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Ava Fairhall's Fantasy Maps

posted Dec 1, 2018, 3:00 PM by Grace Bridges

Ava Fairhall, a writer, artist, and cartographer, will be presenting a session on Mapping Fantasy Worlds at GeyserCon in Rotorua.

GEYSERCON: Hi Ava! Thanks for stopping by and thanks so much for contributing to our national convention. We can’t wait to meet you! 
Thank you for the opportunity to participate! It’ll be my first convention, so I’m rather excited.

GEYSERCON: We’re sure everyone asks you this, but how important is realism? After all, it’s fantasy, right? So if the world is conjured from our imagination, do rivers really have to flow down to the sea, and why can’t we plonk a desert in the middle of a forest if we want to?
The geography of your world is completely up to you, and you can put your features anywhere, with one caveat – there has to be a reason why. When we look at a map, we have a rough expectation of what to find based on our current understanding of the world around us. That rivers will run from high points (mountain ranges) to low points (the sea), because that’s the way gravity works. So if you’re creating a world where this doesn’t happen, the reader will want to know why. 
Why? Because that’s where stories begin. If there’s a desert in a forest, was it caused by a blast of magic? A toxic chemical spill? Or tiny invading sand aliens who are attempting to conquer the planet? SFF stories contain elements of things we know, and things we don’t. By including realistic elements you give the reader a comfortable place to start getting to know your world. Too much strangeness gets confusing and may give the reader an impression of inconsistency or sloppiness Our Earth also contains plenty of strange geographical features

GEYSERCON: Which comes first? The map or the world? Do you recommend writing the story and developing the fantasy world’s geography through the narrative, or is it better to start with the map and develop the story from there?  
I’ve always had the story come to me before the map because the characters introduce themselves before I learn where they live, but that’s not true for everyone. It doesn’t matter which comes first. Story ideas can come from anywhere, and a map is one of them. There are pros and cons to both sides.
If the story comes first, you may never feel the need to generate a map at all, or if you do, the map may only grow as far as far as the story needs it. This allows you to focus on the story and not get side-tracked down the rabbit hole of world-building and researching how long it might take for a horse to travel 300 miles so you can make sure your ancient ruin is in the right place. You get to explore the undiscovered parts in other stories without being too constrained by what’s been written. On the other hand, drawing the map around the world can make a story feel incomplete and disconnected from the world around it. If you later fill in one of your voids with a significant feature, it may leave readers wondering how people in other parts of the map never heard of it. It can also mean some geographical elements won’t make sense.

If the map comes first, you know why Clan Furgle hasn’t heard of the City of Coloured Glass, and can put a treacherous mountain range in between to isolate them, and then incorporate the myth of a terrible fate befalling any who cross the mountains. The landscape is all decided in advance and shapes your story instead of the other way around. The trouble with maps coming first is that it can lead to overbuilding the world, and before you know it, you have 17 Star Systems, 89 planets and 304 moons, when your story takes place around on a research ship that jumps between two planets and a moon. The world might feel complete, but you’re only ever going to use 5% of it, and the time taken to build your world could have been spent writing.

GEYSERCON: A lot of classic SFF stories have included maps, many with very different styles and designs. Do you have a favourite and why?
(For reference, here is a good blogpost, which lists some examples. https://www.hodderscape.co.uk/quiz-identify-fantasy-novel-maps/)
Any time a book has a map, I’m halfway sold already. Treasure maps were probably the first thing that caught my imagination as a child – something precious and hidden to find. Who hid it and why? When I first read Tolkien, CS Lewis, and Terry Brooks, I tracked the progress of the characters through the landscape. I’ve stared for hours at maps of Greyhawk, Ankh-Morepork and Redania, Temeria and the Skellige Isles (usually looking for quests) wondering how places got their names, why this place is a ruin, or been thrilled to finally locate the place mentioned in the story.
Do I have a favourite style? No. Each map is a unique extension of a story, a world to explore and tells a story of their own, and that’s what I love about them. Each style reflects the world they portray, and thus there’s something to love in each one.
I will say, however, that maps with hidden places, ruins, unexplored territory, dangerous or forbidden zones, and unusual features in an ordinary landscape are things I love on a map. 



GEYSERCON: Can you give us a little hint about what you might talk about at GeyserCon? (Don’t tell them too much!)
It’ll be a broad overview of how I make maps, and the things I’ve learned along the way. The things that make the process faster, and pitfalls to be aware of. What you’ll want to give to an artist who you’ve commissioned (or bribed) to make you a map, and what to think about if you’re drawing your own. As well as preparing maps for print, and considerations to think about before you draw your map.

GEYSERCON: And finally, as both a creator and consumer of SFF, what do you hope to get out of the convention for yourself? 
The biggest thrill for me will be having the opportunity to meet other writers and learn about the worlds they’re creating. I plan to go as many workshops as I can, although I’m having a lot of conflicts choosing which ones.

Images: 
Ava Fairhall
Ava Fairhall with her map of Dragon Realm designed for Eileen Mueller’s Riders of Fire fantasy series.

Paul Mannering Presents : Star Wreck. A radioplay mash-up.

posted Nov 19, 2018, 8:58 PM by Kura Carpenter   [ updated Nov 19, 2018, 10:19 PM ]

Star Wreck An Original Paul Mannering Radio Play, only at GeyserCon 2019
Over recent years, our New Zealand national conventions have seen
a new tradition, wherein award-winning author Paul Mannering writes and directs a radio-play spoof on a SFF fandom which is then performed by members of convention. A casting call is made the convention’s opening ceremony, a couple of secret-squirrel rehearsals are held throughout the programme, and the radioplay is performed live at the closing ceremony. In 2016, at Au Contraire 3, Mannering gave us the side-splitting Death Star Noir, and 2017 there was Word of the Things, an irreverent mash up of current events, Game of Thrones and LotR. Both hilariously funny and wickedly sharp. And we’re delighted to announce that for GeyserCon 2019, Paul has penned us an original spoof called Star Wreck, based on a popular fandom. We invited Paul to give us the skinny on his new work.


GEYSERCON: So Star Wreck. Are you bit of a Trekkie then? What can you tell us about the play? And who is your favourite captain?

Paul Mannering
PAUL: I’m one of those fandom-fluid people who enjoy both Star Trek and Star Wars. I’m not a Trekkie, or a Warrie (?) a Wookie? Or even a Jedi. I just love Sci-Fi in all its forms.


PAUL:  Star Wreck was originally a concept I came up with about 10 years ago. I wrote the first outline draft with my son, Ash, who has a wickedly creative bent. The idea with the various parodies has been to make them instantly recognisable to fans, but also make them completely insane. I like to include nods to aspects of the fandom that are enshrined in popular culture and make fun of ourselves (as fans) as well. Star Wreck is focused on ST:OS. So it is a parody of the original series, with some elements of newer ST Universe included. It’s also a bit of a 4th Wall Breaker – so there are parts where characters address the audience or make reference to being in a production directly to the audience and each other (kinda like Deadpool).

Star Wreck: Radio Play, GeyserCon 2019

GEYSERCON: The radio play has become a bit of a community-building coup, with everyone clamouring to join in ‒ no experience necessary. Was it a conscious decision on your part to create a vehicle which would help to connect members of our community or was it just a happy coincidence? How many cast members will you require this time?


PAUL:  The first production, I was just relieved that anyone showed up at all! It was quite nerve wracking when we held the first auditions – basically if you showed up, you got a copy of the script and a part. Since then, the community has embraced this event and performances have been stellar. In my experience, sci-fi fans, especially in a smaller country like ours, are close knit and like to support and get involved in interactive experiences around their various fandoms.

PAUL:  The [Star Wreck] cast runs to at least 6 for this script. The usual lead characters from ST:OS, plus some aliens and supporting. Also, if someone has an Alsatian dog that they can bring to be part of the cast, I have a speaking part for a large dog.


GEYSERCON: What’s the biggest challenge in putting together an amateur show like this? And the best part of being the director?


PAUL:  Judging what other people will find funny is the hardest part. Something may sound hysterical in my head – but I worry about offending someone. The fan community is diverse and we all come from different cultural backgrounds, so it’s important to avoid crossing the line between parody and discrimination. The actors and audience are always fantastic. People work very hard to put on a great performance and its why we keep making new shows.

2016, at Au Contraire 3, the side-splitting Death Star Noir

GEYSERCON: What about sound effects? You’re also director of BrokenSea productions, so perhaps you have something exciting in store for us?

PAUL:  Sound Effects (SFX) are a key element of every show we do. I put together a file of specific sound effects for each production. Instead of making foley like an old school radio play, we use recorded sounds and music. In future, it would be great to get a foley team on board and have them stomp on gravel, stab watermelons, click coconut shells, and wave sheet metal live.


GEYSERCON: Thanks, Paul. We can’t wait to hear Star Wreck live. Just one last question ‒ we see you’re interviewing our Guest of Honour, New York Times bestseller and four times Bram Stoker winner, Jonathan Maberry in an ‘in conversation’ session on Saturday 1 June. Of course, you’ll be preparing questions which will give us some insight into Jonathan’s incredibly varied career, but we wondered if there was a particular question you hope to ask him for yourself?


PAUL:  Jonathan Maberry is amazing. He has had best-seller success with his zombie fiction. He has written terrific techno-thrillers and is up there with Stephen King and Lee Child in terms of awesome characters and action-driven plots. I am looking forward to embarrassing myself in a complete fanboy meltdown when we have our chat.

PAUL: The one question I hope to be able to ask is if he has ever considered adult adoption, and if so, I would like to offer myself as a candidate for adoption.

GEYSERCON: Only time will tell, Paul, we'll find out together come Queen's Birthday weekend and GeyserCon 2019! So don't forget to go to our Register Page, so you don't miss out :)

Star Wreck: Radio Play, GeyserCon 2019

We are online!

posted Feb 3, 2018, 6:19 AM by Grace Bridges

Today the website has gone live along with our social media accounts at Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Watch this space for more news soon! 

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