Jun 29, 2013

Holidays on the Horizon

And what’s this? another post in less than seven days.  It has been quiet around here hasn’t it *crickets chirp* but dear readers I have been working and reading very hard.  Holidays are just a week away when I shall have all my time devoted to blogging and reading and podcasting.

If you are following on twitter you will be well aware that we, as in Me and the team, are relaunching Galactic Chat after a hiatus, on July 5th.  So I have been editing my arse off in post production and have interviews done two months in advance. I am so happy to be joined by some quality interviewers, some of whom are doing it for the first time but sound like naturals.

Check out the Galactic Chat page over here and subscribe or you can find us in the ITunes podcast directory.

Other than that it’s more reading and reviewing for me.  I am part way through the anthology Next which is proving to be a very charming collection and this weekend I shall be delving once again into Filipino Spec Fic for my ISF column.

There’s also a sekrit project I am working on that I am foresworn on pain of death not to reveal that could mean something special happening next year. 

Until I claw my way out of the editing mines.


Jun 25, 2013

Glenda Larke Watergivers trilogy for $15

Booktopia keep tempting me with their no shipping offers and I could almost resist this one except that I read this post by Glenda Larke where she mentioned some versions of her books might be hard to find in the wild.

So I went hunting and was pleasantly surprised to find  the Watergivers trilogy available for $15 (no shipping charge).  Now for those that suffer from a need to have all versions of the book in the same series of covers you might be disappointed but I can’t miss this opportunity to catch up on some quality Australian Fantasy.












You can click the pictures above to take you to the individual books in the series or click here to go to the view all of Glenda’s books available at Booktopia ( probably easier if you want to buy the whole trilogy.

The coupon code for no shipping is EOFYS and will work until midnight the 28th of June (3 days)


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Jun 22, 2013

Book Review – The Bride Price by Cat Sparks


Cat Sparks is probably more widely known for her role as an editor and small press advocate (indeed she was included in Donna Maree Hanson’s Australian Speculative Fiction: A Genre Overview as such). A talented graphic artist and photographer she’s been a stalwart, a firm fixture in the Australian Speculative Fiction scene long before I rocked up.

The Bride Price collects works that have appeared intermittently over the course of the last decade or so, it’s the short fiction that she’s fitted in around being generally brilliant and multitalented with everything else.  And like everything she does in Australian speculative fiction its got that polished feel to it. 

You can perhaps tell I am a little bit of a fan.

No collection can be everything to everyone, there’s usually some stories that hit the mark and some that don’t but heavens, I’d have trouble finding a story in this collection that I thought was even slightly off the boil.

The award winning A Lady of Adestan opens the collection.  A beautifully written fantasy tale that ducks and weaves under your defences and delivers a sharp stinging uppercut. It was released in 2007 but I won’t spoil it.  It’s a brilliant opener that snaps the reader into focus and gets them prepared for some quality work.  If you think women can’t write gritty fantasy well read this story and then we’ll chat.

This is followed by the first of the Sammaryndan stories, Beyond the Farthest Stone, which is chronologically the last written, being an original composition for this collection.  In Beyond the Farthest Stone, Sparks manages to conjure up a superb post apocalyptic setting reminiscent of those bleak 80’s films like Mad Max 3 and Salute to the Jugger.  Only with Sparks, you get the sense of a deeper, more realized and diverse world. You’ll also note that women are mostly the heroes of these stories - which is to say that you get a different perspective, a subtle shifting of focus away from standard tropes.

The Bride Price takes us off earth and possibly several galaxies away to a single man in possession of a good fortune, and in need of a wife.  And in this future brides are made to order, contracted to the buyer before they mature to leave time for training. It’s a subtle commentary on the rich and women/people as a commodity. The moral is ( through I hesitate to use the term, as Sparks never preaches) is the suggestion that what is truly worth having, is worth working for.

In The Street of the Dead, Sparks captures Australian rural voice and mannerism (hard to do well without sounding like you are “puttin’ it on a bit strong”) particularly well as Australia suffers an odd alien invasion.  Indeed when she sets her stories in near future Australia I think she has a perfect ear for cadence and register.

The second in the Sammaryndan Stories, Sammarynda Deep takes place in Sammarynda.  Here we explore the other culture hinted at in Beyond the Farthest Stone.  We find out about the tradition of scarring oneself as an act of attaining honour

“When one attains true adulthood in Sammarynda,one must render upon oneself an honour. It may be a small thing
or a great thing. The choice is entirely one’s own.”

“That scar is my honour. When my time came I asked two friends to hold me down and a third to wield the scythe.”

The light of the moons cast a pearly luminescence on his skin. Mariyam frowned. “You chose to be scarred? Surely you can’t be
serious?” And then the truth of his words hit home. Jahira’s eye.Mariyam gasped, bringing her fingers to her lips.

It’s a delightful detail that is more than just window dressing for Sparks’ apocalypse and it’s central to this particular story. Some scars aren’t visible, some sacrifice is emotional. Sammarynda Deep is my second favourite, after A Lady of Adestan – a subtle twist waiting to slap the reader again.

Seventeen is a story about growing up and outliving ones usefulness as a rent-a-grandchild.  Again Sparks manages to make subtle comment on the rich without being preachy. I love the fusion of the ideas - the rich buying the relationships they can’t develop themselves and the edgy reality of street kids surviving by any means necessary, until they are used up and cast off.

Now, perhaps to break up the somewhat dark path the reader’s being treading, Sparks gives us a bit of a respite with All the Love in the World, a story that goes against the grain of most post apocalyptic stories in that the world hasn’t descended into savagery.  The drama in this story is much more that of interpersonal relationships and how far we will go for love. The Ramsey Street of the Apocalypse( hmmm though perhaps Ramsey street would descend into cannibalism)- which is not to imply that the story is cheap melodrama but more so that it focuses on a street cut off from the rest of reality.

Now after Sparks has finished her novel in the same world as the Sammarynda stories are set, I want a novel set around the piratical Dead Low.  Perhaps I am an old Browncoat at heart and just like the idea of pirates salvage operations in space.  The un-heroic side of space opera where it’s the little things that count, not necessarily fighting against the empire or facing off the Kodan Armada in a lone gunship.

In Arctica, Sparks displays her versatility with a tale of trans-dimensional refugees arriving in a 19th Century-ish Earth .  It feels steampunk but the focus on and treatment of refugees has me casting a sideways glance at our current political situation in Australia.  

I thought we had another Sammarynda story with The Alabaster Child, it certainly has that feel to it.  It is a wonderful story that leads the reader one way and then delivers a reveal at the end that changes the tone of the story entirely.  It has elements of a Western/ gold rush frontier story but becomes a story of discovery.

Holywood Roadkill has a kind of post-cyberpunk feel to it.  The corporations have won and the gap between haves and have nots is marked physically by the superhighway that cuts off the slums from Hollywood City.  Playing a game of real life Frogger our protagonists take an all or nothing chance to get into the city by crossing the highway.  This isn’t the polished chrome of the 80’s its the story of those that fall through the cracks and the realities that keep them there.

Scarp like The Street of the Dead, is a quintessential Australian, small town setting.  Society hasn’t descended into cannibalism but the local council has mutated into a patriarchal group of unelected gluttonous drunkards insistent on preserving the status quo(actually that may not be far from the reality).  The tension between the young and the old could be plucked from any rural Australian town,  the desire to escape from boredom and restriction. Likewise the landscape is decidedly Australian an isolation enforced by nature as much as the gun. 

The Sleeping and the Dead I had previously read in Gilgamesh Press’ Ishtar and was my favourite in that collection, though it was a close call with works from Warren and Biancotti included with it.  It is gruesome and decidedly post apocalyptic gothic, featuring Necromaidens with a fetish for bones.

A good chunk of this collection is post apocalyptic but Sparks manages to deliver such a variety of post apocalyptic settings that I think The Bride Price is a good place to start for anyone wishing to take on that particularly well done sub genre – an exemplar on how to make those stories original and interesting.  The other stories clearly display a versatility in the wider science fiction genre.  In short I think Sparks can deliver meaty science fiction with a subtle side dish of social comment whichever setting she chooses. If this is your first experience of Sparks you won’t want it to be your last - I experienced a sense of sorrow when I reached the end of The Bride Price, so immersed was I the stories she had created.

You can buy The Bride Price here.

You can buy various Agog Press titles here .

This review was based on an advanced reading copy.

This post first appeared on Adventures of a Bookonaut.

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awwbadge_2013[4]This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013.  Please check out this page for more great writing from Australian women..

Jun 20, 2013

Galactic Chat Pre-launch Special with NK Jemisin


I have just finished uploading the wonderful interview conducted by David McDonald with NK Jemisin over on the Galactic Chat page.  Feel free to head on over there to  subscribe or you can play it below or download here.

You know when you just can't wait to share something or that you have money burning a hole in your pocket? Well that's what it's like having to hold on to this recording.  The team finally broke down and decided to give you a pre-launch special with Continuum Guest of Honor, NK Jemisin.

One of our new roving reporters David McDonald managed to catch Ms Jemisin in between her many exhausting duties at the Convention. 

Sit back and relax as they talk about drop bears, her GOH speech, writing outside of your comfort zone, making mistakes and striving to do better.



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Jun 16, 2013

Fantasy New Releases and Booktopia Free Shipping till Midnight Tuesday

It’s getting close to the end of the year and the wonderful folks at Booktopia have launched a July preorder catalogue. You can purchase these on preorder and get free shipping when they come in to stock if you use the code below.

I had a glance through and picked out a few books that might be of value to you dear readers.

raven-flight If you are a fan of Juliet Marillier the second in Shadowfell series, Raven Flight is out on the 9th of July:

Neryn thought she had lost everything and could trust no one, not even her mysterious companion, Flint. But when she finds refuge at the rebel base of Shadowfell and discovers her canny gift as a Caller, she feels the first stirrings of hope.
Now she faces a perilous journey with the rebel Tali and the Good Folk, who shadow her steps. She must find the three Guardians who can teach her how to use her unwieldy gift – one that it is rumoured could amass a powerful army.

Can Neryn master her magical power to save Alban from King Keldec's stranglehold?

Or will she be too late?



cold-steelBut if adult fiction is more your thing the witty Kate Elliot will be releasing Cold Steel on the 25th of June. It’s the third in the Spirit Walker series.

Trouble, treachery, and magic just won't stop plaguing Cat Barahal. The Master of the Wild Hunt has stolen her husband Andevai. The ruler of the Taino kingdom blames her for his mother's murder. The infamous General Camjiata insists she join his army to help defeat the cold mages who rule Europa. An enraged fire mage wants to kill her. And Cat, her cousin Bee, and her half-brother Rory, aren't even back in Europa yet, where revolution is burning up the streets.
Revolutions to plot. Enemies to crush. Handsome men to rescue.
Cat and Bee have their work cut out for them.


the-long-warThe Long War hardcover is being released this week, on the 18th of June.  It follows on from their New York Times Best Selling The Long  Earth.

War has come to the Long Earth....

Humankind has spread across the new worlds opened up by stepping, which Joshua and Lobsang explored a mere decade ago. Now "civilization" flourishes, and fleets of airships link the multiple Earths through exploration, trade, and culture.

Humankind is shaping the Long Earth, but in turn the Long Earth is shaping humankind. A new America that has christened itself "Valhalla" has emerged more than a million steps from the original Datum Earth. And like the American revolutionaries of old, the Valhallans resent being controlled from afar by the Datum government.

In the intervening years, the song of the trolls--graceful, hive-mind humanoids--has suffused the Long Earth. But in the face of humankind's inexorable advance, they are beginning to fall silent . . . and gradually disappear.

Joshua, now married and a father, is summoned by Lobsang. It seems that he alone can confront the perfect storm of crises that threatens to plunge all of the Long Earth into war.

A war unlike any that has been waged before...

As always though the have a selection of bargain stock for Fantasy and Science Fiction fans. 

There are works from Tansy Rayner Roberts, Glenda Larke, Karen Miller, China Mieville, Anne Bishop, Elizabeth and Sean Williams all for around $5.

So check the links out and if you want to get free shipping put WINNER in the coupon code area on checkout.

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Jun 11, 2013

The Toughest Girls in the Galaxy

I am an old time gamer.  I have somewhere the 1st edition of Warhammer 40K, I have legions of plastic and pewter soldiers sitting in the garage which will probably outlive me and the apocalypse. So I should not have been surprised by what’s on offer from the French company behind Raging Heroes.  To be fair they are hardly alone in what they depict.  But let us entertain for a second the possibility that the idea behind a kick starter aiming to provide you with 3 all female 28 mm armies is to redress the gender imbalance in tabletop gaming.

Did you manage it?

I offer you:


So ok the crafting of the miniatures is top notch. But the appeal is to the 14 year old male gamer (and those still 14 at heart).  It would be nice to see a woman wielding a chain gun with more than a singlet on. Below are some pictures of women in combat gear, notice the distinct lack of breastplates showing an outward indication of the wearer’s gender.  Notice how from a distance you would be hard pressed to see the lace corsets the are obviously hiding under those fatigues.

  germanwomenmilitary Military-articleLarge

How about some gaming companies start leading by example and stop playing to the masturbatory fantasies of young teens and older men who should know better.


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Jun 10, 2013

Ticonderoga eBooks a treasure trove of SpecFic win

tbpI have slipped in my role as Australian Speculative fiction guide.  Either that or Russ at Ticonderoga has been very sneaky.  Somehow, as if by magic, there appears to be a number of their quality paperback collections/ works available as ebooks.

I am reading Cat Spark’s The Bride Price at the moment, just go and buy the collection NOW, don’t wait for my review.  I am about 75% through and every story has been brilliant.

It’s only $5.99


And while you are there pick up The Girl With No Hands and other tales, Midnight and Moonshine, Dead Red Heart, The Year of Ancient Ghosts and Heliotrope.

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Jun 9, 2013

Book Review – Winter be My shield by Jo Spurrier

winter-be-my-shieldWinter be My Shield is the debut novel from South Australian fantasy writer Jo Spurrier.  It was released last year and the second in the series, Black Sun Light My Way was launched on the first of June this year.

It was one of my personal reads for the year, a non review copy that I obtained at Supanova in 2012. Like many reviewers I have books that I should be reading and those which I purchase and want to read.  The later, has books in it stretching back to 2011.  Winter be My Shield was plucked from the leaning to-be-read-pile by virtue of the buzz it seemed to be generating without significant spruiking by the author.  It was blurbed by Robin Hobb, Trudi Canavan had mentioned it favorably and folks in my twitter stream seemed to keep mentioning it.  If I wasn’t a scientific skeptic I might have said the universe was telling me something.

So did it live up to the buzz?  The short answer is yes.

For me, the tone of Winter be My Shield sits somewhere between the gateway genre works of Trudi Canavan and Rowena Cory Daniells’ Outcast Chronicles. There’s violence and torture but its pitched at a level that won’t be shock to anyone that’s coming to the genre cold.

Mentioning the cold, Winter be My Shield shares similarities with one of Daniells’ other works, The King Rolen’s Kin trilogy, in that it occurs in a snow bound landscape and both tales are shaped by the environment rather than it being just an element thrown in for flavour.  When an author goes to the trouble of considering how weather affects landscape and armies and thereby plot it rounds the tale out, makes it more three dimensional.

But enough of comparing Spurrier to other epic fantasy writers.  What does she offer the reader?  Stylistically there’s nothing in the writing that draws too much attention to itself, I did wonder at some anachronistic word choices in dialogue, but apart from that Spurrier’s writing is pretty transparent delivering  a well paced and entertaining story.  After having abandoned some other debut novels in my reviewing list, Winter be My Shield made the act of reading pleasurable again.

Though pop culture is now becoming saturated with a winter that is always coming, Spurrier’s choice of war in the frozen North still has enough wiggle room to deliver an original tale.  I did perhaps think that she may have been riffing off events surrounding the Varian Disaster but being somewhat of a history nerd that endeared me to the story whether it was the case or not.  Whether its the Wolf Clan versus the Akharian Empire or the Germans versus the Romans everyone loves an underdog and everyone likes to see the pompous getting taken down a peg or two.

The magic was delightfully loose in its description, logical enough for the author to place constraints on it for the purpose of narrative but free enough to give the reader a visual spectacle.  I am not terribly enamoured of magical systems that sound like they are derived from old school D&D and as such the rather elemental magic delivered here, is right up my alley.

The scale is epic, but there's also a nicely developing story of relationships – both romantic and platonic between the main characters.  The stakes are high not only for a people but also for distinct individuals. 

I eagerly await finding the time to read Black Sun Light My Way.

awwbadge_2013[4]This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013.  Please check out this page for more great writing from Australian women..





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Jun 8, 2013

Erotic Romance for Men - Guns, Zombies or ...

an eBook review of Kylie Scott’s, Skin.

skin That's it I admit it I am fast becoming a fan of romance. The kind of romance that Kylie Scott writes at any rate. I reviewed Scott's first title Flesh, late last year. It was the concept - erotic romance with zombies( no not WITH the zombies) that hooked me in.  I read a sample chapter, enjoyed the humour (honest it was the humour), and Scott kindly offered to arrange a copy for review.  

I honestly didn't know what to expect, I mean you expect a certain amount of sauciness and zombies but I have been burned before by titles pitched as genres they are not.  Scott's a self confessed B grade horror fan so I was perhaps thinking  it might be a little camp in its delivery.

I was pleasantly surprised. What I got a well balanced combination of romance, action and erotica. That surprise is I think revealing of an acculturated aversion to romance.  I read this rather brave post by Delilah S. Dawson and it reinforced again to me what silly ideas the genre community and particularly male segments of it have toward anything that suggests the romance genre.  Nobody beat me with a stick every time I looked at a romance cover so I don’t understand why I have (had)such a subconscious reaction against it. 

Kylie Scott writes well,I could not get through a paragraph of Fifty Shades of Grey, but Skin I couldn't put down.  Should I be surprised at this? It’s not any less hard to write an engaging zombie romance than it is to write an engaging epic fantasy and if you think it is maybe reflect on that thought.

With a debut as good as Flesh, Scott had a reputation, with me at least, to uphold.  Leaving behind the characters in Flesh she embarked on a new premise, a new story line set in the same post apocalyptic Queensland.  

Our main character is a school librarian, cooped up with the remnants of the staff and student body (that's horror if ever I have heard it) until they vote her out and sell her to a guy that's got a van load of supplies.  Moral of the story- don't trust the Maths faculty.

So here we have a scenario that's looking like its going to delve into non-consensual interactions.  My inner feminist began to awaken.  I questioned whether I liked where this story might lead, and what Scott might be exploring.  

Scott to her credit pulled it off.  She made the situation believable - our protagonist never presents as a victim to anything but her own desires and there's enough internal monologue that explores her decisions, to suspend my disbelief.

And action, how many romances have the heroin pinning the villain to the a wall with the bonnet of a truck? Ok pinned is being delicate, crushing both his legs is more like it.

The zombies are never more than a plot device to propel the characters, but let's face it that's true of 99% of zombie horror. One thing that Skin does as well as The Walking Dead is this suggestion that we have almost more to fear from those left alive, than by the shambling horde.

If there's one thing that did bug me it was the ending . It felt a little anticlimactic to me. Still, it was a wild ride.  I think Scott's writing was tighter this time around, the pacing smoother.  

If you enjoy, romance and well written erotica, if you're a bloke and you might be a little curious about checking out what all the fuss is about, I can't recommend a better gateway read.  It's got close combat, small arms fire, zombies and kink.  

So men - are you man enough to read erotic zombie romance?  And women, this erotic romance palaver,  how long have you kept this a secret?

This book was provided by the author at no cost.

awwbadge_2013[4]This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013.  Please check out this page for more great writing from Australian women..





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Jun 3, 2013

Having my genre proudly ruined by women since 1984

moon1There’s been a plethora of women writing about sexism in science fiction and fantasy this past week, Foz Meadows wrote a cracker of a piece here and Ann Aguirre (a-gear-ray) penned this yesterday

Well worth reading both.

It was this gutless email from some c**k-muppet privileged male whinger, directed in private to Ann that got me head-desking:

“Its bitches like you that are ruining SF. Why cant you leave it to men who know what their doing?”

I mean seriously, being somewhat over dramatic aren’t we?  I am pretty sure considering the male domination of the field that even excluding golden age male writers you could still find plenty of manly-man Sci-Fi. 

A warning though,watch out for Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312 it’s hard sci-fi but the gender- earthbendery stuff might make your insecure male boy-sacks shrivel up.

And that’s the thing I feel that reading some of these emails I am reading the thoughts of under developed boys, teenagers.

But perhaps that’s just me.  Perhaps my reading was ruined at a young age, when at 9 I bought The First Travel Guide to the Moon from the scholastic book club.  Or later when I read Ursula Le Guin’s Wizard of Earthsea after finishing Lord of the Rings.

There was another comment referencing whining:

Dear Ann:

Quit your bitching. Obviously your work is drek or you couldn’t crank it out so fast. Who cares what anyone calls the crap you write? So fuck off and stop whining about equality. Shit is equal to shit.”



Give or make a long, high-pitched complaining cry or sound.

Complain in a feeble or petulant way.

Who’s whining hey?

If you don’t want to read what women write then f*ck off and read something else. If you were trying to tell me what I can and can’t write you’d be drinking all your meals.

Note: I considered a gentle post, arguing the finer points of why its necessary to have variety, why women can, have and do write core sci-fi. But this was more fun.

Note 2: Jim Hines has a good collection of all the posting on the SFWA issue in

Roundup of Some “Anonymous Protesters” (#SFWA Bulletin Links)

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Jun 2, 2013

Havenstar releases from Ticonderoga

havenstar-web I reviewed Glenda Larke’s novel Havenstar here, shortly after she republished it as an ebook.  The wise folk at Ticonderoga though sought out the rights to publish the book in paper form again.  So for those that prefer the feel of crisp paper between their fingers you can now preorder a copy through the links below.

Additionally if you wish to buy some more Ticonderoga titles say Prickle Moon by Juliet Marillier, or Kim Wilkins’ The Year of Ancient Ghosts if you make a purchase over $49 you will get free shipping with in Australia.


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