Writerly news

Catching up after time away and largely off-line at Adelaide Writers Week, and there’s good news:

when we have wings by claire corbettBarbara Jefferis Award shortlist: Claire Corbett’s SF novel When We Have Wings (which I am STILL to read, damnit) is on the shortlist of the Barbara Jefferis Award. Sean the Bookonaut, who I met for the first time in Adelaide, recently interviewed Claire: listen here.

Mythic Resonance: editor Stephen Thompson — how long has it been since he compiled the Vision writers group’s Glimpses anthology? — has a new anthology, Mythic Resonance, which, as the name suggests, riffs off myths. Excerpts are available at the Specusphere.

Thirteen O’Clock: a new aggregator of dark fiction news has hit the interwebs. The blog also posted an excellent piece on the difference between horror and dark fantasy recently.

Narrelle Harris reveals Showtime: The Melbourne author of The Opposite of Life is the latest in Twelfth Planet Press’s Twelve Planets series, offering ghosts, vampires and zombies in a four-story collection that includes an appearance of some old friends.

Aurealis #48 in the ether: Aurealis #48, with stories by Rick Kennett and Greg Mellor, is available from Smashwords.

Ticonderoga living large in 2013: the WA press already has an exciting schedule for 2013, including several collections by both veteran and tyro writers and the continuing Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror.

And Chris Meade on Queensland’s writing future: the if:book pioneer reflects on his experience in Queensland and considers how my home state might leverage itself in the global literary landscape with ‘big sky writing‘. It’s also worth checking out if:book Australia’s 24 Hour Book Project for a hands-on view of how technology is changing the publishing industry.

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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.


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.