Because I can

September 21, 2010



September 21, 2010

After months of struggling with my writing I had one reasonable piece sent for submission, one that had died in the arse after re-writing it three times (to the tune of approx. 11,000 words), and one that was floundering badly.

And I’ve been BITCHIN about it. To anyone who’ll listen. Mostly my wife, which is lucky because she’s seen it before and is supportive in a ‘harden up wimp’ kind of way.

Anyway, after a weekend of sun and exercise, on Sunday I sat in the backyard and wrote 1,000 words into my floundering story, rejuvenating it somewhat. Then, at eight o’clock that night, when I’m normally zoning out, I re-read my “died in the arse” story, realised it was closer to “first draft finished” stage than I remembered, and I worked out how to get past the stumbling block that killed it last time. Poured 1,100 words into it, and backed it up by completing the first draft on Monday night.


(not that I’m complaining)

Books and pBooks

September 18, 2010

Alan Baxter‘s worldcon blog wrap-ups recanted a question at a panel that went something like:

“How long will it be before we stop talking about books and ebooks, and instead talk about books and p-books?”

I downloaded my first graphic novel yesterday (Girl Genius Vol1) and immediately wondered about what cool books and comics I could download for my kids. Then I was buffeted by the enormity of this. Chances are my kids will never have to decide which books they can fit into their bag when they go on holidays, never get the smell or feel of an old copy of a favourite novel. Never find scrawled notes from an overzealous uni student.

None of this is news to anyone, I’m sure. But I just realised it (I’m a bit slow on the uptake).

I’m going to have to work on this one. I’m not advocating a refusal to download eBooks. On the contrary, I’m looking forward to the new reading experience myself. I just don’t want them to miss out on potentially developing a love for books (and not just reading).

That is all.

PS The feeling was compounded when Miss Seven asked us last night for an email address (to email her grandparents).


‘Binge Drinking’

September 16, 2010

If you’ve always wondered what I sound like – wonder no longer!

Soundzine have put up a short story of mine titled “Binge Drinking”, along with a recording of yours truly reading it out.

Check it out here.

Worlds Next Door ed. by Tehani Wessely

September 15, 2010

The final “non-review” of the book prizes from my latest blog comp is “Worlds Next Door” edited by Tehani Wessely.


“Worlds Next Door” is the debut launch of new publishing house Fablecroft Publishing, the brainchild of Tehani Wessely (disclaimer: in 2009 Tehani awarded me 2nd place in the KSP Spec Fic Awards, so I am predisposed to believe her to be a human of impeccable taste).

What is it about Young Adult (YA) fiction that lends itself to Speculative Fiction?

One of my Lit lecturers at Curtin Uni – in trying to explain modernity and post-modernity to the class – dropped a sentence on us that I’ve always remembered:

“In modernity, the abject patrols the liminal space between binaries.”

Let me try and explain this without stuffing it up, or dumbing it down to the point of error:

Modernity is all about knowing things, defining them. For example: I know that I am alive and I know that I am not dead. In modernity, Alive and Dead are two separate categories and an individual subject that falls into either is a known.

But what happens in the places where the boundaries come close to, and butt up against, each other? This area is contentious and scary for the modernist way of thought, because the ability to know is compromised – the normal rules don’t necessarily apply. So, to keep us from lingering there too long, the abject (a fearful creature or idea) exists to patrol the borders and scare us away.

Some examples:

The Alive v. Dead binary: in this case the abject is the undead – vampires, zombies and the like.

The Human / Machine binary: the abject here is the cyborg: the Terminator and Darth Vader (at least as they were originally conceived) were iconic objects of fear.

Racial binaries: literature has often used mixed race subjects as areas of fear. The most notable examples being the voodoo practicing creoles, but there are also examples of Eurasians, and other mixed race subjects throughout literature.

…and of course:

The Child / Adult binary: where the abject is the teenager (or Young Adult).

The part of us that longs for the safety of knowing finds areas of ambiguity disturbing. We accept that the strange occurs there, because it gives us a reason to avoid it.

The first comment I have about “Worlds Next Door” is that it is aptly named. The worlds described in the stories do feel just next door, or just over the fence. They aren’t full blown fantasy, they’re just a “little different”.

There are so many excellent stories in this collection, including “The Best Dog in the World” by Dirk Flinthart, which just about tears your heart out, and “Genevieve and the Dragon”, by the ever excellent Angela Slatter.

I want to talk about two stories in particular:

“Old Saint Nick” by Leith Daniels stood out in my mind because I was able to listen to Leith read part of his story at the book launch.

The launch was well attended, and it seemed there were at least as many kids as adults. I took my two rug rats along and watched with great pleasure as their eyes boggled when Leith described “Old Nick” as being (and I paraphrase here) “fat in the kind of way someone is fat if they are layered with muscles from working with livestock, and the fat is there to facilitate living in a frozen tundra wasteland.” (Leith says it much better than I do)


It is a dark, funny, cautionary tale about kids who think they are cleverer than magic and fantasy.

The other story I want to mention was my favourite from the book – “The Guardians”, by Geoffrey Hugh Miller.

This story elicited a profound response from me. It was written simply, to the point where it may seem like a fairly superficial story. But for me, there was an emotional core to the story that resonated with my personal experience with one of the worst things of my teenage years: that as a teenager you are often exposed to the (occasional) shitiness of the world, but are almost always powerless to alter it.

“The Guardians” struck me as almost the quintessential teenager fantasy: to exert power in an adult world that has power over you.

Like the last two books I’ve discussed here, I say GO AND GET IT!

Oh, and keep an eye on Fablecroft. Trust your Uncle Daniel.