Dreaming in the Dark: seeing the light in Brisbane

dreaming in the dark

A reminder, friends: I’m chuffed to be attending the Brisbane launch of the Dreaming in the Dark anthology, edited by Jack Dann and published by UK-based PS Publishing. Still gotta pinch myself when I look at the contributors to this epic tome of Aussie speculative fiction.

So yes, it’s worth a party with contributors (edited to add more — huzzah!) Veny Armanno, Paul Brandon, Kirstyn McDermott, Angela Slatter, Janeen Webb, Kim Wilkins and me in attendance; Paul and Sarah Calderwood will provide some musical atmosphere; Jack will do his thing; the book will be launched and you’ll be able to get your copy signed by a third of the contributors in one fell swoop!

Please join us, at Dymocks Brisbane in Albert St, on Thursday 8 December from 6pm. It’s free, but RSVPs are being taken here.

Dreaming in the Dark: shining a light on Australian speculative fiction

dreaming in the darkThis is an exciting anthology of Australian speculative fiction. Back in 1998, Jack Dann and Janeen Webb put together Dreaming Down Under, an anthology that helped shine a light on the speculative fiction talent in Australia. Then, in 2010, Jack revisited the field in Dreaming Again: 35 yarns, of which I was privileged to have contributed one. And now he’s combined with PS Publishing to produce a new taster of established and up-and-coming writers: Dreaming in the Dark. Check out the contributors list below! Here’s the link to order this gorgeous tome. Launches are in the works, but why not get your order in while it’s hot? The signed, slipcased editions are limited to 200 and they look pretty darn fancy.

Introduction: Welcome to the Golden Age: an Introduction of Sorts
JACK DANN

Sing, My Murdered Darlings
SEAN WILLIAMS

Falling Angel
PAUL BRANDON

Martian Triptych
JAMES BRADLEY

Northerner’s Farewell
RJURIK DAVIDSON

Midnight in the Graffiti Tunnel
TERRY DOWLING

A Right Pretty Mate
LISA L. HANNETT

Eromon No More
JASON NAHRUNG

Luv Story
KIM WESTWOOD

The Luminarium Tower
SEAN MCMULLEN

Neither Time Nor Tears
ANGELA SLATTER

His Shining Day
RICHARD HARLAND

The Liquid Palace
ADAM BROWNE

Heat Treatment
VENERO ARMANNO

Snowflakes All the Way Down
ROSALEEN LOVE

Served Cold
ALAN BAXTER

The Dog Who’d Been Dead
ANNA TAMBOUR

Fade to Grey
JANEEN WEBB

All Those Superpowers and What Are They Good For?
GARTH NIX

Burnt Sugar
KIRSTYN MCDERMOTT

In Hornhead Wood
KIM WILKINS

Moonshine
SIMON BROWN

Good things come in threes

Herewith, three groovy recent outings that put a smile on my dial:

totes80s21. Totally 80s. Sure, the tour is well over now, but I enjoyed this greatest hits parade far more than I thought I would. Great to see Real Life’s David Sterry, for starters; Wa Wa Nee brought the keytar; Katrina of the Waves rocked out. The main draw, though, was ticking off a bucket list item to finally see Berlin‘s Terri Nunn in action. The set list for Berlin: No More Words, Metro, Masquerade, Animal (yes, still making vibrant music!), Dancing in Berlin, Take My Breath Away, Sex (I’m a). Such a happy vibe, I was smiling from the moment the second song of the night, Safety Dance, got the crowd grooving.

2. Ghostbusters. The remake. Seen it twice now and it’s very cool. The climax feels a little pedestrian (maybe that was just the echo of the original) but to see these four women work together so capably — not an arse shot in the whole movie — is such a delight. Sign me up to the Holtzman fan club. I like what the flick said and how it said it and I had a lot of fun at the same time. Neat cameos, too.


 
3. Pokemon Go. I blame/thank my wife. She loaded it on my phone. And then I went to the city and saw the augmented reality overlay the game provides and it was, like, wow. And then last night we’re parking (because Ballarat turned on the wind machine) and we’re surrounded by other people parking because there are three PokeStops with lures and the critters are spawning like crazy and it’s fun and it’s kind of communal fun — I haven’t seen that much life in that street on a Monday night ever. I also like that public art and graffiti and historic sites are PokeStops so these sites are drawn to your attention. How much attention you pay as they spin and disgorge goodies and critters is up to you.

Anyway. Today is a day to consider some good things and share the word. May you too count good things.

In Your Face – speculative fiction with bite!

in your face anthologyIn Your Face, an anthology of confronting speculative fiction from FableCroft Publishing, will soon be in the wild (next month!)! This volume contains 22 stories from some of Australia’s biggest hitters in the genre (Sean Williams, Kaaron Warren, Angela Slatter and more!), as well as some lesser known writers such as myself, and they’re packing a punch.

Says a review in Aurealis, “some of these stories are confronting, even shocking in the subjects they tackle head-on … In Your Face is a truly rewarding and affecting experience”.

My yarn, A House in the Blue, is a reaction to the shitful health policies championed by the thankfully dead Abbott government (we note the Turnbull government’s similarity to its predecessor) and is no doubt all too familiar to readers in the United States. It is set in the climate-change affected future Brisbane introduced in 2014’s Watermarks. The sad thing about my story is that I think I’ve underplayed the situation, but I guess only time will tell.

There is a Goodreads contest running until June 30 offering a free copy, or you can read more here (or preorder at the online bookstore of your choice, pretty much). The countdown continues!

Aurealis Awards finalists announced

aurealis awards logoThe Aurealis Awards for Australian speculative fiction will be awarded on Good Friday, March 25, in Brisbane as part of the national science fiction convention, Contact. Tickets are now on sale (with, apparently, convention members to get a discount).

It’s a pretty cool event, bringing the community together, and being held as part of the convention should mean extra vibe as well as, one hopes, a packed room. (It’s great to see the awards organisers in WA and the nat con collaborating this way, especially since there is the Swancon convention in Perth also at Easter.)

The finalists were announced yesterday, with several new categories, one of the most exciting being the Sara Douglass Book Series Award. The list of finalists is here (note: my wife is in there!). There’s a bucket of cold water for the horror novel category — I know, sad! the judges’ comments will make interesting reading on that one!* — but elsewhere a pretty darn strong field of contenders.

Just making it to the short list is a big achievement, so congratulations all — let’s party!


*I’m hoping for a tie between Lisa Hannett’s Lament for the Afterlife and Trent Jamieson’s Day Boy because both these rock in their own way. Read them regardless!

Aurora: Earth is a spaceship too

aurora by kim stanley robinsonAurora (Orbit, 2015) by Kim Stanley Robinson is named after a planet on which humanity hopes to found a colony; it’s a long way away, so far it’s a multi-generational voyage in a time without fancy stasis chambers. Instead, the spaceship, simply called ship, is composed of biomes representing different terrain types on Earth, big enough for lakes, glaciers, forests, critters of all kinds. Maintaining the balance of inputs and outputs necessary for agriculture — for life — occupies much of the humans’ time, in cooperation with a quantum computer. Starvation is never far from the horizon. It’s a delicate see-sawing balance, both scientifically and socially.

Things don’t go to plan, of course. And while I can’t reveal too much, it’s not spoiling things to say the colonists have decisions to make about the best way forward — or backward, even.

The first section, detailing the trip and the travails to Tau Ceti, is told in the third person centred on a young girl, Freya. The central story is narrated by the computer, allowing a great deal of info dumping — mostly painless — leavened with humour as the AI grows. It also allows scope for commentary on human foibles, one of the delights of the story. The final scenes are again in our protagonist’s viewpoint, reflecting on Freya’s experience, on the space program, on humanity.

There is a singular moment, a single line of description relating to ship, that defines the power of KSR’s prose, but I can’t repeat it here, because spoiler. It is beautiful, poignant, pragmatic, elegant. It made me love this book.

This is the first KSR book I’ve read — I know, I know — but based on this, it won’t be the last. Note even dubious amounts of repetition in the text can overshadow the deft handling of technical terms and processes; the sheer imagination that manages, mostly, to keep humanity at its centre, even when ship is narrating at some emotional distance.

KSR has something to say, and for the most part he says it well.

For me, Aurora is not just a superbly unromantic story of space colonisation, but also an allegory — would ship agree, I wonder, given its interest in metaphor and the like? Hell, maybe it’s not even — best summed up by this translation of a poem that captures the attention of two characters, talking to how we need to look after this world as man-made climate change threatens to radically change our biome, how we are ‘kleptoparasites’, stealing from our descendants:

‘There’s no new world, my friend, no
New seas, no other planets, nowhere to flee–
You’re tied in a knot you can never undo
When you realise Earth is a starship too.’

  • A review copy of Aurora was provided by the publisher. You can read an excerpt here.
     

  • Sense8: feeling the love

    sense8 posterThe Netflix show Sense8 has been called slow and clumsy, but for me, it’s a must-see.

    The globe-trotting 12-episode first season marks a coming together of Babylon 5 maestro J Michael Straczynski and the Wachowski siblings, who upped the action ante with The Matrix.

    It tracks the lives of eight people who are psychically linked, the link activated by the death of a character played by Daryl Hannah.

    They are, briefly:

  • A Kenyan with a Jean Claude Van Damme fixation running a bus in Nairobi and trying to make enough money to buy life-saving medication for his HIV-infected mother
  • A DJ in London, who runs afoul of criminals and returns to her native Iceland
  • A safe cracker in Berlin who didn’t get on with his dad, at all
  • A banker in Seoul who also specialises in martial arts, a good outlet for the frustration of being a daughter in a son’s world
  • A scientist in Mumbai who prays to Ganesh and is engaged to the perfect man, but does not love him, despite sharing a tendency to break into Bollywood
  • A macho actor in Mexico City, trying to hide the fact he is gay for fear of damaging his career
  • A Chicago cop whose dad is also a cop, haunted by a problematic case
  • A San Francisco trans woman, whose mother insists on calling her Michael still and is well versed in hacking and blogging.

    There is also an enigmatic sensate who is able to offer some oversight and insight of their predicament.

    Some, admittedly, are more interesting than others. Each has their own concerns, some seemingly more potentially lethal than others, but all are gradually pulled into a communal fight for survival nominally against a scientific cabal looking to restrict their freedom.

    Only Kala in India still has, it appears, interaction with both parents. Many have lost a parent; several have siblings. Only two have supportive partners, neither of whom are hetero (not including Kala’s fiance). Attraction blooms among some in the group, but all feel it — they feel more or less everything, in fact, although the why and the when is a little muddy.

    The acting is superb, which helps maintain interest as the story takes its own delicious time to introduce its cast and its concept. And the production shows an impressive use of resources and editing as the characters share feelings and sensations across the globe, cross-inhabiting each other’s beautifully, indulgently shot locations. Characters share an orgy at one point, but also combat, fast cars (there is a San Francisco fight-chase sequence that is remarkable as the sensates lend a hand), and the simple pleasure of a piano recital.

    This latter brings to stark relief one of the highlights of this show, and the reason that, despite the blips, I’ll be lining up for season 2: not since Treme have I been affected by such displays of honest emotion — such empathy. As my wife noted when we were talking about this, when was the last time we saw a male character cry unabashedly out of sheer joy?

    Sense8 should win awards for editing, for sure; a well as the shared-space scenes, the transitions between scenes is often deft. But it’s the pleasure of the slow immersion, the unveiling of story and character, and that pure emotion that has me hooked. It will be interesting to see if it is, like Treme, as affecting on rewatching. For now, though, bring on season 2.