Aug 31, 2012

WSFA Honours Aussie Authors

The Washington Science Fiction Association has honoured two Aussie authors in their list of Finalists for  the 2012 WSFA Small Press Award for Short Fiction:

“A Militant Peace” by David Klecha and Tobias S. Buckell, published in Clarkesworld Magazine, edited by Neil Clarke, November 2011.

“Flowers in the Shadow of the Garden” by Joanne Anderton in Hope, edited by Sasha Beattie, published by Kayelle Press, October 2011.

“Lessons from a Clockwork Queen” by Megan Arkenberg, published in Fantasy Magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams, September 2011.

“Sauerkraut Station” by Ferrett Steinmetz, published in GigaNotoSaurus, edited by Ann Leckie, November 2011.

“The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” by Lily Yu, published in Clarkesworld Magazine, edited by Neil Clarke, April 2011.

“The Patrician” by Tansy Rayner Roberts in Love and Romanpunk, edited by Alisa Krasnostein, published by Twelfth Planet Press, May 2011.

“What Ho, Automaton!” by Chris Dolley, in Shadow Conspiracy, Volume II., edited by Phyllis Irene Radford and Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, published by Book View Cafe, February 2011.

“Yesterday’s Taste” by Lawrence M. Schoen in Transtories, edited by Colin Harvey and published by Aeon Press, October 2011.

The winner will be announced in early October

So congrats Tansy and Jo, worth recipients if my reading is anything to go by

Galactic Suburbia Number 67

Galactic-Suburbia-CakeThe Galactic Suburbanites are at it again with a fun filled episode:
In which [they] talk trolling, internet pile-ons and Twittiquette (it's a word, right?) as well as Weird Tales, Analog, heavy metal, straight white YA dystopias and (this may shock you) Joanna Russ.
They mention the Last Short Story podcast which has got me excited about short fiction in a way that the written form of coverage didn’t
You can download here or play below.

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Basic Android App for Australian Specfic Podcasts

So I am playing around again on Appsgeyser which allows you to create simple Android Apps.  I have collected 4 of Australia’s Speculative Fiction Podcast feeds and placed them into the app generator.  The end result is an android app that you can download so that you can easily access the feeds of the following podcasts.

  • Coode Street
  • Galactic Suburbia
  • Galactic Chat
  • The Writer and The Critic

Think of it like a uber-bookmark that allows you to switch between webpages via tabs rather than having to save each as a separate book mark and go to their respective webpages.

You can download via this link or scan the  QR code below.

Cool if you listen to podcasts via a wifi enabled tablet or smartphone.


Let me know how you go.

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On being paid for reviews

I read this article with disdain.  It appears Alan Baxter was reading about it at around the same time and wrote a thought provoking post. A few reviewers including me have chipped in:

Paid reviews hurt everyone, except those being paid

There’s a caveat to the title of this post, explained later, but I don’t mind a bit of sensationalism. So, this has come around again. It’s a subject that has cropped up a few times and usually makes the news cycle once in a while. It basically boils down to predatory fuckwits offering to write glowing reviews of any book (which they won’t bother to read) in exchange for cashmoney. Idiot authors jump on the bandwagon and buy those reviews in a desperate attempt to get their work noticed. [Read on]

I don’t get paid to review.  I did recently receive a gift package from a publicity agent (chocolates and a bottle of wine) but that’s the extent of the largesse and there was no obligation attached to said gift (it still makes me uneasy though).

You see I think it’s important to be as objective as possible when being a reviewer.  Now, anyone with the slightest understanding of human psychology will know that it’s impossible to be entirely objective. Aside from quite stark, obvious and conscious biases we are beset by all manner of subconscious influences that impact on our opinions and choices.

I aim to be as honest and objective as I can, to be as aware of my biases as I can and to develop a reputation around that, so that readers can come to me and know that I am not just a freelance cog in a PR marketing machine.

Introducing money into the relationship alters things, above all it alters perceptions-presuming you were honest about what you receive in the first place.

Now Alan presents a scenario where a reviewer could get paid for a “no obligation to write nice stuff” review.  Some reviewers put a great deal of time and effort into reading and writing reviews, promoting their niche/community and surely they should either get some reward, some recompense for their hard and often times professional quality work.  This is a seductive suggestion.

And in an ideal world might work.

I think what would happen is what occurred in the article above.  The reviewer lured on by desire or need for cash, would compromise themselves and begin fabricating reviews.  And even if you didn’t, others would, thereby casting doubt over reviewers as a whole.

As I stated in the comments on Alan’s blog, I don’t think the issue is a new one.  I am sure that since books have been reviewed there’s been all manner of slightly dodgy ethical situations.  From taking reviewers to lunch, or taking advantage of contacts, familial or otherwise.

Where to draw the line though?  The gift pack I refer to above, swag some might receive as part of a publicity campaign, is given without obligation but it has the potential to affect your emotions and the relationship.

But then so does being part of a community, having a good relationship with authors you interview.  Is the only safe approach to be as transparent as possible? Is that enough? Is it possible?

I have been bought drinks by authors( and bought drinks in turn), not in exchange for anything but as part of being in a community of readers, reviewers and convention goers. 

I have friendships with some authors, people whose work I have reviewed and those who I have not. Do we need to state the relationship when reviewing?  How much of authors and reviewers lives should remain private?

But returning to payment.  Should I be paid for my reviews?

Having a good honest think about it…no.

Opinions are cheap, even well informed one’s.  So my thinking is that if I were to be paid it’s not going to be worth the impact on my credibility or the obligation that it entails. 

But focussing on money as the only currency negates the other benefits that you might get as a reviewer.  When I look back at what I have gained as reviewer I am happy and continue to be. 

I get books - I have a TBR pile that breaks OHS regulations and there are books that are a chore to read, but in the end I do end up with some quality work, some of which I would have never chanced to read otherwise.

There’s the contact with people who write the stuff that my imagination transforms into stories. That never gets old.  From picking an authors brain during my Galactic Chat interviews to going to dinner as part of awards celebrations. To beginning and a maintaining friendships and acquaintances that enrich my life.

Would I love to be able to write what I do and make money somehow.  Sure, but it would be a bonus on top of the things I have spoken of.  Direct payment for an opinion, however, is not an option for me.  It may be for others, and I won’t judge them( okay maybe a little, privately) for doing so.

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Demon Hunter finds a home

cherie-glampic-225x300Cheryse Durrant’s Demon Hunter has found a home with Clan Destine Press, another Australian Small Press producing quality genre fiction. 

Cheryse is in good company with such writers as Narelle M Harris and Rowena Cory Daniells also releasing works through Clan Destine.

Check out her reaction to picking up a contract below:

When Publishers land and offer you a book contract…

Breaking news! My gutsy Shahkara and her page-turning adventures have finally found a publishing home – within the talented ranks of Clan Destine Press (CDP). Demon Hunter (aka Shahkara), the first book in my newly-dubbed Heart Hunter series, will be released in print and e-book formats by May next year.

Okay, it’s not really breaking news since it’s almost a week ago that I was offered my shiny, three-book contract, but I was without internet for nearly a week while I was wining and dining with My Publisher and some awesome authors at the Gold Coast and attending RWA Conference workshops and parties. So, I haven’t been able to e-spruik my news until now (Cheryse dusts a couple of extra days beneath the speckled, lounge room rug). [read on]

So, congrats to Cheryse and Clan Destine.

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One Small Step– Story Submissions


There’s still a month left to go for submissions to Fablecroft’s One Small Step Anthology.

They are after speculative fiction stories on the theme “One Small Step”. Which is rather timely considering Neil Armstrong’s recent passing.



The stories must in some way address the idea of discoveries, new beginnings, or literal or figurative “small steps”. The rest is limited only by your imagination 

Stories must be original and be between 2,000 and 12,000 words.

See full details at the Fablecroft site.

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Aug 29, 2012

New Arrivals–The Review Pile grows

I thought I would list the books that I have received for review on a weekly basis.  I have my own reading schedule, but if readers wanted me to review a book sooner rather than later I may do your bidding.
alice-in-zombielandAlice in Zombieland – This is from Harlequin Teen and will be my first review for that company.  I barely remember Alice in Wonderland and I am not reading any other reviews about this one to give me a clean as possible reading.
trinity-risingNext is Elspeth Cooper’s Trinity Rising , the second in her Wild Hunt series.  Her first book showed promise but this one will probably be bumped by some others.

hal-junior-the-missing-caseFrom self publishing quarters is Hal Junior- The Missing Case by Aussie author Simon Haynes.  It’s a kids book but I enjoyed the first and expect that this will be good as well.  Simon writes scientifically literate sci-fi for kids with this series.

lady-of-the-shadesDarren Shan’s Lady of The Shades is a “dark supernatural thriller” I am hoping that the writing is good enough to overcome scepticism when it comes to things like supernatural horror.

bitter-seedsBitter Seeds by Ian Tregellis looks interesting with “English warlocks battling Nazi psychics” and has some cover quotes from Cory Doctorow and G.R.R. Martin.

Exile and The Price of Fame from Rowena Cory Daniells.  The first is going to be a pure comfort to read and the second is going to be a surprise delight I think with Rowena trying her hand atprice Crime/Supernatural.

total-recallTotal Recall - What is real? – A release of Philip K Dick’s shorty stories, including We can remember it for you wholesale that spawned the two Total recall films.  It has a forward by Thomas Disch

Oh and slipping in on the end,  Pyrotechnicon from Coeur de Lion.

Like anything?  Want to influence my decision on what to read first?

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Aug 27, 2012

The uselessness of starred reviews on sites like Amazon


Starred reviews

I submit to both Goodreads and Amazon and both require star reviews.  I find this almost useless as a measure of judging a book or recommending it. 

First the reviewer is given a continuum of emotional reactions from, I hate it = 1 star all the way up to, I love it = 5 star.  So that’s all that the star system really is, it’s not a cut and dried comment on quality, it’s an emotional reaction or it should be.

This is the spirit in which I generally use the system.  Which can lead to confusion when I might give a book a 2 star (I didn’t like it) but talk about how good it might be technically. Or who might like it. But you need to know about my likes and dislikes to interpret that information. You don’t get that from reading Amazon reviews, there is no community around the reviews and least not that I have experienced.

You’ll note I don’t star the reviews here.

The trouble with readers

The trouble is of course that it’s not terribly clear to a reader that this is what the stars mean, on Amazon in particular, mousing over one of the stars only give you a decimal rating ie 1.0 to 5.0.  I think this creates a good deal of confusion and leads readers and authors to settle the on 1 star =shit, 5 star = best book ever written, interpretation.

Authors have no right really to get cranky at someone’s feelings about their book (not openly anyway) not everyone likes the same things, has the same experiences or views things the same way.

People dislike the classics, have done since they weren’t classics.  Good books should evoke emotional reactions. If they don’t then we might as well be reading cornflakes packets. But is this what most reviewers(and I use that term broadly) are doing?  Are they looking at it and saying this is a shit book and I hated it, in giving it a one star? Are they saying I hate the author? Are they saying look at me, I have an opinion?

Getting cranky at misinterpretations, and hate fuelled messages I think is another matter though.  It appears to be happening more that one star reviews are the space in which readers come to grind their axe against the author, rather than the work.  So incensed, are they that the author held a gun to their head and forced them to read such a crap book and then go and comment on a site that you have to sign up to.

What to do?

I have been checking out a few different ways I might present reviews on this site.  Including something similar to the way in which SF Signal formats their reviews.  But honestly I don’t know what way’s best.  The shorter more formulaic reviews are easier to do if I am trying to keep up with the review load but I don’t know if they entice readers to read them? 

I have had some feedback from listeners to Galactic Chat that seems to indicate that talking to authors about their books enables listeners to get a better sense of what the book is like and whether they should buy it. 

So fire away readers let me know what you prefer i.e. set word limits, formatting, , star ranking (don’t you dare),whatever you want?

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Excusing the “Nice Guy”

or having sympathy with a potential predator. I came a cross the link below in my twitter feed.  I think it’s a great example of the way in which men discount the actions of other men behaving badly.

So without further ado I introduce Char. of the “on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam” blog with The Question

I post this not with the attention of blaming or trying to induce handwringing in my fellow male community members 1 but as part of a continued campaign of awareness raising.


  • Read
  • Become aware
  • Pass it on.

1. I am as fallible and oblivious to some aspects of rape culture as the next man

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Personal Development–Short Story Writing

bluegrass-symphonyI have come to the conclusion that I work better under a deadline.  I am currently at work on two manuscripts, but they long term projects that are vey easy to dodge and make up excuses for.

So I have signed up to attend Lisa L Hannett’s short story workshop being run through the SA Writer’s Centre.  It’s a two day course split over two Saturdays,  a fortnight apart.

Week 1 we’ll be looking at craft and week 2 we’ll be looking at each other’s work.  So I figure this will put me under some pressure to pull my finger out.  Hoping fear of failure and potential social embarrassment will motivate me.

Who is Lisa Hannett?

Lisa L Hannett is an Adelaide resident hailing original from our Commonwealth cousin Canada.  She's been published in Clarkesworld Magazine, Fantasy Magazine, Weird Tales, ChiZine, Shimmer, Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded and the Year's Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2010, among other places.

She has won three Aurealis Awards, including Best Collection 2011 for her first book, Bluegrass Symphony (Ticonderoga). She’s currently working on her first novel Familiar and is about to release Midnight and Moonshine, co-authored with Angela Slatter(pronounced slay-ter).

Lisa is a graduate of that hothouse of talent - Clarion South.

You can hear Lisa and Angela Slatter talk on Writer and the Critic Episode 22

South Aussie peeps can still book by contacting the SA Writers centre via their website.

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Aug 26, 2012

Honest Trailers–Who knew about these

…and didn’t tell me?

Have you ever watched a trailer and thought, “Hey cool movie.  I’ll go see that” only to walk out of the cinema scratching your head and thinking WTF? Or perhaps feeling duped into handing over hard earned cash for a convoluted mish-mash or discordant ideas *cough* Prometheus *cough*.  Well take a gander at these Honest Trailers.

Hat tip to Tansy for the first of these:

The Hunger Games


The Phantom Menace

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Aug 25, 2012

Sentients of Orion gets US makeover

SOO_Mirror-Space_US_TNThe Award winning Sentients of Orion by Marianne de Pierres has received a makeover from US Ebook distributor Ereads. 

There’s been some difficulty trying to get the series in ebook form but it’s due to be released with all new eBook covers in a couple of months.



soo_dark-space_webMe I have a fondness for the old covers seen right. But when you compare them at thumbnail size I think the new ones have the edge.  What do you think?  Let Marianne know over at her site.





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Tobsha Learner on Tobsha Learner

After an impromptu panel on 50 Shades of Grey in my local second hand book store (where I may have been convinced to push past the very ordinary prose to find the core story of.. ehem love), I had Tobsha Learner suggested to me, for both her literary skill and the fact that she mixes magical realism with her fiction, erotic or otherwise.

Learner is both a playwright and novelist who has been somewhat pigeonholed as a writer of erotic romance.  Enjoy the youtube clip of her explaining the breadth and sophistication of her work.

You’ll note the wit .

Tobsha writes a remarkable array of genres from Thrillers, to Magical Realism to Erotica.

I am currently reading her first book Quiver , a collection of erotic short tales, and it’s challenging, slightly transgressive but ultimately a showcase of great Australian talent.

Booktopia, I note have her book The Witch of Cologne on special and on the strength of her prose in Quiver I will add it to the wish list.

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Book Review–Lord of Slaughter by M.D. Lachlan

Lord of Slaughter is the third and final instalment of M.D. Lachlan’s Craw Trilogy ( Edit: apparently its not a trilogy and the author is at a loss as to explain how it acquired the series title Craw) .  Rooted firmly in Norse mythology, Lachlan delivers a tale of myth, magic, and reincarnation, interwoven with the history surrounding Constantinople circa 988 AD.

Lord of Slaughter continues the story of the mythological figures involved with the tale of Odin.  These figures, the wolf man & the lady are caught in a cycle, condemned to repeat it through countless lives until they can kill Odin and bring about Ragnarok.

So if you have read the preceding two books, Lord of Slaughter may start to wear a little thin, as its underlying theme is the same.  That said, the surface tale and setting is different and for awhile at least, the reader has to figure out who represents who in the mythological sense.

The Tale:

Loys, a former monk has escaped to Constantinople with his pregnant beloved Beatrice, daughter of a very angry and very violent Frankish lord.  They are low on money, but in love. A scholar, Loys hopes to find work in the greatest city on earth so that he can return Beatrice to the living she is accustomed to. 

Beatrice’s father has sent a former Varangian mercenary and Loys’ fellow monk Azemar to kill him and return Beatrice to her father.

At the same time the Emperor returns to Constantinople with his Varangian Guard, who he promptly leaves outside the city while heading off on another expedition.  The Varangian’s make the Greek inhabitants of Constantinople nervous and tensions begin to build along with unnatural weather- ash field skies that turn day into a murky twilight.

Loys is employed as a patsy to try and find the blasphemous source of the weather. He finds that all is not what it seems, that those who are sworn to protect the city are the one’s who are at its rotting centre.

Gritty and evocative prose

I enjoyed Lord of Slaughter more than Fenrir, both work well as stand alone texts but I think that the resolution of this novel served to round out the story much better.

Lachlan’s prose is what marks Lord of Slaughter out from your standard fantasy. It is a novel that makes you take notice of the author’s style and that style suits the oath bound warlike Varangians superbly.  You are left in no doubt of the harshness of living in 10th century Constantinople.

The mythic nature of parts of the story are well sketched with dreamlike sequences delivered in a imagery rich prose and this succession of imagery prepares as wonderfully for the story’s mythic conclusion.

Fans of Norse mythology and sagas will enjoy it.  It favours narrative, mythical sorcery over point and shoot fireballs and delivers a visceral fantasy read.

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

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Aug 24, 2012

Aurealis #53 Sneaks in

aurealis 53

Yep this year is fast approaching its end and another month has rolled around.

Check out Aurealis 53 Edited by Stephen Higgins and featuring fiction from from Benjamin Allmon and Richard Kerslake.




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King Rolen’s Kin continues

Rowena72dpiLong time readers will know of my totally biased adoration of the work of Rowena Cory Daniells.
That being said if you are a fan of fast paced epic fantasy go out and buy her books right now. Buy them in bulk because, like good chocolate you can’t stop at one.

Hitting the Sweet Spot

Rowena is one those writers that seems to hit the sweet spot.  This is not to say that there aren’t authors out there that aren’t as good, but Rowena is a member of a club of writers that I know as soon as I pick up the book I will lose all sense of time, I will simply read only surfacing for food and the threat of divorce. 
She’s joined in that club by Barry Eisler who’s thriller fiction has the same affect on me. Both take me back to teenage years when I’d be nearly comatose in English lessons because I had spent all night reading the latest David Gemmell.

Get to the point Sean

The series that started it off for me, King Rolen’s Kin, is going to receive another book.  Here’s the announcement from Rowena:
Here’s the official Press Release:
Jonathan Oliver, commissioning editor of Solaris Books, has commissioned a new novel by  Australian fantasy writer Rowena Cory Daniells.  The agent is John Jarrold, and the deal is for World English Language rights. The book is due for publication at the end of 2013.[read on]
Astute readers will note that this book is in addition to the trilogy that Rowena has coming out this year – The Outcast Chronicles. 
So in the time I have been book blogging (2 years) she’s released two trilogies, a crime novel and has another book green lighted.
I doffs me hat to her and thank her for providing the fans with such enthralling stories.

Reviews and Interviews

Rowena was kind enough to be interviewed as part of my Authors and Social media series last year.  I reviewed The King’s Bastard here, and Besieged last fortnight. 

I have received in the mail today Exile and her new crime novel The Price of Fame from Clan Destine Press. 

So I may need medical attention this week.

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Podcasts coming out my ears

…which is a good thing of course.  And I couldn’t even complain if I wanted to, as I do contribute to the problem field.

heartSo coming up in the next week or so, depending on the team’s work commitments will be a Galactic Chat with the talented Tor Roxburgh, author of The Light Heart of Stone, which I reviewed here.

So keep your ears open or perhaps go and subscribe to the podcast and work your way through the back catalogue.

But wait there’s more.

Mondy Ditmar and Chronos award wining Ian Mond of Writer & The Critic/Shooting the Poo Podcast and Hugo Nominated Jonathan Strahan of Coode Street have teamed up for an audio version of the Last Short Story Project (yes, the audiophile Mr Mond graced us,skype podcasting community, with his presence).  You can check out and subscribe to their new podcast here.

PD*3141165Author Kirstyn McDermott and winner of more awards than Ian Mond 1  has released the latest Writer & the Critic featuring the writing team of Angela Slatter and Lisa L. Hannett as they discuss Michael Crummey’s Galore and Alan Moore’s Voice of the Fire. 

You can stream below or download it here


1. A joke that Ditmar Awards night attendees might remember

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Aug 21, 2012

Coeur De Lion – proudly DRM free

Jacket-mockup3lores-198x300Coeur De Lion have proudly decided to go DRM free. While it’s dreadfully easy to crack any DRM currently on the market, it’s a show of good faith in customers. It allows those who just want to move books between their devices as they upgrade or replace ( I am on my second device), do so without effectively breaking the law.

Keith Stevenson had this to say in his announcement:

All ebooks purchased directly from Coeur de Lion are entirely DRM free. That’s because we believe you have the right to read your file on whatever device you choose. We also value and trust you [...]

Thanks Keith.

And in other related news Adam Browne’s Pyrotechnicon will be available for purchase as a both hardcover and ebook as of midnight tonight (Tuesday 21st).

Head over to the store and camp out.

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The Chronicles of Dion–Jane Routley

I had the pleasure of listening to Jane Routley speak on a couple of panels  at Continuum 8.  It turns out that Ticonderoga are rereleasing her Chronicles of Dion series.







All of these titles can be ordered through Indie books online, either individually or as a trilogy set in paperback  or hardcover.

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Aug 20, 2012

Cloud Atlas = interesting

I had heard the name, but not made any connection to Speculative Fiction (the problem for writers of the future is not getting published it’s getting noticed).  No it took a movie trailer to clue me in.

The film looks gorgeous and features a stellar cast. Cloud Atlas is directed the Wachowski’s  of Matrix fame and, Tom Tykwer. It’s been adapted from David Mitchell’s multi award winning science fiction novel of the same name.

Have a gander:

I am not sure if it will hit my taste buds.  It has an underlying, stripped down, nebulous, buddhist-lite feel to it. Where the audience will nod their head and go “it’s like Karma man". 

But its genesis is in a good sci-fi novel so we’ll see.

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Sea Hearts shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Awards

seahI reviewed Sea Hearts (Brides of Rollrock Island in the northern hemisphere) here

Young adult book award

  • Night Beach (Kirsty Eagar, Penguin)
  • The Ink Bridge (Neil Grant, A&U)
  • Three Summers (Judith Clarke, A&U)
  • Sea Hearts (Margo Lanagan, A&U)
  • All I Ever Wanted (Vikki Wakefield, Text)


It’s good to see Margo getting shortlisted for a prize and I think the book is worth it.

Sea Hearts is nominated in the young adult section.  I tend to think Margo’s work has a very wide appeal and if you think that because it’s YA  it lacks depth or substance, then you are missing out. 

Read the review. 

Buy it or borrow it from the library. 

Help support great Australian Speculative Fiction.

Oh and Bravo Queenland for maintaining the prestige of the State Awards without the help of that vandal Campbell Newman.

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Aug 19, 2012

Sunday afternoon blues

Made all the worse because I have to try and get into a dentist tomorrow.  So I am expecting both physical and financial pain to compliment last week’s hot water repairs that didn’t need to happen (faulty time clock not the hot water service).

Thankfully I have been able to cope today with the assistance of Herr Hoffman’s magical elixir ( Extra strength aspirin at 4 hourly intervals).  Thursday and Friday I felt like drilling my own teeth out.

But what can you do?  Get angry at the man that’s what? 

Here’s one of my favourite bands, favourite in the sense that I actually get motivated to buy the album.  It’s Billy Talent with Viking Death March from their as yet unreleased album Dead Silence.

Who said punk was dead?  (You’ll like these guys if you like Green Day)

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We <3 Jim Hines or… what are you going to do to prevent harassment?

I have yet to read any of Jim’s published novels but his blog posting on a number of issues always seem to hit the mark. 

Recently I blogged about the Readercon debacle in Learning from Readercon  and then did a follow up post at Readercon Resolved

In summarising myself: there’s only so much committees and conventions can do to create safe spaces.  They are in control of everything but the thing that causes the problem ie us, humans, harassers and targets.  The onus is on us, the attendees to be aware of the possibility of harassment, to be there to support those who may be targeted and to act if the need arises to stop friends or acquaintances behaving badly.

Now while ideas have been ticking over in the brain, Jim Hines had posted “My Sexual Harassment Policy” which is a nice personal statement that encapsulates those ideas of personal responsibility.

My Policy on Sexual Harassment

My goal in convention/fandom spaces, online, and in general, is to interact with others in such a way that all parties feel safe and respected. Therefore…

  1. I will be accountable for my actions. If I mess up, I will not make excuses or blame others for my behaviors or the consequences of those behaviors. (Nor will I make or accept excuses about other people’s inappropriate behaviors, even if they’re friends or Big Important People in the community.)1
  2. I will try not to make assumptions about physical interactions, or statements/behaviors that could be construed as sexual. For example, if I don’t know whether or not you’re comfortable being hugged, I’ll ask you.2
  3. I will listen to and respect your boundaries. Period. [read on]

I do encourage you to read Jim’s article and the comments because they are a) courteous b) intelligent c) in the spirit of further understanding.

Salad Days

The issue of harassment at conventions got me thinking back to the days when I used to train self defence and personal protection.  A large part of that training was getting men and women to be aware of their surroundings and how to evaluate potential threats.

the-gift-of-fearThere were a couple of books that were excellent in demonstrating how predators used language and social mores to control targets.  The best of these was The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker. 

De Becker uses real life situations and survival stories of women who were attacked. 

Two chapters of particular relevance were The Technology of Intuition and Survival Signals.  The first examined how well our intuition works on picking up subconscious cues in behaviour and language and how evaluating them properly may save your life. 

The latter deals with observed techniques that predators and others use to break through our objections and create trust.

De Becker relates the tale of a rape survivor who at first didn’t think she had any indication that the charming man she met in the foyer was a rapist.  De Becker shows that at least several points the man exhibited behaviours that threw up potential red flags.  The screen shot below explains one of the attacker’s techniques and it’s one I have seen used not just in violent situations but in any situation where trust needs to be generated quickly.

Forced teaming

I’d recommend this book to anyone male or female.  The book is well written and engaging and offers practical advice for life in general. 

Tying this back into conventions…

Not every con goer is a predator and not everyone who uses forced teaming is trying to rape you – they may just be trying to sell you something.  But being aware of subtle techniques of manipulation through language will make you more aware and more confident.

So that when you are in a situation and you are feeling uncomfortable you’ll

a) trust yourself

b) be able to name/ put a finger on exactly why you feel uncomfortable and

c) act.

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Aug 17, 2012

Book Review– Besieged by Rowena Cory Daniells

Besieged is the first book in The Outcast Chronicles by Rowena Cory Daniells.  The Chronicles see Daniells return to the world which she created in the T’En Trilogy.  The Chronicles are a prequel to that series and take place at a considerable distance from the evens featured in the earlier works.
It is not necessary then to have read the earlier trilogy, to understand or enjoy Besieged.

Where to start on Besieged?

There are good books that you can appreciate and enjoy, then there are books that you will lose sleep over or have to get you significant other to hide from you so you can get work done.  Besieged, for me is the latter.  I found its story and Daniells’ writing tugging at my consciousness at every waking moment of the two days it took me to read it.

The dark and twisted tale

Besieged is a saga of blood, family inheritance and the struggle for acceptance. A tale of political scheming, intrigue, and up close and personal violence.  A tale of character’s wants, desires, and ambitions causing misery and misfortune for those around them.  It is a story of two people and two cultures and a path of destruction they seem unable to avoid.

Sorne is the half blooded son of King Charald in a kingdom where T’En and the half blooded Melanjue are slandered as Wyrd’s, abominations in the eyes of the true men who follow the Churches of the Seven.  He is raised in secret by a high priest and forged, through deprivation and holy torture, into a weapon to use against the T’En.

Imoshen is secretly raised by a T’En Brotherhood, an action the breaks the 400 year old covenant between the male and female factions of T‘en culture. She has an untrained talent for wielding the T’En gift and an inquisitive nature unfettered by the dictates of the covenant.
Imoshen searches for acceptance and a home for her children.  Sorne searches for love and affection from a father who will give him none.
Both these characters are agents of change in two cultures set to collide with one another.

Dark fantasy not for the squeamish

I have been a fan of Rowena’s since consuming the King Rolen’s Kin Trilogy last year. Besieged features the same pacey writing but with much darker content.

The battles in Besieged occur off page.  Daniells focuses on the interpersonal, which makes some of the content darker than your general fantasy tale.  There’s not much left untouched – children die, and characters are tortured.  The violence isn’t gratuitous but Daniells’ skill in getting you to love characters and invest in them before she hurts them in front your eyes, is superlative. You simply must read on to ensure that characters obtain justice or carry out revenge.

If you were squeamish about the inclusion of a gay character in the King Rolen’s Kin series, then you may have to put on your big boy/girl pants to read Besieged.  The T’En culture is split into Brotherhoods and Sisterhoods, same sex coupling is common and expected, in addition to trysts that result in offspring. 
There’s also aspects of sexual politics within in the Brotherhoods that might make male readers squirm uncomfortably.

Similar in tone to a Song of Ice and Fire, but complete

I have made comparisons between Daniells’ work and that of George R.R. Martin before, stating my preference for the former.  If you are looking for dark, gripping adult fantasy, but in a finished product, Besieged and I venture, the rest of the Chronicles, will sate your palate.

This book was provided to me by the author.

awwc2012_thumb[1]This 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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Galactic Suburbia 66 The Post Olympic Edition


The crew set forth again bravely cresting the waves of misogyny that flood the interwebs.  They point out Eddie McGuire’s ineptitude at commentating before rejoicing in the fact that a few friends have made it on to the World Fantasy Awards ballot. 

There’s some coverage of the Readercon decision to enforce its harassment policy and they mention my latest recording for Galactic Chat.

Without anymore of my codeine enhanced meanderings I give you Galactic Suburbia:



Play below

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Aug 14, 2012

Trudi Canavan’d The Traitor Queen rockets to Number 1

image006According to sales figures from Orbit, upon its release in the UK, The Traitor Queen shot to Number #1, selling 5101 hardback copies in just 4 days.

It also became their bestselling e-book in the same period of time, selling 4890 copies!

The Traitor Queen was released in Australia today.

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Aug 13, 2012

Loving Problematic Things–HBO’s Game of Thrones

The graphic depiction of misogyny and implicit racism in some of their casting, aside, I find that I love the fact that we finally have a well presented fantasy epic on television who’s producers and writers know generally what the hell they are doing. Nothing resembling Hawk the Slayer for instance.

I love that for the most part they are giving talented actors a chance to shine and come to the attention of the big studios.

Recently its come to my notice that a few genre actors have stepped up Iwan Rheon of Misfits fame.

Rumour has it that Australian actor Noah Taylor and British actor Burn Gorman (of Torchwood fame) will be members of the Night’s watch.

Speaking of unknown actors did you catch Birdsong on ABC it featured two cast members from Game of Thrones.

Can you tell me who?

Oh and why didn’t I know Diana Rigg would be in it?

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Pre-Orders on Midnight and Moonshine are go!

midnight-and-moonshine-webThe Doctors Brain (Lisa L. Hannett and Angela Slatter) teamed up to deliver Midnight and Moonshine.

Lisa and Angela have each won Aurealis awards for their separate collections and a little birdy tells me that the equally award winning Kathleen Jennings will be doing the cover art for this collection.  As if I couldn’t tell from the distinctive cover art ---->

Here’s the copy:

The gods are dead, but will not be forgotten.
When Mymnir flees Ragnarok, she hopes to escape all that bound her to Ásgarðr — a heedless pantheon, a domineering brother, and her neglectful father-master, Óðinn. But the white raven, a being of memory and magic, should know that the past is not so easily left behind. No matter how far she flies, she cannot evade her family…

From fire giants to whispering halls, disappearing children to evening-wolves, fairy hills to bewitched cypress trees, and talking heads to moonshiners of a special sort, Midnight and Moonshine takes readers on a journey from ninth century Vinland to America’s Deep South in the present day.

The collection will be released as both a Limited hardcover signed by all contributors (100 numbered copies) and a Trade paperback.

In related news, that I tweeted yesterday, Lisa L. Hannett's debut collection, Bluegrass Symphony, is a nominee for the World Fantasy Awards

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Win Besieged by Rowena Cory Daniells

besJust wanted to drop a note to say that I have received Besieged for review and let me state, right now, I love this book.

This is a book I had to tell my wife to hide because I needed to get work done today.

Anyway, review coming up this weekend (probably).  But in the meantime check out the competition running on Goodreads to win a copy or place it on your Booktopia wish list for when the next free shipping  promo is held.

Solaris, Rowena’s publisher is also planning to release the next  books in the series in the next few months, so no long waits for the rest of the trilogy(oops! Exile is already out).

For heavens sake its only $9.50 buy it now (ok I’ll stop gushing).

But seriously, damn fine dark fantasy.

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Aug 12, 2012

Book Review–Existence by David Brin

I am still at odds with my feelings toward Existence by David Brin.  It is an epic book, in both page count and the story it encapsulates.

Of recent times there has been a suggestion that science fiction no longer gives us that hope- that our problems can be solved, that we can dream of far flung empires in galaxies far far away.

We landed on the moon in 1969, and it seems that we really haven’t done much since then.  Part of this stems from a better understanding of the extreme difficulties of travel even within our own solar system, the failure to find extra terrestrial life with SETI and perhaps even the current social and economic malaise in America. 

The current “thing” is dystopias - a chance to recast the world’s only superpower us an underdog or perhaps just a continued expression of youth casting off the mistakes of previous generations and starting anew?

Two books this year have bucked that trend, 2312 by Robinson and  Existence by Brin.  Brin extrapolates from current circumstances and gives us a world with risen sea levels, a multi-tiered immersive internet, artificial intelligence and uplifted animals.  Into this cacophonous, melting pot comes a first contact scenario.  A crystal pellet shot across the vastness of space carries within in it uploaded life forms, from civilisations long dead with a message for humanity. Whether we should trust it, whether it’s real, what threat it poses, make up the main part of the novel.

Existence feels like an ensemble movie, there’s not really a central character, but 3 or 4 that get a a well rounded development. I  fell short in my reading, of developing a deep connection with any of them.  But perhaps I am judging the novel by the wrong standards.  I think  Existence is perhaps more of a return to what we generally think a science fiction novel is?  More a book that is a vessel for an idea, planting a message, a hope and warning in the mind of the reader, much like the Crystalline pellets.

For much of  Existence I teetered on the edge of interest, I much prefer very character centred novels.  There seemed to be too many strands to pull together.  For much of the text I felt that  Existence was another of those hard Sci-Fi books where the likelihood of us extending civilisation beyond the solar system was nil.  This feeling was turned on its head in the last 150 pages with an ending that seems to one of hope and optimism, if we can just remain non-typical in regards to the fate of most civilisations.

Existence is not necessarily for the “hard science” Sci-Fi reader, but its certainly not a book that I would recommend to someone inexperienced in science fiction conventions and tropes. 
As for me, well I am still thinking and perhaps that was Brin’s intent.

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

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Coode Street Podcast 112 with guest Genevieve Valentine

79552_logoA good podcast which covers Readercon, panel parity and respect for the female viewpoint/voice.

Then moves into a little Steampunk.

Right click here and select save us for the download or stream from the player below:

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