Feb 26, 2014

Book Review – Division Street by Helen Mort


You know what sold me on this collection?  Not the fact that Carol Ann Duffy said that Mort was one of the “brightest stars in the sparkling new constellation of young British Poets”.  Not the visually appealing cover that hints at my politically left inclinations.  No, it was the poet herself reading Miss Heath (included in the collection and appended below). There’s a lesson in there for small publishers of poetry(and poets) I think.  Never underestimate that extra something a poem read in the poet’s voice can provide.

Still it was a risk spending $30 on someone I had only heard on Youtube.  A reader can be burned by cover blurbs, more so in communities that are small, where poets are friends and/or part of a movement or trend. That’s not to suggest nepotism or something like it; more the reality that familiarity can breed appreciation that might not extend to the wider public.

It was a risk worth the taking though.  I think I have discovered a poet who’s career I’d like to follow and whose work definitely gives me joy. 

A lot of Australian poetry(certainly that collected in “Best Australian…” collections I have read), is devoid of rhyme, it can fell sparse and let’s face it despite my recent predilection for Japanese form poetry, give me a net of form, structure and rhyme to volley poems over any day.

I love cleverly executed rhyme and Mort has a deft touch. That’s not to say this book is chock full of rhyme, but the trend in poetry to avoid one of poetry’s main technical advantages over prose, has me feeling like it is when only 5 out of the 40 odd poems have rhyme included.

But I’ll dismount that particular hobby horse and talk about the collection.  Thematically it’s fair less political than the cover might lead you to believe. Indeed I am tempted to say its not really political at all.  This is very much a collection of poems about the poet and the effect of environment, history and people  on her life and experience.

The poem Division Street is about the break up, the division of a relationship and the near miss with an STD that might have prompted it.  Scab, the poem you’d think most likely to be political, is more historical and introspective.  It juxtaposes the mining strikes with Mort’s decision to take a place at Cambridge. The reader gets to explore divisions between strikers and police, between the establishment and the working classes between Mort and the culture she feels she betraying.

My favourite poem, and favourite possibly because of its last stanza was Thread:

From now, your movement
is a kite’s: you have the sky
and yet you’re tethered
to a man below, an ancestor

who looks on silently
from an old print: your face
in his and his in yours.
Even when he yields the string,

he’s set your course. The breeze
may intervene, but you are lifted
by a finer thread,
like all the living,
anchored by the dead.

Another way at looking at division as well, but perhaps also  an antidote to the feelings worked through in Scab.

It’s not all navel gazing though and I was struck by some of the descriptions of places important to Mort.  Shetland part of North of Everywhere has such a beautiful line in:

Wind-whittled, turned on the sea’s lathe too long,


On stones worn treacherous

by centuries – men shouldering

the dead from Ambleside


from Coffin Path.

The third last poem Broken Spectre ( again I sense another division, albeit an unwanted one) is intensely personal, a beautiful piece of the relationship between father and daughter and the loss of a shared activity that they both obviously enjoyed(climbing).  The loss of one person’s ability cushioned by the knowledge that they have imparted their knowledge and strength. The imagery and the sentiment had this one vying for favourite.

A really accessible poet, a solid collection.

For your viewing pleasure:



You can purchase Division Street through Booktopia.  There is an ebook copy but this is the kind of book that you want a hardcopy of.

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eBook Review – The Memory of Death: Death Works 4 by Trent Jamieson

deathI was pleasantly surprised to find that Trent was able to bring Stephen de Selby back because, honestly I thought he was tragically and irrevocably gone in the Business of Death.  Such is the god-like power of authors.

So de Selby returns 20 months after his heroic demise (a surprise for someone who is Death incarnate) and your favourite schmuck is back minus the power of the Hungry Death, it having been redistributed back among the 13 Regional Managers.  It seems that everything is back to normal.  Mortmax Industries are back to pomping the newly dead, ensuring their safe passage to the other side. Lissa is the new Regional Manager and de Selby’s cousin is her 2IC.  Nothing could go wrong could it?

But this is Stephen de Selby, the poster boy for awkward wrongness.  He finds upon his return that Lissa’s moved on and for some reason the personnel at Mortmax don’t like him very much (unless he’s on the end of a boot). 

The Memory of Death is clearly a departure from the story arc that was resolved in the first three books - our hero having risen as high as he could go has fallen a long way, we are back to the lovable, slightly dead schmuck that we all love.  The Memory of Death offers a new job and a new mystery for us to participate in. You could read the story fromthis point because Jamieson has done some fairly smooth backgrounding but I think the best way is to start with the first three books.

I will note that the Memory of Death is pretty much a novella at 97 pages(on Sony Reader software).  The writing is tight and smooth; fans will devour Jamieson’s action and wit in one sitting.  I was left reinvigorated and wanting more of Stephens awkward self deprecating blundering.

You can purchase Memory of Death from Momentum Books or from most reputable digital stores.

This book was provided by the Publisher.

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Feb 24, 2014

Ditmar Nominations time

shot_1393222126281 But first for those new to Australian Speculative Fiction:

What iz teh Ditmarz?

The Ditmar Award (formally the Australian SF ("Ditmar") Award; formerly the "Australian Science Fiction Achievement Award") has been awarded annually since 1969 at the Natcon to recognise achievement in Australian science fiction (including fantasy and horror) and science fiction fandom. They are named for Ditmar "Dick" Jenssen, an Australian fan and artist, who financially supported the awards at their inception. (Source: http://wiki.sf.org.au/Ditmar_Award).

In essence our national Science Fiction award recognising Authors, Artists, Academics and Fans.  Nominations close on the 20th March.

Who’s Eligible and how do I nominate?

You can check out the eligibility list here. It’s not an official list but its a pretty close crowd sourced one  The Ditmar rules are located here.  To nominate you need to be part of the Australian Speculative Fiction community -which is  a broad church.  If you are a blogger, reviewer, author, tweeter on or of Australian Speculative Fiction then you are pretty right.  To vote you have to be a member of the convention though.

You can nominate online here.

Do you have anything eligible Sean?

Well normally I wouldn’t be so gauche as to put myself forward, but since you have badgered me I suppose I could mention that I am eligible in a couple of categories.

  1. Best Fan Writer for the work on this blog.
  2. Best Fan Publication in Any Medium for Galactic Chat along with Alex Pierce, Helen Stubbs, David McDonald, Mark Webb and Sarah Parker.
  3. William Atheling Jr. Award for Criticism or Review for individual reviews on this blog

Seriously though have a look through the eligibility list even if you can’t nominate,  it’s a testament to the amount of work Australian writers and fans do in a year and my thanks go out to the worker bees who added all my entries.

I will attempt to go through the list in the coming month and pick out peeps I think deserving of a guernsey this year.

But if I can implore you to do one thing – if you are able to get involved do it, become part of the community.

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Who is NA Sulway?

rupetta and why am I only hearing of her after she has won the Tiptree? The first Australian to win the Tiptree! Sometimes this hyper connected world has gaping cracks you can drive a road train through.

So who is NA Sulway?

Nike Sulway lives and writes in Queensland, Australia. She has also written as NA Bourke.  Writing as Bourke her novel The Bone Flute won the Queensland Premier’s Literary Award for Best Emerging Author in 2000.  It’s “Literature” and it came out 12 years ago so I give myself a little slack, I think I was coming off a long period of not reading much fiction at that time in my life.  But going by her publication stats she’s been reasonably active writing novels and short stories.  Check out her publications here.

So aside from being active writing she’s been reasonably active in writing community - co-director of Olvar Wood Writers Retreat since 2007, and one of the editors of Perilous Adventures literary magazine.

So how did I miss Sulway?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Happy that I have discovered her now though.

What’s the Tiptree?

In February of 1991 at WisCon (the world’s only feminist-oriented science fiction convention), award-winning SF author Pat Murphy announced the creation of the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, an annual literary prize for science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores our understanding of gender. (To read her speech go to PatMurphy.pdf.) Pat created the award in collaboration with author Karen Joy Fowler. The aim of the award is not to look for work that falls into some narrow definition of political correctness, but rather to seek out work that is thought-provoking, imaginative, and perhaps even infuriating. The Tiptree Award is intended to reward those women and men who are bold enough to contemplate shifts and changes in gender roles, a fundamental aspect of any society. [source: Tiptree.org]

Rupetta the award winning novel.

Four hundred years ago, in a small town in rural France, a young woman creates the future in the shape of Rupetta. Part mechanical, part human, Rupetta’s consciousness is tied to the women who wind her. In the years that follow she is bought and sold, borrowed, forgotten and revered. By the twentieth century, the Rupettan four-fold law rules everyone’s lives, but Rupetta—the immortal being on whose existence and history those laws are based—is the keeper of a secret that will tear apart the world her followers have built in her name.

Rupetta is published by Tartarus Press in limited edition hardback at around $65 or  between $5-6 for an ebook version.  Check out the Tartarus Website for details and links to reviews.

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Feb 22, 2014

eBook Review – Dead Americans and Other Stories by Ben Peek


You know, since I got into this writing about Speculative Fiction gig, coming up on three years ago, Ben Peek’s always been there.  It’s odd that I haven’t actually read anything by him before(besides his blog posts).  Sure, I have work that he did with Twelfth Planet Press (on my notorious TBR-after-review–copies-are-done pile) but one thing leads to another and I never quite make it through that pile.

In some respects though, reading Dead Americans, which collects some of his best work over the last decade, is the best way to discover him.  You get to see a good range of work and you get to see a consistent facility with words and style.  I have no reservation in saying that he’d be one of Australia’s best writers.  He demonstrates in Dead Americans, the ability to play inside the science fiction genre, riffing off it’s history or building dark futures so real that you shake the ash from your coat after reading. Then with seeming ease he will walk you into some fractured liminal zone between genres where you don’t quite know where you stand or what the rules are.

Collections by their nature can be quite fractured, different pieces written at different times with different influences, but I find Dead Americans hangs together well.  There Is Something So Quiet and Empty Inside of You That It Must Be Precious, kicks off the collection. A story that took us to that fractured liminal zone straight away -  a Longmire meets the Twilight Zone filmed through a brown filter:

In the colourless bright light of the afternoon, Williams drove to where she lived, a spare key from the landlord, talking it out to himself—“Burnt down as a cover, killed cause she was too beautiful, maybe; beautiful to someone, anyway”—beneath the drone of the radio. Currie had a roommate, but no one had answered when the real estate called so, on instinct, he decided to go and have a look. Instinct, that was all. He did not know Amanda, did not know her family, and he took that to be a sign that she was a decent, reasonable human being, and someone who was not prone to burning down a mosque because she was too white and too Christian to leave the petrol can at home. Not that he thought she did that, anyway. The burnt out mosque was just a setting, a place where the event happened, where her burnt face had pressed itself into his mind, and he had not found a way to leave it behind, yet.

While Peek’s got us there in that zone, he switches direction, wrong footing the reader with The Dreaming City – the real tale of Mark Twain and his visit to Sydney.  At this point I am marvelling how he can twist early Sydney and Ned Kelly into the one story and maintain a style that while not a pastiche of Twain, certainly evokes a tone and style that points to him.

The deck was ragged, empty, and filled with invisible spirits: the till turned left and right, spun by the hands of an unseen and pointless sailor; above, the remains of the rigging flapped, trailing through the air as decayed streamers and confetti; while the cabin door to the captain’s quarters was twisted off its frame, and hanging on one hinge, the glass window shattered, leaving jagged points into the middle. Twain walked on rotting planks and passed broken railings that were circled with rusted chains.

It was a parade of death, cheering him towards the hulk’s rotting belly with relentless determination.

With Johnny Cash, Peek lost me a bit.  But the fault is mine, I think.  I just don’t have the reference points for what he is trying to achieve with this piece – a story told in a questionnaire where you only get to see the answers.  Perhaps it requires some subsequent rereading.  Nevertheless, it marks nicely the shift into more solidly science fictional material or a shift from liminal spaces that could be our world into the clearly delineated fantastic whether it’s science fiction, fantasy or a melange of both.

Possession starts our descent in both in narrative and tone.  Is it part of the Red Sun stories that follow?  It has The Returned – bronze cyborg’s fashioned out of parts of the dead and messenger crows, that feature in the following stories, but it feels a bit cleaner, polished (in a aesthetic, not technical sense, all his stories are polished in that regard), more hopeful than the other stories.  Perhaps the world of the Red Sun at another time. We are introduced to both Eliana, a botanist working in the Aremika Shaft (a practically bottomless fissure) – helping to heal it and the broken remains of a Returned, caught up in debt that won’t let her die. 

“I figured the Shaft would be a good choice. That was my idea. The Shaft. All you had to do was jump. I could never sit there and let a man cave my head in. That waiting, that—no. No. All I had to do was push Joseph back—let him get me in close, first, tell him I wanted to stand on the edge, tell him it excited me. That was all. Then I could just push him back. Then I could just jump. Then—then—I would be free.”

I have heard of these Red Sun stories ( a name coined not by Peek himself) and the three that follow are responsible for my “shaking the ash from your coat” comment above.  Three different stories focussing on different cultures or facets of a world, so dark and weird that it’s like a delicious oppressive weight, stories that have the texture of dried papery skin.  I felt like I needed a bath after reading them and this is a good thing

The Souls of Dead Soldiers are for Blackbirds, Not Little Boys had me in mind of new weird North Korea, a revered Queen sends her poor, undereducated, under resourced subjects to fight the might of Returned armies and the soldiers who suicide out of despair seek to return to life in the bodies of children.

At first, I thought that the doctor’s words had come back to frighten me, that it was just the lingering hint of a nightmare; but when I touched my right arm, the skin shifted, and phantom fingers pushed up against it. I screamed. It was not, perhaps, the most masculine response, but it felt—I remember it now as clearly as that moment when I first felt it—as if a hand had been trapped beneath my skin.

The Funeral, Ruined, gives the reader insight into the other side of the conflict shown in the preceding story.  Linette a veteran of the wars, is coming to terms with the death and return of her lover - what it means to have him die and the be reborn in the skin of another, what it means to her and what it means for death.  So much of steampunk/dieselpunk/insertpunk can be conceptual, about gadgetry.  The best of the genre uses those trappings, that atmosphere to ask the hard questions that good literature always asks.

In Under the Red Sun we are treated to how Returning can affect and be abused in a familial setting and true to the touchstone of all steampunk, the Victorian age, it features grave robbing and dark dealings.

With John Wayne (As Written by a Non-American) we emerge from fantasy and enter some social commentary, in a cowboy hat and carrying a shotgun from Wallmart.  While I enjoyed the story I think my lack of knowledge around the subject matter means I am missing some things here.  Likewise with the next story, Octavia E. Butler (a remix).  I was left thoroughly having thoroughly enjoyed this story as presented.  My suspicions that there was some meta-narrative, some dialogue with the genre going on was confirmed in the acknowledgments.  I need to read some of Octavia Butler’s work ( and indeed Peek’s story encourages me to do so) to fully appreciate it but its still an enjoyable read.   

theleeharveyoswaldband bookends the collection nicely, we finish up with a story about a one man band, who achieved success when he lost the other band members and was made famous by a bootlegger.  It’s played fairly straight until the end where we are wrong footed again.

I like that there are stories here that I might need to do some further reading to get a full appreciation of.  I like fiction that stretches me, that takes me into uncharted territory but it’s a good writer that can take you along and entertain you enough so that those deficiencies or gaps in your knowledge don’t hinder enjoyment.   Peek has done that here. 

I have looked at the cover and title of this book a number of times and asked myself the question, had I not known of Ben would I have picked up the work.  Sadly I don’t think I would have and that’s not a criticism of the publisher or Ben.  These pieces don’t fall into a nice neat marketable box.  The title in that sense I think targets a North American audience (and I can see why this has been done).  Australian’s not in the scene (and not aware of Ben’s talent) should read it.  Peek is one of those authors that can make something of their own in a genre- similar to Lanagan  You’re not reading Steampunk or New Weird, you’re reading Ben Peek’s Steampunk or New Weird. 

Having read this collection  I am eager both to discover his earlier novel and novella and to read his spin on epic fantasy in his forthcoming trilogy from Tor.

This review was based on an ARC provided by the publisher.

For Australian readers Booktopia have a free shipping sale on at the moment (until tomorrow night).  You can pre-order Dead Americans now at nearly 40% off and they will still ship it for free in March.  Go here and use the code BIRTHDAY at checkout.

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Feb 19, 2014

Daughters of the Dreaming Kingdom by Kim Wilkins – Coming Soon

Some of you may remember me getting really excited about Kim Wilkins’ collection The Year of Ancient Ghosts published by Ticonderoga last year.  No?  Well here you go

That collection which has also been shortlisted for the Aurealis Awards (which supports my excellent taste obviously) contained a story called The Crow of Rowan – a wonderful Anglo Saxon inspired world that was bigger than the story contained in Kim’s collection.  So it was with great joy that I found out today that Kim Wilkins has a two book deal with an as yet unnamed publisher to bring this larger story to life.

Congratulations Kim.  If your past form’s anything to go by you’ll have us on tenterhooks from page one.

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Book Review - Writing and Enjoying Haiku: A Hands-on Guide

haikuUp until a month ago my understanding of Haiku really didn’t reach much further than what I was taught in grade school some … an awful long time ago.  This changed when I decided to undertake some self education for the purpose of the Post-it Note Poetry event held every February by members of my writing group.  I was determined to learn a bit more about the form, surely it was not just 5-7-5 syllables .

It wasn’t, as it turns out.  There’s an ocean of information out there on how you can / “should” write Haiku.  Indeed I found myself getting distracted and lost, there’s just so much great material in the rabbit warren of early nineties Haiku pages to be had - freely posted for enthusiasts to read and experiment with.

Indeed I noted several articles that made their way in altered form into Writing and Enjoying Haiku.  What this book presents though, is a nice neat package with just the right amount of information to get you started and to not look terribly ignorant when unleashing your compact wisdom on the public. 

Chapter one gives the reader an understanding of what a Haiku is, and how to go about reading and understanding them. There’s a backgrounder on the history and development of the form in both Japan and the rest of the world. It was here I think that I realised that while I may be able to read the works of Masters like Basho, without some deeper cultural understandings of  Japanese literature I will miss allusions and references.  Haiku can be every bit as dense, as deep, as Shakespeare.

Chapter two  on writing Haiku is worth the price of admission by itself.  Here Reichhold breaks down, with examples drawn from the masters, as well as current Haiku poets, the 24 techniques that you can employ in writing haiku. She also canvases the “rules” that can and have applied at different times and at the behest of certain schools or masters.  What I found particularly refreshing about Reichhold is her focus on technique and her relaxed and sensible approach to using them.  For some Haiku poets the experience of writing in the form takes on religious import and the rules become dogma rather than guidelines.  Reichhold’s approach is basically know the rules, when and when not to use them.  Having written somewhere in the vicinity of 5000 herself and having dedicated a decade to producing Basho - The Complete Haiku I am prepared to follow her lead.

Chapter three covers Haiku and the sharing and appreciation of your works and others, getting published and preserving your poems.

Chapter four begins delving into associated forms, such as Tanka, and Renga.  I found this section interesting but less relevant - only because I am still coming to grips with Haiku.  This chapter I plan to return to when I have a few more Haiku under my belt.

If you want to explore Haiku, if you want explicit teaching this is the book for you.  I’d heartily recommend it to any teacher attempting to teach the form in high school, because it will move you past the rather simplistic notions our school texts have about the form.

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Limited Edition Angela Slatter Available for Order

blackwinged Ticonderoga are bringing out a delicious Hardcover edition of Angela Slatter’s Black-Winged Angels.  If that cover looks familiar its because it’s by Kathleen Jennings. If you need no further encouragement to by the limited hardcover at $45, go here.

If you are not convinced I will let Russ & Liz convince you:

Black-Winged Angels is a collection of 10 incredible contemporary retellings of fairy tales, and will be available in a limited hardcover edition illustrated by the multiple World Fantasy Award nominated Kathleen Jennings.

The collection will feature an introduction by the multiple award-winning Juliet Marillier and be published in August 2014.

Black-Winged Angels comprises ten reworked/reloaded fairytales for adult readers, several available for the first time in Australia.

The book will appeal to fans of Angela Carter ("The Company of Wolves") and Emma Donoghue ("Kissing the Witch").

Angela Slatter's previous Ticonderoga collection, The Girl With No Hands and Other Tales, won the Aurealis Award while her co-authoredMidnight and Moonshine collection (with Lisa L. Hannett) made the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2012.

"I’m so delighted to be working with Ticonderoga Publications again to give these stories a very special second life," says Angela Slatter. "Being able to have Juliet Marillier introduce the collection and Kathleen Jennings to illustrate it is the best gift a writer can get!"

Black-Winged Angels will be published as a limited hardcover edition of 250 copies signed by all contributors.


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Feb 18, 2014

Twelfth Planet Press Deals – Care of Aurealis Awards Shortlists Announcement

Twelfth Planet Press has announced a three ebook bundle to celebrate three of their books making an appearance on the Aurealis Award Shortlist.  So you can get logo

  •  Trucksong by Andrew Macrae
  • Caution: Contains Small Parts by Kirstyn McDermott and
  • Asymmetry by Thoraiya Dyer

for just $15 by using the coupon AurealisAwards2014 at checkout. The offer runs till April 30, 2014. 

And you can begin purchasing here.


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Feb 17, 2014

No Shipping on at Booktopia – Bargain Kowal and Lynch books

without-a-summer I have been reliably informed by Booktopia that they have free shipping until the 23rd of February and that it will be the only Free Shipping deal for that month.  So of interest to fantasy peeps will be – Without a Summer in Hardback, usually retailing at $50 it’s on offer for $14.95.  I heartily enjoyed the first book in the series and I have the second  and third in Hardback.  A really good series that’s like Jane Austen with Magic.

They also have Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard Series books 1 & 2 for under $10 each, they are the US versions – check out The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies.

And finally it’s a pre-order but Paul Cornell’s London Falling comes out in paperback in a couple of weeks at $11.  If you preorder they will still ship it at no extra charge.

The code for free shipping is BIRTHDAY, just apply it at the end of the checkout process.



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Feb 16, 2014

2013 Aurealis Awards – Finalists Announced

AA-logoIt’s that time again, the finalists for the Aurealis Awards have been announced.  The big night itself will happen on the 5th of April. The venue is the Great Hall, University House, Australian National University. Doors open 7pm for drinks, ceremony begins at 8pm. You will need tickets – go here.

What are the Aurealis Awards?

A judged award for a number of categories relating to Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing. For an in depth explanation go here.

The Finalists

Savage Bitch by Steve Carter and Antoinette Rydyr (Scar Studios)
Mr Unpronounceable Adventures by Tim Molloy (Milk Shadow Books)
Burger Force by Jackie Ryan (self-published)
Peaceful Tomorrows Volume Two by Shane W Smith (Zetabella Publishing)
The Deep Vol. 2: The Vanishing Island by Tom Taylor and James Brouwer (Gestalt Publishing)

Comment:  I have only read one of the titles here and I was pretty impressed with The Deep Vol.2.  Great art, great story and one that features non-white protagonists.


Kingdom of the Lost, book 2: Cloud Road by Isobelle Carmody (Penguin Group Australia)
Refuge by Jackie French (Harper Collins)
Song for a scarlet runner by Julie Hunt (Allen & Unwin)
The four seasons of Lucy McKenzie by Kirsty Murray (Allen & Unwin)
Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan (Hachette Australia)
Ice Breaker: The Hidden 1 by Lian Tanner (Allen & Unwin)

Comment:  Heard lots of good stuff about Icebreaker and Shaun Tan’s in there with his latest.  I am going with Lian Tanner for the win.


“Mah Song” by Joanne Anderton (The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories, FableCroft Publishing)
“By Bone-light” by Juliet Marillier (Prickle Moon, Ticonderoga Publications)
“Morning Star” by D.K. Mok (One Small Step, an anthology of discoveries, FableCroft Publishing)
“The Year of Ancient Ghosts” by Kim Wilkins (The Year of Ancient Ghosts, Ticonderoga Publications)

Comment: Have only read the year of Ancient Ghosts so far, but have access to the Mok and the Anderton. Reserving judgment but Wilkins’ collection was red hot, from memory.


The Big Dry by Tony Davies (Harper Collins)
Hunting by Andrea Host (self-published)
These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Allen & Unwin)
Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near (Random House Australia)
The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn (University of Queensland Press)

Comment:  Have read none of these, but have heard good stuff about Hunting.


“Fencelines” by Joanne Anderton (The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories, FableCroft Publishing)
“The Sleepover” by Terry Dowling (Exotic Gothic 5, PS Publishing)
“The Home for Broken Dolls” by Kirstyn McDermott (Caution: Contains Small Parts, Twelfth Planet Press)
“The Human Moth” by Kaaron Warren (The Grimscribe’s Puppets, Miskatonic Press)
“The Year of Ancient Ghosts” by Kim Wilkins (The Year of Ancient Ghosts, Ticonderoga Publications)

Comment: Ok this is a tight field,  I only have the Home for Broken Dolls left to read in McDermott’s collection.  Warren’s short fiction gives me the willies and Anderton impressed me with her short stuff with The Bone Chime Song. I am going out on a limb and predicting McDermott for the win. 

The Marching Dead by Lee Battersby (Angry Robot Books)
The First Bird by Greig Beck (Momentum)
Path of Night by Dirk Flinthart (FableCroft Publishing)
Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near (Random House Australia)

Comment:  Haven’t read anything but Path of Night which I enjoyed.  Don’t know if I’d put it in the horror category, more of a paranormal thriller.


“The Last Stormdancer” by Jay Kristoff (Thomas Dunne Books)
“The Touch of the Taniwha” by Tracie McBride (Fish, Dagan Books)
“Cold, Cold War” by Ian McHugh (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Scott H Andrews)
“Short Circuit” by Kirstie Olley (Oomph: a little super goes a long way, Crossed Genres)
“The Year of Ancient Ghosts” by Kim Wilkins (The Year of Ancient Ghosts, Ticonderoga Publications)

Comment: Hmm only read the Wilkins here.  Hard to judge it against the others


Lexicon by Max Barry (Hachette Australia)
A Crucible of Souls by Mitchell Hogan (self-published)
These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Allen & Unwin)
Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix (Jill Grinberg Literary Management)
Ink Black Magic by Tansy Rayner Roberts (FableCroft Publishing)

Comment: Haven’t read any of these, though in my defence I have Lexicon on the shelf because I loved the concept.


“The Last Tiger” by Joanne Anderton (Daily Science Fiction)
“Mah Song” by Joanne Anderton (The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories, FableCroft Publishing)
“Seven Days in Paris” by Thoraiya Dyer (Asymmetry, Twelfth Planet Press)
“Version” by Lucy Stone (Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #57)
“Air, Water and the Grove” by Kaaron Warren (The Lowest Heaven, Pandemonium Press)

Comment:  Anderton has been prolific,  maybe I should read the collection :).  Liked Seven Days in Paris by Dyer.


Lexicon by Max Barry (Hachette)
Trucksong by Andrew Macrae (Twelfth Planet Press)
A Wrong Turn At The Office Of Unmade Lists by Jane Rawson (Transit Lounge)
True Path by Graham Storrs (Momentum)
Rupetta by Nike Sulway (Tartarus Press)

Comment: Would be nice for Macrae to win.  Love the concept, another book sitting in my personal TBR pile.  True Path by Graham Storrs also looks interesting.


The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2012 by Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene (Eds), (Ticonderoga Publications)
One Small Step, An Anthology Of Discoveries by Tehani Wessely (Ed) (FableCroft Publishing)
Dreaming Of Djinn by Liz Grzyb (Ed) (Ticonderoga Publications)
The Best Science Fiction And Fantasy Of The Year: Volume Seven by Jonathan Strahan (Ed) (Night Shade Books)
Focus 2012: Highlights Of Australian Short Fiction by Tehani Wessely (Ed) (FableCroft Publishing)

Comment: All deserving and no idea who should will win.


The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories by Joanne Anderton (FableCroft Publishing)
Asymmetry by Thoraiya Dyer (Twelfth Planet Press)
Caution: Contains Small Parts by Kirstyn McDermott (Twelfth Planet Press)
The Bride Price by Cat Sparks (Ticonderoga Publications)
The Year of Ancient Ghosts by Kim Wilkins (Ticonderoga Publications)

Comment: Read three out of the five and have the other two.  All by writers in top form. Couldn’t pick it frankly.  Could be a five way tie.  Kim Wilkins did make me cry though with the last story in her collection.


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Feb 14, 2014

Coming Soon – Stars Like Sand – Australian Speculative Poetry Anthology

starsSome time last year I, amongst others, answered the call to submit poetry to a new project showcasing Australian speculative poetry.  So I am excited to share with you the cover of said anthology that is coming out in a couple of months time.  It contains my poem Dead Messengers and will be my first print publication.

The Anthology is being edited by PS Cottier and Tim Jones, both fantastic people and poets in their own right.

The anthology is being published by Interactive Publications.






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eBook Review – The Back of the Back of Beyond by Edwina Harvey


The Back of the Back of Beyond is a collection of linked stories by Edwina Harvey.  Beginning with the story No Pets Allowed it’s been a twenty year journey to get to this unique collection.  I say unique, because Edwina hasn’t written your run of the mill urban fantasy.  It’s a cross between the tone of Cyrano de Bergerac’s proto-science fiction and something like The Secret Life of Us, only with role-players instead of trendy 20-somethings living in Saint Kilda.

The stories trace the fantastical life of the author from living in share house to moving to the back of the back of beyond.

I think comedy is one of the hardest forms to attempt in any genre so how you will find Harvey’s work will depend on if you like fannish references and in-jokes, meshed with situational comedy and dry wit.

As an example of the type of gags your likely to encounter here’s the author recalling an incident with her flatmate Bean:


I was having trouble breathing—and not the usual having trouble breathing from sinus either.

Something square had insinuated itself into my right nostril.

“Nean … Nean, I’m snuck …”

Ex-flatmate Dragon Warlord, Pig Hunter of the Fifth Dimension must have been napping as well. I heard him awaken with a start, coughing and spluttering indignantly because someone had caught him napping, no doubt a throwback to his days spent dozing through Uni lectures.

“I’m snuck, Nean …”

“Oh dear—let me see what I can do …”

He bent, he gawked, he put a reassuring hand on my right shoulder and endeavoured to pull me away from the keyboard.

I squealed in pain, probably not unlike all those feral pigs in his game. And after all of the chocolate and Coke he’d been feeding me, I probably looked like one as well.

He got up close and personal with my keyboard. I could see him out of the corner of my eye, and I couldn’t help wondering if he intended to join me in an unholy state of nostril/keyboard union out of a misplaced sense of loyalty, or empathy, or sympathy … or anything else ending in ‘athy’, but no, he was merely studying my predicament.

“You’ve got the letter H stuck up your nose,” he observed unhelpfully.

“Elp me,” I gasped.


It’s very light reading and could be devoured in one sitting or story by story.  The book was funded through selling guest appearances in the various stories,  the list of friends and supporters are listed, as well as which stories they appear in, at the end of the book. Some stalwarts of the Australian scene have been immortalised here.

I think this collection certainly has more value for those readers who have a prolonged attachment to science fiction and fantasy in the Australian scene, there will be some cross over with our geek tribes from the northern hemisphere, but the book has a definite antipodean flavour.

This book was a review copy.  You can purchase it through Peggy Bright Books.


This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014.  Please check out this page for more great writing from Australian women.awwbadge_2014








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Feb 8, 2014

TOC of The Mammoth Book of Steampunk Adventures released

For Steampunk fans you will be glad to know that the TOC forthe Mammoth Book of Steampunk Adventures has been released.  Lots of good names including some up and comers like Benjanun Sriduangkaew.  The release dates are advertised as August 2014 (UK) and October 2014 (US), so I am guessing that Australia might get it at the same time as the UK.

  • Introduction by Ann VanderMeer
  • “Smoke City” by Christopher Barzak
  • “Memories in Bronze, Feathers, and Blood” by Aliette de Bodard
  • “Love Comes to Abyssal City” by Tobias Buckell
  • “Canary of Candletown” by C.S.E Cooney
  • “On the Lot and In the Air” by Lisa L. Hannett
  • “Beyond Calais” by Samantha Henderson
  • “La Valse” by K.W. Jeter
  • “The Colliers’ Venus (1893)” by Caitlin R. Kiernan
  • “Benedice Te” by Jay Lake
  • “Good Hunting” by Ken Liu
  • “Selin That Has Grown in the Desert” by Alex Dally MacFarlane
  • “The Curse of Chimère” by Tony Pi
  • “Tanglefoot” by Cherie Priest
  • “Ticktock Girl” by Cat Rambo
  • “Edison’s Frankenstein” by Chris Roberson
  • “The Governess and the Lobster” by Margaret Ronald
  • “I Stole the D.C.’s Eyeglass” by Sofia Samatar
  • “The Clockworks of Hanyang” by Gord Sellar
  • “The Return of Cherie” by Nisi Shawl
  • “Five Hundred and Ninety-Nine” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew, original
  • “Green Eyed Monsters in the Valley of Sky, An Opera” by E. Catherine Tobler, original
  • “Harry and Marlowe and the Talisman of the Cult of Egil” by Carrie Vaughn
  • “Terrain” by Genevieve Valentine
  • “A Mouse Ran up the Clock” by AC Wise
  • “Anna in the Moonlight” by Jonathan Wood, original


Book Review – nothing here needs fixing by Maxine Beneba Clarke

maxineI first came across Clarke’s work listening to her read  the short story, Harlem Jones, on the Overland Podcast.  She’s a previous Australian Slam Poetry champion.  She won the Victorian Premier’s Award for an unpublished manuscript in 2013.  The manuscript, a collection of short stories, will be published this year by Hachette, under the title Foreign Soil.

But, nothing here needs fixing ?

I have to admit I am finding I have more of a connection with spoken word poetry even when I am just reading it, when I haven’t heard the poet perform it. I am also thoroughly enjoying all the works I have purchased from Picaro Press.  Clarke’s collection is no exception.  At the risk of sounding cliché, it’s real, it feels raw and honest and takes me on a journey that as a middle class white male I won’t probably experience otherwise.

There’s something to be said for puzzling out avant-guard and post-modern works, to applying a close reading to really dense works.  But there’s also much to be said for works that can get you thinking while lighting a fire under your arse.

I love Clarke’s play with language, cadence and sound in the collection opener in karikatur austerlich duetsch, the longest poem in the book.  It is I assume, biographical.  It’s both an affirming, thumbing of one’s nose at all the people that sought to disempower a schmal braun frau, and a criticism of the racist society we subject(ed) non-white Australians to.

This battling as a single black mother against banks, school community and welfare is one of the stronger themes in the book. The titular poem, nothing here needs fixing, speaks of the importance of love and care over money.  That we are not the labels, not the designation we might be given in a sociological assessment.

broken home/nuh uh

there is nothing here/ needs fixing


Don’t think that it’s all angry and up in your face though, there is anger but there’s also a call to think beyond your own settled and sheltered lives, such as in Somewhere on your street:

somewhere on your street
there is a mother
who kept her children home from school
tuesday of last week
who couldn/t scratch the dollar fifty / each
to send with them
to the stall
who paid a day of education
to erase their shame [read more]

Clarke’s work is equal parts anger and loss, loneliness and joy, momentary defeat and battles won toward victory.  In pointing out the faults in the system there’s also a healthy introspection – particularly in the closing poem, being alice walker’s daughter.

Nothing here needs fixing is another of those collections that I recommend without reservation.  Accessible, beautifully written poetry with rhythm and while it may throw some clever and stinging punches it also gets under you guard in subtler ways in works like thin air.

it is three thirty pm
primary school pick-up time
& you
have looked all over the schoolyard
for your five-year-old child
the teacher looks at you
clipboard shaking
eyes open wide
& it is then you realise
this morning
your child
did not

[read more]

You’ll only be able to buy it through Picaro Press or really groovy independents I suspect. But like Ali Cobby Eckermann’s little bit long time this is a collection I will cherish.

This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014.  Please check out this page for more great writing from Australian women..awwbadge_2014

Women Destroy Science Fiction - Kickstarter

John Joseph Adams has handed over the reins to a guest editor for the 40th edition of Lightspeed magazine.  It’s going to be an issue that’s edited and entirely written by women.  Quick get your tinned food and small arms the world is about to end…for the Science Fiction Fandom equivalent of camouflaged survivalists living in the backwoods.

But if you want to checkout what’s on offer you can go here or click the embedded window below:

You’ll note that it is fully funded, so get in now and guarantee yourself a bumper 40th edition.


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