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Building a magic system on memories – Gerrard Cowan

Posted by on Sep 7, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Building a magic system on memories – Gerrard Cowan

Memories can play tricks on us, fading and twisting over time and sometimes even changing altogether. How, then, can they form the basis of a magic system? That was the question I faced in developing The Machinery Trilogy. Without giving too much away, memories sit at the heart of the magic in the novels: they live forever, and are imbued with the power of an ancient god. Memories hold a number of interesting possibilities for a magic system. For a start, they are fascinating in their trickiness. I am often surprised to find that something I was sure occurred in one place actually took place in another, or in a different year than I expected, for example. Sometimes it seems that two or more memories have somehow mixed together, like paints on a palette. This presents interesting possibilities for a magic system, where each memory holds its own power, and can be combined with the power of another memory – in just the same way that real memories become tangled up over time. There is also the question of potency. It is undoubtedly true that certain memories hold a power over us, for whatever reason, good or bad. This provides a solid basis for a magic system, with some memories being particularly prized for their power. Memories are one of the major themes of the series, beyond their function in the magic system. I also wanted to consider the characters’ relationships with their own narratives of the past, and the question of how reliable these narratives are. As memories live forever in this world, it is possible for characters to walk through them again. But if we could revisit a memory as it actually occurred, would it look the same to us as it does in our mind’s eye? Would we be surprised by how it appears – would we trust what we see? The existence of an endless pool of memories raises a number of other questions. The society we are presented with is roughly Early Modern in its development. However, there are signs that other, older civilisations were more advanced than the current version. If we could access the memories of the people who lived in these older times, would it not also be possible to learn their secrets? The role of more ‘ordinary’, non-magic memories is also a major theme of the trilogy. The books are centred on a 10,000-year-old state whose leaders are chosen by a machine. However, throughout this long history, and despite the success the Machinery has brought them, the people are haunted by an ancient prophecy, which states that in the 10,000th year, the Machinery will break, selecting a ruler who will bring a terrible ruin to the world. There has been a long struggle throughout history between those who question the effectiveness of the Machinery – called ‘Doubters’ – and the forces of the state. In this way, an ancient memory is ever-present in the lives of the people: the historical memory of a dreaded prophecy, which has only gained potency as the years have gone by. The longevity of the nation creates its own questions surrounding memory – how can we be sure that the early events occurred as laid out in history? Who controls the memories of the past?...

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The Anatomy of Truth by Nancy K. Wallace

Posted by on Sep 4, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Anatomy of Truth by Nancy K. Wallace

From the very beginning, The Wolves of Llisé has been about truth. On my website, www.amongwolves.net there is a quotation by Mark Twain that I love: “The very ink with which all history is written is merely fluid prejudice.” It’s an old refrain but most would agree that history is written by the victors; the losers receive much less press coverage, even in America. In Llisé, the Archives in Coreé contain the official written version of history and, yet, another version exists, no less precise and carefully guarded, in the form of the oral Provincial Chronicles. The differences between the two are blatant. The Archives intentionally cover up decades of cruelty and hate. They consistently present the provincial people as the enemy and the government as the beleaguered guardians of the empire. It’s odd isn’t it that here in the 21st century, we find ourselves wrestling with the same issues that haunt the history of Llisé? Conspiracies, deception, and lies fill the evening news. History is being written and rewritten and for most people the truth is a well-hidden, carefully guarded secret. Where can any of us go to find the truth and, once we find it, what should we do to protect its fragility? As a librarian I find myself constantly questioning the reliability of sources. I ask patrons, “Where did you read about this?” when they want additional information on a subject they may have heard about on social media. I believe that ours is not so much the age of “information” but the age of “misinformation.” Rumors are rampant and when anyone can have a website touting his or her opinion, searching for the truth can be daunting. During the recent eclipse, CBS ran special slides of “Solar Eclipse Myths.” One reported that a battle between the Lydians and the Medes in 585BC came to a halt because of a solar eclipse. The combatants were so awed that they called a truce. Considering this battle happened 2,500 years ago, how do we separate myth from the truth? Using Google, I found three reliable websites (The History Channel, NPR, and the University of Hawaii, reprinting research from the University of California, Berkley) which agreed that a truce did occur during a solar eclipse. There were slight discrepancies in the date but the main event remained the same. The information is based on what was recorded by Herodotus, a Greek historian, and what astronomers today can piece together about celestial events. Three reliable sources are generally considered enough to substantiate factual information. Can we apply the same technique to current events? Or are facts buried so quickly and so deftly that we are left clueless as to who is speaking the truth and who isn’t? If you look back at the preceding paragraph, the information for all three sites came to us from what is called a “primary source.” While Herodotus was not alive at the time of the aforementioned battle, he wrote about it, basing his opinion on the observations of those who witnessed the event. Most of us aren’t good eyewitnesses. We are usually so frightened, awed, or angry that we don’t remember all the details when something big happens. But when enough eyewitnesses are interviewed, a pattern emerges, the basic facts are presented, and the story becomes...

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Marina J. Lostetter – Alternate Yous

Posted by on Aug 7, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Marina J. Lostetter – Alternate Yous

Clones have long held a fascination for storytellers.  Before cloning was a scientific reality, there were many myths and fables about evil twins, doppelgängers, and the creation of humans “from scratch.” Copies, supernatural reflections, and Frankenstein’s monster all come from the same long-standing questions and fears: what makes us ‘us’?  And can that be taken away? A clone is a genetic twin of the source.  But what does that mean? Twins do not have exactly the same experiences, and thus do not share the same memories.  They are unquestionably individuals, with their own wants and needs and desires.  We’ve all encountered stories of clones created through replicators, where a person is copied right down to their current memories and the clothes on their back–but this type of clone is very different from both the ones I’ve created in Noumenon, and those created by modern science.  Dolly the sheep was not a carbon copy of its parent.  Using an adult’s DNA to create a baby does not mean you end up with a person who thinks and acts exactly like their original once they’ve grown. In Noumenon, I explore the concept of clones as a ‘fix.’  Early in the novel, clones are thought to be the best way to ensure an interstellar convoy’s success.  The mission planners believe if they take genetic information from well-vetted sources that it will give them more control over the many variables that could shift in the mission over the centuries. But does it offer more control?  Would populating generation ships with genetically identical crews over and over actually create stability? Our experiences are part of who we are, and an Earth-based mission-control cannot regulate every incident aboard such a convoy. It’s the classic nature vs. nurture argument: do our genes make us who we are, or do our experiences? This is a fundamentally silly question, of course.  There’s nothing ‘versus’ about nature and nurture.  The two things are both undeniably components of our personage.  So, then the question becomes, which one is more influential?  Which one is more ‘us’? But, why do we care so much?  Why have stories focused on this concept for so many centuries?  What, exactly, are we getting at when we delve into the influence of genetics and environment?  Why are we so fixated on which is ‘more important’? There’s the simple scientific curiosity of it all, of course.  Humans like to know how things work, if only for the sake of knowing.  An interest in the origins of behavior drives a good chunk of the questions. And some people explore the topic as introspection, a way to be more self-aware; If I know how I work, then I might better understand why I work, in a sense. But what’s most interesting–and simultaneously frightening–is where these questions put us socially speaking. Nature vs. nurture as a question is stuffed full of biases, especially when value judgments about certain behaviors and genetic traits come into play. We can most starkly see the dangers and limits of the question when confronted by people who look to nature vs. nurture to advance their world-view, as with those who push genocidal concepts like eugenics and racial supremacy. As much as those individuals would like to argue one aspect scientifically has more bearing than the...

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Peter V Brett – The Core Tour

Posted by on Aug 1, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Peter V Brett – The Core Tour

Please click on the links below to buy tickets:   All Waterstones events   Forbidden Planet, London   Blackwell’s, Edinburgh  ...

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Creating a World by Anna Smith Spark

Posted by on Jul 4, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Creating a World by Anna Smith Spark

When I came to write The Court of Broken Knives, it was the world that came first, not the story. The story, in fact, is pretty simple, in the way that myths and folk tales often are. The first scene I wrote was a description of men in a desert, and violence, and they were travelling towards a great city, and that city was every fantasy city I have ever loved. Why they were travelling, what the purpose of this journey was and what would happen to them when they got there, was at first unimportant. But the joy of writing the desert … Of writing the city … Of writing a world …   In Xanadu did Kubla Khan A stately pleasure-dome decree: Where Alph, the sacred river, ran Through caverns measureless to man    Down to a sunless sea. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Kubla Khan   The wonder of it. Marvels. Magic. Beauty. The dream of things so far beyond mundane reach. To enter a world that is not our own. Of course I enjoy the plot twists, the characters, the action. But it’s the evocation of other worlds that love most about fantasy as a genre. I want to wallow in another world, immerse myself in it, drown in it. I read fantasy like I read travel writing – to be there, to see it, to be removed from my own tedious time and place.   The unpurged images of day recede; The Emperor’s drunken soldiery are abed; Night resonance recedes, night-walkers’ song After great cathedral gong; A starlit or a moonlit dome disdains All that man is, All mere complexities, The fury and the mire of human veins. William Butler Yates, Byzantium   It was important to me in creating Irlast that the reader had a strong sense of this, that there was a far wider world outside the place that the characters happen to inhabit. I wanted to give a strong sense of history and of place. Two of the fantasy writers I most admire are R. Scott Bakker and Steven Erikson, simply because their worlds are so immense, so immersive, so detailed. The different languages, cultural mores, cultural myths of their world are so fascinatingly evoked by both these authors. There’s such a strong, vivid sense of being in a real place.   What shall we tell you? Tales, marvellous tales Of ships and stars and isles where good men rest, Where nevermore the rose of sunset pales, And winds and shadows fall towards the West:   And there the world’s first huge white-bearded kings In dim glades sleeping, murmur in their sleep, And closer round their breasts the ivy clings, Cutting its pathway slow and red and deep. James Elroy Flecker, The Golden Journey to Samarkand   But I also wanted to create a sense of wonder, of romantic splendour. I wanted my world and my places to be unreal. These are not real places. They cannot possibly be real places. They are absurd beyond imagining. Fantasies on fantasies. Absurd. I have a great love of mythology and folk lore, and it’s the very impossibility of many of the stories that appeals to me. The god Thor wrestling with his own old age, and then draining so great a draft from a mead horn...

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Hero Risen: Guest blog from Andy Livingstone

Posted by on Jun 21, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Hero Risen: Guest blog from Andy Livingstone

  The safety valve for our darker selves Cricket with my parents and brother on baking-hot days in a park on holiday in Blackpool. Tennis, with my dad pretending I was as good as him and, in later years, with my brother proving I was not. Rugby at school, hockey after leaving it. Karate, Muay Thai, Table-tennis, snooker, swimming – anything at all, I threw myself into it throughout my childhood and into adult life. Usually with a consistently average ability, but always with an excess of enthusiasm. And football, football, football. Always football. Standing at Fir Park to watch Willie Pettigrew and Joe Wark play for Motherwell and switching on the TV to see Joe Jordan and Billy Bremner play for Scotland and Johan Cruyff and George Best just, well, play as only they could. Then imagining I was them: battering a ball in the garden with my brother, sneaking onto the college playing fields with my friends in the holidays, running about the wing for the Boys’ Brigade football team while pretending I knew what I was doing. Even now, I drag myself out onto the five-a-sides pitch with the enthusiasm of a 10-year-old and the fitness of a 49-year-old. Always football, always sport, always loving it. But I had asthma. So there was reading, too, and that became the other love as I grew up. I would run about until my lack of breath told me it was a bad idea, and then lose myself in someone else’s world. It became what I did. It became me. So there is no surprise that sport has an influence in my books, too. Not in the sense that my characters indulge in a spot of table tennis or shoot some hoops from time to time – although I did invent a sport all of my own for the start of Hero Born – but it’s more that experiences that have affected or formed me as a person have at times affected or informed scenes and characters’ actions or decisions in my books. The collective, unifying, oppressive atmosphere when an entire crowd shares the same feelings – the hum of excited, almost disbelieving, expectancy at Motherwell’s first-ever Champions League home match or the relentless fear and nauseating nerves leading to the outpouring of ecstasy and relief at a last-minute relegation-averting free kick – became the start-point for the backdrop in a gladiatorial arena. Coaches’ training exercises for teams and those devised by my young self to try to overcome my own deficiencies led to thoughts of training suitable for combat and the difficulties of teaching technique without stifling talent. Basic competitive martial arts methods and principles from twenty years ago helped with imagining anything from a street fight or a duel to a battle or an ambush. And, more than anything, the spirit and heart and in-the-moment invention and adapting inherent in sport became infused in any win-or-lose situation in the books, especially in Hero Risen where Brann has to draw perhaps more determination, drive and inner strength than ever before. And It is this that made me think more than anything that the link with sport is not so far-fetched. In our parts of the world, we are lucky to have spent generations living in societies where we...

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An exclusive message from Robin Hobb

Posted by on Apr 27, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

I dedicated Assassin’s Fate to Fitz and the Fool. They’ve been my closest friends for over twenty years. That’s not to denigrate my marriage of forty-six years, or the friendships that reach back to my high school. The characters we write live inside our minds, creating an internal friendship that is difficult to explain to non-writers. I’ve never heard my characters speak aloud, never seen the Fool juggle or watched Fitz impassively shed the blood that demanded to flow. Yet over the past twenty years, I’ve spent more hours in their company than in anyone else’s. When I first began writing Fitz and the Fool, my writing desk was in the laundry room, in an old house with plank floors. When the washer went into a spin, I’d dive for the computer and hold it steady lest the hard drive malfunction. I often wrote late at night, in darkness save for my old desk lamp and the green letters glowing on my black screen. All was quiet, the kids in bed, only frogs creaking outside. But both Fitz and the Fool were there, the Fool sitting cross-legged on the dryer, mocking and contradicting us.  Fitz leaned against the doorframe, talking in his soft, deep voice, always trying to explain his life to himself, puzzled as he looked back at his decisions, shaking his head over who he had been. Yet all of us knew that who he had been had already determined his future. Every new set of events built on what had gone before. From the start, we all knew what was to come. Just as the Fool looked forward, seeing a myriad of possible futures, and choosing a path, so I wrote forward, reaching toward events that had already happened to Fitz, even as I wrote them down for the first time. There are sentences in this book that are strange echoes of words I wrote twenty years ago. There are sentences I’ve waited twenty years to write. I’ve approached them with both trepidation and anticipation. To write them down and say to both of them, ‘There. Now it has happened,’ was a very peculiar sensation. To be done is not to be finished. Ave atque vale. Hail and farewell.   Robin Hobb February 2017...

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A Letter from Mark Lawrence

Posted by on Apr 10, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

  Red Sister contains a very different story to that in my debut, Prince of Thorns, or my next trilogy starting with Prince of Fools.   When I brought Jorg Ancrath’s story to a close I made it clear that I didn’t want to be wedded to one character for the whole of my writing career, and if moving away from him gambled that career then so be it. Jalan Kendeth was about as different from Jorg as it is possible to be in terms of character. But he was still a young prince in the Broken Empire.   Just as I wasn’t prepared to be tied indefinitely to the same character it turns out that after six books in the same world I wanted a change from that too.   Nona Grey, the lead in the Book of the Ancestor trilogy, lives in a very different world to that in which the Broken Empire sits. The people are different, the land is different, the magic is different, even the sun isn’t the same colour.   The writing style has also changed. My previous books were told to the reader by the protagonist, seen through their eyes, and offered an armchair seat in the mind of the prince in question. They were written in the first person. Nona’s tale is told in the third person form used in the majority of fiction. It offers a less claustrophobic feel to the story.   Nona’s adventure sprung from my question – what sort of cover would Prince of Thorns have been given if it were titled Princess of Thorns, and instead of a Mark I was credited as a Mary? My editor sent me a piece of artwork of a dangerous looking young woman with a sword, and some time later I started writing a story about her.   Although Red Sister has a good measure of violence in it, the story also focuses on the nature of friendship, on making friends, on losing them, and on loyalty. I did worry at some points about the size of the step I was taking into this story of novices in a convent. Would my publishers think it a Malory Towers with knives, or Chalet School for ninjas? Would my readers come with me, would I find new ones wherever it was I might have taken myself?   Well, with April still on the horizon those worries will linger a while yet, but from the early reviews so far one common refrain has been “his best book yet”. Which, funnily enough, is what my US and UK editors said when they read it. I guess they must know their stuff!   So, whilst it isn’t true that in writing it’s change or die, it certainly is true for me that I have to change things up every now and then or die at least a little on the inside. I’m very happy to have written The Book of the Ancestor trilogy and feel that Nona has earned her place in my affections alongside Jal and Jorg. I’m proud of the story and I hope the readers who try it will have as much fun as I did.   Note from the editor, Jane Johnson:   I loved Jorg fiercely, despite (maybe because of?)...

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Red Sister is coming! Out tomorrow!

Posted by on Apr 5, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

  “If you wish to know what someone is made of you must squeeze them until it shows.”   In the Convent of Sweet Mercy Abbess Glass and her sisters apply pressure to the girls placed in their care. They find out what their novices are made of and train each according to their nature.   The world beyond the convent is wider, but not by so very much. Abeth circles a red and dying star. Its original inhabitants left millennia ago when the ice began to cover the globe. The people who replaced them are now hemmed within a corridor that encircles the world but that in no place leaves more than fifty miles clear between the northern ice cliffs and the southern.   Humanity’s ancestors left them a gift. An artificial moon that focuses the sun’s light and every night battles the advance of the ice. But that war is being lost. The many nations of the Corridor are being squeezed. Each year sees more people and less land. And those people are showing what they’re made of.   In such a harsh world children are often sold by families that cannot feed them. The more discerning purchasers look for signs of the old bloods. Four tribes beached their ships on Abeth and when their blood shows true it brings rare talents. Such children can grow impossibly huge or fast, or find strange magics at their fingertips. Such children are valuable. Nona Grey is purchased for just these reasons from a mother eager to sell.   That nations will go to war under such circumstances in inevitable, but the pressure is not just upon empires but on each institution and each person within those institutions. As Nona grows she finds conflict on every side and at every level. She finds the dangers that she is being trained to confront are already at her doorstep. But Nona Grey was born for war, she understands it. What truly puzzles her are people and as she tries to unlock that puzzle, and is trained in the faith of the Ancestor, she discovers that no bond is more holy to her than that of friendship.   Nona is a strange child and cautious of naming anyone her friend, for once that word is spoken caution ends and there is no limit to what she might do to save someone precious to her.   Where Nona looks on humanity and sees confusion Abbess Glass sees through to the heart of each person with rare clarity. The abbess is neither young nor deadly, she wields no magics and yet when it comes to the long game she has yet to meet her equal. She has seen something in Nona Grey, seen her part in what must come, and staked her faith upon it. In time Nona will come to respect the abbess, to understand quite how ruthless she can be and quite how far she too will go to achieve her aims. In time she may even come to fear her.   In a convent where extraordinary children are trained in the darkest and most bloody arts, Nona and her friends struggle to survive, to learn, and to stay true to themselves....

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