Aurealis Awards

The Aurealis Awards’ list of finalists have been announced and it’s very exciting. Some highlights include seeing Sean Williams in four categories and Trent Jamieson in three, and a bunch of stories from Dreaming Again — and the anthology itself — being nominated.

There’s a summary story here and the full details here.

I was a judge on the horror division so can’t say too much, except I feel the finalists’ list, from what I know of the stories involved, is a very strong one. The ceremony on January 24 coincides with the running of the Clarion South writers workshop; having some of the tutors and the Clarion young guns at the ceremony should add some extra energy to the night.

I’m glad I wasn’t on the fantasy novel panel. Trying to decide on a winner when the field includes Two Pearls of Wisdom and Tender Morsels would’ve been way too hard! (Read my review of Tender Morsels and Two Pearls.) 

I’d encourage anyone interested in Australian spec fic to attend the awards. There’ll be plenty of writers from around the country there, and no doubt some agents and publishers as well.

The Birthday Massacre

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Chrissy Amphlett has a daughter, and she’s Canadian.

That’s what I was thinking on November 20 when we caught Canadian band The Birthday Massacre at The Zoo in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley.

Their lead singer, Chibi, all of 5’2, looked so cute in her school uniform of white blouse, vest and tartan skirt, complete with pig tails and fringe dangling down to past her nose.

Unlike the venerable singer of the Divinyls, though, she didn’t play the sex card, but rather revealed a malleable face that switched with a blink and a wink from mischievous to innocent. She pranced, thrashed, pointed, shook hands with the crowd… played up to her bandmates … all the stuff you’d expect of an experienced campaigner on the stage. But these kids look so young!

The rest of the band — there were five of ’em — didn’t let her carry the load by herself. Everyone contributed, making lots of eye contact with the audience, exercising their adopted stage persona. Lead guitarist Rainbow was a bit over the top in his grotesque act — I could’ve done without the drooling, but the belting around like a manic thing with its shoes on fire was priceless.

Musically, even allowing for the very ordinary sound and lighting on stage, the band could use a few new tricks. After the hour-and-a-half they played, I felt like I’d heard all they had, more than once, and the one new song they played didn’t suggest any great leaps.

Luckily, what they have is highly listenable: a strong pop aesthetic decorated with electronica and industrial. A killer cover of I Think We’re Alone Now that made me think, for the first time hearing that song, of a stalker. And their stage presence is something that so many of the bland, corporate-alternative Aussie bands could use a good dose of. Get off the mic, move your arse, and stop swearing to provoke a crowd reaction. For all their Goth fashion sense, and their industrial lashings, The Birthday Massacre didn’t swear once that I heard. And I didn’t miss it.

Read my interview with Chibi