Tag Archives: Fantasy

Potions & Poisons

The programme self-destructed. Or so it seemed when I went back to double-check I had the right names and the title for the event. Because, you know, I am old, and I forget.

Tickets for Cymera

Anyway, for my first Cymera event on the first night, it was all potions and poisons, and they were far too cheerful about these dangerous substances. They were Melinda Salisbury and PM Freestone, talking to Laura Lam, and the rule for the evening was ‘no spoilers.’ Unfortunately, this rather cramped their style, as nearly everything they wanted to contribute could count as spoilers.

Apart from having to stop themselves from giving too much away, they seemed to get on very well, laughing like a group of friends out, chatting away about what they write about. I think the audience got what they wanted; they seemed to be knowledgeable about the same stuff, and as they filed into the Upper Hall, they looked like fans too. I know that sounds silly, but they did. Sometimes the, well, wrong people go to events.

I wondered what the bucket was for. One of the volunteer ushers carried around a bucket. Seems it was for money. (I sent mine by bank transfer…)

Pleasance, where the Cymera Festival is doing its thing this weekend was very pleasant. At least if you ignore the lift. I will never ever go in that lift again! Afterwards I was further alarmed when one of the very helpful and polite volunteers came up to me to say the lift was now activated..! I don’t think I want to know.

I arrived early. Again. Was ushered to the lanyard table, where I found Sarah Broadley and Lari Don, and also my nice orange badge. Came across one or two people I knew, including someone who also knew me, but we both agreed that while we had met, we had no idea where or when. LJ McWhirter sat in front of me at the ‘poisonous’ event and had much news to share.

The venue does look very good, nicely decorated, albeit with too many stairs. And that lift. Fashionable café and for the weekend a lovely bookshop stocked with all the science fiction, fantasy and horror you could want. Possibly more.

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Maresi, Red Mantle

With Maresi, Red Mantle we are back with Maresi from the Red Abbey. Maria Turtschaninoff’s final book in the trilogy is based on the letters Maresi writes to her friends and to the older, supportive, women she left behind on Menos when she started the long journey home to Rovas.

Maria Turtschaninoff, Maresi, Red Mantle

This story about her new life back in the old place is, if possible, even more feminist than the first two books. It also has more men in it, which sort of hits you after a while, because you have got used to the – almost – women-only groups in Maresi and in Naondel. Even knowing what the first books are like, I still found myself feeling surprised at the sheer strength of a woman’s power.

That is an empowering feeling for any reader. So are the wise thoughts that Maresi shares with us, whether they are her thoughts, or those of her mother or her sister, or simply observations on life. They are so true, and yet, we often miss such obvious ideas, because we are so busy with life, maybe making mistakes, or assuming too much, based on what is traditional.

I kept wanting to cheer her on, to tell Maresi that she could do it. But it’s never easy to return to a place where you once belonged. You’re home, and you’re not. How do you know where you really belong? And does it matter, when it’s what other people think of you that determines how your life goes?

Maresi’s job is to start a school. That may seem an obvious task, but it’s hard, when people can’t see what good it would do to read. And then we are shown how life can go wrong, just because you didn’t know what was written on a piece of paper. It’s more than a matter of life and death.

And the pleasure you get from reading, or being able to write letters to someone. It’s as if all of life is in this book. Read it. You will feel better for it.

Maresi, Red Mantle tells girls that they matter. That they can, and should, do things. It tells boys that girls can, and that the boys will be better for it. It’s very beautiful.

(Translation by AA Prime)

Don’t forget Cymera

I trust you will remember to attend Cymera next weekend? I mean, you already have your tickets, or at least a hitlist for events not to be missed, and your bag is packed and all that?

Good. I’ll be generous. Your hitlist needn’t be the same as mine. It’s not technically possible to see it all, unless you are Hermione Granger, so choice needs to enter into things. There are some events where I’ve really had to decide who’s more important to me.

And then the question is whether I’ll get up early enough on the Saturday to see Philip Caveney, who will now be without his partner in crime, Dawn Finch. (Of course I will. Just teasing.)

The other question is whether you can outlast me. Let me be the first to tell you that yes, you can. However keen I am, I will flag at some point.

But you know, there are so many people I like, like Helen Grant – wearing her YA mantle, but talking about her adult Ghost – and Moira McPartlin, Claire McFall, James Oswald, and yes, Philip Caveney. Robot Chickens. As well as these excellent people, there will be another 70 mostly unknowns [to me] so you won’t have to worry about any inconvenient quiet moments.

Get your tickets here. Now, before they sell out. Which would be a good thing, but not for you.

Dreamwalker

There’s nothing like a little push to get going. So after years of intending to read James Oswald’s Sir Benfro series, I have finally begun. And while I had originally assumed that if a crime writer also wrote a fantasy series, then it would be YA, and then discovering that it wasn’t and feeling foolish about it, I do feel that Dreamwalker would fit right into the YA world.

So there.

This is another novel that was first self-published by James. I don’t know how many changes were made when Penguin bought it, but I am impressed by the quality of yet another, long and excellent novel, written and edited without a ‘proper’ publisher. I’m not surprised the books were popular.

JD Oswald, Dreamwalker

Sir Benfro is a young dragon, and his future co-hero Errol, is a lost human prince and heir. The two meet very briefly at birth, but then they spend their early years apart, while leading really quite similar lives. Both belong to tight-knit communities, and both are brought up by single mothers who work as healers and who are wise in how they deal with their boys.

Sometimes, no, nearly the whole time, it’s hard to tell the boys apart. It’s easy to see that when they finally get together, it could be really special. Although I don’t know this, as I’ve only read the first of the five Sir Benfro books.

It’s not obvious how this is going to go, but I have much hope for the remaining books. And they will have to be taken very slowly…

My alter ego

Hi, I’m Sharon!

Before you start worrying; you know I’m not. I bought a secondhand book online a couple of weeks ago. There were plenty of them, but this company promised to send it out sooner, so I hoped it would come on holiday with me.

It did.

Though I didn’t even look at it until I started to read on the train. The author has signed it to Sharon, at some book event a couple of years ago. But clearly Sharon didn’t [want to] read the book, and out it went to another bookseller.

Did she get carried away? Or was it a polite purchase after the talk? Did she just have too much to read, or perhaps she doesn’t read much? Or, I suppose, someone could have bought it for Sharon, and she just hates fantasy.

Whatever. Sharon’s loss is my gain.

Cymera – meet the boss

If you haven’t already met Ann Landmann at some event, you’re in for a treat at her Cymera weekend. And today, as a bonus, I have asked Ann a few questions from which you can find out, roughly, how to start your own litfest. That is, if you have even a fraction of Ann’s energy.

How do you even come up with the idea of starting your own book festival?

I love book festivals, big and small, and living in Edinburgh obviously means I have one of the best on my doorstep. Over the years I have noticed that SFFH authors don’t feature in book festival programmes as much, and while I know there are lots of conventions, a lot of them are down South.

The easy solution to bringing authors that I love to Scotland was starting my own book festival. So, armed with festival experience, events organiser experience, an MA in Arts, Festival and Cultural Management and a lot of enthusiasm, I found some equally crazy people and here we are.

Was it obvious what category books and authors you wanted?

Yes. Cymera is dedicated to Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, and we pretty much stuck to those categories. As to authors, we’ve been super lucky – the support from publishers has been great, and we actually got almost every author we asked for. I suspect the lure of Edinburgh, Scotland, played into this too!

According to the press release you have 81 authors. Have you read all of them?

I have read a lot of them, but not all (yet). There’s still time though …

How do you go about finding a venue?

From the beginning it was clear that we wanted to create the buzz you get when everything is in one venue, like at a convention. We also needed a bar, it had to be accessible and have lots and lots of space.

For my old job as Events Manager for a local bookshop I’ve always stayed on top of what venue in Edinburgh does what, and I knew the Pleasance just had a refurbishment making it more accessible. EUSA, who run the Pleasance, have been great to work with, and hopefully the space is as perfect as I am envisioning it.

Has it been hard to get volunteers? Who is volunteering?

We’ve had a fantastic response for our call for volunteers for the weekend! We have people from all sorts of backgrounds, from students to people that have volunteered at festivals before.

Are you actually looking forward to the Cymera weekend, or just to it being over?

I can’t wait! I hope we’ll get that buzz going, that everyone has a great time, makes new friends, discovers new writers – all those things that make a successful festival!

Dare I ask; once it’s over, will you do it again?

We fully intend Cymera to become an annual event that people look forward to every year. There’s definitely plenty of authors out there to fill an annual programme, and we have lots and lots of ideas of what we else we can do. 2019 is the year we are trying things out, and we are hoping for lots and lots of feedback that we can build the 2020 festival on.

I like the convention idea! Now all I need is a bed under the stairs.

See you there! (At Pleasance, not under the stairs.)

Cymera

Today I give you a ‘mythological, fire-breathing monster, commonly represented with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail.’ Or you could just accept a new, great sounding, Edinburgh based, book festival.

Cymera

Cymera, as it is called, is Ann Landmann’s new baby. As if she didn’t have enough to do anyway, she is doing that thing many of us think might be ‘nice’ but seems like too much work so we don’t, which is set up our very own litfest.

Cymera is Scotland’s Festival of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Writing, and it is taking place in Edinburgh the weekend of 7th to 9th June. Lots of people I sort of know, are taking part, as are countless more that I don’t really know, because I haven’t specialised in all that much horror, and have only recently returned to science fiction, and there is a lot of fantasy in this world.

I haven’t counted, but somewhere I saw the words eighty authors mentioned, and that sounds like a lot. A quick look at the programme tells me I will have to make actual choices, unless I work out how to be at several events at the same time.

And the food..! That sounds good too. And there will be books to buy, and workshops have been planned, and there will be a quiz, and an open mic session. If you know where Blackwells is, then Cymera is a short way east of this lovely bookshop, so it should be easy to get to.

I have to admit to having tweaked my holiday dates so I don’t need to miss anything. Will I see you there?