In Your Face … and then some

in your face anthology campaignThis anthology will not be an easy read, but it will be a rewarding one.

FableCroft Publishing is putting out the book, entitled In Your Face. The stories, publisher Tehani Wessely says, “will be provocative and/or confronting but with a firm purpose – they are pieces that will perhaps make readers uncomfortable because they are a bit too hard-hitting or close to the bone, but which interrogate these themes and ideas, and make a point about the world we live in”.

Writers in the anthology include Sean Williams, Cat Sparks, Kaaron Warren, Kirstyn McDermott and another dozen or so who are bound to get under readers’ skin — for good effect.

My story, ‘A House in the Blue’, is one of the current selection. It’s a fairly blunt response to the hideous health policy pursued by the soulless Abbott Government, since rejected, but sadly one that seems to still lurk in the shadows of government budgets. It is set in my climate-changed Brisbane, which is really where the speculative element kicks in. I suspect American readers wouldn’t find the rest of it that far fetched, and sadly, the climate element probably isn’t either, given the way our federal government continues to shy away from taking action. It’s possibly the angriest story I’ve written.

The reason for this blog post is to point you in the direction of FableCroft’s Pozible campaign, being conducted through January to take the anthology further.

Says Tehani, “This campaign is designed to expand the number of excellent stories we are able to include in the book from 12-15 to at least 20. As our goal is always to pay our contributors what their efforts deserve, our stretch goal once we reach our target will be to increase the amount we are able to pay per story.”

Check out the Pozible, which essentially allows preorders with other goodies besides. As Tehani has noted, the book is coming, it’s just how many writers get to be involved that hinges on the Pozible.

In which Lady Helen leads us on a merry dance

Lady Helen and the Dark Days ClubLady Helen and the Dark Days Club (Angus & Robertson, 2016), the first volume in a new series by Alison Goodman, is due for publication next year*, but the author kindly threw a launch party in time for Christmas. For those eager for her next work following the New York Times best-sellers Eon and Eona, it was a fine present indeed.

Having covered science fiction, crime (with a slight SFnal twist) and fantasy with equal aplomb in previous works, Goodman now turns to the paranormal with her Dark Days Club.

There is perhaps slightly more explanatory text here – summaries of events, an almost telepathy to show the meaning behind the body language – than I remember from previous outings, but the story, more than 400 pages of it, speeds by at an easy pace, driven by the spark of quick-witted Lady Heroine and the deepening dilemmas in which she finds herself.

How clever to set it in the Regency, for this story is all about veneer and the monsters behind the facade, duty and passion, control and denial. The painting of this period of English history is sensationally wrought, the minutiae of daily life for the Quality (and their window on the lesser classes) effectively grounding the world without dominating it, referencing historical events, people and places, then braiding in the supernatural story.

Australian women writers challenge 2015Lady Helen, our titular heroine, is 18, her parents lost under despairing circumstances, the ward of her uncle and aunt who are devoted to her social climb, that is, marriage. She has some of her mother’s infamous adventurous streak, however, sneaking into the library to read books, so very unladylike. Of course, she has more than that in common with her mother, and soon her fabulous nature as a potential member of the mysterious Dark Days Club is uncovered.

The tension between her attraction to adventure, both romantic and physical, and the pressure to conform to social propriety is deft, perhaps best mirrored in the two suitors for her attention, if not affection, in a socially respectable duke and a lord of some infamy.

This presents the most obvious theme of the story, that “sometimes there is no good choice”. And Lady Helen has some serious choices to make as a demonic world is revealed to her, that and her special place in the fight to contain it. Dark days indeed!

I’m particularly taken with the humour of sidekick and maid Darby, who had me chuckling with an almost Pink Panther scene in which she tests her mistress’s reflexes with thrown objects.

Another element I especially appreciate is the slow reveal, allowing us to know Helen and her Regency world, the privilege and the constraints, as mysteries are bled into the opening chapters and then revealed in line with her growing understanding of the secret war of the Dark Days Club.

This is a world where every choice, every benefit, comes at a cost, and it is this grim reality that helps makes Lady Helen’s story such an enjoyable read.

* addendum: December 14 in Australia, January 16 UK and January 26 US.

  • This review completes my four-book commitment to the 2015 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Others were Cherry Crow Children by Deborah Kalin, The Dagger’s Path by Glenda Larke, and The Dangerous Bride by Lee Kofman.
  • 2016 Calendar of Australian Literary Events

    calendarThere are still plenty of literary events on this month, but the calendar for next year is already getting pretty darn busy — check out the 2016 calendar of literary events. Plan ahead!

    And if you’re still at a loose end this month, there’s still time to check out the November events on this year’s calendar.

    As always, updates, notifications and corrections are appreciated!

    And Then — a brand new adventure

    Figurehead illo by Vicky Pratt from And Then... adventure anthologyClan Destine Press (publishers of my Vampires in the Sunshine State duology) has announced a new adventure — And Then…. The Great Big Book of Awesome Adventure Tales, a mammoth two-title set of tales featuring dynamic duos.

    So far, 26 writers have been announced — the preliminary list is below — with stories to 15,000 words: ‘old-fashioned rip-snorting action adventures’.
    My contribution takes place in the same world as Night Blooming, published earlier this year in SQ Magazine. As CDP publisher Lindy Cameron says, ‘ooh what fun’.

    Check out that TOC below: that’s some serious firepower.

    Readers can be part of the adventure, too. The books — more authors are yet to join — are to be crowdfunded through Indiegogo, so you can essentially preorder a copy of these rollicking tales and get other cool stuff besides. Stuff such as other CDP ebooks and paperbacks (lots of ’em), notebooks and pens, and themed critiques on 1500 words (fight scenes, erotica, openings, Ancient Rome and MORE!).

    The figurehead illo, by Vicky Pratt, with this post is from the title page of one of the yarns, ‘Come Now, Traveller’, by Amanda Wrangles. It just gets more interesting, doesn’t it?

    AND THEN… PRELIMINARY CONTRIBUTORS

    Peter M Ball ~ Deadbeats

    Alan Baxter ~ Golden Fortune, Dragon Jade

    Mary Borsellino ~ The Australian Gang

    Lindy Cameron ~ The Medusa Code

    Kat Clay ~ In the Company of Rogues

    Emilie Collyer ~ The Panther’s Paw

    Jack Dann ~ The Talking Sword

    Sarah Evans ~ Plumbing the Depths

    Jason Franks ~ Exli and the Dragon

    James Hopwood ~ The Lost Loot of Lima

    Kelly Gardiner ~ Boots and the Bushranger

    David Greagg & Kerry Greenwood ~ Cruel Sister

    Narrelle M Harris ~ Moran & Cato: Virgin Soil

    Maria Lewis ~ The Bushwalker Butcher

    Sophie Masson ~ The Romanov Opal

    Keith McArdle ~ The Demon’s Cave

    Jason Nahrung ~ The Mermaid Club

    Andrew Nette ~ Save a Last Kiss for Satan

    Amanda Pillar ~ It

    Michael Pryor ~ Cross Purposes

    Dan Rabarts ~ Tipuna Tapu

    Tansy Rayner Roberts ~ Death at the Dragon Circus

    Fin J Ross ~ Genemesis

    Tor Roxburgh ~ The Boudicca Society

    Amanda Wrangles ~ Come Now, Traveller

    Aurora: Earth is a spaceship too

    aurora by kim stanley robinsonAurora (Orbit, 2015) by Kim Stanley Robinson is named after a planet on which humanity hopes to found a colony; it’s a long way away, so far it’s a multi-generational voyage in a time without fancy stasis chambers. Instead, the spaceship, simply called ship, is composed of biomes representing different terrain types on Earth, big enough for lakes, glaciers, forests, critters of all kinds. Maintaining the balance of inputs and outputs necessary for agriculture — for life — occupies much of the humans’ time, in cooperation with a quantum computer. Starvation is never far from the horizon. It’s a delicate see-sawing balance, both scientifically and socially.

    Things don’t go to plan, of course. And while I can’t reveal too much, it’s not spoiling things to say the colonists have decisions to make about the best way forward — or backward, even.

    The first section, detailing the trip and the travails to Tau Ceti, is told in the third person centred on a young girl, Freya. The central story is narrated by the computer, allowing a great deal of info dumping — mostly painless — leavened with humour as the AI grows. It also allows scope for commentary on human foibles, one of the delights of the story. The final scenes are again in our protagonist’s viewpoint, reflecting on Freya’s experience, on the space program, on humanity.

    There is a singular moment, a single line of description relating to ship, that defines the power of KSR’s prose, but I can’t repeat it here, because spoiler. It is beautiful, poignant, pragmatic, elegant. It made me love this book.

    This is the first KSR book I’ve read — I know, I know — but based on this, it won’t be the last. Note even dubious amounts of repetition in the text can overshadow the deft handling of technical terms and processes; the sheer imagination that manages, mostly, to keep humanity at its centre, even when ship is narrating at some emotional distance.

    KSR has something to say, and for the most part he says it well.

    For me, Aurora is not just a superbly unromantic story of space colonisation, but also an allegory — would ship agree, I wonder, given its interest in metaphor and the like? Hell, maybe it’s not even — best summed up by this translation of a poem that captures the attention of two characters, talking to how we need to look after this world as man-made climate change threatens to radically change our biome, how we are ‘kleptoparasites’, stealing from our descendants:

    ‘There’s no new world, my friend, no
    New seas, no other planets, nowhere to flee–
    You’re tied in a knot you can never undo
    When you realise Earth is a starship too.’

  • A review copy of Aurora was provided by the publisher. You can read an excerpt here.
     

  • Aussie Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror announced

    years best australian fantasy and horror 2014Ticonderoga Publications has announced the line-up of its latest Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror28 stories from 2014, curated again by Talie Helene and Liz Grzyb, to wrap your eyes around and fire your imagination. Or something like that.

    I’m thrilled and giddily surprised to find ‘The Preservation Society’, originally published in the first issue of Dimension6, among the selections. Vampires in Cairns, an exploration into one of the minor characters in my novel Blood and Dust. Hell yes, I’m chuffed.

    There’s some great reading in this volume — I’m particularly pleased to see ‘Shedding Skin‘ by Angie Rega in this line-up, one of those yarns that ticked all my boxes. The collection is due out in late October — OOH, HALLOWEEN! — but can be pre-ordered right now.
     

    Sunshine, darkness and the people we meet

    in sunshine bright and darkness deepThis book arrived in the post yesterday. In Sunshine Bright and Darkness Deep: An Anthology of Australian Horror collects short stories from 14 members of the Australian Horror Writers Association. “If you are unfamiliar with Australian horror, let this book be just the first step on a long voyage of dark discovery,” the blurb says.

    The anthology contains a reprint of my story ‘Triage’, from 2005 — the only reprint in the book. I offered ‘Triage’ because it’s a special story to me, and it had only a limited airing on first printing, in sf-envision, a magazine printed by Fantastic Queensland that came out of the EnVision writers workshop run in 2003 and 2004 in Brisbane.

    It was at this workshop that I largely met the people who would form the Writers on the Edge critique group, who remain good friends even though my departure from Brisbane spelled the ultimate end of the critique meetings. Some of us still share stories online.

    It was also where I got to know the tutors, and these industry contacts have become friends over the years: like minds, generous spirits.

    The message here: go to workshops, improve your craft, never stop learning, meet people. Be kind to one another. Pay it forward.

    sf-envision‘Triage’ is also important because it mined the death of a close friend; it tried to give him, on some ultimately inadequate level, what the story’s hero, Nosplentyn, tries to do for the dying patient: a memorial of the heart and mind. Nosplentyn, a name coined by one of my roleplaying game mates and used with his blessing, is a prototype for the Needle in my Vampires in the Sunshine State books. He has changed much, as have we all.

    We in the Edge Writers have since lost one of our own. Nea has a story in sf-envision, an excerpt of her then work in progress that, sadly, never saw publication. We hold them in our memories, these ageless loves, and the words take us back to them and the times we shared.

    So ‘Triage’ is both sunshine and darkness, a touchstone for bright memories and dark ones. It seemed to fit for the AHWA’s book. Bon voyage.

  • In Sunshine Bright and Darkness Deep is available* from Amazon.
    * ADDENDUM: the book is officially launched 18 September. Its appearance on Amazon beforehand was to allow contributor copies to be sent out. But, y’know, wishlist away!