Queensland Literary Awards finalists announced, plus some writerly advice

queensland literary awards logoThe Queensland Literary Awards short-lists have been announced. How wonderful to see how the community rallied to support these awards when the Queensland Government couldn’t be arsed. As the LNP rips the state apart looking for spare change and some cheap point-scoring, something has been built. Even the Courier-Mail ponied up some cash, brilliant given the chaos that Murdoch’s empire is in at the moment, slashing jobs wherever they can be found to slash — latest on the line, photographics. But the good news — well done, y’all!

The press release is here and the short-lists here. Yay Margo Lanagan, with Sea Hearts in the, ahem, YA section!


Elsewhere, some good advice, especially that from Dr Kim!

China Mieville, at the Edinburgh international writers conference, quoted in the Guardian’s round-up:

Our job is not to give readers what they want, it is to try to make readers want what we give.

Kim Wilkins, on being distracted from your work by, um, writing this blog post:

reframing your internet procrastination as wandering away from your work can really help

And Marianne de Pierres shares productivity tips over at Louise Cusack’s place, my favourite being: persevere. Something of a personal mantra.

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Snapshot 2012: Jay Kristoff

australian speculative fiction snapshot 2012 logoJAY Kristoff is a Perth-born, Melbourne-based author. His first trilogy, The Lotus War, was purchased by Tor in the three-way auction by US publishing houses in 2011. He is as surprised about it as you are. The first instalment, Stormdancer, is set to be published in September in the US, UK and Australia.

He can be found shuffling about aimlessly and frightening the children at www.jaykristoff.com.


What attracted you to the Japanese-style setting for Stormdancer? And then that dollop of steampunk? An interesting mix!
Steampunk came first. I thought the steampunk genre was a cool place to explore the idea of a destructive techonology –- I loved cyberpunk as a kid, loved the mood of decline combined with the theme of the machine as an ‘enemy’. And that’s a well-trodden alleyway in the realm of futuristic sci-fi, but historic sci-fi tends to look at the past through rose-tinted goggles and see the advent of the machine age as a ticket to a land of wonders. So I liked the idea of destroying that perception, bringing back that nihilistic ‘punk’ element for which steampunk is named but so often overlooks.

Thing is, the traditional stomping grounds of steampunk (Victorian England and colonial America) have been done, and done very well. I don’t like the idea of repeating someone else. There were some incredible cultures on this planet at the time when Victoria and Albert were knocking boots, and I’ve been a fan of Japanese film and fiction since forever, and it seemed like combining the two might lead me somewhere interesting. Plus, you know, chainsaw katanas…


In what ways has your penchant for role-playing games informed your writing?
I never really considered it until recently, but when I think about it, I’ve been building worlds since I was 12 years old. It starts with grid maps and random pluckings from the Monstrous Compendium (‘Heh, THIS will fuck ’em!’), but I think anyone who’s spent any time being the game master knows how cool it can be to create a living, breathing world, people it with memorable characters and watch players get lost in it. I think that is writing, in a very real sense — the same discipline you use to create an exciting game world is the same as the one you use to create the world in a novel.

A couple of the fundamental world-building ideas in Stormdancer came directly from the last Pathfinder game I ran. So apparently you can learn some important life skills sitting in dimly lit rooms with your buddies rolling polyhedral dice. Who knew.


On your blog you say you don’t believe in happy endings. Why is that?
Victory without sacrifice feels cheap to me. If I read a book or see a film in which all that was required to beat the Big Bad Guy was a little sleight of hand or some sharp-shooting, I feel cheated. I want to be afraid for the characters I love. When I’m in a book or film, I want to know not everyone I love is going to make it out alive, or intact, because to my mind, that makes me love them more. And I’m not talking about pathos for pathos’ sake. I’m talking about the death of Wash in Serenity, or Lin being rendered brain dead by the slake moth in Perdido Street Station — that kind of thing. Characters feel more real and tangible and alive to me when I know they could be gone at any moment, because that’s what real life is like. Triumph means more when it’s purchased with the things heroes hold dear.

I want my readers crying even as they’re cheering.


What Australian works have you loved recently?
I read The Music of Razors by Cameron Rogers last year, and simply put, it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read in my life. Capital A ‘amazing’. I also scammed a copy of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak from my lovely Aus publishers at Pan-MacMillan (ah, freebies) a couple of weeks back, and I’m loving it so far.

What have been some of the biggest changes in Australian speculative fiction in the past two years?
Truthfully, I’m not really part of the scene, so I can’t really speak to that one. I do think we live in very tumultuous times in publishing — the advent of e-books, the rise of Amazon and the impact that’s having on publishers and brick-and-mortar stores. Long-standing publishers are shedding entire floors in NY city. Audiences are changing, and what’s expected of you as an author is changing.

But ultimately, it’s still all about the words. Write the right words, and everything else will follow. That’s the beauty of it.

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THIS interview was 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. You can read interviews at:

Mieville and the bleak Arthur C Clarke finalists, and other writerly news

embassytown by china mieville

The finalists of the Arthur C Clarke award for best science fiction novel published in the UK last year include China Mieville for Embassytown, the fifth time he’s been nominated and what could be he his fourth win.

The interesting comment from the chair of the judging panel, Andrew M Butler, quoted in the Guardian, for those worried about over-genrification:

“It’s got something for everyone: alien contact, post-apocalyptic disaster, near future cyberpunkish police procedural,” he said, adding that the variety demonstrates the health of the SF scene. “It’s exciting because you can’t fit it in a box.”

Others in the running are Charlie Stross, Booker longlisted Jane Rogers, Drew Magary, Sherri S Tepper and Greg Bear.

Says Butler about the dystopian line-up,

“We’re in a dark place at the moment and SF writers are responding to that. These are not books to turn to for escape – they’re not afraid to confront the dark side of life.”

The award is announced in May.

  • Canberra’s Nicole Murphy, author of the Secret Ones, has launched an interesting project in which she mentors a writer to develop a 2,000-word spec fic story each month, publishes the finished story on the project’s website and, eventually, makes 12 available as an anthology. The chosen submission each month scores $100 and a cut of the anthology royalties.
  • Also taking submissions in April is UK publisher Angry Robot, who have an open door for classic fantasy and YA SF&F.
  • Stephanie Smith has stepped down from her role at HarperCollins Voyager, where as editor and publisher she has overseen the growth of Australia’s fantasy industry, Bookseller+Publisher reports. She’s quite the icon on the local scene and will be missed. Her replacement is respected editor Deonie Fiford, starting on April 2. OMG that’s Monday! Where has the year gone? Voyager’s farewell message is here.
  • The Gold Coast Literati event in May has announced its line-up, including spec fic authors Stephen M Irwin, Marianne de Pierres, Trent Jamieson, Louise Cusack, Kylie Chan and Rowena Cory Daniells, as well as talented comics creator Queenie Chan, crime writer Katherine Howell and many more. It looks like most of the bases have been covered, from YA to poetry to non-fiction. It’s held the same weekend as Melbourne’s Emerging Writers Festival kicks off. See the calendar for more literary events.
  • Stormlord Rising, Snow Crash, Kraken, The Broken Ones, Phoenix Rising: one of these things is not like the others

    Recent reading:

    stormlord rising by glenda larke

    Glenda Larke’s Stormlord Rising, book 2 of the Watergivers series, and quite superb. Just like book 1, The Last Stormlord (reviewed here). In which Larke beautifully uses landscape to sculpt her cultures, right down to the vernacular. Gives religion a thumping, stage-manages her rather large cast very well, manages to cause her characters a few headaches along the way as well. I was particularly chuffed at how book 2 feels quite self contained, while still managing to provide plenty of reasons to read book 3. Which I will do, very shortly.

    snow crash by neal stephenson

    Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. Fair to say that this, along with William Gibson’s Neuromancer (gushed about here), is a core plank of cyberpunk? Still holds up, after all these years, even if no one has bothered to fix that bothersome literal role/roll model. Coolest pizza delivery peeps evah! Will soon be lining up for his massive Reamde — wish me luck.

    kraken by china mieville

    Kraken, what passes for a romp in the land of far-too-talented China Mieville. A little cloudy in its cleverness in places — inky, one could say — as a vibrantly realised magical London (nice nod to a previous short story concerning cartography, too) and uber-clever dialogue as cults and other interested parties are caught up in the tentacles of a plot to bring about apocalypse. Evolutionary stuff!

    the broken ones by stephen irwin

    The Broken Ones, in which Stephen M Irwin gives Brissie a haunted makeover while trashing the place. Occult conspiracies, a tenacious detective and true chills. It’s Irwin’s second novel and, IMHO, shows the maturation of a mighty promising talent. I’ve burbled on about this one over at ASiF. I’m quite looking forward to Irwin’s next book.

    phoenix rising

    And then there’s Phoenix Rising, by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris. Sadly, a few factors combined to hobble my reading of this one, the first in a series. I say sadly because I was, despite the steampunk lingerie on the cover, really quite keen, thanks to the combination of a Kiwi heroine and rather spiffy dialogue. But then there’s the solo attack in Antarctica carried out in thigh-high boots and a fur coat, the willy nilly distribution of literal and spelling errors, the (non-authorial) disconcerting use of American spelling in a story about a Commonwealth agency in Victorian London: I do hope the new world order of international publishing isn’t all about the lowest common denominator (that’s you, America, or rather, it’s not ‘u’). It certainly isn’t about proofreading, is it? Anyway, maybe it was my flu making me more ornery than usual, but I just couldn’t wade through the glibness and clumsiness. I’ll keep it on hand for another shot, because I really do like that librarian, sorry, archivist, on the cover sipping tea.