From the rabbit hole, a Midnight Echo …

midnight echo 8The cover of Midnight Echo 8 has been released on to the unsuspecting public — it’s rather shiny, ain’t it?

The magazine is due out at the end of November — egads, that’s this month already! — and features some very fine writers, some from overseas even. And there’s me, with a story about a cat.

This story sprang out from behind a bush near a bus shelter and found full form during the heady, sweaty hours of Rabbit Hole at the Emerging Writers Festival earlier this year. There was a tweet at one stage about ‘the cat’s gonna get it’ — this is that story. It’s called ‘Hello, Kitty’. It’s not nice. Not at all.

I almost didn’t finish it, because it’s not nice. At all. But then I thought, ‘what would Haines say?’, and so emboldened, I said fuck it. And wrote it. And the triumvirate of editors of Midnight Echo 8 bought it. And now it’s rubbing shoulders in good company, and you’ve got to be happy about that.

There are a few of my stories that I wish certain people could’ve read, who never got the chance to.

This is one of those.

Fuck that, too.

Midnight Echo 8 is available to order: here.

And I’d be remiss not to point out that Queensland Writers Centre is again running Rabbit Hole, November 9-11. Free. Fun. Get words written. Just watch out for the cat.

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Writerly round-up: a new book, an award, a farewell

It’s the afternoon after the four days that came before, and what a grand four days Continuum 8 offered. Held at Rydges in Carlton, where the bartenders were, as usual, outgunned by demand, the convention pulled together writers, publishers, readers and knitters (!) from around the country for the celebration of all things fantastical.

Twelfth Planet Press launched new titles by Kaaron Warren — a printing error has meant a recall for those who have already snaffled the enticing collection — and Margo Lanagan (officially hitting the shelves in August) and my novella Salvage (yay!). Keep an ear out for a podcast recorded at the beautifully laid out Embiggen Books(timber shelves! ladders! SECRET DOOR!) about the Twelve Planets series of collections. [update: the podcast is now available here]

Twelve Planets podcast

Twelve Planets podcast at Embiggen Books

There were panels on vampires, e-books, Australian writing and many other things; launches; parties; costumes; crafts; dinners on Lygon St; the nearest Japanese restaurant would’ve seen a pleasing surge in income. And there were awards, with Paul Haines and Sara Douglass both receiving posthumous accolades. A further highlight of the Ditmars was the squeaking octopii, given out as stand-ins when the actual awards failed to arrive in time.

Also awarded were the Chronos awards, recognising achievements by Victorian writers, artists and fans, and how pleasing it was to receive one for ‘best fan writer’. A lovely acknowledgement of my new address! And Kirstyn and co-host Ian Mond landed Ditmar and Chronos awards for their podcast, The Writer and the Critic. The awards lists are below.

Convention pictures by Cat Sparks*

More pix from yours truly

So amidst the catching up, the memorials and general frivolity, a bittersweet announcement has been made: my wonderful boss, Kate Eltham, is leaving the Queensland Writers Centre to take the reins at next year’s Brisbane Writers Festival. Kate is a dynamic woman and talented writer who has made the QWC such an active organisation, reaching out across the state and the nation and overseas through various programs all aimed at not just keeping writers of all ilks in the loop but helping them to be part of the loops. It’ll be interesting to see what new ideas she brings to the BWF. This is great news for Kate and a real shift of gears, but I confess that I will sure miss her. Good luck with it, mate!

Kirstyn McDermott, Ian Mond host Continuum awards ceremony

Kirstyn and Ian host the awards ceremony

Ditmar Award winners:

Peter McNamara Award: Bill Congreve

A. Bertram Chandler Award:Richard Harland

Norma K Hemming Award, TIE: Anita (AA) Bell for Hindsight; Sara Douglass for The Devil’s Diadem

And a new award, the Infinity:Merv Binns

Best Novel

  • WINNER: The Courier’s New Bicycle, Kim Westwood (HarperCollins)
  • Debris (The Veiled Worlds 1), Jo Anderton (Angry Robot)
  • Burn Bright, Marianne de Pierres (Random House Australia)
  • The Shattered City (Creature Court 2), Tansy Rayner Roberts (HarperCollins)
  • Mistification, Kaaron Warren (Angry Robot)

Best Novella or Novelette

  • WINNER: ‘The Past is a Bridge Best Left Burnt’, Paul Haines (The Last Days of Kali Yuga)
  • ‘And the Dead Shall Outnumber the Living’, Deborah Biancotti (Ishtar)
  • ‘Above’, Stephanie Campisi (Above/Below)
  • ‘Below’, Ben Peek (Above/Below)
  • ‘Julia Agrippina’s Secret Family Bestiary’, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Love and Romanpunk)
  • ‘The Sleeping and the Dead’, Cat Sparks (Ishtar)

Best Short Story

  • WINNER: ‘The Patrician’, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Love and Romanpunk)
  • ‘Bad Power’, Deborah Biancotti (Bad Power)
  • ‘Breaking the Ice’, Thoraiya Dyer (Cosmos 37)
  • ‘The Last Gig of Jimmy Rucker’, Martin Livings & Talie Helene (More Scary Kisses)
  • ‘Alchemy’, Lucy Sussex (Thief of Lives)
  • ‘All You Can Do Is Breathe’, Kaaron Warren (Blood and Other Cravings)

Best Collected Work

  • WINNER: The Last Days of Kali Yuga, Paul Haines (Brimstone)
  • Bad Power, Deborah Biancotti (Twelfth Planet)
  • Nightsiders, Sue Isle (Twelfth Planet)
  • Ishtar, Amanda Pillar & KV Taylor, eds. (Gilgamesh)
  • Love and Romanpunk, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Twelfth Planet)

Best Artwork

  • WINNER: ‘Finishing School’, Kathleen Jennings, in Steampunk!: An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories (Candlewick)
  • Cover art for The Freedom Maze (Small Beer), Kathleen Jennings

Best Fan Writer

  • WINNER: Robin Pen, for The Ballad of the Unrequited Ditmar’
  • Bruce Gillespie, for body of work including The Golden Age of Fanzines is Now’, and SF Commentary 81 & 82
  • Alexandra Pierce, for body of work including reviews at Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus, Not If You Were The Last Short Story On Earth, and Randomly Yours, Alex
  • Tansy Rayner Roberts, for body of work including reviews at Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus, and Not If You Were The Last Short Story On Earth
  • Sean Wright, for body of work including ‘Authors and Social Media’ series in Adventures of a Bookonaut

Best Fan Artist

  • WINNER: Kathleen Jennings, for work in Errantry, including ‘The Dalek Game’
  • Rebecca Ing, for work in Scape
  • Dick Jenssen, for body of work including work in IRS, Steam Engine Time, SF Commentary, and Scratchpad
  • Lisa Rye, for Steampunk Portal series
  • Rhianna Williams, for work in Nullas Anxietas Convention Program Book

Best Fan Publication in Any Medium

  • WINNER: The Writer and the Critic podcast, Kirstyn McDermott & Ian Mond
  • SF Commentary, Bruce Gillespie, ed.
  • Galactic Chat podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Tansy Rayner Roberts & Sean Wright
  • Galactic Suburbia podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Tansy Rayer Roberts, & Alex Pierce
  • The Coode Street podcast, Gary K. Wolfe & Jonathan Strahan

Best New Talent

  • WINNER: Joanne Anderton
  • Alan Baxter
  • Steve Cameron

William Atheling Jr. Award for Criticism or Review

  • WINNER: Alexandra Pierce & Tehani Wessely, for reviews of The Vorkosigan Saga, in Randomly Yours, Alex
  • Russell Blackford, for ‘Currently reading: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke’, in Metamagician and the Hellfire Club
  • Damien Broderick & Van Ikin, for editing Warriors of the Tao: The Best of Science Fiction: A Review of Speculative Literature
  • Liz Grzyb & Talie Helene, for ‘2010: The Year in Review’, in The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2010
  • David McDonald, Tansy Rayner Roberts & Tehani Wessely, for ‘Reviewing New Who’ series, in A Conversational Life

 

Chronos Awards

Best Long Fiction: The Last Days of Kali Yuga, Paul Haines (Brimstone Press)


Best Short Fiction: ‘The Past is a Bridge Best Left Burnt’, Paul Haines (in The Last Days of Kali Yuga)


Best Fan Writer: Jason Nahrung


Best Fan Artist: Rachel Holkner


Best Fan Written Work: ‘Tiptree, and a collection of her short stories’, Alexandra Pierce (in Randomly Yours, Alex)

Best Fan Artwork: Blue Locks, Rebecca Ing (Scape 2)

Best Fan Publication: The Writer and the Critic, Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond

Best Achievement: Conquilt, Rachel Holkner and Jeanette Holkner (Continuum 7)


 
* It’s possible there might be a photo of me with a bottle of wine and a glass: I was pouring for other people. Honest.

It’s down the Rabbit Hole at Emerging Writers Festival

emerging writers festival logoThe Emerging Writers Festival is going down the Rabbit Hole, and I’ll be one of your guides. Peter Ball is hosting in Brisbane, Rachel Edwards in Tassie and Patrick O’Duffy gets to stay in his pyjamas with the online team. The event is the brainchild of the Queensland Writers Centre where it’s been run a couple of times now, with another one in November. It aims to provide the impetus to write 30,000 in, gasp, three days. Bookings are limited to 20 at each site and open on April 30. It’s free.


Callout to Queensland authors of 2011, and other writerly news

queensland writers centre logoQueensland Writers Centre is compiling a booklet, Books from our Backyard, of Queensland authors to have had a book published in 2011. Must be first edition, paper or e-book, with ISBN and cover image. Details at the website.

Also, the centre has compiled a website of reaction to the summary cancellation of the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards by incoming premier Campbell Newman. The centre is looking to salvage something from the debacle and provides some avenues for reaction to the move. A separate push is underway to establish the Queensland Literary Awards.

  • In award news, and much more positive all round, Aussies Jonathan Strahan and the gang from Galactic Suburbia podcast have made the shortlist for the Hugo Awards — Strahan twice, for best short form editor and also his co-hosted Notes from Coode St podcast. Way to go!
  • The Blood-Red Pencil hosts two posts about the life of agents, including their changing role in an industry where self-publishing is no longer the path of last resort.
  • At the Lair, Sean Williams and Karen Miller talk joining Forces with the Star Wars franchise.
  • In Lisa Hannett’s Tuesday Therapy (it’s been a busy week), Kim Falconer offers some down-to-earth advice about setting goals and achieving them despite all the good advice. In today’s Theraphy, Angela Slatters offers excellent advice about both offering and receiving favours of a literary nature.
  • Looking ahead: Swancon 2013 has announced a guest list of Gail Simone, Charles Stross, John Birmingham and Lucy Sussex. w00t!

  • Tansy Rayner Roberts’ Creature Court series is pushing into overseas markets — great to see a publisher investing in local talent.
  • And finally, this piece from Call My Agent! about the cultural cringe and Australian novels. I’d like to think that the efforts of our fantasy, crime and romance writers, in particular, are changing the apparent reluctance of readers to buy locally … This post riffs off a previous one about why it’s hard to get an Aussie novel published, which kicked along a meme about ‘what Australian book have you bought recently’. You don’t buy local just because it is local, of course, but because it’s local and good: it’s that last part that has had buyers doubting, but they’re out of excuses these days. Now it’s how to raise awareness in an ever-crowded market place.
  • Late addition: I’ve been meaning to add 20c to this excellent post about the value of a book cover over at Patrick O’Duffy’s place, but that’s gonna have to wait for another day. When you see the amount of quality info Angry Robot has packed onto that back cover … wow. The absence of a back cover on an e-book — that requirement that the browser has picked up that info on the web page — is an interesting quandary that I haven’t got around to pondering in any meaningful way. Patrick, it’s up to you!
  • Campbell Newman, subsidised arts and the popular vote

    Sadly, today’s editorial in the Australian doesn’t surprise. Had it not been self-published, an editor would’ve have a field day cutting out the tired old tropes. The piece shows as little awareness of the reality of publishing in Australia, I can’t help but wonder if the editor was a board member of Borders.

    Good on Campbell Newman for cancelling the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards. They deserved it. How dare they short-list a bio from that terrorist David Hicks? What do they think this is: a democracy?

    Scary stuff, literature, especially that high-falutin’ stuff that goes to pains to use big, fancy words and literary balderdash to criticise and question today’s society and the people who run it.

    First ones against the wall, that lot.

    ‘If (Newman) restores the awards in future, as he has hinted, he would do well to ensure they reward the best-quality writing, including that which appeals to the broader public.’

    What is clear from the editorial is that the editor has fallen for the PR from his own circulation department and believes that quantity is a measure of quality. He hasn’t eaten at McDonald’s lately, it appears. See, books aren’t one size fits all. It’s what makes them such an interesting product to try to market. There’s no accounting for taste. Clearly, the work of the Qld Premier’s Lit Awards hasn’t been to the editor’s taste, nor that of the LNP. Tough.

    As Nick Earls said in his response to the axing:

    While I’ve had little personal reason to love the Premier’s Literary Awards, I’ve been glad they’ve been there.

    It might not be my cup of tea, either, but I don’t doubt for a second that it’s important. Just as important as the popular fiction that I write. Maybe even more important, at certain levels.

    I wouldn’t mind if someone was throwing cash awards around for the stuff I write. Hey, here’s an idea. How about the Oz step up, take the editor’s philosophy and run with it. Out with the old men like Patrick White, a recent front-page feature of the Oz’s venerable lit pages, and in with the popular fiction. The crime, the romance, the YA. Dare I suggest, the horror? And before the movie gets made. That’d be a bonus.

    ‘Newer writers will also build loyal readerships, if they are good enough,’ the Oz says.

    Define good enough. And then tell me how they build that readership. I would’ve thought the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards with sections for unpublished manuscript and unpublished Indigenous manuscript was a perfect avenue for that new writer to be noticed. It’s back to the table outside the local bookstore, huh?

    Maybe the Oz can up the Vogel to remove the age restriction — after all, those young guns have got an entire lifetime ahead of them in which to make their career – if they’re ‘good’ enough. Maybe the Logies can add a book category and the Oz can print the ballot. Twilight for the win.

    Here we sit in 2012 still arguing about what makes a great read, and how to recognise the practitioners who provide it. The bean counters still treat books like tins of pineapple and tell us homegrown or imported, it doesn’t matter.

    The Oz is appalled at writers, and artists in general, sucking on the public tit. This ‘vocal minority’ should be standing on its own economic two feet.

    That’s an interesting precedent to set, isn’t it? No seed funding for industry, is what it amounts to. No subsidy for innovative new tech. Government-funded apprenticeships? You want a library? Better start charging admission and rental fees. Reading’s a luxury, after all, not a right. You want an oval? Build it and maintain it yourself — stand on your own two feet. If you build it, they will come.

    In a separate article in the same day’s Oz, the comment is made that Campbell isn’t planing to cut other government awards, not even for drama. I guess there’s something appealing about taking one’s lobbyists and business pals out to see a show, maybe do some deals in the intermission. No, he’s singled out the lit awards, and why?

    Because he knows that the ‘vocal minority’ that is the country’s writers don’t have a lot of support in the wider community. Not even in newspaper offices where economic rationalism reigns, and the idea of a good read starts at the back of the paper, where ‘good’ is measured by dollar signs. Campbell’s looking for easy money to bolster a bottom line, hoping those pennies he loves so much will become pounds. What a bleak hole he’s digging for Queenslanders.

  • The Queensland Writers Centre has compiled a great list of responses to Campbell’s axing of the awards. The centre has taken a very reasonable, proactive approach to the debacle. You can plug into it here.

    And there’s this thoughtful piece from TLC Books about just what lit awards offer, and why they’re good things to have, both for the community and for writers.

  • Looking for words in the rabbit hole


    Queensland Writers Centre CEO Kate Eltham played the white rabbit, and a bunch of we Alices gave chase: the goal, 30,000 words in three days. Some gathered in Brisbane while others of us, the diaspora of Queensland writers and other interested parties, joined in online, sharing totals and motivational mentions of caffeine.

    How liberating to be given permission to abandon all but the most major of priorities in order to devote three solid days to wordage. For wordage was the goal; quality could come later. The aim was to get that story down, or at least a solid chunk of it.

    My goal was a little different, though. I’d already hammered out a bit over 90K of a novel, but I had to write and insert a second point of view character to help fill in some gaps, add some suspense and provide some contrast. It’s a fairly brutal story, this one; moments of levity are to be grabbed wherever they can be had!

    ms pages on a kitchen table

    There's a story in there somewhere: grappling with scene progression.

    I thought I had eight scenes to write, expecting no more than 1000 to 2000 words for each, and it turned out I had 10 to write, and they amounted to about 11,000 words. It took two days, averaging maybe 500 words an hour. Some of the other rabbit holers did meet their 10,000 words a day quota — w00t!

    The third day of the rabbit hole was devoted to smoothing out those new scenes, reconfiguring the existing text to accommodate the new material and ensuring continuity. As is the way of things, a whole new character emerged, with enough legs to play a bigger role in a follow-up should such a thing occur. I’m tempted to call her Alice, in honour of the rabbit hole, but I’ve already got a character with that name tucked away waiting for her chance in the spotlight, so for the moment she’s Felicity because A. she’s felicitous and a felicitator but, ironically, not particularly happy, and B. I still owe two sisters a character named after them after inadvertently slipping an Amanda cameo into The Darkness Within. I have managed to slip in an Alice nod to the rabbit hole, though; I hope it survives to the final cut.

    In tribute, here’s a cool clip of the Sisters of Mercy performing Alice, one of my favourite SoM songs and the inspiration for the aforementioned character in waiting. Note: The Sisters are touring with Soundwave Revolution: this is very exciting.

    So, three days of fairly solid wordsmithing later, what have I got other than square eyes and a slight case of jetlag?

    About 108,000 words of first draft manuscript littered with notes and sporting a most satisfying cross-hatch at the end (the mystical The End only comes when the draft is ready to be subbed — that is truly The End). And the possible beginning for a short story: what could be the second to come out of this universe.

    Will the MS go anywhere? Well, that’s always the question, isn’t it? But the story feels good — rough but good — and, regardless, I enjoyed myself in my plunge down the rabbit hole, bumped into some new writers online and learnt some stuff along the way. Would I do another rabbit hole? Most definitely. It’s a three-day trip, man. Just ask Alice.

    Writers on Rafts — help for flooded Queensland

    writers on rafts by QWC

    The Writers on Rafts site is now live. You can buy a ticket for books, services from writers such as story assessments, and other stuff, such as having a character named after you in a book. It’s a raffle, not an auction. The initiative is being run by the Queensland Writers Centre, who still have not been able to return to their offices since floods devastated South East Queensland earlier this month. The floods meant that, in the past month, three quarters of the state has been declared a disaster area — Queensland is more than twice the size of Texas or France.

    Other initiatives by writers to help flood victims are running, too. Check them out!