Reflections on fantasy, SF, writing, music, technology, life…

How Tolkien Leads the Digital Revolution

In the late ’60’s and ’70’s I devoured Tolkien’s stories and loved his world-building, My involvement in (and frustration with!) the Tolkien Society, led directly to my helping to found the British Fantasy Society in 1971. Since then, some of my children have grown up as Tolkien fans and we have enjoyed the world he created brought to the ‘big screen’ by Peter Jackson.

From this, it is little surprise to me that hundreds of thousands of people name ‘The Lord of the Rings’ as their favourite book. However, I did a double-take when, in the course of keeping up on technology news and developments, I read a (very straight, not tongue-in cheek) artidle by IDG about How Tolkien Leads the Digital Revolution.

While IDG is right that most smartphone and tablet apps don’t reach the level of depth, the layers possible, I suspect the issue is the time to develop and launch is so much shorter. Tolkien spent his life developing Middle Earth. He didn’t work to a deadline or the corporate need for continuing increases in quarterly profits or the need to launch something ‘new’ or ‘world-changing’ every year. The issue then is the expectation versus ability to produce something original within an ever-increasing the pace of change.

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British Fantasy Society short story competition

Do you write fantasy, SF, horror or related genre short fiction?

The British Fantasy Society is again running its short story competition and this is now open for submissions through until 30 June 2013. As last year, entries will be judged by prize-winning anthologist and author Allen Ashley.

You do not have to be a member of the BFS to enter but members do have one free entry, all other entries cost £5. Non-UK submissions can be paid via PayPal. Stories must be original, not previously published and genre-related (though this is broadly defined), up to a limit of 5,000 words.
Click here for the full rules and submission criteria.

There are prizes for three winners:
1st prize: £100, a year’s membership of the BFS, and publication in the BFS Journal
2nd prize: £50, a year’s membership of the BFS, and publication in the BFS Journal
3rd prize: £20, and publication in the BFS Journal

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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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