Aussies on Locus’ recommended list of 2012

Pleasing to see Aussie writers make the cut on Locus magazine’s recommended spec fic reads of 2012.

Some that my eye found were Kaaron Warren and Margo Lanagan for Twelfth Planet Press yarns, and Margo for Sea Hearts and her collection Cracklescape as well, and the Slatter/Hannett Midnight and Moonshine collection — doubly great to see a small presses from Down Under making an impression — and Sean McMullen and Terry Dowling and Anna Tambour and Greg Egan, and editors Amanda Pillar (Ishtar) and Jonathan Strahan (three books!).

Eclipse online, editor apocalypse and other write bites

I hit if:book Australia’s Bookcamp last Friday, and it was cool. I found out about some very neat exercises in geo-writing: Matt Blackwood’s MyStory project, and his other exercises in using QR codes to bring readers to stories, or vice versa. Locative narrative, geocaching stories, however you describe it, puts the story inside the location, or allows the reader to experience the actual setting of the story at the same time as the story … here’s a video interview out of this year’s Emerging Writers Festival that explains it better.

On a similar theme, Hitotoki ties experience to a map, some working better than others: status updates, not so interesting; environmental interaction, w00t!

Another cool link to come out of the ‘unconference’: Small Demons. Linking books by subject matter. I’ve yet to delve into it too deeply — somewhat time poor at the moment and this website looks like a massive procrastination tool — but I love the idea of tagging books by quirks, locations, songs … When I think of all the music I’ve discovered thanks to mentions in books, and the joy to be found in paying homage to musos in the written word in the hope of spreading similar love, yeah, this idea really appeals. Chartreuse + Cocteau Twins = Poppy Z Brite and ? and ?

And finally, a word of wisdom from guest Craig Mod for those going digital: can you do it better than Amazon?

  • WHILE I was up north delving into emergent writing trends and technologies, Aussie writer Angela Slatter was winning a British Fantasy Award;

  • Keith Stevenson was making a damn fine case at Conflux for the importance of editors (hear! hear!); and

  • Night Shade Books was readying to unveil Jonathan Strahan’s Eclipse Online mag. Locus says the title’s due to go live this month with two stories a month. Ooh …

    A musical note to finish on: big hugs to Sarah Calderwood, whose solo album As Night Falls was a finalist in the ARIAs for best world music album (announced today, being segregated from the ‘popular’ categories announced in November)! Right up there with Dead Can Dance! What a thrill to see a mate earning such renown!

  • Snapshot 2012: Jenny Blackford

    australian speculative fiction snapshot 2012 logoJENNY Blackford gave up her day job in 2001, and has been writing ever since, in between spoiling the cat, cooking and gardening. With husband Russell, she lived 30 years in Melbourne before returning to her hometown of Newcastle in 2009. In the same year, she was a judge for the World Fantasy Awards. She has had 20 stories published: eight for adults and 12 for children, and four poems, plus the historical novella The Priestess and the Slave.

    Her latest publication is ‘The Dragon in the Tent’, a magical circus story, in The School Magazine, which has also recently accepted a cat poem, ‘Soft silk sack’.

    Her latest publication specifically for grown-ups was ‘The Sacrifice’, in Aurealis 47. Jenny’s website is www.jennyblackford.com and she blogs at Living in the Past.


    You’ve had some poetry published recently, after a long hiatus, and one ventures the new stuff is quite different to your first piece in Dolly all those years ago: what do you think has inspired you to not only return to poetry, but poetry of a decidedly darker (?) nature?
    As to what has inspired me to return to poetry -– the real question is why I ever stopped writing it. Apparently, I just gave up quietly in my final dispiriting years of high school. The poetry writing asserted itself naturally a few years ago and took a while to nose its way out into the world.

    And as to the alleged new darkness: not all my recent poems are dark. My poem forthcoming from The School Magazine is a fairly sweet little thing about a cat (though some might think ‘soft silk sack of bones’ has a slightly sinister edge). And my most recent poetry publication (in Star*Line 35.1 is another sweetish cat poem (though it does start with the potentially sinister ‘Gravity is stern as death’, and does ascribe uncanny powers to cats.) Hmmm…

    I wish I could find my copy of ‘Ti-trees Rising’, the poem that was printed in Dolly back in the ’70s, but it seems to have disappeared from my filing system. It’s about ti-tree scrub, but I do distinctly remember the words ‘reptilian silver’ and ‘the cold moon in the dark’, so there’s at least a smidge of a sinister edge there as well.

    Getting deeper: it’s true that the definitely dark ‘Mirror’ was my first poem for decades, but it’s based on memories from my teens. I was totally convinced that I saw someone else’s eyes looking back at me in the mirror, and I was terrified. Back then, I’m sure family and friends would have been horrified if I’d put all that fear and darkness into a poem. Now that I’m grown up, I’m allowed to.


    What is your approach to reinvigorating the age-old story of Medea? Is that what made you pick it?
    Modern people don’t tend to take Medea seriously as a Bronze Age priestess of Hekate, as a powerful sorceress, or as a goddess, grand-daughter of Helios, the Sun, but the ancient Greeks certainly did. She’s an amazing character, and the Bronze Age –- the era of the Mycenaean Greeks -– is my absolute favourite. Just imagine a glowing, golden-haired goddess-princess sitting on a throne carved out of rock crystal with golden monkeys inlaid on the back.

    I’d loved the story ever since I studied the 5th century BC Euripides play Medea (in Ancient Greek) as part of my degree in Classics. After all the modern retellings that concentrate on how ‘heroic’ Jason was, and what a monster Medea was to kill her brother and her children, I was astonished to see Euripides rip into him so cuttingly, and so appallingly accurately. Jason could never have brought the Golden Fleece back to Greece without Medea’s help -– but a few years later, he wanted to trade her in for a younger, better-connected princess (not foreign witch), and expected Medea to be happy about him providing a better future for their children! Euripides converted me to Medea’s side, and I want to convert everyone else.


    When you wrote The Priestess and the Slave, was your inner fantasist crying out to add fantasy elements or was 5BC fantastical enough?
    When Eric Reynolds (the editor/publisher of Hadley Rille Books) asked me to write him a strictly historically accurate novella set in ancient Greece, my first two questions were whether I could use Bronze Age Greece (no – it had to be Classical Greece, 5th century BC), and whether I could add fantasy elements (no — it had to be purely historical).

    I shrugged and got on with it. Once I started to write, it didn’t matter. Living inside the head of a slave girl in the plague years of Athens, or a Pythia in Delphi, was a strange and intense experience in its own right. And the characters believed totally in their gods, who are almost characters in their own right.


    What Australian works have you loved recently?
    So much -– but a few that come to mind are Tansy Rayner RobertsCreature Court trilogy, Alison Goodman‘s Eon/Eona duology, Kim Wilkins‘ novella (‘Crown of Rowan: A Tale of Thrysland’) in Jack Dann and Jonathan Strahan’s Legends anthology.

    What have been some of the biggest changes in Australian speculative fiction in the past two years since Aussiecon 4?
    Aussiecon 4 seems hardly any time ago! Wasn’t it only yesterday? One very sad change, though, is the deaths of Sara Douglass and Paul Haines, both from cancer. Valete.

    * * *

    THIS interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 1-8 June and archiving them at Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus. You can read interviews at:

    Callout to Queensland authors of 2011, and other writerly news

    queensland writers centre logoQueensland Writers Centre is compiling a booklet, Books from our Backyard, of Queensland authors to have had a book published in 2011. Must be first edition, paper or e-book, with ISBN and cover image. Details at the website.

    Also, the centre has compiled a website of reaction to the summary cancellation of the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards by incoming premier Campbell Newman. The centre is looking to salvage something from the debacle and provides some avenues for reaction to the move. A separate push is underway to establish the Queensland Literary Awards.

  • In award news, and much more positive all round, Aussies Jonathan Strahan and the gang from Galactic Suburbia podcast have made the shortlist for the Hugo Awards — Strahan twice, for best short form editor and also his co-hosted Notes from Coode St podcast. Way to go!
  • The Blood-Red Pencil hosts two posts about the life of agents, including their changing role in an industry where self-publishing is no longer the path of last resort.
  • At the Lair, Sean Williams and Karen Miller talk joining Forces with the Star Wars franchise.
  • In Lisa Hannett’s Tuesday Therapy (it’s been a busy week), Kim Falconer offers some down-to-earth advice about setting goals and achieving them despite all the good advice. In today’s Theraphy, Angela Slatters offers excellent advice about both offering and receiving favours of a literary nature.
  • Looking ahead: Swancon 2013 has announced a guest list of Gail Simone, Charles Stross, John Birmingham and Lucy Sussex. w00t!

  • Tansy Rayner Roberts’ Creature Court series is pushing into overseas markets — great to see a publisher investing in local talent.
  • And finally, this piece from Call My Agent! about the cultural cringe and Australian novels. I’d like to think that the efforts of our fantasy, crime and romance writers, in particular, are changing the apparent reluctance of readers to buy locally … This post riffs off a previous one about why it’s hard to get an Aussie novel published, which kicked along a meme about ‘what Australian book have you bought recently’. You don’t buy local just because it is local, of course, but because it’s local and good: it’s that last part that has had buyers doubting, but they’re out of excuses these days. Now it’s how to raise awareness in an ever-crowded market place.
  • Late addition: I’ve been meaning to add 20c to this excellent post about the value of a book cover over at Patrick O’Duffy’s place, but that’s gonna have to wait for another day. When you see the amount of quality info Angry Robot has packed onto that back cover … wow. The absence of a back cover on an e-book — that requirement that the browser has picked up that info on the web page — is an interesting quandary that I haven’t got around to pondering in any meaningful way. Patrick, it’s up to you!
  • Review: Engineering Infinity

    engineeering infinity by jonathan strahan (ed)

    Usually, mention of ‘hard SF’ would make my eyes glaze over. I’m the kind of tech-zombie who is happy to just press the button and have the machine do its thing, without too much thought for the how. It’s only when it doesn’t work that I start to ponder, and even then it’s a case of hard Fs rather than hard SF. So when Engineering Infinity (Solaris) landed in my mailbox and editor Jonathan Strahan started talking about hard SF in his introduction, I started to sweat. But whew – as Strahan says in summarising his anthology, these aren’t necessarily hard SF stories in the classic mould, though they do all have humanity and technology bumping heads and seeing what happens. It’s a superb collection of 14 well-crafted and quite varied yarns. One of the most technical — Peter Watt’s ‘Malak’ — was one of my favourites, along with Greg Benford’s serial killers meet time travel yarn and Charles Stross’s space zombies. Definitely a book to keep an eye out for, regardless of whether you like your SF hard-boiled or runny in in the middle, with that tasty side of humanity. My rather more considered review is up at Asif.

    Aussies score World Fantasy awards

    x6 collection of novellas

    Great news: prolific editor of award-winning anthologies Jonathan Strahan and fantasy writer extraordinaire Margo Lanagan have added World Fantasy awards to their sagging trophy shelves :) Margo’s is extra sweet because her most excellent novella Sea-Hearts was published in Aussie small press publication X6 (coeur de lion publishing). Go you good things!

    Awards and more book covers

    Ticonderoga has released the book cover of its limited edition reprint of The Infernal by Kim Wilkins, her first novel and still one of my favourites.

    Ticon has also recently made available two anthologies: Scary Kisses, involving paranormal romance, and Belong, speculative tales with a migration hook.

    And in awards news, Jonathan Strahan, Justine Larbalestier (Liar) and Scott Westerfeld (Leviathan) are Aussies all in the running for Locus Awards. This follows the excellent news that Margo Lanagan is up for a Shirley Jackson award for her novella Sea-Hearts, published in X6.

    Here’s a cool trailer for Scott’s Leviathan, a very fun take on the outbreak of World War I:

    And one for Liar, a compelling if infuriating read!

    And not to be overlooked is this new offering from Rowena Cory Daniells, a fancy trailer for her new (and much awaited) trilogy. Rowena has been a stalwart of the spec fic community in Queensland for many a year, helping to found both the Vision writing group (going strong) and the EnVision writers workshop (now defunct, but in a way living on in the Queensland Writers Centre’s year of the novel program): two things that have been of massive benefit to me as a budding author.

    KRKhd from Daryl Lindquist on Vimeo.