the clock ticks

Here we are, sitting in the sweltering heat, watching the clock tick down to midnight, hoping for a cool change.
Lose weight, quit smoking, drink less, get laid, be happy, whatever.
Meanwhile the shells are falling on the Gaza Strip, the man on the TV’s talking global recession, there are junkies on the street. Maybe our new year’s resolution should be to be thankful for what we’ve got. But that’s not the human way, is it? Whatever you wish for — careful now — I hope you find it in 09. Maybe we can compare notes this time next year, while we wait for the fireworks and that cool change.

GenConOz

One for the calendar if you’re into gaming, reading or cosplay: GenConOz is booked in for September 18-20, 2009. The first foray of the US franchise to our shores last year was much fun. I was impressed by how widely the con spread its wings: Alan Tudyk’s appearance was a real thrill for us Firefly fans (fanboy me just had to line up for his autograph), I got to revisit my halcyon Dungeons & Dragons days (to the extent I actually bought new dice, sadly as yet unused), and the place was hopping with cool cosplayers and slightly less cool computer geeks (I am one, I think I can get away with that). Laura and Tracy Hickman, Sean Williams, Kyla Ward, Kylie Chan, Marianne de Pierres were among the writers attending, which gives some idea of the breadth of material on offer. It’ll be interesting to see what the organisers cook up this year.

ticonderoga lives!

Ticonderoga is a small press in Western Australia that has done some brilliant stuff in recent years, anthologies and collections mostly. It went on a wee hiatus but now it’s back with an online presence at ticon4.com. You’ll find short fiction and book reviews there; it’s worth keeping an eye on.

Dreaming Again

Dreaming Again

And in other online news, the HorrorScope has provided a recommended list of the year’s best dark fiction. Good to see so many from Dreaming Again included, and very good to see my story, Smoking, Waiting for the Dawn, among that number. A friend described it as a “melancholy vampire story” – I like that :)

Die Jägerin der Finsternis

Die Jägerin der Finsternis

Die Jägerin der Finsternis

Hier ist eine Besprechung von Die Jägerin der Finsternis.

Es macht mich sehr glucklich.

Ahem. My German really is very bad. And I don’t have an umlaut key… But as you might have gathered, a German website devoted to the television show Blood Ties has kindly reviewed the German version of The Darkness Within, and given it four stars out of five on the Blood-o-Meter. We think that’s a good thing ;) Seeing the word “erotic” without a nicht in front of it certainly is :)

Tschus!

blues and Woodford

img_0754Is there anything that cuts to the heart like 12-bar blues?

I’m thinking this as Jimi Hocking brings down the curtain on my Woodford Folk Festival experience for 2008.

The day was hot and muggy, clouds building for a cooling gloaming shower that triggered mist to rise from the brown ponds that dot the sprawling site in the green Woodford hills.

mama kin

mama kin

We start the day with Jimi Hocking, former guitarist of Screaming Jets and now blues man with a craving for mandolin, then work our way through the crowded dirt lanes searching for music. The air is filled with tribal drum beats and Gypsy violins, the smell of sate and frying onions.

doch

doch

We enjoy our fix of Brisbane Celtic band Sunas and get all the fiddle we can handle from Fiddlers Feast and Doch, Jigzag and Dev’lish Mary. We get guitar from Jeff Lang, with his band and later in a guest spot with Mama Kin. Katie Noonan’s high notes catch the ear from a lane away. Melodics and Matt Kelly and the Keepers are added to our list of bands to find out more about. Roz Pappalardo, of Women in Docs, is an absolute scream as she leads her Wayward Gentlemen through a country-ish set.

We weren’t quite sure why Kate Miller-Heidke’s at the folk festival, but we’re glad she is with her quasi Kate Bush act that packs the punters into a nighttime natural amphitheatre on the outskirts of the fest’s bustling village.

jimi hocking

jimi hocking

And finally it’s Jimi Hocking again, his audience sapped by Kate and TaikOz and The Barons of Tang and the burlesque girls of La La Parlour’s Tarnished. He doesn’t seem to mind as he belts out his mandolin blues and then picks up his electric guitar and blasts out the blues into the Queensland night.

It’s the music of a humid night, all sweat and mosquitoes and sluggish brown river and long, straight dusty roads through cane fields. It’s heartache and loneliness and desperate company lost too soon. It’s the echo of a soul that’s lost its way but still trying to be true. It’s that irresistible beat that convinces you that you can laugh and cry at the same time. And even with Hocking’s antics, his good-time vibe that has the punters up and dancing from the first mandolin note to the last fade-out of the guitar, it cuts to the heart.

Christmas carols

I made a brief foray into the shopping centre on the way home from work today and hark! no carols. Tis now the ringing of cash registers that enlivens the corridors and aisles, although there wasn’t much of that going on either. I must’ve missed the rush :)

I’m not much a one for carols, especially when they are played in November, but I did find an album that got a few listens in the lead-up to Xmas Day: We Wish You a Merry Xmas. (Armoury/Riot)

metalxmaswebThis little beauty has 14 carols on it, all given varying degrees of metal treatment from some experts in the field.

Alice Cooper does Santa Claws (sic) is Coming to Town (Santa as a very spooky stalker, if not worse), Motorhead’s Lemmy does the gruff business on Run Rudolph Run, and Testament’s Chuck Billy produces a side-splitting thrash metal rendition of Silent Night.

There are some dull tunes, too, but the album ends on a high: O’ Christmas Tree by Doro Pesch and Auld Lang Syne sounding live and raw and slightly drunken thanks to Girlschool. Just the way Christmas should be!

that Christmas spirit

Ah, Christmas. By all of 15 minutes according to the computer clock. Woot. The season of peace and goodwill to all men. Hm. Not quite. I’ve never had much tolerance for bigots. Bullies. People who use fear and intimidation to coerce others to fall into line, especially when all they’re advocating is one opinion among many. Live and let live, I say. Do what you will and harm none. Love one another. Do unto your neighbour… and so on. So when the Pope, “God’s rottweiler”, spreads his fear and loathing about homosexuals, well, that just isn’t Christmas to me. So, whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you are, have a happy, safe Christmas season. Be yourself. And chill

parallel importation

Ever so slowly, it seems, the threat facing Australia’s writers, and publishing industry, is creeping into the public domain eg Emily Rodda’s warning about the Americanisation of Australian English AND content. If only this was an issue involving sport! There’d be headlines for sure. But no, it’s just writers, those slackers and elitists who contribute so little to the economy and national character… right?

Best I can figure, the Australian Government is considering a change to our copyright laws that currently offer a degree of protection ot the domestic publishing industry by requiring local content to be published here. A more accurate appraisal of the issue can be accessed through this Queensland Writers Centre blogpost.

The upshot of the changes is, that instead of Australian stories being published in Australia, for Australians, they’ll be published overseas, altered for overseas readers, and dumped into our market place at cheap prices thanks to overseas economies of scale. This goes deeper than having your pal’s mom bake you some cookies, as opposed to having your mate’s mum bake you some Anzac bikkies. It means, worst case scenario, fledgling writers such as myself will have even less chance of getting a break in our own home market.

The Australian Association of Authors has more information, as well as links to have your say, should you so be inclined.

sci-fi bias

This has been eating at me since I read it on Saturday. Check this opening line to a review of Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s Pashazade: “PASHAZADE was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, which means it is science-fiction, but crosses into the crime genre so deftly it is hard to put down.”

I can’t help wonder if the author of said review really holds such a bias against science fiction or just wasn’t thinking when she wrote that. To me, this sentence suggests that science fiction is boring, crime isn’t, but SF with a strong crime inflection is okay because it isn’t strictly SF. Which further suggests the reviewer needs to get out more.

You can read the review here and let me know if I’m being way too sensitive.

Meanwhile, might I suggest two Australian novels of 2007 as a starting point to delving into exciting, thought-provoking science fiction: Sean Williams’ Saturn Returns and Marianne de Pierres’ Dark Space. Very different books, but just as engaging, and both with sequels listed in this year’s Aurealis Awards for best science fiction novel.
Or there’s this year’s debut novel by Kim Westwood, Daughters of Moab, with prose so gorgeous it’ll have even the most snobbish reader drooling. Surely.

US gets even closer

Exciting news for anyone planning on jumping across the pond in 2009. Delta is going to join the route, giving Virgin and Qantas a run for their money. Or rather, our money :)
Read the article here

Now if only that pesky dollar would give itself a good bit of get up and go…

My favourite cities to visit in the US:
1. New Orleans
2. San Francisco
3. Seattle