Philip Pullman in Cardiff: La Belle Sauvage, Lyra’s world, and the writer’s craft

This afternoon I was fortunate to attend a brilliant event organised by Waterstones and Literature Wales. Following the publication of La Belle Sauvage on Thursday, Philip Pullman visited Cardiff to talk about the new book and his creative process more generally. The event was held at the BBC Hoddinott Hall, Wales Millennium Centre, and the room was full to capacity.

During the first part Pullman answered questions posed by Horatio Clare, and also read to us two extracts from La Belle Sauvage. Then the audience has a chance to ask further questions.

Pullman talked about the characters of La Belle Sauvage, the world of Lyra, children’s literature, folklore, and the craft of writing more generally. Here is my Twitter thread with quotations and comments from Pullman during the Q&A:


Many congratulations to Waterstones and Literature Wales for a wonderful event!



CFP: The Celtic Obsession in Modern Fantasy

CFP: The Celtic Obsession in Modern Fantasy


You are invited to submit a paper for an edited volume tentatively titled The Celtic Obsession in Modern Fantasy Literature to be submitted to Palgrave Macmillan.

Scholarship on Celtic-inspired fantasy literature has mostly focused on source-studies of pre-1980s texts (e.g. Sullivan, 1989; White, 1998). Dimitra Fimi’s recent Celtic Myth in Contemporary Children’s Fantasy: Idealization, Identity, Ideology (2017), has widened the discussion by engaging with the Celticism vs. Celtoscepticism debate, focusing on constructions of “Celtic” identities in children’s and young adult fantasies from the 1960s to the 2010s.

This edited collection will take the debate further by focusing on post-1980s Celtic-inspired fantasy for adults. The “Celticity” of each fantasy text can be interpreted broadly to include:

  • Creatively re-using heroes and mythological motifs from medieval Celtic texts, such as the Welsh Mabinogion, the Irish Táin Bó Cúailnge, etc.
  • Engaging with perceptions of the “Celts” in classical sources such as Strabo, Herodotus, and Polybius, Tacitus and Caesar.
  • Imaginatively utilizing insights from Iron Age archaeology, often dubbed “Celtic”
  • Adapting folklore traditions from Celtic-speaking countries
  • Evoking a looser notion of “Celtic”-like society, religion, folklore, etc., including in para-textual or marketing material

We acknowledge that the dividing line between children and adult fiction is not always clear. Papers can focus on the work of fantasists such as:

  • Kate Forsyth
  • David Gemmell
  • John Gwynne
  • Katharine Kerr
  • Stephen R. Lawhead
  • Ilka Tampke
  • Tad Willaims

(This is not an exhaustive list)

Although heroic or epic fantasy may seem to fit better the scope of this collection, we are open to considering proposals on other sub-genres of fantasy literature, such as urban, magical realism and SF/fantasy crossovers.

Please submit a title and abstract to the editors by:
15th December 2017
Essay due: 1st June 2018


Dr. Dimitra Fimi, Cardiff Metropolitan University (dfimi@cardiffmet.ac.uk)
Dr. Alistair J.P. Sims (booksonthehill@gmail.com)


Fimi, Dimitra. Celtic Myth in Contemporary Children’s Fantasy: Idealization, Identity, Ideology. London: Palgrace Macmillan, 2017.
Sullivan III, C.W. Welsh Celtic Myth in Modern Fantasy. Westport, CT; London: Greenwood Press, 1989.
White, Donna R. A Century of Welsh Myth in Children’s Literature. Westport, CT; London: Greenwood Press, 1998.

The value of English literature at GCSE (really? do we even need to argue this?)

Last week, Owen Sheers rightly drew attention to the perilous consequences of removing English Literature as a core subject from GSCE requirements in Wales: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-41043551

I was asked to share my two penneth in a BBC Radio interview for Good Evening Wales. You can listen to the entire story below (my contribution starts at 01:40).

For those of you who asked, here’s the exact wording and full reference for the Irish Murdoch quotation I used:

Prose literature can reveal an aspect of the world which no other art can reveal, and the discipline required for this revelation is par excellence the discipline of this art. And in the case of the novel, the most important thing to be thus revealed, not necessarily the only thing, but incomparably the most important thing, is that other people exist. (Murdoch, 1959, p. 267)

Murdoch, Iris (1959) ‘The Sublime and the Beautiful Revisited’, Yale Review, 49, 247-71. (Full text available here: https://msu.edu/course/eng/487/johnsen/murdoch.htm)