I’ve recently finished an in-depth re-read of The Dragonbone Chair, the first book in Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy (or tetralogy because when the series was put out in paperback, the third door stopper had to be split in two). I’m re-reading it for two main reasons: Williams has announced a new three book series, placed in the same world, called THE LAST KING OF OSTEN ARD; and though I remember liking it when I read it when it was first released, I cannot remember through the years the details. My Dad used to call this “CRS Syndrome” (Can’t Remember S___).

I’m happy to report that The Dragonbone Chair stands up to the test of time, at least in my re-read of it. Published in 1988. it has an obvious place in the fantasy timeline after Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings (LOTR) published in the mid 50’s, and before George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (ASOIAF) (known as Game of Thrones by HBO viewers) published from 1996 through hopefully-not-too-many-years-from-now. Like many other fantasy epics of its time, it is influenced by Tolkien. But unlike many published around the same time, it not a Tolkien imitator (though there are some similarities). GRRM cites the series as an influence on his own A Song of Ice and Fire series. (Read Daniel Kaszor’s article in the National Post that talks about Williams’ series as an inspiration for the A Song of Ice and Fire series and as starting the wave of American fantasy; also, if interested, there is an article about a Tad Williams’ hosted book signing of Martin where Martin discussed this series as inspiration.)
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Why are aristocratic forms of government so common in fantasy? Is it because so much fantasy is set in faux-medieval countries and polities, and so kings, dukes, countesses and their ilk are the expected and anticipated methods in which a country is going to be ruled? It is true that for much of human history, for a large proportion of the glove, large complex societies have tended toward a hierarchical social pyramid, often with a single figure, or a small group of figures, on top.

From a literary standpoint, though, a limited number of political actors offer enormous advantages for writers and their readers. A democracy or republic would mean a cavalcade of characters for the writer create and depict, not only as political actors, but simply as characters. Even a novel completely and utterly focused on the sausage-making of political decisions would be unreadable if the author had to detail 300 electors in the course of the plot. Attempts at simplification of republican politics in novels and stories usually mean collapsing factions and political alignments to a few key actors that can be explored–which returns us to a de facto aristocratic form of government. In other words, we return to Kingdom Politics and the limited number of characters that ultimately matter.
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Betsy Dornbusch is the author of a dozen short stories, three novellas, and two novels. She also is an editor with the speculative fiction magazine Electric Spec and the longtime proprietress of her website, Sex Scenes at Starbucks.

Three things I Learned Writing Fantasy

by Betsy Dornbusch

Besides that it’s challenging, all-consuming, damned fun, and as addictive as those new churro ice cream sandwiches.

I’ve learned lots more than three things from writing fantasy, but I decided to tie this to Exile, The First Book of the Seven Eyes, my book that just came out in paperback. I wrote Exile eight years ago and these are the challenges that jumped out at me then. You’d think I’d have moved on by now. Except as I draft Enemy, the third book in the series, I’m finding these challenges have become more tenets I lean on. Problem is, they each have inner conflict. You know, to keep things interesting.
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The Best Podcast Fiction of All Time (#21 – #30)

This is my third installment of my Best Podcast Fiction of All Time List, covering #21-30. You can find #41-50 here and #31-40 here.  This is the middle list of the five pack–just two more to go!  I hope some of you are tuning in and listening to them all–would make for an epic road trip (though many of the stories are not suitable for children so probably not a whole family road trip).

Please comment, follow along, share this list with your friends.
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An NHS worker by day and a writer under the cover of night, Sarah Cawkwell‘s first novel The Gildar Rift was published by the Black Library in 2011. Since then, she has written several other novels and short stories set in the grim-dark worlds of Warhammer. Heirs of the Demon King: Uprising is due for release in May 2014. Other works include tie-in fiction for World of Warcraft and several original tales for an assortment of publishers. Sarah lists her hobbies as reading, writing, reading about writing, writing about reading, online gaming and writing about online gaming. She needs to get out more.

Alternatively Speaking…

by Sarah Cawkwell

As the release date for my novel, Heirs of the Demon King: Uprising gets closer, I find myself musing on the whole aspect of writing alternative fiction. Heirs is a something a little bit different. It’s more than just an alternative history story. It’s more than a ‘what-if’ scenario. It adds in an entirely new dimension of fantasy and magic – things that absolutely, categorically did not happen. No, sir. That we know of, at least. History, remember, is written by the winners. Or the people who don’t like to own up to that bit of it that embarrasses them for any given reason.
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Interview with Matthew Reilly, Author of TROLL MOUNTAIN

Matthew Reilly is the international bestselling author of twelve novels: Ice Station, Temple, Contest, Area 7, Scarecrow, Hover Car Racer, Hell Island, Seven Ancient Wonders, The Six Sacred Stones, The Five Greatest Warriors, Scarecrow, Army of Thieves and The Tournament.

Matthew’s books are published in over 20 languages and he has sold approximately 5 million books worldwide: 3 million in Australia; over a million in the US; and over a million in the UK.

In 2011, Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves was the biggest selling fiction title released in Australia for that year. Three more of Matthew’s books have been the biggest-selling Australian fiction titles of their year of release: The Tournament (2013), Seven Ancient Wonders (2005), The Five Greatest Warriors (2009).

Matthew has also written two novellas: in 2005, he wrote Hell Island for the Australian Government’s Books Alive project and in 2014 he released the epic fantasy-quest ebook Troll Mountain.


Tim Ward: I first discovered your work through a Creative Writing course at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. Gary Crew is also an Australian author and assigned for us to read Temple. I loved the jungle adventure you told in that story. When you think back to that book, what do you love about that story?

Matthew Reilly: Temple, for me, was about writing a story that was part modern techno-thriller and part swashbuckling adventure. It is the only novel I have written with a dual storyline — that was a challenge I set myself: to see if I could hold the reader’s interest while switching between two stories which are ultimately on a collision course.

I love the pacing of the novel — it is a difficult thing to do, stopping and restarting different storylines, and I like to think Temple succeeds at this.
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Katherine Addison‘s short fiction has been selected by The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror and The Year’s Best Science Fiction. Her new novel, The Goblin Emperor, was just published by Tor. She lives near Madison, Wisconsin.

Tolkien, Orcs, Elves and Goblins

by Katherine Addison

I write a lot of different things, but one of my first and deepest loves is the genre that sometimes gets called “epic fantasy” or “secondary-world fantasy”: stories that take place entirely in imaginary worlds. Unsurprisingly, I came to Tolkien early, I loved–and love–him deeply, and he is undeniably one of a handful of very profound influences on my writing. (Tolkien, Wolfe, and Kushner are the three fantasy writers I most want to be able to write like, which probably explains a great many things about my books.) I love the world he invented, and I strive in my own writing to give the same sense of depth that he does, the same intense sense of history. And if I could write travel narrative as well as he does…well…that would be shiny.
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Miles Cameron is the author of The Traitor Son Cycle, which merges epic fantasy with intricate plotting and scathing action. The first book was The Red Knight. The second book, published this week by Orbit Books is The Fell Sword.

Writing Fantasy-Battles, War, and Violence

By Miles Cameron

In the Traitor Son series, there are a great many battles. But battles, IMHO, are like murders in a good mystery novel. Each of them needs to take place in a context and the results have to have consequences. You can’t just have a battle to see how the magic sword works. Or the hero, for that matter.

And I have to admit that my writing of violence in a Fantasy setting is enormously complicated by having actually seen a war or two.
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Tired of nearly every secondary world fantasy being set in a world that seems to borrow only from Medieval Europe, especially Western Europe? Most especially Northwestern Europe (England, France, perhaps the Low Countries)? Tired of the rest of Eurasia and beyond being ignored, except when token people and lands care called for, or perhaps a crusade against the unfathomable East, with no sense of them as people? With no sense of their cultures, values, flora, or fauna?

Good. So am I. And I’d like to tell you about the fantasy that transcends that barrier.

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In episode 234 of the SF Signal Podcast Patrick Hester, Django Wexler, Cat Rambo, Jason Hough, and Kevin Hearne discuss how the popularity of science fiction and fantasy, varies based on the medium – and how they’ve flipped over time.

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The Completist: SHADOWBRIDGE by Gregory Frost

Stories within stories are one of the greatest tricks in fiction and have been around ever since people have been telling stories. Gregory Frost’s latest novel, Shadowbridge, is a fine example of this storytelling method used to great effect. The protagonist is Leodora a storyteller, a shadow-puppeteer who hunts for the stories she tells. In many ways, Leodora is a traditional heroine – she’s an orphan, is mistreated by her caretakers, and eventually runs away. The running away occurs about halfway through the book, but I don’t think this would be a spoiler by any means. Her reputation has grown to become the greatest shadow-puppeteer since Bardsham, who himself has an air of mythology. While the story has the feel of a traditional fairy tale, Frost makes it clear this is no sanitized kiddy tale as the story progresses.

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Short Epic Fantasy Film: Exordium

Are you in the mood for a gritty (and graphic) fantasy animation? Then check out Exordium, described thusly:

A group of warriors confront that which stands between them and the power to save their people in this rotoscoped animated fantasy short created by Morgan Galen King’s Gorgonaut studios. Starring Jon Tomlinson, and featuring music by Strand of Oaks, Ice Dragon, and Jonn Ollsin

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The 2014 “Beyond Words” Fantasy Author Charity Calendar

As Patrick Rothfuss noted on his blog, right now you can get a supercool calendar and help out some worthwhile charities when you do.

Here’s a description of the 2014 “Beyond Words” Fantasy Author Calendar, which includes beautiful photography by Lauren Zurchin:

Award-winning photographer Lauren Zurchin has created a fantasy photography calendar with fourteen world-famous authors: Holly Black, Gail Carriger, Cassandra Clare, Tessa Gratton, Lauren Kate, Gregory Maguire, Brandon Mull, Lauren Oliver, Christopher Paolini, Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, Maggie Stiefvater, Tad Williams, and Brenna Yovanoff.

Each month features a photograph of a different author (or authors, in one case) dressed in custom costumes made by Lauren, and placed in unique locations with one-of-a-kind props. The overall effect is sometimes dark, sometimes ethereal, sometimes whimsical, and completely fantasy.

Proceeds will go to two charities: First Book and Worldbuilders.

Here about this awesome calendar in their own words, right here:
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John Gwynne studied and lectured at Brighton University. He’s been in a rock ‘n’ roll band, playing the double bass, travelled the USA and lived in Canada for a time. He is married with four children and lives in Eastbourne, running a small family business rejuvenating vintage furniture. Malice is his debut novel.

The Writers That Shaped My Idea of Fantasy

by John Gwynne

Malice is my first fantasy novel, an epic tale with all that that suggests. Epic battles, sweeping landscapes, angels and demons, Machiavellian politics and a coming-of-age tale. Also I hope it has a human heart, telling a story about people and their passions. Epic and intimate was my goal.

Fantasy is one of the big loves of my life, going back as far as I can remember. As I was growing up my dad was in the Royal Air Force, which meant a lot of traveling – usually a new home and school every three years. Books became my friends during these years. Don’t get the violins out, though, it wasn’t so bad. And I do have real, living, breathing human friends now. But because of my circumstances and the regular upheaval books became a big part of my childhood, something that has stuck with me ever since.
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Today’s Kindle deal: Gail Z. Martin’s ICE FORGED, the first book in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, for only $1.99!

Here’s the description:

Condemned as a murderer for killing the man who dishonored his sister, Blaine “Mick” McFadden has spent the last six years in Velant, a penal colony in the frigid northern wastelands. Harsh military discipline and the oppressive magic keep a fragile peace as colonists struggle against a hostile environment. But the supply ships from Dondareth have stopped coming, boding ill for the kingdom that banished the colonists.

Now, as the world’s magic runs wild, McFadden and the people of Velant must fight to survive and decide their fate …

From Gail Z. Martin, author of the beloved series THE CHRONICLES OF THE NECROMANCER and THE FALLEN KINGS CYCLE, comes a new fantasy adventure for the ages.

Welcome to the end of the world.

Welcome to the beginning of THE ASCENDANT KINGDOMS SAGA.

This price is good for today only, so act fast.

In episode 208 of the SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester welcomes two of our newest Irregulars, Sarah Chorn and Ria Bridges, along with a couple of long-term Irregulars, Larry Ketchersid and Lisa Paitz Spindler to discuss three books we want to read before the end of the year.

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In this series, I ask various publishing professionals (including authors, bloggers, editors, agents etc.) to recommend 2-3 authors or books they feel haven’t received the recognition they deserve.

Today’s recommendations are by Violette Malan. Violette Malan lives in southeastern Ontario with her husband. People tend to ask her about the choreography of stripping – and she’ll answer – but most of the time she’s the author of the Dhulyn and Parno novels, and the Mirror Lands novels, fantasies available from DAW.

You’ll find her on Facebook, on Twitter, and check her website.
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Rowena Cory Daniells is passionate about writing. Her speculative fiction stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies including Dreaming DownUnder and Dreaming Again. She has supported the writing community by serving on the management committees of two national genre awards, the Queensland Writers Centre, the Brisbane Writers Festival and Fantastic Queensland. When she sat down to write The Chronicles of King Rolen’s Kin, she set out to write the kind of book that you look forward to after a tough week at work, the kind of book that carries you away. KRK is published by Solaris. The latest book, King Breaker, has just been published by Solaris. You can find Rowena on her website rowena-cory-daniells.com, on Facebook and on Twitter as @RCDaniells

Who Wants To Be King? Not me.

by Rowena Cory Daniells

In the very first book of King Rolen’s Kin (KRK), Byren tells his twin, who is only 7 minutes older than him, that he doesn’t want to be king. Byren says something like: ‘It’s a terrible thing to never know if the woman in your bed is there because she loves you or because you’re the king’s heir.’ Despite this, his twin can’t understand why Byren doesn’t want the crown. People who crave wealth and power, think everyone wants this.

I’ve been watching the TV series White Queen Red Queen which is set during the War of the Roses. I found it really made me think about power and family.
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[GUEST POST] Thoraiya Dyer on Animals in Fantasy

Thoraiya Dyer, an ex-veterinarian, is now a three-time Aurealis Award-winning, three-time Ditmar Award-winning Australian writer. Her short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Apex, Nature, Cosmos, One Small Step from FableCroft Publishing, her collection Asymmetry from Twelfth Planet Press, and is forthcoming in Analog. Animals that have featured in her published work include river dolphins, thylacines, melanistic lions and genetically engineered ants. Find her online at Goodreads or www.thoraiyadyer.com.

Animals in Fantasy: Here There Be Kangaroos

by Thoraiya Dyer

It’s an elf with a longbow shooting a deer. It’s a dwarf with a pint and a plate of pork ribs. It’s the thief throwing a bone to distract the guard dog, the innkeeper closing the door against wolves and the healer closing a wound with catgut. It’s secondary-world fantasy, right?

You can tell because of the failure of specificity when it comes to the animals.
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Edward Willett writes science fiction, fantasy, nonfiction and plays. He won the Aurora Award for best Canadian science fiction novel in 2009 for Marseguro (DAW). As Lee Arthur Chane he wrote the steampunkish fantasy Magebane, and as E.C. Blake he’s the author of a new fantasy trilogy beginning this fall with Masks (also DAW). He lives in Regina, Saskatchewan. He can be found online at his website EdwardWillett.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter as @EWillett, @LeeArthurChane & @AuthorECBlake.

Playing Nicely With Others: A Novelist Writes for a Computer Game

By Edward Willett

When I was a kid, I was forever disappointed by my fellow children. I always wanted to play a long-running game of detailed make-believe, in which we would each be a specific character and have wonderful adventures repelling aliens, fighting Nazis, guarding a castle, or maybe event fighting Nazi aliens from the walls of a castle.

They wanted to play Yahtzee.
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