Catching up with the cool kids: 12 for Christmas

Wow. December already. It’s been all hands on deck here at Chez Hectic, but outside the wheels have been turning. Some happenings of interest, 12 in fact, because that’s suitably Christmassy:

  • Ian Irvine talks oceanic pollution, climate change and his writing with Mary-Lou at ABC Sunshine Coast radio (and doesn’t Aunty need as many local word warriors as it can get). Mary-Lou has a trove of interviews for your listening pleasure, including Kimberley Freeman, Kate Morton, Gary Crew, Helene Young and many more.
  • So cool to see Traci Harding’s new Chinese-set series The Timekeepers heading towards the shelves. I interviewed her back in May last year and she was so excited about this series, sparked in part by a news item about a wristwatch found in an ancient Chinese tomb.
  • The Rabbit Hole, an intensive weekend of writing, has provided the content for an issue of Review of Australian Fiction — sadly, hosted on that most irritating of book platforms, Booki.sh. Of particular interest to this former Queenslander is Jodi Cleghorn’s novelette ‘Elyora’ — hitting the right tone of outback weirdness — and the touching, non-speculative ‘The Slow Death of Plastic Stars’ by fellow Brisbanite Kate Zahnleiter. It’s worth noting that Jodi’s publishing house, eMergent, has a Christmas collection out. More Rabbit Holes are scheduled for 2013, the first on January 11-13.
  • Writers Digest has listed its most popular posts about writing.
  • Robert Hood has unveiled a new book, Fragments of a Broken Land!
  • Have snaffled tix for Emilie Autumn’s tour in March. Can’t wait to see the new show, based on her sumptuous book of asylum life.
  • On Goodreads the Australian Speculative Fiction Authors Challenge has been announced, riffing off this year’s Australian Women Writers Challenge (which is set to happen again next year). Still haven’t decided whether to give it a go … hey, still haven’t joined Goodreads!
    Update 24/12: have signed up for AWW2013.
  • Poet a.rawlings, this year’s Queensland poet in residence, has unveiled Gibber, a project she conducted during her residency. Some gorgeous material here (so many birds!)!
  • Canberra’s Donna Maree Hanson has brought outer space to Harlequin’s Escape imprint with her Rayessa and the Space Pirates, due out in January.
  • Matt Rubinstein has an interesting essay at ABR about the digital book era including this quote:

    People who love books don’t steal books. But, you know, they might lend or borrow books, they might sample books and only pay for the ones they do love, they might torrent a book they have already bought in hard copy, they might pay what they think they can afford. They will do these things whether we like it or not. And it’s probably not in our interests to treat every illegal download as an act of aggression. As an empirical matter, it may turn out that that download has led to a handful of legitimate sales. Or it might not. We just don’t know. We can be pretty sure that insisting that book-lovers are our enemies will be self-fulfilling and soon self-defeating

  • Peter M Ball has, a while back now, offered sage advice for those considering indie publishing.
  • And I did mention my wife’s new book is now available as an ebook, didn’t I? And, ahem, so is mine.
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    Hysteria: at the movies and in Emilie Autumn’s Fight Like a Girl

    hysteria movie posterTHERE is a moment in the newly released movie Hysteria, which traces the invention of the vibrator in the late 1800s, where the humour to be extracted from doctors masturbating women to release their ‘hysteria’ runs into the horror wall: the feisty heroine, played brilliantly by Maggie Gyllenhaal opposite the rom com’s leading man Hugh Dancy, faces institutionalisation and forced hysterectomy. The engine of her dire straits is her father.

    While the movie has its laughs, its social commentary, both of class and sex, is telling. The medical condition of ‘hysteria’ was only dismissed in the 1950s, the movie’s afterword tells us. It takes a lot of Rupert Everett’s hijinks as electrical experimenter and comic moments with mating ducks to relieve that uneasiness.

    emilie autumn album fight like a girlSURGICAL maltreatment of women as a way of dealing with perceived hysteria, or lunacy, is very much to the fore in Emilie Autumn‘s new album, Fight Like a Girl, which landed this week. It offers a narrative, musical arc set in an asylum for women — some of the music is from a planned Broadway show — but this is not the home for wayward girls so endearingly and sexily brought to the stage in her previous live show. Rather, this is the surgery where those ‘wayward’ girls are locked away to keep their brash sense of self and identity from unbalancing the patriarchy. Women as objects to be used, as threats to be neutralised, is the theme.

    The ranging styles of the songs, from the upbeat defiance of the titular single to the violin ballad of ‘What Will I Remember?’, the vaudeville of ‘Girls! Girls! Girls!’ to the funereal ‘Goodnight, Sweet Ladies’, is clearly rooted in the dramatic production. And what a dark show it promises to be, with drug therapy and incarceration, and threats of sterilisation, rape, mutilation and murder among the offerings.

    Tellingly, the album opens with the strongest, most strident songs, giving the impression of a revolution being quashed as the songs then travel into the asylum. A number of shorter tunes, some instrumental, suggest bridges between scenes, before the album draws to a close with the military beat of ‘One Foot in Front of the Other’, a hint of recovery and the promise of round two.

    Along the way, there are treats in the minimalist electro of quite terrifying ‘Take the Pill’, harpsichord-driven ‘If I Burn’ and the seven-minute menace of ‘Scavenger’.

    She’s quite the multi-talented artist, Ms Autumn, and this album, a different beast with some familiar stripes to her breakout Opheliac, suggests, even after just a couple of listens, further rewards in store.


    Emilie Autumn at the Espy: so Victoriana!

    emilie autumn

    The Gershwin Room at St Kilda’s Espy (aka the Esplanade hotel) was the perfect setting for last night’s ‘Asylum’ gig by Emilie Autumn, a sideshow to her tour with the Harvest Festival. The American performer loves her Victoriana, melding lace and feathers with lashing of goth and steampunk, and the Espy’s peeling paint, pressed metal ceilings and ageing blemished mirrors suited the show to a tee. Or perhaps to a ‘tea’ might be more appropriate …

    Emilie is a powerhouse, at home on the keyboard and the violin, with a decent range in her vocals and oodles of expression, and a deftness when it comes to interacting with her adoring audience, most done up to the nines.

    She also has her support crew — Captain Maggot, voluptuous Veronica and dotty Contessa — to keep things lively on stage, including tea parties, lesbian pantomime and a girl-on-girl kissing sideshow called the Rat Game. Contessa and Maggot are adept at fire twirling, and Veronica plays a mean keyboard, too. Maggot is a particularly cool character, piratical in nature and small of stature, but possessed of wicked expressions and a top sense of balance, appearing as she does at one stage on stilts.

    But there’s no doubt this is EA’s show, and she’s a fascinating ring mistress for this vaudevillean presentation set inside an asylum for wayward girls. Last night’s gig felt much tighter than when I last saw her in late 2009 doing much the same. Last night’s set also featured the title song of her forthcoming album, ‘Fight Like A Girl’, which suggests a similar musical direction to the winning Opheliac.

    There were a few minor sound glitches, particularly early on, but songs including ‘Liar’, ‘Opheliac’, ‘I Want My Innocence Back’ and ‘Dead is the New Alive’, performed to thumping backing tracks, evoked effusive responses from the phone-wielding crowd. The only place the show seemed to slip away was towards the end, with a series of might-have-been final tunes proving false.

    The encore was a cheeky singalong to a recording of Monty Python’s ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’, with EA promising a speedy return to Oz. Keep your dance card open for that one!

    Emilie Autumn Down Under – meow!

    emilie autumn album opheliac

    Emilie Autumn is heading for Australia for what is reportedly her first Antipodean tour – reason to celebrate for those who like their piano and violin served with lesbian pantomime, burlesque, circus and a good dollop of Victoriana, amongst other things.

    I caught her act in San Francisco in October 09 and found it a hell of a lot of fun. EA’s Opheliac (there are several versions of the 2CD title, with catchy songs such as Dead is the New Alive, Liar and I Want My Innocence Back) has been a best-seller at Australia’s Ground Under Productions store, qualifying her as a bit of a goth darling, but the crowd at the charming Great American Music Hall showed plenty of non-goth/emo/alternative folks getting into the show, or at least hanging out for the sexy stuff.

    EA has inculcated a strong following not just of her own brand of musical performance, but of her sideshow as well, with each of her gal pals drawing a fan base. There was hot competition at the SF gig to lock lips with Naughty Veronica, for instance.

    There was slightly too much banter for comfort at the gig I saw, but I can’t see Emilie Autumn disappointing. One word of advice: if you don’t want to be the subject of a rant, don’t yell for her to take her gear off. I’m sure the ears of the unfortunate voyeur in the audience, a girl since you asked, must still be ringing.

    Autumn plays Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne in March.

    Here’s a neat doco about the current tour:

    In a similar vein, it’s worth pointing out that the erstwhile Amanda Palmer is hitting Australia again in February and March. Somewhat less histrionic than EA, but with a strong theatrical element thanks to the performances of the Danger Ensemble, Palmer put on one of the best shows I saw last year. Recommended.