Continuum, Slights from Angry Robots, and some vampires

So I’m in post-convention funk, short on sleep and strong on caffeine, a day back at work and wondering where the weekend went. The receipts tell some of the story: cabs, airlines, two dinners at a Chinese restaurant with lots and lots of chilli and an amazing capacity for seating and feeding 17 people at the drop of a hat, Japanese, innumerable coffees at the Lindt cafe and the State Library and that excellent sandwich bar in the Queen Victoria Building and other places besides…

Cat Sparks’ (as always) fun photo diary helps fill in some blanks, too.

So, the event was Continuum 5, held in the basement of the sprawling Mercure hotel complex in Melbourne, with Chelsea Quinn Yarbro as international guest of honour. She was rather grand, too. I enjoyed my vampire panel with her, and taking a new novel in the making for a walk during a reading session on the Sunday. I enjoyed meeting up with a bunch of folks from around the country, seeing Deb Biancotti launch her first anthology and Richard Harland steaming on with Worldshaker … and Kirstyn McDermott landed an award trifecta with her short story “Painlessness”, which had already won an Aurealis and a Ditmar before taking a brand new Chronos.

Next year there will be another Continuum, in February, and in September there will be a grandaddy of conventions, the Worldcon aka Aussiecon 4, also in Melbourne. If you are in Australia and write any kind of spec fic, you really owe it to yourself to be at the Worldcon.

Slights by Kaaron Warren

Slights by Kaaron Warren

On the flight home from Melbourne, I finished Kaaron Warren’s debut novel, Slights. It’s one of the first books to be released under HarperCollins’ new spec fic imprint, Angry Robot. It’s a weird title for an imprint, especially given that Kaaron’s book doesn’t have robots in it, nor any science fiction at all. The SF component of two of the other first four books also seems non-existent. No matter. What matters is that Aussie writer Kaaron’s book is a real gem. Sure, I had a little rant about the number of literal errors — you can’t get away from them these days — but don’t let that distract you. This is a compelling read, even though it’s not exactly express train pace. It’s a steam train of personality and character, wit and dread; such fully realised characters just don’t pop up that often, especially when they’re digging up family secrets in the backyard, pissing off their brother, tormenting all and insundry — and paying a heavy price. I can’t say Stevie is likeable, but her honesty is refreshing, her barbed one-liners engaging, her relationship with and indeed morbid curiosity about death intriguing and just a tad spooky. She namechecks Aussie writers Richard Harland and Robert Hood, too. Cool.

Kaaron has two more books signed to Angry Robot. So what’s to be angry about, huh? You tell me, robot.

Despite the previously mentioned funk, there is no rest for the wicked. I’m up to my jugular in vampires, and will be till Saturday when I present a wee talk at the Logan library’s SF month about the evolution of the vampire, from Byron to, ahem, Twilight.

Life, love and Ed Kowalczyk (live)

I almost didn’t go to see Ed Kowalczyk tonight. I figured I’d be tired. Maybe a little love-lorn. Probably, you know, … old. Turned out I was right, but thanks to the generosity of a friend, I did stumble down through the Ekka detritus crowding the Bowen Hills streets to the grand old Tivoli, and was stunned to be sitting, sardine-like but not uncomfortably, a mere four rows from the stage. Close enough to see the sweat on Ed’s bald head, the smears of moisture on the guitar, and a very large smile on his dial as the sell-out crowd went ballistic after every tune.

It was just Ed and a guitar, a few apologies for not having the full band, sheer delight at being heard and appreciated. He played one new song (from a solo album due out next year) – it was pretty good, in a Live kind of way — and one cover, and the rest of the 1hr15 set was made up of Live tracks. I’d forgotten, kind of, just how good those guys were when they were peaking, with Throwing Copper and my favourite album of theirs, The Distance to Here. Tonight’s set roamed the Live catalague, rocking out with I Alone, offering a delicious rendering of the remarkably apt The Dolphin’s Cry, getting a singalong with closing song I Want To Dance With You. And raising a tear with Lightning Crashes, which always reminds me of someone dear who should be here, but isn’t.

As such, the gig turned out to be a fitting closing act for a poignant weekend.

It began on Friday night with a dear, old friend at a favourite restaurant. So pleasing to see her happy in love, and beloved. And then there was that aeroplane, delivering me my own slice of the happiness pie. Saturday and a parade of friends and family and that bittersweet emotion of being happy for a friend while feeling the cutting edge of looming absence, in geography at least. Time and lost opportunities and golden moments, all rolled into one, and never quite enough time and space to say the words to the right people before they’re gone, through the door if not from our lives. Amazing, isn’t it, how friendships endure across time and space? And how watersheds and turning points can remind us of just how strong those bonds can be. And then today, welcome and goodbye and a milestone marked, a new year and a new life, but no beginning without endings, too, the shedding of old skin making way for the new.

Vague enough for you?

Birthdays are like that. Past and future colliding, cushioned by the joy of good company, the love of family and that significant other.

So thanks, Ed, for the summary: the pains and pleasures of the past, the promise of the future, the simple joy of the here and now.

Oh now feel it comin’ back again

Like a rollin’ thunder chasing the wind

Forces pullin’ from the center of the earth again

I can feel it.

Felinedown

I don’t know what to make of their name — a crashed kitty? furballs? a depressed puss? — but I do know damn fine music when I hear it. Months and months after I had a flyer for this outfit thrust into my hand at Soundwave, I finally tracked the Brissie band down, closing off an evening of musical might at the Globe headed by the always fun The Wretched Villains (love that violin, sad to hear that Peter the guitarist is leaving, rockin’ out to the new album!). And they rocked.

Here’s a four-piece who know how to pen a song, offer variety in their approach, and have a fab stage presence. Meow!

Felinedown’s Magazine Dream