In 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!
Here are the covers for the ‘Vampires in the Sunburnt Country’ duology: Blood and Dust* and The Big Smoke, courtesy of Clan Destine Press.
And look what happens when you put them side by side on the shelf — VROOM!
The books should be hitting the road in paperback and digital in June. That’s not long, is it!
* But what do I mean, Kevin rides again? Well, Blood and Dust was released back in 2012 as a digital-only title, but CDP have ridden to the rescue to make it and its follow-up corporeal as well as ethereal. Sweet.
As part of the National Year of Reading, the Our Story program set out to select one text from each state and territory to fly the flag for a reading campaign. Six titles were shortlisted for each; the winners were announced earlier today.
Queensland’s book is The White Earth, by Andrew McGahan, and it’s a cracker story. It riffs off the Mabo land rights decision and the incredible fear and uncertainty in rural Australia about the right to continue to live on and work land that had, in some instances, been in the same family for several generations. A lot of terra nullius talk, a lot of right wing clap trap, some very real concerns.
McGahan draws on his childhood in setting the piece on the Darling Downs, where a young boy and his widowed mother come to live on their grandfather’s property, there to see the politics of the era played out and to uncover some unsettling family truths harking back to the days of white occupation and settlement.
The other finalists in the Queensland selection were:
Affection, by Ian Townsend (Townsville, 1900, the plague, a social scandal)
Brisbane, by Matthew Condon (one in a series of capital city ‘biographies’)
Ticonderoga has announced that its mammoth collection of Australian vampire stories, Dead Red Heart (including my rural gothic yarn ‘Children of the Cane’), is now available to pre-order online. It is due to hit shelves in April-May. It will also be available through online bookstores including Amazon.
I noticed that the forthcoming paranormal romance anthology, More Scary Kisses (with my first published foray into erotica, ‘Resurrection in Red’), also due out in April-May, is also available to pre-order. This is the first time that Kirstyn and I have had stories in the same original anthology — hers is much creepier!
Aurealis releases a set of “classic Australian SF” novels (published originally 1880s-1930s; I suspect the SF is speculative fiction rather than pure science fiction) with introductions by some of the today’s best talent.
And Macabre, a door-stopper of a volume that showcases Australian horror stories from yore to now. Due out in September.
First, the good news: Australian horror movie The Loved Ones looks very good. Nice effects, effective acting — I really enjoyed Lauren McLeavey’s psycho killer Lola — and some wicked camera work (there’s a gorgeous shot, coming out of a cellar, with mirror ball highlights moving across the ceiling). Special effects were on the money.
It’s a high school horror drama, set in regional Victoria, in which, as you will gather from the trailer, a side-lined girlfriend gets even with the help of her good ol’ dad (best line: this one’s for the Kingswood!), while the victim’s girlfriend is left to pine and his best buddy gets it on with the self-destructive goth girl (sigh).
Note that the core plot ie boy being tortured, and the secondary plot ie sex with goth girl, have little to do with each other.
And therein lies the rub. The connection between the characters and even the scenes in this flick just don’t add up. Just what kind of movie are we watching here — high school drama, family grief drama, edgy comedy, sicko horror? I’m sure I was laughing at the wrong times for all the wrong reasons, here.
There is so little development of character — here is the guilt-ridden hero, feel sorry for him; here is the patient girlfriend, cheer for her; here is light relief in good-hearted side-kick and here is the total outsider who, in some strange act of self-humiliation, deigns to date the class loser for the night of the formal (I think the reason that she’s goth, or maybe emo, I can’t tell after a certain age these days without hearing the music, is because she HAS SUFFERED LOSS: hence the fashionable black, the drugs, the booze, the screwing). (Nice girl Holly gives blow jobs, but they’re for the good of others.)
Lola the psycho could’ve been fascinating, but sadly she’s psycho from the moment the light goes green and has nowhere else to go. I really wanted to know her, her and her dad, and how it had come to this, but nup, it was all power drills and emotional power plays. Oh, and there’s a quasi-zombie moment.
The movie could’ve been fascinating: a history of disappearances, guilt-addled and grief-stricken dysfunctional families, and some really cool defensive driving lessons were all on the cards here, but alas, style held all the aces.
Anyway, it’s a solid little slice and dice if you’re up for seeing some people suffer, even if it is short on logic and lacking in give-a-damn, and the actors do a great job with what they’ve got. And it really does look very good.
Oh dear. And it seemed like such a good idea at the time. The vampires have taken over the world and established a night-time society, sadly seemingly stuck in much the same pattern of commerce as ours, but alas, they’ve literally drained their food supplies to the point of extinction (humans be warned: this could happen to you). It’s a race: to track down the last humans, to synthesise a blood replacement, or find a cure. At the end of the day, the future of the planet actually comes down to corporate greed. The leeches!
Daybreakers fails to deliver on its promise. Once the story starts and people start talking, it quickly turns into a bloody mess. Maybe that’s me looking for a shiny new take on vampirism when all that was ever on offer was just more schlock hanging off a neat idea. Nothing wrong with schlock, mind you; it’s just, I wanted more from this. I’m not sure why.
The Spierig brothers’ previous movie, Undead, was gloriously schlocky, even with aliens, and I loved it. So maybe I shouldn’t have expected this to be any different.
But, what the hell is with the bats? I haven’t seen such horrible effects since Hammer Horror (hurray, back online and makin’ movies!) dangled a stuffed one on wires and jigged its wings about. The bats, flitting about both night and day and glorying in swooping the camera, were inappropriate, cheap, tacky.
And where was the logic? Does not drinking human blood make vampires turn into primal bat-things, or doesn’t it? If vampires can survive on pigs’ blood a la Nick Knight, then why don’t they? Why does mixing blood with your coffee (just coffee, we presume, the only foodstuff on-screen – viscera notwithstanding) make it palatable? Why does Ethan (and his little heart-monitoring do-hickeys) not burn but Willem gets toasty scarred? Why does throwing gratuitous buckets of blood and hosting cannibalistic frenzies (really blurring the line between vampire and zombie, there, lads) make boys coo with glee?
And isn’t it a sad day, really, when you have to (presumably to secure funding) throw some weird-arse colour filter over your lens to try to disguise the fact you shot your movie in Australia, not the US of A. Location was hardly a factor in the plot, so why force the crap accents on otherwise wonderful actors? Admittedly, I was familiar with a hell of a lot of the scenery in Daybreakers, it being filmed around my former hometown, but I’m still scratching my head about the massive Moreton Bay fig having pride of place on a ridge somewhere in Nowheresville, USA.
Stupid lookouts who get surprised in daytime when they’re standing in the middle of a massive open space with 360-degree visibility; humans who simply must charge around in convoys at night; a seemingly endless stream of last-minute saves by the handy off-screen ally. And even in 2019 we’re still trying for the (presumably) heart shot with a crossbow. Oh God. And did I mention the bats??
I’m sorry, but ‘because it looks cool’ is not a sufficient answer.
So, Daybreakers for me is a B-grade vampire movie, maybe flitting down around the C+ level, which puts it on a par with the rest of the Aussie crop. Sigh.
[Addendum: What I liked about Daybreakers: the concept; the visualisation of the vampire society; the fact that being a vampire didn’t automatically make everyone a martial arts expert; no wire work; female lead Claudia Karvan not being made into some kind of sex-glamour-combat heroine (but she gets jumped twice, dude, so a little nous might’ve been nice); that the hero’s brother has the actual hero’s arc; Sam Neill]
Here, have some decent bats, care of a certain Nick Cave and his Birthday Party. And someone pass me a copy of Near Dark and a bottle of red. Cheers.
With Daybreakers about to hit the big screens, here’s a quick round-up of other Australian vampire movies:
Barry McKenzie Holds His Own, 1974. Directed by Bruce Beresford. Stars Barry Crocker, Barry Humphreys and Donald Pleasance.
: Barry, reprising his role from The Adventures of (1972), must save Dame Edna Everage from European Count von Plasma.
Bloodlust, 1992. Directed by Jon Hewitt and Richard Wolstencroft. Stars Jane Stuart Wallace, Kelly Chapman and Robert James O’Neill. Windhover Productions. [Videorecording: VHS]
: A low-budget vampire heist flick with cult appeal (banned in the UK) in which quasi vampires encounter gangsters and religious extremists on the streets of Melbourne.
Outback Vampires, 1987. Directed by Colin Eggleston. Stars Richard Morgan, Angela Kennedy and Brett Climo. Somserset Films. [Videorecording: VHS].
: A quasi-comic take along the lines of Rocky Horror Picture Show in which three travellers find themselves hosted by vampires in an isolated mansion near a decrepit outback town.
Thirst, 1979, directed by Roy Hardy. Stars Chantal Contouri and Shirley Cameron. FG Films. [Videorecording: DVD, Umbrella].
: The descendant of Elizabeth Bathory is seduced by a blood-drinking cult using brainwashing techniques, causing hallucinatory footage.
This list of movies is taken from a survey I made of Australian vampire stories published before 2007. It’s comprehensive but not complete. Additions are welcome.
The finalists for Australia’s premier speculative fiction awards, the Aurealis Awards, have been announced on the website.
Great to see some new names in the mix as well as the stalwarts, and Brisbane’s Peter Ball running for the greatest over-achiever award with his swag of nominations.
The winners will be announced in Brisbane on January 23, which will mark the end of Fantastic Queensland’s tenure as hosts of the awards. No word yet on who will be taking over the prestigious but invidious task.