Nov 29, 2012

South of Sanity–Horror in the Antarctic

I was listening to Radio National earlier this week and Richard Fidler was talking to Melissa Langridge an Australian marine biologist who recently worked in Antarctica. The conversation around her research - the diving into ice cold water, having to wory about aggressive fur seals and basically having to painfully thaw your extremities was great. (download audio here)

But there was a little twist to the story.  The team members,cooped up in the Antarctic base decided to pass their downtime by creating a horror film about a group of scientists being stalked by a deranged murderer in an Antarctic base.

Apparently the film itself has gone viral checkout the trailer below

As an odd bit of trivia, the writer’s mother, a freelance make-up artist who provided blood and gore recipes for special effects, previously worked on Dr Who.


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Nov 27, 2012

Kaaron Warren–Wins Canberra Critic’s Award for Writing

kaaron-spinteredwalls-01Belated congratulations are in order for Kaaron Warren for taking out the Canberra Critics award for writing for her short collection Through Splintered Walls, “stories inspired by the beauty, danger, cruelty, emptiness and perfection of the Australian landscape.”

Through Splintered Walls is from the Twelve Planets Collection published by Twelfth Planet Press.  It’s available in both paperback and ebook form.

 

 

 


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The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume 7

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Jonathan Strahan of Coode Street is just putting the finishing touches on The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume Seven.  It’s his 36th Anthology.

You can find the Table of Contents on his blog here. A good balanced cross section of the best fiction out this year.

Good to see Margo Lanagan getting a guernsey too.

Out around March of 2013.

 


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Nov 26, 2012

eBook Review–Stalin’s Hammer–Rome

 

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Stalin’s Hammer: Rome is the first in a set of serialised novellas from John Birmingham.  I managed to pick it up at the introductory price of $2.99 (it’s since reverted to $4.99).

So, I am ashamed to admit, this is my first Birmingham – but it won’t be my last.  Set in the alternate history of the Axis of Time series, it focuses on Stalin’s attempt to derail the future as the uptimers have foretold it.

But Stalin’s machinations largely take a back seat in this instalment. The setting is Rome, segregated much like Berlin was in our timeline.  The West on one side, the communists on the other.  We follow the adventures of two uptimers  Prince Harry, commando, heir to the future English throne and Pavel Ivanov, ex–Spetsnaz, freelance spy, as they attempt to uncover Stalin’s plans. There’s action and intrigue aplenty - a nice intro to the alternate history and it sets up some interesting plotlines for future resolution.

Birmingham’s style is engaging and the take on history inventive. I would have liked more of the story, but I guess that’s the point of serialised fiction, to get you to want to read more. It falls more into the camp of the post war spy fiction category in terms of pacing, the short nature of the medium really doesn’t allow for an escalating run up to a techno thriller ending.

I’ll be coming back for more.


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Booktopia Free Shipping and The Bookonaut’s 5 star recommendations

Booktopia_Online_Bookstore_120x90The wonderful folk at Booktopia are having a another free postage week (ends 30th of November) where you can order as much as you like and pay no postage.  Which works out really well especially if you run through their bargain bins.

You need to use the coupon code CHRISTMAS2012 in the appropriate area on checkout.

Now I have taken a quick look through the bargain bins for Science Fiction and Fantasy and while there’s not much that appears to be new, there are still bargains to be had.

Science Fiction Bargain Bin

Fantasy Bargain Bin

 


5 Star Ratings

But if you have a bit more cash on hand and want to find that special something for your friend or family member that likes books I’ll share with you what have been my 5 star reads so far this year.

Note the 5 star rating is given to books that really get an emotional reaction from me.

The links below are to my reviews. You should be able to find most of these through Booktopia:

Gone by Jennifer Mills

The Shattered City by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Bad Power by Deb Biancotti

When we have wings be Claire Corbett

Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan

Bitter Greens by Kate Foresyth

Shattered: Broken Fairytales by Rabia Gale

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

Besieged by Rowena Cory Daniells

Exile by Rowena Cory Daniells

The Price of Fame RC Daniells

The Rest is Weight by Jennifer Mills


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Nov 25, 2012

Signal Boost – International Science Fiction Issue 1

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This is the second issue put out by the team at ISF, issue 0 was released in June and I somehow missed it.

So issue 1 features fiction from Joyce Chng, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, and a translated work by  Marian Truta.

There’s a reprint of a Stenislaw Lem essay on Phillip K Dick and some great cover art by Rafael Mendes.

ISF comes in pdf format, is 32 pages long and free.  I’d happily pay for epub version though as reading the pdf on my laptop screen is not optimal.

Chng’s Metal Can Lanterns, was a great twist on honouring traditions, and on the naturally subversive and subtly challenging nature of young children.

Loenen-Ruiz’s,59 Beads, was an enthralling piece about sacrifices made for families, and the unseen cost of that sacrifice.

All in all it was a nice powerful little package of International speculative fiction.  I recommend you check them out at http://internationalsf.wordpress.com


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eBook Review - Jaded Rein by AG Chambers

jadedLotus Magma called Jaded Rein, ”Dark Angel meets X-Men meets James Bond. Jaded Rein is a cleverly seductive, yet sophisticated, thriller set in a futuristic scene with a killer twist. A highly recommended read.”

I, unfortunately, can’t agree with them. It’s been the hardest review I have had to write in recent times because I fell like I am criticising a neophyte writer. Someone who should have been guided by an experienced editor or some writers group colleagues.

The Text Itself

Jaded Rein feels like a manuscript that still needs workshopping.  I believe it has been independently edited, and for the most part it’s a fairly clean document i.e. no glaring typographical errors. I guess it depends what you are paying an editor for though. I noted spelling errors and the words seized used instead of ceased, weary instead of wary, before I gagged my inner editor. 

But that’s not the major irritation.  There was a preponderance of purple prose, overwrought similes, and sentences that verged on not making sense.  I feel as if any half decent editor would have sat Chambers down and queried what she was actually trying to say, and got her to refine the writing. For example:

“Everyone in the government is aware of its collapse although nothing official has been stated, written or verbal.” The Prime Minister was the epitome of political.

Chambers is a neophyte writer and it unfortunately shows in this work.

A romance in sci-fi/thriller trapping

In a world where Doppelgangers roam freely with their human counterparts a new war has begun; finding the scammers in a condition barely in its infancy. The government can't tackle what they do not know how to handle - and that's where Jade's team comes in.Made up of DP's with different replicating abilities, Jade's team seeks to quietly dispose of what the government's made a mess of.

But this time there are stakes involved. Tasked with the contract of taking down an Intel DP cult that has taken Stratford as hostage, Jade must put aside her personal feelings and recruit Rein - the most cunning Intel on the scale - in order to get the job done.

The focus of the book is on the emotional interplay between the characters, Jade and Rein in particular. To claim as one reader did, that the book was a must read for science fiction fans, makes me think they aren’t one. 

The setting is futuristic, but aside from the world building around the concept of DP’s(essentially people with psychic abilities – characterised as an entity that exists outside of your own body) it’s a very vaguely sketched future. There’s a Prime Minister and a town called Stratford and that’s about as much information as you get on setting. There’s no flavour to the world beyond the rather inventive use of food smells to describe emotional states.

It lacks the thriller pace, chiefly due to it being exposition heavy. There is also the sense that Chambers doesn’t have a clear understanding of the tropes used in thrillers and military/spy fiction and the expectations of a thriller reader. Then again maybe the label thriller, isn’t one of her choosing. 

There’s a scene where Jade uses a Derringer to shoot out a security camera the size of a penny.  A modicum of research on the weapon will tell you why this is stretches my suspension of disbelief to breaking point.  I suspect though that the derringer might have been an article to give the character some flavour.

As a romance I found the tension to be obvious and forced. The characters are emotionally immature and again not what you would expect from experienced and battle weary operatives.  I felt as if I was being bludgeoned with descriptions of how the characters were holding themselves back from one another, some subtlety, some uncertainty, wouldn’t have gone astray here.

I commend anyone who finishes a manuscript and seeks to publish it, writing fiction is not as easy as some seem to think it is. I think publishing Jaded Rein was, however, a premature move on Chambers part. It could have been a much better book-the core idea is reasonably sound but the execution is this case is lacking. 


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Nov 22, 2012

Bookonaut Podcast Update

Bookpod1And yes maybe the Bookonaut Podcast may have been a better title.

Anywho.

So I have a Facebook site set up for all those people who don’t blog and twitter - it can be found over here.  Go like me if you want to.

The show will be hosted on PodOmatic as they seem to offer a pretty good service and if the show takes off will provide room for growth. If you want to subscribe early you can do so at the podcast home here.

But fear not I will be posting show notes here, on the podcast site and on Facebook. When it goes live.

The Format

Will go more or less like this:

  • Funky music intro by Brazillian band
  • Interview with Emerging genre writer
  • Adbreak/segment break featuring famous peeps cross promoting
  • Signal Boost Interview with writer of colour/non western writers/ disadvantaged writers
  • Adbreak/segment break featuring famous peeps cross promoting
  • Discussion with commentator/academic on issue of the day/month
  • Listener audio feedback

Recording for episode one in underway with a tentative release date of mid December. To build some anticipation...

The emerging writers slot of episode one has been filled by Luke Preston, who has just released his hard hitting and fast paced crime novel, Dark City Blue through Momentum Books.

If you want to be on the show feel free to send me an email sbwright at gmail.


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Nov 21, 2012

Emerging Writer Opportunity– South Aus

The Adelaide Writer’s Centre are organising their  Writer in Residence (Emerging Writers) program.

If you want to get a boost to your writing career you should apply.  Go to their website to checkout the details

Writer in Residence (Emerging Writers)– Opportunity

The SA Writers' Centre is pleased to announce our 2013 Writer in Residence (Emerging Writers) program. A three month opportunity is available to all South Australian emerging writers to be a part of the program on a full time basis, beginning in February 1 through to April 30. and one beginning in October. The deadline for applications is 5pm, 18 January, 2013. There are numerous benefits to the writer as part of this program and will be a highly sought after professional development opportunity. Guidelines, application requirements and more information can be found here.


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Twelfth Planet Press eBooks via Amazon

tppheader4-copyTwelfth Planet Press is rolling out yet more eBooks via Amazon.  So for all you internationals you now have no excuse. Currently available are:

Cracklescape, Salvage, Thief of Lives, Bad Power, Above Below, Love and Romanpunk, Through Splintered Walls and Showtime.

Go here to check them out.

 


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Wednesday links for the win

So folks, there has been a fair bit of internet win the last two days.  I thought I might spread some of the links that I have found of interest:

First up is Peter M Balls Pledging My Allegiance to the Fake Geek Army which is comment on the furore caused by Comic Book creator Tony Harris.  Peter articulates many of the feelings I have on the subject.  This post and Tansy Rayner Roberts’ post What Geek Girls Wear (Is None of Your Business) mean that I won’t have to vent my spleen.  If you are still hankering for more on the subject David MacDonald also has a post called Geek Tribalism and Sexism.


Do you ever get tired of companies trying to push the boundaries with ebooks, offering a transmedia experience (ie imbedded movies, qr codes that lead you to other sites).  Do you feel like we are being trained to buy the next best bit of techno- bling? Well check out Joel Naoum’s blog over at Momentum – you’ll be interested in what he has to say in Who Wants to Read this Stuff? The Business of Storytelling in a Digital World.


And while you are looking at things Momentuum, check out their Podcast – Podmentum, especially episode 2 where they talk genre versus literature and Literature goes home in a body bag (not really, but it’s very genre friendly).


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Nov 20, 2012

Coming Soon–The Adventures of a Bookonaut Podcast

Bookpod1

Yes I am intent on hearing my on voice and forcing you to listen to it as well. Oh I went for Tardis blue for the background - do you like?

But what about Galactic Chat?

Yes still doing that as well.

Ok but aren’t you supposed to be writing?

Hmmm. Yes. But I have to have other passions to for when the rejections come home to roost.

Ok I’m interested. So what’s it about?

Well I’m glad you asked. At this stage I am planning interviews tied more to a theme than one offs.  Similar to my authors and social media set last year. So I am hoping to make a feature of some Singaporean speculative fiction writers to begin with.

My hope is to have content that

a) isn’t being replicated elsewhere and

b) that gives the fringes of Speculative fiction/genre a boost.

So at the moment I am toying with format.  I think it best to make it a monthly show and that really rules out any sort of news segment.  I could give concise reviews of books/short stories that I have read that are worthy of the attention but I am not convinced that you really want to hear that.

But one thing I am going to be bringing about is reader feedback in the form of voice recording.  That’s right you will be able to go to a link and record a message that I will hopefully include as part of the podcast.

I know, its just like talkback radio except it’s not live and I don’t get paid

So feel free to either make your suggestions in the comment field below or…

record a message here.


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eBook Review–Dark City Blue by Luke Preston

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Dark City Blue is a fast paced crime thriller published by Momentum, the digital offspring of PanMacmillan.

What can I say about Dark City Blue that others haven’t said already?

It’s the cage fighting equivalent of a police procedural: violent, gaudy, and packing heat.” – Trent Jamieson, author of the Death Works trilogy

” … noir on No-Doz … ” – Fair Dinkum Crime

To tell you the truth it was Trent Jamieson’s quote that hooked me.  I trust his taste and Dark City Blue didn’t disappoint.  The idea – maverick cop goes undercover to expose graft and corruption in the police force, is not new.  Indeed were this set in America I think you’d already have cast Bruce Willis for the lead.

It’s mature stuff, breaking a ring of child abusing pornographers and unearthing the police presence in the running of teen brothels.  The violence is bloody – the main character gets beaten with a bag of crushed glass and shot. But there’s also heart and depth to our main character Tom Bishop, a man whose still keeping his head above water, despite what life has thrown at him.

It’s more Jack Irish, than Underbelly: The Unwatchable.

Where Preston shines is in his ability to pull off a tale that is set in Australia while staying true to the hard boiled, thriller paced genre that has its genesis in American pop culture.  Dark City Blue feels very comfortable in its own bruised and bloodied skin.

Now, while I believe Dark City Blue to be Preston’s first published novel, he’s also received an inside film award for an unpublished screenplay.  The writing is tight, and the pacing superb and I can’t help wondering if the skills he’s developed in scriptwriting have bled over into writing a well structured novel.

Sometimes you don’t need to reinvent the wheel, you just need to produce one of quality. I’d easily drop dollars on the sequel.


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Nov 19, 2012

Immortalised in the Comic medium

olivwAs part of her blog anniversary Holly Kench over at Confessions of a Stuffed Olive ran a competition.

Entrants had to relate their most embarrassing and awkward moment.  The winner would get one of Holly’s fantastic minimalist comic strips as a prize, to immortalise their embarrassment.

And I, dear reader, did win.

Behold:

The Spanakopita and the Spare Pair of Undies

Warning: You opinion of me may drop or alternatively you may wet yourself laughing.  I recommend not drinking and reading at the keyboard.


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Galactic Chat meets Joe Abercrombie

GCLogoAnd lo the Gods of the internet did smile on me and I was able to record an interview with Joe Abercrombie and nothing went wrong.  Shortly after, as in the second I hung up the internet collapsed but hey maybe I should have used two chickens (for the sacrifice).

Any how here is the blurb for the show and as per usual you can play direct from the player below or use the download link.

This week Sean interviews International Best Selling Fantasy novelist Joe Abercrombie.  Joe was on a whirlwind tour of Australia promoting his latest workRed Country.

In this interview Sean asks Joe about the research required for writing a western and Joe is adamant it had nothing to do with the Whisky Death Match posts at his website.  They discuss the recent industry focussed Genrecon and when its a good idea to use maps in your fantasy novel.

Sean possibly starts a blood feud with the Coode Street Podcast by paraphrasing and taking out of context something that Gary and Jonathan probably never said about Fantasy.  But Joe's answer is informative and witty.  They talk film and the transference of skillsets needed in documentary film editing to writing.  Finally, Joe lets slip about his  up and coming Zombie Romance decology.

Joe can be found on his website.

To subscribe to Galactic Chat head on over to Podbean.

 

 
Download it here
 
Check out my two recent reviews of The Blade Itself and Red Country.
 

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Nov 18, 2012

Adelaide Supanova 1

 

So yesterday I traversed half the state (maybe an exaggeration, looking at the map) driving the two and a bit hours into Adelaide City for our inaugural Supanova. I think it’s important to support pop culture events like this even if I suspect that they won’t largely by my thing.

2012-11-17 11.39.41First up, great location.  The organizers get bonus points for the venue at the Adelaide Showgrounds.  The entire event was hosted inside a huge pavilion with air con – very important when the crowds start milling in.

Cosplayers we a bit light on comparing it to my Brisbane experience but there were a wide variety ranging from the “thrown together in an afternoon” to the professional.  I tried taking some shots but have decided that I either need a new camera or a better photographer.  Storm troopers and Daleks were out in force, combated by a smattering of Jedi and a small cadre of Fez wearing Doctors.

As always the author signing table (provided by Dymocks Adelaide) was good value.  Located right near the entrance of the exhibitors pavilion it was easy to find.  The one thing I love about Supanova, indeed the only reason I really go is to meet and chat with authors.  Thank goodness they don’t charge signing fees.

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I was able to have a good chat with Sean Williams – who despite living in Adelaide has been a hard man to track down.  I got to meet Joe Abercrombie in person (have recorded an interview with Galactic Chat) and discover his talent for signing.  Seriously, the man can sing.

It was lovely to meet Trudie Canavan who also introduced me to her talented photographer husband/partner Paul while being careful not to give me spoilers for her book. Trudie was another guest on Galactic Chat and although we were both at the Natcon we hadn’t met previously.

I had to sheepishly confess to Fiona McIntosh (whose workshop I attended last year) that I had not completed my manuscript  but had been writing short work.  I bought a book and she seemed okay, signing it with “keep writing”.

Sean introduced me to DM Cornish, whose name I had come across but whose work had a eluded me.  The surprise of the day was meeting up with Colin Taber, a Perth author who I interviewed last year who has his trilogy coming to an end and is now writing an alternate history.

If I have one criticism for the day its Supanova’s treatment of the non headline acts.  Now I know the big draw cards are the Felicia Days and the James Masters - they were held in carpeted arenas.  The comic book artists,writers and authors were held in the acoustic equivalent of a cordoned off shopping mall ie tiled floors high ceilings.  Consequently it was at times hard to hear them speak or they were interrupted by announcements. This isn’t an Adelaide problem, I observed the same thing in Brisbane last year.

I did take time to sit in on some of the big names – Luke Perry and Malcolm-Jamal Warner did a wonderful free flowing talk about Jeremiah and show biz in general. They filled about half the seating area.  Felicia Day was standing room only, so to anyone who says she doesn’t have influence in the “Nerd/Geek/Scene” can go and eat their hat as far as I’m concerned.

Will I go again? I’d like Supanova to provide a better experience for fans of Comicbook artists, writers and authors in general.  While the MC for the author/comic book artist events was wonderful I felt that the venues chosen were poor and possibly effected attendance.


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Nov 16, 2012

Submission day

100_5429-r35Well today is it.  The day that I set myself  to start sending out my story to the big scary world - my first bit of fiction in a long time. And while I still fear that I might be a literary equivalent of Frank Pickle, I realise that I simply must do it. I must send it out and get on with writing more. 

I will be aiming high, shooting for pro and semi-pro markets with the firm belief that I will be rejected ( you see I favour a rather stoic approach, what’s the worst they can say? No. Right?) but you never know.

My own opinion on the story swings between: a polished, well written work with some romantic tension and a certain realistic approach to post apocalyptic fiction and well… Frank Pickle.

So I don’t intend to report on the magazine who I submit to but I will note rejections.  I have set the limit at ten before I will trunk the work or consider a rewrite.  The purpose is to

a) provide some blog content

b) to work through the rejection process

c) to have a written record to refer back to in my memoirs to remind myself that the struggle is worth it

d) to provide entertainment/ a sense of solidarity with other readers who may be writers

Cheers

Frank   Sean


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Nov 15, 2012

Book Review–Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

a-red-country

Red Country is Joe Abercrombie’s latest.  A fusion of his grim, gritty and cynical fantasy writing and a lifetime of watching afternoon matinee westerns.

Some might struggle with the concept, perhaps short swords and stetsons sounds a bit off key. But, hey, it is possible to fuse disparate genres - Whedon did it with Firefly and I'm inclined to think that Abercrombie has done the same in Red Country. 

There’s a noticeable absence of firearms in the book and I’m pretty sure there aren’t any stetsons, but the story is packed full of tropes even the casual viewer or reader of the western genre will pick up on.

From evil marauding outlaws, to long, wagon laden convoys across vast plains.  There’s people searching for gold, a new life or both in the Far Country free from the trials and tribulations of living in the Union – free to build a better version of themselves or to hide the old one.

Shy South hoped to bury her bloody past and ride away smiling, but she’ll have to sharpen up some bad old ways to get her family back, and she’s not a woman to flinch from what needs doing.  She sets off in pursuit with only a pair of oxen and her cowardly old step father Lamb for company.  But it turns out Lamb’s buried a bloody past of his own.  And out in the lawless Far Country, the past never stays buried.


Their journey will take them across the barren plains to a frontier town gripped by gold fever, through feud, duel and massacre, high into the unmapped mountains to a reckoning with the Ghosts.  Even worse, it will force them into alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, and his feckless lawyer, Temple, two men no one should ever have to trust…

Regular readers of Abercrombie will know that the man has a preference for more modern dialogue. There’s a quite noticeable absence of archaic patterns of speech one might expect in Tolkien and a hell of a lot more cussin’. Red Country is presented in the same vein, with perhaps a slightly altered register and exposition that’s in keeping with the western mode.

Folk had swarmed to the bridge like flies to a midden, sucked in from across the wild and windy country to trade and drink, fight and fuck, laugh and cry and do whatever else folk did when they found themselves with company after weeks or months or even years without.

Again regular readers will know that aside from the fast, “in your face” violence, Abercrombie is known for his dark, dry wit and Red Country doesn’t disappoint.  There’s a number of exchanges between characters that had me in mind of some of the finer episodes of Deadwood. Not that I am saying that Abercrombie mimics the syntax and English usage in Deadwood but that the two share a similarity of rhythm in the verbal repartee between characters.

Oh and the swearing as well.

The other feature that struck me with Red Country is that Abercrombie’s world changes.  There’s progress from the time of The Blade Itself to this point.  There’s change  wrought by the demographic displacement of the gold rush and by the gradual development of industry.  By the end of Red Country we see the arrival of steam for instance.

In that sense Abercrombie's work, and Red Country continues this, is progressive and realistic, there’s little pining for the loss of the status quo. I thoroughly enjoyed the work, felt it straddled both genres well, it was Joe Abercrombie’s western infused fantasy not Joe Abercrombie trying to write a western.

You needn’t have read Abercrombie’s other works, this works very well on its own.

This book was provided by the publisher at no cost to my good person.


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Nov 14, 2012

Speaking of Blood and Dust

XOUM030_Bllod_Dust_Monaros_02f-199x300Here’s the cover for Jason Nahrung’s Blood and Dust, from Xoum.  I presume the titles will be available through major digital publishers like Amazon, Kobo etc as their doesn’t appear to be a buy link on the site.

Here’s the jacket copy/blurb:

Kevin Matheson works at his family’s service station in the Queensland outback. Life is all about cricket, fishing, the pub, his girlfriend. Then it all gets blown to hell – he’s caught up in a hideous, unbelievable world of cops and monsters in which two rival gangs of vampires vie for control, all while maintaining a charade of humanity.

Kevin has to cope with his new existence as a vampire, adapt to the destruction of his family and play the politics of the supernatural world. The biker Taipan and his lover Kala make for unlikely allies as they lead the nomadic Night Riders in their fight to be free of the control of the Brisbane-based Von Schiller group, led by the ruthless Mira and her pack of blood-addicted human servants.

 

I like Jason’s Vampires.  None of this sparkly rubbish. It started with his short Smoking, Waiting for the Dawn which was undeniably Vampires in a sunburnt country.  Then he hit me with Salvaged.

So yeah I’m hanging out for this one.  Price on publication will be AUD$4.99.


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Cover Candy–Perfections by Kirstyn McDermott

perfectionsKirstyn has managed to write another “proper” book.  Here is the cover image for Perfections, to be released in early 2013.

Her publisher is Xoum.

Coincidently, they also will be publishing Jason Nahrung’s Blood and Dust.

 

 

 


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Nov 12, 2012

Royal Commission into Sexual Abuse in the Roman Catholic Church

A break in your usual reading and a topic that is neither pleasant or in line with this blog’s purview.  I rarely comment on religious issues anymore but I can’t not pass comment on this topic.

I beg your indulgence dear reader and hope to stir within you some feeling that will lead to action.

I am an ex-Roman catholic, the church’s behaviour in regards to the abuse of children was not a consideration in my leaving, though on reflection perhaps it should have been.

Though never the victim of abuse, the church allowed myself and other students to come into close proximity of a known abuser, my junior high school Principal, Brother John Dyson. If you want to disgust yourself with the lack care displayed by the Church Officers (some of whom I knew ) for students and the callous disregard for the congregation, let alone the victims, go to Broken Rites a victim advocacy site.

What’s really got my fired up is the response to the calls for a Royal Commission into the Roman Catholic Church (RCC). When I refer to the RCC I am talking about the clergy.

But where to start, because the level of pressure being brought to bear seems to have have flushed a number of powerful people out who if not defending the church are certainly not acting with any great urgency or concern.

Who’s Calling for a Royal Commission:

  1. Victims groups like Broken Rites representing those who feel they can put themselves through the pain of standing up in court and reliving the experience(source).
  2. Police like Detective Chief Inspector Fox (source) and his open letter here
  3. Many others over a number of years
  4. The general community, fed up with hearing about the abuse and nothing being done.

What’s sparked it off this time?

  • An inquiry in Victorian where it appears some children in church care may have been raped and  murdered and the crime covered up.
  • Detective Chief Inspector Fox’s open letter to Premier Barry O’Farrell that have sparked an inquiry in NSW.

The Response

And this is where it gets sinister and you have to be careful not reach for the tinfoil hat.  Cardinal Pell has claimed that an apology is sufficient (for those whose cases that have been dealt with by that internal process that forces claimants to waive other rights) and that an inquiry into just the church is targeting his organisation disproportionately. That a commission should have a wider purview, that they are in essence not the only offenders.

Really! I mean REALLY!

Sounds reasonable to begin with.  I mean abuse occurs in every strata of society, in state organisations and in private, in families.  But the difference is that there is mounting evidence that the church exacerbates the problem by creating a safe haven for abusers, and providing them with more victims.

But Pell’s callous disregard aside, his pointing the finger at other unnamed institutions and the calls for a widening of scope give me cause for concern because other powerful figures seem to be echoing them.

Widen the scope and you do to things

1) dissipate the ire of the community and make the problem seem too big to handle(the public has a short memory/attention span)

2) you increase the time, staff i.e. costs

The RCC doesn’t want this inquiry. The want to ride out this scandal like every other one.

But I expect that from Pell and the RCC.

These sentiments were parroted by Liberal MP Joe Hockey a staunch catholic -  almost as if he were running a party line.

Hockey felt a royal commission was “ridiculous” that the problem was wider than the catholic church ( I see him making no other moves to tackle the problem though).  He also decided to speak for victims saying that he knew people who had been abused and they wouldn’t want to be put through the pain(source).

I’m sorry but the I have friends who are >Insert demographic here< and they agree with my view is a much over used rhetorical device. Speak only for yourself Mr Hockey.

Listening to Victims speak for themselves or via advocacy services you get a different picture(source). 

Labor Front Bencher and apparently a non Practising Catholic Bill Shorten, just wasn’t sure that a Royal Commission was the right thing to do. Saying that it wouldn't fix the faults.

Please! Fix the faults? 

One hopes that there’s no abuse currently underway, a royal commission is about determining culpability and gaining Justice.  If abuse and cover up is known to be on going, well…I just don’t know what to say.

Other politicians like opposition front bencher David Johnston raised the issue of expense and effect on the victims. Mitch Fifield said one denomination shouldn’t be singled out.(source)

To which I say, the RCC is not being targeted because its a Christian denomination, it’s being targeted because their appears to be substantial evidence that the institution is/has been involved in the abuse, alleged murder and of children and its subsequent cover up.

And

Damn the bloody expense.  Doing nothing will be more expensive in the long run – over 40 suicides in Victoria have been linked to clergy sexual abuse.  Think not only of lost lives and mental anguish of those left behind but of lost potential and lost productivity.

The victims, let’s hear them speak for themselves.

The Prime Minister seems non committal, one has to wonder what pressures the RCC can bring to bear on an atheist Prime minister when she can’t act to redress crimes committed against our most vulnerable.

Those that don’t want the inquiry, want to ride out the commotion knowing that we will all have other worries. Those that prevaricate over the decision need to be told in no uncertain terms that the Australian populace expect something to be done.  We need to give victims the confidence that should they have to give evidence and be cross examined that the pain will be worth it.

Thankfully there appear to be a number of back benchers, Greens and independents willing to push for action.  There’s also a petition being put forward by Lawyer Josh Bornstein, Catherine Deveny, Fr. Bob McGuire.

Please consider signing it.


eBook Review–The Blade Itself by Joe Abercombie (Book One of the First Law Series)

blade-itself

I know, I am behind the times on this one.  In my defence I did buy it a year ago according to my Goodreads profile (surely it can’t have been that long ago).

The covers kept luring me and the fine fellow just seemed to be producing more and more books.  Rowena Cory Daniells dropped the hint a couple of times (and long term readers know how much of a fan I am of her work) that he was good. 

And yet as often happens, books that I really want to read, books that I buy, languish in the “to be read after review copy” pile for.. ehem twelve months.

Why now?  I will be interviewing Joe on Wednesday and due to a courier mix-up( a story worthy of its own post) I wasn’t sure that I would receive his latest, Red Country in time ( I have).  So it was “pull my finger out and start reading time” as of Friday in the hope that all would be as Rowena and the many Abercrombie fans had suggested.

They were right.

The Blade Itself is book one of the First Law Series.  We are introduced to two central protagonists of dubious moral quality.  Logan Ninefingers is a Northman, down on his luck, cut off from his band of morally dubious named men.  At the beginning of the story he’s ambushed by the Shanka ( Abercrombie’s version of Orcs ?) or to use the more endearing tem, Flatheads.  Sore and sorry for himself he wanders near death until he converses with spirits and they send him south to meet the First of the Magi, who is looking for him. 

The other protagonist (and I say protagonist because they don’t appear to be directly opposed) is Sand Dan Glokta, an Inquisitor and former war hero, tortured and now crippled.

Both are cynical, war weary and world weary men.  Abercrombie does a superlative job of making a killer and a torturer, witty and loveable characters.

Several wars are looming, with the Northmen under King Bethod and the Ghurkish Emperor to the South.  The Guild of Mercers and the Bankers seem to be be embroiled in shady dealings.  The King of the Union (the home team in the book) is led by a corpulent, drooling idiot of a King and undermined by political factions. The peasants are getting airs and the nobility are getting noses put out of joint.

There’s a quest and a wizard - only the beneficiaries of said quest think the wizard is a charlatan. In essence, it’s a very modern tale.  Or a rather modern cynical approach to the fantasy genre.  It ends on a cliff hanger and it lacked a bit of resolution for me but the witty banter, the dark humour expressed by our two protagonists carries the tale.

It’s not your grandfather’s tale of glowing elves and rings that need dropping into volcanoes.  It’s very gritty, very violent and darkly humorous. I am intrigued to see what Abercrombie does with some of the common fantasy tropes ( I have heard rumours).

Women in the book are light on – were have an escaped slave with a very short temper who we assume “bad things” have happened to and a secondary character whose the victim of physical abuse at the hands of her father.  I hope that we get a female character in book 2 or 3 that isn’t strong because she’s had to survive sexual or physical abuse.  I think there’s plenty of ways you could introduce a strong woman without resorting to that trope.

The Blade Itself is a counterbalance to the idealistic fantasy you get from the heirs of Tolkien.  It’s very much like A song of Ice and Fire in tone and content only shorter  and complete.

Some have called it Nihilistic, I’d say realistic.


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Nov 11, 2012

eBook Review–The Last City by Nina D’Aleo

Last-City_cover2

The Last City by Nina D’Aleo is one of the growing number of novels that have been picked up by the PanMacmillan digital offshoot Momentum.  It's available in both digital and print on demand format as per Momentums business model.

The Last City was characterised as Perdido Street Station meets Blade Runner.  I haven't read the MiĆ©ville title but going on online summaries I can see the comparison.  With D’Aleo’s Scorpia we have an ancient city, that is falling down in as much as it is being built up. Comparison could be made to the Mega Cities that feature in 2000 AD as well.

The allusion to  Blade Runner is apt in that hi tech is juxtaposed with the crumbling mish-mash of a patchwork city.  To my mind it lacks the hardboiled single detective element though. It’s mystery/investigation elements have their roots more in recent police procedurals like CSI.

Scorpia – the last city of Aquais – where the Ar Antarians rule, the machine-breeds serve and in between a multitude of races and species eke out an existence somewhere between the ever-blazing city lights and the endless darkness of the underside.

As a spate of murders and abductions grip the city, new recruit Silho Brabel is sent to the Oscuri Trackers, an elite military squad commanded by the notorious Copernicus Kane. But Silho has a terrible secret and must fight to hide her strange abilities and monstrous heritage.

As the team delve deeper into Scorpia’s underworld, they discover a nightmare truth.
Hunted by demons, the Trackers must band together with a condemned fugitive, a rogue wraith and a gangster king and stake their lives against an all-powerful enemy to try to save one another and their world.

To this setting D’Aleo brings a plethora of diverse races and a magical abilities tied to bloodlines and evil curse worked sorcery.  If I could praise one thing about D’Aleo’s work its the originality of her world building around races and their abilities.  It’s definitely not elves and dwarves with small transistor radios stuck to the side of their head. She’s put a good deal of work into giving the reader something fresh to look at while telling an interesting story.  The names and places, the nomenclature of the world of The Last City is colourful and fresh.

It begins as somewhat of a police procedural and I liked the band of Oscuri Trackers that we were introduced to.  A group of misfits who shouldn’t be able to work together but somehow do. D’Aleo gives the reader poorly lit streets, tensions between races - I was prepared to knuckle down into a good “hard as nails” techno fantasy version of CSI. 

Then we changed tack a bit and the tale tends to become larger in scale - we move towards the epic adventure.  Now there are plenty of police procedurals that start with the small events that go on to reveal conspiracies but the scale is still small i.e. uncovering a small group of corrupt but powerful conspiring politicians.

This change in itself was okay but I think that D’Aleo tried to keep a foot in both camps and I found it hard to settle again. Was this detective fiction or epic adventure?

D’Aleo is great at painting the setting of Scorpia, a place that you can smell and see, a setting with real texture.  This works well for the small scale mystery less so for the action adventure, which to my mind needs to move fast. There’s a scene where we are introduced to the multitude of gangs that inhabit the seedier parts of Scorpia. We are treated to beautiful rich descriptions of the various gangs and their affiliations. Only two of these,however, feature throughout the rest of the novel - I can’t help feeling that D’Aleo would have been better served giving us broad brushstrokes on the less important gangs for the sake of pacing.

I also found it difficult to decide which character I should be rooting for.  That’s not to say that each book needs to have one main protagonist but I did find myself at a loss as to who to place most of my care in until nearer the end of the novel.  In the end it was the comical character of Eli that seemed to identify with the most and I am not sure if shouldn’t have been Silho Brabel.

Original and ambitious, The Last City is part mystery, part police procedural, part epic world saving adventure and I am not sure if some of the elements quiet work together. The book, however is full to the brim with a rich detailed setting.   I’ll be very interested to see which direction D’Aleo takes with book 2.

If you are a fan of Games workshop’s gothic infused 40K and its spinoffs like Necromunda you should check it out. 

This book was provided by the publisher at no cost.


awwc2012_thumb[1]This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012.  Please check out this page for more great writing from Australian women.

 

 


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Nov 9, 2012

Pre Orders Juliet Marillier's Prickle Moon Limited Ed.

Juliet Marillier's Prickle Moon available for order:
Ticonderoga have announced that the limited edition hardcover of Juliet Marillier's Prickle Moon is now available for pre-order.

What’s The Deal

  • 100 copies signed by Juliet Marillier, Sophie Masson and Pia Ravenari.
  • Introduction by Sophie Masson, cover illustration by Pia Ravenari.
  • This book collects 14 tales, including Juliet Marillier's very best stories, and 5 stories written for this collection.

Who is Juliet Marillier?
Juliet Marillier is a three-times winner of the Aurealis Award for fantasy novel. Publishers Weekly calls her "a fine folklorist and gifted narrator".


This limited hardcover will ship in February 2013, 1-2 months in advance of trade editions.

Pre-order this limited edition at http://www.indiebooksonline.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=140


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Galactic Suburbia Episode 72

Galactic-Suburbia-CakeTansy and Alex battle on again without Alisa. Will the fans notice a difference *ducks* ?

The News round up includes WFA winners, a new baby Wessely (from Fablecroft Press) and the lowdown on the wonderful Genrecon convened by Australia’s master of Unicorn debasement, Peter M Ball.

Culture consumed was  Infidel by Kameron Hurley; The Deep (BBC series) Black Widow by Marjorie Liu,  Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth, Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner; and Big Finish Specials: UNIT Dominion,

Go here for the detailed show notes.

You play the podcast below or download here.


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Nov 6, 2012

Ayam Curtain Launches

ayam-curtainAyam Curtain, an anthology of Singaporean speculative fiction, launched at the Singapore Writers Festival this Sunday past. 

Editors Joyce Chng (@jolantru) & JY Yang (@MizHalle) with the help of publishers Math Paper Press,fulfilled a dream of launching at the prestigious event.

Photo’s of the event can be seen here.

I am chasing up a TOC so that you can start to recognize these young speculative fiction up and comers, and seeing if I can order a copy.

Edit: Joyce has provided a TOC here


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Nov 5, 2012

Bloodstones Released

blood-stones-web

Bloodstones edited by Amanda Pillar is out now in hard copy (I believe an Amazon ebook is in production as well).  The anthology  features “stories of dark urban fantasy imbued with mythology; seventeen fantastic tales of monsters, gods, magic…”

Jennifer Brozek has a review for us here.  You can purchase the book online at:

Indie Books Online.

For those interested the TOC is below:

 

  • Joanne Anderton, "Sanaa's Army"
  • Alan Baxter, "Cephalopoda Obsessia"
  • Jenny Blackford, "A Moveable Feast"
  • Vivian Caethe, "Skin"
  • MD Curelas, "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes"
  • Thoraiya Dyer, "Surviving Film"
  • Dirk Flinthart, "The Bull in Winter"
  • Stephanie Gunn, "The Skin of the World"
  • Richard Harland, "A Mother's Love"
  • Pete Kempshall, "Dead Inside"
  • Penny Love, "A Small Bad Thing"
  • Karen Maric, "Embracing the Invisible"
  • Christine Morgan, "Ferreau's Curse"
  • Nicole Murphy, "Euryale"
  • Kat Otis, "And the Dead Shall be Raised Incorruptible"
  • Dan Rabarts, "The Bone Plate"
  • Erin Underwood, "The Foam Born"

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World Fantasy Awards are in for 2012

 

Locus Online has the results from the Word Fantasy Convention.  The winners for each category are below if you wish to see the full list please go here.

Novel:

  • Osama, Lavie Tidhar (PS Publishing)

Novella:

  • “A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong”, K.J. Parker (Subterranean Winter 2011)

Short Story:

  • “The Paper Menagerie”, Ken Liu (F&SF 3-4/11)

Anthology:

  • The Weird, Ann & Jeff VanderMeer, eds. (Corvus; Tor, published May 2012)

Collection:

Artist:

  • John Coulthart

Special Award Professional:

  • Eric Lane, for publishing in translation – Dedalus books

Special Award Non-Professional:

  • Raymond Russell & Rosalie Parker, for Tartarus Press

The World Fantasy Awards Lifetime Achievement Winners for 2012 are Alan Garner and George R.R. Martin.

Now I can’t really be disappointed at these results.  Really it’s a celebration of the genre and for people to have been nominated is almost as good as winning.  The warm glow one gets from being recognised is some times more important than sales or taking home a bust of Lovecraft.

I secretly hoped that Kathleen Jennings might win in the Artist Category and that Lisa Hannett’s Bluegrass Symphony might take out the collection category.  Maybe next year.

To the winners, congratulations.


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Nov 4, 2012

Galactic Chat 16 Rowena Cory Daniells

GCLogoThe new Galactic Chat is up thanks to the tireless work of the silent producer.  You can now listen to myself and Rowena talk about Fantasy, Gender and fiction that takes you out of your comfort zone.

This week Sean interviews Australian Fantasy novelist Rowena Cory Daniells.  Rowena has long history of involvement in Australian fantasy and science fiction and has released 4 novels this year.  Sean asks Rowena about the pressure of releasing so many books in such a short time.  What drives the exploration of Gender and Sexuality in her most recent series, The Outcast Chronicles and what she has planned for the very near future? They also discuss the potential for self publishing and the benefit of being picked up by overseas publishers.

(Note: In recording this interview we encountered everything the Gods of the Internets could throw at us. The final product has been cut and edited together from about 5 parts. Sean apologises for the less than optimal listening experience).

Rowena can be found on her  website or on Twitter.

You can stream from the player below or you can download here (right click & save as)

 
If you really like crunchy, mature fantasy fiction you should check out The Outcast Chronicles.  They are available on Booktopia and if you purchase a book by Sunday evening and type NICE in the coupon area they’ll give you free shipping.
 

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Nov 3, 2012

Aurealis #56– Awards Winners Edition

aurealis56

I just received my complimentary Aurealis 56 for subscribing early to a yearly subscription for 2013.  The 33% off cover price deal for a yearly sub is still ongoing but the bonus offer of Issue 56 has ended.

This isn’t a review, I have only read the Paul Haines story, but I feel that this issue is really good value for money - featuring two Aurealis Award winners. 

So if you’ve ummed and ahhed about whether to shell out $3 bucks to support the Australian short fiction community then give up one cup of coffee this week and pick it up.

A reminder too, that Aurealis are determined to raise subscriber numbers so that they can offer pro rates and be considered as a pro-market for authors seeking publication credits.

A word from Dirk Strasser in his editorial:

On a lighter note, the big news for next year is that we are setting up a new subscription system, so you will once again be able to subscribe to Aurealis. You will now be able to purchase a 2013 subscription of 10 issues (Aurealis #57–#66) for $19.99. This is a 33% saving on the cost of buying each issue singly. How can you possibly resist subscribing?

We’ve also launched our campaign to be officially recognised as a professional market by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). We’ve calculated that if we can get 1000 subscribers by the end of 2013, we will be able to increase our payment for short stories to a minimum of 5 cents a word. This will mean Aurealis has met all the conditions to be viewed as a professional market by the SFWA. If it can achieve this, Aurealis will be the only Australian fiction magazine with this status. See our website for more details.

You can purchase Aurealis 56 here.  If you want to subscribe for the year you will need to go here.


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Nov 1, 2012

Free Shipping at Booktopia till Sunday

Just got a note in my inbox regarding a free shipping promo at Booktopia. It’s running until Sunday night so I’m off buying Christmas and birthday presents.

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

To receive free shipping on any order YOU MUST TYPE the WORD: NICE ...in the PROMOTION CODE FIELD ON THE LAST PAGE OF THE CHECKOUT PROCESS.


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If only all safety videos were this well done

 

A safety video for Air New Zealand

H/T to Ian Mond


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