Feb 29, 2012

Outland is too “teh Gay”

Jim Schembri writing over at that cultural monolith the Age doesn’t like Outland.  I know, strange isn’t he.  But then he’s entitled. We don’t all have to like the same thing otherwise we’d all end up watching shows like Rafters and Cop show rip-offs like City Homicide.

You should read it here

His objections boil down to

  • Too much of the gay
  • Too many penis references and not enough Jar Jar Binks
  • The dick jokes are  too blatant/low brow

Now before hoist your fleshlights in the air and march on Melbourne let’s unpack what he’s saying.

Too much of the gay

Schembri  argues that with all the characters being gay there’s no contrast and no conflict between gay and straight.  That it lacks a straight-man in the comedic sense

To put it bluntly, Outland is a show badly in need of a straight man - both figuratively and literally.

I’d argue that Max is the straight man and Fab the comic foil.  Max is the “everygay” that I as a heterosexual male most closely relate to.

And as for too much of the gay.  I think by having an entirely gay cast Outland does something very important. It normalises1 homosexuality to an audience  that is largely conservative and does so without being preachy.

Outland then is not really about gays, it’s about science fiction fandom and being the other, which in turn folds back nicely into a comment of the position of homosexuals in our culture. It gets around the token gay character that’s used in a show to send a message or to pay lip service to equality. 

The characters sexuality doesn’t really have an impact on me what it says about belonging does.

Too many penis references and not enough Jar Jar Binks

This is the point at which I think I understand why Schembri is not getting it.  No self respecting fan would raise the spectre of he of the floppy ears that should not be named.  Or maybe he just wanted more Star Wars jokes?

There’s crass fisting and penis jokes but this show is so multi-layered with geek referencing that I think its problem is not that it’s too base; it’s that you really need to be well versed in geek culture to get everything. From Dr Who “in jokes” to camera angle and prop homages.

Outland is not a sitcom in the vein of The Big Bang Theory with the dumb, good looking blond with common sense contrasted against the specialised knowledge and social ineptness of 4 PhD holders.  So why contrast them with it?

It doesn’t tell you when to laugh, with long pauses and canned laughter.

And thank goodness. Shows that try to imitate what the Americans do, look exactly like that poor imitations.

I say enjoy the fact that it’s unique and remember that it’s squeezing that uniqueness into 6 episodes that focus on each of the characters.  Big Bang Theory had 17 episodes in its first season and has less main characters - indeed you could argue it has two.

A major opportunity at a mainstream, line-crossing sitcom has been missed with Outland. And, to be fair, a look at the subsequent episode on the preview disk was sat through. No improvement.

I don’t know that you can criticise it on the one hand for not being line crossing and then suggest that it mimic a certain Sitcom format.

Outland as I hope I have pointed out is doing a couple of unique things, sure it might not be for everyone and maybe your average Joe Blow is going to baulk at it but then if we made shows that appealed to the widest demographic then well we’d end up with MKR every night of the week …oh wait..


1. I hate the word but am at a loss to find something that expresses the idea that homosexuals are indeed normal, human beings


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Wednesday Links

I have gone from having no work to being fully booked more or less for the next two weeks – ah the life of a masterless Ronin relief teacher.  So I am still ploughing through Brandon Sanderson’s Warbreaker and I am trying to organise a telephone interview with a an unnamed1 Australian novelist.

So some links of interest that popped up in my reader:

The first is a guest post on SF Signal by LB Gale on the upcoming John Carter of Mars.  The discussion surrounding John Carter reminds me a bit of the discussion around Lord of the Rings; regarding it being a rip-off of Dungeons and Dragons.

Laura does a really good job of picking apart the idea of rip-offs and pointing out that each generation retells the stories of the last among other things.

Dancing with Avatars on Mars: On John Carter and Ripoffs

And if you are interested in other John Carter related info check out this Primer that includes a fan man trailer of the film

Tansy has a great post on the Doctor Who episode Planet of the Spiders in”:

“Not Just a Journalist But a Woman Journalist!” [Review: Planet of the Spiders]

It makes me want to see it again and reminds me that at least three of the actors from that period have all sadly passed away.

Mary Robinette Kowal points us to a blog post by one of her Alpha readers on the importance and role of an alpha reader.  And having just engaged my significant other to do this job all I can do is nod my head in agreement.

Finally, Rowena Cory Daniels has emerged from the editing cave to give us this interview  with Australian writer Lian Tanner.  Well worth reading.


1.They obviously have a name but I am not telling Smile with tongue out


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Feb 27, 2012

What’s the time? 13 O’clock

thirteenWith the demise of HorrorScope in May of last year a gaping and bloody hole was left in the Australian Dark Fantasy and Weird Fiction community. 

Three foolhardy but brave adventurers have stepped forward (or were too slow to recoil) to seal the breach and give us:

13 O’clock – Australian Dark Fiction News & Reviews

The three lost souls are Alan Baxter, Felicity Dowker & Andrew J McKiernan.

Pop over and check them out.  They are looking for contributors.


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Feb 26, 2012

Feminism - where I admit to being indecisive?

I have almost finished listening to the latest episode of Galactic Suburbia, a great podcast that manages to raise a feminist viewpoint unthreateningly.  Indeed I have to wonder if the idea of militant, man hating feminism is a result of severe poisoning of the well by threatened conservatives with vested interests. In much the same way that atheists get called militant(when generally they are being vocal).

fcosIn that podcast the women of Galactic Suburbia applauded the stance that Paul Cornell took and pointed out that it had problems.

However, and I think it was Alisa (paraphrasing here you should really go and you know LISTEN to HER) who still voiced some sadness/annoyance that it was a man who had said what women had been talking about for YEARS. 

Why is it that he gets listened to?

unclesamAnd that got me thinking.  Why is it that a man gets listened to (preferentially so) by men AND women?  Is it culture? Is it in someway biological? A complex interplay of both? 

I seem to remember a skills coach teaching other women how to talk like a man, not just words but inflection. If I recall correctly, men generally make statements, women often have an upward inflection that makes even statements sound like a question - thereby suggesting uncertainty.

I dug around for some studies, but haven’t stumbled across anything yet.

I did, however, come across a post on whether men can call themselves feminists or allies.  On the one hand I feel that If I call myself a feminist its appropriation, that by talking about feminist or gender issues I am perpetuating the problem (I am a man and you will listen to me, while I tell you all about feminism) on the other hand I don’t want to shrink from that label because it might be seen to be a dirty word,  In much the same way that I don’t want to shrink from calling myself an atheist. 

Allies just doesn’t seem to be committed enough.

On the other hand I wonder if there is utility in me speaking on Feminism if my audience is male.  Is it better for me to act as a gateway to feminist understanding, for men or people who have their women filters on? 

I don’t know if this last point holds though, as it was me listening to the women of Galactic Suburbia, that lit the flame so to speak, I didn’t need no man telling me about Feminism

I note also that male writers who write about feminist issues tend to have less threats of sexual violence levelled against them, less hand waving of their “silly disturbed hysterical thoughts” is this because the idiots who sprout misogynist crap actually are forced to listen to/read the arguments?

So here I sit. Ever so slightly undecided.  Do I explain gender bias, and attack misogyny where I see it?

Do I fall in to my familiar role of teacher?  Or should I just act as a signpost gently pushing people in the general direction of good feminist resources?


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Feb 25, 2012

A Small Thank you

 booktopia.com.au - Australia's #1 online bookstore

Those of you who are old hands at the book blogging game will no doubt have picked up that I have a couple of spots on the blog that look like advertising spots.

I am indeed signed up to a couple of affiliate programs and 12 months ago I outlined my reasons for doing so.  It basically boils down to these sites providing good service and providing competition for unnamed industry giants.

So currently I have affiliate links that go to Kobo and to an Australian Online Bookstore Booktopia.

In my experience blogging isn’t a money making enterprise, at least not in the areas I write about and the style in which I present my content.

I won’t make enough money to pay the rent but it does give you a nice feeling when someone is so inspired by your review that they decide to make a purchase.

So thank you to the reader who made a purchase on the 22nd, I hope you enjoy your purchase and thanks for supporting an Australian blogger and business.


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What the Phantom Menace could have been

A brilliant twelve minute “What if” analysis of the construction of The Phantom Menace.


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Gender Parity too much for London Super Comic Con

 

Last week Paul Cornell of Dr Who and DC Comics fame made a personal statement about gender parity, it caused much debate and discussion all of which was largely positive – you can peruse some of the discussion at my round up post here.

Essentially he was prepared to step down from any panel he was on and be replaced by a suitably qualified female member of the audience.  The problems with this plan were pointed out and the discussion moved on to what could effect real change.  I believe the Fifty Fifty Festivals organisation is the outcome of the discussion that surrounds Paul’s ‘stunt’. 

Really good news.

So what did the organisers of Paul’s latest scheduled panel appearance do?  Well this is what Paul advises us

This is mainly because Stan Lee is in town for the London Super Comic Con.  I'll be going along to that convention, spending some considerable time at my table, and helping to judge the cosplay contest, but I won't be appearing on the DC panel because, in the face of my Panel Parity Plan, the organisers decided the simplest course of action, rather than find an equal number of women who could talk on the panel in an informed way about DC Comics (there's no reason everyone on the panel has to work for the company) was to chuck me off it

I've considered a few responses to that, but I think in the end the most reasonable course of action is to go along and talk to people about the situation.

Now I don’t know the specific relationship legal or otherwise between Mr Cornell, DC Comics or the organisers but I’d like to think that If I was the monkey in charge of the PR/Organisation, an email to Paul might have gone something like this.

 

Mr Cornell,

I note with interest and a little dismay your Panel Parity plan. The committee has discussed the issues that brought about this proposed course of action from you and we ask that you do not proceed.

We agree that something should be done to address gender parity at our conventions, the panel’s make up was an oversight.  To change it this year, at such short notice would be difficult and disruptive.

We are open to suggestions about how we might improve gender parity next year and would appreciate, your suggestions.

Warmest regards

P.R. Monky

Frankly it’s called communication.  And yes perhaps Paul could have contacted them directly and made his opinions known privately.  I’d like to think, however, that a professional organisation who has to deal with any number of “creative personalities” would be adept at smoothing things over, compromise etc.

Instead it seems that these organisers come from the George W Bush school of negotiation.


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Feb 24, 2012

Galactic Suburbia Episode 54 & Android App

The Women of Galactic Suburbia are at it again, chalking and talking up Episode 54.  Tansy talks Lego and there appears to be a whole raft of Gender topics, discussed – sounds very crunchy.

They tease us, their fans, with promise of a feedback episode.

The Show Notes are here

You can download the mp3 direct from here

You can stream from the player below

OR

You can try the Galactic Suburbia Plus Android app

I created1 an app yesterday that collects the mobile feed of both Galactic Suburbia and Galactic chat podbean sites. 

Downloading the App is a much quicker way for Android users to connect to the site -cuts out the step of opening the browser and connecting to a bookmarked page.  With this App you get both feeds and it’s as easy as hitting the tab to flick between the two.

I have tested it on my Galaxy 5 over a wifi network and it works very well.

The download link is here if you are reading this blog via an android device or if you have your phone handy you can scan the QR code below.  It leads to the Appsgeyser website.

qurified_message (1)

Worthwhile if you like streaming over a wifi connected android tablet, but probably not financially viable on any but the most generous data plans on mobiles.  Because you know how long the crew can talk …

Screenshot

 

galsubplusdummy

Note:  Don’t contact the Galactic Suburbia site if it there are issues with the app itself, this a fan creation by me - you can contact me below in the comments if for some reason you can’t get it to work.


1. Created in the sense that I cut and pasted some links and clicked some options.  I’m no code money


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Feb 23, 2012

Outland–Fab’s Web Vlog

For some reason, that I am dubbing the Margaret Court Effect, every time I sit down to watch Outland I end up getting an interrupted transmission via ABC 1. 

As you know with Outland, the jokes come quick and there is so much referencing of geek culture that it requires an uninterrupted viewing.

Luckily I cam across this little side series of Fab – Adam Richard in character, doing a review blog.  Made up for everything.

Be warned, this is Fab – not safe for work, or people you take themselves too seriously.


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The Future is Here–Google Goggles

This is ever so scary and great writing material.  Indeed I wrote a short story a couple of years ago that had this sort of feature imbedded into optical implants (I don’t think its a particularly novel idea).

My concern is what sort of effect this has on brain development.  When we stop using our brain to store information- by which I mean the practise and development of encoding and retrieving info – what do we lose?

I already fight a losing battle with teaching kids research skills.


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Heads Up - Showtime Cover

Showtime Book 5 in the Twelve Planets Series from cutting edge small press Publisher TPP has has a cover – another unique piece of book design from Amanda Rainey.

And you know what a cover means?  The book isn’t far behind.

Narrelle M Harris is the author of this collection and here website can be found here.

But for those eager for a taste, here is the back cover copy:

 

Family drama can be found anywhere: in kitchens, in cafes. Derelict hotels, showground rides. Even dungeons far below ruined Hungarian castles. (Okay, especially in Hungarian dungeons.)

Old family fights can go on forever, especially if you’re undead. If an opportunity came to save someone else’s family, the way you couldn’t save your own, would you take it?

Your family might include ghosts, or zombies, or vampires. Maybe they just have allergies. Nobody’s perfect.

Family history can weigh on the present like a stone. But the thing about families is, you can’t escape them. Not ever. And mostly, you don’t want to.

It’s a beautiful collection of pieces, each one utterly classic and completely new at the same time… In Narrelle’s hands, everything old is new again, and everything new has the weight of age. There’s magic in that, and in this book.

— Seanan McGuire

Keep your eyes peeled for this one.


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Beta Test of Bookonaut Android App

appsgeyserToday I wasted an inordinate amount of time creating a Android app version of this website through the Appsgeyser page. 

Not really sure of its usefulness as my mobile already defaults to the mobile version of my blogger page and this app does the same. 

I have, however, created some tabs for Book reviews, eBook reviews and Interviews. 

Another issue I am not completely happy with is that the page displayed won’t allowdummy comments or rather it will but they go to the blogger commenting system which is overlaid by intense debate on the web version. 

 

I suppose android viewers can always elect to go to the web version but that strikes me as  defeating the purpose of making an android app in the first place.

Anyway, if you feel inclined to download and test the app use the QR code above or this link

 


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Feb 22, 2012

Dystopia’s - a vision of the future or echoes of the past?

images (21)Sometimes I think that science fiction and its writers are not so much visionaries who peer into the future but rather have a good handle on the human condition and human nature – historians in as much as futurists.

Technology changes but essentially we don’t.

Three articles got me thinking about dystopias today and two of them have a historical element:

This one by Fence at Susanhatedliterature.net talks about the feminist activist Josephine and her actions in getting the Contagious Diseases Act abolished.

Born in 1828 Butler was an early feminist, and one of her causes became the abolishment of the Contagious Diseases Act. This horrible bit of legislation meant that any policeman could stop any woman walking the streets by herself and examine her to check if she was infected with veneral disease. Supposedly this was to stop men from visiting infected prostitutes and spreading the disease further.

Why not instead examine the men? Well

[read on]

images (22)The second was an article in the Sydney Morning Herald about new consorting laws.  First brought in in the 20’s and 30’s to combat Razor gangs, they were scaled back because of police abuse and corruption and yet here we are brining them in to deal with bikie gangs

NEW laws designed to help police break up bikie gangs are open to abuse because they allow police to punish anyone who associates with people who have been convicted of a criminal offence in the past, a legal expert warns.

Alex Steel, an associate professor of criminal law at the University of NSW, said the planned legislation could be selectively enforced by police to discriminate, including against people in Aboriginal communities.

''The problem is this legislation casts the net so widely so that everyone who has been convicted of an indictable offence is on tenterhooks for the rest of their life,'' he said.

Read more:

Last Marianne de Pierres  gives us a report of journalist drones operating in the Australia.  Strikingly reminiscent of her own Priers in the Parrish books.  Marianne’s post is here and a snippet of the article she refers to is below:

Drones play an increasing and controversial role in modern warfare. From Afghanistan and Pakistan to Iran and Yemen, they have become a ubiquitous symbol of Washington's war on terrorism.

Critics point to the mounting drone-induced death toll as evidence that machines, no matter how sophisticated, cannot discriminate between combatants and innocent bystanders.

Now drones are starting to fly into a more peaceful, yet equally controversial role in the media. Rapid technological advances in low-cost aerial platforms herald the age of drone journalism.

But it will not be all smooth flying: this new media tool can expect to be buffeted by the issues of safety, ethics and legality.

[Read on]

I’ll leave you here to ponder the title question, I have just had an idea for a story


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Feb 21, 2012

Wonder Women the Untold Story of American Super heroines

This short film was lifted from the Austral-Asian Specfic Daily.  It’s a very brief discussion about the history of women in comics and ties in with the gender theme of today’s posts.  I am also reading Comix: A History of Comic Books in America which seems to be very light on gender discussion.


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Gender Post Round Up

The past month has seen a bit of discussion on Gender and fiction, gender and con panels.  Perhaps its because I am interested in the topic that I am seeing more of it.  But what I hope is happening is a little consciousness raising flowing through the book world.

So here are some recent posts, some of which I have participated in.  All are entertaining and instructive.  I’d even say read the comments.

Panel  Parity – The post that seems to have birthed a number of others commenting on gender parity at conventions.

Or maybe sometimes Equality MIGHT Mean Half… [the Paul Cornell Parity Project Edition] - Tansy Rayner Roberts commenting on the above

The Cornell Ratio: Should SFF Convention Panels Be 50/50 Male and Female? – Tor commenting on Cornell’s suggestion.

Positive Discrimination – Cheryl Morgan commenting on the Cornell post

If you have got you head around that lot it might be worth taking a look at Cheryl Morgan’s review of Episode 16 of the Writer and the Critic  in Kirstyn And Mondy Do Gender

And because we are talking Gender, here’s my own gender report of the years reading to date:

graph

Feel free to add any links to other recent gender posts in the comments.


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Feb 20, 2012

Book Review–Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan

seah
I have been captivated by Margo Lanagan’s skill as a writer since I read her short story Singing My Sister Down. I don’t recall any other short story evoking such emotion before or since. 

I discovered Tender Morsels last year and that was another powerful display of skill, this time in novel form.
 
Sea Hearts 1 continues this showcasing of her skill, with language and narrative.  Reading Lanagan is like watching the world through aged glass.  The world and its characters are identifiable but there is a ripple, a distortion that separates us. 

It’s in this distortion that Margo plays, drawing on folklore and legends, weaving them with the mundane, creating modern day folktales, presenting us with scenarios but passing no judgement. 

She’s often pigeon-holed as a YA writer ( no doubt in part due to her very early works) but she’s had more than a toe dipped in the speculative fiction community for some time now.  I tend to view her work as mature fiction, with depth and power.  I would certainly recommend her to any intelligent reader 14 years and up.
An example of the depth of the novel is the multitude of angles that you can approach Sea Hearts from.  It’s a clever weaving of the legend of the Selkie into a moving narrative; it’s a comment on relationships between men and women, mothers and sons, the value of women, love, bullying, justice and revenge.

In simple plot terms, it’s the story of the Witch Misskaella who summons seal women from the sea to partner the men of the island and the ramifications of this action.  The story is told from the perspective of various people, from different generations, who are connected to the consequences or the Island in some fashion.

One of the highlights is Lanagan’s talent in shaping the English language to her own ends.  She’s joyously crude in some instances;
She snorted and matter flew out of one of her nostrils and into  the blanket. She knitted on savagely.  The bone’s rustling in the weed sent my boy-sacks up inside me like startled mice into their hole.
Daniel Mallet on meeting the witch Misskaella
and powerfully understated in others
Ean, Froman, Hugh. Where do I begin with the questions I cannot ask her?….’But whose?’ I say. ‘Whose are you? What man of this isle got you on our Miss?’
Trudle Callisher on discovering Misskaella had been a mother.

Whereas the folktale often presents black and white characters – the handsome prince, the evil witch; Lanagan gives us a villain( if one can call her that), who is both a victim of a community and her own actions.   Misskaella’s actions cause others grief, pain and loss, but there is a sense that her actions if not justified, are human and understandable.

I was storm tossed by this novel, sympathising with Misskaella in one chapter, finding myself disgusted with her the next.  Whether a story is a comedy or a tragedy often depends on where you stop the telling.  We finish on a happy note with Sea Hearts but the reader has had to sail through a storm of sorrows to get there.

Sea Hearts will captivate and manipulate you. It will raise questions for you. When you emerge from Lanagan’s spell you won’t quite be the same.

This book was a review copy provided by Allen & Unwin
Sea Hearts is available in both Ebook and Paperback from Australian online retailer Booktopia.


1. The US/UK title is The Brides of Rollrock Island

awwc2012This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012.  Please check out this page for more great writing from Australian women.


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Feb 19, 2012

Heads Up–Dark Divide due out in April

DarkDivideAus-300The Dark Divide, book two in Jennifer Fallon’s Rift Runners series is due out April 1st1 for Australian and New Zealand readers. 

International fans will have to wait a little longer. 

The blurb:

Time is running out for Rónán and his psychically-linked twin brother, Darragh. In two weeks, at the Autumn Solstice in their own reality, the Queen of the Faerie will transfer the Undivided power to the new-found heirs and the older twins will die. But Darragh is trapped in 2001 Dublin and Rónán in a reality where the Undivided are not Druids, but Shinto warriors.


The twins need to get home before the transfer takes place, not only to save their own lives, but to break the curse on Trása, who is destined to remain trapped by Marcroy Tarth's spell, and to rescue Hayley from the Faerie lord's seductive embrace.


With Darragh caught in a reality without magic, and Ronan stranded in one with plenty of magic but no idea how to use it, the brothers must prove that even across realities, they truly are the Undivided.

You can of course pick up book one here , or if you live in Adelaide, The Book Boys had quite a few on sale for $9.99 in the old Borders building.


1. My source is Jennifer's blog and I am sure this isn’t a stunt.


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Aurealis Number 47

aurealis 47Aurealis 47 the February Issue has been released and sadly it’s no longer free1

Aurealis now retails at less than “a half decent cup of coffee” price of $2.99. 

With that you get two new pieces of speculative fiction, reviews, a non fiction essay and links to speculative fiction happenings on the web.

If you are skint or cheap payment averse you can still get half the issue for nothing on preview (click here and scroll down).

But I can get a whole ebook for that

Some may  well say “I can get a whole ebook for that.”  To which I have a number of responses:

  1. Knock yourself out, but you’ll be missing out on this publication
  2. I call it investing in our local specific culture, an investment for which I actually receive something straight away.
  3. I am still not sure what effect 99c deals will have on publishing and authors in the long run and am prepared to pay extra particularly to small presses and publications.
  4. I hope that when I get around to finishing some short fiction that there will still be a market to submit it to.  Paying local talent, means that talent can keep on writing and providing us with a unique view.
  5. Issue 47 references yours truly and I am ever so slightly narcissistic and obviously think you should pay for something that mentions me.

In all seriousness though 100 pages of Australian Specfic goodness for less than a coffee/ice cream.

This issue features a slightly grisly historical fantasy piece by Jenny Blackford and some Aussie outback flavoured horror by Jason Nahrung and a Non Fiction Essay by Crisetta MacLeod in addition to reviews and other web materials.

The magazine also contains to collate and publish feedback from each issue.  Want something extra in the magazine, or feel something’s not working?  Let the team know.


1.To be honest though it two issues for nix was a damn good deal. 

Feb 18, 2012

Andromeda Spaceways Issue 53

ASIM53_229_317-220x304The intrepid crew at Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine have released Issue 53.  It’s available in multiple formats .pdf, epub, mobi and print and can be sourced from their webpage here.

Patty Jansen is in the Editor’s chair for this issue and has collated what looks to be a good line up with fiction by Jo Anderton, Lee Blevins, Clare M Clerkin-Russell, and many more.

[read more]

 


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Feb 17, 2012

The Writer and the Critic: Episode 16

PD*3141165Mondy and Kirstyn are back and unfortunately this week they are reviewing a book that I am on the cusp of reading – Kin Westwood’s The Courier's New Bicycle. 

Normally I don’t mind spoilers if the book they are covering has peripheral interest or whose likelihood reading is so low down my TBR list that I will forget what they have said.

I suppose since they have gone to the trouble of mentioning the times that spoilers may occur, I could half listen to it.

Any who and without further ado here is the podcast:

 
and download link.

In this episode Kirstyn & Mondy discuss  The Silver Wind by Nina Allan at 35:30, and The Courier’s New Bicycle by Kim Westwood at 59:45. Final remarks begin at 01:43:00

[show notes]


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Feb 16, 2012

Comic Book Writer?

I recently, as in yesterday, became a member of the SA Writers centre and while it’s a bit short notice for me to get organised they are running a a 3 hour course on writing for Graphic Novels. 

Checkout the details below:

Writing a Graphic Novel with Ruth Starke

RuthStarke_smallDo you have a story in your head that you can conceptualise visually? Does your story run through your mind like film through a projector? Do you find writing dialogue much easier and far more pleasurable than description? Do you like comics?

If you answered yes to some of these questions, you might enjoy writing a graphic novel. You might already have a narrative story, a page of ideas, a page of sketches, or a script. Whichever, bring it along to this workshop, which is for illustrators who want to write, writers who can't draw, and people who are still making up their minds. Bring along pencils, paper and an eraser.

Please note this workshop is on writing and not illustrating the graphic novel.

Event date:
18-02-2012 14:00 - 17:00

[source]


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Feb 15, 2012

Heads Up - The Strange Calls

Just lifted this from The Austral-Asian Spec-Fic Daily which, you know you should subscribe to so you can win a set of steak knives, so you don’t miss out on all the spec fic links on twitter.

No?

Well anyway here is the trailer

The Strange Calls Trailer from Daley Pearson on Vimeo.

You may notice the lead actor also stars in Outland which is screening tonight.
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Exciting Publishing news

No, not for me, that would mean I’d been motivated and, you know, written some fiction in the last 2 months 1 .

Establishing Momentum

momoNo, this is some interesting news brought about by the “digital revolution baby”2. Pan Macmillan have released their digital only imprint called Momentum.  They have 22 novels which can be bought through Amazon, Google and iBookstore (though I note some books aren’t available in all three).

Here’s their press release:

MOMENTUM, Pan Macmillan Australia’s new digital-only imprint, has launched today with 22 ebooks available for sale. Pan Macmillan is the first major book publisher in Australia to launch a digital-only list. Momentum’s list is an exciting and vibrant mix of books from established and emerging authors. Publishing ebooks and utilising print-on-demand (POD) technology, Momentum aims to make new and old books more accessible than ever before.

Momentum combines all the editorial expertise of a traditional publishing house with strong and highly focused marketing and promotion. The dynamics of ebook publishing allow Momentum to publish globally and at highly accessible prices, with new titles under $10 and previously published titles under $5.

[read more]

Interesting that they have been more or less forced to come down to the $10 mark, not sure if that’s good or bad or just plain necessary.

Midnight-Sun-facebookIn the Land of the Midnight Sun

The second bit of news is the establishment of Midnight Sun a local (based in Adelaide) publisher.   Internode founder Simon Hackett did the ribbon cutting honours and the music was provided by New York Times best selling novelist Sean Williams3 .  Here’s their press release:

February is here and the time has finally come to let MidnightSun Publishing stand on its own two feet. Last night, 10 Feb 2012, the company was officially launched at an amazing party in Adelaide. Well-known businessman Simon Hackett did the honours and did so beautifully, talking about the need for people to be passionate about what they love and actually transform their passions into businesses.

The night was a huge success with 150-200 people attending, many of them taking advantage of the exclusive sale of our first book, Anna Solding’s The Hum of Concrete, a month before its actual launch at Writers’ Week. To see so many well-loved writers (Sean Williams, Carol Lefevre, Ruth Starke and Amy T. Matthews to name a few)

[read more]

So keep your eyes peeled for the times there are a changin’

H/T to SA Writers Centre


1. Book still languishing at the 40K mark

 2. Imagine Austin Poers saying that ad it doesn’t sound too sexist..

3. A man of many talents it seems


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Feb 14, 2012

Hello Sweetie

A regular readers will know I bought, or rather received a Kobo Vox as a present.  It’s chuffing along quite nicely at the moment1 . I have some paperback review copies that are keeping me from getting too carried away with it though.

I am, however, starting to get a bit nervous about damaging it .  My old PRS 505 had a nice synthetic leather cover that protected it rather well.  So I am looking for something similar although I haven’t ruled out converting an old/damaged leather bound tome to a book cover.

That was until I saw this:

river songriver song2

Hello Sweetie indeed.2

It’s by a leather worker3 on Etsy and if you can see the vast range of work he does here. Sadly though its quite expensive, though not undeservedly so. Still the well trained consumer/fan in me wants it.

 


1. It wasn’t all smooth sailing though –see here

2. If you have no idea  what I am referencing with “Hello Sweetie” then you have lost all Geek cred with me.  NO! I’m serious I disown you and relegate you to that special circle of hell reserved for Fox executives who cancel Joss Whedon’s shows and Sylvester McCoy.

3. No idea where the leather is sourced from, whether its produced ethically(is there such a thing).

Feb 13, 2012

Flying Under the Radar

RadarThe Speculative Fiction community can be a little insular at times – no doubt there are historical reasons for this, including but not being limited to being the victim of literary snobbery.

From high school onwards Science fiction and Fantasy is looked down upon.  It’s real books about real stuff1 or mimetic fiction (as mentioned on the Writer & The Critic podcast) that gets the guernsey.

As a result we few, we happy few, we band of social non–conformists stand walled off from many works that share genre elements.

Community has its advantages of course, in numbers we gain strength, understanding and validation but we also stand to miss those works which breach genre boundaries, which refuse to sit comfortably in distinct categorisations.

Hence the point of this post.  There are two books that I have recently come across that I have not heard mention of in Speculative Fiction circles. These would easily be appreciated by members of the Speculative Fiction community.

These books slip into categorisations that some of us would not be seen dead browsing in for example:

  1. Black Glass by Meg Mundell – filed under Religion & Beliefs/Contemporary Fiction it’s reviewed here as part of the AWW challenge.
  2. When We Have Wings by Claire Corbett – filed under Contemporary fiction and reviewed by me and others at AWW challenge.

So my question is dear readers, is what books have you noticed that have flown under the radar, books that you think might fit the Speculative Fiction label?


1.Ignoring the fact of course that all fiction is made up, an exercise in shared imagination or fantasy


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Feb 12, 2012

Twelfth Planet Press books hit the Kindle Store

12pp-newpink-webLG (1)From the Twelfth Planet Press release:

We’re very pleased to announce that with the conversion of our backlist to EBook form, the following titles are now available for just $5.95 from the Kindle Store at Amazon:

We will be adding more books to the Kindle Store, and of course to our other online suppliers as the year progresses.

You can of course get them directly from Twelfth Planet Press store, or a number of other online independent and non-predatory outlets.

Here’s hoping this leads to a larger audience for TPP and its stable of writers.


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Another dose of Lanagan

seahI am currently reading my review copy of Margo Lanagan’s Sea Hearts (and really enjoying it).  It seems that Margo is getting quite a bit of coverage both nationally and overseas.  Two recent features include:

The ABC’s Books and Arts Daily features Margo talking about Sea Hearts.  You can play her interview via this link or listen to the whole show which features some discussion on eBooks by downloading it here.

and

The UK’s Guardian newspaper reviews Sea Hearts/Brides of Rollrock Island here courtesy of Marcus Sedgwick.

You can purchase the paperback and the eBook from Australian service Booktopia.

I note that again Lanagan is placed in the Children/Teens section; a classification that always puzzles me to some degree. 

Lanagan’s work tends to be a little confronting at times (Tender Morsels for example or Singing my Sister Down).  I would argue that there’s a certain maturity that a reader must have to fully appreciate her work.  Children’s book no.  Mature teen and above yes.

I’d hate for adult readers of speculative fiction to pass Lanagan by simply because she might be found in the YA section – her work to me is relevant and enjoyable for those of us who have survived adolescence.


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Book Review–When We Have Wings by Claire Corbett

whenWhen We have Wings is Claire Corbett’s debut novel, though from page one the reader is in no doubt that Corbett is a practised and skilled writer. 

It’s rare as a reviewer that I get surprised by a work, when you read a lot of quality fiction your expectations are high.  When We have Wings enchanted me as I was reading it and had me deep in thought when I wasn’t.

The Tale

When We have Wings is set in a near future Australia1 where sea levels have risen and our tampering with genetics has altered not only our own biology but that of many of the life forms surrounding us.  Picking your child’s features is commonplace; the cutting edge of genetic manipulation is the creation of humans with wings.

The dark underside to these genetic wonders are superbugs, ultra virulent strains of mosquito born diseases and super weeds that clog any land not repeatedly cleared.

Society limps on, the gap between rich and poor ever widening, encapsulated most eloquently in a piece of graffiti viewed by one of our protagonists:

In dripping gold letters three metres high ran the words: if GOD wanted you to FLY, he’d have made you RICH.

The story is told from two perspectives: First, Peri a poor girl made good, a wet nurse and surrogate mother for a pair of rich flyers;  her payment is her wings.  Second, Zeke an ex-cop turned private eye agonising over the choice to let his ex-wife turn their son into a flier. 

Peri absconds with the child she is caring for and Zeke is hired to track her down.  What looks like a straightforward case takes Zeke and the reader further into the mysterious and seedy world of flier culture and politics.  While with Peri the reader is treated to an unravelling of a personal mystery and the wonders and possibilities of flight.

Only reading can do this book justice

No short block of text is going to adequately impress on you the scope of this novel.  So rich did I find the world building, so convincing and multi-layered did I find Corbett’s vision that it seems a pity to let it rest at one novel.

Corbett could have just hand waived some of the explanations associated with human wing powered flight, but she didn’t.  Without giving us too “crunchy” or technical an explanation she makes flight seem probable rather than possible.  I’d go further - so evocative was her prose that I could almost feel the experience of flight.

Corbett could have hand waived some of the changes to culture and society brought on by the creation of human fliers but she didn’t and the reader is treated to a a world that has depth and verisimilitude.  If there’s a way flying humans would change our society she’s outlined it, from architecture to the way crime would change.

She’s also used her experience working for government departments to give us a sometimes depressingly realistic vision of  future bureaucracy and the services that would spring up around a self centred culture.

‘Is this one of those child hotels?’ I’d said as we pulled up to the seedy highrise, with its billboard slick outside that made it look like a resort, complete with palm-fringed pool. From newborns to 12 years old, the sign said: 24 hour care; weekly rates. Special needs catered for. Separate dormitories for boys and girls. We give them the best holiday so you can have the best holiday. ‘Never seen one of these before.’

‘Jack and Jill?’ said Henryk. ‘Hope that doesn’t reflect their standard of care.

This book got under my skin and awoke in me that rare experience in fiction where for a second, magic or the imagined becomes tantalisingly real.  I caught my self day dreaming, watching clouds and believing.

Don’t let this slip under the Specfic radar

My fear with When We have Wings, is that many with in the Speculative Fiction community won’t read it simply because it won’t register on their radar.  At Booktopia it’s listed as contemporary fiction, its cover says “literature”. 

This is a book that quite comfortably sits in the realm of speculative fiction, I would hope it gets nominated for an Aurealis; it should be nominated for a Campbell if not a Hugo award.

Don’t let this one slip under your radar.

 

This book was provided to me at no coast by Allen & Unwin.

Note:Booktopia currently have the ebook version available for $2.25. A certified bargain if you ask me.


Footnote:

1. It’s never actually stated as the location, but the language and culture indicates that it is.  Imagine a fusion of Sydney and the slums of Mumbai


awwc2012This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012.  Please check out this page for more great writing from Australian women.

 

 


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Feb 10, 2012

On rediscovering Comics

images (17)I had a brief flirtation with Comics in my teens.  I grew up of course in Alice Springs where the were no dedicated comic shops and the fare at the Newsagents was limited to very general and sporadic titles, though you always seemed to be able to get a copy of the Phantom.

The library wasn’t too much better, the only graphic novels were Tin Tin and Asterix( the later I loved).

I hooked up with some American friends in my last couple of years of school and they had developed a serious love for comics.  Consequently I collected a bit of Batman (especially vs Predator) and still have four alternate covers of a reboot of the X-Men.

So with the new Kobo and having listened to Tansy talk about digital comics on Galactic Surburbia I went on the lookout for an android reading app.

Comixology cometh

If you complain about formats and ebooks, then you haven’t entered the mire that is digital comics.  Luckily I was able to find an app and a store that has a really wide range.  Comixology seems to have the two big names – DC and Marvel and a growing collection of less well known publishers.

So with the App downloaded, I downloaded some free/ preview issues.  I must say I am very impressed.  Comixology has Guided View technology which I would say is essential for any tablet device under 10 inches. 

Instead of zooming in as you would on a pdf, guided view will actually guide you through panel by panel – an excellent feature if you are new to comics and your visual literacy with the medium is next to zero.

To get an idea of what I am talking about here are the Comixology crew demonstrating on an iPad.

I have read comics/graphic novels on the laptop before and paging up and down has been distracting from the reading experience.

After downloading Comixology and about 6 free comics I am am pretty much hooked.  It’s only a lack of interest in Superheroes and no wifi connection at home that is preventing me from loosening the purse strings.

Other options

This article at life hacker was helpful in sorting out formats, reading software and where to go for comic that exist outside the sort of set up the Comixology store has.


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Feb 9, 2012

My continuing adventures with the Vox

images (16)Well as you might have guessed from this post my initial adventure with Kobo’s colour ereader/tablet hit a snag.

Through a rather expensive coffee and cake and a 40 minute round trip to the nearest metropolis fishing village I was able to register and unlock the Vox1. I’d already discovered that the native Kobo Reading App wouldn’t support Adobe Digital Editions2, even the books that I had bought from the Kobo website.

Luckily the Vox is a tablet and there’s an App for that.  Specifically the Aldiko reader app which should recognise  ADE DRM.  Or you could just research Calibre and various plugins and the DRM issue apparently disappears 3.

I am still waiting to set up the home wireless (I live rurally and operate on mobile internet) and that’s a whole other tale of woe.

But seeing that I have limited internet access with the Vox how has it all been going? 

Well I have:

  • Sideloaded4 my collection of books
  • Read and annotated some texts
  • Tweeted
  • Watched a TV show in HD using the Gallery App
  • Downloaded the Aldiko, Comixology & Kindle Apps

What do I like:

  • That I can read any book in my collection regardless of format.
  • I can watch TV/Movies in bed – provided the a recorded and compressed
  • Highlighting and annotating text in books
  • Colour covers
  • And for the Comixology app their Guided view technology, which has done wonders for my comic reading literacy.

Downsides:

  • Possible eyestrain
  • Not all books seem to support the night reading setting

So I am happy.  I will be happy still when I work out the wireless setup but for now I am enjoying the reading, and am rediscovering an interest in comics. 


1. In case you didn’t realise the Kobo, unlike more expensive tablets needs to download an update before you can actually get in and play around.   To do this you require a private wireless internet connection, or try some old fashioned wardriving.  Public wifi that requires browser login will only work after this update.

2.Slightly depressing as its pretty much the default DRM for most publishers

3. The removal of DRM even if its for your own use, so that you can back-up and move files from one device to the other is not legal

4. Sounds cool doesn’t it.  Essential loaded my non DRM’d collection via usb and worked out how to tell my kobo to find it


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