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C4P: Barbara Stevenson-Gormenghast and the Groans

Luna's fourth Call for Papers, Ties That Bind: Love in Fantasy and Science Fiction will be released on Saturday the 1st of August. Here is a chance to discover the 11 brilliant papers you will find in the book.

Today, we would like to introduce you to Barbara Stevenson (Scotland) BVMS and BA (Open University) creative writing and German. Fiction writer and veterinary surgeon.

“Gormenghast and the Groans”

Barbara says:

I suspect, like myself, many people dream of living in a castle, with flying buttresses, secret passages behind library shelves and a wine cellar or two, yet at what cost? This is not a question I have ever had to consider, but Titus Groan, the heir to Gormenghast in the books by Mervyn Peake, was born with it almost as a cowl.

Gormenghast Castle is more of a spider's web than a home and the Groans, if not entirely loveless, are a cold bunch of creatures, so what holds this family together? The simple answer would be “tradition”, but those with the misfortune of having been born a Groan, know that nothing is ever simple. Intertwined with tradition is duty and pride, a familiar superiority complex and a fierce sense of protecting what is theirs. The family coat of arms shows a lion with a man's corpse in its mouth and the motto “he was an enemy of Groan”.

I found it fascinating trying to unravel the strands linking the Groan family, in order to get a glimpse of their mysterious preserve. Would I want to live in Gormenghast Castle? Strangely, I think the answer might be ‘yes’.


Stories need a strong focal point, whether it is an idea, character or place that is able to connect the various threads. In the Titus Groan/Gormenghast novels by Mervyn Peake it is Gormenghast, the ancestral home of the Groan family. Gormenghast Castle is surrounded by a forest leading to Gormenghast Mountain, which serves to cut the inhabitants off from reality. The castle is not merely a building: it is the heart of the story. The characters may love it or hate it, but it demands their complete devotion and they cannot ignore it. Neither is it impartial, sometimes helping the inhabitants, sometimes destroying them. It binds the Groan family to its stone walls with ties that are stronger than those of blood. This article considers the impact the castle has on the development of the eponymous hero, Titus Groan, through the influence it exerts over him and his close family members. Barbara Stevenson is a fiction writer based in Orkney. She studied creative writing as part of a BA from the Open University. In 2016 she won the Scottish Association of Writers ‘Castles in the Air’ award for a fantasy short story. Her background in veterinary medicine has led to a growing interest in the portrayal of animals in fairy tales and folklore. For Luna Press Publishing: Beyond Realities 2015 (2015); Beyond Realities Vol II (2016); A Shadow Within: Evil in SFF (2019).

Ties That Bind: Love in Fantasy and Science Fiction

is now in pre-order!


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