THUMBNAIL THURSDAY GETS ALL CONTROVERSIAL, IF IT WAS 1977

This week, a cartoon I actually took to completion, which probably gives as clear an understanding of why I didn’t become a cartoonist as anything: when it comes to the final product I just wasn’t that good. Unlike with writing (he flatters himself), I like the innate understanding to be a natural when it comes to the visual arts, and the amount of time I’d need to spend learning the necessary skills is better spent honing my writing craft, for which I at least have some facility.

Sigh. Nowadays you have yo explain who Erich Von Daniken is, although that’s as it should be. Loons and charlatans should be cast into the soggy ruts at the side of the tracks of history and forgotten.

Besides, we have Whitley Streiber if we want to listen to cracked-up fuckwits now.

OH, BEEN A WHILE SINCE A LEGO POST, HAS IT?

I’ve been trying to whip up some enthusiasm for starting a Lego User Group in the southern reaches of Perth, without much in the way of success. One of the ways I’ve been trying is by starting a Facebook group: RockLUG. Feel free to join. There are a few members, but right now it appears to be a page dedicated to me whittering on about Lego to myself.

This month, I decided to try issuing a challenge: a remix, based on concepts I posted about here a couple of weeks ago. Basically, the idea is to create a MOC using only the pieces from one individual set.

I chose this one:


The Space Police III set Undercover Cruiser, 309 pieces and like a lot of Space Police III sets, filled with an array of odd and unique pieces. I love the Space Police III stuff: apart from designs which are as mad as all get-out, they invariably have a fantastic range of pieces and use a lot of unique, interesting parts, which meant I was confident of being able to come up with something a little wild.


In the end I came up with The Hopper, which is based around a technic-heavy armature designed to hold in place two swept wings at a really odd angle over the basic spine of the ship. Lots of greebles and an offset engine arrangement (more technic) made for a fun and (for me, at least) challenging build. 



Check out those fins. Check out those fins






“Did you get my best side?”
Yes. Yes, I did.


Underside: lots of technic pieces and a cannon. As it should be.


Stubby. Like a container truck without a container. In space!


Then, with half an hour before I had to pick the kids up from school, I started clipping things together at random and came up with a long, slim piece I dubbed The Copslider, utilising a ridiculously long nose piece and some rather traditional building shapes.

 No, my kid didn’t build it. Shut up.



Cannons. You just gotta have cannons. 





And I still had a bunch of pieces left over– lots of little, greebly pieces with no immediately apparent fit, so I might see what I can do with them just for the challenge of it.



So a fun challenge, but given I was the only one who jumped on it, perhaps not one I’ll be setting my LUG-without-a-LUG again.




TURNING YOUR KIDS INTO ZOMBIES, IN THE NICEST POSSIBLE WAY

Luscious Lyn has recently joined one of the strangest little groups I’ve heard of in years.

Zombies, Run is a downloadable exercise app that plays an ongoing post-apocalyptic narrative in which you, designated Runner 5, navigate your way through a zombie-strewn landscape, completing tasks and avoiding shambling herds of z-men by, well, running. It’s an extraordinarily clever conceit as well as yet another indication that SF is always amongst the first literary genres to take advantage of new technology. What’s more it is, according to the Luscious one, rather addictive. Which, let’s face it, rather the point when it comes to getting out there and exercising.

What’s more, the app is bringing groups together t talk about their experiences: Lyn is a member of a group based in Wollongong, along with fellow Clarion South alumni Laura Goodin. And now they want t-shirts.

Which is where the Battersby Family Art Machine decided to intervene 🙂

Miss 11 has designed a Zombie Run picture. I’ve designed a Zombie Run t-shirt. Master 8 has drawn a dragon, but then, that’s just Master 8 all over.

Lyn often plays the narrative while she walks the kids to school, and has taken to referring to them in her Facebook posts as Runners 5.1 and 5.2, so they just had to appear in the design. What’s more, I’ve managed to do what it took Aiden 20 years of computer games and unemployment to achieve: I’ve turned them into shambling, flaky skinned zombies of the first order.

Here’s the proof of concept sketch for your entertainment. We’ll be getting it up onto Cafe Press soon as I have a few days to design, layout and paint a final version.

Please note: advice applies only if your children are actual zombies
Just “not liking them” is no defence in the eyes of the law.

MEMORIES OF A THIRTY-THREE DOLLAR FESTIVAL

For the first time in an almost unbelievable twelve years I upped and hied myself to the Perth Writers Festival this last weekend. Twelve years is a long time in politics and writers festivals: the last time I attended it was held in the quaint and relatively compact confines of the Fremantle Writers Centre, and we all sat under the trees in groups of about twenty and listened to whatever was put in front of us because, quite honestly, programmes were just something that happened to other people. Since then, it’s been swallowed by the corporate maw of the Perth International Arts Festival and moved to the rather more lush and expansive grounds of the University of Western Australia. Not to put too fine a point on it, it’s fucking enormous.

The Festival runs for three days, and having some time off work for writah-dahlinking, Luscious Lyn and I managed to attend two of them: a day to ourselves on the very grown up Friday, and in the company of our 20 and 8 year old sons on the Family Fun Day two days later. And what we saw… well…

What we saw has changed things, and I’m not yet quite sure how to quantify what they changed. But somewhere along the line, something inside of me went ping, and although I’m not sure exactly what has changed, still I knew things have.

Make sense?

It started early: at the very first session we attended, the very first session of the very first day– “Boys Behaving Badly”, an examination of sex, mysogyny and manhood. I wasn’t as much interested in the subject as I was in the speakers, because one of the authors speaking was John Doust, and John was my mentor when I first started stand-up comedy way back in 1992. Even back then, John talked of writing a novel loosely based upon his lifetime experiences, and he’s gone on to write two. I wanted to hear him speak, to see him in action after many years out of touch. And he looked fine, and happy, and he certainly sounded content with the stories he was telling and the current shape of his career. But as I watched him, something started ticking inside of me, and I left the tent in rather more pondering a mood than I was expecting.

And then I sat and watched a panel discussion on ‘place’, and observed the convenor and the two mainstream novelists on the panel treat the crime novelist with suspicion and barely-concealed ambivalence– admittedly, he was a giant arse, but that wasn’t all of it. And the ticking got a little bit louder.

And then we trooped into the Octagon Theatre with hundreds of other acolytes to watch the big ticket item of the day– and, arguably of the Festival– the reason why the title of this blog is only a paraphrasing and not an outright steal of that David Bowie song– the 16-bucks-a-ticket-plus-booking-fee discussion on writing between China Meiville and Margaret Attwood. I had hoped for a lightsaber duel, a battle of wits so quick that much of it would only be assimilated in retrospect: a bedazzlement; a clash of rapiers; a fireworks show. What I got was a couple of chummy masters sitting back after a bloody good meal, letting out their trouser buttons and calling for the port to be served. It was a different kind of brilliance, a more sedate and leisurely kind, but as it progressed I found myself strangely disappointed.

Part of it was the lack of challenge in the questions asked, either by the audience or by the moderator, an irritating little twerp who had no idea that the role of a facilitator is to get the fuck out the way and let the interesting famous people talk so insisted on blethering his inconsequential and sycophantic opinions like a junior drinks waiter with a word-of-the-day calendar. But there was more to it than that, and it’s at this point where I begin to lose my way: something didn’t sit right with me, and I cannot pin it down. Whether it was the lack of urgency, of challenge, or the comfortable assumption that what these two heavyweights of speculative fiction were discussing– and perpetuating– was not at all linked to furtherance of the speculative genre, I don’t know. Maybe it was just the observation that these two giants of speculative fiction were being feted by so many more attendees than they would have if they’d worn their skiffy badges with trumpeting pride…. All I know right now is that, for me as a career-oriented writer, something changed during that hour, and I’ll be some time sorting it out.

Whatever it was, I came out of that session with different eyes.

It was on this day, also, that I had two very public moments of change, and they were purely ego-based:

“Excuse me, are you Lee Battersby?”

Not once, but twice. One a professional peer I’d never met in the flesh before, one a reader who had attended the Corpse-Rat King launch in 2012 and approached me to ask about the new book. It might be shallow, but thousands of people attend the Festival, including hundreds of writers, and I have never really extended my public self outside of the small SF circle in Perth. For the first time, I walked anonymously through the crowd at a multi-level writing event, and was recognised. And something inside of me ticked a little louder at that point, because something was becoming clearer:

There is an audience out there I have never approached, never tapped into, and the fault is mine. Because while I have always insisted that I see myself as not just an SF writer but a writer, sans prefix, the truth is that I’ve not behaved that way. And it turns out that I haven’t really thought that way. Not really. And walking around that giant Festival, with its multiple tents and splendiferous signage and signing room and bookshop a million bloody miles deep and wide, I felt something I haven’t felt at an SF con in years: I really, really wanted to belong to this. I wanted to take my place on the stage, be acknowledged as a peer, a fellow worthy. I wanted to step out of my rock pool and go swimming in the deep, deep waters beyond.

What this new understanding means, and what I do with it, I don’t know yet. What it means for my career, and how I market myself and my work, I’m not sure– after all, I’ve just finished my second fantasy novel, pitched a third, and sent the outlines of an entire new fantasy series to my agent. But my capacity for evolution remains latent, and I think I need to work out how to excite it.

More contemplation is required.

Come Sunday, and I could relax and play Dad: the day was all about Master 8 and introducing him to a side of the writing world he had never experienced. He understands that Mum and Dad are writers: he’s seen our work on the brag shelf, and has seen all the fuss surrounding the publication of The Corpse-Rat King, but this was his chance to immerse himself in a world of writers at his level, while Lyn and I got to walk around behind him and smile like indulgent parents who knew the secret.

And did he do so? Did he bloody what!

The day was a wonder, and included a less than formal Perth SF Writers picnic in the sunken garden attended by a bunch of creme de la creme types like Stephen Dedman, Juliet Marillier, Katy Kell and Daniel Simpson; and the beautiful surprise of bumping into Lorraine Horsley, one of my closest University pals who I travelled to Kalgoorlie to see married in 1992 and hadn’t seen since– even though we were heading in different directions to support different people, the few minutes we spent together were an absolute joy. But the day had two superb highlights, and they both changed not only my little boy’s life but the way our whole family views things:

Last one first: Ten Tiny Things is a picture book by Meg McKinlay and Kyle Hughes-Odgers, and it’s based on a sweet and simple concept that Meg explained during their presentation– that slowing down and taking the time to truly examine your surroundings can lead you to discover small and rare moments of beauty and surprise that can change the way you see the world. There’s a blog associated with the book, and Meg urged everyone to visit it, and post photos of the tiny, surprising things we saw next time we took the time to search.

Master 8 was entranced by the presentation, and come Monday morning we all walked to school together with the express purpose of exploring as we went. You can see the results on the Ten Tiny Things blog, and we’ll be doing this regularly. Having weened ourselves away from the TV in recent days, these family experiences are becoming more and more frequent, and our children are blooming.

But before that, right at the start of the day, he had the kind of experience you dream about giving your kid.

James Foley is the illustrator of one of Master 8’s favourite books: The Last Viking, written by Norman Jorgensen. Foley was presenting his new book on Sunday, In The Lion: we made sure we had a copy and there we were, Master 8 first in line, front and centre, fifteen minutes before Foley started, book held out, asking for an autograph.

He got more than that: Foley drew kids out of the audience to help him act out the book. Master 8 didn’t get the chance to volunteer: he was chosen to play a part. And we got to sit and watch him move from excitement to adulation to outright hero worship, and know that our little boy was no longer someone who liked to read. Thanks to Foley, he was becoming a lover of books.

Fanboy moment. We’ve all been there.
This boy is a dentist, so we can’t show you his face on TV…

How happy? Mighty happy!

Which would have been enough, it really would. But later in the day, something happened that moved this very nice man who treated our son to something a little special up into the very highest ranks of authors I’ve met. Because we were lining up to see another presentation when Master 8 turned around, waved, and said in an excited voice, “Hi James!”

Now, Foley was there with his family, obviously waiting to see the upcoming presentation, and I wouldn’t have faulted him for giving a simple “Hello” back and turning away. But he didn’t. He engaged our son in conversation– sparing us a quick smile but very much concentrating on Master 8– and when the young Master announced “I’m a novelist, too!”… (A quick aside: Master 8 is writing a novel. Apparently. It’s called ‘The Wizards’ and it’s the story of Saruman, Gandalf and Radagast going to a mountain to kill an evil dragon. So far, he’s come up with a title and a picture. That’s as far as it’s got. For ages. Until this weekend, that was as far as he’d thought of it.) …he didn’t say “Oh, yeah?” or smirk, or say “That’s nice” or any of those other hundreds of adult responses to precocious kids that we all know, and see, and give from time to time. Instead, he said four words that changed my little boy’s life.

“Really? What’s it about?”

And at that moment, and for the rest of the day, Master 8 was a novelist. As he said to us on the way home, “I made a fan, and so did he.”

And that was worth everything.

So a weekend of change, it was, although the forms of that change are yet to be discovered. But Lyn’s back writing, and I’m examining my career, and Master 8 wants more than ever to throw himself into Mum and Dad’s world, and one thing I do know is that I want to taste this environment again, and not just as a passive observer. My career has room for growth, room for expansion, and although my roots are solid, there’s a lot of sky to grow into.

Wonder what’s up there?

MARCHING TOWARDS THE MARCHING DEAD

Friends, bloggers, reviewer types!

Want a sneak peek at Marching Dead, so you can mock your friends at parties and drop obscure hints about its contents just so you can torture people with the superiority of your inside knowledge?

Course you do.

That’s why you’ll be cock-a-hoop (or cock in a hoop. We make no judgement here) to learn that Angry Robot has released an electronic advanced reader copy— e-ARC, if you’re cool like me– of the book via NetGalley.

Now: there are a few rules, provisos, guidelines, quid pro quos and other bits of that gag from Aladdin I can’t remember coz it’s years since I’ve watched it. You do have to be a reviewer or book blogger of some kind. You do have to promise to actually review the thing once you’ve read it. You do have to commit to sending me no less than 100 of your finest major currency bills.

Or two out of those three.

Frankly, if you commit to the last one I don’t give a monkey’s whether you read the book or not.

In fact, just send me the money now and we can forget about the whole thing.

Unless, of course, you’d actually like to read and review the book. In which case you should probably read the Angry Robot NetGalley guidelines.

But seriously, send me some money.

ROOM 102: CLAIRE MCKENNA

Claire McKenna is a short story writer, Clarion South graduate, and a connoisseur of coffee houses (in which she an usually be found drinking tea), which is a change from our first few meetings, which invariably involved us both getting pissed as rats and acting in a very irresponsible manner– for those of you who have known me long enough, Claire is the one solely responsible for me wandering around a Con dressed in nothing but a pair of underpants and a bright orange ‘Pade’s Handmaiden’ costume. ‘Nuff said. She doesn’t write enough for my satisfaction, but when she does it’s always worth sitting up straight and paying attention. Her latest stores will come out in Cosmos next month and “Next” the upcoming CSFG anthology. 



Claire in a Kim sandwich– with Kims Wilkins and Westwood.


You know what drives me crazy? Grammar.
Not other people’s, but the mistakes I make because I Should Know Better, but I don’t because I studied Biology in Uni, not English, Captain!
Things were better when I couldn’t write, when I didn’t know my dangling participle from my passive sentence construction, when the comma went where it damn well needed to go, and a sentence fragment could happily remain broken (there is a crack in everything, it’s how the light gets in, as Leonard Cohen says.)
But since I discovered Strunk and White, when I realised my high-school grasp of grammar and sentence construction wasn’t going to cut it with editors who clearly know a passive sentence (or to say passively, passive sentences are known by editors), and people give a shit about these things, my relationship with grammar has taken on the status of: “It’s Complicated”.
Since then, I’ve evolved a hatred of certain words, some more than others.
You know what word I hate now, what plagues me?
WAS.
Was, you are a bitch of a word.  Such a cock knocker of a word, so horrid that some modern dialects like AAVE have cast it out from their lexicons.
WAS can be useful for past tenses (That Was So Amazing)
But you know what else WAS likes?
Passive sentences.
Look, I don’t know exactly “how” to explain a passive sentence, or even to spot this creature in the wild. But by god, it exists!
It was. They were. He was running as fast as he could from the zombies.  He ran from the Zombies as fast as he could!  The weapon was loaded by him… He loaded his weapon.  I was given a bite by a Zombie. A fucking Zombie bit me! If WAS or associated criminals hang out in a sentence with –ING, there is a conspiracy, a plot going on. Those passive little fuckers just want to drag your work down.
You know what else shits me? TO BE.
There is an entire English Language variant called E-Prime that doesn’t allow for any variant of TO BE.
TO BE hangs out with SEEMS and SEEMED. Kind of like LIKE, but more in the style of I COULDN’T THINK OF AN APPROPRIATE DESCRIPTION AND I AM A HACK, FUCK IT. IT SEEMED TO BE AN ALIEN.
So now every time I read. self pubbed novels or very small press and cheaply edited-by-your-mate jobs I see the thing I struggle against. I’m a little jealous, frankly, there was once a time when two fucks were not given. (Or I couldn’t give two fucks. Oh you little passive turkey slapper!!).


LOLCats and teenage textspeakers rejoice! Grammar is dead, gone, kaput. A curse on English teachers and their devilish ilk. Possibly our first slightly-controversial (especially if you’re is a geek) selection for the year, but in the spirit of the day I proclaim Fuk YEZ! Youse rokks! 

LOL.

Lyn Battersby
Mocking of phobias
Brian M Logan
Passivity
Jason Fischer
Pedantry
Alan Baxter
Lack of personal responsibility
Pandering to the lowest common denominator
Claire McKenna
Grammar