GETTING MY FESTIVAL ON!

The Asian Festival of Children’s Content approacheth, and here’s my itinerary for what Luscious continues to mockingly call my ‘Singapore holiday’.

16 May, 7pm – 9pm
Opening Ceremony and Award Presentation

17 May, 4.45pm – 6pm
First Pages: Writing Critique
Lee Battersby, Susan Long, Cynthea Liu, Kathleen Ahrens

17 May, 7pm – 9pm
Celebrating Our Stars

18 May, 9am – 10am
Not So Happily Ever After: Strange and Spooky Tales
Lee Battersby, Heidi Shamsuddin, Marc Checkley

18 May, 3.15pm – 4.15pm
Authors Debate: Who Writes Better Books– Introverts or Extroverts?
Cynthea Liu, Don Bosco, Lee Battersby, Angela Cerrito, Nury Vittachi

18 May, 6.30pm – 7.30pm
Children’s Literature Lecture: Books from the Island of Story Tellers

19 May, 7pm – 9pm
Indonesia Night

20 May, 10am – 6pm
MASTERCLASS: Writing the Weird with Lee Battersby

DOING THE CRIME

Last weekend, Luscious and I divested ourselves of all encumbrances and headed into Perth to spend the weekend at the annual convention of crime writing and investigative sciences, CrimeScene WA.

CrimeScene is a wonderful convention, not least because it has an incredibly strong science stream, presented by top notch industry professionals with a set of presentation skills that makes the traditional writing convention “three talking heads and a table” scenario seem decidedly second rate. For the first time in a long time I had agreed to be a part of more than one panel at a convention: apart from a solo presentation on writing settings, I agreed to assist Lyn with her presentation on Women Characters in Crime and take part in a panel discussion on what to do once you have been published. I was keen to see whether the change in convention genre would result in a change in approach to panel structure, so I packed our little Powerpoint shows and book-buying money, and away we went.

The convention was held at Rydges Perth, in the heart of the City: a hotel with a funky 70s retro-future vibe going on in the foyer, but with an obscene parking rate (valet only parking at something like $70 a day) and the traditional convention hotel quota of working lifts– in this case, one of four. It was a delight to meet up with writing Guest of Honour Tansy Rayner Roberts, who I’ve known for years but seldom see in the flesh due to living on opposite sides of the country, and one of the nicer things about attending a convention outside of my own genre backyard was the opportunity to bump into authors with whom I interact in my day job but rarely on an equal literary footing: sharing the registration queue with Sarah Evans, a writer of my day job acquaintance from Bridgetown, was a lovely moment, as was a breakfast shared with Michael Murphy, up from Capel for the weekend. And Linda, Jay, and Todd– the convention committee– are good pals who treat their authors and experts wonderfully, so apart from the joy of their company they always make me feel like I want to do my best for them.

Thanks to the interwebbernet we found some cheaper (not cheap, cheaper) parking nearby. The walk to and from the hotel, coupled with a wander into the main shopping mall at Sunday lunchtime when we needed a break to visit the Nespresso store served one purpose, at least. Living so far away from Perth means we visit it rarely, and so had failed to observe a small but subtle change that has overtaken the CBD– it’s become a complete shit hole: filthy; filled with empty shopfronts; and generally more run-down than I have seen it in a long time.

One particularly unpleasant reminder of the inhumane and uncaring social policies of our State and Federal Governments was quickly apparent, too: I’ve never seen so many homeless people tucked into doorways and crannies as I saw this weekend. I’m not naive enough to believe Perth is any sort of utopia, or that homelessness does not exist here, but the two blocks between the car-park and hotel were occupied by no less than 8 homeless people trying to find shelter or ask for assistance, and that’s a critical mass that’s hard to ignore. There’s rot in the heart of the apple in Perth, and it’s beginning to show. One wheelchair-bound old lady, in particular, seemed to represent the failure of our social systems: passing her on the way to my nice middle-class hotel room to play at my middle-class pastime added some uncomfortable self-awareness of the advantages I take for granted:

This the kind of heritage you were talking about, City of Perth?

Still, on to the convention itself, and it was clearly apparent that this is a convention in two parts.

The science stream was utterly fascinating, with strong presentations on a wide range of topics. Highlights for me included a discussion on psychopath and offender profiles by Associate Professor Guy Hall, with an emphasis on the Claremont Serial Killer; a dissection of the murder scene of Don Hancock and Lou Lewis by Sergeant Clayton Bennie, the bomb squad Sergeant who was CSO at the scene; palynologist Doctor Lynne Milne discussing the study of pollen within crime scenes; and a history of bog bodies by Doctor John Watling. Each of these presentations was highly interactive, with a strong public speaker in confident control of both their subject matter and the audience, and excellent visual presentation aids that stopped the audience feeling like they were simply privy to a private conversation. More importantly, each presentation was focused, and delivered great value for money. I came away fascinated, educated, and with a feeling that I had been exposed to the best this particular industry had to offer.

The writing stream, I enjoyed not quite so much, for a variety of reasons, chief amongst them being my own involvement: in the end, CrimeScene felt like not much of a writing experience, and more often than not I wanted to be in the other room where the interesting crime stuff was happening. Clearly, most of the attendees agreed with me: apart from the ongoing procession of “three heads and a table” panels, the rooms were, quite simply, verging on empty whenever I attended a writing stream session, as the majority of con-goers were in the far more exciting science stream rooms. My own presentation, on creating settings, for example, attracted three attendees, and the experienced amongst you will quickly work out that one of those is Stephen Dedman, an author to whom I reckon I can teach just about the square root of fuck all:

Other writing panels I attended fared little better, but in all honesty, the majority got what they deserved as far as offering entertainment goes: there’s only so far a crime convention can go when the majority of the writing stream consists of writers outside of the central genre, and particularly when many of the sessions are programmed against proven entertainment winners: Professor Simon Lewis and Hadyn Green are long-term CrimeScene alumni, for example, and deservedly popular, and the aforementioned discrepancy in presentation skill was overwhelmingly apparent. While I enjoyed assisting Lyn with her Women in Crime panel, I once again came away feeling that being a panellist at small scale conventions is something I no longer enjoy.
Lyn had been battling illness all convention– and, indeed, spent the following week bed-ridden with a chronic chest infection– so we finally gave in to the inevitable and left before the closing ceremony, so we missed the announcement that the convention is going on hiatus. It’s a pity, because as a small scale industry exhibition it’s the most enjoyable one I’ve ever attended. My hope is that it returns, with a strong focus on the elements that make the crime and suspense genre such a compelling one to read, watch and enjoy, and perhaps, with a writing stream that goes out into the community outside of the convention time frame so that it doesn’t suffer in comparison to the far more professional presenters who populate the science and crime streams.
 



LET THE CRIMES BEGIN!

I don’t know what you’ll be doing this weekend, but I will be enjoying myself strangling, poisoning, murderlising and generally getting up to no good with an absolute plethora of like-minded ne’er-do-wells at the annual CrimeScene WA crime writing convention, held at the Rydges Hotel in sunny Perff.

Apart from presentations by myself and Luscious, guest speakers include the likes of Stephen Dedman, Simon Lewis, Tony Cavanaugh, Hadyn Green and this year’s guests of honour, Michael Robotham and Tansy Rayner Roberts, dressed up in her why-does-she-even-bother-when-we-all-know-it’s-Tansy-anyaway-and-love-her-for-who-she-is,-pet alter ego pants, Livia Day.

If you haven’t got yourself a ticket already then you’re a fool of a Took, so get your arse into gear and buy one at the website. If you’re mad keen to hear what I have to say on any given subject, I’ll be up front being famous at the following sessions:

Saturday, 11am-12pm
Supporting Luscious as she presents her panel Women in Crime

Saturday 2.30-3.30pm
All on my todd for a writing workshop, On Writing Settings

Sunday, 9-10am
In company with Stephen Dedman, as we discuss The Writing Process and What You Should be Doing Once You are Published

You can view the full programme here. Get it up ya!

BLOOD SPLATTER, KIDNAPPING, AND OTHER HARMLESS WEEKEND PURSUITS

Sometimes, you just have to renew your writer-fu.

The Luscious one and I spent this last weekend in the crimelicious surrounds of CrimeScene WA, the annual crime writers convention at the Rydges hotel, where we spent our time drenching our third eyes in the minutiae of blood spatter analysis, trace evidence, clue trails, and all manner of crimey-wimey goodness. The conveners presented a stunning lineup of subject experts, including the lies of Professor Simon Lewis, Dr Mark Reynolds and Hadyn Green, and the depth and styles of their presentations left those of us who contributed to the writer stream looking a little like shambolic amateurs: their professionalism and skill was astonishing, and quite honestly, made my own contribution to the running order (participation in a critiquing panel with Juliet Marillier and Alisa Krasnostein) a slightly disheartening experience. 
Writing panel: Marianne de Pierres, Stephen Dedman and Robert Schofield talk settings, Australian locales, and why Kalgoorlie trumps Macau.
Apart from an opportunity to spend a weekend in a delightful hotel with my beautiful wife, and to catch up with some friendly faces we hadn’t seen in a while, highlights of the weekend included stunning presentations on the identification of trace evidence and the science of blood splatter analysis, a presentation on the chronology of the Lindbergh kidnapping that was so arresting the audience gladly gave up our lunch hour to finish it when the flood of questions forced the presentation over time, a hypothetical wherein the guest speakers revealed how they would kill each other– and Humphrey B. Bear– and make it look like an accident, and a presentation on professionalism by Marianne de Pierres that brought home to me just how I’d allowed my discipline and well-being to slip in recent months.
I love these ‘how to’ presentations: Hadyn Green talks the audience through the Lindbergh kidnapping.
Luscious and I have returned home with renewed zeal for our careers: now that Master 8’s Rumination Syndrome is being managed with a long-term strategy, and Miss 11’s breathing problems have been diagnosed as bronchial asthma and she’s receiving the proper management, Lyn is able to put serious effort into her desire to move her career away from speculative fiction and towards crime– part of the reason we attended the convention was to enable her to do some groundwork, and Marianne de Pierres is a particular inspiration– and I’ve walked away with a renewed sense of purpose towards not only my works in progress but the direction I want to steer my career towards.
CrimeScene was an absolutely fantastic convention: intimate, well-balanced between industry and writing expertise, friendly, and with an open and transparent duty of care towards the attendees, presenters and hotel (the convention’s harassment policy, for example, was not only clearly articulated but displayed in several high-profile areas; something I’ve rarely seen at other cons). It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a convention so much that I’ve chatted to the conveners about my plans for next year while the convention was still running, but I certainly did so here.
I can’t wait for 2014.

WIBBLY WOBBLY CRIMEY WIMEY

Off to Crime Scene WA tonight, for two days of immersion in everything I’ll need to know to commit the perfect murder write within a genre I love but which I’ve never attempted as an author before. I’ll only be on one panel over the weekend– a critiquing panel with Alisa Krasnostein and Juliet Marillier– and the rest of the time I intend to soak up as much information on blood spatter and art theft and DNA analysis and the like as I can.

You can check out the programme here, and five gets you ten you can still get memberships and come along. It’s shaping up to be a lot of fun.

WHERE THERE’S A WILL, THERE’S A WON’T.

Well, I warned you things would be a bit quiet around here for a short while, didn’t I?

So let’s catch up.

Firstly, health matters are slowly on the improve. Luscious can get out of bed now, as the bed rest and immobility appear to have finally gotten a grip on her condition. Miss 11’s asthma is being managed: her birth mother was a chronic asthmatic, and I’m all too familiar with the routines associated with breath testing, puffs, washing of chambers and associated routinery, and Lyn’s eldest came close to death when younger from the same condition, so we’re both hypersensitive to any changes in breathing pattern, lip colouration, or tingling in the extremities. In other words, we’re all over Miss 11 like blankets on a pig. And we continue the hospital trips and juices in support of Master 8, who had had pipes up his nose, down his throat, into his stomach and just about every orifice except his third eye and still maintains a diagnosis of Rumination Syndrome and the best we can do is manage it and hope it goes away.

As always, a change in habit becomes the habit becomes normality: we live our lives around puffers and vomit bags and we keep moving on.

Writing-wise, Marius and Gerd have officially completed their journey, and so I move on to other things: Magwitch and Bugrat is with a publisher, and I’m feeling the itch to write fresh words, which means I really have to shift my arse and complete the editing on Father Muerte and the Divine so I can get it out of my in-tray. I’m desperate to start a new novel by the beginning of November, so expect the odd excerpt from the Muerte work as I renew my acquaintance with phrases I thought I was dead clever for writing when I came up with them and decide to share them with you.

First off the rank for me, however, is a jaunt to the murderous confines of CrimeScene WA, the crime writing convention taking place this weekend, where I’ll be co-presenting a critiquing panel with Juliet Marillier and Alisa Krasnostein. Two days of lazing about the hotel, talking shop, expanding my skill set and teasing out the kernel of an idea I have for a crime novel is just the thing I need at the moment: an escape from the pressure of work, an immersion in the world I want to live in full time, and a weekend away with my beautiful wife, it comes at exactly the right time.

Check out the programme here, and head along if you’ve got a spare day or two: the lineup of speakers looks awesome and anything that teaches you a better way to murder someone can’t be all bad, right? I’ll pop up a con report after the deal, so you can see what you’ve missed, but you’d be far better just coming along.

And I’ll have another entry in my It Could be You anthology series tomorrow: one of the reasons I’ve not been blogging is that I’ve been rereading it, and have once more been lost within it….

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. 

HEAD POPPING UP LIKE A NERVOUS MEERKAT

Technology continues to defy us at the Batthaim: the two weeks of radio silence promised us by our new ISP is stretching towards its third week, and customer support continues to be a contradiction in terms. Luckily, I have five minutes of free access via our son doing something clever that involves my phone, a modem, and a pentacle on the dining room floor, so hey presto! Blog post.

Rather than give updatery goodness in self-contained pockets as per usual, let’s just rattle a long one off and hope we cover everything. To whit:

HEALTH IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER.

By which you know I mean this son of a bitch:

I’ve blogged recently about my Dad, and the problems he’s been having with his memory. Well, turns out he has a thing, and that thing is called Primary Progressive Aphasia. Put simply, he’s losing his capacity for words, which will eventually result in a loss of all verbal function, as a result of his brain physically shrinking inside his head. It’s permanent, essentially non-treatable, and will talk a long, slow, terrifying 7 or 8 years to have full effect. As Dad tells me, if I point to a desk, he might be able to tell me it’s a desk, or he might know it’s that wooden thing you sit behind on the thing when you do work and stuff, and there’s probably a word to describe the thing, but sorry, he simply doesn’t know it. My Dad’s a charming man, funny, intelligent, articulate. All that’s going to go away, in front of his eyes.

And our youngest, the Mighty Master 8, has been throwing up consistently for the last fortnight unable to keep down solid foods of any kind. Initial diagnosis was that a food allergy had burned a hole in his stomach lining, so he went on a liquid diet while doctors extracted 5 vials of blood and ran every allergy test they could think of. All of which came back negative. We’re now at the stage where he’s even throwing up the jelly he’s allowed to eat, and we’ve progressed to therapists, specialists, and even a chiropractor. Updates will be posted as we find things out, but right now, Lyn’s exhausted, he’s exhausted, and everyone’s trying to make the best of it while being worried like worried people.

THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG-DISTANCE WRITER

So, last weekend, everyone in the Australian SF Universe besides Lyn and myself attended the Continuum convention in Melbourne, having travelled there by rickshaw from Canberra’s Conflux convention, which they also all attended and we didn’t.

I’m not normally that fussed about missing Cons. I have enjoyed the eastern States ones I’ve attended, and would like to attend more, but I’m a guy with a large family, larger mortgage, and a day job that allows me little time off for extended trips. Plus I’m pretty much always skint. So, you know, I’m comfortable with the idea that it’s never going to happen. But this year it really bummed me, and I couldn’t put my finger on it. Maybe it’s just loneliness build up. Writing communities in the eastern states seem to be quite tight-knit, whereas my experience of the Perth community is that it’s far-flung and tends not to gather all that often, and I’m ambivalent about the local Cons for the most part.

I’m also in an odd place, writing-wise. My agent is in the US, and has a large roster so doesn’t contact unless he has something worth talking about: a sale, or a contract or whatnot. He doesn’t get in touch to tell me he’s hopeful. Which is fine: I knew that going into the relation ship, and accepted it, so I’m aware that the two projects I have with him will be discussed when they either hit pay dirt or he releases them back to me. My publisher is in the UK, and we’ve formally reached the end of our contract: I’ve delivered everything I was contracted to deliver, and they’ve done everything with it they said they were going to.

But that kind of leaves me in a limbo on non-communication: I’m not talking to anyone right now, for the first time in about 2 years, and it feels weird and unsettling. The only actual writing I’m doing is an 8k novella for a speculative project that won’t net me any money but will expose me to the innards of electronic publishing, and everything else is editing, which i find a very insular and isolating part of the writing process.

Maybe that’s why having my Facebook page clogged up with pictures of shiny happy writer types drinking and laughing together has given me such a case of the Thierry Ennuis lately. And maybe that’s why we’re turning the kids over to their grandparents this weekend, and heading out of town for three days: Lyn needs a break from full-time carer duty, we both need to feel like writers, and so Margaret River is the site of the first ever…..

BATTCON 13

Yep, Battcon 13, the inaugural Convention of Writing Battersbys, with twin guests of honour Lyn and Me. Taking place in the spa-suite and bar of a Margaret River hotel. Here’s the draft program:

FRIDAY
7pm: So this is Margaret River, huh? Where’s the Bar?
Late: Sho this Margit Riv, ishit? Whesh my fucking room?

SATURDAY

8-ish. Maybe: Breakfast?
9am: Writing.
1pm: Suppose We’d better have some lunch.
3pm: After-lunch writing—does it really exist?
3.30pm-5.30pm: The spa culture, and how much wine is appropriate while in one.
6pm: Round-table discussion—is this meal really worth 40 bucks, and can we take the bar back to the room?
8pm: The role of alcohol in creative thinking
Late: Whesh my fucking room? Oh crap, I’m in it.

SUNDAY

8-ish: Breakfast? Bollocks.
9am: Breakfast with the authors.
10am: Okay, time to Start Writing!—Ways to kick-start that writing project you’ve put off all weekend
1pm: Authorial lunch and wine-tasting.
3pm: Okay, time to Start Writing!—Ways to kick-start that writing project you’ve put off all weekend
6pm: Round-table discussion—You’ll never be a top level author with that attitude, at least not until we open another bottle.
8pm: Barley or the Grape? Creative dichotomies in a liquid culture
Late: Sleeping in the spa: a shyminium… shimilimpim…. Shlymfucking talk! About… where’s my bed?

MONDAY

8-ish: Breakfast. Absolutely breakfast.
10am: Check out.
10.30am: last minute shopping and stocking up on wine.
12pm: Lunch or leave in time to pick the kids up from school?—a debate
12.05pm: Lunch
1pm: The art of phoning the children’s grandparents
4.30pm: Kids, grandparents, and apologies: an author’s guide
6pm: Dead Dog party. 

We wouldn’t be doing it, with Master 8’s health the way it is, if the kids’ grandparents weren’t insistent we do, and we didn’t trust them so implicitly, but they are, and we do, and the break is most necessary. So we’ll be seeing you Tuesday, by which time Connor will be fully fixed, the internet will be returned to the Batthaim, I’ll be a world-famous author with publishers pounding on my door demanding I work for them, Tony Abbott will have drowned in a vat of his own pus, unicorns will roam the high places eating Jackson’s curse and shitting rainbows, Forest will have found a loophole in the rules and been awarded permanent EPL status, and I’ll weigh 80 kilograms and have all my hair back.

Right?




AWARDS 2: BATTERSBY 0

A busy weekend for the rest of the Australian SF community this last weekend, with Conflux 9, the Australian National SF Convention, being held in Canberra. Sadly, Olympic-level skintness kept us from attending, which was a pity, because my one Conflux, back in 2006, ranks as my favourite convention experience (barring the Swancon at which I married Luscious, naturally. Yep, for those of you who don’t know, I married my wife at an SF Convention. Some might call it geeky. Some might call it realising that everyone we would have invited to the wedding were already going to be gathered in one place anyway…). Marc Gascoigne, Angry Robot head honcho, was Guest of Honour, and it would have been great to catch up with him the flesh for what would likely have been the only time ever. Ah, well.

The Australian SF ‘Ditmar’ Awards were announced at the Con, and The Corpse-Rat King was beaten to the Best Novel gong by Margo Lanagan’s Sea Hearts. There’s no shame in that: Lanagan is an immensely popular, multi-award winning author, and Sea Hearts has already collected a  swag of award nominations and wins. After losing out to Kirstyn McDermott in the recently-announced Australian Shadows Award, it makes me 0 for 2 in short lists this year. I’m disappointed– if you’re on a shortlist you want to win the thing– but not hardly surprised.

All of which means it’s time to get off my lazy arse– I’ll admit, I’ve been the very personification of slackness this last couple of weeks, as day job stress and general mehness overwhelmed me– and get back to finishing the works in progress. Father Muerte & The Divine is ready to line edit, I’m waiting to hear if Agent Rich can place Naraveen’s Land before I launch myself towards finishing the edits on it, and Magwitch and Bugrat, the children’s novel I started at the behest of Luscious and the kids, is 3/4 complete and needs to be rounded off.

As a way of finding the time, we set the alarm a half hour earlier this morning, rose in the dark, and I managed to shoot out 500 words before having to get ready for work. This will be the pattern from here on in. It’s nice to be nominated for awards, and sickening to watch a procession of everybody else get them all. work is the only cure.

So here’s a little extract from the first draft of Magwitch and Bugrat as a little literary sourdough starter:

              Bugrat found his own voice as he grew, and used it to ask questions, “What is this?” and “What’s that called?” and “What is this for?” and “Why?” and “Why?” and “why?” over and over again. Magwitch had never taught anybody before. She didn’t know how to make someone sit and listen and believe that she was the only one who knew the real truth about things. So she listened to Bugrat as much as he listened to her, and because he was allowed to do some of the talking, their little world slowly changed to fit his view of it, as much as it had once changed to fit her.
            “Why are they called headstones?” he asked, pointing to the slabs of stone that lay face down amongst the grass. And because she didn’t know, and because neither of them really believed that “Because they are,” was a real answer, headstones became jumpstones, because jumping from stone to stone was what Magwitch and Bugrat used them for.
            “What are they?” he asked of the stars that flickered uncertainly beyond the edges of the surrounding roofs when they night sky cleared and the smog went to bed. And Magwitch would tell him her dreams of windows in the sky, and the blackness around them where little boys and girls could play safely with no walls to hold them in, and never have to worry about anybody looking out.
            “What are these for?” he would wonder, while he stretched out to try and touch the cold, unfriendly glass of the windows around them, and Magwitch would pull on his arm until her greater weight slowly dragged him away, back into the safety of the brambles and the deep, comfortable shadows.

            “You must never touch them,” she warned him. “never, ever, ever.” “Why?” he would ask, and “Why?” and “Why?” but Magwitch would not answer. 

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?

KSP SF MINICON FULL PROGRAM

Oh yes, my friends, I shall be there. And it will start oooh, and aaahhh, then later there will be running, and screaming….

Get your peepers on this little lot and tell me you don’t want to come on down and hang out. This is going to be one fabbo day:
The 2012 KSP Speculative Fiction Writers Group Minicon
Panellists include :
Local Writers: Lee Battersby, Amelia Beamer, Hal Colebatch, Cathy Cupitt, Stephen Dedman, Joanna Fay, Satima Flavell, Sonia Helbig, Elaine Kemp, Pete Kempshall, David Kitson, Martin Livings, Dave Luckett, Juliet Marillier, Ian Nichols, Anthony Panegyres, Carol Ryles, Guy Salvidge, JB Thomas. 

When: Sunday, 9 September, 2012  9.30am-4.30pm

Where: Katherine’s Place, 11 Old York Road, Greenmount (Turn into the first driveway after you turn in from the highway and park at the back)

Cost: $15, or $10 if you book in advance. Leave a comment at http://kspminicon.blogspot.com.au/ if you want to do this.

Lunch: A decent meal and tea and coffee will be available for a gold coin donation or you can BYO – there are no eateries in the vicinity.


Programme
Discussion Panels: Meeting Room

10:00 Breaking the Rules
“Look, that’s why there’s rules, understand? So that you think before you break ’em.” – Terry Pratchett
Sometimes the ‘rules of writing’ need to be broken. But what are they and how and when do you get away with breaking them? And what do you need to be aware of before you do? All the best writers are renowned for breaking rules and new writers are crucified for it, yet there are times when we all need to cross that line.
Lee Battersby
Sonia Helbig
Martin Livings
Anthony Panegyres
Guy Salvidge

1100: Is the Internet the New Slush Pile
Google the question: “is the internet the new slush pile?” and the wisdom of the masses will tell you that since mid 2011, there has been a grass-roots change in the world of publishing. The inference given in hundreds of articles unearthed by such a search is that you should no longer submit to slush piles while trying to get noticed. There’s a new wave of authors who publish their material directly to the Internet in the hope that their book will attract the attention of publishers and agents. But what does this method of gaining attention achieve and will it replace the tradition of slush pile Mondays? For that matter, with so many new writers self-publishing, is there a need to be picked up at all? Or is it a path to self-destruction of the writer’s rights?
Stephen Dedman
David Kitson
Dave Luckett
Ian Nichols

12:00 Lunch
Book Launch, The Corpse Rat King by award winning author Lee Battersby (Angry Robot Books)

Lee Battersby is the author of the novels The Corpse-Rat King (Angry Robot, 2012) and Marching Dead (Angry Robot, 2013) as well as over 70 stories in Australia, the US and Europe, with appearances in markets as Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror, Year’s Best Australian SF & F, and Writers of the Future. A collection of his work, entitled Through Soft Air has been published by Prime Books. He’s taught at Clarion South and developed and delivered a six-week Writing the SF Short Story course for the Australian Writers Marketplace. His work has been praised for its consistent attention to voice and narrative muscle, and has resulted in a number of awards including the Aurealis, Australian Shadows and Australia SF ‘Ditmar’ gongs.
He lives in Western Australia, with his wife, writer Lyn Battersby and an increasingly weird mob of kids. He is sadly obsessed with Lego, Nottingham Forest football club, dinosaurs, the Goon Show and Daleks. He’s been a stand-up comic, tennis coach, cartoonist, poet, and tax officer in previous times, and he currently works as the Arts Co-ordinator for a local council, where he gets to play with artists all day. All in all, life is pretty good.

1:00 Critting and Crowd-Sourced Editing
Should writers have their manuscripts criticised by a broad audience of their fellow writers? What value does it add to your work? Can you lose your ideas by letting others see your manuscript before the editor does? How about crowd-sourcing of editing? Is it possible to let others perform the work for you while reading early revisions of your manuscript? And how do you even take advantage of such services? Should they be avoided completely?
Amelia Beamer
Satima Flavell
Pete Kempshall
Juliet Marillier
Anthony Panegyres

2:00 Building Characters without Cardboard
In online reviews, a common complaint against many recent authors, especially those who choose to self-publish, is that their characters seem two-dimensional or otherwise lack depth. So what does the aspiring author need to consider in their writing so that their characters seem more real to the reader? And how do they achieve it? Are characters planned or imagined? And what are the pitfalls that many new writer, and even experienced ones, fall into? And how do you write convincing characters from the other gender?
Lee Battersby
Martin Livings
Juliet Marillier
Carol Ryles
JB Thomas

3:00 Has Erotica Become Just another Mainstream Sub-Genre
With Fifty Shades of Grey now the fastest selling book ever, it’s difficult to ignore the part that erotica has played in this series’ success. Writers thinking of including sexually explicit content in their novels are often confused by the terms ‘erotica’ and ‘pornography’. How should a modern writer approach this situation? How to avoid mistakes? Should erotica feature in a serious novel at all?
Amelia Beamer
Cathy Cupitt
Stephen Dedman
Elaine Kemp

Kaffeeklatsch Schedule (Library)
1PM – 1:30PM Joanna Fay: Publishing with a small press overseas
Joanna’s Daughter of Hope, the first novel in her epic fantasy sequence The Siaris Quartet, has recently been published as an e-book by Musa Publishing, a relatively new e-press in the USA. From the comfort of her lounge room in the Perth hills, Joanna has taken an intensive ‘high learning curve’ this year on the road to publication, while coming to grips with both the potential and pitfalls of online promotion.

2PM – 2:30PM David Kitson: Self Publishing – A complete end to end guide for anyone planning on doing it themselves
David’s self-published novel, Turing Evolved, broke into the top 20 Science Fiction book list on Amazon.com and is now rated at four-and-a-half stars with one hundred and fifty customer reviews. Learn about David’s experiences with editing, uploading, customer feedback and eventual contact and representation by a literary agent.
3PM – 3:30PM Juliet Marillier: Theme to be announced
Juliet is a New Zealand-born writer who now lives in WA. Her historical fantasy novels for adult and young adult readers include the popular Sevenwaters series and the Bridei Chronicles. Juliet’s books have won many awards including the American Library Association’s Alex Award, the Prix Imaginales and the Aurealis Award. Her lifelong love of folklore, fairy tales and mythology is a major influence on her writing. Juliet has two books out this year: Shadowfell, first instalment in a fantasy series for young adults (available now) and adult fantasy Flame of Sevenwaters, to be published in November.

   

KSP MINI-CON ON AGAIN!

It’s nearly time for the biennial KSP Minicon at the Katherine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre up in leafy and lovely Greenmount.

There’s always a good mix of panels and a relaxed attitude. I’ll be on two panels this year, including ‘Breaking The Rules’, which is likely to be lively 🙂

And I’ll be launching The Corpse-Rat King! I’m talking to the publisher about getting copies,  and if they don’t arrive in time I’ll still be doing a reading and handing out signed things– if not the book, then definitely things— and we’ll sort out getting copies into your hot little hands if they’re not already arrived, and it’ll be my usual blend of chaos, irreverence and sweariness no matter what happens.

It’s on Sunday, 9 September, from 9.30am-4.30pm at Katherine’s Place, Old York Road, Greenmount. The whole day will cost you only $15, or $10 if you book in advance, which you can do by heading over to this KSP Minicon page post and leaving a comment. They’ll also have a good lunch available for $5 or you can BYO – there are no eateries in the vicinity, so it’s a good idea to be prepared one way or the other.

And make sure you like their Facebook page while you’re at it: all the cool kids are doing it.

GLAD I DON’T LIVE THERE, BUT A NICE PLACE FOR A SHORT VISIT

I swore I’d never go there again. But it was a Natcon, and a large number of Eastern Staters who I hadn’t seen in years were attending, and Tehani was involved in the organisation and kept hinting at us, and Lyn wanted to go, and Thursday night was a free night, and we were up for a couple of awards….

So we went to Swancon.

Originally we had planned to attend the free night on Thursday, and one paid day– the Sunday, culminating in the award ceremony. Then we forgot to vote for the Tin Duck awards, which meant going back on the Saturday, and what the hell, seeing we were going to be there anyway we may as well pay for two days, and seeing we were going to be there for two days we may as well find a hotel to stay the night in, and soon enough, there we were, a hole the size of a couple of hundred dollars in the budget, and a whole lot more attendance at a place I was never going back to than I had originally planned.

Which turned out to be not such a bad thing, because Natcons are renowned as “writing” cons, and this one was no exception. Apart from catching up with long-lost friends like Paul Haines, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Peter Ball and Jason Nahrung, as well as again seeing the lovely Kate Eltham & Robert Hoge– two of our favourite SF people– we caught up with a raft of names we’d seen electronically but never added to our colection of flesh memories: welcome to the halls of my mind Alan Baxter, Kirstyn McDermott, Thorayia Dyer, and Lisa Hannett. Ignore the weeping and the cries for help. And a number of the panels were genuinely helpful on a writer-guy basis, with subjects such as “Writing for Money” and “Writer as Entertainer/Writer as Business Person”. Notes were made, lessons were learned, and all that jazz.

We also managed to eat way more curry in two days than a couple should– got to love the Swancon tradition of staging it in a part of Perth that is pretty much closed for Easter– and joined in a public sniffling session with video clips of the late Elisabeth Sladen, and mooched around the bar being all writerly (ie: half-cut) on outlandishly expensive Guinesses. Oh, and the books: there were books, my friends, there were many books. I would like to justify it by saying it was all about replacing the termite losses, but who am I kidding? I wasn’t going to need any excuse to pick up multiple Datlow-edited collections, never mind all the others. There were books…….

So would I do it again? No, I doubt it. A Natcon is one thing, and all the things that I enjoyed about this con were elements of a Natcon. A Natcon may be on the radar– Melbourne next year looks good, and any year Brisbane wants to hold one I bet we’ll find a way to get over. But Swancon is a different vibe. It was a nice place to visit for a day or two, but the sigh of relief as we came back over our own doorstep late on the Sunday night was genuine.

I like writers. I like writing. It’s nice to spend time with both. But that’s about it.

DIDN’T WE HAVE A LOVELY DAY….

If you didn’t make it to the KSP Minicon on Sunday, well, you missed a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging occasion. The focus was very much on writing and writers (I’m tempted to say ‘this was the con we rescued from the fans’, a la Swancon 2006) but there was much socialising, coffee and mini-muffins, and banter for all. It was the most relaxed and happy day I’ve spent at a convention in a long time.

Pity you missed it.

Adrian & Michelle Bedford share a joke with Lyn, while Dave Luckett and Stephen Dedman get up to no good in the background

Three wise men: Simon Haynes, Bevan McGuiness, Russell Farr

How to Escape The Slushpile: Everyone’s Gotta Opinion!

Lyn makes with the funnies as Janet Blagg and Alisa Krasnostein show their appreciation

KSP MINICON PROGRAM

The program for this Sunday’s Mini-con at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writer’s Centre has been released, and ’tis as follows:

10.00 am Panel “How to Handle Rejections”: Adrian Bedford, Russell Farr, Simon Haynes and Bevan McGuiness followed by Readings from Sonia Helbig and Helen Venn

11.00 am Panel “Clarions; gains and losses”: Lee Battersby, Lyn Battersby, Carol Ryles, Helen Venn and Jessica Vivienfollowed by Readings from Jo Mills and Elaine Kemp

12.00 noon Panel “What’s Hot and What’s Not – trends in Speculative Fiction”: Elaine Kemp, Alisa Krasnostein, Ian Nichols and Grant Stone followed by Readings from Juliet Marillier and Ian Nichols

1.00 pm Panel “Lies, Damned Lies and Research”: Dave Luckett, Hal Colebatch, Satima Flavell and Juliet Marillier followed by Readings from Hal Colebatch and Dave Luckett

2.00 pm Panel “Hooks and Sinkers – writing a killer first line”: Adrian Bedford, Stephen Dedman, Martin Livings and Bevan McGuiness followed by Readings from Adrian Bedford and Stephen Dedman

3.00 pm Panel “Steampunk” Toby Coulstock; John Parker; Carol Ryles and Grant Stone followed by Readings from Deb Ratcliffe and Carol Ryles

4.00 pm Panel “How to get out of the Slushpile”: Lyn Battersby, Janet Blagg, Stephen Dedman; Alisa Krasnostein; Tehani Wessely followed by Q&A and wind-up.

That’s a pretty fair line-up, if you ask me, so come along and join in. Remember: don’t applaud, throw money.

KATHARINE SUSANNAH PRICHARD WRITER’S CENTRE– SF EVENTS

This Sunday, 17th August, at 3pm, the Chairperson of KSP, the CEO of the Shire of Mundaring and the Competition Judge – that would be me – will present the awards to the winners of the KSP Speculative Fiction Competition. Prize winners will read excerpts from their entries. Light refreshments will be available.

Come on down to the Centre, at 11 Old York Road, Greenmount, meet the winner, hear some damn good SF, and enjoy the historic grounds.

And on Sunday 21st September, starting at 11am, the KSP SF Mini-conference will be happening. The first mini-con, held in 2006, was an outstanding success, with several score people attending. The panels, readings and inexpensive lunch all contributed to the day’s success, and we hope to do even better this year.

There will be timeslots for six panels with readings in between. There will also be readings over lunch time. Once again, our friends at Fantastic Planet will be setting up shop at KSP for the day. There will also be opportunities for signings throughout the day. Lyn and I will be attending, as will many of the leading lights of Western Australian SF. More information will be posted to this humble blog as we get closer to the day.

Pencil it in, SF fans.

DECISION

I’ve been away.

In the wake of this year’s Swancon, I received a couple of emails. No need to go into the minutiae, but they were, shall we say, detailed. In addition, Lyn suffered the indignity of being upbraided by a fan type at a recent social occasion, who felt they needed to belittle her for being a writer in order to puff up their own sense of self-importance. It was hurtful, and humiliating, and frankly, the last straw.

I needed a few days away from the world to reassess.

So here’s the thing: I’m not doing Swancon, or any other Western Australian conventions, any more. I’m not doing any of the social events that surround them. I love writing, and though it is occasionally problematic, I really enjoy blogging. I enjoy the correspondences I keep with friends and like-minded people who contact me. So I’m going to keep to those.

Many thanks to those who contacted me to ask about the absence.

SWANCON 2008

I had a long post here about Swancon. If you’ve got the rss feed archived you’ve probably still got it somewhere. I dunno: some things about the internet escape me.

Anyway, suffice to say, it’s gone now. I’ve decided not to post it. To those who enjoyed catching up with me, my thanks. To those who didn’t, I apologise. I hope everyone had a great time.

NOT LONG NOW

Erin arrives back in Perth tomorrow night, and will be back home by Monday afternoon. It’s about time: we’ve missed her so much it hurts, and we can’t wait to hug her and tell her how much we love her. And listen to all her stories (we know already that she’s seen live kiwis and danced with Maori pois), and see the photos, and look at the pictures she’s drawn, and read her holiday diary, and hug her again, and……

She’s been gone too long.

CONNING ON

Lyn, Aiden, Blake, and I are off to Swancon next weekend, along with the vast majority of the Western Australian SF community. Lots to do, lots to see, and no money to buy anything with (sigh), but at least I’ll be on some interesting panels.

If you really can’t get enough of my dulcet tones, you can catch me at the following times and locations:

Flash Fiction
Lee Battersby, Martin Livings, Zara Baxter
Friday 10am
When does it work? Why does it so often fail? Why is it so popular? Why do people have such strong feelings about it? Should it have its own awards? Is it a dumping ground for ideas that fail to develop? Or is it simply the perfect form of fiction for an era of multi-tasking and short attention spans?

Horror: The State of the Art
Lee Battersby, Stephen Dedman, Shane Jiraiya Cummings
Sunday 12pm
Where exactly is the Australian horror scene today? Some commentators have pointed to a recent resurgence in the field- is this the sign of more growth to come, or a momentary swell of interest before audience return to reading other genres? What is it that Australian horror has to offer that other nations can’t? An incisive look into one of Australia’s most promising- and oftentimes most neglected- genres.

Critiquing: How Much Feedback is Too Much?
Lee Battersby, Juliet Marillier, Robert Hoge, Satima Flavell Neist
Sunday 5pm
Writer’s Groups (face to face online), manuscript assessment services, mentoring- will they help you to write better? Or will they hurt your confidence, or waste your time?

Dr Who and the Big Finish
Lee Battersby, Stephen Dedman, Rob Shearman, Ian Mond
Monday 11am
Big Finish are a notable producer of Doctor Who audio plays and other media. What is it like working with them? How have things changed with the new series? How does fandom feel about their take on Doctor who? What about their work based on other cult SF properties?

You Gotta Make Way for the Homo Superior
Lee Battersby, Lyn Battersby, Tom Eitelhuber
Monday 11am
David Bowie’s name is synonymous with many trends: rock, art, androgyny, the reinvention of the self. And, of course, science fiction. This panel will look at ways in which Bowie’s music has influenced the culture of the 20/21st centuries. Which writers have been inspired by his lyrics? Who inspired him first?

Keen-eyed observers will note that I appear to be in two places at once on Monday. I’ve notified the programmer, and hopefully by the time we’re all at the Con it’ll be sorted: I don’t want to miss out on either panel, so fingers crossed for some expert tweaking of time and place. I’ll also be presenting an award at Sunday Night’s award ceremonies, so I’ll be enjoying getting frocked up and getting on stage.

PUSHING TIN

On the subject of which (oh, how smooth was that?), the traditional longest-shortlist-in-the-world, the WA SF ‘Tin Duck’ Achievement Awards have been released. You can see the full list here. I’ve several stories up for consideration, so if you enjoyed any of the following during the year, consider giving them a nod:

Father Muerte & The Joy of Warfare (Aurealis 37)
The Time Eater (Dr Who: Destination Prague)
Beached (Daikaiju III)

You’ll also find Lyn’s story Born of Woman, from Daikaiju II on the list. Easily the best flash fiction piece published last year by an Australian, imho, it’s well worth consideration.

NIGHT’S EDGE…

…was a fun two days away from the world. Rather than bore you with a detailed Con report (If you’re like me, detailed reports of Cons you didn’t go to leave you a wee bit disinterested), some random personal highlights:
*Two days away from the world, in a hotel room, with Lyn. People should be glad they saw us at all…

* The Wacky Weapons of WWII panel with Paul Kidd. I don’t know Paul socially, but he and I seem to work really well together on panels. It may have something to do with being two geekboys with rampant senses of humour. But it was a funny panel, a very funny panel indeed.

*A spur of the moment pool tournament between me and the boys, in an empty bar during two hours of panels we didn’t fancy attending. For the record, Blake Henry Triffitt, aged 13, is a bloody shark.

*Aiden Triffitt, Mobile Daycare. Three sets of friends brought their under-3s to the Con, and at several moments, Aiden took it upon himself to look after the kids and give said parents some adult time. Nobody told him to, nobody even asked him to. Aiden simply decided that he wanted to help, and what’s more, he was brilliant at it. And to me, it’s a measure of how trusted and respected he is already, at age 14, that the parents in question handed over their babies and then turned their attentions away without constantly checking to see if their kids were okay. They just knew that they were.

*Aiden and Kaneda Go Large. I’ve joked before about how Aiden is turning into ‘One of Ussssssss’. But I will remember this as the Con when he stopped turning, and simply was. We allowed Aiden his freedom, within the usual parental limits, and he didn’t let us down: attending panels on his own, wandering the convention space on his own merits, consorting with the friends he has made by himself (And while many of those friends are also ours, not once did I feel they hung out with him, when we weren’t around, out of anything other than genuine friendship towards him), and interacting with the convention environment as a member in his own right, rather than just ‘Lyn & Lee’s boy’. And when he attended the Saturday night party wearing his pal Kaneda’s hat and boots, and announced that they were heading down to the fan lounge to practice their stunt falls, a Fen was born 🙂

*The Legend of Mothers Sarah. Okay, Kylie as well, but that buggers the Manga reference….. I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for the teensy-tiny people. So I loved seeing babies Nora, Vincent, and Ellie at the con. And much kudos to a monumentally-heavy Callisto for getting through the two days with body and emotions intact.

*The all-in jokefest that started out as a panel on how to survive the apocalypse and ended up as a discussion on whether we could create a horse-drawn internet in time.

*A brand new Grant Watson comic book. My inner Grantfan says Yay. My outer Grantfan agrees.

*Dinner with friends and general attendance. I’ve been away too long.

At this stage, Swancon is theoretically possible, but financially problematic. But unlike last year, I at least want to go.

BIRTHDAY

I turned 37 on Sunday, and didn’t really care, other than that my family showed their love for me by making sure I was well rewarded, and I was able to bask in the glow of their happiness. The boys, especially, blew me away, taking money from their Con budget to sneak out and buy me three DVDs when I wasn’t looking, despite the fact they’d been told that there would be no more money once they’d spent their lot. Having already bought myself the present I desired (a potentially magnificent rare protea longifolia (piccie down the bottom of the page) sapling currently dubbed The Fifty Dollar Stick), it was a touching gesture that genuinely left me speechless. I have a wonderful family, and at the risk of sounding all tree-huggy about it, I’d much rather spend a day in their happy company than be showered with all the gifts in the world. Not that I’m giving any back….

Many thanks also to my good friend Stephen Dedman, who not only presented me with a copy of Men And Cartoons by Jonathon Lethem, over which I’d been seen to lust, but led the assembled crowd in a chorus of Happy Birthday at the end of my last panel, causing me to lapse into embarrassed mumbleness.

And thank you to the long list of friends, colleagues, and facebook pals who have contacted me to wish me a happy one. A happy one was had, everyone. (Incidentally, big slaps on back to Simon Haynes and Chris Barnes, fellow no-longer-unique Remembrance Day birthday boy writer types)

But, as has become my tradition, at least mentally, I now present thee with the by-no-means-comprehensive list of famous people wot I have outlived. To whit:

THEY DIED AGED 36, POSSIBLY WITH BOOTS ON

Marilyn Monroe; Diana, Princess of Wales; Georges Bizet; George, Lord Byron; George Armstrong Custer; Veronica Guerin; Doc Holliday; Blind Lemon Jefferson; Casey Jones; Phil Lynott; Bob Marley; Maximilian Robespierre; Henri Toulouse-Lautrec; Gene Vincent; and Nathanael West.

This is, of course, hardly an exhaustive list. Feel free to contribute your own favourite dead 36 byear old, and we’ll start the cloning process.

SOLD!

It’s been an interesting year, as far as story sales have gone. What with other projects and Real life ™, sales have somewhat resembled a cowboy riding a falling nuclear bomb. That is, they’ve been Slim Pickens (Zap! Pow Kapiiingggg! Comedy GOLD!)

Ahem.

Aaaaanyway, the good news is that I received an email from Stuart Mayne of Aurealis last night, to tell me that they’ve accepted my urban Peter Pan fantasy story Never Grow Old. Which makes me happy indeed. It will appear in issue 40, which is due to be born in December. Never Grow Old marks my 5th sale to Aurealis. If the magazine were the Luftwaffe, that’d make me an ace, and I’d get to wear a little square of coloured cloth on the breast area of my t-shirt when I go to Cons.

Damn I’m in a strange mood today.

AHWA MENTORSHIPS ON AGAIN

Marty Young, happy and disturbingly attractive severed-head honcho of the Australian Horror Writer’s Association, contacted me during the week to sound out my interest in being involved in their mentorship program again next year. Given the fantastic time I had working with Mark Smith-Briggs this year, my reply was an immediate and enthusiastic Yes!

This time around, I’ll be making myself available to work with short stories, and scripts of up to 45 minutes length. No official announcements yet, but applications are likely to be open as of January 1st for mentorships to begin sometime towards March. I’ll let you know as details become available.

REMIX MY LIT

Also from the cool project front comes my participation in the Remix My Lit project. Several established authors will have their stories ‘remixed’ by up and coming new scribes, and the results, as well as the original stories, will be made available using a Creative Commons license, for people to read and to remix themselves. A dauntingly-talented list of writers from a wide variety of genres, including our own Kim Wilkins, has already signed on for what should be an awful lot of fun. More details are available at the website, and like always, I’ll keep you posted as details present themselves.

A BIG SHINY FLOWER AT THE END OF THE POST

Ooooohh, gardenporn 🙂

ONE AMONGST US IS A SOPPY OLD WOOSBAG

So Lyn’s out with Aiden, I’m alone at the computer, and Nick Caves’ The Ship Song has come on, which is the song we were married to.

Sniff. Bloody dusty in this office……..

A SHORT PAUSE

Off to Night’s Edge tomorrow, where I shall eat, drink, be merry, and mark Remembrance Day by participating in a panel on wacky Nazi weapons of World War II. Classy…..

Normal service will be rant-sumed as of Monday.

BACK TO, UH, NORMAL?

It seems gmail has recovered, and you can now get back to me at leebattersby@gmail.com I’m having a few connectivity problems, but that’s all to do with phone lines and nonsuch, so be patient over the Easter break as I might not get in until the Telstra linesmen sober up.

CHOCOLATE WEEKEND

Just so everybody who has expressed surprise at the notion (despite a year or more of me saying it) is on the same page: Lyn and I will not be at Swancon this weekend.

Enjoy it if you’re there.

BEN AND THE DITMARS

I’ve had a few emails asking my opinion on the Ditmars, and Ben Peek’s nominations/ lack of withdrawal from the same. Perhaps it’s because our fall-outs have been so public that whenever he does something to get up people’s noses, I get a whole lot of questions.

Anyway, fwiw, I actually don’t have a problem with Ben being nominated for an award, and choosing not to withdraw, whatever his stated position in the past. Despite my lack of regard for him as a person, I’ve always maintained that his stories are good work, and good stories deserve nomination. It’s not his stories that I have the issue with. If his participation in a set-up designed only to hand out the warm and fuzzies is a sign of his growing maturity, then all the better.

As I’ve spouted at every opportunity, your career is your own responsibility. What you choose to be a part of, or not, is up to you. I’ll confess to not being interested in Ben or his career, and as I’m not going to the Natcon this year, I’m not much interested in the Ditmars either. But I’ve always felt that if you’re going to work in an industry that hands out awards it’s always nice to be nominated, and if you’re going to be nominated, you might as well win. Despite the bloc-voting and the constant attempts to derail the process, the Ditmars are a nice way for everyone involved to throw their arms around each other (metaphorically speaking) and say Love youse, maaaaaate.

So good luck to him, and the other nominees. As to my thoughts on Kathryn Linge’s review of Through Soft Air being nominated for the Atheling (and thanks to everyone seeking my opinion on that), well, my opinion of Ms Linge’s critical faculties are pretty well known. All hail the bloc-vote.

FANDOMEDIA: HUNGER SATIATED

GENERAL IMPRESSIONS

You can’t possibly not know that Luscious was Guest of Honour at Fandomedia: Hunger this last weekend, where she shared the stage with Marianne de Pierres and Elaine Kemp.

I had a blast throughout the weekend, party because my wife was receiving the patronage and attention that her brilliant, unique work deserves; and partly because my entire workload for the weekend consisted of 2 (count them, 2) panels, which is just about unheard of for me when it comes to covnentions. In the end I ended up on 3, but’s that’s par for my course 🙂

This was also the first time Aiden and Blake attended a Con, and the boys took to it like little nerdy ducks to a big nerdy pond: gaming, watching panels, hanging with guests, having their books signed… and all in a manner so well-behaved and mature that other guests were asking us could we please make sure to bring them with us to the next event we attend! In particular, I was bowled over with pride when Rob Masters & Alicia Smith, who take their games very seriously, invited the boys to game with them at any time, and issued an open invitation to join them at Genghiscon next year for a session. R&L would not have taken any inappropriate behaviour at their table, and I’m still a smiling Bonus Dad at the impression the boys made upon them.

I was also overwhelmed with pride for Lyn, who handled all the attention with aplomb and professionalism. My darling wife is cursed with a combination of claustrophobia, lack of self-belief, and shyness, yet she carried herself through the convention with grace and elegance, and the 80-plus members of the Con showed her what she and her work means to them in a constant outpouring of respect and affection which moved me on a number of occasions. Lyn is a wonderful, loving woman; a unique and talented artist; and far more popular than she thinks she is; and it all crystallised this weekend. It was wonderful to sit back and watch it happen.

I was saddened to hear convention organiser Ju Whitehead announce that this was to be the last Fandomedia. The “2nd Perth Con” concept has become firmly established since the first Borderlands in 2001, and Fandomedia has been easily the best 2 years of the run. Ju did mention to me, on the sly, the project to which she is going to be devoting her time, and it’s exciting, but I’ll have a soft spot for the 2 conventions to which she attached her name: they were fun, inclusive, and most importantly in a crowded con landscape, different. As of next year, John Parker (organiser of Wasteland in 2004) will gather up the reins with Night Lands. It’ll be a good con: John knows what he’s doing. I’ll look foward to it. But these last 2 cons have been a highlight for me, and I’ll miss the tone Ju brought to the event.

HIGHLIGHTS

In no particular order, a set of highlights and moments from my Con experience this time round:

  • Aiden and Blake. Their behaviour was brilliant, their excitement at being at a Con (and having a hotel room to themselves with the run of the facilities) was infectious, the grace with which they withdrew when ‘adult time’ events such as room parties were deemed off limits was amazingly mature, and their interactions with fellow guests was a breathy combination of happiness and respect which made me proud. We gave them some money to spend at the Con, and they had enough left over that we took them to the Royal Show on Monday, so they made out like bandits, the lucky little buggers.
  • Watching my darling wife get an understanding of just how much respect and affection is held for her by the SF scene.
  • Being so tired and bleary after the room party on the first night that I spent the next day thinking Purrdence was Possbert and vice versa. Some people are happy drunks, some are angry drunks. Me, I’m a subtle drunk…
  • Dragons! Two boys, $10 dollars of raffle tickets at 50 cents a pop….. In the end we took three of the 6″ high dragon statuettes home with us, re-drew one, and gifted the other to a grateful Buoy Wonder, who spent the whole raffle sitting behind me whimpering “I want a dragon” every time we won another one. So happy about my act of generosity towards him was Alistair that he immediately named his new dragon….. Steve 🙂
  • Oh, and Lyn got one as part of her Guest of Honour sponsors package, so now I have to build TWO shelves…
  • Conversing with Alisa Krasonstein and Lily Chrywenstrom on the subject of women SF writers, and perhaps showing a side to me that they hadn’t seen before.
  • The long and winding conversation I shared with Grant Watson that meandered across three days, a bunch of different locations, and reinforced to me why Grant is right at the apex of people to whom I accord the greatest respect and feelings of friendship. We also made progress on a project involving certain television monstersmumblmumblemumblemumbleas soon as he manages to get it all set up.
  • Spending time with Michael “Froggy” Dawson, convener of Swancon 2007, and enjoying his company immensely, especially watching him become increasingly weirded out by the Triffboys’ unending-mosquito-conversaionalist act at the Con after-party.
  • Seeing the boys explain the phrases “Release The Bloodworms!” and “Doodle… finger… worm” to a packed room, and watching as they sloooowly took over everyone’s consciousness’. Also, the creation of Grant’s new alterego, Dave Doodlefingerworm.
  • Getting to see Eastern Staters Stu Barrow, Marianne de Pierres and Rowena Lindquist on my patch for a change. Heck, just getting to see them.
  • Lyn’s reaction at seeing her first ever proper girl-to-girl kiss at a rather drunken and raucous room party. Being real glad the boys were in their room, stuffing their faces with junk food and watching cartoons.
  • Shotgunning chartreuse and discovering how damn good it is, especially when held under the tongue for 5 or 6 seconds. Burny burny burny, but goooood burny!
  • Doing a panel on the subject of ‘Ambition’ with Ju’s partner Kaneda, and discovering more about him in 5 minutes than I’d learned in 2 years! A complex life, and a shining drive that gave me a real insight into what motivates him.
  • Stephen Dedman coming to the realisation that between us, Grant Watson and I can lay claim to disliking almost all SF television ever produced. I mean, we told you 🙂

Song of the moment: I Can’t Read Tin Machine

120 DAYS OF SOD ALL

Fandomedia starts on Friday, and finishes on Monday.

As of that Monday, which is, coincidentally, the 1st day of the new month, I have a bunch of tasks to complete. 120 of them. I’ve given myself 120 days in which to do them, on the theory that it should take that long to write a novel (not coincidentally at all, #1 on my list…)

In order to make the process more fun, I’ve listed them on a blog page. Naturally, me being me, there’s actually 124 🙂

But I’ll be crossing each one off as I complete it, and referring back to it every now and again, for your entertainment and rock-throwing practice.

Song of the moment: Sound And Vision David Bowie