Queensland newspaper The Sunshine Coast Daily has today published an article about Salvage, which is most gratifying. Here it is:
The author pic is by Kim Thomsen of Thomsen’s Photographic Gallery, Maryborough.
Queensland newspaper The Sunshine Coast Daily has today published an article about Salvage, which is most gratifying. Here it is:
The author pic is by Kim Thomsen of Thomsen’s Photographic Gallery, Maryborough.
Anna Funder’s acceptance speech, delivered by video, on winning the Miles Franklin award for All That I Am has received a lot of coverage of varying degrees, thanks in part to her sideswipe at Queensland Premier Campbell Newman’s cancellation of the state’s literary awards. She says,
Prizes like this one are important to writers, but they are not necessary: we would keep writing without them, as writers do in many countries where they are banned. But prizes are very important to the nation. They show that free speech is alive and unbeholden to government, or to media barons. And they provide signposts as to quality when it can be hard, in a bewildering topography of culture—high and low, in print and on-screen and in the fractured online world—to sort the enlightening and soul-feeding from the 50 Shades of momentarily gratifying.
You can read the full transcript here.
Meanwhile, Newman continues his bull-in-a-china-shop approach to Queensland’s social fabric, trying it appease the religious fanatics and arch neanderthals typified by Bob Katter’s turn-back-the-clock party while holding some thread of decency. The changes to the same-sex marriage laws and surrogacy laws he’s enacted are ludicrous and insulting and worthy of derison, the semantic game being played highlighting Funder’s point about the importance of literacy in a free-thinking society. A ‘registered relationship’ has overtones of vileness; the ACL need to understand their definition of marriage is neither exclusive nor universal, nor even accurate, nor even logical. A vocal minority should not be dictating government policy that has absolutely no impact on their quality of life. Newman has been praised for standing up to vocal minorities in the past; what a shame he didn’t have the fortitude to do the same here.
Neither logic nor compassion seem to have much of a home in Queensland these days. Maybe those wielding the stupid stick need to read more, and read more widely. As Funder says,
This fusing of mind and soul with strangers is what fiction, the art form that is most personal, most interior permits us. Fiction helps us understand what it might be like to be another. It makes us understand that we are different. And also, that we are the same.
My seaside Gothic Salvage was launched in a combined party held by the publisher, Twelfth Planet Press, at Continuum earlier in June, and as part of the celebration, Terri took it upon herself to make cupcakes for certain of the press’s titles: I think 13 all up. Terri lives in Perth. The convention was in Melbourne. She spent the best part of 12 hours in a hotel room decorating some 400 cupcakes. That’s not including the ones she left behind…
The madcap but ultimately delicious exercise is detailed at her blog, at which she details how to decorate a cupcake, or indeed a shortbread, with a beach theme fitting of a seaside Gothic. Coconut is the key!
Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s latest movie:
In other words, it’s as unsatisfying as the Creationism it appears to espouse. So bitterly disappointing in so many ways, the nicest thing I can find to say about it is that it looked nice. Ben Peek offers a more detailed analysis.
Me, I’m off to watch Alien, when Ridley knew how to tell a story with heart, and then Aliens, to be reminded how you can actually give a damn for a multi-character movie.
I love Meow Meow. She’s an awesome performer, fearlessly shattering the performance walls; stylish with a great voice, charismatic and opinionated, a kind of singing stand-up comedian with her ability to mix laughs and social commentary. She was guest last night at Glory Box, the latest production of Finucane and Smith, and the two-hour show was every bit as entertaining and provoking as last year’s Burlesque Hour.
Some of the pieces are repeats, all the better for another viewing: Salome’s unveiling, the balloon-bursting Queen of Hearts, the concluding Get Wet for Art that requires the front rows to shelter under brollies. There’s clever illusion — where does the naked woman hide that hanky? — and stunning trapeze and hoola hoop action; there are spraying apple pieces in keeping with the Eden/sin/Pandora theme, smooches, cross-dressing, the shattering of sexual identity preconceptions … and the thing that struck me at that other performance and again here, the simple joy of the female form, sans airbrushing, surgery and other unrealistic expectations. Writer Christos Tsiolkas contributes the script for a be-suited duet, ‘I Have a Confession’, a slap in the face of homophobia. And as before, the performers get out and about amidst the audience, packed into the basement level of the very cool fortyfivedownstairs.
Meow Meow’s ‘Down Dolly Down’ set encapsulates the political context perfectly, and her ‘Be Careful’/All the Girls with piano accompaniment is sheer class. That she pulls off such impact while, for example, rotating slowly on a lazy susan or lit by her own torch is all the more reason for applause.
Glory Box is a glorious romp indeed, with Jimi Hendrix, Portishead, Prince, Salt-N-Pepa on the playlist, and a message in the medium that is revealing in more ways than one.
This is the eighth book I’m reading as part of my list of 10 for the Australian Women Writers 2012 National Year of Reading Challenge.
by Jo Anderton
Angry Robot, 2011, ISBN: 978 0 85766 154 8
DEBRIS, by Joanne Anderton, was initially published in the UK in 2010, but I’ve read the US edition that followed a year later. So, that clarification out of the way, it’s a pretty fine debut novel from the Sydneysider.
The world is fascinating: one where the haves build things, power things, move things by manipulating matter in the form of pions, while the have nots are left with far more mundane methods of constructing and lighting their world. As with any economy, there is ‘waste’ matter: in the case of pions, there is debris — random matter that can interrupt the systems of pions and cause lights to go out, water not to heat, even buildings to become unstable. As there are highly regarded wielders of pions, there are scorned debris collectors — akin to nightsoil collectors.
This first person account is that of Tanyana, a highly skilled and talented architect, whose career takes a plunge for the worse when an outside force destroys her crowning glory, leaving her broken in body and unable to manipulate pions.
What begins as a study of a person who no longer finds themselves in the upper echelons of society, shunned by her peers and unable even to pay her rent, changes emphasis to a mystery as Tanyana discovers she’s also a gifted wielder of debris, set on a course to uncover a great social secret and a threat to the world.
The first volume of a series, Debris is a highly enjoyable tale in which Tanyana’s view of the social strata is rebuilt through her own experience with the under classes. Tanyana is convincingly drawn and likeable and her society is well described. The pion technology, melding with a Dickensian norm, is innovative and rather fetching, especially as the ‘silver’ in Tanyana’s body reacts to external threats with all the yummy visuals of Witchblade.
The second half lags a little as the conspiracy elements of the story overtake the more social aspects and the narrative drive falls a little short — my compulsion to get to the climax wasn’t great, but I was enjoying the world exploration and the unveiling mystery; I enjoy stories where the perception of history is at odds with the reality. A little vagueness in the description, the interruption of action scenes with dialogue and introspection, also served to slow the story in these crucial latter stages. While Tanyana’s arc here is satisfyingly self-contained, the underlying big-picture narrative hasn’t left me hungry to know what happens next.
Debris is a rewarding read, steeped in shadow and intrigue, and Anderton, through this and her highly regarded short fiction, has clearly pegged herself as an Aussie writer on the rise.
Read more about Joanne at her 2012 Snapshot
Last night, there was steak, seafood and Macbeth. It’s a winning combination, even if the play wasn’t quite as noms as the dinner.
Il Primo Posto is at Melbourne’s Southbank. It’s a welcoming space, unlike many of the corporate aquariums that line the river walk, given warmth and character by its mural wall, wooden shelves and dashing burgundy feature wall. The staff are efficient and friendly, and the food — the food is spot on in size, quality and price.
We got to the Arts Centre with the bell — not just the theatre bell calling us to our seats, but the Bell Shakespeare Company, performing my favourite work by the Bard, Macbeth.
The stage was set with turf and grass, suitably crunchy for adding to suspenseful creeping scenes, and a key feature was a reflective ceiling — it had a more dramatic effect farther back, I think, based on what I saw at intermission. Lighting was superb.
Among the highlights: Lady Macbeth, played by Kate Mulvany, and the beautifully balanced and passionate relationship with Macbeth; the sensation of spirit possession in the cleverly singular witch, Lizzie Schebesta; Macduff’s emotional speech on reception of news of his family’s death; the way in which dead Banquo exits the stage as the dinner scene is set up around him; the sex/violence dynamic between Macbeth and the witch. Great fake blood, too!
Some of the things that didn’t work quite so well for me: the truncated, even jumpy, second half, especially the absence of the scene explaining how it is that the woods can march; slow motion while actors deliver soliloquies; the confusion about whether the witch is still the witch when playing minor characters. Why keep Macduff’s family’s death scene but deny Lady Macbeth her post-dinner ramble?
One striking aspect of the play was the unexpected humour. There was an ironic, even Ocker, vein that elicited laughs in places one wouldn’t normally expect, while the one character often played for laughs — the gatekeeper — presented in part as quite dour. Lady Macbeth suffers a bout of hiccups, highly effective at beginning and end, but a tad disruptive in the midst of a heavy emotional monologue. And Macbeth himself, looking impish with a constant crouch and hunch and arms akimbo, at times more Rumpelstiltskin than tortured king, giving air to that jarring Aussie twang once in a while. The costumery was understated Australian, too, with the men’s uniforms of jeans and work shirts topped occasionally by formal blue military coats, and woollen jumpers to the fore.
This is another version that seems to put more weight on the role of the witch/es not just as oracles of fate but manipulators or even victims of it. I’m not convinced that reframing is required, given the sheer power of the tale about self-fulfilling prophecy.
It was a bold, even challenging production, and overall I enjoyed it, not just for what it did so very well — some wonderful scenes will linger for a long time indeed — but for what it dared to do. And kudos for programming Fever Ray for the departure song: a perfect beat to leave on after such a striking final moment.
It’s the afternoon after the four days that came before, and what a grand four days Continuum 8 offered. Held at Rydges in Carlton, where the bartenders were, as usual, outgunned by demand, the convention pulled together writers, publishers, readers and knitters (!) from around the country for the celebration of all things fantastical.
Twelfth Planet Press launched new titles by Kaaron Warren — a printing error has meant a recall for those who have already snaffled the enticing collection — and Margo Lanagan (officially hitting the shelves in August) and my novella Salvage (yay!). Keep an ear out for a podcast recorded at the beautifully laid out Embiggen Books(timber shelves! ladders! SECRET DOOR!) about the Twelve Planets series of collections. [update: the podcast is now available here]
There were panels on vampires, e-books, Australian writing and many other things; launches; parties; costumes; crafts; dinners on Lygon St; the nearest Japanese restaurant would’ve seen a pleasing surge in income. And there were awards, with Paul Haines and Sara Douglass both receiving posthumous accolades. A further highlight of the Ditmars was the squeaking octopii, given out as stand-ins when the actual awards failed to arrive in time.
Also awarded were the Chronos awards, recognising achievements by Victorian writers, artists and fans, and how pleasing it was to receive one for ‘best fan writer’. A lovely acknowledgement of my new address! And Kirstyn and co-host Ian Mond landed Ditmar and Chronos awards for their podcast, The Writer and the Critic. The awards lists are below.
So amidst the catching up, the memorials and general frivolity, a bittersweet announcement has been made: my wonderful boss, Kate Eltham, is leaving the Queensland Writers Centre to take the reins at next year’s Brisbane Writers Festival. Kate is a dynamic woman and talented writer who has made the QWC such an active organisation, reaching out across the state and the nation and overseas through various programs all aimed at not just keeping writers of all ilks in the loop but helping them to be part of the loops. It’ll be interesting to see what new ideas she brings to the BWF. This is great news for Kate and a real shift of gears, but I confess that I will sure miss her. Good luck with it, mate!
Peter McNamara Award: Bill Congreve
A. Bertram Chandler Award:Richard Harland
Norma K Hemming Award, TIE: Anita (AA) Bell for Hindsight; Sara Douglass for The Devil’s Diadem
And a new award, the Infinity:Merv Binns
Best Novella or Novelette
Best Short Story
Best Collected Work
Best Fan Writer
Best Fan Artist
Best Fan Publication in Any Medium
Best New Talent
William Atheling Jr. Award for Criticism or Review
Best Long Fiction: The Last Days of Kali Yuga, Paul Haines (Brimstone Press)
Best Short Fiction: ‘The Past is a Bridge Best Left Burnt’, Paul Haines (in The Last Days of Kali Yuga)
Best Fan Writer: Jason Nahrung
Best Fan Artist: Rachel Holkner
Best Fan Written Work: ‘Tiptree, and a collection of her short stories’, Alexandra Pierce (in Randomly Yours, Alex)
Best Fan Artwork: Blue Locks, Rebecca Ing (Scape 2)
Best Fan Publication: The Writer and the Critic, Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond
Best Achievement: Conquilt, Rachel Holkner and Jeanette Holkner (Continuum 7)
* It’s possible there might be a photo of me with a bottle of wine and a glass: I was pouring for other people. Honest.
ALISON Goodman has been writing and being published for almost 24 years. She began to get published in her second year of university – mainly feature articles and short stories – and her first novel came out in 1998: Singing the Dogstar Blues, a young adult science fiction thriller. It won the Aurealis Award for Best YA novel and was an ALA Best YA book. That was followed by her crime thriller, Killing the Rabbit, published originally in the USA, and which is now about to be re-released in print in Australia and as an e-book under the new title, A New Kind of Death.
Her latest two books are the fantasy duology Eon and Eona, which were New York Time Bestsellers and have been published in more than 18 countries and 10 languages. Eon (under its initial Australian title The Two Pearls of Wisdom) won the 2008 Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Novel and was also an ALA Best YA book and a James Tiptree Jr Honour Book.
This year, Alison has been contracted to write a new historical/supernatural series with publishers in the USA, Canada and Australia. The first book is due out in 2014.
YA SF, crime, Chinese-influenced fantasy … have you picked stories to best address certain themes, or are you just having a grand old time in all the diversity genre has to offer?
I suspect a bit of both. In terms of genre, I go where the story takes me. When I have the initial idea for a book or series, I take note of where it seems to fit in the genre market and think about the conventions of that genre. If some of them work for me, I’ll use them (either with or against the expectations). However, I don’t feel obliged to stick faithfully to the conventions or, indeed, to one genre. I do like to meld genres, which can bring a whole bucket load of problems with it but is a lot of fun to write.
In terms of themes within a novel, I usually find that I may start with an idea of a thematic line – developed from the plot and character – but find that other, stronger themes emerge as I write. Having said that, the thematic starting point is not usually the driving force for me in my writing process – I am more engaged by character and plot and these supply the passion that propel me. So, I don’t feel that I pick stories to write by the appeal of their themes. Still, it is not really possible to separate out those three elements – plot, character, and theme. They are so deeply entwined in the development of my fiction that at least some of each needs to be in place before I start writing.
Romantic plotlines, of varying degrees, operate under some level of mostly social pressure duress in your books, and happy endings are not guaranteed. In what ways is love, whether unrequited, doomed or conquering all, important to your storytelling?
I think it is more that desire is important to my storytelling, rather than love. That often includes the desire for love, but I think that is secondary to the desire for the ultimate goal of the main character, be it power as in the Eon duology or truth in A New Kind of Death (Clan Destine Press). Love is not the main goal of my characters, but it is almost always part of their motivation. How characters go about loving or seeking love is a fundamental building block of my characterisation. It is not the driving force of the main plot-line – that is the domain of romance fiction – but it is one of the elements that adds depth and universality to the characters, and provides sub-plots that support and add duress to the events in the main plot.
You’re in the midst of a research trip to Europe for your new series. Has anything you’ve unearthed been wonderfully surprising, the kind of thing where you just HAVE to use it in the books?
Yes, I came across a porcelain women’s urinal shaped like a lady’s slipper. In time of necessity in a crowded royal drawing room, it was slipped under one’s huge hooped court dress and clutched between the thighs! That is definitely going into my novel. However, I’m always wary of bunging in a bit of research because I like it. For me, research has to be at the service of the story and the fastest way to become a bore is to write pages of research detail and go off-story.
I recently read an article by James Wood in the on-line New Yorker about Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell novels, but it is also about writing good historical fiction. Wood writes that:
‘..what gives fiction its vitality is not the accurate detail but the animate one … novelists are creators, not coroners, of the human case’.
That really hit a chord with me. When I am researching, I look for those shining details that are going to give the flavour and energy of the time without weighing down my story…such as a urinal for women that is shaped like a shoe.
What Australian works have you loved recently?
This is where I shift uncomfortably and confess that I haven’t read much fiction lately because it has been all about researching my new series. My stack of fiction To-Be-Reads is huge, but I have just finished Garth Nix’s new book A Confusion of Princes which was magnificently inventive with a great, wry narrator and a lot of satisfying action. I’m also reading an advance copy of Kirstyn McDermott’s new novel Perfections, which is heart-achingly gorgeous. Mostly, though, I have been reading primary and secondary source research books, which sounds dry but is actually a lot of fun. And, as it happens, one of the most valuable research books I’ve come across so far has been by an Australian – Jennifer Kloester – who has written an excellent guide to the Regency era in Georgette Heyer’s Regency World.
What have been some of the biggest changes in Australian speculative fiction in the past two years since Aussiecon 4?
I think some of the biggest changes in Australian speculative fiction are the same changes that have been hitting all of publishing. What immediately comes to mind is the rise of the e-book and the crisis of the bookshop. The gathering force of the e-book is offering some great opportunities for authors – more control over backlists and a greater cut of the royalties – but as with all these new modes, it also brings challenges that often leave many behind. The demise of so many of our bookshops breaks my heart, and I sincerely hope that Australia does not follow in the footsteps of Britain and starts closing libraries too.
Another change that I think has particularly affected the speculative fiction market is the ‘phenomenon book’ such as Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games series. They can all be gathered under the banner of the speculative genre and, I think, have opened up new audiences to our work, and in fact, to the idea of reading for pleasure.
THIS is my final interview 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: the list of interviewees is here. You can also read the interviews at:
A gentle reminder — well, more of a whoop, really — that Salvage is about to be launch. A bottle of red cracked across the bow and sent out into the stormy waters of the marketplace for your — I hope — reading pleasure.
Tomorrow night’s launch at Continuum 8 in Melbourne is part of the Twelfth Planet Hour: a party to celebrate not just Salvage but the latest titles in the rather awesome Twelve Planets range of collections by Australian women writers: Kaaron Warren’s Through Splintered Walls and Margo Lanagan’s Cracklescape. You can schmooze with some of the other TPP authors, too. If that wasn’t enough there’s cupcakes, a juggler and a surprise announcement from the press … oo-err! The party kicks off at 7pm; entry to the convention is by gold coin donation today.
Can’t make it to the party, nor the convention but still want some seaside love-on-the-rocks with added vampire? Order Salvage at www.twelfthplanetpress.com, and/or enter the Goodreads giveaway for a chance to win a copy.
At Continuum, I’ll be:
It’s gonna be a grand weekend!