Nov 30, 2011

Library Loot–November 30 to December 6

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

This week it’s hosted by Marg (where you will find the linky).


Only one item this week – I am being prudent after last weeks haul.  I caught a couple of episodes of Warehouse 13: Season One at a friends place.  It shows some promise and I am happy to note appears to have gone to a 3rd season.  So I borrowed it through interlibrary loan only to find that its actually on free to air television.  I am watching it in chronological order though.

I like it for a number of reasons

  1. Strong believable female lead
  2. Steampunk styling
  3. It hasn’t received the Firefly treatment.
  4. It feels like an American Torchwood.

 

Here’s the intro to Season 1 that will give you the “feel” of the show.

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Australian Women Writers 2012 National Year of Reading Challenge

awwc2012This is my entry post for the challenge above. While I have made an effort to alter my reviewing to try and combat gender bias*, because of the nature of the book business I think a systematic and directed approach is needed. 

I have managed to get my reading and reviewing close to a 50/50 split. I would ,however, like to add weight to the campaign by Australian Women Writers.  I think even women readers fall victim to an ingrained cultural gender bias(if my discussion with female library customers is anything to go by) so combating it is something that requires a dedicated approach.

Hence the guidelines/goals/prompts of the challenge.

You can find out more about the challenge here at Australian Women Writers, but briefly:

Objective: This challenge hopes to help counteract the gender bias in reviewing and social media newsfeeds that has continued throughout 2011 by actively promoting the reading and reviewing of a wide range of contemporary Australian women's writing. (See the page on gender bias for recent discussions.)

Source:Australian Women Writers blog.

I will be entering in the Dabbler category.  My books will mostly be Speculative Fiction, but there are a couple of contemporary works that I want to read as well.

I will also be attempting the Franklin-fantastic challenge level (read 10 and review at least 4 books)

A tentative list:

  1. Dark Space by Marianne de Pierres
  2. Chaos Space by Marianne de Pierres
  3. Mirror Space by Marianne de Pierres
  4. Transformation Space by Marianne de Pierres
  5. The Diamond Anchor by Jennifer Mills
  6. Gone by Jennifer Mills
  7. Thief of Lives by Lucy Sussex
  8. Nightsiders by Sue Isle
  9. Diamond Eyes by A.A. Bell
  10. Dangerously Placed by Nansi Kunze

The challenge begins on 1st of January 2012.


*I completed a gender audit of my reading and reviewing along with a poll.  Sadly the information was lost in the blog hack in September. Sufficed to say that I over estimated the number of women I reviewed and read.


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Nov 29, 2011

Book Review– The Russian - Battlefeild 3 by Andy McNab & Peter Grimsdale

batt

The Russian - Battlefield 3 is a book tie in with one of the hottest gaming properties on the market. As befits the kind of money thrown behind the multimedia & merchandising campaign that such a release requires, publishers Swordfish have gone with a high calibre author as the front runner on the book. 

There are precious few authors that can bring the sort of credibility to military adventure stories that McNab does and he’s backed up by Peter Grimsdale an award winning television producer who’s turned his hand to writing.

So how does this one fly?

I haven’t played the game so its difficult to tell how restricted by the game narrative this story is.  Even with the gamer demographic aging, video game narratives are really only secondary to gameplay, something that aids immersion.  From other reviews I have read, it appears to stick fairly close.

The Story

In some ways it’s standard modern military adventure.  The mission, though difficult seems pretty straightforward until SNAFU happens. The novel dances around real world conflicts – the majority of the action is set in Iran, but it’s an Iran that is crumbling from within.  The Russians are trying to recapture lost suitcase nukes from a defector who is willing to back Iranian extremists. The Americans perched on the border in Iraq roll in to stabilise the country after an earth quake and a sniff of a nuclear threat.  The Russian hierarchy are portrayed as self serving, the American's as locked in post 9-11 thinking with obstructive and counter productive security.

There’s some originality in the main character being a Russian and a good guy and the secondary character in Marine Sergeant Henry Blackburn being the thinking man’s soldier and a true patriot.

The Verdict

Truthfully, it was entertaining, I found myself rushing to the end to find out what happens.  Ultimately though I wanted to invest myself more in the characters and with it being a tie in to a game there was this thought at the edge of my consciousness that kept me from from becoming too immersed.  It was the knowledge that these characters which I had grown to like were going to be gone after this novel. That they were fluff or padding for the main show (being the game).  Is this fair? I’m not sure.

I also felt that  the ending was a bit clipped.  Our protagonist saves the world but the antagonist gets his comeuppance off screen. I’d recommend it for military fiction lovers and those who don’t want to get caught up in reading a series. The setting and action is plausible and realistic.

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


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Sentients of Orion eBooks available in the US

soo_dark-space_webMarianne de Pierres’ critically acclaimed Sentients of Orion series will be coming to the US in eBook form.  The first two books were previously released for a short period of time and then withdrawn.

Marianne happily informs us that the whole set is being made available in the very near future.

She’s even set up a website for the books - here

So who should buy Sentients of Orion?

There’s talented hard working authors who can work well within a genre  producing good works and giving the content hungry fans, their life sustaining space opera.

Then there are authors that bend the genre to their will infuse it with aspect of themselves that makes it wholly original.  I find Marianne to be one of those authors- if you want original space opera, something to give you that little bit extra I think you should check out the series.

I’ll be reading the entire series and reviewing it as part of Australian Women Writers 2012 National Year of Reading Challenge but don’t just rely on my opinions, go to the website and read what others have been saying.


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Nov 28, 2011

Book Review–Business of Death by Trent Jamieson

the-business-of-death-the-death-works-trilogy-bk-3I have a special affection for The Death Works series.  It was Trent’s books that got me into this book reviewing gig.  A fact for which my gratitude swings dependant on the books I get sent.

But seriously it’s been a pleasure reading the series and getting to the end.

Clearing things up

To clear up any confusion, the Death Works series was originally released as a trilogy, I reviewed the first two books earlier thisyear (Death most Definite and Managing Death). 

Business of Death was to be the title of the third book.  But to my knowledge it was never released as a single volume. Instead Orbit decided to release the third and final book in the series as part of a Omnibus edition(including the other two novels).  Business of Death became the title for the Omnibus as well as the title of the third instalment.

The Story continues…

At the end of Managing Death, Stephen De Selby ended up being the Orcus, the 13 Regional Managers in one.  He held the Hungry Death within him and managed to finish off his nemesis Rillman.  Now he hears the heartbeat of the world, feels each of the departed souls that his minions pomp. 

But this is Stephen we are talking about and he’s got that lackadaisical, “avoid the uncomfortable part of the job until the last minute” thing going.  If he wasn’t trying to avoid asking Lissa to marry him I fear nothing would get done. 

But things need to be done, hell is beginning to freeze over, the Stirrer god is coming - now appearing in the sky as a blazing comet. If this wasn’t enough he’s pissed off the Death of the Water.  To say things are looking bleak is an understatement.

Ultimately Stephen grows up and begins directing action rather than letting circumstance dictate it.  It’s a heroic ending and like all heroic endings infused with some tragedy.

What I enjoyed…

Stephen’s growth as a character.  From loser to reluctant participant to world saving demi god.  I really did think he’d come of age be the end of the book.  I also liked and was frustrated by his relationship with Lissa. I had to refrain from yelling at the character to just “ask her already”.

I appreciated the subtle referencing and remixing of myth and legend- Charon building an Ark.There was a distinct impression that the events in the book had all happened before, that echoes had reverberated down through history. I felt centred me as a reader while still being treated to a fresh and original backdrop.

What I didn’t…

I didn't enjoy the ending, it was perfectly executed though.  I just wanted it to end differently (an old romantic at heart).  The ending  is what made the story more dark/urban fantasy than paranormal for me.

Recommendations

I heartily recommend the whole trilogy to anyone who wants to read some fast paced, original, Australian flavoured urban fantasy.  I found the book to be visually enticing and think it would translate well to television.  Jamieson manages to deliver something that is both mile-a-minute and morbidly evocative.

This copy was provided to me at no cost by the publisher.


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Nov 27, 2011

Galactic Suburbia Number 47

I have only just finished listening to episode 46, so the women of Galactic Suburbia have shown incredible consideration in releasing the next episode in time with my schedule.

This week we hear of the passing of Fantasy and Sci-Fi great Anne McCaffrey a writer who I avoided in my teens because “boys don’t read books by girls”( i wish I could go back and hit my teenage self over the head with the Farseer trilogy).

They also link to Charles Tan’s roundup of the coverage.

The Goods

You know the drill play it below or click on the download link


Podcast Powered By Podbean

[Download it or die wondering]

No idea what Galactic Suburbia is?

Go here and check out one of Australia's best regular panel discussions on feminism and speculative fiction.


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It’s got nothing to do with book blogging…

but here’s an important message that speaks for itself.

It’s time, when the majority want it and the cause is right and just.


A community service message brought to you by those with compassion.

Nov 23, 2011

Library Loot – November 23 to 29

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

This week it’s hosted by Claire(where you will find the linky).


manningWell despite having worked full time this week I managed to squeeze in a trip to the library(it’s at the same school I teach).  While waiting for my wife to pick me up I got roped into culling the autobiography and history sections .  The downside was an hour of unpaid work the upside first crack at the deleted books.

So loot for this week included a Two volume set of the Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia, The Angus and Robertson concise Australian Encyclopaedia and Manning Clarks’ A Short History of Australia. 

laneBut the real gem was Jane Austen’s World by Maggie Lane, which sadly had never been borrowed.

I also checked out the new releases at my online library and downloaded:

A Science Fiction Omnibus by Brian Aldiss. Just for some good old fashioned science fiction shorts.

Atrocitology by Mathew White.  I am a bit of a history buff so interesting angles on old facts get me excited.

atrociLittle Star by John Ajvide Lindqvist.  Really liked Let the Right One In but this is supposedly not supernatural horror, more murder mystery.

The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham becasue I find him easy to read and not out of touch with the 21st century as much as someone who wrote in the 50’s might be thought to be.

Triptych by Krissy Keen because this book is supposed to be challenging, and I think I can take it.


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Nov 22, 2011

What power? Bad Power

images (2)That’s right Bad Power by Deborah Biancotti, the fourth in Twelfth Planet Press’ Twelve Planets series has gone to the printers and should be available to salivating TPP fans everywhere very soon.

What is Bad Power?
A collection of 5 linked short tales by one of Australia’s up and coming speculative fiction authors.  The general theme is the use and abuse of power. 
It’s described as “a pocketbook police procedural, set in a world where the victories are only relative, and the defeats are absolute. Bad Power celebrates the worst kind of powers both supernatural and otherwise…”

Ann Vandemeer has called it “appetisingly wicked”.

Who is Deborah Biancotti?
A Sydney based writer who describes herself as a “tired idealist”.  Biancotti’s first published story won an Aurealis Award.  Her first collection of short stories, A book of Endings (also published through TPP) was nominated for a Crawford Award.

What are the Twelve Planets?
The Twelve Planets are twelve boutique collections by some of Australia’s finest female short story writers.
Varied across genre and style, each collection will offer four short stories and a unique glimpse into worlds fashioned by some of our favourite storytellers.

You can buy them via subscription or one off - here

eBook versions are available for International readers and those that prefer digital format (though being a small press these lag behind the paperback release.

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Nov 21, 2011

Not on Twitter…

images (1)but still want to hear what the cool kids are talking about?

Well Twitter’s not for everyone, some of us have busy lives, some of us don’t want to develop vitamin deficiencies. Some strong willed people draw the line at Twitter or Facebook or Google + or (gasp!) all three.

That’s cool. But sometimes you miss out on stuff.  Some of that stuff is important, like:

Creative Industries' Career Fund

As part of the Cultural Fund, CAL also allocates $150,000 a year to support individual Australian creators and those involved in the creative industries who wish to develop their skills and take their careers to the next level.
Applicants can apply for grants of up to $5,000 to undertake training, travel or other activities that will enhance their careers.
The application deadline for the next round of funding is 5.00 pm Friday 20 January 2012.

Click here to download application guidelines and information on the Creative Industries' Career Fund.
Click here to view some of the more recent projects supported by the Creative Industries' Career Fund.

tweeted by Krasnostein

Some of it is funny, like:

tweeted by davechua

Sometimes I find myself having to go on a Twitter diet but to ensure that I can quickly look at important tweets for the day I use a semi automated service that collates tweets and makes a daily tweet newspaper. 

The service is called Paper.li and my two daily papers are:

The Bookbloggers Daily

and

Austral-Asian SpecFic Daily

The first is general book information, the second is, as the title suggests, focussed on speculative fiction in the South East Asia and Australia/New Zealand.

You can subscribe at these pages and the service will send you an email each day letting you know the paper is out.

So please subscribe if you are interested, it’s free.


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Nov 19, 2011

Race Fail… or not?

 

The world continues to get smaller and more interconnected and a consequence of this our cultural experiences and histories begin to rub up against one another.  Nalo Hopkinson, a brilliant Jamaican science fiction writer recently commented on the name of one of the characters in the Green Lantern universe.

From Twitter:

nalohopkinson Nalo Hopkinson

Watching Green Lantern. Michael Clarke Duncan's character is named...Killa Wog? WTF?#ohnotheydidnt #racefail

I must admit that I face palmed as well, I mean “Kill-a-wog”, come on everyone knows that wog is a derogative moniker for those of darker skin.  Or you would if you were a resident or citizen of the British Commonwealth.  In the United kingdom it refers to Afro-Caribbean, and Mediterranean ethnicities, in Australia it’s generally the later.

But the original creator of the character comes from the US where generally “wog” doesn't have that negative connotation, as pointed out by blogger Will Shetterly

Kentucky Fried Race fail

The Kentucky Fried chicken Ad. below caused an uproar on US television because of the negative associations with fried chicken, black people and the history of slavery.

The Ad., however, featured West Indian cricket supporters and was intended for a different audience and a different cultural experience.  West Indian crowds are known and appreciated for the loud and colourful response to the cricket and from memory there were other adds targeted at other supporters.

Now I grew up in a town with an American Defence Facility, and my exposure to American cultural norms, is different to that of most Australians, I can see the potential for misunderstanding.

Generally, though despite our similarities Australians and Americans are generally fairly ignorant of one another's cultures.  There’s an oft quoted survey completed in the 1980’s that found that 60% of American’s surveyed confused Australia with Austria.

So, some questions

As creatives, can we, should we, be so widely versed in everyone’s culture that we don’t inadvertently cause offense? Is this possible?


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Nov 16, 2011

Hal Spacejock #1 Free on Amazon

 

imagesI reviewed Simon Haynes children’s fiction - Hal Junior here.  But long before Simon ventured into that territory he’d already brought out a number of humorous Sci-Fi titles with the character Hal Spacejock.

The Hal series earned him the moniker of Australia’s Terry Pratchett.  So, dear readers you are in luck.  Simon’s first book in the Spacejock series is available free on Amazon for a limited time.

Not a Kindle user.  You should be able to convert this title using Calibre as it doesn’t have DRM.

Click the link below:

Hal Spacejock


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Nov 14, 2011

The Google Ebook Beachhead a couple of weeks in…

D-day.13As mentioned in an earlier post Google eBooks has landed in Australia.  So far I think it’s a positive move.  While it’s another Megacorp at least having it and Amazon means there’s some semblance of competition in the eBook market place.

It’s also good for local book sellers giving them a platform that can be easily integrated into their existing online stores.

I note that book bloggers can also get in on the affiliate action in much the same way that they can with Amazon Associates1, though at this stage Amazon’s integration for bloggers kicks seven shades shinola out of Google’s.

Let’s take a closer look

Dymocks and Booktopia look to be the only two local stores that are up and running with their integration with QBD to follow.  Personally I find Booktopia2 to have the best integration.

There are some oddities though – I would have though all being tied to the same platform, that Dymocks, Booktopia and Google Books Australia would be standard in their pricing across the board and that all books would be available.

That’s not the case.

For Example

Blood Countess by Tara Moss

Dymocks – Available as eBook for $17.99( $8 more than the Paperback)

Google eBooks – N/A

Booktopia – N/A

Business of Death by Trent Jamieson

Dymocks – N/A

Google eBooks – $12.99

Booktopia – $12.99

Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson

Dymocks – N/A

Google eBooks – $9.99

Booktopia – $16.99

I note positively and with some surprise though that quite a few Australian Speculative fiction authors can be found.

Price and Service Matter 

So my thinking is that its all well and good to have a platform to sell ebooks, but your pricing has to be competitive, and you have to have the stock.  I don’t really want to have to look at five online sites to find the cheapest option.  I want to develop a store loyalty, a trusted online portal where I get service and value for money. Where navigation is child’s play.

That’s all that really matters in this game, service and price.  The argument that Amazon is a closed system (locks your books in) is also becoming redundant with the arrival of cheap tablets that can handle both formats through apps. 

When my Sony started playing up last month I prevaricated over buying a kindle and in the end opted to wait to see what the new Cumulus(el cheapo tablet) had to offer

As it stands

So while Google is establishing a beach head, I think Amazon holds the high ground at this stage.


1.  I am in two minds about using affiliate links, the most money I have made over a 5 year period was $20.

2. This stands to reason as there are probably the best online bookstore in Australia, and I think really understand the playing field.


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Nov 13, 2011

A Plethora of Podcasts

 

podcastRegular readers will already be subscribed to the following podcasts (and if they are not –tsk tsk). 

Live & Sassy

First up we have Live and Sassy, Episode 2 with Jonathan Strahan, Alisa Krasnostein and Alan”Amazon is Not Your Friend” Beatts.  If you like listening to knowledgeable folk talking about the publishing and bookselling industry this one is for you.  You can play it direct from the widget below or download the mp3 here.

 
The Girlz from Galactic Suburbia
 
Episode 46 of Galactic Suburbia is up and this week it’s the full crew. They celebrate The World Fantasy Awards, talk about Kickstarter  and why people like to support authors/artists directly.  Oh an apparently they go through feedback this week (I'll believe it when I hear it).  The download is here.
 
 
 
Pre-Recorded Coode Street
 
Jonathan has a series of pre-recorded podcasts with various Science fiction authors while he and Gary K Wolfe have some downtime.
 
 

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Book Review–The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson

Alloy

This is my first Brandon Sanderson and on this book alone it probably wont be my last1.

Fantasy is a tough field in which to appear original or even fresh.  With The Alloy of Law though, I felt my self being pleasantly surprised by Sanderson’s take on the march of progress within his own Mistborn Universe.

The The Alloy of Law is set several hundred years after the events of the original Mistborn Trilogy.  If I were to describe it in one sentence, it’s a magical, western, adventure mystery set in an increasingly industrialised fantasy world.

The Tale

Our lead Wax, the black sheep of a respected noble family returns to the city after long years spent in the “Roughs” as a magic wielding, six shooting lawman.  He’s escaping from a tragedy in which he played a part, only to find his noble House in disarray after the untimely death of his Uncle and Sister. 

Resigned to acting respectable, Lord Waxillium Ladrian puts aside his former life and sets about finding a marriage of convenience to restore the family’s honour and finances.  It’s not long before boredom and a spate of mysterious robberies and kidnappings draws him back into his previous life.

He’s aided in this adventure by a long time associate and light-fingered friend Wayne and the cousin of the woman he is to marry, Lady Marasi, who is training as lawyer.

Steampunk my dear Watson?

I prevaricated on adding a steampunk tag to The Alloy of Law - it certainly has the pseudo Victorian/industrialisation vibe. It lacks, to my mind though, the Mad scientist/Artificer component. That being said it will appeal to those that enjoy the Steampunk sub-genre.

The mystery component and the interplay between Wax and Wayne has echoes of Sherlock Holmes - a mysterious criminal mastermind, a lead with a tragic past.

A magical mash up of Western and Wuxia

On the surface there’s no direct referencing of Asian culture but the visuals and the moral message of the tale certainly are reminiscent of the Wuxia. Wayne also uses a pair of duelling canes which I take to be a not so subtle tip toward the Filipino art of Eskrima.

Wax’s magical abilities allow him to push off certain metals and to make his body lighter or heavier.  Visually we have a character that can fly, and deflect bullets, another that can alter time. It’s a novel that I think would translate very well to film.

Judging a book by its cover

2011-11-13 11.04.12We shouldn’t but we do.  Book art is an integral part of the reading of the text.  In some cases it will be what draws you to a book.  In all cases, I think, it begins that process of drawing you into the world(or distracting you if its bad or ill fitting).

On that note I vastly prefer the white cover by Sam Green, its in keeping with  the rest of the Mistborn Series and has wider appeal than the faux Western style of the US cover. 

What I really appreciated was the interior art inserts in the form of The Elendel Daily, a broadsheet from the city in which the story is set in.  A lovely touch that was reminiscent of the 19th Century convention of illustrating novels. An excellent use of art to further aid reader immersion.

As our heroes ride into the sunset

It didn’t knock my socks off but it left me wanting to read more of the lives of Wax, Wayne and Marasi. It left me wanting to explore the world Sanderson has created and the ending certainly suggests that Sanderson will be be forthcoming on more adventures set in this time period.

The Alloy of Law is a fast moving adventure mystery, with trappings of several subgenres and a hint of sexual tension that makes for an enjoyable well rounded read.

Available from:

Booktopia (paperback & expensive ebook)

Amazon(Kindle/Paperback/Hardcover)

Google( for cheapest ePub version)

This book was a review copy provided by the publisher


Footnotes:

1.I do have some issues with Brandon Sanderson’s stance on gay marriage that were a barrier to me enjoying the work – a discussion worthy of its own post.


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Nov 11, 2011

Ask Brisbane’s Supanova Extra’s

I may have mentioned that I attended Supanova.  I was in the audience while some of this video was being filmed - waiting incidentally, for Mooyah of  KickBoxing Roosters who was also in attendance.

She’s blogged about Supanova here


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Google books hits Australia

Google Books is now operating in Australia, teaming up with independents like Booktopia below.

booktopia.com.au - Australia's #1 online bookstore

Haven’t really had time to do a comprehensive search of content but it looks encouraging.

ImageFirst up we have Trent Jamieson’s Business of Death, the conclusion to his Deathworks series and incorporating the first two books in an omnibus.

On amazon it’s not available as an ebook (Gasp!) but its available as an ebook from Booktopia/Google for $12.99 which let’s face it is pretty bloody good for three books.

Edit: also available on Kobo for the same price.

 

Angel-Arias_web-192x300I was hoping for Rowena Cory Daniells’ King Rolen’s Kin Trilogy as it’s available as a bundle from the Sony store(if you happen to live in the US) but no luck, it’s not available on either Kobo or Google.

My final check for speculative fiction was Marianne de Pierres. Booktopia/Google has nine of her booksThe Sentients of Orion, The Parrish Plessis series and her two YA novels Burn Bright and Angel Arias.

I also tried looking for Jennifer Mills’ Diamond Anchor and Gone which I know to exist in ebook form - no luck.

So at this point in time it looks like it’s a bit patchy but it’s early days yet.


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I’m back. Did you miss me?

 

shot_1320968608266Well that was a nice little jaunt to Brisbane. I have a really cute nephew – who despite his parents warnings to the contrary, never woke me up.  I slept, as they say, like a baby1.

Highlights of the trip were of course, said nephew and his parents (haven’t seen my sister since she got married 3 years ago) and Supanova.

 

Overwhelmed

To say that I was overwhelmed by Supanova is a little of an understatement.  Perhaps it’s living rurally for 3 years, where a crowded street is another person walking toward you on the footpath.

At its peak the pressing crowd was stifling and oppressive.  Talking to the authors at the Dymocks stand though, I was informed that it would have been impossible to move in the exhibition hall if they hadn't already held a Supanova earlier in the year.

 

Movie stars from afar

I thought about lining up for signatures at the Movie/TV star pavilion but to things put me off

  1. The price – $30 each for a signature
  2. The Line – continually 100 metres long for about 4 hours.

I did see Val Kilmer and Billy Boyd from afar and really that was enough.

 

Authors are cooler than movie stars

I preferred to hang about the Dymocks stand where

  1. The authors actually engage you in conversation
  2. The authors sign your books for free

I met a number of authors in person

They were all much cooler than Val Kilmer. 


1.  My brother in law’s home brew may have had some influence here.
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Nov 1, 2011

Aurealis Issue 46–Out now and free!

aur46

The second FREE issue of Aurealis has been released.  If you are interested in Australian Speculative Fiction then Aurealis is the flagship publication.

They recently restructured and have gone entirely digital with selected collections to receive the paper print treatment throughout the year. 

Download it here. Go on, do it now!

You will not be disappointed.  Well maybe if you are one of those Luddite types. But then if you are reading this post…anyway.

I note that they have graciously included a link to my post on issue 46.


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On holidays…sort of

I will be winging my way to Queensland after all ( tah Qantas) and so things may be a little quiet this week as I have limited access to a computer.

If you need to get in touch with me urgently I will be accessing twitter reasonably regularly.

I shall be attending Supanova, so I hope to get some photo’s and will try the blogging app on my phone.

Books I’ll be taking to read

But I have the paperback with the white cover.

A rather compact Omnibus if I might say.

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and Nightsiders.

 


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Win some Marianne de Pierres Swag

nylonMarianne, who rumour has is just finishing off the latest Tara Sharp book has a competition running at The Booklover’s club Facebook page here.

Note that Marianne is also due to be attending Brisbane Supanova this coming weekend. 

She’ll be at the Dymocks stand with a number of other topflight Aussie authors.

 

 


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Congratulations to Alisa and Twelfth Planet Press

Those readers who subscribe to my twitter feed will have already heard the news.

Alisa Krasnostein editor and proprietor of Twelfth Plant Press was awarded  the Special Award, Non-Professional at the World Fantasy Convention held in San Diego this year.

This is the second year running that a Twelfth Planet Press project/person has picked up an international award.  Alisa attended last years Washington Science Fiction Association awards for Tansy Rayner Roberts’ Siren Beat novella which won the WSFA Small Press Award.

So a heartfelt congratulations to Alisa, the writers, staff and volunteers that help create a top flight product.

If you want to check out the convention speeches  click on the video below (its just under an hour) Alisa

H/T to Rowena Cory Daniells, The Book Nut

Book Review–In Other Worlds: Science Fiction and the Human Imagination by Margaret Atwood

In other final.indd

In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination is a curious book. But to understand some of its raison d'ĂȘtre you need a little background.

Once upon a time…

Margaret Atwood seems to have had tense relationship with some elements of the science fiction community( and vice versa) since her release of the novel The Handmaid's Tale in 1985. 

Atwood was awarded the Arthur C Clarke1  for The Handmaid's Tale , which was also nominated for a Nebula2 and a Prometheus 3 – all science fiction awards.  It was also a finalist for the prestigious Booker Prize for literature.

She has previously distanced herself from the science fiction scene stating that she doesn’t consider what she writes to be science fiction, that she writes speculative fiction.  Perhaps her early response to praise from the science fiction community, in the form of awards, can be viewed understandably as an impolite rebuff and characterising science fiction as “talking squids in space” as late as 2003 probably hasn’t helped either.

She has been accused of protecting her brand as a writer of serious literature of not wanting to be branded or pigeon holed as genre fiction writer.  I don’t think that there’s enough evidence to back this claim and Atwood herself dismisses it within the book.

Answering her critics or simply,”this is me take it or leave it”

In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination is an interesting a mix of biography, essay and fiction. 

The first hundred or so pages are heavily biographical, while simultaneously being educative.  This section consists of three chapters that grew out of her Ellman Lectures delivered at Emory University in 2010.  They chart her development and her changing experience with what many would term science fiction.  The Chapter “Flying Bunnies” covers her childhood and the origins and development of superheroes in popular culture. 

The second chapter covers her undergraduate years and deals with her interest in the mythologies and metaphysics that were the fertile soil in which earlier science fiction grew. 

The final chapter explores the Victorian underpinnings of Utopias and Dystopias, Metaphysical Romances and in terms of biography, covers her writing of the Dystopian fictions, The Handmaids Tale, Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood. 

Her execution of this section of the book is seamless, like having a conversation with a learned friend, where you gain the benefit of learning about their life and developing a connection, while at the same time walking away with your brain firing on all cylinders due to the intellectual stimulation it’s received.

It goes some way to explaining her position i.e.  She generally doesn’t write science fiction, her lauded science fiction works aren’t science fiction they are speculative fiction and I think her argument for her position is sound. 

We could argue that in this day and age it doesn’t really matter.  But I’m inclined to sit back respect her definition of herself and her writing - essentially I don’t care, I’d read her fiction regardless of whether its speculative fiction, science fiction or romance – I think at times we get too hung up on labels and squeezing what should be a fluid art form into rigid categories.

The Analytical Atwood

Wherein she turns the analysis outward.

The next section labelled “Other Deliberations” an is a collection of what I suppose you would call her analytical pieces, this is Atwood the Academic/Reviewer, commenting on science fiction.

It was the discussions of Swift, Orwell, Wells and Huxley that really impressed me.  I don’t know that I am used to the sort of analysis and knowledge that Atwood can bring to the discussion of these writers but she has awoken a desire in me to reacquaint myself with them.

Now this is science fiction

The final section is some selected science fiction that she has written over the years. It’s science fiction by her definition and distinct from her speculative fiction.  I can’t help but think she’s being a bit playful here, saying “look I’m not afraid to write science fiction and here it is”. 

While all the pieces are short they demonstrate the skill that she can bring to bear on the genre. Her short,  “Cold-Blooded” about a race of sentient moth like creatures discovering Earth and observing and interacting with us is a truly beautiful piece and as expected full of the wit and cutting observation that Atwood weaves in her fiction.

Who is this book for?

I think it has broad appeal.  It is perhaps easier to say who wouldn’t be interested.  I think if you are too invested in the to and fro between arguing that her work is science fiction then there’s not going to be much to persuade you here.  If you are an Atwood fan you’ll love it, if you a science fiction fan you’ll appreciate and enjoy it.

Atwood is a writer, a brilliant writer of poetry, fiction and non fiction.  Arguing that she is a science fiction writer seems to miss the point - that her while her science fiction as other might label it, is well regarded, it is but a small part of her overall body of work.  Focussing on that aspect of Atwood alone is reducing her to a very small part of who she is.

For an interesting discussion on this book please check out the Coode Street Podcast featuring Ursula K Le Guin (download)

 

 
This book was provided to me by the publisher

Footnotes

1. The United Kingdoms best Science Fiction novel of the previous year

2. The American equivalent of the best science fiction/fantasy novel

3. A libertarian science fiction award.


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