2016 Natcon in Brisbane: the year we make Contact

badge for contact2016 Contact2016, the 55th Australian National Science Fiction Convention, will be held in Brisbane at Easter — w00t! Last con there was Conjure in 2006, so it’s a double anniversary (55 and 10, if you get my meaning).

At this point, you can sign up to the Twitter/Facebook/mailing list stuff to keep in, well, contact. The con, by the way, is not true to label: there is plenty of fantasy, horror and all that associated good stuff on offer at a nat con.

March, the weather can go either way in Bris (this little new-Victorian is melting in the old home state as he writes), so plan for accommodation with a fridge if you don’t want the chocky eggs to melt!

SQ Mag: here be nagas

sq magazine issue 19A little while ago I mentioned nagas here and flashed a pair of cobra fangs for inspiration — well, the first story in this paranormal mythos has struck, over at SQ Mag.

Will this be the last ‘vampire’ story I write for a while? Probably. Kind of. The next I’m working on in this Make Believe Brisbane has a mermaid front and centre. I’ve got plans to develop these characters, and the world, through a series of shorts, culminating in a longer piece centred on Manasa’s quest to recover the SITI. Anyway, here’s to the first step!

And the good thing is, if this yarn has you recoiling (sorry, Michelle) in horror, there is a bunch of other yarns in the mag — and it’s free!

Aurealis Awards a happening thing

aurealis awards logoThe Aurealis Awards are one of my favourite events on the literary calendar, a crash of companionship, congratulations and commiserations, but above all, good company drawn from the ranks of the Aussie speculative fiction community — agents, publishers, writers, readers.

Sadly, my study schedule means I probably won’t be at them this year — the first I’ve missed since, I think, 2007 — but I hope to catch up with many folks at Bundy WriteFest in Bundaberg in May and Continuum in Melbourne in June.

If you’re able to get to Canberra for the awards on April 11 — tickets are $40 before March 11, $50 thereafter — get along and share the love! Margo Lanagan is the host for the evening’s shenanigans — that should be a hoot, right there!

The awards also make a darn fine suggested reading list if you’re interested in what Aussie spec fic writers are into, so keep an eye out for the finalists when they’re released soonish.

Addendum (27 Feb): finalists have been released and can be found here

Also on the radar is GenreCon, an industry get together with lots of panels and bar time to find out what’s what in the genre world. That’s in Brisbane at the end of October. Again, sadly, I probably won’t be going due to a family event at the same time, but it’s well worth the effort.

Calendar of Australian literary events

Recent reads: Gibson, Strahan, Kiernan, Abbott

I’ve been slack, sneaking in a bit of reading and not passing on the goods. So here’s a quick summary of yarns I’ve read lately (outside of last year’s Australian Women Writers Challenge) that have made me happy:

william gibson book the peripheralThe Peripheral, William Gibson (Penguin/Viking 2014): Gibson time travels, from the economically bereft American South to a socially bereft future London, where climate change has wrought its sneaky damage and only tech has saved humanity — at the price, perhaps, of its humanity. The book needs its own review — there are plenty out there, and this one by Keith Stevenson tags a bunch of my responses (yeah, the tracking device, way too convenient) — but suffice to say, I love Gibson’s writing. Here’s a protag who is perhaps slightly under-equipped to handle the situation in which, tired and lonely though not alone, he finds himself; here’s another who is coping very well with it, thanks, due to her smarts, and those family and friends in dangerous places. There was little tension, though, and the happy endings all round left me a bit meh, but the ride was comfortable (but not safe — Gibson does not err on the side of over-explanation, bless, though some of the sentence fragments actually jarred me from time to time) and the view deftly drawn and suitably gloomy in all the right places. Makes me want to read Neuromancer et al all over again.

fearful symmetries anthology editor ellen datlowFearful Symmetries, Ellen Datlow (ed) (ChiZine 2014): I helped Kickstart this tome and it was money well spent; a solid bunch of spooky yarns. One, though, blew my socks off; it dispensed with linear narrative in a way that made my head spin — that it was partly set in New Orleans probably helped, sure, but wow: ‘Ballad of An Echo Whisperer’ by CaitlĂ­n R Kiernan floated my boat like few other short stories I read last year.

 

fearsome magicsFearsome Magics, Jonathan Strahan (ed) (Solaris, 2014): One of the strongest anthologies I read last year, with not even a handful of yarns that made me go ‘meh’. While magic was the core theme, the variations to be found within are wide and wonderful: faery magic, science as magic, high fantasy, urban fantasy. Strahan has conjured a strong field for this table of contents and they cast quite a spell.

 

die a little by megan abbottAnd finally, I should be reading, oh, dozens of books right now, I guess, but sometimes you just gotta go for a safe, enjoyable read. A palate cleanser, for want of a more charitable description. One where you know the voice and the world will immerse you, the writing will thrill you, and the story will be worth your investment. And so it is I have picked up Megan Abbott’s Die A Little (Simon and Schuster, 2005). It’s another (early) of her period noirs, in which a school teacher and her policeman brother get caught up with a femme fatale with a shadowy past. I’d probably still pick Queenpin as my favourite so far — I note I am behind in Abbott’s catalogue *sigh* — but I love the voice and the use of a chapter-free progression of scenes told in the first person from a rather cool cucumber. I’m halfway through and the dressing’s just hit the salad and I can’t way to see who dishes up the just desserts …

WIP: Fangs for the inspiration

cobra fangsThese are cobra fangs. They were a Valentine’s gift from my beloved, specifically because I’m writing nagas. They’re slippery suckers.

I had the idea for these stories years ago, when Amanda Pillar was calling for submissions for her first ‘blood’-themed anthology for Ticonderoga. She’s done two of them now (Bloodlines is due in August), and it has taken me this long — and a lot of reading/research, a lot of note making and scene revising, some brainstorming — to come to grips with the story world. Maybe I’ll finally have something in time for No.3!

The fact is, I’m still grappling, exploring the urban fantasy’s world and its characters through the stories. And attempting to air these explorations as I go, a little morale boost, with an end result: hopefully, a cohesive novella, perhaps fleshed our or simply complemented with revised, definitive versions of these formative, transformative yarns. I’m lumping them under a banner of BLOODRUNNER, both a nod to that inspiration from Amanda, and to my old mate Shayne Hall who introduced me to the term in a different context.

I just hope this project doesn’t end up biting me on the asp.

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015

Australian women writers challenge 2015February already, so I’m behind! This year I’m signing up again for the Australian Womens Writers Challenge, in which a whole bunch of readers seek to ensure Australian women writers are in their to be read piles, and report back. I’ve chosen the Stella level — read four, review three — which I only just managed to exceed last year (on the review front). And this year, I’ve got a whole bunch of first-year PhD reading to compete with the leisure reading as well, so wish me luck.

Watermarks: available to read online!

watermarks in cosmos 57: art by joe whyte, story by jason nahrungI was checking out the Cosmos website for holiday reading — yarns by Aidan Doyle, Shauna O’Meara and Sean Williams, for instance — when I came across my story from earlier in the year, ‘Watermarks’, available on the site — cool!

Here’s the link: https://cosmosmagazine.com/the-future/watermarks

I wrote about the genesis of this story back when it came out, and I’m happy to say I’ll be dipping my toe back into this world considerably in the near future — sorry, Brisbane, but you’re in for a rough time. But first, do I have some reading to do!