Writer’s Cafe – Summer Reading Series 2013

No Dead White Men is delighted to report that the first Writer’s Cafe featuring Nicky Matthews Browne was a success in the lovely setting of the Rose Theatre’s Culture Cafe. Nicky’s reading was well-received as were the readings by the public.

Some of the audience, although they did not intend to participate, felt so inspired as to spontaneously recite poetry from memory.

N M Browne reading at the 10 July 2013 Writer's Cafe

N M Browne reading at the 10 July 2013 Writer’s Cafe

A great time was had by all and we are all looking forward to the events yet to come:

Tuesday, 06 August 2013, 1:15pm – Kayo Chingonyi – “Musical words”

Tuesday, 03 September 2013, 1:15pm – Mark Barrowcliffe – “Devil in the details”

Tuesday, 08 October 2013, 1:15pm – James Miller – “Repetition and revolution”

All events are from 1:15 – 2:00pm in the Rose Theatre’s Culture Cafe. Entrance is free and you can purchase a coffee and a cake for just £3. Email the organiser (and MFA), Vivienne Raper, at vivienneraper@gmail.com to book an open mic slot or just show up on the day with poetry, prose or anything in between. Readings should be no more than 5 minutes in length.

Please come out and support your local writing community. You might even like to share some of your own writing!

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Summer Reading Series at the Rose Theatre: 10 July 2013 Event

Frog Prince Communication

MFA student Vivienne Raper has been hard at work with several other students and the Rose Theatre in Kingston-upon-Thames to organise a brilliant series of public readings beginning on the 10th of July in the Rose Theatre’s Culture Cafe. The series will kick off with N M Browne reading on the theme of transformations. Short stories, poetry and other short forms of writing on this theme are welcomed from the public! Email vivienneraper@gmail.com to book your open mic slot or turn up on the day to see if there are still spaces left. Pieces should be no longer than 5 minutes in length.

Not to worry if you can’t make this event, there will be events in August, September and October with headline readers and Writers-in-Residence Kayo Chingonyi, Mark Barrowcliffe and MFA lecturer James Miller and open mic slots every month.

This is a wonderful opportunity to meet writers, get involved with Kingston Writing School and to get public exposure if you’re a writer, yourself!

Annual MFA Anthology, Writings…, Goes to Print, Launch Scheduled

Cover by Hannes Pasqualini, www.papernoise.net

Cover by Hannes Pasqualini, http://www.papernoise.net

 

We are excited to announce that the annual Kingston University MFA anthology, Writings…, goes to print this week. The official launch will be next week and we hope you’ll join us for a reading, drinks and a celebration of the achievements of all out MFAs. This event is free and open to the public so please join our Facebook event and invite your friends. You’ll even get a free copy of the publication!

 

 

Writings… Launch

Thursday, 30 May 2013

7pm

Waggon & Horses Pub

Surbiton, KT6 4TW

Open Night 22 May 2013

Open Evening

Are you thinking about doing an MFA? Do you have questions about the modules, assessments, tutors, admissions process and more? Come meet current staff and students of Kingston University’s Creative Writing department from 4:30-7pm on 22 May 2013.

The event is free and will be held at the Penrhyn Road campus, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey KT1 2EE.

You do not have to attend for the full 2.5 hours; please drop by when you can!

Find out more about the event here.

Book your place here.

You can access the course booklet containing information about the MA and MFA in Creative Writing, the low residency MA and MFA in Creative Writing and the MA in Creative Writing and Pedagogy here.

Hope to see you there!

Is Science Fiction Out of Ideas?

Vivienne Raper is working on a science fiction novel with the help of the Kingston MFA.

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‘THE OVERWHELMING SENSE ONE GETS, working through so many stories that are presented as the very best that science fiction and fantasy have to offer, is exhaustion… In the main, there is no sense that the writers have any real conviction about what they are doing. Rather, the genre has become a set of tropes to be repeated and repeated until all meaning has been drained from them.’

So begins British science fiction critic Paul Kincaid’s 2012 review of The Year’s Best Science Fiction in the Los Angeles Review of Books. He argued today’s short science fiction ‘unadventurously’ rehashes robot and spaceship stories seventy years old, historical tales on Mars, or fairy stories where technology replaces magic. He concludes that science fiction authors have lost faith in the future.

Amazing Stories

          His review sparked debate, including a fascinating – although incoherent – essay by freelance critic Jonathan McCalmont. Entitled ‘Cowardice, Laziness and Irony: How Science Fiction Lost the Future’. In it, McCalmont argues that speculative fiction authors are evading their responsibility to tackle political subjects.

But are Kincaid and McCalmont right? I’d argue not. The crisis in science fiction is not exhaustion or pessimism, but overload. At least four different technologies are advancing simultaneously. Their lockstep development over the next fifty years could reshape humans, nature and society in exhilarating and terrifying ways.  More

Horror Divas

Alaa El Fadel is an MFA student who is currently working on a fantasy novel. Her blog, Mountain Quill, is where you can follow her journey on writing.

Although people say don’t judge a book by its cover, that’s exactly what I did when I spotted the Narnia chronicles in a bookstore. I thought the unicorn was pretty. I delved into a world of fantasy that mesmerised me. Ever since then, I wanted to create such worlds. Making up stories has been a passion, especially when it came to explaining report cards.

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Fear. Panic. Terror! Sound familiar? That’s what the horror genre used to do before the big monsters were tamed. Vampires, werewolves and zombies petrified the bravest of souls – that is until everyone wanted to date them. Well, except zombies, we can get over necrophilia and murder but rotting flesh is just disgusting.

So what happened? Looking back into the history of the genre, it is safe to say that horror started off in folklore. The superstitious collected unexplained experiences and melded them with cases of unfathomable, human cruelty. Diseases and mental conditions became curses, possessions, witchcraft and divine punishment. How else could anyone explain such things? It was those dang, meddling monsters! Or a deity was upset with you…shame on you.

Then what happened? Just like any ravenous beast with wild imaginings, writers lunged at the tales and Frankensteined them in their narratives. No longer counting on memory, the monster’s immortality evolved on stone, paper and finally, iPads. Yay. At one point, vampires were so feared that bodies were exhumed and staked for those better safe than sorry moments. The horror genre was born and soon obeyed the whims of mass interest; they had their ups and downs over the centuries, even more so when novels and movies partnered on the dance floor. Hollywood reigned in the latest hype when they produced movies like The Exorcist, Blade, Dawn of the Dead, Dog Soldiers, etc.  But who could ignore the literary stars who began or excelled the genre of dread? Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, Anne Rice, Stephen King, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Edgar Allan Poe, H.P.Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu and many more.

But all was about to change in the land of blood and gore. The first instance I realised not all monsters were created equal was when the comic book character of Blade appeared on film. A half-vampire (Daywalker) who hunted other vampires? My writer’s brain got knocked over. No longer were heroes restricted to virtuous nobles or gifted underdogs, the monsters themselves practised human choice by slaying their kin. Japanese novelist, Hideyuki Kikuchi created compelling novels of a ‘young’ dhampir by the name of D. D travels the nuclear wastelands of 12,090 AD, where the vampire civilization rose and fell. Occupation – vampire hunter…for a hefty price off course. Those mechanical horses won’t oil themselves.

When vampires softened by refusing to ‘eat’ humans and opted for the vegetarian menu of blood substitutes or animals, sorry Bambi, their scare level dropped. Werewolves soon followed in The Sookie Stackhouse Novels by Charlaine Harris and the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. I missed the old monsters. It was a breath of fresh air to read, The Passage by Justin Cronin. Vampires were the lovely, blood-sucking monsters that would sooner rip your head off than give you a smooch. I went back to peacefully worrying about them creeping into my room in the dead of night. John Connolly didn’t disappoint either in, The Book of Lost things and his comedy horror, The Gates. Oh, those rascally demons and their possessings.

So what does this mean for horror? Pretty much anything. Genres shift and change along with people’s interests. Horror coupled with romance to birth ‘Paranormal Romance’ – its own little, gurgling sub-genre of joy. Although the diapers stink, it’s still a whole new adventure that’s going to grow up one day.

Justify my genre

 

 

I had planned to mount a long, passionate defense of fantasy as a genre.

 

I’m not going to do it.

 

I’m tired of doing it. I’m tired of being asked to defend what I write when others are not asked to defend their genres. I’m tired of trying to explain that fantasy is just another mode in which to tell a story, a mode that often subverts society as we see it, reflects on the human condition in a way not seen in other genres, a mode that clears away the thick, dirty cloud of today’s problems in order to give us answers to those problems, and yet attempts to capture some of the wonder that we left behind in our folktales and myths.

 

If you already believe that fantasy is more formulaic than other genres, I’m not going to persuade you otherwise. Your mind is set, and I don’t have the time or energy to un-set it.

 

If you use “fantasy is escapism” as a curse, I’m not going to try to change your view.

 

If you think fantasy is childish and we should put away childish things, then I pity you.

 

If you believe fantasy is not as “true” to the human experience than other genres, then I’m sorry for it.

 

If you don’t like fantasy, then you don’t like fantasy.

 

Instead, I give you Ursula K. Le Guin:

 

“You see, I think we have a terrible thing here: a hardworking, upright, responsible citizen, a full-grown, educated person, who is afraid of dragons, and afraid of hobbits, and scared to death of fairies. It’s funny, but it’s also terrible. Something has gone very wrong. I don’t know what to do about it but to try to give an honest answer to that person’s question, even though he often asks it in an aggressive and contemptuous tone of voice. ‘What’s the good of it all?’ he says. ‘Dragons and hobbits and little green men—what’s the use of it?’

The truest answer, unfortunately, he won’t even listen to. He won’t hear it. The truest answer is, ‘The use of it is to give you pleasure and delight.’ ”

 

 

–Alexandra Little

 

Failing at Figuring Out Fantasy

In a creative writing workshop a few years ago a friend of mine had finally worked up the courage to submit her newest piece.

“So what do we have for us today, Eleanor?” I remember our teaching asking.

“It’s a fantasy epic, about twin sisters learning how to harness their innate auras.”

Our teacher let out a long audible sigh. “Well,” he said, “At least it isn’t zombies.”

As I’ve gotten older I’ve tried to conquer my literary biases. Most of the time it’s a simple matter of finding an author that speaks to the styles and themes that interest you. Even though I found most science fiction to be the equivalent of wading through countless metric tons of techno-babble, there is the rare author that can make me appreciate the inherent advantages that science fiction can give.

But the one egg I haven’t been able to crack is Fantasy. I’ve done my homework – I’ve read Lord of The Rings, dabbled in Harry Potter, even gave Game of Thrones a go. But even in the best of circumstances my response is always an abstract thought rather than a raw emotion. Scenes that have made my friends weep in Harry Potter leave me thinking “Well, that was competently written.” We are apparently on different wavelengths.

And that would be fine, except I like to give rational reasons for the way I feel. I recognize that a memoir is usually a solipsistic journey into the fraught world of internal conflict. Crime fiction appeals to so many of us because it usually posits a way to confront and deconstruct random chaos. Poetry is meant to hang around your mind for weeks on end, its meaning only revealing itself once your subconscious has wrestled it into submission.

But fantasy? I’m still left cold. I can objectively speak to questions of craft, of dramatic stakes, of giving thematic weight to fictonal landscapes. But subjectively? I am completely at a loss.

In discussing this with another writing friend, he noted that his reason for disliking fantasy (and most genre work) is that the trappings often become more important than the characters. Bad writing runs rampant in amateur workshops because people get hung up on the details instead of realizing that, say, there’s no dramatic conflict for the first twenty pages. And I’m willing to buy part of that argument, but even before I started showing up to workshops I had an innate dislike for the world of fantasy. Bad writing or not, my personal feelings towards the genre have very little to do with the fantasy writing (some good, some bad, and some excellent) I’ve seen in workshops.

So let’s try broadening out the question. For those who like to read fantasy, what part of it appeals to you?

Is it the focus on adolescent/teen empowerment? I fucking devour teen fiction (including the horrible stuff), but the second you give Johhny the ability to flick fireballs from his fingers my emotional reader just switches off.

Is it the ability to explore a world and society alien to ours? I somehow managed to make it through 1984’s longwinded historical section (if you’ve read it, you’ll know it) but found Lord of the Rings to be one of the most excruciating reads of my life. No, I do not care who this characters father, mother, and best friend were. Just get on with it, for chrissakes.

Or is it just about the inherent coolness in getting to shoot fireballs out of your fingertips? Is a love for fantasy tied to our childhood? Did I miss out because my mother used to hand me threadbare copies of Nancy Drew mysteries instead of  Pratchett’s Discworld?

One last note to further muddy the waters. This inability to connect with the fantasy genre extends to multiple mediums. Whether its Willingham’s Fables, NBC’s Grimm, orBethesda’s Skyrim my response mirrors the sigh my instructor once gave.

Rich, Alex, I know that this is your guy’s home turf. I’d love to hear your thoughts on why you write fantasy – what drew you towards it in the first place and what’s made you return to it again and again?

Oh, and I should probably mention – Not much a fan of zombies either, cultural zeitgeist be damned.

Steve Timberman

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