Wednesday, 27 November 2013

C.S. Lewis - 50 Years

Last week, on 22nd November, a memorial stone was dedicated to C.S. Lewis on the 50th anniversary of his death. The memorial is in the Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey, alongside the likes of John Keats, T.S. Eliot and William Blake.

C.S. Lewis is a writer I have a very personal attachment to, beyond my deep love for his work: my Opa (grandfather) in South Africa used to send me books every birthday and Christmas, and he started sending me the Chronicles of Narnia while I was still very young. Sadly, he passed away when I was just seven years old...and the series was never completed. In fact, I didn't complete my collection for many years. I was searching for a seventh book to match the issue of the other six - it just had to have the same cover style as the others for me to feel like it was properly completed.

By the time I was 14, I had given up the search. I bought a copy of The Last Battle, not having read it before, and found that it was about death, and moving on. It couldn't have been more appropriate to finish the strange, tangled journey I had been on with this book.

So thank you, C.S. Lewis, for bringing Narnia to life. And thank you Opa for leading me to the wardrobe.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Thursday, 14 November 2013

What the Woods Want

When we close a book and put it away, how can we see how vast the world contained inside truly is?

I have a peculiar relationship with the novels of Diana Wynne Jones. I read a fair amount of them as a child, and I remember they had me hooked straight away and kept me engaged from cover to cover; they were magical, with fascinating storylines like no other, and there were a lot of surprises and twists near the end. But if you asked me, I wouldn't be able to tell you what a single one was about.

Why? I honestly have no idea (I like to think I have a pretty good book memory). So I've dug my old books out of storage and made a promise to read them all and love them again. And to remember why. I've already made a start; I've read Hexwood and wanted to share a rather beautiful sentiment from the very end of the novel.

The book doesn't sit comfortably in either the fantasy or sci-fi genre, as there is wood magic and mythical creatures as much as travel through space and time. But as the story draws to a close and the ends are tied together, the predominant setting, the woods, will not let the characters out until it has been granted a gift for all that it has been through:

'You told me the Wood can form its own theta-space and become the great Forest,' Mordion said to him. 'Does the Wood only do this when a human being enters it?' 
'I had not thought of this,' said Yam. 'Yes, I believe that when not reinforced by my field, the Wood requires human assistance to change.' 
'And not all humans will help,' Mordion said. 'I think what the Wood is trying to tell me is that it requires its own theta-space permanently, so that it can be the great Forest all the time, without having to rely on humans.'

I'm sure we've all experienced something like this, when we walk through the woods and it feels like it goes on forever, like it's the most magical place in the world and can't possibly be just a 20 minute drive from home. Diana Wynne Jones' Woods feel the same thing, and want to experience this vastness and greatness without needing a person inside to believe it into existence. 

I can imagine the same would be true of books. When we finish reading a great story we carry the world it created inside of us, whether it's the bygone England of Austen or the dystopian England of Meg Rosoff's How I Live Now, Middle Earth or Narnia, or the anyplace and anytime of fairy tales. How huge, how magnificent, and how in the world can all that be in something small enough to carry in a handbag?! 

We don't need to be inside the book, physically turning the pages to bring its world to life. There is a special relationship between book and reader that creates an everlasting world after a single union, which doesn't exist until the book has been read, and afterwards exists in both.

As I continue to re-explore my collection of Diana Wynne Jones novels, I fully intend to make sure her worlds continue to exist in me as well as the book. Let's make this magic happen!

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The Grey Queen's Gown

I'm sure most of you have seen/read the new issue of Unsettling Wonder, and I'm very excited that my short story, The Grey Queen's Gown, is featured in this issue. 

The theme for the issue is 'fairy brides', and I find it interesting that both pieces of original fiction are about selkies - are these beautiful creatures of folklore in the midst of a popularity surge that I've somehow missed? I hope so! I'm still waiting to receive my copy but I can't wait to read the other stories and articles, the contents page has me hooked already.

Happy reading, and please feel free to comment with any constructive criticism; feedback is always welcome :)

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Twisted Tales

Remember Saints of the Lot called for fairy tale performers? Well, it's nearly time for their spectacular event: Twisted Tales!
Once in awhile in the middle of an ordinary life, Saints of the Lot gather a myriad of creative creatures to enchant our chosen kingdom. On Saturday, November 23rd, Saints of the Lot will be transforming the Marlborough Pub and Theatre into a Fairy Tale kingdom.
Snake Charmers, Flautists, Belly Dancing and Musicians fit for a king.
Big Brad Wolf and Acacia Blue will be teased and manipulated by the fairies of the forest in their provocative take on a Shakespearean tale.
Jack Woolley presents his fairy tale live alongside artistic projections by Elemental Media and a contemporary dance by Rochelle Joy portraying the lead Princess.
And so we embark into a land of fairies, witches, goblins and spells, we cordially invite you to our Twisted Tales.
Sounds exciting! You can buy tickets here.