Peacemaker: the west comes to town

peacemaker by marianne de pierresShe started life in a short story, received a comic book treatment, and now Virgin Jackson rides tall in her own novel. The heroine of Marianne de Pierres’s Peacemaker (Angry Robot) is, not surprisingly for followers of de Pierres, an opinionated and feisty character.

Jackson is continuing her father’s legacy as a ranger in a rather unusual park: this slice of outback Australia occupies a restricted space in a conurbation that takes up most of the east coast, has hi-tech protection against interlopers — no camping, no eco stays, and definitely no people smuggling! — and sports, uneasily, a thin veneer of the American wild west.

This attempt to woo international tourism with stetsons and chaps is the one element of the novel that rests uncomfortably in the saddle, as the park provides the hub for a quasi dude tourism industry that doesn’t quite spark on the page. Also uncomfortable is that the review copy of this Australian story published by a British publisher sports US English, making self-fulfilling the book’s prediction of further cultural crumble, in street gangers who’ve watched plenty of US telly: lots of ‘you feel me?’ going on. At least Jackson kicks arse, not ass! You go, girl 😉

So that’s the beef out of the way — a minor cut compared to the repast that’s on offer here.

The book opens a little like a rodeo: there’s the rider entering the chute, now she’s checking out the arena, and then the door flies open at the end of chapter one and we’re away on a bucking, wheeling, snorting adventure that races all the way to the buzzer.

There are elements of de Pierres’ Parrish Plessis books here, in the cyberpunkish inner-urban decay shot through with a thread of voodoo, and a heroine trying to work out just what the hell is going on with all these people trying to kill her. She’s even got a murder rap hanging over her head, just to keep the pressure on.

Few folks are who or what they seem; trust is a precious commodity in this near-anarchic world where the haves have and the have nots can be damned.

australian women writers challenge logoJackson works her way through the mire of intrigue with the help of an enigmatic US Marshall, complete with six-shooters, who has a grasp on the spiritual world that edges her reality. Spirit animals are a charming feature of the story, giving us a glimpse into a dystopian future where belief and cynicism ride side by side.

By the end of the story, we are primed for book two as Virgin finds herself involved in a global battle to save, if not the world, then reality as we know it. Bring on the second ride!

  • This is the first of my reviews in the Australian Women Writers Challenge.
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  • Wishlist Aussie books: Peacemaker, Lascar’s Dagger, Path of Night

    peacemaker by marianne de pierres

     

    I read the short story *years* ago, and then there was a comic, and now there’s the novel: Peacemaker is on its way in May next year through Angry Robot books. It’s about a ranger protecting our last wilderness area, but of course there is some corporate shenanigans going on. One to keep an eye out for!

     

     

    lascars dagger by glenda larke

    Another one to check out is Glenda Larke’s The Lascar’s Dagger, coming from Orbit in March. I love Larke’s worldbuilding and storytelling, so this new fantasy series can’t come soon enough. Probably my favourite Larke book, The Aware, has been re-released by FableCroft, who has also recently released Path of Night, by Dirk Flinthart. I’ve enjoyed Flinthart’s short stories for yonks — they are succinct and emotive — so his first novel-length work should be a hoot: says Dirk, ‘It’s got guns and motorbikes, vampires and cops, sax and violins and a buttload of conspiracies, plot twists and action as well as a distinctly Australian setting and sense of humour.’
    path of night by dirk flinthart

     

    Queensland Literary Awards finalists announced, plus some writerly advice

    queensland literary awards logoThe Queensland Literary Awards short-lists have been announced. How wonderful to see how the community rallied to support these awards when the Queensland Government couldn’t be arsed. As the LNP rips the state apart looking for spare change and some cheap point-scoring, something has been built. Even the Courier-Mail ponied up some cash, brilliant given the chaos that Murdoch’s empire is in at the moment, slashing jobs wherever they can be found to slash — latest on the line, photographics. But the good news — well done, y’all!

    The press release is here and the short-lists here. Yay Margo Lanagan, with Sea Hearts in the, ahem, YA section!


    Elsewhere, some good advice, especially that from Dr Kim!

    China Mieville, at the Edinburgh international writers conference, quoted in the Guardian’s round-up:

    Our job is not to give readers what they want, it is to try to make readers want what we give.

    Kim Wilkins, on being distracted from your work by, um, writing this blog post:

    reframing your internet procrastination as wandering away from your work can really help

    And Marianne de Pierres shares productivity tips over at Louise Cusack’s place, my favourite being: persevere. Something of a personal mantra.

    Snapshot 2012: Scott Robinson

    australian speculative fiction snapshot 2012 logo
    QUEENSLAND writer Scott Robinson grew up reading and writing science fiction and fantasy — he was writing ‘novels’ when he was 10 years old. “It was never short stories, strangely enough,” he says, “but at 13 was sure I was going to make my living as a poet when I had poems published in Quadrant. Twenty-five years later, and I’ve barely made a couple of weeks’ worth of wages from any sort of writing at all.”

    Last year, he made one of his books available for free as an e-book and has since self-published four on Amazon — the first three books of Tribes of the Hakahei (The Space Between, Singing Other World and When the Times Comes), as well as a stand alone crystal-punk fantasy call The Brightest Light. The final book in the Hakahei series, A Different Kind of Heaven, is pending.

    Scott lives with his pregnant wife and two children. His website is www.scottjrobinson.com.


    What have been the joys and sorrows of the self-publishing route?
    Joys: my books is out there in the world for people to read. I’ve had some great feedback from readers and really can’t get enough. The sorrows: not as many people are reading them as I would like.

    Marketing has always been a problem for self-published authors, but these days I have to be compete against the good stuff out there as well as fighting the negative image created by the ‘writers’ who decided to knock up a book over the weekend and make their fortune. At least in the old days, the wife or husband or other keeper of the funds was something of a gatekeeper. Now, it takes no time or money as all to publish a book. Apparently, for some, it doesn’t take any effort, either. So, I just keep hoping for some word of mouth to kick in (The Brightest Light got a great review on Amazon the other day) while I work on the next book.

    Some varmint tried to purloin your free book through Amazon. How did you handle that and has it affected the way you look at e-publishing?
    My first port of call in that instance was an email to Amazon. I received an auto reply saying someone would contact me in three working days. When that didn’t happen ,I sent another email. Eventually, after a week or two, I initiated a live chat with Amazon customer service (or someone like that) and spoke to them. The book was taken down a couple of days later.

    I don’t think it changed my view on self-publishing. I actually brought forward my move to Kindle because of that. Piracy is something that could happen to everyone and it may have been a bit of a compliment that someone went to the effort (though not a lot — the conversion was terrible) to steal my work.

    You like to mix ‘n’ match your genres: has this worked for you or against you when shopping around the stories?
    Against me, of course. 🙂 The writing and the stories and everything else are great — it’s just that the editors can’t fit them into an easily marketable niche. It sounds nice and I’ll keep telling myself that.

    What Australian works have you loved recently?
    I actually haven’t read a lot of anything recently. I’ve been working on novels pretty solidly for about six months — getting ‘completed’ one’s ready for Amazon and finishing off No 4 in the Tribes of the Hakahei series. Unfortunately for me, I do my writing and reading in the same head space so they can interfere with each other quite dramatically.

    The last one I read was probably Business of Death by Trent Jamieson. It’s not really my kind of story, but I flew through it anyway (by my standards) and could definitely see the quality.

    Some of my favourite Aussie stuff from years ago would be Souls in the Great Machine and sequels by Sean McMullen. Or the Parish Plessis books by Marianne de Pierres. I also enjoy most of the stuff by Sean Williams.

    I have also been trying to get around to The Sentients of Orion series and King Rolen’s Kin <by Rowena Cory Daniells> for a while. And recent releases Roil (by Jamieson) and Debris (by Joanne Anderton). Just not enough hours in the day

    I can’t wait to make use of my Kindle and try to support some indie writers, hopefully some of who will be Australian. It’s always great to discover someone new and if nobody else knows them, it’s even better.

    What have been some of the biggest changes in Australian speculative fiction in the past two years since Aussiecon 4?
    Because of my slow reading (slow even when I’m not writing) and the fact that I don’t attend cons (or Vision Writers) any more (lack of money and two young kids to look after and feed), I probably don’t really follow Australian spec fic as something separate to spec fic in general. I just read what I read without thought to where it came from. But the changes here are probably the same as everywhere else and stem from the ease of self-publishing e-books. Or publishing them even if they aren’t yours. I think it’s a great thing but will be even better when the world comes up with a way to weed out the ‘first draft, I don’t need an editor’ type writers because they make it much harder for those of us who do care.

    * * *

    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:

    AWWNYRC#5: Burn Bright, indeed!

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

    Burn Bright

    by Marianne de Pierres
    Random House, 2011, ISBN: 978 1 86471 988 8

    burn bright by marianne de pierres

    THERE’S a lot to enjoy in Burn Bright, the first of a YA dystopian series by Marianne de Pierres. Mdp has scored avid followings with her previous series — the cyberpunk dystopia of Parrish Plessis, the sprawling space opera of Sentients of Orion and her Tara Sharp crime series — and this has tapped the fanatical YA market with even more gusto: a soundtrack song, online campaigns … whoa.

    It’s no surprise, as MdP knows how to put a story together, and this one comes in some truly cool trappings: a nocturnal, youthful party world watched over by vampire-like sentinels, and lots of secrets in the dark. Her heroine, Retra, has quite the journey too, right down to a name change, though by story’s end, one wonders if Naif is really so accurate. Clearly, she’s still got some learning to do, but she’s well on her way to adulthood. Yes, this book packs some powerful metaphors.

    This first volume introduces Inoxia, a hilly realm of constant night in which the pursuit of pleasure is paramount for its young population who are runaways from other surrounding realms of various fantastic, and not so fantastic, proportions. In one, a hunter-gatherer society can trap bat-like creatures for mounts. In Retra’s, it’s Puritanism 101, right down to child abuse dressed up as moral policing.

    Inoxia is a fantasy land, reached through a kind of vortex beset by pirates. If this sounds a little like Alice sliding down a rabbit hole, it’s a far updated version, and the lost boys and girls don’t so much stay young, as disappear once they reach a certain point in their early 20s. While the pirates are the nemesis of the land, the faires are also fearsome. Called Ripers, the vampire-like overlords police the young party animals, dolling out drugs, food and clothing as required. Of course there is no free lunch, and Retra discovers the true dark side of Inoxia’s society. Freedom, or at least escape, comes at a price.

    australian women writers challenge 2012Mdp has created a distinctive and believable world and her character work is a delight as Retra, through a transformative experience key to adolescent maturity, grows into a new individual. While the second half suffers from annoying, but perhaps unavoidable repetition of recent events, it charges towards its climax and the jumping off point – a new bright day – for book 2.

    With Burn Bright, we’ve been given a strong starting point and an enticing look into a world where colonisation has taken some bizarre avenues. Quite the delight.


    Previous Challenge reviews:

  • The Courier’s New Bicycle, by Kim Westwood, fantasy.
  • The Road, by Catherine Jinks, horror
  • The Shattered City, by Tansy Rayner Roberts, fantasy.
  • Frantic, by Katherine Howell, crime.
  • Burn Bright by Marianne de Pierres – is there an award for book trailers?

    And now for the good news (goddamn it, we lost another Digger in Afghanistan today, as if a frigging cyclone wasn’t enough sadness for one day/week/lifetime):

    How yummy is this? I mean, I’m a sucker for pretty much anything with music (well… certain music!) and BATS! Yeah! Go Marianne!

    It’s funny, seeing this today, because I only just caught up with Marianne’s chat with Tara Moss about her crime series, and I was thinking, though I don’t read a lot of crime, this Tara Sharp sounded like a pretty cool investigator.

    Good things happening for good people. Good stuff.

    GenConOz

    One for the calendar if you’re into gaming, reading or cosplay: GenConOz is booked in for September 18-20, 2009. The first foray of the US franchise to our shores last year was much fun. I was impressed by how widely the con spread its wings: Alan Tudyk’s appearance was a real thrill for us Firefly fans (fanboy me just had to line up for his autograph), I got to revisit my halcyon Dungeons & Dragons days (to the extent I actually bought new dice, sadly as yet unused), and the place was hopping with cool cosplayers and slightly less cool computer geeks (I am one, I think I can get away with that). Laura and Tracy Hickman, Sean Williams, Kyla Ward, Kylie Chan, Marianne de Pierres were among the writers attending, which gives some idea of the breadth of material on offer. It’ll be interesting to see what the organisers cook up this year.