This awesome review is about all I need to see of New Moon, methinks.
I’ve always though the Big Brother artificial reality shows were daft, but finally, here they are in a context I can appreciate. The Brits have done a gorgeous job of setting up a bunch of BB cast and crew (some real, such as host Davina McCall) caught up in a zombie apocalypse in Dead Set. It’s gritty, visceral viewing, well crafted and superbly acted, and very clever. And in true British fashion, short and sweet and to the point. Tasty indeed! Here’s a trailer.
Courtesy of The Guardian, two weird things that aided my procrastination today:
1. A Peruvian gang, labelled after a homicidal mythical critter called a Pishtaco, has been accused of killing people and draining their fat for use in cosmetics. Read it here.
2. And secondly, a YouTube clip, below, (“It’s even got a Spandau-style sax solo while the video features a gorgeous Edie Sedgwick-alike who appears to be dancing to a completely different song.”) uncovered by 80s-lovin’ Sean Williams. The Guardian has this cool article about the Manchester band, Hurts, who are solidly set in the 1980s. Ah… the haircuts, the synths, the dance… I say again, ahhhh.
While in New Orleans in October, I was asked by the Aussie ABC Online to offer some thoughts on the popularity of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga and the state of the vampire mythos today. The article has appeared here, in a preview of the latest movie’s opening.
If ever there was a city in which to talk vampires, it’s New Orleans, or at least the French Quarter, with its uneven, gas-lit sidewalks and classic architecture, and the legacy of Anne Rice never too far away.
Meanwhile, my local cinema is filled with Twilight posters, standees and even a merchandise table that includes, I kid you not, an umbrella for $50. Can someone please make it stop now?
Fortunately, as some kind of counterbalance, however unbalanced that balance might be, there are shows such as Being Human: cleverly scripted, well acted, an engaging take on the supernatural trying to co-exist with the mundane. The premise sounds a little like a gag — a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost all live in this house and… — but it’s not a laughing matter. Think Ultraviolet in a sharehouse. Yummy. Maybe there’s hope after all… even if it doesn’t have a brolly.
Here’s a taste, about how the show approaches its bloodsuckers:
And a trailer for Ultraviolet, truly superb viewing if you can get your hands on the series.
The good folks at Brimstone Press have announced the table of contents for their latest volume of Australian dark fantasy and horror, collected from the 2008 crop, and — big smile — my story, “Smoking, Waiting for the Dawn” (one of several to be included from Dreaming Again), is in there. It’s rubbing shoulders with some mighty good yarns:
“The Last Great House of Isla Tortuga” by Peter M. Ball
“The Claws of Native Ghosts” by Lee Battersby
“Pale Dark Soldier” by Deborah Biancotti
“Heere Be Monsters” by John Birmingham
“Teeth” by Stephen Dedman
“Her Collection of Intimacy” by Paul Haines
“A Guided Tour in the Kingdom of the Dead” by Richard Harland
“Moments of Dying” by Robert Hood
“Just Us” by Pete Kempshall
“Painlessness” by Kirstyn McDermott
“The Casting Out” by Miranda Siemienowicz
Cool news to come from the Armada gig at the East Brunswick Club last night: Jeff Martin, Canadian songwriter of note, previously of Ireland, has landed in Australia as a full-time resident. Although the travelling troubadour said he didn’t know just how much time he’d get to spend here.
The gig itself, being recorded, was damn fine, although the amount of inane crowd chatter during and between songs could be a headache for the final cut.
Martin, with Wayne Sheehy on percussion and Jay Cortez on bass (and other bits ‘n’ bobs, such as mandolin and harmonica), was in fine fettle for the two-hour performance in a hot, cramped venue offering superb sound. Seated mid-stage throughout in black shirt and jeans, he paraded a host of instruments during the night, including a hurdy gurdy, esraj, oud (won in a Cairo poker game) and theremin, as well as mainstay Gibson guitars, a classic Les Paul and an Australian-made 12-string.
The set list, similar to last year’s tour with familiar banter, ranged from Tea Party favourites such as Sister Awake and The Bazaar, to his signature solo tune, The Kingdom (album review here), again dedicated to Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires, and Armada tunes. He again offered crafty blends of NIN’s Hurt and Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart, and Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love.
One highlight was Coming Home, given extra gusto by his announcement of a move to Oz, and the closing encore song, Black Snake Blues, with Cortez on slide guitar.
In Sheehy and Cortez, Martin has found ideal complements, and, combined with the regularity of his touring, must bode well for the Armada’s future. Or so I hope.
In her acceptance speech at the World Fantasy Awards ceremony this year, Margo Lanagan paid tribute to a blog post by fellow Aussie writer Justine Larbalestier about how to write a novel. Given I’m meant to be doing just that at the moment (writing a novel, that is), I looked up that post, and found it helpful indeed. Here it is. I’ve used the spreadsheet tracking method and it’s uncomfortably illuminating!
I also thought her expurgated version held quite a lot of truth.
Enjoy, and then get to it…
Two out of four ain’t bad, neh?
HarperCollins’ new spec fic imprint, Angry Robot, has released four books to launch itself, showing a wide scope. There’s Aussie Kaaron Warren’s Slights (which I’ve reviewed here previously), Chris Roberson’s Book of Secrets, Tim Waggoner’s Nekropolis and Lauren Beukes’ Moxyland.
Beukes, a South African, riffs off that country’s socio-political injustices with her near-future, Orwellian vision. The tale is told through the viewpoints of four characters, each giving an insight into different levels of that society: the rebels, the corporate ladder climbers, the celebrity blogger, and a dysfunctional artist caught up in the latest corporate skullduggery.
The story unfolds at a pedestrian pace and never really accelerates towards a climax, but the characters are effective and Beukes’ world is wonderfully drawn. The conclusion is gorgeous, for a cynic such as myself.
Unlike some others in the Angry Robot range, the text is delightfully clean of typos, perhaps thanks in part to Beukes’ background in journalism (ah, those heady days when sloppy work could be remedied by a whack to the back of the head with a Concise Oxford, or perhaps a tap with a Strunk & White).
Roberson, who I had the pleasure to meet at World Fantasy in San Jose and is a very cool guy, has delivered a story with many stories within it, a conspiracy tale involving a Biblical secret sought by nefarious, homicidal agencies. Into this is thrown a down-at-heel freelance journo with an unusual past — one that is proven to be even more unusual than he realises thanks to his own family mysteries.
This isn’t my kind of story at all, and its structure didn’t warm me to it. The pulp stories contained within the text didn’t need to be there (I’m sure others will love these homages), vying with interminable info dumps for causing the greatest urge to skim read, and the supernatural conclusion left me cold. As I said, not my kind of story, but I suspect those with an inclination towards The Da Vinci Code will find plenty here to entertain (and what a shame it is that that book has become the benchmark for this style of story).
Which leaves the most disappointing of the four, Nekropolis. A great idea is so quickly hamstrung by some clunky structure and an appallingly Hollywood ending reminiscent of the ugly denouement forced on Ridley Scott’s original Blade Runner. The protagonist is a former cop from Earth who has found himself turned into a zombie in a demon dimension. He has garnered a deep understanding of this bizarre world and its denizens, as well as forging a wide network of contacts of dubious moral worth. It’s a very cool world, filled with neat critters and a bunch of witches and vampires and shapechangers, all competing in a petty pissing contest for status. What wrecked the story for me were the logic potholes: an awful rewind moment regarding a set of lockpicks, a contradictory solution to an ensorcelled door, and a hugely underplayed and slightly farcical showdown with a nemesis. That the author signals that his major characters all survive undermines any suspense, and the aforementioned Blade Runner moment is the salt in the wound. It’s such a pity a little more care couldn’t have been taken, because the premise, and poor Matt the zombie cop, really have legs.
A small sigh of relief, thanks to Peter Garrett, the federal Environment Minister, who has rejected a Queensland Government proposal to build a massive dam near Gympie. The ABC reports on Garrett’s decision here. The dam was always a bottom shelf idea, dragged into contention during the state’s recent, dire drought. So why am I breaking my convention and mentioning political stuff on what is, nominally at least, a writer’s blog? Because Gympie was kind of my turf, way back when, and the thought of prime agricultural land being deluged by a dam that just didn’t add up in the efficiency and environmental stakes, made my blood boil. It must be a big relief for those affected, who haven’t been able to develop or plan for their properties under the shadow of the flood. I wonder what happens now to the land already bought to make way for the dam?
It has been a hell of a month, this October. So huge it spilled into November! Here’s why it’s been ages, well, more than a month, since I wrote on this blog:
We kicked off October on Bribie Island at our annual Edge Writers writing retreat, this year with Sean Williams and Alison Goodman as tutors. We were able to celebrate the news that our Paul Garrety has scored a two-book deal with HarperCollins, first one due out in 2011!
And brickbats to the Queensland Government for its plan to close the State-run complex, although there is hope whoever picks up the tender for the centre will continue to make it available to groups such as us. For the third year running, I had a manuscript staked out in the sun to burn after it failed the worldbuilding test. On the bright side, I did finish a very rough novella set — surprise — on an island. This is my backup story, the one I write only on the island after all else has failed.
After Bribie, my beloved Kirstyn McDermott and I flew to New Orleans, where we had an awesome week. Highlights:
My old friend from Canada joining us for a long weekend of merriment Lunch at the Green Goddess, where I’m very happy to report the ‘mezze of destruction‘ is still on the menu. Dinner at Irene’s, where we were shouted a drink because of the length of our wait — the place is popular, and no wonder, given the excellent service and food. A memorable dinner at my favourite restaurant, The Court of Two Sisters. Hanging out over superb bloody marys at the Pirates Alley Cafe, where absinthe is a specialty. Gospel brunch at the House of Blues. Catching some sets with Big Al Carson at the Funky Pirate (and getting a shark attack from the Tropical Isle next door).
From New Orleans (more pictures here), we caught a Carnival cruise ship, the Fantasy, for a quick voyage to Progreso and Cozumel in Mexico. Out of Progreso we took a bus tour to Uxmal, a superb set of ruins I’d visited on a previous visit to Mexico. In Cozumel, where, very disappointingly a tour to Tulum wasn’t on offer (wonderful beachside ruins), we went snorkelling on three dive spots and saw lots of fish. Some pictures are here.
I don’t mind cruising as a stress-free way of covering some miles and relaxing. It’s nice to be waited on once in a while, eh? Even though the focus on the casino and the bingo is a tad sad, and the buffets can be case studies of gluttony. I was impressed with the efficiency of embarkation — US domestic airlines could learn something there — and was happy to fork out for a behind-the-scenes tour of how the ship works, including tours of the galleys, bridge, engine control room and soforth.
Back in New Orleans, we had time for a Lucky Dog and a bloody mary before heading to the airport and San Francisco.
SF is a grand city, and while it doesn’t have the atmosphere of the French Quarter (where does?), it is a relaxed and pleasant city for visitors. We bought a week-long passport for the public transport system and hopped buses, cable cars and street cars all week, visiting Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, a Tutankhamun exhibit at deYoung and hitting the wharves. We also got out of town, hitching a bus to Muir Woods and arty Sausilito, and the Winchester Mystery House. The latter is well worth the effort, with its amazing staircases to nowhere, chimneys that don’t reach the roof, doors that open on to walls, and so on…
We also saw a local musical about a zombie attack that used Ozzy Osbourne as a deus ex machina of sorts — brilliant — and saw the movie Zombieland (light, fun, flawed) and caught an awesomely fun gig by Emilie Autumn. Sadly, a trip to a bayside music venue resulted in an annoyingly smug performance by a semi-rockabilly dude (who did do a very fun, very fast version of Sweet Home Alabama that foxed those dancing to the Yankee classic) and a debilitating case of suspected food poisoning for Kirstyn.
From San Francisco we caught the Caltrain, and what a sweet deal that is with its double-decker cabs, to San Jose, to attend the World Fantasy Convention. Aussie superstar Garth Nix, as far removed from acting like a superstar as you can get, was a guest of honour. I was chuffed to get to spread the good cheer that is Australian red wine amongst the guests at an Aussie party thrown by Garth and Sean Williams, with t-shirts designed by Cat Sparks. It was a fun bash, and I got to meet new faces and also renew some contacts made at last year’s WFC in Calgary.
Other highlights of the con were seeing Jeff VanderMeer throw stuffed toys at his launch party, hear Garth and others read Poe’s The Raven, enjoy the wit of Tim Powers (whose Anubis Gates is right up there on the awesome reads list, and has landed some Pirates of the Caribbean action), and see Aussies Shaun Tan and Margo Lanagan score World Fantasy awards at the banquet where we enjoyed the company of our fellow Aussies. (Check out Deborah Biancotti’s take on it here, and see Cat’s pix here)
Back in Australia, we picked up my car in Brisbane and drove highway 1 down the coast to Melbourne, taking five days including layovers with family. Driving highlights: Kiama’s foreshore, fish and chips at Bateman’s Bay, Lake’s Entrance, and the cemetery at Bega.
And now we’re back in Melbourne — home becoming, for this recent arrival from interstate — where the weather is warm and the coffee very fine. There’s a pile of mail on the table, more holiday pictures hitting Flickr as the mood takes me, and a plan to get some words down, sometime soon.
A quick w00t though: I got home to the news that the Federal Government has decided to retain the current copyright and import laws for books. Hurray!
And editor extraordinaire Ellen Datlow included my short story, “Smoking, Waiting for the Dawn”, from Dreaming Again, in her highly commended list that includes a bunch of Aussie talent. Happy dance!