CRIMEY WIMEY CRITIQUING BABY!

I have no idea what that heading is supposed to mean…

HOWEVER, here’s an exciting opportunity for aspiring authors in Western Australia who are looking to join a community of fellow professionals for the purposes of support, networking, and develop critiquing skills.

As part of the thoroughly awesome Crime Scene writing convention taking place in October, I will be joining the truly legendary Juliet Marillier and Twelfth Planet Press head honchette Alisa Krasnostein to present an open critiquing session: thass right, if you’d like your work critiqued by two of the most respected and talented writing industry professionals in the State and me, you can present your work to us and have it subjected to our professional eye!

How do you take advantage of this amazing opportunity I don’t hear you cry because I’m sitting at a computer at my place and you’re all miles away?

Head over to the Twelfth Planet Press website and read this bit here, then follow the instructions: Email Crime Scene coordinator Linda by 13 September with a brief description of your writing experience and a brief description of the piece you’ll be submitting. If you’re selected, you’ll need to send in your work by 20 September, at which point Juliet, Alisa and I will rip it apart with joyful abandon as we destroy your most precious baby and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh critique it and present our observations at the Crime Scene panel. We’ll be taking both novel excerpts and short stories, so there’s really nothing stopping you, is there?

The chance to listen to, learn from, and argue with, three established pros who have read and enjoyed your work. What’s not to love?

Get yourself over to the Crime Scene website and check out the brilliant lineup of guests, panels, and general crime goodness on offer, then get your typing fingers over that precious WIP: we’re waiting. 

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY HATES THE ELDERLY

I hate the idea of growing old. I’m not vain about it. It’s not the greying hair or the deepening of wrinkles that bother me. It’s the weakness. The infirmity. The slowness. The failing of body and spirit. I see it in myself now and I hate it with a passion. I have achieved nothing of note in my supposedly best years. what chanc of achievement when my mind and body are fragile, wasted shells?

All those stories where immortal people angst on about what they’ve lost and how terrible their extended lives are? Wah, wah, shut the fuck up.

Which is my introduction to this cartoon about a stair lift. Enjoy.

“What’s say we open this baby up and see what she can really do?”

Review: Making Ends Meet: For Better or For Worse 3rd Treasury

Making Ends Meet: For Better or For Worse 3rd Treasury
Making Ends Meet: For Better or For Worse 3rd Treasury by Lynn Johnston

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Dreadfully dull, unfunny, and downright boring narratives about domestic minutiae most of us wouldn’t bother retelling because they simply aren’t interesting enough to bother with. This is the sort of pallid, twee comic strip storytelling that reminds us why the world needs the Bill Wattersons and Dik Brownes, to show us the surreality and wonder of our domestic plights not to simply recreate it with no insight or inspiration whatsoever. There’s no comic effect, no sagacity, no absurdity… every strip is just there, like a boring dinner party anecdote where nobody is quite sure if it’s finished or whether they should laugh yet. About the only readers I can imagine finding this funny are church mice and the sort of people who need a relaxing break after the hectic pace of ‘Antiques Roadshow’. Cartooning for Nannas by Nannas. Utterly insipid.

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IT COULD BE YOU; THE LAGAN FISHERS by TERRY DOWLING

Time for the second entry in It Could By You, the anthology of my mind.

The Lagan Fishers
by Terry Dowling

How much of an influence has Terry Dowling been on me over the last 12 years of my career? Here’s a hint: he’s the reason I decided to limit this anthology of the mind to one entry per author– otherwise, we’d be reading the table of contents for It Could be You Too: The Best of Terry Dowling. When it comes to Australian short story writers, he’s the master, with a string of brilliant tales stretching back decades, through a series of collections that mark the absolute high point of Australian SF: Rynosseros; Wormwood; An Intimate Knowledge of the Night; Blackwater Days… the titles are an honour roll, and if you haven’t read them, you’ve let yourself down, and more importantly, you’ve let me down.

Dowling’s stock in trade is the ordinary man overcome, and in many cases outdone, by the imposition of the unknowably weird upon his daily life. His narratives are littered with recognisable communities adapting to a new world, with the glitteringly alien overlaying the familiar landscapes. For me, every Dowling story is a treat to be savoured. The Lagan Fishers is a favourite– one of the first Dowling stories I came across and one of the most quintessentially Dowlinesque.

Thanks to the wonder of the internet, you can read it here.

ME? THE THIRTEENTH DUKE OF WYBOURNE?

For no reason I can adequately explain, people trusted me with their children this past month.
Twice.
First, I made my annual pilgrimage to my old alma mater at Curtin University, where I gave my annual lecture on web publishing to my annual audience of bemused second and third year students. It’s always an absolute joy to head back to the old lady– some of my happiest years were spent at that University, and wandering along the paths past familiar landmarks, ambling down familiar hallways, and joking and laughing with future-bright students just gives my spirit a steroid pump. One day, I want to tutor there properly. I want to fuck up a whole new generation just like me 🙂
Then, for the first time ever, I was invited to speak as part of the Children’s Book Council Book Week. Thanks to the most excellent Anthony Panegyres, I trundled along to this building:
A large building full of Catholic school girls. Waiting to listen to the author of ‘The Corpse-Rat King’. Because the Joker was babysitting their sisters…

Santa Maria Catholic College: a magnificent edifice in Attadale, looking out over the Swan River, where some of the nicest teachers I’ve ever met herded more than a hundred girls in to listen to me bang on about my writing habits, how I get my ideas, why collecting photos is a writer’s dream hobby, and how nothing they learn from algebra teachers will ever help them. I read from two of my stories, forced the girls to complete writing exercises, and generally had the time of my life performing like a monkey in front of three groups of the friendliest, most respectful and downright invested kids I’ve ever worked with.

Frankly, I could do that sort of thing for a living if they’d let me.

There are rewards to being an author that I never expected when I first started out. I’ve flown internationally and to four other states of Australia; taught at Clarion South; mentored on behalf of the Australian Horror Writers Association; attended conventions; made friends; read to students in the library of my old High School; and participated in arts projects well beyond the realm of pure ‘writing’. It’s days like the ones above where I feel connected to a much larger artistic community than just the small circle of writers who make up the Western Australian SF community, and passing that connection on to a circle of new faces is a delight every single time. Some days the bear gets you, but some days the bear is called Pooh and you get to lie in a meadow eating honey sandwiches.

Oh, and, you know: catholic school girls. Gives me an excuse to embed this. Have a laugh on me:

MY CHILD IS A FREAK BUT THEY WILL REMEMBER HIS NAME

Dad, come into my bedroom.
I have a fifty percent chance of this being a good thing.
What is it, kiddo?
It’s an early surprise Father’s Day death robot!
An early surprise Father’s Day death robot. This would imply a ‘when you expect it’ surprise Father’s Day death robot…..
That’s cool, dude.
Look inside!

It’s being driven by a Dalek!
Because there are days when being a Dalek isn’t just isn’t death-robotty enough
That’s brilliant, son.
Love you, Dad!
Love you too, son.
You have no idea how much I love you, son.

Review: Hell House

Hell House
Hell House by Richard Matheson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Stunningly atmospheric and genuinely unsettling take on the haunted house trope. Matheson’s strength lies in creating deep imagery with a minimum of verbiage, and he’s on best form here: his descriptions of Belasco House, the ‘Hell House’ of the title, are sparse and well-placed, giving us just enough detail to make each setting within the house an unnerving combination of gothic ruination and disarming domesticity; and likewise, the four protagonists and their demonic antagonists are the subject of sparing, perfectly-weighted details that leave plenty of room for the reader to fill in the gaps. And it’s this complicity which gives the book its power: by the time things turn, inevitably and brutally, for the worse, the characters belong as much to the reader as to the author.

As a writer, it’s impossible not to admire the perfect weighting Matheson gives to his narrative– the timing, the pace, the characterisation and sheer damn creepiness of the novel are masterful. As a reader, the book is both compelling and compulsive– like the very best thrillers, I was left simultaneously wanting to throw the book down so as not witness the fates of its characters and unable to let go of the pages in the slightest.

A slightly slow opening and somewhat perfunctory climax can be put down to the era in which the book is written, and a certain pompous sexism (and accompanying tendency to launch into explanatory monologues)on the part of the male characters, likewise, can be ascribed to both the period and the necessary setting up of their respective narrative conclusions. But this is a wonderfully unsettling book by a master author at the height of his powers, and is a thoroughly rewarding reading experience.

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Review: The Invisibles

The Invisibles
The Invisibles by Grant Morrison

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Month by month this may have seemed like a revolution in comic book storytelling, but collected into one volume it quickly becomes apparent just how slapdash the whole thing is: storylines are picked up from nowhere and abandoned partway through, characters are followed through adventures that bear no relation to the overarching plot simply because Morrison finds them shinier than the central narrative for a while, and the whole thing rapidly begin to resemble an unscripted, unholy mess.

I have friends who love this series beyond anything they’ve ever read, and it’s certainly facile enough to give the appearance of depth. But there’s no centre to it, nothing beyond surface sheen and whatever pop-psychology moment Morrison is grooving to at the moment he writes the next panel. It’s Le Carre for the attention-deprived.

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IT COULD BE YOU: AN ANTHOLOGY OF MY MIND

Thursday night, Luscious and I had dinner with the wonderful Glenda Larke, who has recently moved back to Western Australia after umpty million years overseas, and the equally lovely Donna Maree Hanson, who was over for this year’s Romance Writers of Australia symposium and who we haven’t seen in something like 7 years, which is verging on ridiculous.

Amidst a night of laughs, Glenda’s excellent cooking, delightful conversation and more laughs, we spent a short period discussing some of our favourite Australian authors, and some of our favourite Australian short stories, and how one did not necessarily match seamlessly with the other. 
So, for kicks, I’ve decided to create an anthology of the mind: It Could Be You: Battersby’s Favourite Australian SF Stories. A bunch of my favourite Australian SF stories, by some of my favourite authors, and some of my favourite Australian SF stories written by people I would cross the street to avoid but who are bloody magicians on paper.
I’ll leave you to decide which is which 🙂
First up, the titular entry.
It Could be You
by Frank Roberts. 
I’ve talked about this story before. First published in the early 60s in (from memory, I can’t find an accurate reference) F&SF, it’s a scathing and brutal rebuttal of the television culture that finds more reality and worth in game shows than in the interpersonal relationships that form the backdrop to relentless televisual intrusion into our privacy, both mental and physical. Everyman hero Earl Kramer is relentlessly hunted throughout his day by television cameras, as the eponymous and all-pervasive game show ‘It Could Be You’ slowly and inevitably closes in on him as he goes about his daily life. The ending is stunning: a moment of cynicism and heartbreaking realism that hits me between the eyes every single time I read it.
I found this story in an anthology given to me by my parents for my 9th birthday, and it was a life-changing moment. I didn’t know about being an author, didn’t understand the way the literary world worked and moreover, had no real idea of the role of narrative in everyday culture. But the person who finished the story was not the person who started reading it: I didn’t know how, or really make any conscious decision to set out to become an author, but I did know that I wanted to do to others whatever it was the author of that story had done to me. 
I know almost nothing about Frank Roberts, other than he wrote for ‘The Bulletin’. But he lies at the very heart of my karass. What’s more, the story is as brilliant and relevant today as it was in 1962, and 1979. 

WANT AN ADVENTURE? WANT TO CHOOSE WHICH ONE YOU GET?

Sometimes a project comes along and it’s just so damn fun, wacky, or unlike anything I’ve seen before that I’ve no option but to throw myself into the ring shouting “Me! Me!” in a high-pitched voice like a dancing tranny.

To whit: I’ve been invited to partake in writing the live-action, multi-city, map-based, mobile phone-accessible Choose Your Adventure anthology. Confused? Good. That’s the way I like you.

The project is the brainchild of Emily Craven, who’s already done a similar project in Queensland. This time she’s come over all ambitious and recruited a raft of authors from across Australia, including some of the more far-flung corners of the continent, like… well, Canada. Apart from myself (I’m covering Perth, of course), confirmed authors include Kim Wilkins, Sophie Masson, Isobelle Carmody, Sean Williams, Jason Fischer, David Coe, Marianne De Pierres, and Michael Pryor.

Sexy, eh?

How does it work? Simple. You receive a map with a series of QR codes printed on it. Click on the code, and you’ll be taken to a website with part of the story. From there, you choose which direction you want the story to take. Each section is keyed to a real location, so you can physically travel the route as you read the story.

There’s a bunch more to it than that, and you can read all about it on the website. But there’s a catch. Of course there is. There always is.

The project is subject to a Pozible campaign, with a goal of raising the $26 000 necessary to fund the project by October 4. Visit the site here, read about the project and its aims, learn more about the authors involved, and scope out the raft of cool contributor rewards you’ll receive if you choose to kick in a few bucks to help the campaign reach its target. Kick in enough and I take a camera full of exclusive location shots for you to add to your story, making it truly one of a kind. Splash out more than enough and I’ll take you on a guided tour of the Perth sites myself. Pledge some crazy money and they’ll fly me to your city to write a whole adventure just for you!

Fund the entire project yourself, and I will personally kidnap Sean Williams and force him to have sex with your neighbour’s puppy while you film it. It’s not on the website, but I will do it.* 

And because everybody loves a video, here’s one of Emily explaining more about the project as she tools around the Brisbane area, just like you’ll get to do if the project comes to life.

What more could you want? Authors begging? We can do authors begging. Here are some of the emerging authors who’ll be involved. That’s right: not only will you help battle-scarred veterans afford their next bottle of medicinal Drano, you’ll help fresh-faced young bucks discover the joys of early-onset alcoholism and frog-fondling.

So there it is, my darlings. A project that promises to be unbridled fun, for authors, financial supporters and readers alike. Hope you can join me.

(*Just so we’re clear, Sean won’t actually do this. He’s strictly a kitten man, is Sean…)

RELEASE THE BUGRATS!

After much prevarication, faffing about, and spending too much time locked into the day job, I’m please to report that Magwitch and Bugrat is finally finished.

I’ve sent it off to Agent Rich tonight, and now all I can do is sit back and see whether he decides to take it on.

Oh, and turn my attention to the line-edits for Father Muerte & the Divine. Yeah, that too.

DOCTOR WHO-OOOOO, THE TARDIS

Apparently, the BBC will be announcing the new Doctor this Sunday. To be honest, I’m not that fussed: the British churn out so many excellent actors that you could throw a ping pong ball into any green room in the country and hit half a dozen candidates who would do an excellent job of playing a character whose main job qualifications these days appear to be “must be able to wear silly jacket, run while shouting, and express sorrow for stuff”; and secondly, Doctor Who’s been little better than average for the last few years and just simply isn’t as exciting, innovative, and satisfying as it used to be.

Also: get off my lawn you bloody kids!

So, while talk of Peter Capaldi and Russel Tovey and that bloke from Dirk Gently and will it be a woman and please god anybody but Dawn French yadda yadda is all well and good, I’m going to admit something– there’s a part of me that really hopes they announce that they’ve decided to go back and do Colin Baker properly.

That would be worth a laugh.