Fantasy Feed

George Lucas on Storytelling

Star-wars-episode-iv-a-new-hope-george-lucas

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


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

The Worm Ouroboros
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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Small Press Shakedown: George Sandison of Unsung Stories

9781907389412The 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 George Sandison from Unsung Stories.

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

The elevator pitch is ‘literary and ambitious genre fiction’. We also look for debuts, so for us it’s about giving new authors a home where they don’t have to compromise. There’s a tendency in the industry for emerging writers having to prove themselves before they attempt more outré works – we don’t agree!

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The Wizards and the Warriors & The Kings of the Wyld

Wizards and the WarriorHugh Cook's The Wizards and the Warriors (1987) has one of those timelessly awful late-1980s covers, and a generic cover quote - saying it'd be perfect for fans of David Eddings. In hindsight, someone in marketing really dropped the ball on this one. Maybe in the heady days of the 1980s, when Eddings was Martin, all you needed was a quest and a sword to earn that comparison. But for fantasy readers - or, hell, Eddings fans - buying the book on the strength of this platitude, Cook's debut must've come as one hell of a shock.

Wizards is, sort of, about a quest to stop an evil sorcerer. Kinda. We begin mid-journey, as three wizards have trekked halfway across the world in search of a fourth - a traitor that has unearthed an ancient artifact of doomslinging. Ostensibly linear, Wizards whirls about like the Tasmanian Devil. First, a pair of strapping mercenary warriors - in service to a corrupt local Prince - are recruited. But, well, not first, as they have their own problems to deal with before they can be convinced to join.

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Erin Lindsey's Bloodbound is back, still great

BloodboundErin Lindsey's Bloodbound was first published in 2014. The trilogy, continued with Bloodforged and concluded last year with Bloodsworn. The series is now - finally - out in the UK, which gives me an excuse to rave about it again. 

Here's how Bloodbound starts: a cavalry charge.

Alix Black, one of the scouts for the Kingdom of Alden, is watching a battle unfold. Her king is being overwhelmed by the invading forces of the Oridian empire, and, much to her horror, she can see that the King's brother is very much not executing his part of the plan. Treason is afoot, and both the King and the Kingdom are at risk.

In move that defines Alix - and to some degree, the entire series - Alix plunges recklessly into battle. There's only the slimmest chance of victory. Hell, there's only a fractional chance of survival, but Alix makes up her mind, trusts her gut and goes barrelling forward. 

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Small Press Shakedown: Christopher Teague of Pendragon Press

Bric-a-Brac-Man-Front-Cover-small-e1435060454931 9781906864248The 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 Christopher Teague from Pendragon Press.

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Pendragon are one of the classics of the UK scene, and you've given 'first breaks' to everyone from Gareth Powell to Mark Charan Newton. Could you tell us a bit about who you are and what you're doing?

For nigh on 18 years, Pendragon Press has been part of my life – but I’ve been involved in the small press as a reader for over 20 years ever since I discovered Chris Reed’s BBR catalogue in the mid-90s.

I initially started out as a wannabe writer, with two stories to my name and plenty of rejections. It was when I got bounced from Nasty Piece of Work after about the third or fourth time I thought, “just how difficult would it be to put together an anthology?” And Nasty Snips was born.

The rest, as they say, is history. . .

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The White Witch should have been badass - but isn't.

Caspian Whistler_White WitchLet me say right out of the gate that the White Witch is not like any of the other baddies we’ve tackled so far. As a children’s villain, she’s not bogged down by pesky things like realism or complexity. She can be as powerful, as outrageous, as pure eeeeevil as she likes. That makes her both larger than life and somewhat two-dimensional. Even so, it would be a mistake to underestimate her. Like all things Narnia, her simplicity belies a strong theological and mythological pedigree. And, like the oldest fairy tales and nursery rhymes, though nominally intended for children, the White Witch is bloody horrifying.

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The Face in the Frost and The Obsessed

The Face in the Frost
The Face in the Frost by John Bellairs
(1969) is an oft-overlooked fantasy classic. Two elderly wizards - Prospero and Roger Bacon - meander across the North and South Kingdoms in search of a cure for some ill-defined metaphysical curse that's plaguing the land. The evil is deliberately vague, and all the more horrifying for it: an ancient tome is being read by a dark-hearted wizard, and badness is spilling forth. From damp moths to off-putting mists to an ominous sense of malaise, Bellairs excels at conveying an implicit wrongness that is more atmosphere than overt threat.

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"Dream Sequences and Dream Worlds" by Oliver Langmead

MetronomeFor a guy who's just about to have a book about dreams published, you might be surprised to learn that I'm not a great fan of dream sequences.

A lot of the time, they feel a bit unnecessary; one of the weaker parts of the narrative they're trying to enhance. Usually, it's the attempt at adding depth by using a combination of psychoanalytic metaphor and (more often than not) prophetic foresight which seems to fall a bit flat (with cunningly crafted exceptions, of course – take Twin Peaks, for example). As if, while attempting to add subtlety and depth, the writer has instead ended up making their narrative a bit obvious and shallow, or far too obscure to interpret. 

All of this being said, I am quite fond of dream worlds. It's a niche belonging to portal fantasy, in which the portal is the simple act of falling asleep, and it has a history of producing classics. Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz (film!), and even more contemporary essential pieces of reading, like Neil Gaiman's Sandman, have their own dedicated realms of dreaming, and each is considered important.

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