Monthly Archives: February 2012

Photo by Charlie O'Neal

Wednesday Writers: Lincoln Crisler

Writer, editor and combat veteran, Lincoln Crisler is truly a man of many talents! As someone who has sat on both sides of the slush pile divide, Lincoln is well qualified to talk about what lessons he has taken from his stints as an editor and how he has applied it to his own writing. Oh, and buy his anthology – it looks AWESOME!

The Author as Editor, and Vice-versa

Cover by Jessy Lucero

As some of you may know (and if not a single one of you, David’s readers, knows, I really need to stop charging people for my mad marketing skillz), I have an anthology coming out on March 1st. It’s a collection of dark stories about people with superpowers. It’s the second anthology I’ve edited (and you can read more about that here). I learned some stuff in the process. Editing’s made me a better author, and quite possibly, a better human. Continue reading

A Conversational Journey through New Who – S03E01 -Smith and Jones

David is coming to New Who for the first time, having loved Classic Who as a kid. Tehani is a recent convert, and ploughed through Seasons 1 to 6 (so far) in just a few weeks after becoming addicted thanks to Matt Smith – she’s rewatching to keep up with David! Tansy is the expert in the team, with a history in Doctor Who fandom that goes WAY back, and a passion for Doctor Who that inspires us all. We’re going to work our way through New Who, using season openers and closers, and Hugo shortlisted episodes, as our blogging points. Just for fun! Last time we looked at “The Runaway Bride“, and now we move on to:

“Smith and Jones” – Season Three, Episode One
The Doctor – David Tennant
Martha Jones – Freema Agyeman

TEHANI:
I loved Martha from the moment I met her. She’s funny, smart, cool and works well under pressure. I love her dysfunctional but ultimately awesome family and her obvious and instant difference to Rose and Donna (clearly marked by her telling the Doctor about the events of the past couple of years that Donna had missed entirely). Well, in the beginning…

Is it just me or is Tennant more relaxed in the role in this episode? It’s almost like he’s taken a breath and gone, yup, I’m the Doctor and everything is ooo-kay.

TANSY:
There could certainly have been a bigger time gap there, for the Doctor, which allows him to have relaxed a bit into himself. And I think it helps for David Tennant to not be the new boy any more.

I’m also a huge Martha fan! This is a great introduction to her and her family – and it really is a game of contrasts between her and Rose. She has a life, something not as easily walked away from, and is only interested in an adventure or two before returning to her career and attachments. She’s also capable, clever and quite flexible.

Like Donna, she’s also perfectly capable of smacking the Doctor around when he gets too high handed … and does it rather less abrasively than Donna did in “The Runaway Bride”.

DAVID:
Once I got over how familiar she looked, neatly explained away of course, I was really impressed with Martha. I agree about the contrast with Rose, it is almost as if they were trying to find the complete opposite. I am in no way calling Rose stupid, but one of the things they emphasise about her is her limited education and the narrowness of her experience of life. The way her journeys with the Doctor expand these horizons is a major part of her character arc.

In Martha we are presented with someone who is well educated and has a very nimble and inquiring mind, and who immediately grasps the ramifications of what has happened to the hospital and the patients, yet can still grasp the wonder of what she is seeing (and how brilliant an image is this hospital sitting on the surface of the moon, bathed in “Earthlight” as the Doctor so elegantly puts it?). You can see how much she impresses the Doctor from the word go (and I was equally as impressed). Terrible doctor though, fancy running around with the Doctor instead of attending to her patients! :-P Continue reading

Wednesday Writers: Kaaron Warren

Through good fortune, rather than good planning, I seem to be doing rather well so far with the timing of my guests. To follow Nicole Murphy’s spirited defense of romance on the day after Valentine’s Day, this week I have the pleasure of hosting the delighful Kaaron Warren who was the talk of the internet this week with Sunday’s exciting announcement that she had made the shortlist for the Stoker Awards. Kaaron is a perfect example of what I call the “Haines Effect”, a writer whose incredibly dark and disturbing fiction keeps you awake at night and makes you wonder whether they would be safe to be around, but turns out to be amazingly warm and friendly in person. Here she talks about her experiences with putting together collections of her short stories.

I’ve always adored short stories. My favourite anthology from a young age was one called Ten Tales, which held The Bottle Imp, by Robert Louis Stevenson, and Exit, by Harry Farjeon. These two stories remain two of the most perfect pieces of fiction I’ve ever read, and they are the example I’ve always wanted to achieve. This anthology also has “The Truth about Pycraft”, by H. G. Wells, another wonderful story, and the horrendously racist (so awful there is no way I could read it to my children) “The Circus” by Booth Tarkington. It is similar in theme to Richmal Compton’s “The Show”, which is so funny, ninety years after it was written, that the kids and I weep with laughter when we listen to it on disc. Ten Tales was edited by A. A. Phillips, who apparently developed the term cultural cringe! It was published in 1951; I think I read it when I was about ten, in the mid seventies.
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REVIEW: Greatshadow: The Dragon Apocalypse by James Maxey

DISCLAIMER: After seeing a post on Mr Maxey’s blog, I volunteered to provide a review and was sent a preview copy.

Greatshadow is a very ambitious book that aims high and, for the most part, gets there. When I read the premise of the novel I was intrigued and penciled it in as something to keep an eye out for, hence why I leapt at the chance to get an advance reading. I had read one of Mr Maxey’s earlier books and, while I had found it a bit rough around the edges, I had really enjoyed the fast pace and frenetic action. I was hoping for more of the same in Greatshadow, and I was most definitely not disappointed.

Greatshadow starts with action, and doesn’t really let up for the rest of the book. I loved the narrator, who is unreliable in the true sense of the world, and I had to admire Mr Maxey’s ingenious solution to the problem of how a narrator sees things that are going on in places other than his physical location. While the narrator is far from perfect, we do find ourselves on his side, hoping for a happy ending. This “everyman” character gives us a point of engagement as we see the other characters through his eyes.

And, the real strength of Greatshadow truly does lie with its ensemble of super powered warriors, each of whom has a unique set of gifts. I won’t go into details as discovering them is half the fun for the reader, but Mr Maxey really has done an exceptional job of taking the standard fantasy archetypes (the paladin, the warrior princess, the mysterious eastern warrior and so one) and giving them his own, special twist. There was one hero in particular whose powers really impressed me as a fresh idea, and whose downfall was incredibly ingenious (if I say it’s to do with prayer you will find out who I mean!).

The only real problems I had with the book were some sloppy editing (changes of tense that seemed odd, for example) and the sometimes sophomoric humour and attitudes to women. The humourous shortcomings may just be to do with my taste, but I thought that some of the sexual references were a bit juvenile and that, while there are some very strong female characters, women too often fell into wish fulfilment territory.

Imagine David Gemmell crossed with “Grunts” by Mary Gentle, and it might give you an idea of what to expect. If you are after a book that is action packed, has some incredibly imaginative heroes, monsters and villains and can handle a bit of blood and guts then this is well worth your while. I know I would have been happy to have paid for a book that was this entertaining, and I will most definitely be buying the next one.

You can buy Greatshadow here.

 

Chronos Awards – Nominations Open

I don’t know about you, but I am really looking forward to this year’s Natcon, Craftonomicon! Last year’s Continuum was simply amazing, and from everything I have heard and seen so far, this one will be even better.

As part of the lead up to the con, nominations for the Chronos Awards are now open. From John Samuel’s blog:

We are now halfway through the nominations period for the Chronos Awards. Nominations close on 18 March 2012.
 
Please remember that to make the ballot works require 4 nominations in the professional categories, and 2 nominations in the other categories.  Please refer to the Chronos Award rules for more information.
 
At present a relatively small number of works have passed these thresholds, and most categories do not have more than one eligible work.

You can find a comprehensive list of eligible works here, and I would encourage those of you eligible to nominate to take some time to read through the list and nominate those you find deserving.

I do have some short stories eligible (see below), however there are lots of other wonderful pieces there. The important thing is that you nominate the works that spoke to you, and give their creators the recognition they deserve.

Short Stories

“Catspaw” by David McDonald in Tales of the Shadowmen Vol 8: Agents Provocateurs (Black Coat Press).

“Just Like Cuckoo” by Brendan Duffy and David McDonald in The ePocalypse: emails at the end, edited by Jessy Marie Roberts (Pill Hill Press).

“Venus Transiens” by David McDonald in Horror, Humor and Heroes 3 – New Faces of Science Fiction, edited by Jim Bernheimer (EJB Networking).

 

Wednesday Writers: Nicole Murphy

Welcome to the inaugural “Wednesday Writers”, a new series of weekly guest posts. It’s a pleasure to welcome the wonderful Nicole Murphy to kick things off with a very timely post on romance. I’d like to claim that I planned all along on featuring this the day after Valentine’s Day, but it is merely a happy accident!

An argument about the importance of romance.

I would like to put forward an argument that the much maligned and misunderstood genre of romance is, in fact, a serious contender for the title of most important genre.

Here’s my thinking.
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New feature – Wednesday Writers

One of the highlights of the past two years has been the wonderful people I have had a chance to meet through writing. The twin tyrannies of time and distance mean that I don’t get to chat to them as much as I would like, but when I do it’s always a pleasure and I always learn something new.

When I sat down to think about the type of content I wanted on my blog this year, I decided that I would simply post the sort of things that I would like to read, that I would find interesting and of value, in the hope that others would benefit from them too.

Upon reflection, I realised that one of the things I really wanted was to hear more from my fellow writers, and I felt that the best way to do this was to start a new feature on my blog where I would invite various people to come and share something of their experience and knowledge.

And so “Wednesday Writers” was born! Every week I will feature a guest post from someone in the spec fic community. There is no set theme, just a chance for them to share something that they are passionate about, or have a degree of expertise in. I have a great line up of special guests, with a roster already reaching to April!

The usual disclaimers apply, I value diversity of opinion so the thoughts expressed here won’t always reflect mine. But, I wouldn’t be asking people to post unless I respected their viewpoints and integrity, and I am sure that as you read you will see why. Enjoy!

A Conversational Journey through New Who – The Runaway Bride (S02 Christmas Special)

A Conversational Journey through New Who – The Runaway Bride (S02 Christmas Special)

 

Art by Kathleen Jennings

 

Watching New Who – in conversation with David McDonald, Tansy Rayner Roberts and Tehani Wessely
– with artwork by Kathleen Jennings!

David is coming to New Who for the first time, having loved Classic Who as a kid. Tehani is a recent convert, and ploughed through Seasons 1 to 6 (so far) in just a few weeks after becoming addicted thanks to Matt Smith – she’s rewatching to keep up with David! Tansy is the expert in the team, with a history in Doctor Who fandom that goes WAY back, and a passion for Doctor Who that inspires us all.

For this Christmas episode we are very excited to present some amazing original fan art by Kathleen Jennings. Thanks Kathleen! Check out Kathleen’s awesome artwork at her blog, particularly her regular Dalek Game pieces! And you might like to know that Kathleen is eligible for Best Fan Artist, if you’re nominating for the Hugos… :)

We’re going to work our way through New Who, using season openers and closers, and Hugo shortlisted episodes, as our blogging points. Just for fun! We have already talked about:

“Rose”, S01E01
“Dalek”, S01E06
“Father’s Day”, S01E08
“The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances”, S01E09/10
“Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways”, S01E12/13
Season One Report Card – DavidTansyTehani
“The Christmas Invasion”, 2005 Christmas Special
“New Earth”, S02E01
“School Reunion”, S02E03
“The Girl in the Fireplace”, S02E04
“Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel”, S02E05/06
“Army of Ghosts/Doomsday”, S02E12/13
Season Two Report Card – David, Tansy, Tehani

“The Runaway Bride” – Season Two Christmas Special

The Doctor – David Tennant
Donna Noble – Catherine Tate

TANSY:
This Christmas Special was probably one of the most divisive Doctor Who stories in its time, because it all came down to whether you loved or hated Donna (Catherine Tate).  I liked Donna at the time, but came to love her more and more in retrospect, and so I find that I like this story more every time I watch it.  Having said that, I’m not in it for the plot!

TEHANI:
I love Donna! She was a bit bumpy in this, her first appearance, but she is so awesome!!

DAVID:
I liked Donna as a character, but in terms of the writing there were a lot of lazy stereotypes about women and about brides in this, and a bit too much fun at her expense, rather than fun with her. She was a great contrast to Rose, though.
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The cool kids table…

Great post from Maurice Broaddus, where he talks about the welcoming nature of the genre community. I think many of us could identify with this feeling:

The thing is, too much of our lives, and by “lives” I mean social traumas and scars, can be traced back to high school. We envision a cool kids tables, those kids who defined who was in and who was out. We live with this sense that there is a community that we’re being excluded from, that there are cliques not open spaces. That certain people can marshal people around them while you toil away alone, unwanted, and unappreciated, all of which touches on older wounds of feeling unloved.
This feeling of exclusion speaks to our longing for community. We want to connect, we want to be accepted. We want to be noticed by “them”: the successful, the cool, the people who are where we want to be. We lose sight of the people already in our lives and spheres who have been supporting us all along.

As I have mentioned more than once in my posts on conventions I have been to, I have been blown away by how welcoming I have found people in the Aussie spec fic scene. Many of them have known each other for years, if not decades, so it wouldn’t be surprising if there was a resistance to new faces coming into established cliques, but nothing could be further from the truth. Nor are the “big names” standoffish, on the contrary, they have been amongst the most friendly.

There really is a sense of being in this together, of wanting to share success with others, rather than hoarding achievements for oneself. People want to help others improve their craft and are willing to share whatever useful things they have come across, rather than hoarding them. There is no sense that people feel that if someone else does well it means less for everyone else, but instead there is the view that the better one person does the more opportunities it creates for everyone else.

I have never been good at joining new social circles or groups, in fact it makes me almost physically ill at times when I am faced with approaching a new set of people. Even when that initial barrier has been breached, I still struggle to feel part of things. That someone like myself has felt so welcomed speaks volumes for the way that new people are treated and is something that we should celebrate as a community.

NANOWRIMO, OR THE MONTH FROM HELL

I was a bit shocked to look at the calendar today and realise that it is already February, and then I realised something even more disheartening – that I hadn’t blogged about my NaNoWriMo experiences! So, in a completely untimely and probably irrelevant fashion, here it is – the NaNoWriMo post.

Rather than assume everyone knows what NaNoWriMo is (thought I know you all do) here is a brief description from their website:

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000 word, (approximately 175 page) novel by 11:59:59, November 30. Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved. Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. This approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

I’ve always found the idea intriguing, and had completing NaNoWriMo down as a goal of mine. I knew a lot of people who had attempted it, with varying degrees of success, and I decided that 2011 was the year that I would stop thinking, and start doing.

In the months leading up to November there was much discussion about NaNoWriMo, people listing their goals and stating their intentions, blog posts listing the pros or the cons, or both, of the whole enterprise. It certainly seemed to be a fairly polarising issue, with some people effusive in their praise, and others damning in their indictments.

One of the most interesting “anti” NaNo posts was from Alan Baxter, who I thought made some pretty valid points, and certainly gave me something to think about. On the other hand, with a writer I respect as much as Tansy Rayner Roberts in the “pro” camp it was hard to write it off. And that was the problem, so many writers I admire on either side. Obviously I would have to do the hard thing and make my own decision!!
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