It’s down the Rabbit Hole at Emerging Writers Festival

emerging writers festival logoThe Emerging Writers Festival is going down the Rabbit Hole, and I’ll be one of your guides. Peter Ball is hosting in Brisbane, Rachel Edwards in Tassie and Patrick O’Duffy gets to stay in his pyjamas with the online team. The event is the brainchild of the Queensland Writers Centre where it’s been run a couple of times now, with another one in November. It aims to provide the impetus to write 30,000 in, gasp, three days. Bookings are limited to 20 at each site and open on April 30. It’s free.


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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.
  • Putting the eeeeee! into e-books

    I am returned from Bookcamp. I have seen the future. It is now.

    Yes, I am tired, and yes, I have drunk too much coffee, and no I have not joined the Marines or some weird exercise cult. Rather, I joined 70 to 80 interested people at an ‘unconference’ about the publishing industry, run by if:book Australia in conjunction with the Melbourne Writers Festival.

    the scream by edvard munchFor the most part, the story was comforting and even exciting. Writers write, people called publishers disseminate the written work in the hope of finding an audience and making income for everyone involved. But the publishers ain’t what they used to be — Dymocks has just announced it’s hitting the POD and publishing pathway, for instance, and even agents are (controversially) getting in on the act. And, of course, authors are acting as their own publishers. And, presumably, their own editors, designers, legal department, advertising department and PR firms. And, also importantly, distributors. Or they’re outsourcing those tasks they can’t or don’t want to do, to specialists who can.

    For instance, I’ve recently received a handful of press releases from Australian and American public relations outfits touting the attractions of self-published novels. That’s a serious investment.

    Probably my greatest, scariest realisation during the course of the day was that, now more than ever, my stories are truly not mine once they’re published. Not only can readers review them, in whatever fashion, and indeed convert them within their mind’s eye to whatever text they want to — the story is, and always has been, theirs to interpret — but they can, more easily than ever, mash them, adapt them and generally fuck them up any which way they choose (within the bounds of copyright at least, if they’re playing fair). There’s a suggestion that this is a good thing, art sparking conversation and more art, art as the centre of community; but part of me shrivels at the thought of all that work being edited, altered and re-visioned. Another part of me asks, what’s my cut? If I’m being remixed, do I at least get my name in brackets?

    It is indeed a braver new world.

    Another item emerging from the discussions, in amongst the generally accepted wisdom that the traditional publishers are still way behind the 8-ball on the whole digital thing, is the ability to ‘enhance’ e-text with stuff: music, hyperlinks, comments, annotations, pictures, videos, behind-the-scenes … you get the idea. This stuff not only adds interest for readers, but adds to the conversation generated by the text. It’s a cafe chat on the interwebs centred on the text. Which is kind of neat.

    A cited example of how a narrative, in this case essentially a children’s picture book, can be enhanced through the web, and spin off user-generated adaptations in the great tradition of fan fiction, was Inanimate Alice, proving a hit in classrooms as a means of getting kids interested in storytelling.

    An e-book, one of the guest speakers, Hugh McGuire, said, is essentially a web page with limited functionality. Food for thought, that.

    But what if you don’t want bells and whistles? What if you want that escapist submergence in the text and only the text, without pauses for even dictionaries? You just want words making pictures — indeed, an entire world — in your head.

    It’s an issue that Louise Cusack has fortuitously blogged about, sparked by an article in Publishers Weekly, which examines the advantage vs disadvantage of e-adding.

    Thankfully, we can have our cake and eat it, too. Just as with a DVD with extra features, we can choose which version of the story we want. The Inanimate Alice producers found that their audience was split 50-50 for enhanced vs unenhanced, so new episodes are being made both in enhanced and unenhanced versions.

    paul hogan in shrimp on the barbie tourism advertisementSo now I’m imagining by nasty little outback vampire story romping in the e-wilderness with pop-ups for the Strine-challenged reader. No more Americanisation required (I’m still bemused that English is converted for North American readers but the reverse does not apply — aren’t North Americans insulted by not being trusted to handle colour with that pesky u? Of course, fanny is more problematic…). Don’t know what the boot of a car is? Enable the special features and *pop* — even better than a footnote. With pronunciation guide, aural or text-only. With a picture, even. This would be fun, even better than a glossary at the back of the book. Paul Hogan could resurrect his career doing voice overs for books — “g’day readers: in Aw-strayl-ya, we throw prawns on the barbie; if you throw on a shrimp, you’ve got a small lad with a nasty burn”.

    OK, maybe not.

    Still, exciting times as the world gets smaller and the barriers between writers and readers are increasingly broken down. But let’s not forget that, regardless of format, regardless of Flash, regardless of publisher, the readers still deserve something worth reading (and please, gods, at the barest minimum, something proofread). Hell, maybe they’ll even consent to pay for it.

    Meanwhile, if you’d like more information about the digital age and what it means for writers, check out the Digital Writers conference in Brisbane on October 15, organised by the Emerging Writers Festival with support from if:book Australia, Queensland Writers Centre and Avid Reader.

    Emerging Writers Festival: the fun ‘slide’ of writing

    Finally dragged my carcass down to the Emerging Writers Festival last night, thanks to Kirstyn being on a panel about speculative fiction and then the urging of EWF party animal Alex Adsett to see Not Your Nana’s Slide Night.

    The panel went well if quietly, moderated by Rjurik Davidson with Alison Croggon (her Gift still ranks as one of my favourite fantasy books), Kirstyn and Paul Haines (his Last Days of Kali Yuga collection is out now, get it while you can because the publisher has folded*). There was talk of breaking taboos and other-worldly examinations of our own, and process. Apparently, Twitter commentaries are the new meter of popularity (?) for events: certainly, they illustrate how different people will home in on different things, and hear them differently.

    The slide night at the Trades Hall, complete with bar, was a cracker. Nine writers talked to a series of 20 slides, each slide on screen for 20 seconds, and the diversity was wonderful and entertaining indeed. A dry-witted introduction to Scotland, a crayon-ish exploration of a small town devoted to museums (lost clothing, body discardations, bicycles in a bus masquerading as a museum of transport), a holiday in Barcelona bouncing off America’s Next Supermodel, Indian food, suggestions for what should’ve been Melbourne’s Fed Square, drawings from time spent in Asia… and so on. Some funny, some poignant, some informative: all entertaining. I mentioned there was a bar, didn’t I? A superb locus for the atmosphere of the event.

    Folks we met were rapt in how egalitarian and warm the festival has been (it’s not over yet) and I saw plenty of evidence of that (good luck with that SF novel, Trish; with that creative writing course, James); I really must make the effort to get to more events next year and enjoy the bonhomie.

    Last Days of Kali Yuga by Paul Haines* There a reported 300 copies of Kali in the wild. Look to a bookstore near you. The good news is, for those with an e-reader, the book is available in e-format (Amazon, Smashwords, et al)! This is Haines’ third collection, it includes the awesome novella Wives and a despairingly good new yarn about a man on a bridge with a child. I thought I’d be able to flit through the collection quickly, having read his previous two, but his writing just won’t let you do that. You read one par, then two, and then you’re stuck, dragged into a very human story with just the right amount of fractured reality to entrance and bedevil.