Celebratory filler post!

I’d offer apologies for the lack of substance today, but they’d be insincere. My brother and I both have birthdays within days of each other in June, and so I spent the weekend celebrating with him and his family. Laura and I got to spending the evenings with our nieces, the ever-enthusiastic Princess and Ever-ready, and Pete and I spent Saturday playing games while the girls were out. It was pretty awesome.

This morning I had my shoulders pummelled by the physiotherapist, which will be great for my medium term productivity but took out a whole morning and any catching up I would have done.

So, if you want a writing lesson for today it’s this – plan in advance, because life is always catching up with you, in good ways as well as bad.

Normal service will resume tomorrow with much enthusing about Guy Gavriel Kay because I’ve just finished Lord of Emperors and, spoiler alert, IT’S AMAZING!

Fantasy and history – one thing leads to another

Having written on Friday about fantasy as a place where we learn some history, and about Robin Hood and the spectrum from history into fantasy, I got to see it all connect together over the weekend. Not only did I watch Disney’s Robin Hood (that’s right, the good Robin Hood), but I watched it with children, taking their first steps into understanding history.



I spent Saturday at my brother’s house, helping entertain my nieces, the terribly serious Princess and the unstoppable Ever-ready. The Princess is nearly five years old, Ever-ready two and a half, and thanks to their parents they’ve both acquired a taste for the fantastic.

After a busy day of playing and visiting the library, we settled down together to watch Disney’s Robin Hood, at the request of both girls. No sooner had the music started than they were enthralled, watching Robin and Little John run through the forest, excitedly telling me about the characters – who was good, who was bad, what animals they were and what they were doing.

For the first time all day, Ever-ready sat still.

Bedtime stories too

Bedtime showed the power of fantasy as well. Ever-ready’s choice of stories was The Reluctant Dragon, adapted from the story by Kenneth Grahame. The Princess chose Starcross by Philip Reeve, a space-faring steam fantasy – she has excellent taste. Both stories showed just how powerfully fantasy can capture children’s imaginations.

Watching the wedge

Watching them enjoy these stories, whether on screen or the printed page, I could see the thin end of the wedge of history slipping into their minds. They know what a knight is. They know how Victorian ladies dressed, and that they were expected to behave differently from men. They know about bad Prince John* and King Richard’s absence on crusade. They might also suspect that space is full of Moobs and that outlaws disguised themselves in Lincoln green, but we can correct that later. For now, they’re learning, and part of what they’re learning is a love of the past. Skipton castle is one of their favourite places.

The more I think about it, the more I think that the relationship between fantasy and history isn’t just the former feeding off the latter, it’s fantasy breeding a passion for history. And as a fantasy author and history graduate, I think that’s a great thing.

So how about you – do you have a passion for history, and was it fuelled by fantasy? Or maybe the other way around? I’d love to know.


* Having done my masters dissertation on John, I actually think he has an unfairly bad reputation by comparison with the rest of his family. It’s not that he doesn’t deserve to be viewed badly – he was responsible for several political murders, including that of his nephew – but that the rest of them deserve it too. I mean look at Richard. The guy was in England for five months out of a ten year reign, neglecting the country that funded his middle eastern killing spree – total dick.

Bedtime stories

I wrote recently about audiobooks and how they fit into the tradition of oral storytelling. And as so often happens, I realised after that post that I’d had a narrow viewpoint. As a result, I’d missed one of the places where the oral tradition is most vibrantly and excitingly alive.

I refer of course to bedtime stories.

picture by ChrysArt via Flickr creative commons
picture by ChrysArt via Flickr creative commons

Up the stairs to bed

Bedtime stories are a part of almost every childhood. A parent sat by the side of the bed, reading to their child, discussing what the book’s about. It’s a wonderful bonding experience, a chance for the child to develop a love of books. Maybe they do voices. Maybe the child joins in on the bits they know. It’s great fun.

I had first hand experience of this on Wednesday, when I told bedtime stories to my nieces, Ever-ready and the Princess. We had a picture book about sticking plasters, and a chapter from Philip Reeve‘s Larklight. Like in days of old, we gathered together for the story telling, sharing every spell-binding moment. It made me feel close to my nieces, gave us something to talk about the next morning (oh those villainous moobs!), and was the most fun I had all week.

Grown-ups too

Of course, bedtime stories aren’t only for children. Mrs K and I have, from time to time, read books to each other as we settle down for the night. Whether it’s sharing a particularly good passage from a novel, an interesting snippet from a factual book, or working our way through a story together a chapter at a time, it’s a relaxing way to end the day. I don’t know how many couples do this, but I do know that we’re not the only ones.

From the campfire to the bedroom

So I guess not much has changed. We’ve just moved our story-telling to a more comfortable location, and I’m happy with that.

Do you still enjoy a good bedtime story? What were your favourite bedtime stories as a child? Which ones are you reading with your kids now? Leave a comment below, gather round the digital campfire and share a tale.