AGES OF ESCAFELD edited by Mathew Presley. Reviewed by Pauline Morgan.

October 21, 2018 - 9:57 pm No Comments

AGES OF ESCAFELD edited by Mathew Presley. Sheffield Science-Fiction and Fantasy Writers Group, Sheffield, UK. £6.99 paperback. 249 pages. ISBN: 978-781545-004883
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan.

There are writers who respond well in a workshop situation, who can rise to a challenge whatever the circumstances, so setting a task of writing an anthology in a day could have been a good idea. Unfortunately, there are very few writers that can produce a finished, polished product at one sitting. As a way of stimulating ideas and getting people actually writing, a day like the one that produced this book is a praiseworthy idea.
The participants in the day were given a framework within which to base their stories. The history of the mythical world of Escafeld is divided into four sections – the Age of Dreams is high fantasy with elves and dragons, the Age of Hammers is basically steampunk, the Age of Spirits roughly equates to urban fantasy with vampires and werewolves and the Age of Infinity is SF. Thus any writer should be able to find an area in which they felt comfortable.
The end result, however, doesn’t live up to the promise. There are two principal reasons for this. The first is very basic. Producing a book to celebrate an occasion or event is laudable but whoever is involved in the production, especially in these days of self-publishing, really needs to see how the international publishing houses do it. They have a format for a purpose – to give the reader information and the authors’ legal protection. This book lacks fundamentals such as title page and more importantly, copyright page. None of the authors have their by-lines on the contents list, a serious issue if you are trying to locate the story of a friend. The internal layout of the stories themselves uses the format favoured by report and letter writers. It is not the way books are laid out. Finally, proof reading needs to be done more carefully.
The other main issue is the stories themselves. All of them read as though they have been handed in at the end of the day and no further work done on them. All of them need polishing. Some participants contributed more than one story. While the scenario may well have generated several ideas, I feel that the extra time should have been spent in improving the story as editing is part of the skill set a writer needs.
Some of these stories have the potential to be very good if they were expanded, and one, ‘Engine-rat Adventure’s by M. Presley has the ingredients necessary to make a good steampunk novel.
While the exercise is worthwhile in stimulating ideas and generating the germ of a story, a lot of work is needed on the part of the authors and editors to make this a book that will have the respect of readers.