The Lit Review |37| NaNoSessionMO


This weekend at the Nine Worlds Geek Fest, science fiction fans will team up to create the novel of the decade in just over an hour.  OK, perhaps not the novel of the decade, but certainly a novel worth blogging about.

Science Fiction author Chris Farrell explains how the idea for NanoSesssionMo evolved: ‘Last year, we did a session on writing science fiction on existing technology… We had some great ideas coming out of it: people writing stories about post-apocalyptic crustaceans inventing tools, and that sort of thing. With just the quantity and ideas that people were coming up with, I thought absent-mindedly you could probably get them to write a book.’

He pitched the idea to Megan Rosslyn, who is organising the creative writing track of this year’s festival, and she let him run with it. So, on the 8th of August nerds and geeks will gather to cobble together a main character, a plot and a structure in 45 minutes. They will then spend a further 30 minutes writing a chapter each which will take shape as a great, big, geeky melange. The book will then be made available as a free e-book for those of you who care to peruse its contents. Who knows, maybe it will be the novel of the decade.


The programme is packed to the brim with nerdy delights. So if taking part in collaborative storytelling isn’t your thing, there is plenty more here to entertain the masses.


The Kilkenny Arts Festival


The Kilkenny Arts festival will take place from 7th-16th of August with a number of literature events happening around the city. You can join the discussion on meta perpetual helmets (yes that’s a thing), or share a coffee with Rory Montgomery, one of Ireland’s leading diplomats. You might prefer to attend Laura Marlowe’s lecture on ‘The Age of Unreason: Nationalism and Jihad in the 21st Century’. Or, if music and literature is your thing, you can join Mahan Esfahani to explore Bach as viewed by his contemporaries.


Plants are Problem Solvers


Stefano Mancuso really gets plants, and his arguments for their worth are pretty convincing. Plant neurobiologist (talk about finding your niche) and journalist, Alessandra Viola, have co-authored the book Brilliant Green: the Surprising History and Science of Plant Intelligence which defends the intelligence and the rights of plants.

Mancuso explains how plant intelligence is different from that of humans and animals.  ‘Instead of a single powerful brain… plants have a million tiny computing structures that work together in a complex network’. Plants operate by engaging in a number of functions, purely through their senses. This is how they survive. ‘This is why plants have no brain: not because they are not intelligent, but because they would be vulnerable. Intelligence is the ability to solve problems and plants are amazingly good in solving their problems’.

Because plants and humans are drastically different, and because we operate in entirely different ways, humans cannot imagine what it must be like to actually be a plant. As a result we are not engaged with how a plant lives and survives in the world. Our appreciation of plants and their purpose is limited at best; most of us don’t see plants as ‘cute’ or ‘cuddly’, and therefore we do not think about their importance for our survival. But Mancuso stresses that humankind’s disinterest and dispassion about plant behaviour and intelligence may put our very survival at stake. This article explains the whole thing very well, or better yet, you can buy the book.


The Shortlist for Not the Booker

Six books have been shortlisted for the Not the Booker prize, which I mentioned in last week’s Lit Review. 1000 readers submitted their votes to the Guardian and now, six hopeful authors are nail-bitingly close to taking the coveted Guardian Cup (really a mug, but who’s bothered?) The Guardian will post weekly reviews that will help readers to choose who their winner should be. There will be a final call for votes on October 5th.


Funky Females 

Pinecone, Princess, Children, Books

Despite the deluge of books for girls with titles such as Princess Fairy Sparkle Face and The Search for a Husband *not actually a book*, there is a noticeable growth of recent picture books disregarding the construct that girls must be ‘pretty, passive and vapid’ while your bloke ‘gets on with the juicy business of living.’

In Princess Daisy, the Dragon and the Nincompoop, Daisy has no choice but to defeat a pesky dragon without the help of the useless knights. She cobbles together her own armour, with a colander for a helmet. Princess Sue waits ages for the love of her life, but once she meets him and sees how crap he is, she sets his trousers alight and flies off on an adventure. Princess Pinecone of The Princess and the Pony desperately desires her own steed, but when it arrives it’s not a white coated unicorn but a fat, flatulent, lump of a thing with bug eyes.

These princesses have greater concerns than marrying a handsome prince. The stories portray young girls who prefer the idea of a juicy life. They like fat ponies and love adventures, just like girls in real life.


Guardian Children’s Literature Festival



The Guardian will hold its first Children’s Literature Festival this year. Tickets are free and everyone can attend. I repeat, tickets are free and everyone can attend, so be sure to book. You can hear all about Pugs of the Frozen North, by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre. You can learn how to draw the Dinosaur from Dinosaur Roar! with Paul Stickland, or you can nurture your inner poet with  Joseph Coelho. If you happen to be in London on August 29th, you must go and tell me all about it.


Fringe Festival in Edinburgh

Many Irish faces are set to appear at this year’s International Festivals in Edinburgh, supported by Culture Ireland, which promotes Irish arts worldwide. The International Book Festival has put together a programme of over 700 events and will host the likes of Anne Enright, Belinda McKeon, Eoin Colfer and Colm Tóibín. It will take place from the 15th -31st of August. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe will host A Girl is a Half Formed Thing, by Eimear McBride and How to Keep an Alien by Sonia Kelly. Both plays will be performed at the Traverse, which was built to give a platform to new writers. Events at the Fringe take place from 7th-31st of August.


The Long Gaze Back

The Long Gaze Back is a new anthology of 30 stories by Irish women. Edited by Irish broadcaster Sinéad Gleeson, and published by New Island Books, the stories span four centuries and showcase writing from a selection of Ireland’s excellent female writers. The collection has been described as ‘stories to savour’ and a ‘piercingly beautiful mosaic of a lively literary landscape’. I love a good mosaic, I’m in.


The Pale Project

Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council has appointed Selina Guinness as its writer in residence. Guinness’ first undertaking is The Pale Project which will focus on the concept of ‘dwelling’ through a series of workshops, lectures and events. The Pale is appealing to everyone, young and old, encouraging them to mark out their ‘pale’ and to document the traits and interesting stories associated with this particular area. The idea is to encourage people to become explorers and to observe more of our daily lives. We don’t do enough exploring of our daily lives, in fairness. We should all start looking around a bit more. To find out more or to get involved in the project, email this nice person.