The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe

Bone Up on Your Old English Phrases for Our Pop Quiz with Samantha Shannon

Welcome back to The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe, a recurring series here on featuring some of our favorite science fiction and fantasy authors, artists, and others!

Today we’re joined by Samantha Shannon, author of The Bone Season, the first in a series of seven fantasy novels. The second novel in the series, The Mime Order, publishes January 27th from Bloomsbury, and Samantha is currently busy working on the third. Find her on twitter @say_shannon.

Join us for a lesson in Old English that is both poetic and adorable!

What is your favorite short story?

“Alphinland” by Margaret Atwood, which I read recently in her short story collection Stone Mattress. Among its many delights, it really captures what it feels like to create, and live in, your own fantasy world.

Do you have a favorite under-read author?

I have two: Sara B. Elfgren and Mats Strandberg, who co-authored the Engelsfors trilogy (The Circle, Fire, The Key). It’s a gritty Swedish urban fantasy series about a group of young women who discover that they’re witches. I first discovered it when I visited Stockholm and had a joint interview with Sara. The books are great, with six beautifully complicated female protagonists.

The Mime Order Samantha ShannonIf you had to choose one band or artist to provide the official soundtrack to your new book, who would it be?

A collaboration between James Newton Howard, Hans Zimmer, and Raised by Swans.

What’s the best Halloween costume you’ve ever worn?

I once dressed as a horned vampire in a long woollen cardigan. I’m still trying to work out why.

Describe your favorite place to read or write.

Seven Dials, my favourite district in London and the place that inspired the Bone Season series. It’s a little haven in the heart of the city, full of history, quirky shops and secret corners. There’s coffee there, too. Always a plus.

What’s your favorite sandwich?

Anything labelled ‘breakfast sandwich’.

What would your Patronus/familiar be?

A giraffe.

Do you have a favorite word or phrase?

I love Old English kennings. They were essentially poetic descriptions, usually bundled into a compound noun, and many of them were so beautiful. For example, hwæl-weġ (“whale-way”) was used to describe the sea. My favourite is probably heofon-candel (“heaven-candle”), alluding to the sun.


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