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Archive for the 'Fantasy' Category

Introducing Heidi Garrett’s “The Queen of the Realm of Faerie” series

I first ‘met’ Heidi Garrett through the SF, Fantasy and Horror Online Writing Workshop (OWW) and saw her story – a re-telling of the tale of Melusine – develop into the first two short novels in the series. This is one of the pleasures of OWW: seeing a story idea transform through to successful publication.

Here, I introduce Heidi’s story to provide some context for the interview I recently conducted with her (which will be published here next), and that focuses on her experiences choosing to follow the ‘indie’ publication route.

I must confess that, as I was a beta-reader, I cannot give a completely neutral review of her series, “The Queen of the Realm of Faerie”. I can say that her take on the story of Melusine and her dysfunctional family caught my attention when she posted chapters of it on OWW. Her writing style and ideas kept me engaged during the story development; which is a strong recommendation for her work as I am not an avid fan of the “retold fairy tale” genre – nor part of her target market! Her characters are engaging and she provides an interesting twist in a contemporary version of a traditional tale.

NM2Cover Flower of Isbeline Cover Small

The original “Melusine” is a very old fairy story. Wikipedia’s entry about Melusine notes versions from the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Wikipedia’s outline of the original tale is:

Elynas, the King of Albany… went hunting one day and came across a beautiful lady in the forest. She was Pressyne, mother of Melusine. He persuaded her to marry him but she agreed, only on the promise — for there is often a hard and fatal condition attached to any pairing of fay and mortal — that he must not enter her chamber when she birthed or bathed her children. She gave birth to triplets. When he violated this taboo, Pressyne left the kingdom, together with her three daughters, and traveled to the lost Isle of Avalon.

The three girls — Melusine, Melior, and Palatyne — grew up in Avalon. On their fifteenth birthday, Melusine, the eldest, asked why they had been taken to Avalon. Upon hearing of their father’s broken promise, Melusine sought revenge. She and her sisters captured Elynas and locked him, with his riches, in a mountain. Pressyne became enraged when she learned what the girls had done, and punished them for their disrespect to their father. Melusine was condemned to take the form of a serpent from the waist down every Saturday. In other stories, she takes on the form of a mermaid.

While following this basic structure, Heidi’s retelling has major changes, notably that the story is told not from the point of view of Melusine but primarily through that of the middle sister (named Melia in her story).

The sisters, “half-faeries”, neither fully Fae nor human, straddle both worlds uncomfortably, discovering as time passes, secrets about their family that do not sit well with their preconceptions. As the story unfolds, each must face up to the impact of their mother’s curse, their role in the death of their father and the evil being unleashed on both the mortal and Faerie worlds.

Heidi’s tale is full of magical enchantments and transformations, wild chases ranging far and wide across the land of Faerie, and unlikely love. As one would expect in a story like this, the central characters discover that both the situations and people, human and fae, they encounter are not always as they first appear. Also, bargains made have an unpleasant way of developing unintended consequences.

An adventure quest, with romance, the stories are also very much about discovering the secrets concealed within the dysfunctional family Melia is part of, coming to terms with this yet being true to who she is.

The first two books in the series are available now for download in all the main formats, including Apple for i-devices.

While I would normally go to Amazon for the Kindle MOBI versions, Heidi informs me “Nandana’s Mark” should be free. However, while she has checked this in USA when I access both the US and UK sites (from France!) they show as having a small charge. Therefore, if you can’t access the free download, I recommend you check out Smashwords. I verified (12 Feb) that it is available in MOBI format as a free download, as well as in all the other major formats.
The direct Smashwords links to Heidi’s stories are:
Nandana’s Mark
Flower of Isbelline

The Amazon links:
Amazon UK: Nandana’s Mark; The Flower of Isbelline
Amazon USA: Nandana’s Mark; The Flower of Isbelline

Heidi is currently working on the third story in the series: The Dragon Carnivale

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David Langford’s “Ansible” – an essential SF news resource

I have always had a soft spot for David Langford’s “Ansible”, which I receive by email and read avidly at the start of each month. It combines SF news, some market information and convention details with a bundle of useful links and plenty of good humour.

While produced in and focused on the UK SF scene, it also holds its own internationally. If you have not checked it out, look at the Ansible web site or take a look at the latest issue (February 2013) number 307

It was through reading the awards section of an Ansible in 2006, I found out the Britsh Fantasy Society had given a “founders award” to the the four of us who set up the BFS back in 1971. A very pleasant surprise for me, sitting as I was in rural France. It led also to my reestablishing contact with the BFS.

That reminds me, I still owe Dave a beer for that!

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The only “air safety” briefing worth watching all the way through!

Air New Zealand’s “Middle Earth” air safety briefing is inspired. Using “Middle Earth” imagery and special effects from WETA Workshop, it is the only air safety video I actually WANTED to watch all the way through.

Best bit for me? The demo of the floor lighting to the emergency exit.

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More musing on SF magazines

Now I have the first paper Asimov’s and Analog magazines that I have seen in a while, it is interesting to compare them physically to F&SF and Interzone.

Interzone has just resized, bringing it down close to the size of the three US magazines. I have found this a great improvement, easier to hold and it takes up so much less “desk space”. The glossy cover and the qualkity matt white paper are pleasant to hold.

The first thing I noticed about Analog and Asimov’s (which are from the same publisher, Dell) is how flimsy the covers are. I remember them as being much more substantial magazines when I last bought them (true it is a decade or more ago!) Very easy to tear and flopping around when reading the magazines. F&SF, by contrast, has a nice stiff cover that makes the physical experience much nicer though the subscription divider card mid-way is a bit of an irritant.

Inside, all three US magazines use a more pulpy quality paper than Interzone. F&SF’s pages are a touch thicker so all in all, better to handle than the slightly larger format Dell magazines.

My conclusion? Ignoring content (perhaps another post?), Interzone’s size change makes it the hads-on winner for me, followed by F&SF. It will take me a while to get used to handling the other two… though I am still happier with them than with the Kindle versions.

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Fantasy Faction – a writers and readers community

I have just discovered a Fantasy community website that seems very professionally put together. See: Fantasy Faction

It contains some good reviews, interviews and articles as well as writer resources and a forum not dissimilar to that hosted by the BFS. The main difference is this site appears primarily (but not exclusively) US-focused.

I particularly liked the current series of articles on “Creating God – Religion in Fantasy” by Amy Rose Davis which I found thought-provoking.

Also of note on the site is the competition they are running for short stories for an anthology. It is open now and the deadline is 30 June 2012 with three reasonable cash prizes and publication for at least six stories.

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Fantasy – a genre with a sense of community

Last night (Friday 2 March) I went to my first British Fantasy Society Open Night in London. Apart from attending Fantasycon2011 in Brighton this was my first SF/fantasy social activity for a long time though I had been an active fan in the (far distant) past. What really struck me once again was the friendliness and and accessibility, not only of fantasy fans but of the professionals working in the genre. Over the course of the evening, I was fortunate enough to be able to chat with several writers, publishers, editors and an agent as well as enthusiastic genre readers.

I think this accessibility is unique to the fantasy genre (in its broadest definition from SF through to horror) and goes back many decades. I guess it is because most of us start as fans – and stay fans of the genre. There is a real sense of community as well as of enthusiasm.

The BFS has had more than its share of ups and downs but it is a community more than a formal society and this was noticeable in the way the community pulled together to save it after the awards fiasco last October. Last night the BFS was showing its strengths.

One of the conversations – with Jo Fletcher and Peter Colborn – was about this, in part stimulated by the fact that I was “returning to the fold” – having been one of the four founder members of the BFS back in 1971 but away for years. We talked about what was different and what had remained the same. For me, the enthusiasm for the genre was as strong as ever, but what is very different is not only the number of fans involved in the fantasy genre (and buying the books!) but also the involvement of professionals with the BFS and with conventions. We could not identify any other genres that came close to this friendly interaction: crime and romance are perhaps the closest but nowhere near this level of personal interaction.

Other signs of a good community included an excellent charity auction in aid of a children’s hospice and, a particularly nice note, Steve Jones going round and, noticing I was a first time attender, coming over to talk and make sure I was involved and enjoying myself.

All in all, a great evening (and good beer!)

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The Girls’ Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse

Great concept and site for anyone interested in dystopian, end of the world stories.  Structured as a blog, this emulates the “Bumper Book for Girls” style but the main focus is on film and TV, seen from a strong feminist viewpoint. Check it out at: http://apocalypsegirlsguide.blogspot.com/

The sections that most amused or fascinated me were:

The article on cats role in the forthcoming apocalypse http://apocalypsegirlsguide.blogspot.com/2011/12/cutepocalypse-cats.html

“Know Your Idols” :  Naturally, Sarah Connor is number one but there is an eclectic mix from Tank Girl to Hermione Grainger and Buffy to River Tam. Who’s missing? Given how marginally apocalyptic some of the references are, I reckon “Hit Girl” from “Kick Ass” deserves a place.

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What is “fantasy”?

I have followed the British Fantasy Society’s (BFS) recent debate on the revamping of the British Fantasy Awards (BFA) with a mixture of interest and amusement.  I don’t intend to cover the BFA or the issues up for voting at the moment. Rather I am fascinated by a side-debate that emerged on whether the society caters for “horror” or “fantasy” fans.

Forty years ago I was heavily involved in the founding of the BFS.  The initial name for the fledgling group was “British Weird Fantasy Society”.  At the time, I was one of the strong voices opposed to “weird”, in part because of the connotations of the word but mainly because I saw the BFS as being more “all-inclusive” than the other two organisations I was involved in at the time, the British Science Fiction Association” (BSFA) and the Tolkien Society (the UK not the US one).

My argument at the time was that “fantasy” covered everything from SF, through science fantasy, traditional and heroic fantasy, sword and sorcery, dark and weird fantasy to horror.  Now it seems that “dark fantasy” has a strong romance element in it and when I visit my local (Brighton) Waterstones, there are three separate sections for horror, dark fantasy and (lumped together) fantasy and SF.

SF is well served by the BSFA and much of what I write would fall within the category of SF but not all. However, I would see the term “fantasy” as covering all I write.  I would not like to see the BFS lose its broad coverage of the fantasy genre.  I am not that keen on horror, especially the more visceral sub-type, but enjoy psychological twists and dark fantasy (but not the – yawn – romantic sub-type masquerading as “dark”).

So, I come back to the question the BFS faces, are horror and fantasy two different genres? I think not, one is a sub-set of the other.

I am, however, left wondering if  there is a good argument against this view.

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