Cymera: International and home-grown genre literature talent meets in the Scottish capital
- Sofia Matias
- 12 June 2019
We spent a day at the debut Cymera Festival listening to the literary wisdom of science-fiction, fantasy and horror writers
Not even the gloomy and unpredictable Edinburgh weather was capable of deterring literature lovers from converging at the inaugural edition of the Cymera Festival in the Pleasance Courtyard. The festival had an ambitious programme, with 80 authors across 50 events in only three days, aiming to represent a wide variety of themes, voices and publishing experiences.
Regardless of whether your poison of choice is science-fiction, fantasy or horror, there was something on offer for you in the Cymera programme, so it was hard to choose which events to attend when we went along for one day only. Here is a quick summary of the talks we managed to sit in on, and the inspiring things that were said.
Lauren James and Tom Pollock
The early hour of this talk might have affected the audience numbers, but it definitely did not deter both authors from engaging in some great conversation over their works. Lauren James' and Tom Pollock's latest novels (The Quiet at the End of the World and Heartstream, respectively) both engage with social media in a futuristic, sci-fi setting. While James explored what social media might mean to us in the future, and its permanence after we are gone, Pollock went slightly more Black Mirror-y and tackled the issue of intimacy in the age of social media, where friendships become so 'synthetic'.
The conversation was lively and entertaining, with some time to explore even One Direction conspiracy theories (courtesy of Tom Pollock). The event was preceded by a 'Brave New Words' reading (a Cymera initiative bolstering new voices) by A.M. Hall, reading from his debut Children of Shadows. This was the only event we attended with such a reading, but they were scattered throughout the festival; a great opportunity for emerging authors to share their work.
RJ Barker and Micah Yongo
The archetype of the assassin is one commonly resorted to by fantasy authors, but there are many ways to approach it, as it was evident to see from RJ Barker (Age of Assassins) and Micah Yongo (Lost Gods)'s engrossing conversation. From reluctant assassins to natural killers, both authors use their own versions of the assassin to explore in their works themes of betrayal, friendship and family–which those of us without murderous tendencies can more easily relate to.
The talk expanded into a conversation about their writing influences, processes and the magic systems they employ in their worlds, which gave way to the best sentence we heard all day, weaved together by RJ Barker: 'Writing is the closest to magic you can get'.
Also, now we cannot stop thinking of Miss Marple as the most ruthless of detectives, surpassing even Sherlock Holmes (as Barker animatedly defended). That's an image hard to erase from our minds!