May 31, 2013

Book Review – The Sea and Summer by George Turner

The novel has been out of print for some time, indeed I tried to find a copy a couple of years ago and couldn’t.  Thankfully Gollanz have seen fit to reprint it as part of their masterworks series.
So how, after 25 years, does the book hold up?

Remarkably well is the short answer.  Apart from a couple of historical errors that have crept in with the relentless march of time, it’s a book that fans of Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker series and Anna North’s America Pacifica would enjoy.

It’s a story within a story – the survivors of an a slow apocalypse looking back at the end of the Greenhouse culture. 

We are introduced to an archeologist taking a playwright around the crumbling monoliths of the Greenhouse culture.  Vast city towers that held 70,000 plus people each.  These are the autumn people living in the age where the earth is rapidly cooling toward another ice age.  The Archeologist has written a novel that makes a narrative from her discoveries and thus the reader is drawn into the tale of a group of pivotal personalities that see out the beginning of the downfall of our culture, the Greenhouse culture.

A didactic novel written in the mode of science fiction realism, in literary terms, its tone feels very similar to English works like Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four, its bleak forecast and representation of the poor reminded me a little of A Clockwork Orange.  The Sea and Summer is undeniably Australian though and really should be on the reading list of every Australian science fiction writer.
Turner does note in his afterword that:
Nobody can foretell the future.In a world of disparate aims, philosophies and physical conditions the possible permutations are endless; few guesses aimed beyond a decade from today are likely to be correct, even by accident.
The comment above me made me smile because I think Turner got a lot right in The Sea and Summer, maybe it was pure luck, maybe it was a well rounded knowledge of trends or just an understanding of human nature, but his 2040’s has the rich with large flat screen entertainment terminals that sound a lot like the Smart TV’s that you can buy now (if you happen to be lucky enough to live where you can get suitable internet service).  The broadening gap between the rich and the poor (or Sweet and Swill as they are termed in the book) is happening.  Even the conspiracy at the heart of the novel was apparently voiced by one of Australia’s richest business women yesterday.
The books central message, observation, warning on climate change goes largely ignored today.  Our next likely Prime Minister for example seems confused by the reality of the situation.  The Sea and Summer is not depressing though, realistic in its observation of humans and the disasters we can bring upon ourselves, but also hopeful.

The Sea and Summer won the Arthur C Clark award in 1988 the second year the Award had run.  Turner had earlier won the Miles Franklin for his mainstream work The Cupboard Under the Stairs. Some awarded books fade from our consciousness, some we can look back on and wonder what the voters and juries of yester year were smoking.  Not so with The Sea and Summer, this book deserves its award nomination and deserves to be read.  I’d recommend it as a school text if I didn’t think that forcing teens to read it might result in an aversion to it by virtue of it being a prescribed text.

This book was provided by the publisher.

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May 30, 2013

Book Release – Fearsome Journeys Ed. by Jonathan Strahan

fearsome-journeysI don’t know if Jonathan has exercising humility or I am just out of the loop ( he’s never one to trumpet his worth) but here’s the latest from one of Australia’s best editors of speculative fiction.  It’s his thirty-sixth anthology. 

Due to a well earned reputation he’s managed to convince some of  the best fantasy writers currently in the business to pen short stories for it.

To add to this good fortune its also available at Booktopia for $8.95 but wait there’s more(not steak knives though).

If you order through Booktopia before midnight of the 1st June and place snuggle in the coupon field that’s all you’ll pay.
Interested? You can purchase it here .

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May 28, 2013

X6 – eBook Release

X6newCropKS-713x1086-196x300 Coming later this year from Coeur de Lion, the critically acclaimed collection, X6 will be released in digital format.  It features 6 tales from some of Australia's best Specfic authors: Margo Lanagan, Paul Haines, Terry Dowling, Cat Sparks, Trent Jamieson and Louise Katz.

To check out the buzz around this collection when it launched in 2010 go here.

Some choice comments from the link above:

“Wives,” by Paul Haines, is a tour de force: a dystopian science fictional horror story which will alternately shock you, disturb you, and break your heart. - Richard Larson, Strange Horizons, August 2010

“Heart of Stone,” Cat Sparks, X6 – a tightly constructed, plot-driven X-Files style mystery, this one starts out as a quirky character piece but builds up to proper thriller proportions. Like the Haines piece, this novella has a really strong Australian voice to it, through setting and also character and dialogue - Last short story on Earth, October 2009

‘If X6 only contained Margo Lanagan’s rich and evocative fantasy “Sea-Hearts”, you’d be getting more than your money’s worth! But this volume of short novels by veteran editor Keith Stevenson weighs in with over 170,000 words by multiple award winning authors such as Terry Dowling and Cat Sparks … and fiery, up-and-coming “young Turks” such as Trent Jamieson and Paul Haines. Ranging from the sublime to disturbing in-your-face noir, X6 is a brilliant cartogram of what’s happening in Australian genre fiction.’   Jack Dann – multi-award winning author, and editor of Dreaming Again.


On the reputation of Wives and Sea Hearts alone I would buy this.  Wives in particular, is spoken of with such high regard among readers and writers in the Australian scene that the collection would be worth it for that story alone.  Then you have the novella Sea Hearts that formed the seed of Margo’s award winning book of the same name (Brides of Rollrock Island for readers in the Northern Hemisphere). But ice that cake with Sparks and Jamieson and you have a rather rich desert.

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Twelfth Planet Press News – Ebooks and Anthologies

livia TPP have released A Trifle Dead by Livia Day as an ebook.  You can find it at their website, Wizard’s Tower Books, Weightless Books, Kobo(shortly) and Amazon

If you have a local library with its finger on the pulse of the Australian genre scene, you might see the paperback copy on a New Book shelf near you.

But not to be content with that TPP have also announced a Young Adult anthology called Kaleidoscope. It will be released in late  2014.  It will be edited by Alisa Krasnostein  and Julia Rios ( of Strange Horizons and Outer Alliance Podcast Fame).

As befits the name, the editors are:

“… not simply looking for cookie-cutter vampire or urban fantasy stories, but for things that transport us and subvert our expectations. We particularly want to see characters of color, disabled, neurodiverse, and mentally ill characters, QUILTBAG content, and non-western cultural elements.”

Eager writers can check out the specific submission details here.

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May 22, 2013

Ira Glass on Creative Success

care of Peter Ball and Queensland Writers Centre.

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Cover Candy - Caution: Contains Small Parts

smallpartsTwelfth Planet Press has released the cover of the next Twelve planets volume, Caution: Small Parts by Kirstyn McDermott.

The book is available for pre order here.

The cover artist Amanda Rainey has also done an interview with David McDonald which can be found here.






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May 21, 2013

Sean’s State of the Blog Address

the-sea-and-summerApart from awards postings it’s been pretty quiet round these parts.  Truth is I am busy.  The day job which I do three days a week is sucking 5 days energy out of me at the moment and it’s getting on into Winter (cold and dark).

That being said there are great cogs in motion, momentous designs afoot.

Galactic Chat

You may have noticed there’s a slow down in Galactic Chat.  The reason for this is two fold: 1) I started my own podcast in December and contributed a number of interviews to that and 2) Galactic Chat is undergoing a bit of a refurb. 

I have been handed the conch by its founders and will be relaunching in the near future with a slightly different format and some fresh voices.  So keep your eye out for Galactic Chat Version 2


hell-on-wheelsI have done virtually no short story writing, but have submitted poetry to a couple of competitions and intend to submit one to a specfic anthology.


There’s been a slowdown in books reviewed this year. Due to the lack of energy and that some or the books I have received from big name publishers have been pretty ordinary- note that’s not bad, but they lack a certain something.  I sat down to read Graham Joyce’s Some Kind of Fairytale they other day and had to stop (its a non review copy) because it is the kind of writing that is just a pleasure to read.  I knew it would keep me from books I have to review.  Luckily I got in the mail the other day George Turner’s The Sea and Summer .

call-the-midwifeI have to rotate through my review copy so that all my publishers get a fair go.  I am hoping that after The Sea and Summer  I’ll be able to get into some works by Cat Sparks, Eliza Victoria and the anthology Next.


I must admit with the coming cold and the lack of energy my port of call has been good quality drama.  Therefore I have imbibed Season 1 of Hell on Wheels and Season 1 & 2 of Lark Rise to Candleford.  I have been greatly enjoying Call the Midwife and am wondering when Dr Who will get back to being a drama with touches of the same quality. Maybe they need some more Cornell writing.

May 18, 2013

Aurealis Awards 2012 (Held May 2013)

May 12, 2013

International Speculative Fiction #4

isf4_may-2013-cover_finalIssue 4 of International Speculative Fiction is out featuring yours truly’s review column. In which I cover some of the recent works of independent self publisher Rabia Gale and the award winning Eliza Victoria.  But of course I shouldn’t be the only reason you pick up a copy of this FREE publication in one of its multiple formats (mobi, epub or pdf).

In this issue Roberto Mendes and Ricardo Loureiro have managed to bring together another great collection of story art and non-fiction writing from around the world.  The fiction section features works by previous World Fantasy Award winners including Ken Liu.

The non-fiction section features an interesting  interview with Zoran Živković on the fantastical tradition in European writing:

The term “fantastika”—used in slightly different ways in many European languages—doesn’t seem to have a satisfactory English equivalent. It could have been “fantasy” if that term hadn’t been reduced to a marketing label that means “Tolkienesque” fiction.

Fantastika is by no means limited to that narrow section of the spectrum. It is, in fact, the spectrum itself—all nonmimetic prose. Nearly 70 percent of everything written during the past five thousand years is nonmimetic and belongs to one of many forms of fantastika: folklore, oneiric, fairytale, epic, and so forth.

There’s also a wonderful profile of Romanian artist George Munteanu, that’s worth a look (note the cover image is his as well).

While you are there you should also take the opportunity to download their free 2012 anthology.

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May 9, 2013

Give away - The Machine Who Was Also a Boy (Pandora's Paradoxes 1)

the machine eMergent Publishing has organized a giveaway for The Machine Who Was Also A boy.  It’s got three days to run so hop on over and put your name down.

It’s written by two aussie authors, Mike McRae of Tribal Science: Brains, Beliefs and Bad Ideas fame and Tom Dullemond, whose past works include: The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy: Volume One and a short work in  From Stage Door Shadows .


Pandora Robinson was confused. What made a belief true or false? What gave words their meaning? And was a lie still a lie if you truly believed it? Sometimes the world just didn’t make a lot of sense.

Answering questions at school was hard enough, but after meeting a most peculiar mechanical man and his silent young companion, Pandora faces the hardest question ever. Are we the same person today as we were yesterday?

From the lair of the Sphinx to the bowels of The Theseus, clues to the answer abound, but will Pandora be able to put them together in time to save an unlikely friend and still make it to court in time to stop them taking her away from her Dad.

The Machine Who Was Also A Boy is a middle school tale of puzzles, paradoxes and perplexing predicaments.

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Book Review – Witch Fire by Laura Powell

witchWitch Fire continues the adventures of Glory Starling and Lucas Sterne, that began in Burn Mark.  It’s not necessary to have read Burn Mark; Powell does an excellent job of providing enough back story to fill in new readers and not annoy fans who have already read the previous book.

Powell continues her unique blend of espionage, adventure and witchcraft. The gritty, understated “British-ness” I found in Burn Mark remains and further endears me to the series.  The fact that it’s YA might turn off some readers, but I think you’d be doing yourself a disservice if that’s the reason why you’d make a pass on it.  In Witch Fire actions have consequences, characters die – the descriptions might not be gratuitous, but often I find that implication throws a stronger punch.  I found myself every bit as much on the edge of my seat as I would be with Quintin Jardine novel.

Glory and Lucas have been recruited and trained by WICA (Witchkind Intelligence and Covert Affairs) but its all hush-hush because of their ages.  They are beginning to get tired of the endless training when they are offered their first assignment – to go undercover at a special school for troubled witchkind teens with rich parents.

It sees them both leave England for the first time and the reader begins to get a wider understanding of the alternate reality that Powell presents.  In the background is the ominous threat of an Inquisition that neither of them can quite trust and the shadowy terrorist group known as Endor.

Burn Mark impressed me with the goal driven characters and a generally well balanced take on gender roles.  Witch Fire continues in the same vein.  While there’s a budding attraction between the two main characters, this plot thread is left alone for most of the book.  Lucas and Glory can be as incompetent as each other (they are teens) and are adept at coming to each others rescue.  The secondary characters are also competent (they are intelligence operatives) and gender diverse. 

I did feel that the make up of the nationalities at the school was a little “cookie cutter” stereotypical i.e. a Chinese witch who is really quiet and plays the piano expertly, an American cheerleader, a sleazy Latin-American playboy and the sister of an Indian Bollywood star. It was the only hiccup in what was a very smooth read.

Witch Fire picked up the threads that were left hanging at the end of Burn Mark and wove them into a compelling and expanding story, major character goals were realized, villains encountered justice and yet it does not feel as though the story arc is anywhere near finished.  I don’t think “issues” should be the focus of every book written for teens but I think Powell gives us a great story, well realized characters and a world that can be examined for its prejudices from a safe distance. 

I’ll repeat my concluding comments from the review of Burn Mark.

If you’re a fan of British crime or espionage drama I think you’ll enjoy this read.

This review copy was provided by the publisher at no cost

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May 7, 2013

Galactic Suburbia Episode 80

Wow, won’t be long until they hit the century. 

This fortnight’s episode we find out the real reason why Alisa has been sick, she’s growing a whole new person.  Congratulations to her and husband Chris.  Highlights of this episode are : the discussion around Conflux, and the result of the paper art workshops that Alisa donated the misprinted Through Splintered Walls, and the announcement of a saucy extract from Sea Hearts that didn’t make the final cut. 

Plus the regular features of news and culture consumed.

Download here

Enjoy all three Musketeers in Episode 80.

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May 4, 2013

Aussies in Shirley Jackson Awards Line-up

The Shirley Jackson shortlist has been announced and I am pleased to congratulate Margo and Kaaron (and their publisher Alisa) for making it to the list. 


The nominees for the 2012 Shirley Jackson Awards are:


  • The Drowning Girl, Caitlín R. Kiernan (ROC)
  • The Devil in Silver, Victor LaValle (Spiegel & Grau)
  • Edge, Koji Suzuki (Vertical, Inc.)
  • Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn (Crown Publishers)
  • Immobility, Brian Evenson (Tor)


  • 28 Teeth of Rage, Ennis Drake (Omnium Gatherum Media)
  • Delphine Dodd, S.P. Miskowski (Omnium Gatherum Media)
  • I’m Not Sam, Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee (Sinister Grin Press/ Cemetery Dance Publications)
  • The Indifference Engine, Project Itoh (Haikasoru/VIZ Media LLC)
  • “Sky,” Kaaron Warren (Through Splintered Walls, Twelfth Planet Press)


  • “The Crying Child,” Bruce McAllister (originally “The Bleeding Child,” Cemetery Dance #68)
  • “The House on Ashley Avenue,” Ian Rogers (Every House is Haunted, ChiZine Publications)
  • “Reeling for the Empire,” Karen Russell (Tin House, Winter 2012)
  • “Wild Acre,” Nathan Ballingrud (Visions, Fading Fast, Pendragon Press)
  • “The Wish Head,” Jeffrey Ford (Crackpot Palace, William Morrow)


  • Bajazzle,” Margo Lanagan (Cracklescape, Twelfth Planet Press)
  • “How We Escaped Our Certain Fate,” Dan Chaon (21st Century Dead, St. Martin’s)
  • “Little America,” Dan Chaon (Shadow Show: All New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury, William Morrow)
  • “The Magician’s Apprentice,” Tamsyn Muir (Weird Tales #359)
  • “A Natural History of Autumn,” Jeffrey Ford (Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, July/August 2012)
  • “Two Houses,” Kelly Link (Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury, William Morrow)


  • Crackpot Palace, Jeffrey Ford (William Morrow)
  • Errantry, Elizabeth Hand (Small Beer Press)
  • The Pottawatomie Giant and Other Stories, Andy Duncan (PS Publishing)
  • Remember Why You Fear Me, Robert Shearman (ChiZine Publications)
  • The Woman Who Married a Cloud, Jonathan Carroll (Subterranean Press)
  • Windeye, Brian Evenson (Coffee House Press)


  • 21st Century Dead, edited by Christopher Golden (St. Martin’s)
  • Black Wings II, edited by S. T. Joshi (PS Publishing)
  • Exotic Gothic 4:  Postscripts #28/29, edited by Danel Olson (PS Publishing)
  • Night Shadows, edited by Greg Herren and J. M.  Redmann (Bold Strokes Books)
  • Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury, edited by Sam Weller and Mort Castle (William Morrow)
  • [source]


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          Book Bargain – Graham Joyce’s Limits of Enchantment

          the-limits-of-enchantment Just a quick note to let you know that Booktopia currently have Graham Joyce’s The Limits of Enchantment on sale for $2.95.

          Who’s Graham Joyce?  Well until I listened to the Coode Street Podcast here I had no idea who he was either.  He’s a stunningly good writer of folk-fantasy (like Charles de Lint but with a sparse realism to the work,).  I bought Some Kind of Fairytale after listening to the interview on Coode Street and had to stop after 30 pages because it was that good t

          Good enough for me to buy The Limits of Enchantment at that price without even knowing what it was about. So  I think it’s worth checking him out, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
          From his blog:
          I grew up in the mining village of Keresley, near Coventry. It’s not a place you would find in the tourist guidebooks. A gritty, unlovely place. Salt of the earth people, but if you used words of more than two syllables you were instantly suspected of homosexuality. Mining people tend to be proud and aggressive to defend what little they’ve hacked out for themselves. [Read on]

          t I know that sounds weird but I feared that If I kept going I wouldn’t be able to put it down, hence leaving me further behind in my reviewing.  My wife, who doesn’t read fantasy has now absconded with it, another indication of its qualities

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          May 2, 2013

          Covey Candy – King Breaker

          You’ll see below the newly released cover for King Breaker, the fifth and concluding book in The Chronicles of King Rolen’s Kin.  Clint Langley has outdone himself on the artwork again. Checkout Rowena’s site for further updates.


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          eBook Review – Asymmetry by Thoraiya Dyer


          Asymmetry is the latest of the top shelf Twelve Planets series to emerge from Twelve Planet Press.  It continues what I have found to be an outstanding showcase of Australian women writers in the speculative fiction field.

          Thoraiya has been well supported by the team at Twelfth Planet Press for some time; she appeared in the anthologies, New Ceres Nights and Sprawl(her short, Yowie, won an Aurealis), had a novella, The Company Articles of Edward Teach (which won the Ditmar Novella Category in 2011) published as part of a double with Matthew Chrulew and now she’s produced Asymmetry.  Thoraiya also picked up a Ditmar this year for her The Wisdom of Ants published published in Clarkesworld.

          So as you would expect this collection of shorts is worthy of someone who is generating a lot of good work.  There’s four stories, that showcase Thoraiya’s versatility within the genre and I would be stretched to find a less than brilliant one amongst them:

          I fell into After Hours, a story of a young vet attached to a practice that has a special relationship with the nearby military base. They house and train “special” dogs.  It’s a sign of very good writing that a novel, let alone a short can draw you in and immerse you when you are tired. I had a distinct yearning for more of the interesting the world and characters Thoraiya has delivered here.  Very smooth and subtle writing, great characterization and a tantalizing idea. It’s hard to pull off a werewolf tale and make it fresh but Thoraiya does.

          Zadie, Scythe of the West, could not be further from the setting of After Hours.  Thoraiya gives us a female dominated warrior society where to participate in battle a woman must have given birth for every life she takes.  This set up is not as desirous as some might think though and the emotional core of this story comes from the tension that this society creates around relationships and that despite having to give a life before you take one, war and killing is still horrendous and perhaps unjustified.  This short could I think spawn an entirely original Dark Fantasy series if Thoraiya were so inclined.

          Wish Me Luck somehow manages to fuse a  steampunk-ish future with trans-dimensional travel where you pay your way with physically manifesting luck. It felt very Final Fantasy to me a fusion of science and magic, with pseudo-victorian trappings. Again entirely different to the preceding stories.

          And rounding out the quartet is Seven Days in Paris, which is partly about counter terrorism and partly about human cloning.  It raises questions about the acceleration of organisms (tips its hat toward current issues on GMO) and what boundaries governments will cross when they think it necessary to save lives.  Somewhat evocative of the questions raised by Blade Runner.

          I would be very surprised if this weren’t on the awards list next year.  The only regret I have after reading it was that it was so easily consumed. For a collection that is thematically about imbalance, Twelfth Planet Press has produced one of the most balanced collections I have come across in recent times.


          Kudos to Amanda Rainey for cover design and Charles A. Tan for the eBook layout.

          This review copy was made available by the publisher at no cost.

          Other Twelve Planet Reviews:

          eBook Review–Through Splintered Walls by Kaaron Warren
          Book Review–Showtime by Narrelle M Harris
          Book Review–Bad Power by Deborah Biancotti
          Book Review–Thief of Lives by Lucy Sussex
          Book Review–Nightsiders by Sue Isle
          eBook Review–Love and Romanpunk by Tansy Rayner Roberts

          Book Review–Cracklescape by Margo Lanagan

          awwbadge_2013[4] This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013.  Please check out this page for more great writing from Australian women.





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