Dreaming in the Dark: seeing the light in Brisbane

dreaming in the dark

A reminder, friends: I’m chuffed to be attending the Brisbane launch of the Dreaming in the Dark anthology, edited by Jack Dann and published by UK-based PS Publishing. Still gotta pinch myself when I look at the contributors to this epic tome of Aussie speculative fiction.

So yes, it’s worth a party with contributors (edited to add more — huzzah!) Veny Armanno, Paul Brandon, Kirstyn McDermott, Angela Slatter, Janeen Webb, Kim Wilkins and me in attendance; Paul and Sarah Calderwood will provide some musical atmosphere; Jack will do his thing; the book will be launched and you’ll be able to get your copy signed by a third of the contributors in one fell swoop!

Please join us, at Dymocks Brisbane in Albert St, on Thursday 8 December from 6pm. It’s free, but RSVPs are being taken here.

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Dreaming in the Dark: shining a light on Australian speculative fiction

dreaming in the darkThis is an exciting anthology of Australian speculative fiction. Back in 1998, Jack Dann and Janeen Webb put together Dreaming Down Under, an anthology that helped shine a light on the speculative fiction talent in Australia. Then, in 2010, Jack revisited the field in Dreaming Again: 35 yarns, of which I was privileged to have contributed one. And now he’s combined with PS Publishing to produce a new taster of established and up-and-coming writers: Dreaming in the Dark. Check out the contributors list below! Here’s the link to order this gorgeous tome. Launches are in the works, but why not get your order in while it’s hot? The signed, slipcased editions are limited to 200 and they look pretty darn fancy.

Introduction: Welcome to the Golden Age: an Introduction of Sorts
JACK DANN

Sing, My Murdered Darlings
SEAN WILLIAMS

Falling Angel
PAUL BRANDON

Martian Triptych
JAMES BRADLEY

Northerner’s Farewell
RJURIK DAVIDSON

Midnight in the Graffiti Tunnel
TERRY DOWLING

A Right Pretty Mate
LISA L. HANNETT

Eromon No More
JASON NAHRUNG

Luv Story
KIM WESTWOOD

The Luminarium Tower
SEAN MCMULLEN

Neither Time Nor Tears
ANGELA SLATTER

His Shining Day
RICHARD HARLAND

The Liquid Palace
ADAM BROWNE

Heat Treatment
VENERO ARMANNO

Snowflakes All the Way Down
ROSALEEN LOVE

Served Cold
ALAN BAXTER

The Dog Who’d Been Dead
ANNA TAMBOUR

Fade to Grey
JANEEN WEBB

All Those Superpowers and What Are They Good For?
GARTH NIX

Burnt Sugar
KIRSTYN MCDERMOTT

In Hornhead Wood
KIM WILKINS

Moonshine
SIMON BROWN

Snapshot 2014: Jack Dann

Jubilee-HJACK DANN is a multiple-award winning author who has written or edited more than 75 books, including the international bestseller The Memory Cathedral. His latest anthology, Ghosts by Gaslight, co-edited with Nick Gevers, won the Shirley Jackson Award and the Aurealis Award. He is the publishing director of the new imprint PS Australia. Forthcoming in August 2014 from Satalyte Publishing is an e-book edition of Jack’s retrospective short story collection Jubilee*: more titles from Satalyte soon to be announced. A collection of Jack’s holocaust stories entitled Concentration will be published by PS Publishing in the United Kingdom. In her introduction to the volume, critic and scholar Marleen Barr writes: ‘Dann is a Faulkner and a Márquez for Jews. His fantastic retellings of the horror stories Nazis made real are more truth than fantasy.’
You can visit Jack’s website at www.jackdann.com, and follow him on Twitter [@jackmdann] and Facebook.
 

1. This year marks 20 years since you came to Australia. What has been the biggest change in the speculative fiction scene here over the course of that time?

Man, 20 years doth go fast! I can hardly believe it. Off the top of my head, I think the biggest change is the general integration of our writers into the international science fiction scene. The relative isolation of the 1990s is gone and the great talents of Australian authors are appreciated as a matter of course.

The other great change, perhaps the greatest, is technological: the shift to electronic publishing, which affects writers and publishers worldwide. The paradigm seems to be shifting from publisher-pays to author-pays, and many middle-range writers are making even less money than before. And the ‘gatekeepers’ have virtually disappeared: by that I mean that virtually anyone can get published online and in print-on-demand format. However, it has become almost impossible for many of these writers to gain any kind of an audience and be taken seriously.

Previously writers sent their work to established publishers and in a sense went through an apprenticeship: the traditional journey from form rejections to written notes at the bottom of rejection slips, to acceptance letters … and payment for the work. That’s how many writers over time learned their craft. That’s how I leaned the craft. This kind of publishing certainly still exists and is vital, but it exists within a much larger chaotic environment.


 
2. At the national science fiction convention Continuum X in June, you ran a workshop for writers about how to write professional fiction. What’s your top tip?

I’m going to do a cop-out here because I did a five-minute video for a master class I conducted for the Queensland Writers Centre. It points out what I believe writers need to do to write ‘readable’ fiction. As an old buddy of mine from Louisiana used to say: ‘I don’t chew my cabbage twice.’


 
3. With a whole swag of your back catalogue being re-released in digital format by Satalyte Publishing, what’s next for the Dann oeuvre — both as a writer and an editor?

Well, the wonderful Stephen and Marieke Ormsby are releasing my retrospective short story collection Jubilee with a new cover by Nick Stathopoulos, one of my all-time favourite artists. The next release will be one of my novels: we’re still deciding which one, but the time between releases will be short. To quote Satalyte: ‘Jack is back!’

And I have a new collection coming out from PS Great Britain, which Pete Crowther bought, called Concentration. It’s a collection of my Holocaust stories with a terrific introduction by author and critic Marleen Barr. How’s this for an extracted quote?:

In Jack Dann’s Holocaust visions, ‘imagination is used to enrich reality, not to escape from it’. His ‘invented, alternate worlds’ are related to the ones Faulkner and Márquez create. But Yoknapatawpha and Macondo are not Jewish neighbourhoods. Dann is a Faulkner and a Márquez for Jews. His fantastic retellings of the horror stories Nazis made real are ‘more truth than fantasy’.


 
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

Ah, that’s a loaded question! Okay, most recently read work I loved: The Year of Ancient Ghosts by Kim Wilkins and Black Mountain by Venero Armanno.


 
5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

Actually, given my responses above, I must say that the fluctuations of the publishing haven’t influenced what I write … or the way I write. I sit with a notebook or a laptop on my lap and try to capture those incandescent images and narratives flashing in my head.

As to the second part of your question, as you know I’m spearheading PS Australia, an Australian imprint of the UK-based PS Publishing. I anticipate bringing some wonderful work into print in fabulous folio-style slip-cased limited editions.

As to writing: if all goes according to plan (he says, propitiating all the various gods), I’ll be writing the next book in my Dark Companions series (the first book, in progress, is called Shadows in the Stone). And, man, there’s so much I want to do: stories, novels, collections, anthologies. I do so love this insane, future-shocked business of being an author. It’s like standing on a motorcycle with one foot … and travelling at a cool 150mph!

 

* Edit 30/7/14 to remove mention of first e-book edition; a Tor edition was previously published.
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2014 aussie spec fiction snapshot

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 THIS interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian speculative fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at:

Continuum X, at which Kirstyn wins an award and I wear a top hat

Home again from Continuum X, the national science fiction convention held in Melbourne at the weekend. Knackered, but happily so, after much catching up with friends old and new. It was a most excellent convention.
Briefly, because the catching up with work is kind of catching up with me, a few of the highlights:

  • Waving my walking stick around at the launch of a new collection by Rosaleen Love and Kirstyn’s Perfections, new in paperback — an exercise in creative thinking in the latter instance, as a print error caused the book — for this launch only — to be retitled Imperfections, and the author providing a personalised tale on a page unintentionally left blank
  • Mulling over the challenge presented by guests of honour Jim C Hines and Ambelin Kwaymullina in their speeches addressing equality and appropriation
  • Chinwagging with Jack Dann and co-host Gillian Polack at the launch of his back catalogue, and specifically Jubilee, and nabbing Janeen Webb’s collection, Death at the Blue Elephant, and seeing Jo Anderton’s trilogy made complete with the launch of Guardian.
  • Chewing over topics such at witches, the Gothic and the evolution of various critters, on three panels of learned friends
  • presenting a Ditmar for Best New Talent to an absent Zena Shapter from a quality field
  • seeing an absent Garth Nix (though he was on the phone!) recognised for a career of achievement with the Peter McNamara award
  • seeing Kirstyn land a Ditmar for her story, The Home for Broken Dolls — she was also highly commended in the Norma K Hemming for her collection Caution: Contains Small Parts. (Full awards list below)

    Photos from Continuum by Cat Sparks

    Other things to emerge from the event:

  • the Chronos awards, for Victorian speculative fiction, need a good, hard think about the continuing inclusion of ‘no award’, and also how to increase publicity and engagement to prevent a slide into irrelevance (a list of eligibles has already been started for next year)
  • a bar that charges $9 for cider and $15 for wine is a big aid for avoiding hangovers (but good on them for extending their hours to midnight on Sunday)
  • you can buy awesome burgers and sweet potato chips at Perkup Expresso Bar — even on Christmas Day.

    2014 DITMAR AWARDS

    Best Novel

    Winner: Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead, Robert Hood (Wildside)
    Finalists:
    Ink Black Magic, Tansy Rayner Roberts (FableCroft)
    The Beckoning, Paul Collins (Damnation Books)
    Trucksong, Andrew Macrae (Twelfth Planet)
    The Only Game in the Galaxy: The Maximus Black Files 3, Paul Collins (Ford Street)

    Best Novella or Novelette
    Winner: The Home for Broken Dolls, Kirstyn McDermott (Caution: Contains Small Parts)
    Finalists:
    Prickle Moon, Juliet Marillier (Prickle Moon)
    The Year of Ancient Ghosts, Kim Wilkins (The Year of Ancient Ghosts)
    By Bone-Light, Juliet Marillier (Prickle Moon)
    What Amanda Wants, Kirstyn McDermott (Caution: Contains Small Parts)

    Best Short Story
    Winner: Scarp, Cat Sparks (The Bride Price)
    Finalists:
    Mah Song, Joanne Anderton (The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories)
    Air, Water and the Grove, Kaaron Warren (The Lowest Heaven)
    Seven Days in Paris, Thoraiya Dyer (Asymmetry)
    Not the Worst of Sins, Alan Baxter (Beneath Ceaseless Skies #133)
    Cold White Daughter, Tansy Rayner Roberts (One Small Step)

    Best Collected Work
    Winner: The Bride Price, Cat Sparks (Ticonderoga)
    Finalists:
    The Back of the Back of Beyond, Edwina Harvey (Peggy Bright Books)
    Asymmetry, Thoraiya Dyer (Twelfth Planet)
    Caution: Contains Small Parts, Kirstyn McDermott (Twelfth Planet)
    The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories, Joanne Anderton (FableCroft)

    Best Artwork
    Winner: Rules of Summer, Shaun Tan (Hachette Australia)
    Finalists:
    Cover art, Eleanor Clarke, for The Back of the Back of Beyond (Peggy Bright Books)
    Illustrations, Kathleen Jennings, for Eclipse Online (Nightshade)
    Cover art, Shauna O’Meara, for Next (CSFG)
    Cover art, Cat Sparks, for The Bride Price (Ticonderoga)
    Cover art, Pia Ravenari, for Prickle Moon (Ticonderoga)

    Best Fan Writer
    Winner: Sean Wright, for body of work, including reviews in Adventures of a Bookonaut
    Finalists:
    Tsana Dolichva, for body of work, including reviews and interviews in Tsana’s Reads and Reviews
    Grant Watson, for body of work, including reviews in The Angriest
    Foz Meadows, for body of work, including reviews in Shattersnipe: Malcontent & Rainbows
    Alexandra Pierce, for body of work, including reviews in Randomly Yours, Alex
    Tansy Rayner Roberts, for body of work, including essays and reviews at http://www.tansyrr.com

    Best Fan Artist
    Winner: Kathleen Jennings, for body of work, including Illustration Friday
    Finalists:
    Nalini Haynes, for body of work, including Defender of the Faith, The Suck Fairy, Doctor Who Vampire, and The Last Cyberman in Dark Matter
    Dick Jenssen, for body of work, including cover art for Interstellar Ramjet Scoop and SF Commentary

    Best Fan Publication in Any Medium
    Winner: Galactic Chat Podcast, Sean Wright, Alex Pierce, Helen Stubbs, David McDonald, & Mark Webb
    Finalists:
    Dark Matter Zine, Nalini Haynes
    SF Commentary, Bruce Gillespie
    The Writer and the Critic, Kirstyn McDermott & Ian Mond
    The Coode Street Podcast, Gary K. Wolfe & Jonathan Strahan
    Galactic Suburbia, Alisa Krasnostein, Alex Pierce, & Tansy Rayner Roberts

    Best New Talent
    Winner: Zena Shapter
    Finalists:
    Michelle Goldsmith
    Faith Mudge
    Jo Spurrier
    Stacey Larner

    William Atheling Jr. Award for Criticism or Review
    Winner (tie): The Reviewing New Who series, David McDonald, Tansy Rayner Roberts, & Tehani Wessely
    Winner: Galactic Suburbia Episode 87: Saga Spoilerific Book Club, Alisa Krasnostein, Alex Pierce, & Tansy Rayner Roberts
    Finalists:
    Reviews in Randomly Yours, Alex, Alexandra Pierce
    Things Invisible: Human and Ab-Human in Two of Hodgson’s Carnacki stories, Leigh Blackmore, in Sargasso: The Journal of William Hope Hodgson Studies #1 (Ulthar)
    A Puppet’s Parody of Joy: Dolls, Puppets and Mannikins as Diabolical Other, Leigh Blackmore, in Ramsey Campbell: Critical Essays on the Master of Modern Horror (Scarecrow)
    That was then, this is now: how my perceptions have changed, George Ivanoff, in Doctor Who and Race (Intellect)

    Peter McNamara Award
    Garth Nix

    Norma K Hemming Award
    Winner: Rupetta, N. A. Sulway (Tartarus UK)
    Highly commended: A Very Unusual Pursuit – City of Orphans, Catherine Jinks (Allen & Unwin)
    Highly commended: Caution: Contains Small Parts, Kirstyn McDermott (Twelfth Planet)
    Finalists:
    Dark Serpent, Kylie Chan (HarperVoyager)
    Fairytales for Wilde Girls, Allyse Near (Random House)
    Trucksong, Andrew Macrae (Twelfth Planet)

  • Newcastle Writers Festival truly ex-cell-ent

    newcastle jail courtyard

    Newcastle Gaol courtyard, scene of the crime

    Every writers’ festival should have a jail.

    Especially for a panel on horror.

    The inaugural Newcastle Writers Festival  was a hoot, and pretty darn smooth, too, despite being held over a number of venues and being run by staff who hadn’t really done much like this before.

    They had 60 writers and a whole lot of sell-out panels, with a grand get-together at the art gallery and an opening night speech par excellence from Miriam Margolyes  in a gorgeous theatre, panels in council chambers and the wonderfully scenic Noah’s hotel and a pub and — awesomeness of awesomeness — an old jail!

    Kirstyn and I had a grand ol’ chat with Jenny Blackford about writing and horror and Kirstyn’s necklace and the barbarous destruction of some very old fig trees in a city park, all in the surrounds of a barred courtyard with an old loo in the far corner. Newcastle is Kirstyn’s old stomping ground, and it was interesting to see the evolution of the city through her remembrances.

    Also flying the flag for spec fic was Margo Lanagan — we caught her YA panel. Jack Dann and Janeen Webb and Russell Blackford were also guests, but family commitments meant we got only to see Jack read an amazing homage to Gene Wolfe in a packed pub outing dedicated to Sin. Amidst gay-hating religion and people smuggling and ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ — the poem, not Iron Maiden — Jack and wonderfully, pointedly funny Anita Heiss brought the prose on home.

    Miriam Margolyes’ opening night talk — highly recommended

    Anyway, we loved the atmosphere at the festival — they drove those of us at Noah’s in an adapted tram to the Friday night soiree! — and Newcastle itself is a pretty amazing place, so much going on in not a lot of square mileage given the coal and the coast and river and history and attempts to breathe life into the inner city. Some wonderful artwork on display, for instance, at the Emporium, and some serious cafe action. There’s even a writers’ walk, which we didn’t get to do, but the fact they have one is pretty cool. I felt there was a real hunger there for some spec fic action, too. If even felt like a spec fic convention in one way: the hotel’s bar shut far too early!

    The festival was such a blast the organisers have already announced dates for next year — April 4–6 — and we’re putting it on the calendar now. Even if the festival isn’t using the jail as a venue next year, there are tours. Ex-cell-ent!

    Snapshot 2012: Jenny Blackford

    australian speculative fiction snapshot 2012 logoJENNY Blackford gave up her day job in 2001, and has been writing ever since, in between spoiling the cat, cooking and gardening. With husband Russell, she lived 30 years in Melbourne before returning to her hometown of Newcastle in 2009. In the same year, she was a judge for the World Fantasy Awards. She has had 20 stories published: eight for adults and 12 for children, and four poems, plus the historical novella The Priestess and the Slave.

    Her latest publication is ‘The Dragon in the Tent’, a magical circus story, in The School Magazine, which has also recently accepted a cat poem, ‘Soft silk sack’.

    Her latest publication specifically for grown-ups was ‘The Sacrifice’, in Aurealis 47. Jenny’s website is www.jennyblackford.com and she blogs at Living in the Past.


    You’ve had some poetry published recently, after a long hiatus, and one ventures the new stuff is quite different to your first piece in Dolly all those years ago: what do you think has inspired you to not only return to poetry, but poetry of a decidedly darker (?) nature?
    As to what has inspired me to return to poetry -– the real question is why I ever stopped writing it. Apparently, I just gave up quietly in my final dispiriting years of high school. The poetry writing asserted itself naturally a few years ago and took a while to nose its way out into the world.

    And as to the alleged new darkness: not all my recent poems are dark. My poem forthcoming from The School Magazine is a fairly sweet little thing about a cat (though some might think ‘soft silk sack of bones’ has a slightly sinister edge). And my most recent poetry publication (in Star*Line 35.1 is another sweetish cat poem (though it does start with the potentially sinister ‘Gravity is stern as death’, and does ascribe uncanny powers to cats.) Hmmm…

    I wish I could find my copy of ‘Ti-trees Rising’, the poem that was printed in Dolly back in the ’70s, but it seems to have disappeared from my filing system. It’s about ti-tree scrub, but I do distinctly remember the words ‘reptilian silver’ and ‘the cold moon in the dark’, so there’s at least a smidge of a sinister edge there as well.

    Getting deeper: it’s true that the definitely dark ‘Mirror’ was my first poem for decades, but it’s based on memories from my teens. I was totally convinced that I saw someone else’s eyes looking back at me in the mirror, and I was terrified. Back then, I’m sure family and friends would have been horrified if I’d put all that fear and darkness into a poem. Now that I’m grown up, I’m allowed to.


    What is your approach to reinvigorating the age-old story of Medea? Is that what made you pick it?
    Modern people don’t tend to take Medea seriously as a Bronze Age priestess of Hekate, as a powerful sorceress, or as a goddess, grand-daughter of Helios, the Sun, but the ancient Greeks certainly did. She’s an amazing character, and the Bronze Age –- the era of the Mycenaean Greeks -– is my absolute favourite. Just imagine a glowing, golden-haired goddess-princess sitting on a throne carved out of rock crystal with golden monkeys inlaid on the back.

    I’d loved the story ever since I studied the 5th century BC Euripides play Medea (in Ancient Greek) as part of my degree in Classics. After all the modern retellings that concentrate on how ‘heroic’ Jason was, and what a monster Medea was to kill her brother and her children, I was astonished to see Euripides rip into him so cuttingly, and so appallingly accurately. Jason could never have brought the Golden Fleece back to Greece without Medea’s help -– but a few years later, he wanted to trade her in for a younger, better-connected princess (not foreign witch), and expected Medea to be happy about him providing a better future for their children! Euripides converted me to Medea’s side, and I want to convert everyone else.


    When you wrote The Priestess and the Slave, was your inner fantasist crying out to add fantasy elements or was 5BC fantastical enough?
    When Eric Reynolds (the editor/publisher of Hadley Rille Books) asked me to write him a strictly historically accurate novella set in ancient Greece, my first two questions were whether I could use Bronze Age Greece (no – it had to be Classical Greece, 5th century BC), and whether I could add fantasy elements (no — it had to be purely historical).

    I shrugged and got on with it. Once I started to write, it didn’t matter. Living inside the head of a slave girl in the plague years of Athens, or a Pythia in Delphi, was a strange and intense experience in its own right. And the characters believed totally in their gods, who are almost characters in their own right.


    What Australian works have you loved recently?
    So much -– but a few that come to mind are Tansy Rayner RobertsCreature Court trilogy, Alison Goodman‘s Eon/Eona duology, Kim Wilkins‘ novella (‘Crown of Rowan: A Tale of Thrysland’) in Jack Dann and Jonathan Strahan’s Legends anthology.

    What have been some of the biggest changes in Australian speculative fiction in the past two years since Aussiecon 4?
    Aussiecon 4 seems hardly any time ago! Wasn’t it only yesterday? One very sad change, though, is the deaths of Sara Douglass and Paul Haines, both from cancer. Valete.

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    THIS interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 1-8 June and archiving them at Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus. You can read interviews at:

    Deb Biancotti on Shirley Jackson Award shortlist

    ishtar stories by kaaron warren, cat sparks and deborah biancotti

    Wonderful to see Aussie Deborah Biancotti on the shortlist of the Shirley Jackson Awards for her novella ‘And the Dead Shall Outnumber the Living’ from the Ishtar anthology. The awards recognise excellence in horror and dark fantasy. It’s also pleasing to see Aussie co-production Ghosts by Gaslight on the shortlist for anthologies; it’s edited by Jack Dann and Nick Gevers. Winners are to be announced on July 15.