life on mars, take 2-WTF?

life on mars uk version

life on mars uk version

life on mars, US version

life on mars, US version

Life on Mars is an awesome police drama out of the UK, in which the main character is essentially sent back in time from the present day to the 1970s. The conceit is, is the trip real? Or is he in a coma dreaming he’s in the 70s? Or is he simply insane? It is, for the most part, compelling viewing; even if the story goes a little wonky here and there, the acting is uniformly superb.

In the most recent Rolling Stone magazine, there’s a copy of episode 1 of Life on Mars. Life on Mars, US-style. Yup, the cousins across the Atlantic couldn’t quite cope with England in the 70s, so they had to go make the show all over again, set in New York. Which is, based on the first ep, where the only interest lies. But even then, the atmosphere is pretty similar: hippies, a growing drug culture, racial tension, women’s rights, thuggery in the cop shop, the boy’s club at the boozer. The US show is an echo that seems pale by comparison, even with Harvey Keitel in the cast. (The effects are pretty cheesy, too.) It feels as if the actors are just repeating others’ lines, which in some respects they are.

My question is: why? Is imitation really the most sincere form of flattery or just a travesty?

At least the US soundtrack is rockin’, though I’m mildly surprised they didn’t use a cover of David Bowie’s theme song, rather than the real thing 😉

so bloody Awstraylian, maate

It’s Australia Day here in the land of Oz, and, like any true patriot, I skived the day off. (tis a public holiday, but nobody told the mass media masters that. bugger that.)

To celebrate the auspicious landing of white fellahs Down Under — ones who weren’t intending to leave, at least — I ate a sausage roll for breakfast and a meat pie for lunch (with tomato sauce, true blue!) with Anzac bikkies in between. In keeping with the spirit of the occasion, someone kindly brought Arnotts bikkies to our little gathering but I didn’t have the heart to tell them Arnotts isn’t Aussie any more. It’s American-owned. Fortunately, our bikkies haven’t been rebranded cookies, just yet.

Now, a couple of hundred years ago, there was another takeover in Australia, and it’s one that’s causing a bit of dissension among the ranks. Well, some of the ranks. Those ones at the back, actually, largely outside the hall, standing on the steps, shouting to be let in. I’m referring to our indigenous people, the noisiest of whom brand Australian Day ‘invasion day’.

I wonder if we shouldn’t consider, between the beach cricket, the park barbecue and the social piss-up (or in our case, a photography outing to Brisbane State Forest), that maybe those invasion day claims have a bit of currency. Our PM took a big step forward with his apology to indigenous Australians for their mistreatment since white colonisation. Maybe a shift of our national day to something a little brighter and inclusive might also be in order.

The debate brings to mind a great cartoon I saw years ago, in which two Native Americans are watching a sailing ship arriving at a big rock, and one is saying to his mate, “I think it might have been better if Plymouth Rock had landed on the Pilgrims.”


ADDENDUM: I just caught the news, and PM Kevin Rudd has quashed the idea of changing Australia Day’s date. Let’s hope we can find a space outside the jingoism for making sure we don’t repeat the mistakes of yore, and make the national celebration something we can all share in.

Aurealis Awards addendum

I am so completely knackered.

This was, quite possibly, the most fun Aurealis Awards yet. The results I blogged earlier, but here’s a bit of the social stuff:

The Judith Wright Centre was packed — I heard talk of there being only two spare tickets left on the morning of, and the auditorium certainly seemed to support that. When all those folks, dressed in everything from gowns to suits to t-shirts, milled around in the foyer, it was a real feat crossing the room, let alone getting to the bar.

They came from as far away as Perth and Tasmania, and if we include the Clarion South students in there, from overseas as well — the US that I know of for sure.

What a great crowd. What a great mingle. Unfortunately, I had a wee blowout in my schmoozing plans, on account of having left tickets at home. So instead of attending Trudi Canavan’s pre-awards book launch, I was dashing home and getting back just in time for the awards ceremony.

To compound my errors, I managed to leave my camera in the car. The bad news — no photos. The good news — the camera was still in the car when we got back.

So why am I knackered? All of this running around meant I had only a single Carona before the ceremony, and that was at an early dinner with friends. So naturally, all this catching up is thirsty work, and I had lost time to be made up. So from the foyer we moved to the bar to a room party to … and so on, and got home around 930 this morning, in time for a shower and a change of clothes before heading out to brunch. Thank goodness I’ve got tomorrow off!

Anyhoo, the ceremony was a blast with Alison Goodman and Simon Higgins co-hosting with their repartee — Simon, I believe, gave Alison sword lessons as part of her preparation for writing Two Pearls of Wisdom (which won the award for best fantasy novel, pipping my other favourite Aussie fantasy of 2008, Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan). There was no swordplay on the night, but an efficient and enjoyable audio-visual display — Damon owes me bigtime for including the video footage of me talking about my high school musical in which I played Dracula, and no, I cannot sing the songs (I couldn’t then, nothing’s changed!) — and some wonderful speeches and a few surprises as well.

A standout for me was Sean Williams’s acceptance of the inaugural award for best collection. The only competition his collection, Magic Dirt, had in the finalists was Robert Hood’s Creeping in Reptile Flesh. Sean gave a lovely kudos to Rob, as both friend and mentor, that really demonstrated the sense of community in the Aussie spec fic world.

There some lovely expressions of surprise from winners Alison, who hadn’t had time to consider winning let alone a speech during her hosting preparations, and Melina Marchetta, who won the award for best young adult novel for Finnikin of the Rock.

And possibly the loveliest was to see Jack Dann collect the Peter McNamara award for his superb career. Jack has acted as mentor for my Edge writing group, as has Sean and Rob, and Jack also saw some ‘juice’ in my short story, Smoking, Waiting for the Dawn, for his grand Dreaming Again anthology, so I had a very personal delight in seeing him slightly flabbergasted at the announcement. He was sitting behind me, so I heard his expression of surprise.

Another expression of surprise I took devilish delight in was from Kirstyn McDermott, nominated in the horror short story category for her gorgeous and brutal Painlessness. I by chance ended up sitting next to Kirstyn during the dash to find a seat, and having her lean over to me and whisper who she thought was winning was priceless. I earned an elbow in the ribs for my poker face. I had helped judge the category 🙂

Anyway, last year could be the last year the awards are held in Brisbane. The Fantastic Queensland team who have advanced the awards to being a standalone highlight of the calendar have almost used up their contract with the awards founders, Chimaera Publications, and a new team is being sought to take over the running from 2011. We’re promised something special for next year’s ceremony. I have no doubt it will be.

Aurealis Awards 2008

It was a big night for Perth’s Adrian Bedford at the Aurealis Awards in Brisbane last night.

Bedford, writing as KA Bedford, has had all four of his novels published by Edge in Canada make the finalist lists of the awards, and last night he scored his second win: for best science fiction novel, Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait. The novel is also a finalist for the Philip K Dick award.

The awards, recognising excellence in Australian speculative fiction, were presented in a sold-out Judith Wright Centre, with Queensland Governor Penelope Wensley in the audience.

Other winners were:

Children’s fiction

Illustrated work/picture book: Richard Harland and illustrator Laura Peterson, The Wolf Kingdom series
Novel: Emily Rodda, The Wizard of Rondo

Illustrated book/graphic novel: Shaun Tan, Tales from Outer Suburbia

Young Adult
Short story: Trent Jamieson, “Cracks”, Shiny #2
Novel: Melina Marchetta, Finnikin of the Rock

Collection: Sean Williams and Russell B Farr (ed), Magic Dirt: The Best of Sean Williams

Anthology: Jonathan Strahan (ed), The Starry Rift

Short story:
Kirstyn McDermott, “Painlessness”, Greatest Uncommon Denominator #2
Novel: John Harwood, The Seance

Short story: Cat Sparks, “Sammarynda Deep”, Paper Cities
Novel: Alison Goodman, The Two Pearls of Wisdom

Science fiction
Short story: Simon Brown, “The Empire”, Dreaming Again
Novel: KA Bedford, Time
Machines Repaired While-U-Wait

Peter McNamara Convenors Award: this special award was presented to Jack Dann for his incredible lifetime of achievement in the genre.

This was the first year that prizes were awarded for best collection, anthology and illustrated book/graphic novel.

Fantastic Queensland chairman Damon Cavalchini announced that 2010 would be the last year that FQ would host the awards as their contract with awards founders Chimaera Publications will expire, and a new team to organise the awards for 2011 and onwards is needed.

Happy birthday, Edgar Allan Poe

January 19, 2009, is the 200th anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s birth. And what a talent he was, with a life so tragic and twisted and mysterious even that continues to tantalise, as if his incredible oeuvre was not enough.

To find out more about dear old Edgar, check out this site which not only has an extensive bio, but most if not all of his works available to read online.

And while I’m lamenting lost talents, it’s worth a second moment of introspection for Vincent Price, who played so many roles based on Poe’s work and gave them a certain, haunted, insane, camp rendition.

Gentlemen, I owe you one.

Gary Numan

gary numan album jagged

gary numan album jagged

Electronic music pioneer Gary Numan is coming to Australia for only the second time in his 30-year career. Yep, we’re excited 🙂 Readers of a certain vintage or particularly astute young’uns might know him from hits Cars and Are Friends Electric?. Numan’s enjoyed a resurgence of interest in his catalogue in recent years, thanks in part to some dark, heavy albums.

I had the good fortune to talk with Numan about his return to popularity, but here’s a choice quote about the appeal of electronic music that didn’t make the cut:

“I’m a massive fan of guitars and drums and use them on my albums, but with technology it’s about the very sound itself. I can spend days and days just making the sound. It’s another level of music most people don’t go into. Sound creation is the most rewarding and most exciting thing I do. It’s a great sense of pride for me … to make an album with 40-50 sounds that no one’s ever heard before is very exciting. I could listen to sound effects tapes all day. I think if I wasn’t making music I could work as a sound effects engineeer.”

Numan plays Brisbane’s gorgeous Tivoli on March 2.

angel of deception

(or, excuse me, but is that guano in your eye)

We were visiting Lutwyche cemetery recently and noticed this impressive angel, like something out of a Hammer Horror movie given her diaphonous gown, and she seemed to be crying!

angel crying in lutwyche cemetery

angel crying in lutwyche cemetery











On closer inspection, however, it turned out that, what from a distance appeared to be brilliant tear tracks, were in fact not-so-brilliant bird poo. Oh well. She does have spooky eyes, though!

crying angel close-up

crying angel close-up

voices in my head

After months of nothing, finally this week I wrote something. Something fictional. Creative, even. And it felt *good*. For the first time since, hm, September maybe, I’ve got voices in my head unveiling their lives to me, piece by piece, and I’ve got more than seven pages of notes and assorted scene grabs to show for it. Not a lot, but it’s a start, a blessed start. I hadn’t realised how lonely I was without them, these people in my head. I don’t know where they come from but I’m sure glad they’re back.

I think perhaps we all need downtime. A recent article brought this home to me, the importance of giving oneself permission to do nothing. To recharge and revitalise. And then there’s this piece from Cory Doctorow in Locus about maximising writing time amid the distractions. Great advice, especially the bit about leaving something for tomorrow, leaving something for you subconscious to niggle at while you do other things. Resting included.

I figure a little bit of crop rotation in the fertile fields of the mind can’t hurt.

Now I should go write something. The voices are calling.

Star Wars Lego

A friend’s son produced this stop-animation Star Wars using Lego. I think it’s pretty darn cool. Especially since Thomas is only 10. Watch out, George Lucas!

You can see some of Thomas’s earlier works at his YouTube channel.

Oh, and then there’s this: A trailer for Dark Knight, probably my favourite flick from 08, done in Lego.

author readings

sean williams and margo lanagan

sean williams and margo lanagan

Good news received today is that some of the tutors in Brisbane for the Clarion South workshop will also be doing readings.

The list is:

  • Sean Williams, Thursday, January 15, 6:30pm
  • Margo Lanagan, Sunday, January 25, 3pm
  • Jack Dann, Thursday, January 29, 6:30pm
  • Kelly Link & Gavin Grant, Thursday, February 5, 6:30pm
  • These all take place at Avid Reader Bookstore, 193 Boundary Street, West End.