Dark Imaginings: Gothic Tales of Wonder

image from Dark Imaginings at Melbourne Uni
What a wonderful title for an exhibition — how can you resist? For the University of Melbourne has prepared just such a show, running 1 March to 31 July.

It features artists, body snatchers, and some of the renowned writers and poets, and trick photography and magic lantern slides to get a little ghosty.

As well as wonderful art, there will also be some events, such as a curator’s talk, a workshop on writing horror/Gothic with Dmetri Kakmi (he knows his stuff, people!), lectures by Mary Luckhurst and Ken Gelder (on vampires!), and an “in conversation”.

This last item includes Kirstyn McDermott, Michelle Goldsmith, Narrelle Harris and yours truly, hosted by Louise Swinn (of Sleepers Publishing and Stella Prize fame, amongst other things).

We’ll be yarning about speculative fiction noon-1pm on 14 June at the uni’s Parkville campus: details and bookings here.

All events are free but bookings are required. More here on Dark Imaginings.


Chattin’ on Galactic Chat

galactic chat coffee cup logoIn which Galactic Chat‘s Mark Webb is far too nice as we talk about vampires, writing and stuff. Mark also keeps an eye on new books and other spec fic goings on at his blog.

Steeplechase, by Krissy Kneen — that’s quite a ride

steeplechase by krissy kneenBrisbane writer Krissy Kneen has a deft touch with prose; her character’s voice in Steeplechase (Text, 2013) flows off the page, captivating and intriguing and thoroughly believable. And what a tale she tells, of her and her sister, her mother and Oma, all locked up in a history of mental illness where reality and truth are stretched to breaking point, not unlike a painter’s canvas stretched on a rack.

For Emily Reich is a painter of renown, having left her sister Bec — our narrator — in the shade.

Life for the sisters has been insular, to say the least, with their grandmother running the house, father gone, mother herself locked away inside a mental breakdown of sorts, a haunting presence that dominates the rural homestead. Stern Oma restores paintings for a living; she sequesters the girls, perhaps fearful of them falling prey to their mother’s sickness. For naught, as it happens.

Emily, having had her turn with illness, is in China, living large on her renown, while Bec, still very much in her shadow and more than a little fragile herself, ekes out a living as an art teacher and painter of less renown.

There’s that student Bec’s bonking — how wrong, but yet, so occasionally right — and there’s the imaginary boy who teased her and her sister so magnificently; the neighbour’s horse of childhood distractions, the games of steeplechase in the back yard, sisterly dynamics and a past disaster that hangs over them both.

I’ve read the word ‘claustrophobic’ used to describe the first section of this two-parter, and it’s a good choice, the past infusing the present, Bec locked between the two. And in her future, inducing yet further unease, that invitation from her sister to attend an exhibition in China — the second part, less claustrophobic but no less unsettling as Bec flounders in the foreign streets, trying to work through to the truth of the past and forge an understanding with her brilliant, troubled sister.

My only hesitation of the course was in the denouement: a little too much too soon for me, but I can’t argue that Bec earned her just rewards.

Identity, mental illness, art and, yes, horses — though equestrians might not find much to please them, here — form this delicious miasma, with the weather — sub-tropical Brisbane, I belatedly realised; and confronting, bird-less Beijing, Kneen drawing on her time there to invoke smells and sights fit to alienate our heroine — used superbly to enhance the mood.

Kneen debuted sensationally with her gorgeously rendered erotic memoir Affection and followed that with thoughtfully pornographic Triptych (which I have yet to read), both through Text; this, her first foray into less salacious fiction, confirms she’s a writer who deserves to go the distance.

  • This is my second review as part of the 2013 Australian Women Writers Challenge. The first was Glenda Larke’s Havenstar.
  • Salvage charts in Brisbane!

    Great news from the weekend: Salvage has made #8 on the Brisbane Independent booksellers bestsellers list as published in the Courier-Mail newspaper. Kudos to Pulp Fiction and especially Avid Reader, who hosted the launch on August 10, and to all those who slapped down their hard-earned for a copy this past week.

    salvage charts in brisbane

    Salvage has one more outing coming up, at the Melbourne Writers Festival on Sunday in the very fine company of eight — count’em! — Twelfth Planet Press authors, with Talie Helene laying down some smooth grooves and Kerry Greenwood breaking a bottle of bubbly over the bow of the Twelve Planets series of awesomeness. It should be an absolute hoot.

    Seaside cupcakes for Salvage

    cupcakes for SalvageMy seaside Gothic Salvage was launched in a combined party held by the publisher, Twelfth Planet Press, at Continuum earlier in June, and as part of the celebration, Terri took it upon herself to make cupcakes for certain of the press’s titles: I think 13 all up. Terri lives in Perth. The convention was in Melbourne. She spent the best part of 12 hours in a hotel room decorating some 400 cupcakes. That’s not including the ones she left behind…

    The madcap but ultimately delicious exercise is detailed at her blog, at which she details how to decorate a cupcake, or indeed a shortbread, with a beach theme fitting of a seaside Gothic. Coconut is the key!