the cause of much confusion and easy pot-shotting by those who don't like or write it) Tolkienesque fantasy.

The writers off the top of my head who are writing in that tradition and many in their particular ways often refreshing it, writers like J.V.Jones, Greg Keyes, Tad Williams (after a long sojourn  in cross-current fantasy SF waters with the Otherland series), James Clemens, James Barclay, Janny Wurts, Robin Hobb, George R R Martin, Steven Erikson, to name but a few (a list with any number of other names to add to) are literally, in classic fantasy fashion, scattered across the world.

Now I have never been to a World Con so I do not know what they are like. I can only go on the main convention of the year in the UK, The British Fantasy Society Fantasycon (I missed it this year due to an age-old reason: no bloody money!).

But at neither of the previous two did I get a sense of community that I write of above, among the fantasy society at large. It may be indeed that writers are by profession a solitary bunch: they sit alone in a room and write, lots. They each have a small number of writer friends and confidantes, some of them may not even be writing in the area of genre they themselves do. Again, generally a healthy thing. It may also be that there is such a wide and varied set of sub-genres with the tag 'fantasy' that such healthy cross-breeding precludes a concentration of the one ultimately self-destroying inbred strand.

Write Fantastic, UK-based, whose members could be classed very loosely as writing in the Epic Fantasy tradition are rather like a mercenary band: they see strength in a concentrated number and a tightly knit group focus amid a sea of confusion. Yet part of their avowed intention is to highlight the variety of work under the name 'fantasy' and that does not necessarily mean reinforcing the Epic or Heroic aspect of the genre. It is a shame that James Barclay - a man of quiet integrity is my impression - knowing he could not give his full commitment to the group, had to leave it. And as much as he may be flattered by the association, he is probably a little tired too of hearing that in many ways he is David Gemmell's heir.

Deep Genre, US-based, is a small collective of fantasy and SF authors. Indeed, it was there that Lois Tilton lamented the fragmentation of the SF community (a debate that had quite a life on various forums recently) into hermetically-sealed cliques, a view contested by David Louis Edleman, an SF author new to the SF scene/convention circuit.

In terms of tropes and content, I believe that 'Epic Fantasy' is ideally suited as a vehicle (on one level, since when I write I try to write in layers, each meshed and bound up in each other) to express some of the pressing concerns of our day: the extremes of belief and ideology from whatever sphere that are bringing our world to the brink of a cataclysmic upheaval (the lounge-world, middle-class, cosy sofa - let's all get touchy feely, relate and debate and discuss it and work things out, head-to-head, chattering classes are in denial about it because their perspective is one from a position of intellectual luxury and they just don't get it that you can't reason with blind belief of any type).

One can express this via the microcosm: a small community at odds with each other, or some seminal set of concerns therein. Only recently the residents of Brick Lane, among the Bangladeshi community, have been protesting at Monica Ali's portrayal of them in the book of the same name and the film of the book has been subject to protest, too. Although the media like to hype these things to the Nth degree and the author herself gives her own perspective on the avowed controversy.

Surely these concerns can also be expressed within the macrocosm, too, in a world writ with grand strokes? Writers with political agendas among speculative fiction at large can embed critiques of ideologies, take the piss out of 'tired old' fantasy (i.e. by default Tokienesque) tropes etc. in the course of a work of fiction, part of the function of which is also to entertain and tell a good story (I'm all for layering). So why not Epic Fantasy, too?

Perhaps it sells itself short? There may be writers in the Epic Fantasy tradition out there who may argue that they are doing just that, but if no one notices and it is so hidden and oblique then what's the point? Robert Jordan's The Eye of the World has 'Whitecloaks', the 'Children of the Light', a thinly veiled portrayal of  extreme inquisitional Christianity it appears to me, basically, from a man who had religious faith - described as High-Church Anglican in some recent obituaries). The recent crop of fantasy is to an extent characterised by cynical anti-heroes, endless shades of grey, moral inversions. Okay, fine. That sounds interesting. I have yet to go there and find out whether it is a ultimately a question of (add irony according to your belief or ideology): Where's the beef?

Nor do I want to write fantasy that is essentially for teenagers snuggled up in window seats escaping to a land far away. I don't try that and actually I can't. Which to an extent touches upon a concern Mark Chadbourn has raised recently in relation to fantasy and SF as genres, the lack of seriousness afforded it among the would-be literary intelligentsia - Mark refers to something Terry Pratchett said wryly, that: 'magical realism is fantasy for people whose friends went to Cambridge' when it is of course fantasy, just as The Handmaid's Tale is SF.

Cue Coriolanus:

You common cry of curs! whose breath I hate
As reek o' the rotten fens, whose loves I prize
As the dead carcasses of unburied men
That do corrupt my air, I banish you;
And here remain with your uncertainty!
Let every feeble rumour shake your hearts!
Your enemies, with nodding of their plumes,
Fan you into despair! Have the power still
To banish your defenders; till at length
Your ignorance, which finds not till it feels,
Making not reservation of yourselves,
Still your own foes, deliver you as most
Abated captives to some nation
That won you without blows! Despising,
For you, the city, thus I turn my back:
There is a world elsewhere.

(Now, true: he did end up suffering a rather nasty demise in his pride!)

Getting back to Gemmell, his work was always about people first and for Gemmell, if a choice is to be made between an ideology or a belief and people, the ideology and the belief don't even place. It's a no-brainer really. That's what makes us human. And when it is the other way around, that choice is made and the rest of us are either persuaded or coerced into agreeing, the world is in chaos again - or on the brink of it. As we are now. Stuff ideology. It doesn't work. Because one thing cannot be all things when it comes to humans and life. The world is a patchwork quilt, not a blanket ban.

That's what I am trying to make my book about, at one level, meshed within one layer among many, within the sphere of Epic Fantasy. People on the brink of extinction because of the unchecked insistent oppression of singular ideologies. Characters caught between a rock and a hard place because they have the power to change things but don't fit in, don't incline towards any competing ideologies, from those who think they have figured it all out on everyone else's unasked for behalf and think they know best.

As no one reads this Blog anyway, who gives a stuff?! Also because my posts are too long. People will glance at this and think: All that from a no-name - sod that for a game of soldiers!

But with mobiles and Blogs we are fast descending to sound-bite anti-intellectuality. Dumbing down by any other name. This is only bad news for creative thought.

Because certain things cannot be expressed in a few lines. And when those countless voices pop up and say: then you ain't expressing it right, they need to be thumped. Hard. We are entering a world in fiction of faceless uniformity, brevity of line. Awful. It is almost an unspoken fascism that everybody out there should write like that if they want to be published. The thoughtless pat mantra (one among many when it comes to literature) that less is more. Why? maybe those who don't have that much to say recite the mantra to make themselves feel better about those out there who do and get everyone else to believe it. The tail of the dog has ended up wagging it.

Perhaps the truth is that there is a fantasy community and I simply haven't the wit to realise that I am simply not part of it.

You know, I suppose it is true: until you have a book out there on the shelves mate, shut the F*$?! up.

4
General Discussion / New Logo?
« on: October 22, 2007, 01:50:13 pm »
The whole thing's gone Horror-centric.

Would have been good for members to have a vote on it from half a dozen choice designs. Ah, well.

P.S. What does the 'C' at the beginning stand for?

5
General Discussion / The Battle Lines of Fantasy Writing...
« on: October 13, 2007, 01:01:20 pm »
There has been some lively debate in recent months and weeks regarding the nature of fantasy.  You can follow links through Mark Chadbourn's Jack of Ravens website,

http://www.jackofravens.com/

specifically his Yes But No But post and the Are RPGs Killing Fantasy? one below it. The former brings in M.J. Harrison's mischievous post to an imaginary would-be fantasy writer asking for advice (again you can follow the link to that from Mark's site) as well as comments from Jeff Vandermeer on the subject.

http://www.jeffvandermeer.com/2007/10/10/round-and-round-we-go/

There has been some blurring of subjects in the whole pinball too and fro' across cyberspace, from Mark's concerns over the possible influence of RPGs upon fantasy writing, Harrison's admonition to be weird, the weirder the better; one before that against world building; and going back a bit, to one Mr McCalmont's trashing of  'fat book fantasy' for its inherent conservativism and in terms of George R R Martin (the little he had read of him anyway) that Martin's work implicitly sanctions authoritarianism.

After saying that he would have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with fantasy any more, in any shape or form due to the 'abuse' he complained he suffered mostly from Martin fans, Mr. M popped up again recently to hazard a guess that conservatism in fantasy might have a lot to do with it being - his perception - dominated by female writers in the last twenty years or so. Draw your own conclusions from that. But again you can find him on the net by doing a web search. Got himself all mixed up in his own mashed potato about supernatural romance by women to prove his point, or maybe not, or...God knows. One can find it via a web search. He did post a few replies on Mark's site. 

There is more to it than that, but as R. Scott Bakker basically pwnd McCalmont from the offset of that original flaming diatribe against 'fat fantasy' (because that is essentially for me what it was in the end, an 'it's-all-about-me' piece of cod-controversy with neither the wit nor the intellect implicit in Harrison's prickly statements upon world building and weirdness - much, but not completely all of which I personally disagree) the rest of all the thread posting to that 'fat fantasy' diatribe was rather superfluous in many ways from then on.

For me, for all the eloquent and not so eloquent words written on all of it, the polarisation between the perceived safe cosy Tolkien-like stuff and the more underground, counter-culture thrust of writers like Mi?ville and Harrison really just boils down to The Beatles or The Stones all over again. And I come more and more to think that the polarisation implicit in the debate is an erroneous one.

Perhaps a common mistake being made, one I certainly have made, is that the two need necessarily be mutually exclusive.

For me, as an aspiring writer, I don't care how good the gargoyles are if the architecture is crap.

Or put it this way: I don't care how good the architecture is if the gargoyles are crap.

I've written quite a lot about it on my Live Journal these past few days in my typically verbose and convoluted fashion. Defiantly Blogging ham-fisted essay type things I'm determined shall not be read by anyone beyond the first few labyrinthine lines.

If anything, the debate has helped me define personally what I may or may not be about as an aspiring writer, which can only be a good thing to anyone trying to get a grip with the craft.

In the end for me it ultimately matters whether or not something can be defined as good art or not, arrived at by a common sense workable general consensus. (And I argue that it can be, but that is another thread. In the same way that Harrison has a flea in his ear about geekish world building, I have one in mine about relativism. There of course, all comparisons between him and literary non-entity me doth end!)

What I do believe is that, in Conrad's words: A work that aspires, however humbly, to the condition of art should carry its justification in every line.

Now that can mean a fantasy novel with exhaustive world building if it is done right just as much as one with superfluous detail when done wrong.  It can also mean weird flights of fancy for the hell of it in a fantasy novel if done wrong.

But the debate has been lively and contentious. A war of words, certainly. The one perhaps positive scrap about any type of by nature as generally heinous a thing as warring, is that there is usually something being fought over that is worth the fighting for.  The warring has reaffirmed that for me as regards the genre of fantasy.

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General Discussion / Ah, the Age of Innocence...
« on: October 08, 2007, 10:01:49 am »

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Promote Your Projects / Robert Jordan Dies
« on: September 19, 2007, 01:26:58 pm »
Robert Jordan passed away on Monday, after a battle with a rare blood disease. Like David Gemmell he was a storyteller to the marrow of his bones to the very last and was completing the final volume of his massive Wheel of Times series on his death bed, and dictating the concluding story lines to his wife and close friends.

He did as much as any to raise the well-needed profile of fantasy in the early 90s and while the later volumes of WoT had detractors for the slow pacing, the sheer scale of it is impressive. His endorsement of J.V. Jones and George R R Martin to name but two, did a lot to raise their profiles as prominent writers of epic fantasy.

http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-rigney19sep19,0,4241634.story?coll=la-home-obituaries

Martin writes of him with much affection in his Blog.

http://grrm.livejournal.com/

There is  tribute on Jordan's own Dragonmount:

www.dragonmount.com/RobertJordan/
 
which is proving hard to access because of all the hits.


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http://uk.news.yahoo.com/afp/20070719/ten-entertainment-britain-literature-off-a56114e.html

Makes you wonder...

It would seem from this that it's not the literary quality of the text that matters primarily but its marketability - or otherwise!

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Promote Your Projects / Even when you are an established author...
« on: July 01, 2007, 11:53:45 am »
...Your troubles are just beginning, it seems!

http://hollylisle.com/writingdiary2/index.php/2007/06/26/so-long-story-short/

God! It's an unseemly business to want to be part of!




10
At the risk of making myself persona non grata with anyone and everyone, here goes:

For those who are involved in the editing of a fantasy/horror/SF specific magazine, I wonder, what is the main criterion for content? In general is the magazine geared towards publishing new stories, or reviews and features or articles, or ideally a mix of all of them?

I say this because it feels increasingly so to me that Blogging is a virtual (no pun intended, honest) waste of time, because one Blog just gets lost in the byte-sized Babel of the countless others. Even given search engines, which are simply skewed by how adept the site is at embedding tags and hits etc.

Now, assuming that one has something of substance that is informative (and informed - an increasingly rare occurrence in the undisciplined relativism of the Net), pertinent and maybe slightly contentious to say from time to time; now more than ever, awash as we are in a miasma of text - a focus is required.

To be honest I feel little or no sense of a fantasy 'community' as such and folk coming together in this country here once a year for the Fcon is a false impression of the real state of things. My experience is one of disinterest, desultory engagement at best, apathy at worst.

I suspect - and it is just my personal supposition I may be put right on - that The Write Fantastic, for example, took the decision to create their own Helm's Deep in such a world, for survival's sake.

The picture is a confusing one. There are both online and print magazines that cater for the tastes of those who read literature of the fantastic but not much consensus perhaps about which ones are the 'centre of 'excellence', that every fantasy writer for example would aspire to have a story or article published in - until another magazine comes along and takes the crown.

The reason why we need such magazines - and I will stake my colours to the mast here - is because only to a certain degree is the 'let's all hang out equally and be shiny happy and find our own way and our own world amid the healthy variety that anyone can be a writer on the Net' has created will work, because thereby hangs relativism and relativism is not an environment whereby standards of exacting - especially artistic - excellence can ultimately flourish.

Is Interzone it?

As for the online magazines, I know of several. But to what extent are most of these labours of love on the part of the creators which cater to and for aspiring amateurs, with either huge gaps between issues or which are crunched after a couple of  online issues? Many of these magazines are created with the hope that 'from little acorns can great trees grow', it is true, but many of them have fiction of such vastly varying quality that they are little more than home publishing desktop past times. (A magazine worth its salt will have everything up to a certain standard - you may not like it as substance but technically all attain to a certain level of expertise ? writers and editorial). Now there is nothing wrong with that home publishing desktop fiction, the problem is that the climate is so varied, so diffused as a result that there is no sense of community and very little chance of the medium being taken seriously except by small cliques who soon lose touch with a wider reality (if they were every in touch with it in the first place)..

A magazine to which writers of the fantastic aspire to be published by in this country, with the possible exception of Interzone maybe (which in newsagent shelf terms is niche market, for whatever reason - suppliers and conglomerate publisher monopolies etc) does not exist. The brute fact is that Dark Horizons for example has a very limited readership. Unless you are a member of the BFS you are unlikely to hear about it.

My point is really this: Is the society and the total lack, yes lack of activity on this website indicative of the state of fantasy, horror, SF and literature of the fantastic in general in the country? Because if it is, the genres are in trouble and will just shrink and shrink to virtual non-existence.

The market fell out of the horror genre (a lot of horror and SF writers turned to fantasy as a result, the most prominent among them, however long the idea and material had been gestating, the fact that the bottom fell out of his writing market decided George R. R. Martin upon finally writing a fantasy epic - it is true that there has been some interest in supernatural horror again recently but much of it is also genre-spliced - supernatural sex fiction for example) and frankly with this cottage industry mentality and seeming apathy, the genre will shrink and virtually die.

We will be lucky to get 350 people attend this year's Fcon. Now some may say that's not bad and it is in keeping with the society's uniquely intimate and friendly character. But intimate and friendly is not going to keep it flourishing, it really isn't. We are way, way, way behind the times when it comes to marketing and presence.

We should have an online magazine that becomes THE online magazine, first port of call for fantasy, horror and SF writers and readers and not just in this country.

If we have such a fantastic range of writers involved with and associated with the BFS why is the attendance at an Fcon so small and the membership in the mid hundreds only?

The society has to expand its presence and its profile to survive.

If it does not, it - concurrent with the related genres - will dwindle in this country to a couple of dozen folk sitting round tables playing D&D again or having self-congratulatory murder mystery dinners and no one else will  give a flying f*** and it will all be very nice and cosy and we like it thank you very much.

And once JK Rowling and the sound of Harry's Trotters have subsided, publishers will be less inclined towards things of the fantastic in print. That isn't the only reason for fantasy's increase in profile, but it is a considerable one, for now that LotR on screen and the last Potter book are soon to be yesterday's news, so will inclinations and appetites for things fantastic. Just watch.

The argument that - this is a general counterblast and not directed at the BFS committee - people have lives to lead and it's hard enough to just write some fiction as it is - is simply not good enough. Any professional writer out there who is published now will tell you that if you do not self-promote, you're dead, or you will die very soon.

That is why writers and budding writers need to be far more proactive in involvement with this society and as a society we need to be much more dynamic in promoting it, raising our profile and expanding our membership - for expanding membership means expanded funds and expanded funds means all sorts of things.

If you are a writer of fantasy, horror (or SF since so much of it is cross-genre now) or literature of the fantastic in general, this really should be your first port of call, but it isn't. Partly because people don't know about it!!!

When someone argues against Prism being a concurrent online magazine because some people don't use the Net that is a total nonsense and you should stop being a Luddite and smell the coffee - I would mix a few more metaphors if I could master my exasperation.

My point is this: there is not a fantasy community as such and meeting once year for a couple of days gives a false impression that there is. One of the main reasons why there isn't is because there is no pivotal point upon which the writing of the fantastic can turn in this country, can revolve and evolve. The BFS should be it, but the membership numbers prove that it isn't, unless they are indicative in percentage terms of the level of interest in literature of the fantastic in this country as whole.

I will say this now, openly and publicly and not make myself very popular, but the GoH list this year (no disrespect to them as individuals) displays a distinct lack of dynamism and imagination. Two of them are BFS regulars and would be there anyway!!! Yes, in their own right they are prominent figures in their fields, but they are not indicative of the sort of clout the wider reader of the fantastic - and those who are on the periphery of the BFS - is going to be drawn by. Yes, last year we did have Neil Gaiman and Clive Barker but it was the anniversary year and atypical in that respect.

And - yes, the old chestnut - it cannot be gainsaid that there is a horror bias. And I say this as someone who will recommend horror writers as guests and have done! Terry Brooks is a venerable writer of fantasy but he is hardly cutting edge. Are GoH chosen by age prestige in a sort of Lords-like way? Who are the figures out there now who are established, respected and making the noises and who are cutting edge?

There is no young blood - with respect to all the GoH in their individual right - no cutting edge writers at the table. The society needs them to display publicly that it is up to date and abreast of THE NOW. Not just on panels, but as an actual GoH as part of the top of the table equation. Sod egos - because so and so has written fifteen novels and they ought to be a GoH before a first or second book wonder. If Scott Lynch or Hal Duncan or whoever it may be is out there now getting the kudos, whether they've one or two books or not, get one of them them as one of the GoH. Display how dynamic the society is. It's more than a fair bet to say that both those writers are around to stay for a long while (I don't particularly champion either in terms of their fiction, the nature of it, but I recognise its flair and their fresh injection of talent into the mix). Both of those names are as informed and as eloquent upon the craft as many a fifteen-plus novels writer out there.

Maybe this is just an expression of personal failure? I had great hopes when joining the society that I would find a sense of community. I have done my best to take part, be proactive, offer suggestions and practical help - whatever the merits or otherwise of that help, the intention is sound and the intention honourable - but feel once more as I did before I joined, that I am yet again slowly asphyxiating in an artistic vacuum as an aspiring writer of fantasy like I felt I was before I joined.

Maybe I haven't changed. There was much talk and heated discussion last year about the nature of the society, that there was a general agreement that changes were needed, I was at the AGM and I spoke out. But actually, it is my personal perception - which may be wrong and clouded by purely personal disappointment - that nothing of real import and moment has changed. That once more a status quo has been settled back into and we - I say we because I am a committed member of the society - are way, way out of touch with the contemporary climate in terms of the related genres and in terms of our profile within it.

Finally - and by way of preface by 'change' I do not mean cosmetic change in terms of what Prism or Dark Horizons looks like, or the website, I mean wholesale, fundamental change...

We must change, folks. We have not. We are not. And we must.





11
General Discussion / Current Trends in Fantasy in the UK
« on: June 20, 2007, 11:38:14 am »
I've posted some rambling musings about my perception of current trends in fantasy in the UK.

Now while I for one am aware of the varied if confusing variety of fantasy among the independent and small presses, I am thinking more of the major publishing imprints here in the UK, and I have focused on upcoming new authors being published by them and not ongoing, already established authors. In this respect the scene is dominated my Gollancz and Orbit it seems, so I assume if one wants to make it 'big time' from the off one might aspire to be published by either of these two!

Aim for Venus and you still might get the Moon...

I would be interested in other publishers folk know of out there, which also carry that kind of clout. Just to get a fuller picture.

One has to be informed. Gone are days when a shy author might potter about in his or her study and be picked up by an editor in an altruistic way. One has to be professional about the whole business now and have an insight into how it works and who the players are.

And if you don't self-promote now, you're dead in the water. That goes for the established authors too, as I am sure they will tell those of us who haven't got anywhere near that far.

The New Fantastics?

I have been watching the releases in the past months and there seems to be a trend towards 'rogues' gallery fantasy' with Scott Lynch (American) and Joe Abercrombie (both from Gollancz) getting lots of exposure and well-thought of in reviews and on forums. Anachronistic modern humour made integral to the milieu (and very modern expletives in Lynch's case) that seem to have wide appeal, especially among males! The humour didn't work for me. Must be getting old.

There are still the ongoing doorstoppers to contend with: Martin, Jordan, Erikson - that don't seem to be influencing the new British authors. Granted books like Stormcaller (Tom Lloyd - another Gollancz release) and Winterbirth (Brian Ruckley - Orbit) would seem to be more familiar, impending apocalypse-type fantasy fare. There are also the high concept books - Scar Night by Alan Campbell (Tor) touted as the next China Melville and the Bakker (who is Canadian) series; given that he is a philosopher by trade and this background is imbued into the series.

What does seem clear is that the genre seems generally dominated by precocious male authors at the moment. There is much talk of how in the late 80s and 90s fantasy was character-driven and the dominant authors were women (material for a seminar there!). But the books that have been making waves recently and keep cropping up seem most often to be written by men (no, I haven't forgotten about Steph Swainston, nor the established female authors out there with a track record of former series and ongoing ones, a few among the Write Fantastic).

There are the left-field books - the Naomi Noviks (her series optioned by Peter Jackson recently, no less) which I call 'left-field' because of a curious hook - dragons in the Napoleonic Wars (and very good writing, I assume) that transcends the confines of the bookshelves and the publishing stables. The Hal Duncans - heavily influenced by the 'jamboree brain' high-concept work of Neal Stephenson among others, in my opinion (of itself not offered as some sort of veiled criticism, I hasten to add!).

All this is of interest to me because I wonder where the stuff I'm struggling to get done might 'fit in'. But then, of course, if you worry about that for too long you'll probably never fit in at all!

What I am hoping to see increasingly in fantasy, is literate fantasy fiction, a little less cosy tweeness for which in the past it has been infamous. There are great authors in the past who are part of the (like it or not, the consensus is there) Western Canon, who wrote fantasy and horror and SF. What type of story exactly is Conrad's 'The Secret Sharer', or 'Falk'? Both have elements of the ghostly and the horrific when open to interpretation; while Kipling wrote many horror stories with elements of the fantastic in them.

The signs are good, since many of the above mentioned 'next big thing' authors - male and female - are often far from easy reading on the tube or the train at 8am in the morning.

I have to accept that I will probably never be the 'next big thing', being over - oh, boy, well over - 35 (actually being over 30 is pushing it in the youth-is-always-right image-driven media world) and this does not fit in with the young-talented-and-flamboyant/iconoclastic marketing dream I see touted all about me in literature, genre-related or otherwise. (And they all seem to have long hair - the girls as well!)

Fiction, before all else in the business-bloody modern world is a product to be marketed before it is art - and this means the whole package. (You know 'we're doomed' when Paolini is a bestseller - Yes there have been precocious artistic geniuses in their teens, but he isn't one of them- and like another very famous author is in substantial part a triumph of marketing phenomenon over substance).

There is an element of grimness and fatalism in all of this (I am half-Slav, after all!) and you realise just have to get your head down, keep digging through that dark tunnel on all undignified fours and believe that the point of light ahead of you is not merely a self-deluding, dirt-scratched cornea.

It has been ever thus: the world does not owe you a living and it is not nor ever has been, fair. And you must simply persevere and trust that if you possess a modicum of talent (and only the most absurdly self-deluded or uncovincingly disingenuous would attempt this as a living who didn't - I'm certainly not the latter, therefore...ulp!) - yes that the talent, such as it is, 'twill eventually out.

As a rider to that: for authors touted as exciting and iconoclastic, once they begin to believe in the 'mythology' being marketed about them and acting up to it, artistically they are usually going to be done for.  The new would be 'literary Rock 'n' Roll' take note! Many mistake genuine inconoclasm (and basically if you're not Beethoven you can forget being iconoclastic - and there is only one Beethoven!) for what is  simply being uncouth. So while there might be lots of talent out there, I am also looking for those in possession of it who also have a good deal of self-possession in terms of their personal artistic integrity. This is perhaps the hardest thing of all for the incipient writer to achieve and sustain, since sales  and image-related marketing in connection with it  are everything.

And there are former generation writers out there, more across the water maybe,  who seem to be writing stuff now not because it is what they necessarily want to be writing but because it is like the stuff they wrote before that got the sales and they are perhaps being counselled/coerced into writing thus because their last, genuinely exploratory, self-developing stuff didn't do so well.

God! What an insane profession to want to break into!

12
Promote Your Projects / A BFS Presence on MySpace...
« on: May 12, 2007, 02:49:15 pm »
...We really ought to have one! It would be a fantastic place to get free advertising for the society.  :)

The page template is simplicity itself, doesn't take that long to set up a presence. What do folk think? Good idea?

13
General Discussion / Magenta - Contemporary Prog Lives!
« on: May 07, 2007, 10:28:09 pm »
And to me Prog Rock is genre related in its flights of fantasy, so I'm posting this here!

Magenta. Love this band, ploughing their own furrow, doing what they love with their own contemporary take on it and doing it fantastically well. And by God, what a marvellous voice Christina Maria Booth has!

http://www.magenta-web.com/

http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoID=853284603

http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoID=859877743

http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoID=668673331

With all the talentless faddish crud out there, real spit and sawdust, jobbing bands like them with some genuine musicianship and imagination need all the support they deserve!

If anyone is near Frome this weekend go and see them headlining at the Somerset Prog Fest at The Cheese and Grain on Sunday, 13th.

14
Promote Your Projects / Takrannfantasy - My Website
« on: March 20, 2007, 08:39:40 am »
I have given my website a makeover. Still have those damned Ads until I can afford to upgrade to a paying subscription and get rid of them! Any comments about the look of it and indeed the fiction itself, are welcome, give or take any possible derisive profanities. While affirmative profanities are fine, they will have to be edited if the comment goes into the Guestbook - so much for freedom of speech!

www.takrannfantasy.com

15
Promote Your Projects / Help Required Researching Novels...
« on: March 11, 2007, 09:17:32 am »
...That take as there backdrop/inspiration anything generated by the alternative archaeology/alternative history/'New Age' (none of those tags are all concerned probably happy with) archaeology/history books. e.g. Graham Hancock, Pickett and Prince, Bauval, Collins, etc. Be it Atlantis, or the Templars, some earth-shattering secret lost in the Library of Alexandria or in the pyramids, or the Head of God trapsed off to Scotland etc.

Now the most obvious and infamous example is Brown's The Da Vinci Code. (Apparently he is now penning The Solomon Key... please God, make it stop). There are shelf-loads of others now, and indeed many before that. I would be very grateful if folk have read any thrillers etc. along these lines, inspired by the above, that they could post a mention of for me, it's towards some research I am doing.

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