21-10-2015

Programming Manager Aedan Lake gives us a sneak-peak at what to expect from five EAFOL16 authors

The full author line-up for EAFOL16 was announced today, and I rather imagine that you will be facing a certain amount of information overload (a familiar feeling to those of us in the author team).

Readers will doubtless have people they’re immediately looking forward to seeing, but beyond that there might be some of you not sure who to look out for, and which authors to read up on before tickets go on sale in January 2016.

The five authors here are recommended not only because they’re great writers – that’s true of everyone we invite – but because of the unusual contribution they’re set to make to our 2016 programme. This is a rather subjective list of course, and I’ll be inviting my colleagues to make their own recommendations between now and March, but consider it a good starting point for how you could direct your reading between now and 1st March 2016.

Brandon Sanderson

Brandon-SandersonWho he is

If there’s an author to get started on early, it’s Brandon Sanderson. Ten years ago he burst onto the fantasy scene with Elantris and Mistborn: The Final Empire, and he has been producing quality novels at an astonishing rate, including the concluding volumes of the late Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time.

Why he’s on this list

If I were being self-indulgent, this article would just be thousands of words of praise for his epic Mistborn and Stormlight Archive series – and if you’re already a fan, then don’t worry, the Cosmere will get its due. But we’re talking about surprises, and our plans for Sanderson include a chance to go in-depth into the art of building a believable fantasy world, and for him to speak alongside writers of Arabic fantasy fiction and to talk about the value of visiting a secondary world.

What to read

For a short introduction to Brandon Sanderson, I would say that The Rithmatist is the best place to start. Sanderson’s take on the ‘magic school’ setting shares some of the qualities of Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom trilogy or Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea series, in that it’s written to be accessible to a young audience but doesn’t at all talk down to the reader – serious themes and complex characters are the order of the day, alongside humour and Sanderson’s trademark intricate systems of magic.

Gavin Mortimer

Gavin-Mortimer

Who he is
Part of our brilliant line-up of historians, Gavin Mortimer is primarily known as a military historian who writes about the brave and heroic actions of elite groups such as the SAS, SBS and Long Range Desert Group. But he has a diverse range of interests, including the history of sport, aviation, and exploration.

Why he’s on this list

Mortimer will definitely be talking about his special forces books, but he’ll also be talking about some of the other areas he writes about. Sport, for example, is an excellent way of exploring our main festival theme of time: as a sport matures and grows in popularity, it accrues a vast body of lore that can be instructive about the workings of human society in an entirely different way to learning about battlefields and great leaders.

What to read

The History of Cricket in 100 Objects has been praised as a cricket book that’s accessible to the uninitiated, and perfectly encapsulates my point above about histories of sport being a fun and welcoming way to present social history. Full of anecdotes from cricket’s twisty and offbeat history, it’s equally welcoming to newbies and veterans of the sport and of sports writing generally.

The History of the Special Boat Squadron in World War 2 and The Men Who Made the SAS: a History of the Long Range Desert Group in WW2 have met with high critical praise for Mortimer’s research and his insight into how the second world war was a new kind of war.

Diana Darke

Diana-DarkeWho she is
British Arabist and travel writer Diana Darke has a longstanding connection with Syria, having lived and worked there for decades. Her book My House in Damascus: An Inside View of the Syrian Revolution has met with praise for the unusual perspective offered on the ongoing civil war.

Why she’s on this list

My House in Damascus is an unusual book. Darke bought her house in the Old City of Damascus in order to restore and preserve part of that ancient country’s long heritage, but events overtook her and the house was to change her life twice more by becoming a refuge to displaced Syrians fleeing the violence outside the city, and then falling victim to profiteers, resulting in a legal battle.

Darke is therefore able to give an insight into an area close to my heart – material and architectural heritage. Look out for her contributing to a discussion on this subject, as well as for a session that will draw on her travel writing background.

What to read

My House in Damascus is one of the 2016 festival’s must-read books – the situation in Syria is frequently explained rather badly to English speakers by news media, and by working up from the perspective of a single historic house, Darke is able to offer some insight into the complex and tragic situation there.

Ben Crystal

Ben-Crystal
Who he is

The son of linguist David Crystal – who will be returning to the festival this year – is an expert on language in his own right, but his particular area of expertise is original pronunciation Shakespeare, and his ensemble Passion in Practice rehearses and performs Shakespeare’s plays in the way that they would have been in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Why he’s on this list

Two distinct reasons. David and Ben Crystal frequently perform together at festivals, taking full advantages of their combined abilities as linguists and performers. We have a very exciting session planned for the two of them as a double act, about which I can say no more.

The second reason is Ben Crystal’s enthusiasm for promoting Shakespeare’s plays as something exciting and visceral, an aspect that is frequently lost in the classroom environment. As part of our celebration of Shakespeare, Crystal will be introducing audiences in Dubai to a new way of appreciating the Bard and reminding us why Shakespeare is so highly regarded not only in British culture, but also worldwide.

What to read

Shakespeare on Toast: Getting a Taste for the Bard is Crystal’s destruction of the pernicious idea that the world’s most popular playwright is in any way elitist. A quick and enjoyable reminder that Shakespeare invented popular culture.

Susan Casey

Susan-CaseyWho she is

Susan Casey is a journalist and science writer who focuses on the ocean – she is known for her books Devil’s Teeth and The Wave, and this year published Voices in the Ocean, about dolphins.

Why she’s on this list

I’m thrilled at the lineup of scientists and science writers we’re bringing to Dubai in 2016, and the great thing about science writing is that it’s full of surprises – it was hard to decide who to feature here. Susan Casey is a name that wasn’t familiar to me until recently, but she’s a big deal – her books on the ocean and its inhabitants are very highly regarded. It’s a truism that we know less about our oceans than about other planets, and a sad truth that we are so comprehensively wrecking ocean ecology – Casey’s insights will be educational on both fronts.

What to read

Voices in the Ocean: A Journey into the Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins is Casey’s latest book, and stars the ocean’s most charismatic inhabitants, beloved by humanity but not immune to human cruelty. Casey also takes a look at the humans most preoccupied by dolphins – those who study them, and those who revere them.