Tolkien, Acid Fantasy And The University Of Oxford

Very pleased by the brilliant reception from academics and students to my lecture about fantasy at the University of Oxford.  Somehow I managed to pack in the influence of Tolkien (good and bad), Acid Fantasy, the important move towards diversity in both writers and story matter, gay Dumbledore, the abundance of medieval secondary world fantasy and why it’s not good for the wider genre, George R R Martin sobbing in his wine cellar, the writing process, why populist politicians must love Weird Tales heroes, and why fantasy is really about reality…while quoting Oscar Wilde, China Mieville, Alan Moore and an old song by The Jam.

Yes, it was a mad ride, but the learned audience was very gracious.

It was a hectic day, involving a dash up the M40 from London, and back immediately after the talk, so I could fit in work on the new James Wilde novel and some screenwriting business on a project that’s now in development.

A shame I couldn’t stay longer, because the programme for the three-day Here Be Dragons event was phenomenal.  It was organised by Dr Stuart Lee, who informed the audience that we first met in a BBC TV make-up room.

On the agenda were talks on Morgan Le Fay and Merlin, and Arthurian Fantasy, Fairy Tales, Shakespeare to the Gothic, H P Lovecraft, Susan Cooper, Ursula Le Guin, George R R Martin and Game of Thrones, Dianne Wynn Jones, Philip Pullman, J K Rowling and more.

Here Be Dragons

Artist: Minjie Su

Later this year, I’ll be speaking at Here Be Dragons: The Oxford Fantasy Literature Summer School organised by the English Faculty at the University of Oxford.

My talk is all about writing fantasy, but if that doesn’t grab you, you can also hear about M R James, H P Lovecraft, C S Lewis, Tolkien, Arthurian fantasy, George R R Martin, J K Rowling, Diana Wynne-Jones and Philip Pullman. And much more across three full days.

It runs from September 11 – 13, and you can book a place here.

True Horror On TV

I’ll be popping up on Channel 4 next week in the drama-documentary series True Horror. The first episode on April 19, 10 pm, is a chilling account of the Rich family’s terrifying experiences in an isolated farmhouse, which I wrote about in my non-fiction book Testimony. (You can read about it here.)

Far more than a haunting, this story goes to some very dark places indeed.  Some have called it the British Amityville, but it’s more than that.  I decided to investigate because it wasn’t simply an account of the family at the heart of the disturbing events.  Many other people, all of them unconnected, experienced disturbing, inexplicable events in that place.

Worth a look.

Tolkien, Fantasy And The BBC

Interviewed live on the BBC the other day. I was talking about the influence of Tolkien and the large and still growing impact of fantasy in literature and popular culture in a debate with Oxford University scholar Dr Stuart Lee and the author Robin Hobb. Stuart and Robin are both knowledgable people, as you’d expect, but also good fun to be around, and we got into some interesting areas.  The general consensus was that fantasy is no longer the red-headed stepchild of the literary world, and now has a degree of respectability. Which kind of irks me. I always liked the outsider status, and that sense of fantasy as a transgressive genre. I don’t want to be part of the club.

I’m an old hand at TV interviews, but it still gives me a thrill to walk into the iconic Broadcasting House in London’s West End.  Old media has a buzz about it, even now, and in that place you feel bound into the long tradition of the BBC and broadcasting in general. The green rooms are still a bit shabby and the studios oddly unreal out of the context of the box in the corner of the lounge.

And my editor will be pleased to know I remembered to ramble, briefly, about Pendragon (published on July 13), King Arthur and the connection between history and myth.

Literary Fest Appearance – November

I’ll be appearing at the Wantage (Not Just) Betjeman Litarary Festival on November 3rd, on a panel discussing fantasy and science fiction alongside Ben Aaronovitch, Mark Charan Newton and Mary Hoffman.  No idea about the specifics of what we’ll be discussing, but it runs for a whopping hour and a half, so undoubtedly we’ll reach your favourite or most hated topic at some point.

The venue is Wantage’s Shush nightclub, beginning at 3.30pm, so you’ll be done in time to set off your fireworks.

Details on the website:


Leicester Signing

I’ll be signing books at Waterstones in Leicester’s High Cross shopping centre this Saturday August 20th from 12.30.

I don’t do many signings, so it’s a good chance to get a lot of books signed, or talk to me about what’s coming up – or even ask for tips about getting published, if that’s your thing. (But if you ask for a tip, you have to buy a book…)

Unconvention 2010: Forteana And Fiction

Thanks to the people at Fortean Times magazine, here’s a recording of the panel I was on at this year’s Unconvention in London, alongside Adam Nevill, Natasha Mostert and host Nick Cirkovic. We talk about ghosts, night terrors, our experiences of the paranormal and writing.