australian dark fantasy and horror, volume 4

australian dark fantasy and horror volume 4

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

More details here.

The Last Stormlord/Night’s Cold Kiss

Herewith two reviews of recently released Aussie novels, and a handy link to a very cool review site at The Guardian featuring Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol.


Last Stormlord

Glenda Larke, an Australian now living in Malaysia, has lived on four continents, but it is her experiences in arid Western Australia and Tunisia that appear to most inform The Last Stormlord (HarperCollins, $22.99), the first book of the Watergivers series.

Larke impressed with her breakout, big-publisher debut, The Aware, which I loved for its dystopian air and gorgeous world-building.

The Last Stormlord, a saga of an empire facing its demise, is set in a dry coastal realm bordered by mountains and desert where life revolves around the possession and acquisition of water.

Key to the survival of the city states is the Stormlord, the last of the line powerful enough to take water from the sea and send it inland to break in designated areas, bringing rain to the needy. Under the Stormlord is an aristocracy of lesser powered men and women with varying ability to manipulate water, physically moving it or even removing it from living creatures. This apparent magical power over the essential element has kept the status quo against the nomadic desert dwellers for centuries, but now that is changing. Political ambitions give sway to treachery and murder and the world is set for upheaval.

Caught up in this chaos are two teenagers, Shale and Terelle. Both possess considerable water powers of different ilks, and both find themselves being used as tools in political machinations. The star-crossed pair are given precious little time for adolescence.

Like a brewing storm, the story gains weight and power as it gathers momentum, the considerable cast rising to strike clear identities as ideals of honour and survival clash, and love lies bleeding. There are some gentle religious barbs along the way, too.

Larke’s world-building is a great strength of the story, the dryness and heat permeating the fabric of her society, with enough touches of the fantastic to excite the imagination. This, combined with a bloody climax, leaves the reader keen for the next instalment.

NightsColdKiss
Aussie writer Tracey O’Hara has enjoyed some happy hunting in the United States with Night’s Cold Kiss (HarperCollins, $19.99), her debut novel, the first of the three-book Dark Brethren series. Now the paranormal romance has been released in her home country.

Set primarily in New York, it covers familiar ground for those who enjoy paranormal romance, still one of the hottest of genres.

Antoinette Petrescu, deeply affected by the murder of her parents by a death-loving vampire called Dante, is a slayer of the undead, and an unnaturally gifted one at that. But a deadly conspiracy throws her into the path of the charismatic and filthy rich vampire Christian, and sparks erupt despite her best intentions.
Christian is an agent for a covert, quasi-government organisation that polices the paranormal community with a view to keeping an uneasy truce brokered years before between vampires and humans.

Now someone’s rocking the boat and Antoinette’s past is coming back to bite her – quite literally.

Planes, helicopters, fast cars and elegant upstate mansions all figure as Antoinette is exposed to the other side of vampire existence – she truly gets to see how the other half live as she meets Christian’s well-to-do vampire family and household staff.

Vampire society is well-described, with the usual dividing line between those who try to maintain a sense of humanity and those who embrace their inner beast, revelling in the kill and their otherness. There is enough insight into the realm of the shapechangers to suggest further exploration in coming books.

O’Hara hits all the right buttons for fans of the genre with her tale of desire, betrayal and revenge, providing a pacy and at times steamy adventure with a strong, lusty subplot. This makes up for the occasional lack of sparkle on the page and some haphazard editing as the story builds to a fittingly explosive climax, and overdrawn denouement to springboard the reader into book two.

Continuum, Slights from Angry Robots, and some vampires

So I’m in post-convention funk, short on sleep and strong on caffeine, a day back at work and wondering where the weekend went. The receipts tell some of the story: cabs, airlines, two dinners at a Chinese restaurant with lots and lots of chilli and an amazing capacity for seating and feeding 17 people at the drop of a hat, Japanese, innumerable coffees at the Lindt cafe and the State Library and that excellent sandwich bar in the Queen Victoria Building and other places besides…

Cat Sparks’ (as always) fun photo diary helps fill in some blanks, too.

So, the event was Continuum 5, held in the basement of the sprawling Mercure hotel complex in Melbourne, with Chelsea Quinn Yarbro as international guest of honour. She was rather grand, too. I enjoyed my vampire panel with her, and taking a new novel in the making for a walk during a reading session on the Sunday. I enjoyed meeting up with a bunch of folks from around the country, seeing Deb Biancotti launch her first anthology and Richard Harland steaming on with Worldshaker … and Kirstyn McDermott landed an award trifecta with her short story “Painlessness”, which had already won an Aurealis and a Ditmar before taking a brand new Chronos.

Next year there will be another Continuum, in February, and in September there will be a grandaddy of conventions, the Worldcon aka Aussiecon 4, also in Melbourne. If you are in Australia and write any kind of spec fic, you really owe it to yourself to be at the Worldcon.

Slights by Kaaron Warren

Slights by Kaaron Warren

On the flight home from Melbourne, I finished Kaaron Warren’s debut novel, Slights. It’s one of the first books to be released under HarperCollins’ new spec fic imprint, Angry Robot. It’s a weird title for an imprint, especially given that Kaaron’s book doesn’t have robots in it, nor any science fiction at all. The SF component of two of the other first four books also seems non-existent. No matter. What matters is that Aussie writer Kaaron’s book is a real gem. Sure, I had a little rant about the number of literal errors — you can’t get away from them these days — but don’t let that distract you. This is a compelling read, even though it’s not exactly express train pace. It’s a steam train of personality and character, wit and dread; such fully realised characters just don’t pop up that often, especially when they’re digging up family secrets in the backyard, pissing off their brother, tormenting all and insundry — and paying a heavy price. I can’t say Stevie is likeable, but her honesty is refreshing, her barbed one-liners engaging, her relationship with and indeed morbid curiosity about death intriguing and just a tad spooky. She namechecks Aussie writers Richard Harland and Robert Hood, too. Cool.

Kaaron has two more books signed to Angry Robot. So what’s to be angry about, huh? You tell me, robot.

Despite the previously mentioned funk, there is no rest for the wicked. I’m up to my jugular in vampires, and will be till Saturday when I present a wee talk at the Logan library’s SF month about the evolution of the vampire, from Byron to, ahem, Twilight.

for the love of Aussie books

In The Courier-Mail, Kathleen Noonan makes the case, with her usual passion,  for maintaining our existing territorial copyright.

http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,23739,25659282-5012506,00.html

It’s depressing, reading that more than 18,000 Dymocks subscribers have signed their petition. Makes my decision to quit the Dymocks newsletter seem rather insignificant.

You might also like to check out what Tim Winton, latest winner of the Miles Franklin award for Breath, has to say on the issue: http://www.penguin.com.au/breath/video.cfm

parallel importation: aussie books under threat?

Australian writer Garth Nix, representing the forces of light, went shoulder-to-shoulder with Dymocks’ Don Grover, representing the forces of darkness. They started on Triple J’s The Hack and then went video on Lateline (the preamble to the panel can be found at the ABC’s IView if you don’t mind some downloading and wading, until May 20).
. Worth tuning into both to get an idea of the issues involved in proposed changes to Australia’s copyright/importation laws affecting the local publishing industry. The Productivity Commission’s inquiry into the laws is here; worth checking out the submissions to see what writers and publishers are saying about the proposals.

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

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

Fantasy
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.