Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Authors North Spring Meeting 'Fantasy and Horror'

The theme of the spring meeting of Authors North last Saturday was 'Fantasy and Horror' at the Queen Hotel, Chester. It was a rather upmarket venue, one of the oldest and grandest hotels in Chester, painted once by the children's illustrator, Ranolph Caldecott, when it caught fire sometime in the nineteenth century. (Ranolph Caldecott gave his name to the American version of the Kate Greenaway award for illustrated children's fiction and was born in Chester here.)

The hotel looked after us well, even going to the trouble of welcoming us with our own biscuits (which I photographed quickly before they all disappeared).

The morning talk was by the fantasy writer David Whitley who at the age of twenty-five has already written one highly acclaimed book called The Midnight Charter. It is part of a trilogy, published by Penguin in this country but also translated into many other different languages worldwide. It has also been long-listed for the Carnegie medal. The next book, Children of the Lost, is out later this year. The Midnight Charter is set in a superbly imagined city, Agora, where anything can be bought or sold, including children...and emotions.

American Cover.

In the talk David described how the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century inspired his writing; both the setting (the city itself inspired by Prague) and also the ideas. He then described many of the ideas of that age (described so eloquently in the first chapter of Seeing Further by James Gleik). This was an age of discovery and investigation, and David illustrated how this period, rather than the Romantic period that followed it, is a grand inspiration for fantasy.

At the end of the talk David was kept busy signing books...

Following lunch we had another excellent talk, this time from Ramsey Campbell (and introduced by Helen Shay) on the delights of Horror. This talk entirely changed my view of the genre. Ramsey Campbell is 'Britain's most respected living horror writer' according to the Oxford Companion to English Literature and he has been awarded the Grand Master Award of the World Horror Convention and the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Horror Writers Association. He is also the President of the British Fantasy Society. A click on Amazon brings up 466 results.

photo by the chairman of the Authors North Committee, Colin Shelbourn.

Horror is not something I would normally read, but Ramsey has converted me. His selection of extracts showed the scope of the genre including several books that I'd actually already read (including the wonderful Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro) and now I really want to read more. He gradually led us through the history of the genre and included some entertaining examples from his own experiences, notably of ghosts. Although Ramsey recommended other people's books as a starting point, a quick look on Amazon made me settle on this: Alone With the Horrors - a compilation of Ramsey Campbell's greatest short stories.

Altogether it was a fascinating and entertaining event and many thanks to Sarah Burton of the Society of Authors for arranging it all.


Blogger Colin Shelbourn said...

I was also intrigued by his recommendation of the film, I Walked With Zombie - the fact that the title was foisted on the director, it had nothing to do with zombies and it is, in Campbell's estimation, a superbly creepy ghost story. When I looked it up on IMDB

I discovered it is a voodoo retelling of Jane Eyre! Definitely one to watch.

Thu Apr 22, 05:20:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Ha, a precursor to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, perhaps?

Thu Apr 22, 05:37:00 pm  
Blogger aliholli said...

DAVID!!! He won University Challenge! We saw him walking the Chester walls just after he had won and leaped on him, poor boy, he didn't know us from Adam but was made up we'd recognised him. Lovely lad.

Wed Apr 28, 11:47:00 pm  
Blogger aliholli said...

P.S. Fab biscuits!!

Wed Apr 28, 11:48:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Ha! Was that the whole family? Did Chris know him at Oxford? Did you know him at Upton Manor? I introduced him at the event VERY fully :-)))

Wed Apr 28, 11:56:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

And yes, the Queen Hotel did us proud...actually that is such a good idea for all sorts of occasions...

Thu Apr 29, 07:27:00 am  

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