Festival Director Ann Landmann discusses the process of creating a festival dedicated to genre fiction from the ground up
Ann Landmann is no stranger to the world of literature and book events. After spending a summer working at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Scottish capital proved to be too enticing for a book lover such as herself, and she went on to become an events manager at Blackwell's. It wasn't until she was nearing the end of her MA in Arts, Festival and Cultural Management, however, that the seed of creating her own festival buried into her mind.
'As much as I love the EIBF, their genre programming is just non-existent,' she says. For fans of genre fiction, the options are then often limited to conventions, or a scarce offering at festivals. Lamenting this fact over a conversation with fellow genre lover Noel Chidwick, editor of sci-fi magazine Shoreline of Infinity, she decided to take matters into her own hands, and wrote a business plan for CYMERA: Scotland's Festival of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Writing as her dissertation.
'It all just came together,' she remembers. 'I spent four months with it in my brain, talking to people that I knew, authors that I knew … I set up a couple of meetings down in London, to sound people out, to see what they thought.' Her connections to people in the publishing industry and events experience became invaluable in this process, and, when it came to actually putting the festival together, it showed. 'We have a ridiculously big program. I invited lots of people, assuming half of them would say no, and then they all said yes!'
The process of bringing Cymera to life from the page was not all smooth sailing. 'If you've ever written a charity constitution, you will feel my pain.' There was a laborious, two-month process of applying for charity status. Building the website was another unexpectedly time-consuming task, alongside organising ticket sales, once using widely available ticketing platforms proved to not be an acceptable option due to VAT charges. 'There's just a lot of minutiae that you don't seem to have time for.'
Bureaucracies aside, Cymera boasts an impressive line-up of 80 authors across 50 events throughout three days. Samantha Shannon, Tade Thomson, Aliette de Bodard, V.E. Schwab and Ben Aaronovitch are only some of the authors gracing the Pleasance Courtyard over the weekend of 7–9 June. There is also a writing competition taking place, a Creator's Hall, an academic strand and even a cosplay ceilidh.
'It's going to be a super fun weekend,' Ann promises. There are concessions and free tickets available for low income readers, as well as a selection of free events, so money is definitely not an excuse to sit this one out, and you can even volunteer. 'You can choose from any of our 50 events, they are all going to be amazing. Come and hang out! There will be something for you.' Put Cymera on your calendar, genre-loving folks. You will definitely not want to miss it.
CYMERA: Scotland's Festival of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Writing, Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh, Fri 7–Sun 9 Jun, times and prices vary. See the full program at cymerafestival.co.uk