George Lucas on Storytelling

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George Lucas interviewed by Dasha Zhukova (Garage, Fall/Winter 2016):

The art of telling stories began even before language, with images. Before humans could talk, we drew pictures. In the beginning, the pictures were of animals, because we worshipped animals. Our whole existence depended on an antelope coming at the right time of year. Our world was defined by these great mysteries, and the mysteries were shared through art.

Mythology has been the content of art for thousands of years – it’s a key component of the glue that binds a society together. Humans are, by nature, fearful, so they crave something that makes them comfortable. When we are faced with things we do not understand, we get very nervous, which creates chaos.

We needed something to help us comprehend things larger than ourselves. Religion and mythology helped us make sense of them. For a long time, nightfall seemed like the end of the world. People thought, “What if it doesn’t get light again – what if it just stays dark?” The idea that somebody – a god or goddess – was carrying a large torch across the sky in a chariot made us feel safer.

In order to build a society that’s bigger than one family, there had to be commonality. We collectively decided on a religion, on the rules, on why you should follow the king – because he’d done all these great exploits. To pull all these things together, we started telling stories.  

I suspect this will give any anthropologist kittens. But setting aside the pseudo-historical handwavery, there's something immensely powerful, and joyous, about the idea that that stories build commonality. Great (pop) cultural events pull people together - irregardless of background, demographics, politics, you name it. We may not be alike in any other sense, except that we love Star Wars. We have nothing in common, except for Harry Potter. That's why this stuff is important: fantasy worlds, built well, create new places for us to meet one another.

/steps off soapbox

/watches Rogue One again


Haddon Hall: When David Invented Bowie

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It was the end of the swinging sixties. 
That day, like so many others, the London sky was sad like a cold cup of tea.
The nasty rain rattled tediously at my windowpane.
I was waiting for my new tenants to show up and inhabit me.

Haddon Hall was the Gothic Victorian mansion in Beckenham where Bowie and his first wife Angie lived from 1969 to 1972. Accompanying them at various times were a random crew of musicians: people who moved in and out of their lives. Bowie, of course, was the most significant resident of Haddon Hall - even at that point - although he was still working out who he would be.

David and Angie rented the ground floor flat, which had (according to Angie, in later interviews) been previously home to some professors and their 27 cats. It was in Haddon Hall that Bowie crossed over into Ziggy Stardust territory, finally embracing his weird; accepting that he was more than just the guy who played at the local pub three times a week.

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Small Press Shakedown: Philippa Martinez of Uruk Press

Fencing AcademyThe UK has a fantastic small press scene. To celebrate the people behind the imprints, and help out the writers that are looking to them for publication, we've asked a number of editors to share what they're working on - and what they're looking for. This week, our guest is Philippa Martinez from Uruk Press.

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Could you tell us a bit about who you are and what you're doing?

Uruk Press has a humble aim: to publish the best in fantasy and science erotica. Hey, you have to aim big, right? I started the company a couple of years ago when I was on maternity leave and feeling a bit depressed and isolated from the world. Rediscovering my love of fanfic and online fantasy filth was a bit of a lifeline and then I though, why not do it yourself?

I was pretty much a total amateur but things seem to have worked out quite. I've even got over my phobia of cheesy but commercially useful blurbs!

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A Closed and Common Orbit, Moonraker's Bride and The Season

Moonrakers BrideHappy almost Valentine's Day!

To celebrate, three very different romances: a contemporary space opera (kinda), a globe-trotting adventure (kinda), and a Regency romance (kinda). Love is in the air, and it is not so easily classified. 

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Madeline Brent's Moonraker's Bride (1973) is another of the award-winning novelist's semi-Gothic, globe-trotting, quasi-Victorian escapades. I'm slightly obsessed with Brent's books ever since discovering that 'she' is the pen name for Peter O'Donnell, who also wrote the action series Modesty Blaise. The obsession has now paid off with a handful of really delightful books, of which Moonraker's is one. 

Lucy Waring, our heroine, is born overseas, an orphan in a remote Himalayan village. This means she's got practical skills (including yak-herding!) and an adventurous spirit... but is completely on the back foot in British society. The combination means she can be shy, but courageous, and supremely competent... yet also in constant need of rescuing. This is the delicate balance that Brent creates in all 'her' books, and it might be at its most delicate in Moonraker's. Further familiar twists include the circumstantial-marriage-that-could-be-real-love, family secrets, and a lot of ponderously-delivered pop psychology.

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Moorcock's 100 Best Fantasy Books [with Links!]

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The Worm Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison (Illustration by Keith Henderson)

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 a combination of passionate and snarky. They make for very fun reading.

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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