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Mike Carey, Dave de Burgh and Raymond E Feist on the Pure Joy of Writing Sci-Fi and Fantasy

Open Book 2014: Fox and Raven Presents: Sci-Fi/Fantasy Rocks!
The Girl with All the GiftsBetrayal's ShadowMagician's End

The second evening of the 2014 Open Book Festival brought a lively panel, billed Sci-Fi/Fantasy Rocks, to The Fugard Theatre where an energetic crowd waited eagerly to hear that writing can be an enormous amount of fun.

And, as promised on the programme, Mike Carey (The Girl with all the Gifts), Dave de Burgh (Betrayal’s Shadow) and Raymond E Feist (Magician’s End) told Marius du Plessis just how much they loved their jobs. Not one of the authors could disguise their glee and the enthusiastic response from the audience, which contained many local writers and aficionados of the genre, was clearly enjoyed by the authors too.

The discussion was led by Du Plessis, the owner of Fox & Raven, and lived up to its promise, delivering a veritable festival of joy like few others. The authors disclosed their secrets to getting started and keeping going. They revealed the tricks they use to navigate writerly challenges and shared their unmitigated delight in the work they do. Their pride and enjoyment was palpable as they talked about the quirks and vagaries of writing science fiction and fantasy. The venue rang with laughter and a motivated and inspired audience departed, encouraged and supported to follow their own dreams and writerly ambitions.

Feist reflected on the dramatic changes in the spec-fic scene since he started writing in the early 1980s. He said two variables are business and the cultural societal evolution of fanboys and -girls. “For one it makes a lot more money now, in books, comics, film and TV games. Societally it has become so rich that there are number sub-genres to it,” he said. He recalled writer conventions of the ’80s when there were maybe 600 guys in bad T-shirts with cardboard boxes of comics in the basement of a sad hotel getting excited to see a woman writer.

“We stand on the shoulders of giants,” he said, “we all look at what came before and figure out how to do it differently. It’s got richer, and better, and there’s way more variety!” He emphasised that there were more opportunities than ever before for genre writers.

Mike Carey spoke about his background in comic book writing and how he got dumped in the deep-end as a writer for the X-Men. It was difficult to get into it because there was such a vast repository of comic books, something like 5 000. As all the cool characters had basically been taken, that freed him to take the characters that were not as popular, giving him terrific freedom to create their backstory and do some world-building. Publishers sent him rejection letters that were extended hilarity. Learning to write for comics, Carey said, helped him structure his stories for the later novels. It was a great learning encounter.

De Burgh shared his early engagement with the novels of David Eddings and Steven Erikson, that meant When he became a bookseller he could speak passionately with the customers. “That changed everything. When I give them a Steven Erickson. If you love it you’re going to hate me because you’ll keep coming back for more! I want to make people want to go back to the books, to make them ask when the next one is coming out.”

Feist affirmed him saying: “That little voice that says you’re better? You are! You are better at writing what you love than anybody else on the planet and you have to hold on to that!”

Echoing the sentiments Sefi Atta, Fiona Leonard and Zukiswa Wanner displayed in their panel, that reading is the most import thing a writer can do, De Burgh turned the conversation to writers who don’t read. He said writers need their writing to be informed by what they read. This is how you learn about writing, via the different kinds of books you read. He said, “Everything I know about writing, I got from reading. The more widely read you are, the more it unlocks your author’s voice … if you don’t read, the only socks you’re going to blow off are the ones you throw in the washing basket!”

Liesl Jobson tweeted live from the discussion:


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Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Dave de Burgh</a>
    Dave de Burgh
    September 19th, 2014 @19:05 #

    Wonderful write-up, thank you, Liesl. :-) And such an incredible event!

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Liesl</a>
    September 21st, 2014 @06:40 #

    It was the highlight of the festival for me so far!


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