Only Lovers Left Alive: pollution is a real pain in the neck, yeah


only lovers left aliveJim Jarmusch takes the long, slow road to a vampire movie aimed squarely at what happens when you use up resources, but yet, there will still be music.

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) features Eve (Tilda Swinton), well read and generally wonderful, reconnecting with her significant other, Adam (Tom Hiddleston). She travels from Tangier, leaving behind good old mate Christopher Marlowe — played with the usual aplomb by John Hurt — to Detroit, where the collapse and abandonment mirrors Adam’s depression. Adam’s a muso of modest but enduring renown, and things are looking all right for the reunited lovers until Eve’s sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) turns up to rock the boat with her over-eager, insatiable consumerism.

Because things are already tense for the children of the night, with the blood supply as tainted as the environment. Resources are getting scarce. The good stuff is in demand. And the food chain, and decency, are such fragile things.

It’s a slow-burner, shot almost doco style as Adam and Eve drive through derelict suburbs, living their lives in splendid and not-so-splendid isolation.

The vampire culture is wonderfully (under)drawn, with its own peccadilloes and gentle in-joke references. Living in the shadows, observers trying to find safe ways to interact, to leave a mark, however anonymously … the settings mirror the desolation, even Tangier — necessarily by night — an empty place where people offer only what is not needed. And the leads capture the mood perfectly. Swinton’s nuanced performance is a delight, and Hiddleston has the disaffected rock star air down pat.

It’s crafty, too, how at least one certain prop never gets to satisfy the Chekhov law, although perhaps that’s a Jarmusch law. Along with the music, of course.

As the predators prowl the decaying streets, the message is there in the coyote howls: nature will have its way, so we’d better look after it.

Neil Jordan’s Byzantium: delicious!

byzantium, vampire movie posterNeil Jordan made Tom Cruise look good in Interview with the Vampire, but Byzantium is even better.

Saoirse Ronan chews up the celluloid as a 16-year-old vampire, on the run with lusty Gemma Arterton, who looks in her period flashbacks as though she just stepped out of a classic Hammer Horror movie (and indeed, there’s a nod to Hammer’s Dracula: Prince of Darkness in the film).

Writer Moira Buffini has delivered a script that these two actors totally inhabit, Ronan with subtlety and tender beauty, Arterton a force majeure of hedonistic pragmatism. The familial relationship between the two, of freedom vs control, change vs habit, of nurture and protection, is a joy to watch as Ronan’s Eleanor stretches her 200-year-old adolescent wings.

In the background is the threat of a patriarchal order who don’t like women rocking their boat, with events set in motion by Johnny Lee Miller as bounder and cad, and Sam Riley as an understated hero-figure.

The casting is superb, the sets suitably atmospheric, and there are nods to vampire forerunners in Ruthven and Carmilla. The vampirism here is well drawn and consistent, drawing on a Caribbean version called a soucriant (read more in this excellent New York Times review).

The story is kept simple and is simply told, set to a soundtrack of classical and folk songs, and gorgeously presented by Jordan and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt, allowing us to bask in the beauty: to sink in its warmth like Bathory into a bath.

Definitely in my list of the best vampire movies.


A double blast of outback vampires

Jason Nahrung and Lindy Cameron, of Clan Destine Press

Lunch with my publisher :) Pic: Kirstyn McDermott

Blood and Dust is about to become corporeal — and then some.

A little while back, Clan Destine Press publisher Lindy Cameron and I (that’s us to the left!) caught up over lunch and signed off on a contract to put my outback vampire novel Blood and Dust on to shelves, both digital and physical, along with its follow-up, The Big Smoke.

This will be a second life for Blood and Dust, initially released into the wilds as an e-book in late 2012. It was a finalist in both the Aurealis Awards, for best horror novel, and the Australian Shadows. But while it’s pretty much self-contained, Kevin the mechanic, now vampire, still had some work to do once the dust had settled out west. Hence, his journey to ‘the Big Smoke’.

I’m ecstatic that these two books, coming more than 15 years after the story was first conceived, are finally coming to life in paperback as well as digital. My dad might even get to read them!

Clan Destine has good people operating it, a solid stable of fellow writers, many of whom I already know. It’s a real pleasure to join them on this latest adventure.

So when will Kevin get to escape the garage on his own grand adventure? Well, Blood and Dust is getting new duco, and The Big Smoke is going in for its roadworthy. So all in good time, my friends, but rest assured, you’ll hear the motors revving!

Perfections, now in paperback

Perfections by Kirstyn McDermottKirstyn’s novel, Perfections, is being printed in paperback and digital copies by Twelfth Planet Press, and is being launched this weekend at Continuum (I may wear my top hat). Read all about it here.

Also at Continuum, I’ll be helping Rosaleen Love launch her latest collection, the newest addition to the Twelve Planets series (now 13!), The Secret Lives of Books. It’s very clever, slightly eclectic in style, and altogether wonderful. Yes, damn it, I think a top hat is well in order!

Dracula, the book that …

dracula by bram stoker, 1916 coverThe lovely folks at The Writers Bloc — great name for a collective! — asked me to tell them about ‘the book that …’ and of course I had to wax lyrical about Dracula. You’re about 16, there’s a storm outside your bedroom window, and the vampire is creeping down the castle wall … You can read more here, and see what these creative folks are up to in furthering the writers’ cause.

The Shining Girls … very bright indeed

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

    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

    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

    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

    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)