GenreCon for Sydney in November

From the Queensland Writers Centre bulletin, a great event for genre writers:

The Australian Writer’s Marketplace is proud to announce GenreCon!

Rydges Paramatta, November 2-4th 2012

GenreCon is a three-day convention for Australian fans and professionals working within the fields of romance, mystery, science fiction, crime, fantasy, horror, thrillers, and more. One part party, one part celebration, one part professional development: GenreCon is the place to be if you’re an aspiring or established writer with a penchant for the types of fiction that get relegated to their own corner of the bookstore. Featuring international guests Joe Abercrombie (Writer, The First Law Trilogy, Best Served Cold, The Heroes), Sarah Wendell (co-founder, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books), and Ginger Clark (Literary Agent, Curtis Brown).

For more information, visit GenreCon.com.au. Early bird rates available to the first 50 registrations.

The event looks to have a strong industry and networking focus, and the ticketing system includes mention of pitching opportunities.

Salvage: words in the seawrack

salvage by jason nahrung

As part of the Wednesday Writers guest post series over at Ebon Shores, I’ve offered some background to the inspiration and development of the novella Salvage that Twelfth Planet Press is publishing this year. The story took four years to appear on the page — that’s about 10,000 words a year — and arrived in response to three years of rather bruising disappointment. Bottom line: keep swimming.

AWWNYRC #3: The Road, by Catherine Jinks

This is the third book I’m reading as part of my list of 10 for the Australian Women Writers 2012 National Year of Reading Challenge.

The Road

by Catherine Jinks
Allen & Unwin, 2004, ISBN: 1 74114 356 X

the road by catherine jinks

IT’S no surprise that The Road namechecks The Twilight Zone and The X-Files several times. It’s premise is quite supernatural, taking more than a dozen travellers and subjecting them to the strange phenomenon of not being able to get anywhere. This particular stretch of rural road is cursed, it seems; running out of petrol is the least of their problems.

The story begins with a woman and her infant son hiding from her abusive partner on a rural property. He finds them, bad things happen, and then the weirdness kicks in.

Out on the bitumen, car after car of disparate travellers — holiday makers, a truckie, locals going about their business — are caught up in the loop, driving without getting anywhere outside a certain radius.

It takes a while for this large cast to be assembled, primarily because each group gets its own point of view. We find out who they are, what has brought them to be driving this stretch of highway, what they hope to find at their destination. The characters are wonderfully drawn, but the back stories become tedious, a way of trying to provoke some care for the fate of each increasingly desperate set of travellers, but ultimately operating more like speed bumps or cattle grids, forcing the story to slow right down while the latest piece is introduced to the board. Few of the pieces have much to do; their back stories generally tend to be of negligible connection to their plight or the situation’s resolution.

australian women writers challenge 2012There are two characters who provide some continuity, thankfully, but this is a far cry from the incredible tension to be found in the work of another master of this kind of ensemble story, Stephen King. Perhaps because the situation the stranded travellers find themselves in never manifests a deeper message — ordinary people behave ordinarily — or because the characters have only the vague sense of the danger they’re in. The reader knows, which is where the suspense comes from as the story picks up its pace.

Having said that, however, the story is, once it gets out of low range somewhere around the halfway mark, most enjoyable, primarily for its use of landscape. There are some wonderfully descriptive scenes of nature gone awry; provoked, it seems, into being an agent of justice. And Jinks’ prose is a delight.

This is one of those yarns where patience is rewarded — where the destination is actually more rewarding than the journey.


Previous Challenge reviews:

  • The Shattered City, by Tansy Rayner Roberts, fantasy.
  • Frantic, by Katherine Howell, crime.
  • Tales from the Bell Club TOC

    tales from the bell club logo

    I’ve only just stumbled across the table of contents for Tales from the Bell Club (edited by Paul Mannering for KnightWatch Press), in which I’ve managed to place a story entitled ‘The Kiss’.

    It was one of those yarns that popped up out of the ether, a happy collision between a visit to the gallery to see an exhibition about the Secessionist painters of early 20th century Vienna and the announcement of the anthology. In particular, a painting of Count Verona by Oskar Kokoschka and the unavoidable if enigmatic presence of Emilie Floge. It took a while to get this one to come together; I was dreading trying to reconfigure it if it missed the mark for the Bell Club. I realise now that, with last year’s riff on the disappearance of Harold Holt, I’ve definitely joined the ranks of alternative history; bless you, Emilie Floge, and your crazy band of artists! It will be interesting to see who else is rubbing shoulders in the Bell Club halls…

    emilie floge (detail) by gustav klimt

    Emilie Floge

    count verona by oskar kokoschka

    Count Verona, 1910

    The TOC:

    The Adventure of the Laboratory – Kathleen Brandt
    Tell Tom Tildrum – Edward M. Erdelac
    The Quarrantine Station – Lee Zumpe
    A Gentleman’s Folly – Phil Hickes
    The Kiss – Jason Nahrung
    Divine Providence – Robert J. Santa
    The Widow Dotridge – Jason D. Moore
    Spawn Of The Crocodile God – John McNee
    Life and Limb – Andrew Freudenberg
    The Girl In The Cabin – Richard Barnes
    The Wager – Jeff C. Carter
    Sayuri’s Revenge – Helen Stubbs
    Fluke (originally: untitled) – Lynne Jamneck
    The Shrieking Woman – Doug Manllen

    the kiss by gustav klimt

    Aussies on long list for the Stoker Awards

    An awesome showing of Australian talent on the preliminary ballot for the Bram Stoker Awards, recognising excellence in horror publishing. Fingers crossed they progress to become nominees!

    Kaaron Warren for her short story ‘All You Do Is Breathe’ in Blood and Other Cravings.

    Jack Dann as editor (with Nick Gevers) for Ghosts by Gaslight.

    Paul Haines for his collection, The Last Days of Kali Yuga.

    Rocky Wood for his non-fiction Stephen King: A Literary Companion.

    Kyla Ward for her poetry collection, The Land of Bad Dreams.

    Apologies for anyone I’ve missed!

    ‘Salvage’ available for preorder

    My novella Salvage, a seaside Gothic, is available for pre-order in paperback from Twelfth Planet Press for $15 plus postage.

    salvage by jason nahrung

    “Seeking to salvage their foundering marriage, Melanie and Richard retreat to an isolated beach house on a remote Queensland island.

    “Intrigued by a chance encounter with a stranger, Melanie begins to drift away from her husband and towards Helena, only to discover that Helena has her own demons, ageless and steeped in blood.

    “As Richard’s world and Helena’s collide, Melanie must choose which future she wants, before the dark tide pulls her under … forever.”

    Brimstone stokes the embers, and other writerly news

    Brimstone Press is showing a pleasing glow of resurgent life after a meltdown earlier this year which saw press releases announcing much pulping of stock. The website carries three available titles, announces an Australian distributor and promises further titles to come.

    Another Aussie publisher specialising in the dark side is Dark Prints Press, who has announced a new anthology of supernatural crime stories and has also opened its doors to novellas.

    Which is a timely reminder that Twelfth Planet Press is looking for novels — send submissions throughout January.

    WA writer Martin Livings has flagged the cover of his forthcoming anthology Living with the Dead and it’s a beauty — just what you want for a 20-year retrospective.

    And you can get some insight into the issues surrounding the e-publishing revolution with a collection of essays commissioned by if:book Australia — High Tech Hand Made is free!


    And non-writerly but wonderful is the new single from Brissie band Felinedown, playing a New Year’s Eve gig with Tycho Brahe — damn shame to be missing that gig.


    Good stuff while my back was turned

    We’re back, and a wee bit tired as the clock has turned over the 36-hour mark since we got up some morning recently in my beloved New Orleans, and here’s some of the stuff that’s been happening in my absence that’s too good not to share:

    Anywhere But Earth, launching today in Sydney, is all systems go at the online store

    Brisbane’s awesome Sarah Calderwood is interviewed on ABC Radio about her debut solo album! The song she sings in the studio is stunning.

    Beat magazine makes it official: The Tea Party have tested the reunion waters and found it warm enough to take another splash — cool!

    Kyla Ward has launched her solo poetry collection, The Land of Bad Dreams, with aplomb — see the vids! (Okay, this actually happened before we left, but we couldn’t be in Sydney for it, and it looks like it was a hoot of a night.)

    Oh, too: Macabre, an excellent overview of Aussie horror fiction, and Surviving the End, in which I have a story, are both available — the first as e-book showing there’s still some life left in the sadly collapsed Brimstone Press, the latter as a pre-order. Check out more happenings in Aussie horror publishing at From the Pit.

    Looking ahead: for those in Melbourne, wicked Brissie band Tycho Brahe support Psyche at the Espy on November 12 — that’s this Saturday. Sad, I was, to miss their Halloween gig back in Bris.

    And this time, my back wasn’t turned, because I was at World Fantasy Convention to see Alisa Krasnostein receive her press’s achievement trophy. A superb effort!

    I am a judge for the Aurealis Awards. This item is the personal opinion of the writer, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of any judging panel, the judging coordinator or the Aurealis Awards management team.

    Stake Land: getting its point across

    stake land vampire movie poster

    This is the apocalypse with fangs, indie-style, as envisaged by director and co-writer Jim Mickle. Stake Land tracks young Martin, orphaned by a ravaging vampire, who is taken under the wing of solitary hunter Mister (co-writer Nick Damici). Shotguns, arrows, spears and stakes (no fire) are their arsenal against a zombie-like plague of vampires who have turned the USA and, it is suggested, the world, into a wasteland. The pair have a plan — to drive to New Eden, an idyllic, vampire-free zone (once again, the American fascination with Canada as a haven is front and centre).

    Along the way, they pick up passengers including a nun, a pregnant singer and an ex-marine. The group scavenge food and fuel on their way north via a series of fortified towns, which try to maintain the conventions of society amidst the carnage.

    A map of America reveals a number of zones of control, each posing dangers to travellers, and none moreso than the realm of the Brotherhood: a fanatical bunch of religious nutters who not only think the vampire plague is a sign of the apocalypse, but revel in it, seeking to make it worse, not better. Rape and murder are their tools of trade and they pose the greatest obstacle to the travellers.

    The story meanders a bit, struggling to find a high level of suspense and direct conflict. This is largely due to it being a road journey linking various separate set action pieces which don’t always serve the plot. The characters do make some overly stupid mistakes towards the end. However, it does carry a mood of melancholy and desperation you’d hope to find in such a bleak scenario, and is pleasantly understated — there isn’t too much chatting and the performances are restrained.

    Stake Land is a gritty, realistic film where the vampires are very much monsters, essentially zombies with a vulnerability to sunlight and dicky tickers, if you can get a hunk of wood through their reinforced rib cage. The actual rules by which the vampires are created remain obscure, and this does weaken the credibility of the premise a little. While a degree of confusion about the origin of the plague is to be expected in a world gone to hell, and it isn’t necessary within the context of the film, I’d have liked a clear indication as to how the vampirism spreads so I could better appreciate the threat to the characters, who do engage in a lot of hand-to-hand combat.

    There is a suggestion that there are different generations — some are too tough to stake and can only be stopped by a stake to the back of the head, for instance — and indeed there is mention of mutations of vampire — some are capable of higher thought, most seem to be little more than animals. But yet, a bite appears to be a likely way of making a vampire, which suggests vampirism as contagion.

    But this movie is not about the vampires; in fact, a zombie plague would’ve worked just as well, and there is little difference between the two as depicted here.

    No, the sharp end of the flick is aimed at the religious right as Mickle tests society’s thin veneer when it’s brought under stress, and vampires were just a handy critter for some cool effects and fight scenes. All that blood, and there is something cool about an ornery mysterious stranger riding into town and popping a bag of extended canines on the bar, isn’t there?

    In some ways, the story has the mood of The Road, but that slice of post-apocalyptic America has far more intensity. Stake Land does, however, deliver a well-acted, good-looking and above-average adventure where the humans can be just as inhumane as the monsters. Tasty, but not overly filling.

    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.