May 31, 2012

Kindred–Aboriginal SciFi film

H/T Mark Webb for the find

You can support this film at Indigogo.

Edit:  One of my Twitter peeps brought up a point about Cultural appropriation and how much Aboriginal involvement there is in the project outside of casting Aboriginal people.  There isn’t any information that I can see suggesting a cultural liaison has been sought.


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Book Review–The Outcast Blade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

outcast

Grimwood’s The Outcast Blade is the second book(Act Two) in what I suspect will be The Assassini trilogy.  It’s a tale that exposes the reader an entertaining mix of history and dark fantasy. 

And yes it’s another series where I am starting in the middle.1 But despite this and despite it being very much a book two,2 I was  swept up in the intrigue and action.

The Story

Venice, an independent state sits uneasily within the grasp of two empires.  The Holy Roman Empire under the German Sigismund and the Byzantine under John V Palaiologos.  The former uses the formidable Krieghund shock troops i.e. trained werewolves in their man/wolf shape, the later powerful magic's. 

Though Venice herself is not without power.  Ruled by the Milloni, descendants of Marco Polo, the current Duke may be intellectually disabled but his mother Alexa is distant cousin to the Khan of Khans and a powerful magic user in her own right. Unfortunately Venice is a hot bed of incestuous and deadly intrigue and its might is divided by power plays and infighting with various factions.

Enter Tycho, a recently knighted slave, and vampire.  He destroyed the Marmaluk fleet single handedly by giving into his hungers, but all he hungers for now is the Lady Guilietta.

The newly widowed Guilietta is the jewel in Venice’s crown though and both empires dispatch sons to wed her and claim Venice for themselves. Besides, Guilietta hates Tycho anyway.

What follows is a tense game of Machiavelian intrigue, murder, love and outright slaughter.

Alternative history Grimwood style.

The world of The Assassini probably sits more comfortably in the Dark Fantasy category than Alternate History.  The later category covers more or less departures from accepted history by way of certain major events not occurring or alternative happenings that change the course of history.

Grimwood takes history and plays his own song with it.  Mixing real historical personages with the fantastical.  He does it well too.  About the only thing that bugged me was the open and flagrant use of magic in what is still a Christian controlled Europe particularly on behalf and with the knowledge of the Christian Emperor.  Nothing in the world building explained this sufficiently for me.

The writing and the story got me over this nagging oddity and it was refreshing to see Vampires that were afraid of sunlight and carried a hungry beast within, that forced them to carry out monstrous deeds.  Not quite a return to vampiric horror but better than sparkly supermen3 .

The dialogue was quite short and punchy and Grimwood did a great job of evoking a believable 15th century Venice, down to the moss covered stones and the gut wrenching smells.

If you' are a fan of liberally pilfering history for good ideas and well paced action with some twists and turns I think you’ll enjoy The Outcast Blade.  It intrigued me enough to pick up book one.

This book was provided by the publisher at no cost to myself.

 


1.Ah the trials and tribulations of getting review copies

2. Feels very much like a bridge to the final book. Enough action to keep it moving along but definitely a sense of anticipation for a big finale

3. I didn’t mind Twilight as a book, but the Vampires weren’t my kind of bloodsucker


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If you happen to be in New Zealand

and a Speculative Fiction Fan, you are in luck.  New Zealand is about to host its 33rd National Science Fiction Convention – UnConventional.

Running from June 1-4 it should be a grand event.

Aurthors & Guests include:

Trudi Canavan, Russell Kirkpatrick, Edwina Harvey, Simon Petrie, Helen Lowe and Mary Victoria.

You can check out more details here.


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Continuum Update

continuum-8-logoYes. Still going.

My panel time has changed though and I can reveal the details and the other panellists with the assurances from the exhausted Continuum team that things will not change. 

Note the excellent gender balance achieved by the Continuum team.

 

Who

Sue Bursztynski, – Blogger, author and visitor to this blog. You can find her blog here.

George Ivanoff, – Blogger, and  author.  He blogs here

Alexandra Pierce, – Blogger, podcaster,  reviewer and mild mannered teacher.  Alex is here, randomly.

Gillian Polack, – Blogger, author, academic, and chocolate fanatic can be found here. 

Sean Wright – Blogger, reviewer, podcaster and ne’er do well.  This is me of course

 

What

Book Blogs And Reviewing Sunday 14:00 until Sunday 15:00 (60 Minutes)

Blogging has meant an explosion in book reviewing and discussion, but what makes good reviews and blogs? What boxes does a book have to check to receive 5 stars?

 

 

Where

The Lincoln Room

 

Now I know I am the big draw card but you should seriously check out some of the others*.  Continuum 8 is using some new software for scheduling.  So If you want to download a pdf program that is pretty much set in stone you can go here.

If you are after a particular personality I suggest you try this page which will give you their specific events so that you can then highlight  them on the printed out pdf.

.


*this is a joke, new readers.


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May 30, 2012

Night’s Engines has been released

but first a preview of the author that is bringing it to you.1

I reviewed Roil, the first in the Nightbound Lands series.  It was a blast. 

I have Night’s Engines to read and review.  But if you want to get a taste of it here’s the free excerpt from Angry Robot.


1.You will have to go back and watch all of Trent’s book corners to determine if he is a comic genius or a deranged writer afflicted by the tropical heat and too much coffee

May 29, 2012

Cracklescape Giveaway

Margo Lanagan, yes that Margo Lanagan not the other one*, has written a collection for Twelfth Planet Press called Cracklescape.  If you are lucky enough to be coming to Continuum 8 I hear that TPP are holding a Cupcake and Cocktail book launch on the Friday night at Continuum.

But if you are not coming and are a bit light on cash you could throw your hat in the ring for a giveaway.

crackleThe Blurb

A presence haunts an old dresser in an inner-city share house. Shining sun-people lure children from their carefree beachside lives. Sheela-na-gigs colonise a middle-aged man’s outer and inner worlds. And a girl with a heavy conscience seeks relief in exile on the Treeless Plain.
These stories from four-time World Fantasy Award winner Margo Lanagan are all set in Australia, a myth-soaked landscape both stubbornly inscrutable and crisscrossed by interlopers’ dreamings. Explore four littoral and liminal worlds, a-crackle with fears and possibilities.

The TOC


  • Introduction by Jane Yolen
  • The Duchess Dresser
  • Isles of the Sun
  • Significant Dust
  • Bajazzle

 

The entry form:

Is here


*The evil Margo Lanagan from another dimension…no hang on is our Margo the evil one? Anyway you shouldn’t be reading this silliness.


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Examining the Ditmars - Best Collected work

Well the Ditmars have closed but we can still have fun discussing them can’t we.  I have read all but Paul Haines work.  On reputation alone though he deserves a spot in what is a very tight field.

Some notable exclusions are Lisa Hannett’s Bluegrass Symphony and Margo Lanagan’s Yellow Cake*

BEST COLLECTED WORK

  • The Last Days of Kali Yuga by Paul Haines, edited by Angela Challis (Brimstone Press)
  • Nightsiders by Sue Isle, edited by Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • Bad Power by Deborah Biancotti, edited by Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • Love and Romanpunk by Tansy Rayner Roberts, edited by Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • Ishtar, edited by Amanda Pillar and K. V. Taylor (Gilgamesh Press)

I’d personally be very happy with any of them winning.  The selections are only some of the top quality fiction being produced by Australian writers. 

It’s good to see both Australian and International presses represented too, perhaps adding weight to Coode Street’s observation that we are now starting to see small press offerings expand beyond our isolated geography. 

Slightly dodgy speculation**

Although Tansy appears all over these nominations I think she’ll have the weight of time against her - L&R was released early in 2011, likewise Sue Isle who whose Nightsiders was the first in the Twelve Planets released.  Those releasing works later in the year might have the advantage of freshness. 

Biancotti has two horses in this race – Bad Power and one third of the Ishtar collection.  Aside from being a bloody good writer, Bad Power was released in late 2011 around the middle of the season and Ishtar shortly after from memory. 

Ishtar also features Cat Sparks and Kaaron Warren, both writers in top form.  Credit to them and their editors for producing a hard hitting collection.

All this makes it very hard to suggest a winner without knowing what the voting populace is like - Bad power and Ishtar feel like  tighter collections, in that the stories are more closely related to one another or at least thy feel that way.  Does this mean they are more likely to win?  Who knows?

Best of luck to all the writers & publishers.


* I am sure there are other books of equal vitality that haven’t popped up on my radar either.

**Largely talking rubbish here.  I haven’t been in the scene long enough, nor do I know the community well enough to really make an informed guess on who’s likely to win.


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Best Fantasy & Horror Shorts published in 2011

years-best-fantasy-and-horror-v2-webHead over to the Ticonderoga page an check out the great list of stories that Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene have compiled for The Year's Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2011.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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May 28, 2012

Sean Williams on Adelaide 891

The link below leads to an interview with Sean Williams and Writers Week Director Laura Kroetsch on Adelaide 891.  It’s a nice short discussion where Sean and Laura squeeze some spec fic goodness into about 20 minutes.

[audio download]


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Win a copy of Epilogue on Goodreads!

 
 
The wonderful Tehani has organised a giveaway of the latest Fablecroft press production : Epilogue.
 

The Blurb

ep·i·logue: an ending that serves as a comment on or conclusion to what has happened.
Climate change, natural disaster, war and disease threaten to destroy all we know. Predictions of the future are bleak. But does the apocalypse really mean the end of the world? Is there no hope for a future that follows?


Twelve writers take on the end of the world and go beyond, to what comes next.

The TOC

 
  1. “A memory trapped in light” by Joanne Anderton
  2. “Time and tide” by Lyn Battersby
  3. “Fireflies” by Steve Cameron
  4. “Sleeping Beauty” by Thoraiya Dyer
  5. “The Fletcher Test” by Dirk Flinthart
  6. “Ghosts” by Stephanie Gunn
  7. “Sleepers” by Kaia Landelius
  8. “Solitary” by Dave Luckett
  9. “Cold comfort” by David McDonald
  10. “The Mornington Ride” by Jason Nahrung
  11. “What books survive” by Tansy Rayner Roberts
  12. “The last good town” by Elizabeth Tan
Now go enter dagnamit!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Epilogue by Tehani Wessely

Epilogue

by Tehani Wessely

Giveaway ends June 08, 2012.
See the giveaway details

at Goodreads.
Enter to win

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May 27, 2012

Musings on writing and horror

I am currently reading Danse Macabre by Stephen King, who I am beginning to appreciate and admire the more I read him and the more I learn about him.1 I am enjoying King’s reflections on horror and his personal anecdotes that are dotted throughout the work.

I am also trying to kick my butt into writing gear.  I want to get a short story to a publishable standard by the end of 2012.  And so I am delving into Damon Knight’s Creating Short Fiction -The Classic Guide to Writing Short Fiction. in an attempt to refine my work and/or encourage me to finish it.

I have a couple of works that would be described as borderline horror in various stages of unfinished malaise.  I have a feeling that some of the writing is good and some of the ideas original, but also that to a large degree they are boring.  And if they are boring to me, then the reader doesn’t have a chance.

So I have been pondering, letting my mind drift. While doing so, it’s occurred to me that nothing fictional, really induces a sense of horror in me.  No gut wrenching sense of dread or paralysing fear.

I read a very good piece of horror fiction recently by one of Australia’s top horror writers and despite being a great piece of writing, it didn’t scare me or horrify me. Indeed  I can’t really remember that I have been in my adult life horrified (as result of reading).

Sure I have the usual fears and anxieties but these are relatively mundane things that are more stress inducing than terror inducing.

I’d like to be able to write something that could scare me.  If I could do this then I am sure that it would sure as hell scare my readers as well.

So I have been digging deep trying to find an experience, something that has occurred in my past that evoked a childish terror.  I can only think of one and it follows:

This story begins not in some haunted mansion, with rickety floor boards and uneven walls that creak loudly with a gust of wind, but in a government issue house, clad in tan coloured brick, lined with plasterboard walls and fitted with white laminate furnishings.

It is the early eighties, my sister is two and I have been given the big room.  My parents are in the lounge room in the other wing of the house.  To call it a wing perhaps conjures up a certain sense of size and distance though they can’t have been more than 10 metres from my bedroom door. 

The house was a much used H design.  A carport in the middle. A lounge and kitchen in one wing, bedrooms in the other a hall connecting them.  As ordinary as one can get with budgetary constraints and unimaginative architects.

I can hear the television’s indistinct murmur.  My sister is asleep in the next room.  I am lying on my bed directly in line with the door that leads to the hallway.  Sharing the same wall with the door is an inbuilt cupboard and a vanity lit by a fluorescent light with a pull cord.

It's not late, but I am lying in bed.  The room is lit by the flouro over the vanity. I am  fully awake and staring at the pull-cord.  It’s last few inches hang over my teddy bear who is lying prone a top a leaning collection of golden circle children's books. 

I lie staring at the cord. On reflection I think I must have seen Star Wars recently as, with a childlike naiveté, I begin reaching out with my mind, attempting to move the cord by force of will alone.  I am not aware of how long I do this for but eventually  I begin to notice the slightest of movements. There are no drafts in my room, the window is shut and the cord hangs in a recess.

And perhaps you will say it was my willing it to move and tiny movement in each of my eyes that makes it appear to do so.  My well read, sceptical older self agrees with you. 

But dear reader, it is not this small movement that is what will haunt and terrify me for the rest of my life.  For while I am somewhat overjoyed at the thought that I can do it, that I can master some unseen force and engage it to do my bidding.  This fleeting joy is erased by what follows.

I am no longer concentrating on making the cord move.  But I am staring at the vanity.

The bear lying upon  the books, begins to sit up of its own accord.  This is no trick of the light, no slight movement.  From lying prone, it sits until its back is ramrod straight all in a matter of seconds.

And I scream. I scream for my father - an open mouthed scream with no sound. My vocal cords feel leaden.  I scream again and all that comes out is hoarse whisper. I scream and scream until eventually my father comes rushing into the room.

In a babbling confusion I explain what has happened.  The bear is lying prone again.  My father spends some time sitting with me, consoling me.  He explains to me how it must have appeared that the bear was moving.  Car lights coming around the bend and casting shadows is his explanation.  He turns off the light to demonstrate and sure enough a car rounds the bend near our house and shadow and light float across the room. 

But, I try to tell my father – the light was on.  There was no shadow.

He takes the bear, reassures me that I must have been dreaming and closes the door.  I look at the bear one last time as he hangs up ended in my fathers hand. 

His cold button eyes are lifeless.

shot_1338108743970

The culprit.


1.I have come to King late in my reading life.  For some reason I can’t discern I had developed a bias against horror, a silly notion that it doesn’t quite sit on the same literary merit shelf as science fiction of fantasy


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May 26, 2012

Booktopia Clearance Sale–SpecFic and Pulp Titles

 

tithe

Just a quick note to let you know of some books going cheap on Booktopia*.My order is already on its way.

There’s some :

Holly Black, Christopher Priest, Megan Abbott, Margo Lanagan, and George R. R. Martin

the-song-is-youjust to name a few.  Plug your favourite authors name in the search window and any discounted titles will come up under the bargains tab.


*In the interests of full disclosure I am an affiliate of Booktopia. 


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May 25, 2012

Galactic Chat 13 – Deborah Kalin

GCLogoLast week I managed to catch up with the wonderful Deb Kalin whose first novel, Shadow Queen, I reviewed here

Please find for you listening pleasure Galactic Chat 13

Sean interviews Australian Novelist  Deborah Kalin. They discuss her Binding Duology and her latest project, an as yet unnamed title from the Twelve Planets Series.  Deborah also talks about her experiences at Clarion South and how the workshop was of fundamental importance to her career.  The "dominance"by women of Australian fantasy gets a mention and they talk about the single mould approach to strong female characters.

Deborah can be found at her website and  on Twitter.

You can download the podcast here

or play it in the player below

 


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May 23, 2012

Examining the Ditmars - Best Short Story

Next up is the best short story category

Best Short Story

  • “Breaking the Ice”, Thoraiya Dyer, in Cosmos 37
  • “Alchemy”, Lucy Sussex, in Thief of Lives (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • “The Last Gig of Jimmy Rucker”, Martin Livings and Talie Helene, in More Scary Kisses(Ticonderoga Publications)
  • “All You Can Do Is Breathe”, Kaaron Warren, in Blood and Other Cravings (Tor)
  • “Bad Power”, Deborah Biancotti, in Bad Power (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • “The Patrician”, Tansy Rayner Roberts, in Love and Romanpunk (Twelfth Planet Press)

Again this is a highly competitive list.  I have read half of it: Bad Power, The Patrician and Alchemy, and the rest of the finalists are all well known for quality work.

Thoraiya won an Aurealis with another short, Livings and Helene are well known and Kaaron Warren is almost omnipresent.

Out of those I have read and that appear above I think Bad Power possibly has the edge(my favourite Love and Romanpunk story didn’t make it).

Your thoughts?

PS Don’t forget to vote


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Book Review–The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bagicalupi

DROWNED-CITIESThe Drowned Cities is listed on some sites as the second in the Ship Breaker series. It’s a novel set in the same post climate change world as Ship Breaker rather than a “Book 2”. 

So don’t feel you have to have read Ship Breaker to get the full experience.  The Drowned Cities shares some locations and one character with Ship Breaker - the half-man Tool.

Quality fiction

The Drowned Cities is published in Australia by Atom, Hachette’s Young Adult brand.  To adult readers I would like to stress that this really has no impact on your enjoyment as an experienced or mature reader - it’s just quality fiction.

 

A future dystopia or comment on current events

With The Drowned Cities Bagicalupi builds upon and expands his vision of a dystopian future.  Like Ship Breaker the theme and content mirrors or comments indirectly( I never feel as though Bagicalupi is preaching) upon present day issues.  Ship breaker concentrated on a characters whose living was made stripping great containerships – a modern day inspiration, was no doubt something similar to The Chittagong Ship Breaking yards in Bangladesh.

The Drowned Cities’ theme centres squarely on the horrors of low scale internecine warfare in failed states and the sad reality of child soldiers and child victims of war.  Bagicgalupi brings the tale closer to home with his setting – The Drowned Cities being the flooded remnants of the eastern states of North and South Carolina.

The Tale

Mahlia and Mouse are War Maggots, orphans or refugees taken in by Dr Mahfouz who administers medical treatment to the families of Banyan Town.  Mahlia is a mixed raced daughter of a Chinese Peacekeeper and American/Drowned Cities mother, she’s had her right hand cut off by the Army of God due to this fact. 

Mouse is a country boy with a talent for dodging bullets.   While their situation isn’t ideal i.e. the town’s folk distrust her, it’s relatively safe.  Until that is, Tool,an escaping half-man, a genetic augmentation, draws militia pursuers to their quaint little piece of post apocalyptic hell.

What ensues is part comment on the stupidity and futility of war but also on the strength of  friendships borne out of survival.

Good Characterisation

Mahlia is the star of the story and I find her depiction as a strong female character particularly realistic and refreshing.  She’s a child of war, a survivor and her strength shines through, in her dedication to her friends and her will to go on. 

She displays cunning in her battles against forces that are physically stronger than her and is a refreshing hero in that she doesn’t need a gun or kick-arse martial arts moves to be strong.

We also get a better understanding of Tool as a rare breed of half-man, one that has overcome his genetic tendencies and training to obey his masters.

I also saw the depictions of the various militias in the book as comments on the some of the extremes of current American politics or political ideologies both in terms of religion and patriotism/nationalism.  No doubt some American readers might find Bagicgalupi’s future imaginings a little pointed.

Concerns?

The book deals with some fairly mature content.  I never felt as though Bagicgalupi was playing to the more violent aspects of the book though. There’s death and dismemberment but is well handled, repectfully depicted and fits well within the context of the world that’s been created. 

I can see Ship Breaker and The Drowned Cities as good jumping off points for discussions in a class mixing literature/reading with social studies.

The depiction of sex within the book, such that it is, is handled “off screen”.

Judgement 

A good addition to Bagicgalupi’s vision of a world in decline or crawling out of one.  There’s violence, poverty and calamity, but there’s also hope. There’s always a sense that the protagonists can prevail - not without consequences mind you, but that it is possible.

This book was provided to me by the publisher at no cost to myself


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eBook Review–The Obituarist by Patrick O’Duffy

1208-Obituarist-ol-new

The Obituarist is Patrick O’Duffy’s first crime novella.  He’s a multitalented chap though, so check out his website.

The Tale

Kendall Barber is a social media undertaker with a shady past who's returned to the equally shady city of Port Virtue.

Now a new client brings with her a host of dangers, just as Kendall's past begins to catch up with him. Can he get to the bottom of things before it's too late, or will he end up as dead as his usual subjects?

What I liked

The idea of a social media undertaker in itself is quite refreshing.  I have heard of companies that will offer a service to repair your online reputation but not one that will, post death notices and remove you digital traces to prevent identity theft. So bonus points for the original concept.

Now Patrick dedicates the novella to his wife Nicole and Raymond Chandler. Its style is a bit of homage to hardboiled detective fiction, I’d say Chandler-esque but then I have never read Chandler.  You can read for yourself below:

 

Jay Moledacker was far more handsome in death than he ever had been in life. Okay, not true, but at least his Facebook profile picture was now a lot more dignified. Not difficult, since his profile picture while alive had been a photo of him drunk and vomiting onto a horse during a racing carnival.

Now that he was dead – of an embolism, rather than being kicked to death – he looked regal, elegant and a good six years younger. That's because I had to use his graduation photo; everything after that point seemed to involve Jay throwing up, getting punched in nightclubs or out cold with FUCKWIT written on his chest in mustard.

A life well lived. Well, a life. Lived.

And it had fallen to me to close it all down.

Which didn't stop my clients – his parents – from dicking me about on the invoice.

 

I like Patrick’s style and “A life well lived. Well, a life. Lived.” I thought was the single best line in the book. 

The humour which is largely self deprecating or at Kendall’s expense endeared the character to me. This guy ain’t no muscle bound hero, he has computer smarts, not street smarts - a fact that is well played to in this novella.

The one’s you don’t see coming

There was only one thing that impacted my enjoyment of the novella and that was the resolution of the subplot(I won’t go into specifics as it would spoil the novella). It was, in my opinion, simply resolved too quickly and stretched my suspension of disbelief too far. 

When I have been led to belief that Kendall is largely a reluctant detective (at least in a physical sense) and prone to having his butt kicked, the resolution felt a little out of character.  Perhaps I missed some early clues but I was blindsided by this resolution.

The main plot resolution was brilliant though and I only just caught on before the reveal. Very clever Mr O’Duffy very clever.

The Verdict Your Honour

This is funny, and fast paced detective fiction with a modern concept and an Aussie setting.  A good couple of hours entertainment.  I’ll be watching for more of O’Duffy’s work.


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May 22, 2012

Giveaway–Salvage by Jason Nahrung

saltiTwelfth Planet Press in all their generosity have up on Goodreads 3 copies of Jason Nahrung’s Salvage.

You can go here and enter.

If you live in Melbourne and are going to Continuum 8 I believe that Mr Nahrung will be there with copies to sell and sign – details when I know for sure.

But if you are a fan of his work you can put in a pre-order here.

 


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The Bookonaut is Continuum bound

continuum-8-logoI am not sure if I have announced on the blog that I am going to Continuum 8.

I did let it slip in a couple of places online but, hey it’s been a little busy with work (finally) and trying to keep up with everything that is going on in Speculative Fiction land.

I also wanted to wait until I had received notice of the panel I was invited to be on.

I will be participating in the Book Blogs and Reviewing panel running from 9 -10 am Saturday (tentative times, almost set in stone).  So if you are going to Continuum feel free to drop in and partake of the wisdom of a diverse range of panellists. 

The wonderful Continuum organisers are still organising so I will post the full details shortly.

[edit:  The panel times could be wrong.  The overworked staff at Continuum have informed me that a technical snafu caused the wrong times to be sent with the notification.  Will keep you posted]


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Notions Unlimited Employing Zombies

Thanks to Mr Mond for this one:


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May 21, 2012

Giveaway–Through Splintered Walls by Kaaron Warren

13793120Twelfth Planet Press are running another giveaway comp on Goodreads.  This time it’s for Kaaron Warren’s Through Splintered Walls.

You may enter here.

Of course if you are tempted to buy it you can go to the TPP site and put in a pre-order.

What the lucky so and so’s who have read it people are saying:

 

‘Every Warren story is a trip with no map.’ – Gemma Files

‘Her fiction shifts across genres smoothly and intelligently, never settling for the easy path… she doesn’t flinch.’ – Andrew Hook

‘As with most of the best horror writing … the power of Warren’s strongest stories comes from the mirror they hold up to our everyday practices and prejudices.’ – Ian McHugh

Not sure about short collections?  Check out my reviews of other books in the series:

Nightsiders

Love and Romanpunk

Thief of Lives

Bad Power

As you can see, I am a bit of a TPP fan.


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May 20, 2012

Book Review–Wizard Undercover

Untitled-1

Wizard Undercover is the fourth book in the Rouge Agent series by K.E. Mills, the Canadian born, Australian author, also writing as Karen Miller - her real name.

Having not read Mills before, Wizard Undercover was a pleasant jaunt despite the expected turbulence that comes from jumping into a series four books in.

Experienced readers will have no issue settling in to the story as it’s largely self contained. Or you could just start at The Accidental Sorcerer i.e. Book 1.

The Setting

If you can  imagine European politics in the late Victorian era, magic, dry English wit and a fantasy setting  you'll be right.  I am not sure whether I would call it Steampunk, but it will certainly appeal to those that frequent the genre.

The Tale

Gerald Dunwoody, a rogue wizard “janitor” (think MI6) infected with tainted magics is sent along with the Crown Princess Melissande and Emmerabiblia Markham, partners in the unconventional and somewhat feminist Witches Inc., to unravel a plot to disrupt the marriage of the heirs of Splotze and Borovnik.

The (Janitorial) Department’s man in Splotze has gone silent after leaving an incoherent message suggestive of his own demise and heinous plans being orchestrated by players unknown.

Report from Field Agent “Bookonaut”

Wizard Undercover reminded me of a cross between Jane Austen’s work and Black Adder, the manners, formality and focus on personal conversation of the first and the dry wit of the second. Despite the lightness in tone and the bumbling along of its protagonists, Wizard Undercover is suspenseful.

There is a dark undercurrent running through the story, with Gerald always at risk of going to the “dark side” and being changed by the grimoire magic he’s had embedded in him. The conclusion also featured a surprisingly abrupt and clinically violent scene in what is largely a “violence off screen” novel.

All things considered it’s a delightful romp with a little mystery, humour, and romance.

If I had one criticism it was that there was no map or appendices to help get my head around the state of affairs. 

This book was provided by the publisher at no extra cost to myself.

 


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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May 19, 2012

Understanding Privilege

Mr Scalzi attempted to reframe the discussion around privilege with a metaphor that SWM(straight white male ) gamer dudes might understand with

Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is

An admirable effort, though in hindsight using the Games analogy was always going to bring out those types of people that focus on the minutiae, the rules lawyer types, those that have no idea of what the spirit of the game may mean.

WARNING - Don’t read the comments

Mr Hines having followed the discussion, dug up some statistics to try and help those determined to turn Mr Scalzi’s post into a personal attack on their own poor disadvantaged straight white male lives, realise that its not about them on a personal level.

Can you here the sirens, yep lots of Whaaaambulances.

Anyway here’s Mr Hines post

Facts are Cool

Then I came across this comic book representation the Patriarchy as Matrix, and thought maybe we need to approach the situation visually.  Anyway enjoy - you may need to embiggen the gif to rad the matrix script.

feminist matrix[source]


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May 18, 2012

Cover Candy – Salvage by Jason Nahrung

salvage by jason nahrung

Jason informs us that the cover from his novella Salvage, soon to be released by Twelfth Planet Press has been released ---------------------------->

If my memory serves me correctly the artist is Dion Hamill who also did some of the work on Glitter Rose by Marianne de Pierres.

Jason alo informs us that Salvage is available for pre-order in paperback from Twelfth Planet Press for $15 plus postage.


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May 17, 2012

Revolution by JJ Abrams

JJ Abrams has a new show coming out.  Many are hoping that he replicates his success with Lost ( personally I hope he’s successful but Lost I found to a one season idea strung out over as many seasons as they thought we’d put up with it).

I am not sure its fair to judge from the trailer there has been some criticism regarding racial stereotyping.


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May 16, 2012

Colosoul features article on Twelfth Planet Press

Colosoul  Magazine features an article on Alisa Krasnostein and Twelfth Planet Press:

 

On The Twelfth Planet

It could be said that all fiction is essentially speculative, as its very nature is to imagine possible worlds (be they reflections of our own or something entirely new), different lives and the content of other minds – to form conjectures that have no requirement for evidence or rigour. The term ‘speculative fiction’, however, specifically refers to a collection of genres brought under an umbrella of family resemblance, including science fiction, fantasy, alternate history and horror.

Alisa Krasnostein identifies speculative fiction as “the ultimate genre of escape”. The appeal of the genre, she believes, is that “no matter how alien the aliens or how fantastical the creatures, they’re all still reflections of humanity.” Alisa states, “I love the genre because it constantly seeks to understand ‘the other’.

[Read On]


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Guest Posting at Ebon Shores

David MacDonald of Ebon Shores kindly invited me to guest post at his wonderful blog. 

A 21st Century Fan

I love living in the future.

I grew up in a time before the internet, before mobile phones, in a remote town at least 1500 km away from any major city.  My first brush with fandom came with the ABC’s running of Doctor Who (until the late 80’s the only TV channel we had).  Myself and four friends formed the Dr Who gang, our arch enemies were the Spades – think the Sharks and the Jets but with flowing multicoloured scarves and Men at Work rather than Leonard Bernstein .  This was primary school.

[Read On]


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May 15, 2012

Win a copy of Haven Season 2

thirteenJust go ask the peeps at 13 O’clock – Australian Dark Fiction News & Reviews.  It’s a random draw and they have three copies to give away. 

While you are there you might like to subscribe.


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Outcast Chronicles are nearly here

Fans of Rowena Cory Daniells, will no doubt be aware that, it won’t be long until she releases her next trilogy.  But for the rest of you, sadly deprived of Rowena’s fast paced, action filled fantasy here’s a taster in book trailer form.  The Outcast Chronicles:


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May 14, 2012

eBook Review – Ishtar (Eds.) Amanda Pillar & K.V. Taylor

ishtar

Ishtar is a collection of novella’s written by three of Australia’s top female speculative fiction writers.

Indeed, the collection itself has been nominated for both an Aurealis and a Ditmar, and the individual novellas have picked up nominations in both awards as well.

Published by Gilgamesh press 1. for the rather paltry sum of $5.95 in ebook form, it’s well worth the money.

The Tales

The stories in Ishtar, as the title suggests, centre on the Assyrian Goddess Ishtar, goddess of fertility, war, love, and sex.

The first novella, The Five Loves of Ishtar by Kaaron Warren is set in Ancient Assyria.  The story is told by successive generations of washer women indentured to the Goddess as she is wife or partner to 5 great men, beginning with the deity Tammuz. 

The story is written in the first person, and the language is somewhat stilted (though not in a negative sense).  I think Warren is trying to create a text that feels mythic and reserved, not quite biblical but certainly encouraging more formal tone:

My goddess Ishtar had five great loves in her thousand years of living. Many lovers; so many even I lost count, I, who can tell you the number of girdles in every household in the city. But five men she loved, and five times she risked all for love.

I’ll admit that this tale took me the longest to get into.  The repetition of the form , however, the continuity of generations of washer women telling the story, gave me both a sense of history and gradually drew me in.

The second novella was Deb Biancotti’s And the Dead Shall Outnumber The Living and is set in present day Sydney. It’s a police procedural  that morphs into a surreal dark fantasy where the goddess Ishtar appears again, flexing her powers.

She crouches and grips the edge of a drain outlet, peering in. The stench is unbearable. Every shitting, vomiting junkie in the city crammed into one room couldn’t smell this bad. The body looks like a sack pushed up against the grate, spread out, blocking nearly the whole outlet. Water rushes around it, making the skin ripple. It’s naked, and the dark hairs on its chest and arms and legs, the dark V of hair around its genitals, are pressed flat by the weight of water. The insides must’ve floated away by now, out to sea.

“Kids thought it was a balloon or a clown suit or something,” Tarling says. “Until the face rolled round and looked at them.”

“Counselling?” Steve asks.

“Oh, years of it, I’d imagine,” Tarling says.

I am a fan of Biancotti’s work in Bad Power and the writing echoes that same beat cop, police procedural with an edge of dark fantasy, only in this instance it’s more than an edge.  The ending is…unconventional perhaps, but fits into the whole package beautifully.

The final novella is Cat Sparks’ The Sleeping and The Dead. It gave me visions of a post apocalyptic gothic wasteland - Necromaidens with a fetish for skulls…

She watches nuns dancing in the dust, spinning and twirling as if the stuff’s not killing them. Necromaidens. Fallout wraiths. Praising absent gods for their blisters as well as their dreams. Like her, they have no formal training. Their cult has grown organically, exponentially as the years have dragged. Anna became conscious of the neatness of the skulls long before glimpsing the girls’ demented Tinkerbell antics around the gritty edges of Truckstop’s barbed perimeter. She might have dismissed the girls as ghosts — the barren landscape groans beneath the breathless, phantom weight of them, but no, the nuns are solid. As solid as forty-five kilos of half-starved girl can get.

To pick a favourite

It’s hard to pick a favourite out of these three, viewed as three parts of a whole they are both wonderfully distinct yet dovetail into each other smoothly.  We have a mythic retelling, a police procedural and a post apocalyptic tale but it does feel like one continuous tale told from different perspectives. 

The Sleeping and The Dead probably edges in front as my preferred story but it’s close.  I have a penchant for the post apocalyptic.

Hits the mark

Ishtar fits Gilgamesh Press’ vision beautifully.  Here we have three quality writers giving us their take on Assyrian myth, breathing life into a culture that underpins our own. Ishtar steps from the pages; a living, breathing, sensual and violent goddess – come and meet her.

If you like your fiction dark and your women powerful don’t go past Ishtar.


1.Gilgamesh Press is an imprint of Morrigan Books. Gilgamesh Press has a vision to promote awareness of the Assyrian people and their history through literature.


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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May 12, 2012

The Aurealis Awards 2012

Below is a summary of the Aurealis Awards compiled on Storify.  Many thanks to the attendees that tweeted the results and took pictures.  It was almost as good as being there

May 11, 2012

Galactic Suburbia 59–The educational podcast

 
Galactic-Suburbia-CakeThe latest episode of Galactic Suburbia is out.  I have been working all day so haven’t had a chance to listen yet.  Apparently they explain boob windows1 and they cover the usual news, awards roundups and culture consumed.
 
You can download the podcast here
 
or play from the flash player below
 
 
 


1. A cut in a woman's top that shows parts of the top of her breasts. It doesn't matter the shape or the size (of the window or the breasts), as long as the window is completely enclosed. It also doesn't matter about the rest of the outfit, as this can be on a bathing suit, a sweater, a Leotard of Power, a Mini Dress Of Power or a grand Pimped Out Dress. [Source: TV Tropes]


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So Avengers…

Went to see Avengers the other day.  Caught the 3D version which is my first since one of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies back in the 90’s.  And I’m pretty meh about it actually, not sure that it actually added too much to the movie.

The movie itself was pretty good, considering the cast of heroes - ensemble performances can be a bit tricky.  

I was pretty impressed with the every so slightly insane Loki played by Tom Hiddleston.  Here he is doing an off the cuff Shakespearean monologue (h/t @becadroit)

And here he is in the Avengers in possible my favourite scene:

 

Pretty sure that Robert Downey Jr. played himself.  Scarlet Johansen was good as the Black Widow and I think Mark Ruffalo was a good choice for the Hulk.

Its apparently smashing box office records, I’m not sure if its THAT good, but a definite improvement over Thor.  Probably on par with Iron Man 1.


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May 10, 2012

Aurealis 50 is out

 

aur50I don’t know how I missed this one but  I did. 

Released on the 3rd of May, Issue 50 features the fiction of Patty Jansen and Jonathan Robb as well as the usual non –fiction goodness by the likes of Macleod and Thorp

You can purchase it through Smashwords for $2.99

 

 

.


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Last Call for Submissions–Blood Stones by Ticonderoga

blood-stones-webTiconderoga is putting out an Urban Fantasy collection called Blood Stones, submissions close on the 15th of May.

This is the first in a series of anthologies from Ticonderoga Publications that will focus on non-traditional horror. I want stories that are horrific, but that also fit within other genres—let’s look beyond the borders. This year’s anthology will focus on non-traditional urban fantasy. This means that I don’t want stories that feature vampires, witches or werewolves; if you send one, it probably won’t make it through to the final cut….[read on if you're interested]


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Cover Candy–Ticonderoga and Twelfth Planet Press

First up is Cat Sparks’ cover for her upcoming book The Bride Price from Ticonderoga.  If I am reading the press release correctly, Cat has done the cover herself and its kick–arse.

the-bride-price-web

and missed early in the week was Cracklescape from Margo Lanagan and Twelfth Planet Press.

crackle


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Tara Sharp gets a make over

stage-fright-200Marianne Delacourt is the pseudonym of speculative fiction author Marianne de Pierres.  Marianne writes the Tara Sharp series under that name and with the third in that series, Stage Fright released later this year, the website has undergone a makeover. 

The Books

The Tara Sharp books can be best described as humourous crime with a paranormal flavour. The series will be ongoing, featuring the same cast of characters, though each book will be a stand alone adventure mystery.

Comparison’s have been drawn with Janet Evanovich’s wonderful Stephanie Plum novels (of which Marianne is a big fan), and readers of that series will find appealing similarities. But while they are definitely of the same genre, there are some key differences. To begin with, Mariann’e books are set in Australia. Most significantly though, Tara is Tara – not Stephanie! She’s a different type of girl.

Please pop over and let Marianne know what you think.

Click here.


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May 9, 2012

Win a collectors edition of King’s - Through the Key Hole valued at $200.

windthroughthekeyhole-uk

 

Hachette is running a competition on their Facebook page:

Big Stephen King fan? Want the chance to win a limited edition hardcover copy of 'The Wind Through The Keyhole'? (RRP $200)? Comment below with your favourite Dark Tower character (and why). Best answer wins the limited edition. 3 lucky runners up will receive a copy of The Wind Through The Keyhole trade paperback (RRP $32.99). The winner will be chosen Friday morning at 9am.(Australian residents only) Good Luck!

So you have about a day and a half, go here to enter.


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