Continuum, Slights from Angry Robots, and some vampires

So I’m in post-convention funk, short on sleep and strong on caffeine, a day back at work and wondering where the weekend went. The receipts tell some of the story: cabs, airlines, two dinners at a Chinese restaurant with lots and lots of chilli and an amazing capacity for seating and feeding 17 people at the drop of a hat, Japanese, innumerable coffees at the Lindt cafe and the State Library and that excellent sandwich bar in the Queen Victoria Building and other places besides…

Cat Sparks’ (as always) fun photo diary helps fill in some blanks, too.

So, the event was Continuum 5, held in the basement of the sprawling Mercure hotel complex in Melbourne, with Chelsea Quinn Yarbro as international guest of honour. She was rather grand, too. I enjoyed my vampire panel with her, and taking a new novel in the making for a walk during a reading session on the Sunday. I enjoyed meeting up with a bunch of folks from around the country, seeing Deb Biancotti launch her first anthology and Richard Harland steaming on with Worldshaker … and Kirstyn McDermott landed an award trifecta with her short story “Painlessness”, which had already won an Aurealis and a Ditmar before taking a brand new Chronos.

Next year there will be another Continuum, in February, and in September there will be a grandaddy of conventions, the Worldcon aka Aussiecon 4, also in Melbourne. If you are in Australia and write any kind of spec fic, you really owe it to yourself to be at the Worldcon.

Slights by Kaaron Warren

Slights by Kaaron Warren

On the flight home from Melbourne, I finished Kaaron Warren’s debut novel, Slights. It’s one of the first books to be released under HarperCollins’ new spec fic imprint, Angry Robot. It’s a weird title for an imprint, especially given that Kaaron’s book doesn’t have robots in it, nor any science fiction at all. The SF component of two of the other first four books also seems non-existent. No matter. What matters is that Aussie writer Kaaron’s book is a real gem. Sure, I had a little rant about the number of literal errors — you can’t get away from them these days — but don’t let that distract you. This is a compelling read, even though it’s not exactly express train pace. It’s a steam train of personality and character, wit and dread; such fully realised characters just don’t pop up that often, especially when they’re digging up family secrets in the backyard, pissing off their brother, tormenting all and insundry — and paying a heavy price. I can’t say Stevie is likeable, but her honesty is refreshing, her barbed one-liners engaging, her relationship with and indeed morbid curiosity about death intriguing and just a tad spooky. She namechecks Aussie writers Richard Harland and Robert Hood, too. Cool.

Kaaron has two more books signed to Angry Robot. So what’s to be angry about, huh? You tell me, robot.

Despite the previously mentioned funk, there is no rest for the wicked. I’m up to my jugular in vampires, and will be till Saturday when I present a wee talk at the Logan library’s SF month about the evolution of the vampire, from Byron to, ahem, Twilight.

Star Trek (rebooted)

Quite enjoyed JJ Abrams’ revisiting of Star Trek, despite having been dubious about the idea of making a prequel to the original series.

Chris Pine, who plays the young James T Kirk, filled the role with aplomb. For that matter, the casting was superb, with particularly strong performances from Zachary Qunito (Spock) and Karl Urban (McCoy). And Simon Pegg, as Scotty, was less dour than the original but played a great comic foil. Eric Bana played a great bad guy, though I might have liked a slightly more heroic finale.

While there were some mannerisms and in-jokes to appeal to Trekkers, you don’t have to be a fan to enjoy this flick. It’s got the character depth and a mix of humour and drama to make it appealing. Though I would like to see a Trek movie that didn’t need a time travel plot.

Tron, Depeche Mode and Fox Klein (and SF stuff at the end)

What, I hear your cyberbrains muse, do those three things have in common? No, wait, that’s not you at all, it’s the rickety desk fan making that peg-leg rattle because it’s set on 2 and the little pin that stops it from rotating isn’t working quite right. But it’s a fair question, just the same.

Thursday. Another dull day at the sausage factory. Cut, paste, upload. Repeat. And then Sean Williams, bless his love of 80s electronic music, sent me this. It is essentially a trailer for Tron, set to one of my favourite Depeche Mode songs, Suffer Well. And done very nicely, too.

And where does the comedian Fox Klein fit in? Well, nowhere, except that he, and the two Coronas I had with dinner, were the highlight of the evening at the Sit Down Comedy Club. A charismatic comedian, offering a storyline or at least a consistent theme with moments of absolute cleverness, and lots of relationship/sex talk without resorting to smut.

Which goes to show how music, fantasy and a sense of humour will overcome šŸ™‚

Meanwhile, check out this download from ABC Radio’s Book Show, featuring Aurealis Award winners Jonathan Strahan, Alison Goodman and KA Bedford talking about the importance of the awards, speculative fiction’s ability to compete for attention in the wider market place, and other stuff.

Aurealis Awards 2008

It was a big night for Perth’s Adrian Bedford at the Aurealis Awards in Brisbane last night.

Bedford, writing as KA Bedford, has had all four of his novels published by Edge in Canada make the finalist lists of the awards, and last night he scored his second win: for best science fiction novel, Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait. The novel is also a finalist for the Philip K Dick award.

The awards, recognising excellence in Australian speculative fiction, were presented in a sold-out Judith Wright Centre, with Queensland Governor Penelope Wensley in the audience.

Other winners were:

Children’s fiction

Illustrated work/picture book: Richard Harland and illustrator Laura Peterson, The Wolf Kingdom series
Novel: Emily Rodda, The Wizard of Rondo

Illustrated book/graphic novel: Shaun Tan, Tales from Outer Suburbia

Young Adult
Short story: Trent Jamieson, “Cracks”, Shiny #2
Novel: Melina Marchetta, Finnikin of the Rock

Collection: Sean Williams and Russell B Farr (ed), Magic Dirt: The Best of Sean Williams

Anthology: Jonathan Strahan (ed), The Starry Rift

Horror
Short story:
Kirstyn McDermott, “Painlessness”, Greatest Uncommon Denominator #2
Novel: John Harwood, The Seance

Fantasy
Short story: Cat Sparks, “Sammarynda Deep”, Paper Cities
Novel: Alison Goodman, The Two Pearls of Wisdom

Science fiction
Short story: Simon Brown, “The Empire”, Dreaming Again
Novel: KA Bedford, Time
Machines Repaired While-U-Wait

Peter McNamara Convenors Award: this special award was presented to Jack Dann for his incredible lifetime of achievement in the genre.

This was the first year that prizes were awarded for best collection, anthology and illustrated book/graphic novel.

Fantastic Queensland chairman Damon Cavalchini announced that 2010 would be the last year that FQ would host the awards as their contract with awards founders Chimaera Publications will expire, and a new team to organise the awards for 2011 and onwards is needed.

sci-fi bias

This has been eating at me since I read it on Saturday. Check this opening line to a review of Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s Pashazade: “PASHAZADE was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, which means it is science-fiction, but crosses into the crime genre so deftly it is hard to put down.”

I can’t help wonder if the author of said review really holds such a bias against science fiction or just wasn’t thinking when she wrote that. To me, this sentence suggests that science fiction is boring, crime isn’t, but SF with a strong crime inflection is okay because it isn’t strictly SF. Which further suggests the reviewer needs to get out more.

You can read the review here and let me know if I’m being way too sensitive.

Meanwhile, might I suggest two Australian novels of 2007 as a starting point to delving into exciting, thought-provoking science fiction: Sean Williams’ Saturn Returns and Marianne de Pierres’ Dark Space. Very different books, but just as engaging, and both with sequels listed in this year’s Aurealis Awards for best science fiction novel.
Or there’s this year’s debut novel by Kim Westwood, Daughters of Moab, with prose so gorgeous it’ll have even the most snobbish reader drooling. Surely.

Aurealis Awards

The Aurealis Awards’ list of finalists have been announced and it’s very exciting. Some highlights include seeing Sean Williams in four categories and Trent Jamieson in three, and a bunch of stories from Dreaming Again — and the anthology itself — being nominated.

There’s a summary story here and the full details here.

I was a judge on the horror division so can’t say too much, except I feel the finalists’ list, from what I know of the stories involved, is a very strong one. The ceremony on January 24 coincides with the running of the Clarion South writers workshop; having someĀ of the tutors and the Clarion young guns at the ceremony should add some extra energy to the night.

I’m glad I wasn’t on the fantasy novel panel. Trying to decide on a winner when the field includes Two Pearls of Wisdom and Tender Morsels would’ve been way too hard! (Read my review of Tender MorselsĀ andĀ Two Pearls.)Ā 

I’d encourage anyone interested in Australian spec fic to attend the awards. There’ll be plenty of writers from around the country there, and no doubt some agents and publishers as well.