2016 Natcon in Brisbane: the year we make Contact

badge for contact2016 Contact2016, the 55th Australian National Science Fiction Convention, will be held in Brisbane at Easter — w00t! Last con there was Conjure in 2006, so it’s a double anniversary (55 and 10, if you get my meaning).

At this point, you can sign up to the Twitter/Facebook/mailing list stuff to keep in, well, contact. The con, by the way, is not true to label: there is plenty of fantasy, horror and all that associated good stuff on offer at a nat con.

March, the weather can go either way in Bris (this little new-Victorian is melting in the old home state as he writes), so plan for accommodation with a fridge if you don’t want the chocky eggs to melt!

GenreCon — too much for two days!

genrecon logoGenreCon has just put its program online, and — ARGH! — I need two of me. Maybe three.

This program really pops my cork: writing stuff such as ‘how to’, villains, and subtext, and then there’s industry stuff like finding the right publisher and life without advances. It’s very cool to see Romance Writers, Sisters in Crime, Conflux and the horror writers hosting ‘community’ events. I keep hearing how damn professional and, ahem, well-oiled a convention machine the RWA is, so it will be great to get an insight into that, and with Conflux hosting the natcon next year (yep, already booked), the timing is right to fly the F&SF flag.

Bottom line, though, is the number of experienced writers, publishers and agents on the program. For an emerging writer such as myself, the osmosis learning will be in overdrive. This is going to be a hoot!

I’m also quite looking forward to publicly picking the brains of Joe Abercrombie at our ‘in conversation’, and talking ‘setting the mood’ in a session on the Sunday. But damn, there’s good stuff on then, too! Too much!

Ditmar shortlists announced

The shortlists for the Ditmar awards, fan nominated and fan voted, have been announced. Interesting to note that, outside of the novel realm, small press dominate almost exclusively, and that fan publications has four podcasts to one paper newsletter; the Atheling, too, is heavy on the blogs. Hilarious and also exemplary is that Robin Penn’s ‘Ballad of the Unrequited Ditmar’ is in there, summarising pointedly yet with tongue in cheek a stoush in the community about, wonderfully, the Ditmars. The novels show a wide spread of genres and the novellas are particularly strong, showing perhaps a resurgence in the form. With e-publishing’s growth, I’d expect that to continue. The winners will be announced at Continuum 8 in Melbourne in June. Here’s the shortlist:

Best Novel

  • The Shattered City (Creature Court 2), Tansy Rayner Roberts
    (HarperCollins)
  • Burn Bright, Marianne de Pierres (Random House Australia)
  • Mistification, Kaaron Warren (Angry Robot Books)
  • The Courier’s New Bicycle, Kim Westwood (HarperCollins)
  • Debris (The Veiled Worlds 1), Jo Anderton (Angry Robot Books)
  • Best Novella or Novelette

  • “The Sleeping and the Dead”, Cat Sparks, in Ishtar (Gilgamesh Press)
  • “Above”, Stephanie Campisi, in Above/Below (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • “The Past is a Bridge Best Left Burnt”, Paul Haines, in The Last Days
    of Kali Yuga
    (Brimstone Press)
  • “And the Dead Shall Outnumber the Living”, Deborah Biancotti, in
    Ishtar (Gilgamesh Press)
  • “Julia Agrippina’s Secret Family Bestiary”, Tansy Rayner Roberts, in
    Love and Romanpunk (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • “Below”, Ben Peek, in Above/Below (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • Best Short Story

  • “Breaking the Ice”, Thoraiya Dyer, in Cosmos 37
  • “Alchemy”, Lucy Sussex, in Thief of Lives (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • “The Last Gig of Jimmy Rucker”, Martin Livings and Talie Helene, in
    More Scary Kisses (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • “All You Can Do Is Breathe”, Kaaron Warren, in Blood and Other
    Cravings
    (Tor)
  • “Bad Power”, Deborah Biancotti, in Bad Power (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • “The Patrician”, Tansy Rayner Roberts, in Love and Romanpunk (Twelfth
    Planet Press)
  • Best Collected Work

  • The Last Days of Kali Yuga by Paul Haines, edited by Angela Challis
    (Brimstone Press)
  • Nightsiders by Sue Isle, edited by Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet
    Press)
  • Bad Power by Deborah Biancotti, edited by Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth
    Planet Press)
  • Love and Romanpunk by Tansy Rayner Roberts, edited by Alisa
    Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • Ishtar, edited by Amanda Pillar and K. V. Taylor (Gilgamesh Press)
  • Best Artwork

  • “Finishing School”, Kathleen Jennings, in Steampunk!: An Anthology of
    Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories
    (Candlewick Press)
  • Cover art, Kathleen Jennings, for The Freedom Maze (Small Beer Press)
  • Best Fan Writer

  • Tansy Rayner Roberts, for body of work including reviews in Australian
    Speculative Fiction in Focus!
    and Not If You Were The Last Short Story
    On Earth
  • Alexandra Pierce, for body of work including reviews in Australian
    Speculative Fiction in Focus!
    , Not If You Were The Last Short Story On
    Earth
    , and Randomly Yours, Alex
  • Robin Pen, for “The Ballad of the Unrequited Ditmar”
  • Sean Wright, for body of work including “Authors and Social Media”
    series in Adventures of a Bookonaut
  • Bruce Gillespie, for body of work including “The Golden Age of
    Fanzines is Now”, and SF Commentary 81 & 82
  • Best Fan Artist

  • Rebecca Ing, for work in Scape
  • Lisa Rye, for “Steampunk Portal” series
  • Dick Jenssen, for body of work including work in IRS, Steam Engine
    Time, SF Commentary
    and Scratchpad
  • Kathleen Jennings, for work in Errantry (tanaudel.wordpress.com)
    including “The Dalek Game”
  • Rhianna Williams, for work in Nullas Anxietas Convention Programme Book
  • Best Fan Publication in Any Medium

  • SF Commentary, edited by Bruce Gillespie
  • The Writer and the Critic, Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond
  • The Coode Street Podcast, Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
  • Galactic Chat, Alisa Krasnostein, Tansy Rayner Roberts and Sean Wright
  • Galactic Suburbia, Alisa Krasnostein, Tansy Rayner Roberts, and Alex
    Pierce
  • Best New Talent

  • Steve Cameron
  • Alan Baxter
  • Joanne Anderton
  • William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review

  • Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene, for “2010: The Year in Review”, in The
    Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2010
    (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • Damien Broderick and Van Ikin, for editing Warriors of the Tao: The
    Best of Science Fiction: A Review of Speculative Literature
    (Borgo Press)
  • David McDonald, Tansy Rayner Roberts and Tehani Wessely for “Reviewing
    New Who” series, in A Conversational Life
  • Alexandra Pierce and Tehani Wessely, for reviews of Vorkosigan Saga,
    in Randomly Yours, Alex
  • Russell Blackford, for “Currently reading: Jonathan Strange and Mr
    Norrell by Susanna Clarke”, in Metamagician and the Hellfire Club
  • Ditmar Award nominations open

    The Aussie spec fic fan-voted Ditmar Awards are now open for nominations, using a handy online form, post or email — see the rules page for details about who and how. There’s also a massive list of eligible works that is admittedly not totally comprehensive but is a fine place to start for memory jogging! The awards will be presented at Continuum in Melbourne in June. Electronic nominations close on April 15.

    Continuum’s dark fairytale magic

    vampire woman by victoria frances

    Continuum is over, my throat is sore, I’m a little tired: standard convention hangover, then. Kirstyn has a new Chronos award — for Madigan Mine. There was much talk of vampires, fairytales and steampunk. A debate about the pros and cons of immortality…

    In short, it was an excellent con, with long dinners and impromptu panels at the bar, great company, some slivers of inspiration amongst the panels. Catherynne M Valente was an amazingly giving and erudite and witty guest who cut a hell of a rug on the dancefloor. Her comments about reviewing, made during a Writer and the Critic podcast, are worth catching up with.

    Two of the most affecting panels I attended were both, not surprisingly, darkly themed, and I’ll single them out from what was a very strong line-up.

    The first was late on opening night, Friday, and involved the attraction between horror and beauty. Kyla Ward read a superb poem in her inimitable, theatrical fashion; Kirstyn read from her spooky-sexy short story ‘Monsters Among Us’; and Talie Helene lifted the roof with an acapella rendition of a ghost folk song. Discussion was informed and interested and on-topic and reluctant to stop.

    The next morning, Talie and Kyla backed up on a dark poetry panel with Earl Livings and Danny Lovecraft. Kyla blew the room away with an excerpt from ‘The Raven’ and Talie pretty much felled anyone left standing with some truly wrenching World War I poems. Great stuff. And do note that P’rea Press is releasing a collection of Kyla’s poetry later this year!

    In my absence, the last short story I had roaming in the wild found a home — very happy about that! — and Devil Dolls and Duplicates in Australian Horror received a fetching review. Add in a splendid night last night with friends from up north and the good time vibe has definitely lingered…

    We’ve already bought our memberships for next year’s Continuum, which is the natcon and boasts the awesome paring of Kelly Link and Alison Goodman as guests of honour. And then there’s the bid from Canberra for the 2013 natcon (at Anzac weekend) and London’s push for the 2014 Worldcon … Let the good times roll!

    Chronos winners

    (the awards are for Victorian residents)
    Best Long Fiction: Madigan Mine, Kirstyn McDermott (Pan MacMillan Australia)
    Best Short Fiction: ‘Her Gallant Needs’, Paul Haines (Sprawl, Twelfth Planet Press)
    Best Artwork: Australis Imaginarium cover, Shaun Tan (FableCroft Publishing)
    Best Fan Writer: Alexandra Pierce
    Best Fan Written Work: Review: The Secret Feminist Cabal by Helen Merrick, Alexandra Pierce
    Best Fan Artwork: Continuum 6 props, Rachel Holkner
    Best Fan Publication: Live Boxcutters Doctor Who at AussieCon IV, Josh Kinal and John Richards
    Best Achievement: Programming at AussieCon IV, Sue Ann Barber and Grant Watson (lovely to hear these guys pay tribute to the non-Victorians who also contributed to the programming, an awesome effort all-round)

    Note: the amazing Conquilt of signatures is up for grabs on eBay till 20 June.

    Continuum: sex, violence, vampires

    vampire circus movie poster

    It’s almost Continuum time, the great gathering of the clan in Melbourne to celebrate all things speculative and often fictional, and there will be vampires. On Saturday, I’ll be talking sex and the undead with Emily Derango, Narrelle Harris and Peter Marz. On Sunday, I’ll be discussing the role of the rest of the supernatural horde in the ‘vampire circus’ (but are they invited guests, or are they gate crashers?), with a bumper panel of Narrelle, Kirstyn McDermott, Heath Miller and Julia Svaganovic.

    Also on Sunday, I’ll be giving a wee reading, though whether it’s sex from More Scary Kisses or violence from Dead Red Heart I haven’t decided yet.

    The official guests for the convention are Catherynne M Valente, who had most interesting things to say about writing, publishing and moral sensibilities at last year’s Worldcon, and local Dave Freer, who certainly knows his way around the publishing landscape (a sense of direction being a valuable asset when one lives on an island).

    Also worth noting is that A. Friday night attendance is FREE and B. the Conquilt, bearing 100 signatures from Worldcon attendees including, well, all of the folks below, comes up for auction on ebay on Friday night, closing on June 20.

    Alan Baxter, Alastair Reynolds, Alisa Krasnostein, Alison Croggon, Amanda Pillar, Andrew J. McKiernan, Angie Rega, Bill Congreve, Bob Eggleton, Carrie Vaughn, Cat Sparks, Catherynne M. Valente, Charles Stross, China Mieville, Chris Miles (an associate of H. I. Larry), Chuck McKenzie, Cory Doctorow, Deborah Biancotti, Delia Sherman, Dirk Flinthart, Duncan Lay, Fiona McIntosh, Foz Meadows, Gail Carriger, Garth Nix, George Ivanoff, George R. R. Martin, Gillian Polack, Glenda Larke, Grace Duggan, Howard Tayler, Ian Irvine, Ian Nichols, Jane Routley, Jason Nahrung, Jay Lake, Jean Johnson, Jenner, Jennifer Fallon, Jetse de Vries, John Scalzi, Jonathan Strahan, Juliet Marillier, K. A. Bedford, K. J. Taylor, Kaaron Warren, Kaja Foglio, Karen Haber, Karen Healey, Kate Elliot, Kate Paulk, Kathleen Jennings, Keith Stevenson, Kim Stanley Robinson, Kirstyn McDermott, Kyla Ward, Lara Morgan, Leanne Hall, Lisa L. Hannett, Lucy Sussex, Marianne de Pierres, Mary Victoria, Matthew Hughes, Michael Pryor, Michelle Marquardt, Narrelle M. Harris, Nick Stathopoulos, Nicole R. Murphy, Paul Collins, Paul Cornell, Paul Haines, Peter M. Ball, Peter V. Brett, Phil Foglio, Richard Harland, Rjurik Davidson, Rob Shearman, Robert Hood, Robert Silverberg, Russell B. Farr, Russell Blackford, Russell Kirkpatrick, Seanan McGuire, Shane Jiraya Cummings, Shaun Tan, Sue Bursztynski, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Tehani Wessely, Tracey O’Hara, Trent Jamieson, Trudi Canavan.

    Swancon, Ditmars and a darn fine time

    dead red heart australian vampire stories

    Swancon, the annual get-together of Aussie spec fic fans held in Perth — usually at Easter — doubled as the country’s national science fiction convention — the 50th — this year. It’s a four-hour flight from Melbourne and worth every frequent flyer mile.

    This year’s convention was held in the Hyatt and the venue was a good slab of the reason the con went so well — chiefly, the foyer, which offered a raised lounge encircling a non-functioning fountain featuring elephants, lions and a Cleopatra’s needle aimed like a rocket at the lofty atrium roof. The foyer also had a bar which featured a Hyatt-priced drinks list and some of the most harried bar staff I’ve ever had the pleasure of waiting to be served by. Honestly, if you’re a hotel hosting an SF convention, you need to heed the warnings about our thirst levels. Sure, some folks wander around dressed as giant chipmunks (I’m told it was a raccoon, but I truly believe it was a chipmunk, or possibly a squirrel: just he or she was in disguise because it was masquerade night), but we do like a drink when we haven’t seen each other for so darn long. Especially our pals in the west, who have churned out 36 Swancons so far but don’t get to come east anywhere near as often as they should. (That four hours can be a costly trip.)

    more scary kisses paranormal romance anthology

    The beauty of the foyer was that it provided a natural gathering place. I’m not sure the various bridal parties, holidaying families and Eastering businessman appreciated the confluence, but I thought it was grand: here was the perfect alternative panel of writerly types drawn from all around the country, and overseas (very happy to hear that Glenda Larke has designs on returning to her native West!).

    The guests were Sean Williams, Justina Robson and Ellen Datlow — Sean and Ellen are always great value and Justina proved so engaging I bought her book — Lila Black has been “tortured and magic-scarred by elves, rebuilt by humans into a half-robot, part-AI, nuclear-fuelled walking arsenal”, and that’s just part of the blurb for Selling Out.

    Some organised highlights included the delayed appearance of the Paul Haines collection The Last Days of Kali Yuga, a gorgeously produced title from Brimstone Press; Paul’s reading of a new story proved a very emotional moment.

    Another enjoyable launch was the Ticonderoga Publications double — More Scary Kisses and Dead Red Heart — in which I’ve got some yarns. The launch also marked 15 years for TP — not a bad achievement at all!

    There were panels of interest covering the craft of writing, the business of writing and all manner of stuff relating to fandom and movies and conventions.

    We ate far too much curry — Anzac Day and Easter combined to keep sleepy Perth very snoozy indeed — but the curry at the little place across the road was damn fine and they did a respectable breakfast as well, bless their holiday-defying work ethic.

    There was a masquerade ball — it went off, I was told, and there was a most excellent Japanese lantern girl costume and a ginormous lizard and Little Red Riding Hood and the aforementioned squirrel-in-disguise — but I was late back from the dinner hunt and, you know, there was a great impromptu panel being conducted in the foyer at the time… followed by a room party! Yes, the sound proofing at the Hyatt meant we could squeeze 20 people into a room and spill chips and some truly, um, intriguing confectionary puddings around the place.

    Cat Sparks has posted her Swancon photos

    There was also awesomeness at the Ditmar awards — fan-nominated and voted on by members of the natcons — which started with the decoration of mighty pillars in the auditorium as rocket ships and finished at the last announcement. I’ve listed them below, but draw attention to my wife’s win for her short story, ‘She Said’ (a tie with the inimitable Cat Sparks!), and the special awards (not listed below) won by Paul Collins (A Bertram Chandler) and Lucy Sussex (Peter McNamara award) and Anita Bell (the Norma K Hemming award for her novel, Diamond Eyes).

    Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann must be reeling — a Ditmar on top of their Oscar for The Lost Thing!

    But most of all, the best thing about Swancon was the people: my buddies from Brisbane — I miss you guys! — and all over the place, all coming together to congratulate and commiserate and enjoy the camaraderie of those who value imagination as one of the most prized of human faculties.

    DITMAR AWARDS

    Best Novel: Power and Majesty, Tansy Rayner Roberts (HarperVoyager)
    Best Novella or Novelette: ‘The Company Articles of Edward Teach’, Thoraiya Dyer (Twelfth Planet Press)
    Best Short Story (tie): ‘All the Love in the World’, Cat Sparks (Sprawl, Twelfth Planet Press) and ‘She Said’, Kirstyn McDermott (Scenes From the Second Storey, Morrigan Books)
    Best Collected Work: Sprawl, Alisa Krasnostein, ed. (Twelfth Planet Press)
    Best Artwork: ‘The Lost Thing’ short film (Passion Pictures) Andrew Ruhemann & Shaun Tan
    Best Fan Writer: Alexandra Pierce, for body of work including reviews at Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus (Twelfth Planet Press)
    Best Fan Artist: Amanda Rainey, for Swancon 36 logo
    Best Fan Publication in Any Medium: Galactic Suburbia podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Tansy Rayer Roberts, & Alex Pierce (Twelfth Planet Press)
    Best Achievement: Alisa Krasnostein, Kathryn Linge, Rachel Holkner, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, & Tehani Wessely, Snapshot 2010
    Best New Talent: Thoraiya Dyer
    William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review: Tansy Rayner Roberts, for ‘A Modern Woman’s Guide to Classic Who’