In Your Face … and then some

in your face anthology campaignThis anthology will not be an easy read, but it will be a rewarding one.

FableCroft Publishing is putting out the book, entitled In Your Face. The stories, publisher Tehani Wessely says, “will be provocative and/or confronting but with a firm purpose – they are pieces that will perhaps make readers uncomfortable because they are a bit too hard-hitting or close to the bone, but which interrogate these themes and ideas, and make a point about the world we live in”.

Writers in the anthology include Sean Williams, Cat Sparks, Kaaron Warren, Kirstyn McDermott and another dozen or so who are bound to get under readers’ skin — for good effect.

My story, ‘A House in the Blue’, is one of the current selection. It’s a fairly blunt response to the hideous health policy pursued by the soulless Abbott Government, since rejected, but sadly one that seems to still lurk in the shadows of government budgets. It is set in my climate-changed Brisbane, which is really where the speculative element kicks in. I suspect American readers wouldn’t find the rest of it that far fetched, and sadly, the climate element probably isn’t either, given the way our federal government continues to shy away from taking action. It’s possibly the angriest story I’ve written.

The reason for this blog post is to point you in the direction of FableCroft’s Pozible campaign, being conducted through January to take the anthology further.

Says Tehani, “This campaign is designed to expand the number of excellent stories we are able to include in the book from 12-15 to at least 20. As our goal is always to pay our contributors what their efforts deserve, our stretch goal once we reach our target will be to increase the amount we are able to pay per story.”

Check out the Pozible, which essentially allows preorders with other goodies besides. As Tehani has noted, the book is coming, it’s just how many writers get to be involved that hinges on the Pozible.

Snapshot 2012: Simon Brown

australian speculative fiction snapshot 2012 logoSIMON Brown started writing fiction every day at the age of 14, which means he’s been a writer for more than 40 years. He’s had six novels published in Russia, which means his brag shelf has books he’s written that he can’t read. He currently lives in Thailand with his wife, who is an English teacher in Phuket, and his two school-age children.

PanMacmillan, under their Momentum imprint, have just released e-book versions of his previous fantasy trilogy, the Chronicles of Kydan. He’s working on three different books – a young adult/crossover horror, the first book in a new fantasy trilogy and a non-fiction book – because he can’t make up his mind which one to concentrate on.


You’ve been living overseas for the past few years. Grist for the writer’s mill or one huge distraction?
Living overseas is a great way to concentrate the mind on what you’ve left behind, at least initially. After four years in Thailand, I find that some of the things about living in a different country and a different culture are finally starting to get under my skin and become a part of me. It’s a nice feeling. But when I look up and towards the horizon, it’s always towards Australia. I think my time here in Thailand will start seeping into my work about the time I come home. That’s the way of things.


Momentum has re-released one of your series as e-books. What’s been happening to let readers know they’re available?
Mark Harding at Momentum Books has been great at getting the Chronicles of Kydan some attention. It was recently one of the books of the week on Google Play, for example, and the Momentum site has a piece by me on writing the trilogy. Gillian Polack has also kindly let me blog about the trilogy on her site. I just have to save up for an e-book reader now so I can download them myself. Imagine carrying hundreds of books in your pocket. Weird.


Can you tell us more about what’s inspired the latest projects?
The young adult/crossover horror novel, based on a short story I wrote called ‘Water Babies’ (published in Agog! Smashing Stories), is currently with a publisher, so until I get word back it’s difficult to say where it’s going.

The idea for the new fantasy trilogy I’m working on was inspired by reading about the importance of trade in ancient and medieval societies, something usually ignored in most fantasies. Since it’s just kicking off, I’m not sure how it’ll pan out at this point, but I’m enjoying booting ideas around.

The non-fiction book I hope to co-author with a good friend who is also a great writer is about the development of quantum theory. The book will concentrate on the Fifth Solvay Conference in 1927, which featured an amazing array of scientists who were also larger-than-life personalities.


What Australian works have you loved recently?
I’m ashamed to say that I’ve been so detached from the Australian scene over the past four years that I’ve read very little home-grown fiction. I did manage to read and enjoy the first book of Sean and Garth’s Troubletwisters and Scott Westerfeld‘s Leviathan (we’re allowed to poach Scott, aren’t we? (definitely: his snapshot his here — JN).


What have been some of the biggest changes in Australian speculative fiction (or the industry?) in the past two years since Aussiecon 4?
Difficult to assess from a distance, but surely the big development not just over the past two years but the past decade has been the increase in the number of Australian specfic writers and the quality of their work. I think Clarion South has a lot to do with this (and by implication Clarion South’s organisers), as well as the continued and it seems to me against-all-odds existence of short fiction markets such as Aurealis and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine.

The other big change has been the slow but inevitable move in Australia from ink to phosphor dot and LED, including e-books and online magazines. We’ll have to wait a year or 10 before properly assessing what effects this has had on writers and writing. If I’m still around, feel free to ask me again in 2022.

* * *

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:

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!
  • Food for thought: Ursula K Le Guin on the book and the reader, plus, the missing ingredient in the Hunger Games movie

    Ursula K Le Guin offers this about the ‘death’ of the book:

    There certainly is something sick about the book industry, but it seems closely related to the sickness affecting every industry that, under pressure from a corporate owner, dumps product standards and long-range planning in favor of ‘predictable’ sales and short-term profits

    Uh-huh. In the Book View Cafe piece, she goes on to talk about the differentiation between books and reading, and the definition of books. Plenty to applaud.

  • And there’s this interesting thought about the structure of writing in the face of technology, specifically the amount of a Kindle book revealed in an Amazon sample. Leave’em on a cliff-hanger, seems to the be the idea. The potential for narrative convolutions is immense. I can’t help feeling that if you’ve read 10 per cent of a book and you still don’t know whether you want to read it or not, the book’s in trouble. But then, I like the slow burn; you don’t have to hook me with a big bang or a plot twist if your voice is on the money.
  • Yay: this analysis of the Hunger Games movie helps explain why I came away feeling I’d been served a snack instead of a meal. Seems there’s a whole layer of social snark that got discarded, as well as the fact that I might’ve misread who was playing games of the heart. All the more reason to read the book, methinks.
  • And in case you missed it: the long list of the Miles Franklin. Lots of memories of the war, family secrets, a little bit of inner city, a touch of paddock, some foreign climes, the way we were and what happens next. That’s all very well, but at this time of the week, I’m thinking Sean Williams in power armour* wins hands down!
  • * See this interview for the background to Sean’s powering up!

    Recent reading

    I’ve been trying to keep up with the pile of ‘to read’ books, and struggling. The pile never seems to go down! But here’s some recent ones I’ve ticked off:

    I finally got to Magic Dirt, a collection of shorts from over-achieving Australian Sean Williams. There are a bunch of lovely stories here, most with a preface from the author about how they came to be. Two of my favourites are ‘Passing the Bone’, a gorgeous take on the zombie story, and ‘White Christmas’, a very different approach to the apocalypse. There a goodly number of SF stories, some concerned with Williams’ ongoing fascination with the idea of just how humanity might cope with the distances of space, and other post-human conundrums, and one that isn’t spec fic at all.

    Note: There is also a superb Aussie rock band called Magic Dirt.

    And for something completely different, I rolled Rant, by Chuck Palahniuk. This was a delightfully quick read, the story of the eponymous Rant being told through the accounts of those around him, documentary style. It’s cleverly done and the characters are drawn with considerable relish and appeal, and I much enjoyed the dystopia that the alternative history provides with all its Ballard-lite car crashing and diurnal/nocturnal divide. I didn’t quite go for the final conceit of just what was happening here (it belongs to a certain plot device that I always have trouble getting my head around), but didn’t mind so much, the ride had been so enjoyable.

  • Check out Chuck’s writing tips
  • Over on the non-fiction shelf, there’s A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels and Other Subversive Spirits, by Carol and Dinah Mack. This survey of, well, the title says it all, really, was going pretty well as it discussed fey folk of water, mountain, forest and soforth. It sets out each entity by description, then a little story about them, and then a section on disarming and dispelling them: identify, case study, coping technique. But the guide loses traction with a few of its inclusions, the spirits being so specific (such as St Anthony’s demons) and so powerful (such as Kabhanda and several deities) that the guide’s ‘disarming and dispelling’ section is rendered irrelevant, there being neither disarming nor dispelling available (it might as well have been renamed ‘put your head between your legs and kiss your arse goodbye’). The inclusion of psychological entities such as Freud’s Id and Jung’s Shadow seemed a step too far. Still, as an introductory guide to mythology, not bad, and the introduction to the role of spirits within each domain gave cause for reflection.

    On a similar theme, there’s Anthony Finlay’s Demons: The Devil, Possession and Exorcism, the author being a former Catholic priest who offers up a history of Christianity’s relationship with Satan and his minions and the Church’s changing attitude to possession and Satan. It’s a good starting point for an overview of how Satan came to his position within Christian dogma, Finlay showing a lovely balance between logic and faith as he charts the course in conversational, approachable prose. There’s some discussion of the role of evil in the world and Christianity’s loss of ground to materialism and atheism and other alternative viewpoints. Finlay cites historic cases of possession, introduces pop culture portrayals through the likes of The Exorcist, but doesn’t reveal too much detail about his own experiences. I suspect this book is aimed at readers from within the Church, but I found the basic history and information to be thought-provoking.<p
    Here's a fitting sign-off:

    now listen here

    Keith Stevenson has kindly made a podcast of my short story Smoking, Waiting for the Dawn, at Terra Incognita. It’s up now. The story is the latest in a monthly series that includes Sean Williams reading an unpublished short story and Cat Sparks reading her The Bride Price. I’m looking forward to next month’s story, by Trent Jamieson.

    Smoking … was published in Dreaming Again last year. The collection won a Ditmar (for best collection) at the National Science Fiction Convention in Adelaide earlier this month. Cat Sparks also won a Ditmar, and Sean Williams was deservedly awarded the Peter McNamara award for being an all-round awesome dude. This year’s Ditmars were hard to fault, in fact, with very deserving winners across the board. I was quite chuffed to see Rob Hood, Margo Lanagan and Kirstyn McDermott land theirs, and took delight in the awarding of the William Atheling Jnr award for criticism or review go to Kim Wilkins for a superb, scholarly article about genre bias. The full list of winners can be read here.

    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 🙂

    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.