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CYMERA - Scotland's festival of science fiction, fantasy and horror - kicks off in Edinburgh

Victoria Schwab by Jenna Maurice

(Victoria Schwab by Jenna Maurice)

Settle in for a big event, genre fans: the inaugural CYMERA Festival of science-fiction, fantasy and horror writing is taking place from 7–9 June 2019 in Edinburgh.

CYMERA is the brainchild of Ann Landmann, who created the event because, quite simply, it was the event she wanted to attend.

"I love book festivals," she says, "but they don’t programme the events I want to see.

I think there's still some stigma against genre as not being proper literature, so I want people to come and enjoy stuff together and see that they're not alone- Ann Landmann

"You just don't get genre at festivals in Scotland. So, the obvious solution to that was to start one. I love book festivals and I’m an event organiser by trade, so it was kind of the obvious thing to do."

The first iteration is taking place over three days, with a huge roster of authors in attendance, including Ben Aaronovitch, Samantha Shannon, P.M Freestone, Ken Macleod and Ever Dundas. The full list of authors can be found (in alphabetical order) at cymerafestival.co.uk. It's important to note this, because CYMERA is for authors at every stage of their career.

"The whole ethos of CYMERA is to give opportunities to authors that are established, emerging and people that are maybe thinking about writing and don’t know where to start.

PM Freestone

(PM Freestone)

"I’ve been really lucky that a lot of [the authors] have come this year," Ann says. "I’m not sure how we’re gonna top this."

Ann adds that while Young Adult genre writers tend to get a higher outing at festivals, some authors are often missing from the bill, especially those "who are proper fantasy/science fiction, because they’re just too genre." CYMERA makes space for those writers, and gives a platform for their readers to engage.

"A festival is a very special thing," she says. "To sit in that audience and hear your author talk, and ask them questions and then go and meet them and have a chat.

"But also, to sit in that audience surrounded by people that love the same thing you do – I think that’s really hard to find, especially for genre.

"Genre has gone leaps and bounds – especially fantasy and science fiction recently, because you’ve got all the superhero movies and television, so it’s much more accepted. But I remember being a Star Trek fan in the 90s when you got shunned."

Richard Morgan Lawrie Photography

(Richard Morgan, Lawrie Photography)

Ann wants to create a space where likeminded people can enjoy genre writing together.

"I think there’s still some stigma against genre as not being proper literature, so I want people to come and meet people and enjoy stuff together and see that they’re not alone - that there are so many people who love the same thing."

With that in mind, the event programme is not just talks: it's filled with interactive activities.

"A lot of the things in our programme are designed for audiences to just meet each other – like the quiz and the ceilidh, the open mics.

"It’s all about being able to hang out and chat and share a love of stories."

While this is the first outing for CYMERA, Ann is already thinking about the future.

"We like festivals that are annual," she says, "and there's definitely enough authors out there to do this over and over again.

"My ideal would be, we have someone who was on our open mic this year, and in five years time they're a bestseller. That would be amazing."

Ann would also like to develop elements of the event outside of Edinburgh.

"We’d love to be able to take authors into schools like the Book Festival does, or do events throughout the year," she says. "We'd love to take an author to Orkney or Shetland or Ullapool, Inverness – it would be amazing to do that."

In all, CYMERA is about giving a platform to authors both established and emerging, and serving genre fiction to the last.

Images: Victoria Schwab by Jenna Maurice; PM Freestone; Richard Morgan, Lawrie Photography.

CYMERA takes place in Edinburgh from 7-9 June, 2019. Find the full programme at cymerafestival.co.uk. Follow them on Twitter at @CymeraF and on Facebook at @cymerafest.

This article was published on 06 Jun 2019