Archive for the gothic Category

The Shining Girls … very bright indeed

Posted in books, gothic, horror, review with tags , , , on April 9, 2014 by jason nahrung

the shining girls by lauren beukesI enjoyed both of South African writer Lauren Beukes previous novels, Zoo City and her debut Moxyland – they pretty much put her on my ‘buy automatically’ list. Shining Girls (HarperCollins Australia, 2013) is her tightest yet.

In it, she leaves South Africa behind, instead trawling through Chicago’s history since the Depression era, as a serial killer uses a most unusual house to track and kill his victims – his shining girls.

The blurb makes no secret of the fact the house enables Harper Curtis to spread his carnage across a 60-odd year span.
His evil is well drawn, leaving us in no doubt this guy needs to be stopped.

Harper has never limited his appetites to one particular kind of woman or another. Some men prefer girls with wasp waists or red hair or heavy buttocks you can dig your fingers into, but he has always taken whatever he could get, whenever he could get it, paying for it most of the time. The House demands more. It wants italic potential – to claim the fire in their eyes and snuff it out. Harper knows how to do that. He will need to buy a knife. Sharp as a bayonet.

The damage done is portrayed through a survivor, Kirby, who dedicates herself to the seemingly impossible task of finding her attacker. She teams up with burnt-out journo Dan, a crime writer now on the sports round, using his knowledge and newspaper resources to make her case file.

Adding to the sense of waste caused by the senseless murder spree are glimpses into the lives and deaths of the shining girls, sometimes in their point of view, sometimes Harper’s, as well as that of an addict whose character is well realised but whose presence in the book is of minor assistance.

And in keeping with the story’s time-travelling conceit, the episodes are presented in non-linear fashion. It’s a bit of a head spin, but it works.

Time travel brings a raft of headaches, not least the idea of if at first you don’t succeed …, but Beukes has answered the conundrums with smooth skill.

Her vignettes of Chicago are wonderfully realised, her characterisation spot on, her story enthralling. When the writing’s this good, I can accept with perfect faith the chicken and egg scenarios that come with time travel. My only regret is that the book was such a joy to read, it took no time at all.

  • Beukes says on her website she will be touring Australia in August to promote her latest novel, Broken Monsters (in Detroit, with more killings, another journo, a daughter … ooh!), due for release later this year.
  • Dimension6: we have lift off

    Posted in books, gothic, horror, science fiction with tags , , , , , on April 4, 2014 by jason nahrung

    dimension6 speculative fiction magazineA quick plug to say today is the day for Australia’s newest spec fic magazine: the free, digital Dimension6. It’s available here and includes yarns by Richard Harland, Charlotte Nash and yours truly. You can get a taste of what each of us (and editor Keith Stevenson) is about thanks to an interview series conducted by Angela Slatter — just click those links. Or just read the magazine!
    Dimenion6 runs three issues a year, so stick around!

    Dimension6 cover and contents

    Posted in books, gothic, horror, science fiction with tags , , , on March 19, 2014 by jason nahrung

    dimension 6 speculative fiction magazineThe covers are off Dimension6, Couer de Lion‘s free digital spec fic mag hitting the interwebs on April 4. It’s a pleasure to be sharing pixels with Richard Harland and Charlotte Nash, who has not only hit the shelves with some rural medical romance but is a dab hand in the fantastic, too — see her ‘The Ship’s Doctor‘ for a taste. And obviously D6, for more.

    Entering Dimension6

    Posted in gothic, writing with tags , , , , on February 17, 2014 by jason nahrung

    dimension6 magazine logo


    Keith Stevenson’s Coeur de Lion is launching its new digital magazine Dimension6 in April, and I’m happy to say I’ve got an Aussie vampire story — ‘The Preservation Society’ — in it!

    I can’t tell you who else is in there because I don’t know, but Robert Hood, Cat Sparks, Richard Harland, Alan Baxter and Steve Cameron have all been tapped as being in one of this year’s first three editions. Pretty awesome company! These writers are well worth the effort of hitting the download button for.

    Dimension6 will be FREE, with a cheap-as-chips end-of-year omnibus edition.

    Coeur de Lion brought us the wonderful X6 novella collection a few years back, so I’m dead excited about Dimension6. The first issue is due out on April 4.

    2013 Aurealis Awards finalists announced

    Posted in awards, books, events, fantasy, gothic, horror, news regurgitation, science fiction with tags , , , , , , on February 16, 2014 by jason nahrung

    caution contains small parts by kirstyn mcdermottJust got back from Heathcote — oh, bliss — to the list of finalists in the Aurealis Awards for the best Aussie spec fic published last year. There is Snoopy dancing here in Ballaratia, for Kirstyn has landed nominations for her novella ‘The Home for Broken Dolls’ and the collection in which it appears, Caution: Contains Small Parts. The full finalists list is below (lifted from the press release). Interesting to see the genre blurring with some nominations for the same piece in multiple categories, although YA is an umbrella term in its own right, so that’s not so unusual. Plus a few self-published titles, showing someone’s taken time and effort to do the business. Winners will be announced a right royal good time in Canberra on April 5, a real highlight of the year. Tickets are on sale now.

    aurealis awards logoDISCLAIMER: I was a judge in the awards this year, of SF short stories. Nothing written here should be taken as anything other than an announcement of the finalists.

    In other awards news, nominations are open [edit: Ditmars open on Feb 23] in both the Ditmars and the Chronos, being publicly voted national and Victorian awards respectively. Winners of both will be announced at Continuum in June.

    Aurealis Awards 2013 Finalists

    BEST ILLUSTRATED BOOK OR GRAPHIC NOVEL
    Savage Bitch by Steve Carter and Antoinette Rydyr (Scar Studios)
    Mr Unpronounceable Adventures by Tim Molloy (Milk Shadow Books)
    Burger Force by Jackie Ryan (self-published)
    Peaceful Tomorrows Volume Two by Shane W Smith (Zetabella Publishing)
    The Deep Vol. 2: The Vanishing Island by Tom Taylor and James Brouwer (Gestalt Publishing)

    BEST CHILDREN’S BOOK
    Kingdom of the Lost, book 2: Cloud Road by Isobelle Carmody (Penguin Group Australia)
    Refuge by Jackie French (Harper Collins)
    Song for a Scarlet Runner by Julie Hunt (Allen & Unwin)
    The Four Seasons of Lucy McKenzie by Kirsty Murray (Allen & Unwin)
    Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan (Hachette Australia)
    Ice Breaker: The Hidden 1 by Lian Tanner (Allen & Unwin)

    BEST YOUNG ADULT SHORT FICTION
    ‘Mah Song’ by Joanne Anderton (The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories, FableCroft Publishing)
    ‘By Bone-light; by Juliet Marillier (Prickle Moon, Ticonderoga Publications)
    ‘Morning Star’ by D.K. Mok (One Small Step, an anthology of discoveries, FableCroft Publishing)
    ‘The Year of Ancient Ghosts’ by Kim Wilkins (The Year of Ancient Ghosts, Ticonderoga Publications)

    BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL
    The Big Dry by Tony Davies (Harper Collins)
    Hunting by Andrea Host (self-published)
    These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Allen & Unwin)
    Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near (Random House Australia)
    The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn (University of Queensland Press)

    BEST HORROR SHORT FICTION
    ‘Fencelines’ by Joanne Anderton (The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories, FableCroft Publishing)
    ‘The Sleepover’ by Terry Dowling (Exotic Gothic 5, PS Publishing)
    ‘The Home for Broken Dolls’ by Kirstyn McDermott (Caution: Contains Small Parts, Twelfth Planet Press)
    ‘The Human Moth’ by Kaaron Warren (The Grimscribe’s Puppets, Miskatonic Press)
    ‘The Year of Ancient Ghosts’ by Kim Wilkins (The Year of Ancient Ghosts, Ticonderoga Publications)

    BEST HORROR NOVEL
    The Marching Dead by Lee Battersby (Angry Robot Books)
    The First Bird by Greig Beck (Momentum)
    Path of Night by Dirk Flinthart (FableCroft Publishing)
    Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near (Random House Australia)

    BEST FANTASY SHORT FICTION
    ‘The Last Stormdancer’ by Jay Kristoff (Thomas Dunne Books)
    ‘The Touch of the Taniwha’ by Tracie McBride (Fish, Dagan Books)
    ‘Cold, Cold War’ by Ian McHugh (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Scott H Andrews)
    ‘Short Circuit’ by Kirstie Olley (Oomph: a little super goes a long way, Crossed Genres)
    ‘The Year of Ancient Ghosts’ by Kim Wilkins (The Year of Ancient Ghosts, Ticonderoga Publications)

    BEST FANTASY NOVEL
    Lexicon by Max Barry (Hachette Australia)
    A Crucible of Souls by Mitchell Hogan (self-published)
    These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Allen & Unwin)
    Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix (Jill Grinberg Literary Management)
    Ink Black Magic by Tansy Rayner Roberts (FableCroft Publishing)

    BEST SCIENCE FICTION SHORT FICTION
    ‘The Last Tiger’ by Joanne Anderton (Daily Science Fiction)
    ‘Mah Song’ by Joanne Anderton (The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories, FableCroft Publishing)
    ‘Seven Days in Paris’ by Thoraiya Dyer (Asymmetry, Twelfth Planet Press)
    ‘Version 4.3.0.1′ by Lucy Stone (Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #57)
    ‘Air, Water and the Grove’ by Kaaron Warren (The Lowest Heaven, Pandemonium Press)

    BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL
    Lexicon by Max Barry (Hachette)
    Trucksong by Andrew Macrae (Twelfth Planet Press)
    A Wrong Turn At The Office Of Unmade Lists by Jane Rawson (Transit Lounge)
    True Path by Graham Storrs (Momentum)
    Rupetta by Nike Sulway (Tartarus Press)

    BEST ANTHOLOGY
    The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2012 by Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene (Eds), (Ticonderoga Publications)
    One Small Step, an anthology Of discoveries by Tehani Wessely (Ed) (FableCroft Publishing)
    Dreaming Of Djinn by Liz Grzyb (Ed) (Ticonderoga Publications)
    The Best Science Fiction And Fantasy Of The Year: Volume Seven by Jonathan Strahan (Ed) (Night Shade Books)
    Focus 2012: Highlights Of Australian Short Fiction by Tehani Wessely (Ed) (FableCroft Publishing)

    BEST COLLECTION
    The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories by Joanne Anderton (FableCroft Publishing)
    Asymmetry by Thoraiya Dyer (Twelfth Planet Press)
    Caution: Contains Small Parts by Kirstyn McDermott (Twelfth Planet Press)
    The Bride Price by Cat Sparks (Ticonderoga Publications)
    The Year of Ancient Ghosts by Kim Wilkins (Ticonderoga Publications)

    The Year of Ancient Ghosts: haunting stuff

    Posted in fantasy, gothic, review with tags , , , , , , on September 25, 2013 by jason nahrung

    year of ancient ghosts by kim wilkinsThe Year of Ancient Ghosts (Ticonderoga Publications, 2013) is the first collection for Brisbane writer Kim Wilkins, who has more than 20 books to her credit.

    Her work spans children’s, YA, adult dark fantasy and horror, and women’s lit, but this collection of five novellas — two previously unpublished — is firmly rooted in fantasy. It’s damned impressive, too.

    It opens with the titular story, a touching tale in which a wife and mother takes her young daughter to a remote Scottish locale, there to discover more about her husband’s past and the supernatural traditions of his home.

    The other new story in this collection is the final one, ‘The Lark and the River’, a beautifully rendered description, inspired by an actual place, of the collision between Norman monotheism and Celtic paganism, with our heroine caught in the middle.

    australian women writers review challenge logoIn the middle, one novella presages a long-awaited and yet-to-arrive traditional fantasy story in which illicit love threatens a realm; another revisits Arthurian myth, again with a focus on the heroine in Bathory-hot water; and the third also happens in the contemporary world, but with Norse gods involved — the Kiwi television show The Almighty Johnsons came to mind when reading this one.

    Character is queen in these stories, the fears and ambitions of the heroines pulling us through the realistically rendered worlds. Wilkins’s love of Norse and Celtic history comes to the fore in the small details so unobtrusively but effectively used in the setting, opening a window into the life of her societies and the challenges her characters face.

    The two new stories are perhaps the most emotive, dealing as they do with heartfelt loss, and the emotional world as dutifully, smoothly rendered as the physical one.

    I can only hope Wilkins gets to that high fantasy novel sooner rather than later.

  • This is my sixth review as part of the 2013 Australian Women Writers Challenge — the first was Glenda Larke’s Havenstar; the second, Krissy Kneen’s Steeplechase; the third, Christine Bongers’ Dust; the fourth, Alison Croggon’s Black Spring; and the fifth, Courtney Collins’s The Burial.

  • Chattin’ on Galactic Chat

    Posted in gothic, horror, news regurgitation, writing with tags , , , , on September 2, 2013 by jason nahrung

    galactic chat coffee cup logoIn which Galactic Chat‘s Mark Webb is far too nice as we talk about vampires, writing and stuff. Mark also keeps an eye on new books and other spec fic goings on at his blog.

    Meanwhile, ‘Mornington Ride’ is a finalist for an American award

    Posted in awards, gothic, horror with tags , , , on August 29, 2013 by jason nahrung

    epilogue - tales of hope after the apocalypseI was riding the rattler when the news broke, so I’m a little slow broadcasting this, but hey, it’s pretty darn cool even four days later: ‘Mornington Ride’, my post-apocalyptic yarn that rolls the Seekers and ‘Waltzing Matilda’ into a kind of hopeful drover’s tale, kind of, as published in Epilogue, is up for the Washington Science Fiction Association’s Small Press Award for Short Fiction.

    That’s quite a mouthful, huh. See, still excited!

    Which tells me a few things. 1, if you keep at it, if the chips fall the right way, someone may eventually like your stuff; and 2, it’s worth going with a publisher who will champion your story and get it out there where folks might actually see it. That means copping the costs, and spending the time in research and postage, of getting it out to awards and quality review sites. Not easy for a small press, so I tips me lid to Tehani at FableCroft for not just publishing ‘Mornington Ride’, but getting it out there.

    It’s the first of my short stories to garner an award nomination, and the first to win one: the Chronos, in both instances. This new pat on the back is the cream.

    The award is announced in December ; here’s the full list of finalists. I’m still pinching myself.

  • ‘Astrophilia’ by Carrie Vaughn, published in Clarkesworld Magazine, edited by Neil Clarke (July 2012).
  • ‘The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species’ by Ken Liu, published in Lightspeed Magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams (August 2012).
  • ‘Bottled Spirits’ by Pamela K. Kinney, published in Buzzy Mag, edited by Laura Anne Gilman (June, 2012).
  • ‘Coca Xocolatl’ by Lawrence M. Schoen, published in ReDeus: Divine Tales, edited by Robert Greenberger and Aaron Rosenberg (Crazy Eight Press 2012).
  • ‘Good Hunting’ by Ken Liu, published in Strange Horizons, edited by Brit Mandelo (October 2012).
  • ‘Mornington Ride’ by Jason Nahrung, published in Epilogue, edited by Tehani Wessely (Fablecroft Publishing June 2012).
  • ‘The Six Million Dollar Mermaid’ by Hildy Silverman, published in Mermaids 13: Tales from the Sea, edited by John L. French (Padwolf Publishing Inc. December 2012)
  • Honourable mentions by Ellen Datlow

    Posted in books, gothic, horror with tags , , , , on August 22, 2013 by jason nahrung

    best horror of the year volume 5 edited by ellen datlowEditor extraordinaire Ellen Datlow has released the LOOOOONG list — and it’s true to label, appearing in two pieces (Alexandra to Johnstone, Jones to Yolen) on her blog — to go with the short list of honourable mentions of short stories from 2012, anchored by her Best Horror of the Year Volume 5. The short list appears in the book; the long list doesn’t. Despite the collapse and sale of publisher Night Shade, the book’s listed as available on Amazon.

    So why am I mentioning this? Because Datlow has seen fit to list three of my yarns in the long list — ‘The Kiss’ from Tales from the Bell Club, ‘Last Boat to Eden’ from Surviving the End, and ‘Breaking the Wire’, from Aurealis #47 — and ‘Eden’ made it through to the short list.

    There is a whole posse of Aussie talent in the lists, and stories by Margo Lanagan and Terry Dowling made it into the collection.

    To get a pat on the back from anyone is always a warm and fuzzy moment; to get it from someone with Datlow’s pedigree, and knowing just how widely she reads to compile these lists, well, that’s very nice indeed.

    It’s especially cool to see ‘The Kiss’ get a mention: writing in the voice of a turn-of-the-last century Austrian suffragette was quite fun, and one of the first yarns I’ve written involving historical figures. If you go to the link above, you can read the little sucker in the ‘look inside’ feature!

    Black Spring by Alison Croggon: revisiting Heathcliff for a spell

    Posted in books, gothic, review with tags , , , on July 8, 2013 by jason nahrung

    black spring by alison croggonAlison Croggon, whose fantasy novel The Gift (first of the Pellinor series) floated my boat way on release in 2002, has done a fine job of cutting to the chase in Black Spring (Walker Books, 2012), which makes no bones about its strong foundation in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights.

    Croggon takes the structure — a narrator arrives, meets some of the players and receives the story in a monologue from someone in the know — the mood and the cornerstones of the plot about thwarted desire, class and revenge, but does some elegant re-imagining.

    UPDATE, VIDEO: Alison Croggon talks Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë and Black Spring at the Wheeler Centre

    The moors are out; instead, it’s a highland plateau — just as isolated, just as windswept — with a touch of the fantastic.

    Narrator Hammel, a writer, begins in an almost New Weird setting of hedonistic city, where the literati have their own guild and a certain social sway. It might bring to mind the shenanigans of the Romantics wine bar crowd. Hammel retires to the north, a rented manor in sight of the Black Mountains. The plateau is a land of mystery, a kind of Transylvania meets Sicily, with changeable weather and a certain harshness, just right for this dark tale. It’s a land of small villages, of priests vying with magicians for the fear of the populace if not their hearts, of rampant superstition … and the vendetta, a way in which the king’s coffers are enriched and the male population is culled.


    It might be a fantastical setting but for the incongruous presence of the Catholic church, uncomfortable in a land where magicians really can burn people from the inside out, send curses and engage in psychic combat, making this more of an alternative realm.

    Hammel meets the Heathcliff analogue, Damek; has a suitably wonderful paranormal experience in line with Lockwood’s dream of Cathy in the Brontë version; and then is told the tragic story of Damek’s obsession with Lina, the daughter of the local lord both blessed and cursed with royal and witch blood.

    Perhaps the most notable departure from Brontë’s text is in the ending — this isn’t called Black Spring for nothing!

    The characters are all suitably flawed, each unable to prevent the inevitable tragedies that drag them all down.

    Croggon uses suitably prose of the era with all her poetic might, delivering a satisfying if — as I recall the original — slow-paced recounting of love and revenge.

  • This is my fourth review as part of the 2013 Australian Women Writers Challenge — the first was Glenda Larke’s Havenstar; the second, Krissy Kneen’s Steeplechase; the third, Christine Bongers’ Dust — and completes my commitment to review four titles. There are, however, more on the shelf — let’s see how I go!
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