Monthly Archives: March 2012

Wednesday Writers: Tansy Rayner Roberts

Not content with being the author of perhaps the best fantasy trilogy to come out of Australia, the multiple award winning and nominated The Creature Court Trilogy (stay posted for a review coming soon), Tansy Rayner Roberts is a scarily prolific blogger who writes with amazing depth and perception on a vast array of topics such as feminism, Agatha Christie, comics and, of course, Doctor Who (for our ongoing series of posts on New Who click here). She is also one of the voices of Galactic Suburbia, a podcast that has changed the way I read and write spec fic forever. It is wonderful to welcome her here to share some tips on world building, and I am sure you will get as much out of it as I have.

Eyries, Theatres and Worldbuilding as Plot

I first wrote on the ‘worldbuilding as plot’ theme back when I saw the final Harry Potter movie, and was blown away all over again by how clever that Rowling dame is. Wait, is she ACTUALLY a dame yet? Never mind, I’ll wait.

At the time, I was thinking very much about my Nancy Napoleon novel, the one I’ve been wrangling with for the last year, which is probably not going to be called “Fury” now because someone else took that title (SIGH). The idea of worldbuilding as plot gave me a stronger sense of what I was trying to do with the novel, and helped me get over the finish line when I had lost confidence (as regularly happens to writers but sadly not predictably so it can hit you at any time). Continue reading

A Conversational Journey through New Who – S03E02/03 – The Shakespeare Code/Gridlock

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 “Smith and Jones“, and now we move on to:

“The Shakespeare Code” – Season Three, Episode Two
The Doctor – David Tennant
Martha Jones – Freema Agyeman
Shakespeare – Dean Lennox Kelly

So, Martha’s first adventure and we get Shakespeare! There’s a lot to like about this episode. Ten is clearly enjoying himself on this one, and Martha does well for her first time travelling, don’t you think? Asking the important questions for us not in TV-land and getting timey-wimey explanations in return.

Yes I like that Martha has a very down to earth and practical approach to time travel, and while she has just as much sense of wonder as Rose, there’s a bit more of – I don’t know, is it snobbish to say she feels more intellectual in how she takes in history? Less giggling, more cynical nodding.

I don’t think it’s snobbish – true, maybe, but just another way to identify the differences between the companions I guess. Martha is better educated and a little more worldly than Rose, so showing Martha reacting quite differently to how we saw Rose reacting is reasonable.

I also think it’s important that Martha raises the race question early, and that the Doctor answers it – it’s a little glib for him to suggest she just walk around like she own the place, because he’s speaking from white male privilege, but at the same time it is important to note that there were people of colour (if not as many as now) in British history, and it’s only a century of whitewashed movies and television that makes us think otherwise. Important that the race issue is addressed in the time travel stories, because pretending Martha isn’t black would be bizarre. I rather like her “not exactly white, in case you haven’t noticed” line because, let’s face it, the Doctor probably WOULDN’T think about that sort of thing.

That’s something I did wonder about, wouldn’t Martha have stood out a little more than she did, not only because of her colour but because of what she was wearing? I would have thought both would have excited more reaction than they did. I’m quite happy to admit to be speaking from a lack of knowledge here, but I would have thought that London circa Shakespeare’s time would be pretty homogeneous so I’d love to be pointed to some sources that talk about the history we don’t see usually see in movies and TV, and perhaps our readers would like to as well (this is something I also wondered when watching the one episode of Merlin I’ve managed to catch)?
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Wednesday Writers: Tehani Wessely

This week’s Wednesday Writer is a regular on my blog, through her involvement with the ongoing Conversations in New Who series of reviews. But that is only one of the multitude of hats that Tehani wears, because not only is she one of the nicest people in Australian Spec Fic, she is one of the hardest working. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing how she goes about her role as editor, both with a rejected piece and in the upcoming anthology Epilogue (*does excited Snoopy dance*), and I am delighted to have her here to share, amongst other gems, some tips that any author would do well to heed.

My story in the Australian speculative fiction scene started in 2001, when I joined the Eidolist. Not long after I got there, the long-running magazine Aurealis was up for sale, and a group of enthusiasts began to discuss the option of forming a group to take it on, rather than the single or two-person helmed job it had previously been. After a while, some bright spark suggested that instead of taking on the existing magazine, it might be a cool idea to start a NEW one, with a new vision and new way of operating. It didn’t take very much convincing for a bunch of us to splinter off onto a new mailing list, and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine was born.
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Thoughts on the Aurealis Awards Nominations

Yesterday, the finalists for the Aurealis Awards were announced, and as usual I took the opportunity to see how in touch I am with what is happening in Aussie spec fic. The results were mixed!


The Undivided by Jennifer Fallon (HarperVoyager)

Ember and Ash by Pamela Freeman (Hachette)

Stormlord’s Exile by Glenda Larke (HarperVoyager)

Debris by Jo Anderton (Angry Robot)

The Shattered City by Tansy Rayner Roberts (HarperVoyager)

Thoughts: I have read one, own another and and plan on buying a third. Two I had never heard of – not a great start for my self evaluation! I saw a few people mentioning the fact that it is all female authors. I am not sure of the significance of this, I just think it comes down to the fact we are blessed with a lot of amazingly talented women in Aussie Spec Fic.


“Fruit of the Pipal Tree” by Thoraiya Dyer (After the Rain, FableCroft Publishing)

“The Proving of Smollett Standforth” by Margo Lanagan (Ghosts by Gaslight, HarperVoyager)

“Into the Clouds on High” by Margo Lanagan (Yellowcake, Allen & Unwin)

“Reading Coffee” by Anthony Panegyres (Overland)

“The Dark Night of Anton Weiss” by D.C. White (More Scary Kisses, Ticonderoga Publications)

Thoughts: Wow, I dipped out on this one. I haven’t read any of them!


Machine Man by Max Barry (Scribe Publications)

Children of Scarabaeus by Sara Creasy (HarperVoyager)

The Waterboys by Peter Docker (Fremantle Press)

Black Glass by Meg Mundell (Scribe Publications)

The Courier’s New Bicycle by Kim Westwood (HarperVoyager)

Thoughts: One of these is on my TBR pile. Does that count?


“Flowers in the Shadow of the Garden” by Joanne Anderton (Hope, Kayelle Press)

“Desert Madonna” by Robert Hood (Anywhere but Earth, Couer de Lion)

“SIBO” by Penelope Love (Anywhere but Earth, Couer de Lion)

“Dead Low” by Cat Sparks (Midnight Echo)

“Rains of la Strange” by Robert N Stephenson (Anywhere but Earth, Couer de Lion)

Thoughts: Very strong showing by Anywhere But Earth, which reinforces my belief that Couer de Lion really know what they are doing, definitely in the top three Aussie boutique presses. I am in the middle of reading AbE and there hasn’t been a dud story yet. That issue of Midnight Echo is on my TBR pile, will have to read it before the awards.



The Broken Ones by Stephen M. Irwin (Hachette)

The Business of Death by Trent Jamieson (Hachette)

Thoughts: I haven’t read either of the Honourable Mentions, but doesn’t say much for the year in horror that there were no submission thought worthy of inclusion on the list. Saying that, I think it is a great thing that the jury were willing to make such a tough call and shows that the awards mean something and have to be earned. No winners by default (the two sweetest words in the English language, eh, Homer?).


“And the Dead Shall Outnumber the Living” by Deborah Biancotti (Ishtar, Gilgamesh Press)

“The Past is a Bridge Best Left Burnt” by Paul Haines (The Last Days of Kali YugaBrimstone Press)

“The Short Go: a Future in Eight Seconds” by Lisa L. Hannett (Bluegrass Symphony, Ticonderoga Publications)

“Mulberry Boys” by Margo Lanagan (Blood and Other Cravings, Tor)

“The Coffin Maker’s Daughter” by Angela Slatter (A Book of Horrors, Quercus)

Thoughts: The only one I have read is the Paul Haines one, but the others will have to be pretty damn good to beat it. The first time I read it I felt like I had been punched in the guts, I had to take a break from the anthology and gather my thoughts. Of course, the other writers are pretty damn good in their own right, too!


Shift by Em Bailey (Hardie Grant Egmont)

Secrets of Carrick: Tantony by Ananda Braxton-Smith (black dog books)

The Shattering by Karen Healey (Allen & Unwin)

Black Glass by Meg Mundell (Scribe Publications)

Only Ever Always by Penni Russon (Allen & Unwin)

Thoughts: Even though I’m not a young adult (*sobs*) two of these are on my TBR pile, which means they have garnered sufficient word of mouth to reach even me.


“Nation of the Night” by Sue Isle (Nightsiders, Twelfth Planet Press)

“Finishing School” by Kathleen Jennings (Steampunk! An anthology of fantastically rich and strange stories, Candlewick Press)

“Seventy-Two Derwents” by Cate Kennedy (The Wicked Wood – Tales from the Tower Volume 2, Allen and Unwin)

“One Window” by Martine Murray (The Wilful Eye: Tales from the Tower Volume 1, Allen and Unwin)

“The Patrician” by Tansy Rayner Roberts (Love and Romanpunk, Twelfth Planet Press)

Thoughts: Again, there are two on this that have generated enough buzz that I will be seeking them out.

CHILDREN’S FICTION (told primarily through words)

The Outcasts by John Flanagan (Random House Australia)

The Paradise Trap by Catherine Jinks (Allen & Unwin)

“It Began with a Tingle” by Thalia Kalkapsakis (Headspinners, Allen & Unwin)

The Coming of the Whirlpool by Andrew McGahan (Allen & Unwin)

City of Lies by Lian Tanner (Allen & Unwin)

Thoughts: I don’t feel too bad about not having read any as it isn’t my normal field.

CHILDREN’S FICTION (told primarily through pictures)

The Ghost of Annabel Spoon by Aaron Blabey (author and illustrator) (Penguin/ Viking Books)

Sounds Spooky by Christopher Cheng (author) and Sarah Davis (illustrator) (Random House Australia)

The Last Viking by Norman Jorgensen (author) and James Foley (illustrator) (Fremantle Press)

The Deep: Here be Dragons by Tom Taylor (author) and James Brouwer (illustrator) (Gestalt Publishing)

Vampyre by Margaret Wild (author) and Andrew Yeo (illustrator) (Walker Books)

Thoughts: See above


Hidden by Mirranda Burton (author and illustrator ) (Black Pepper)

Torn by Andrew Constant (author) and Joh James (illustrator ), additional illustrators Nicola Scott, Emily Smith (Gestalt Publishing)

Salsa Invertebraxa by Mozchops (author and illustrator) (Pecksniff Press)

The Eldritch Kid: Whiskey and Hate by Christian Read (author) and Michael Maier (illustrator) (Gestalt Publishing)

The Deep: Here be Dragons by Tom Taylor (author) and James Brouwer (illustrator) (Gestalt Publishing)

Thoughts: Haven’t read a graphic novel for ages.


Ghosts by Gaslight edited by Jack Dann and Nick Gevers (HarperVoyager)

Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2010 edited by Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene (Ticonderoga Publications)

Ishtar edited by Amanda Pillar and KV Taylor (Gilgamesh Press)

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume 5 edited by Jonathan Strahan (Night Shade Books)

Life on Mars edited by Jonathan Strahan (Viking)

Thoughts: Not surprised to see any of them on there, really.


Bad Power by Deborah Biancotti (Twelfth Planet Press)

Last Days of Kali Yuga by Paul Haines (Brimstone Press)

Bluegrass Symphony by Lisa Hannett (Ticonderoga Publications)

Nightsiders by Sue Isle (Twelfth Planet Press)

Love and Romanpunk by Tansy Rayner Roberts (Twelfth Planet Press)

Thoughts: The only one on the list I have read is Kali Yuga but, even putting sentiment aside, I have to say that it is one of the best collections I have ever read, any serious fan of horror needs to own it. Two of the others are on my to buy list for April (oh to have more money) while the other two are ones I have heard great things about.

Verdict: With the exception of the Horror Novel category, what a strong field! It is going to be tough to pick in a lot of the categories, which is a good sign. I was a little bit disappointed that I hadn’t read so many, but that just helps me decide on my next purchases.

Twelfth Planet Press just keep going from strength to strength, which just goes to show that last year was no fluke, and while Coeur de Lion don’t have the same frequency as other presses they certainly know how to pick stories.

And, this isn’t some big fish in a small pond type list, there are a lot of books on here that are as good, if not better, than anything coming out internationally, or have had international success and recognition.

Now I can’t wait for the results!

Ditmar Awards – Nominations Open

As well as the Chronos Awards, this years Continuum will host the Ditmar Awards and nominations are now open.

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 works 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.


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

Short Stories

“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).

William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review

David McDonald, Tansy Rayner Roberts and Tehani Wessely for the “Reviewing New Who” series.

Wednesday Writers: Jason Nahrung

I’ve been very fortunate to get to sample more than a few of Jason Nahrung’s short stories in their formative stages due to our mutual membership of the SuperNOVA writers group, and to say that I admire and envy his mastery of the short form would be an understatement. Here, he talks about his experiences with another group, and another form.

Something funny happened on the way to the writers retreat

Once, I belonged to a writers’ group in Brisbane. We met at workshops, bonded, forged friendships, critiqued the hell out of each other’s work. Hungry to push our skills, we imported tutors for annual retreats (detailed here). Three years in a row, from 2007, we went to Bribie Island, where a government conference centre provided isolation near the beach, comfortable hotel-style rooms and three meals a day, with plenty of space on the deck for group meetings and one-on-one critiques.

That’s where the bloodletting happened. Three years in a row, I fronted up with my new manuscript, and three years in a row it got staked through the heart. Illogical world building, insufficient character motivations, too complex. Continue reading

Wednesday Writers: Natalie Costa Bir

Last year’s Conflux was a wonderful experience on so many levels, and one of the things that made it so was the excellent line up of quality guests. One of the stand outs, Natalie Costa Bir, was kind enough to agree to writing today’s guest post and, to use another new word, it is very shiny indeed.

New words for new worlds

One of my favourite words from a book, and one that I have misappropriated, is glassicals, coined by the magnificent Alexia Tarabotti in Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series (which starts with Soulless).

“Goodness gracious me,” exclaimed Alexia, “what are you wearing? It looks like the unfortunate progeny of an illicit union between a pair of binoculars and some opera glasses. What on earth are they called, binocticals, spectoculars?” The earl snorted his amusement and tried to pretend he hadn’t. “How about glassicals?”

I’ve stolen the word to use when referring to my own rather less exciting glasses because it just sounds right. Some words do that. Using ‘glassicals’ lets me indulge in the fantasy that I live in another world, just like eating eggs, bacon, mushrooms and roasted tomatoes while wearing a quilted dressing gown at the weekend lets me imagine that I am a member of the gentry with nothing more to do over the day than wonder if Netherfield Hall has been let at last. Continue reading

Goodbye, Paul.

Paul Richard Haines 8 June 1970 – 5 March 2012

If you have any sort of familiarity with the Aussie spec fic scene you have no doubt heard the news that Paul Haines passed away this morning, after a long battle with cancer. He was an incredibly well liked and respected guy, and Facebook and Twitter and the like are filled with messages of grief and condolence. I wasn’t fortunate enough to know Paul as well as some others did, but our (far too) brief acquaintance was enough to make me wish I had known him much better.

I became aware of Paul long before I met him. By the time I joined SuperNOVA, Paul was no longer regularly attending meetings, but he was still a looming presence. Not only would he crop up on the mailing list, but it was a rare meeting that he wouldn’t be mentioned, whether it was some hilarious tale of Clarion shenanigans or a reference to a particularly dark story. His name was even used as an adjective to describe a particular type of writing, most definitely as a form of praise.

Through the mailing list, I became aware that we would be staying at the same hotel in Perth during Swancon and I made a point of seeking him out and introducing myself. It was my first convention as a writer, and I have to admit that I was a bit nervous and even a little in awe of Paul, but he quickly put me at my ease. He was very warm and funny and approachable, and seemed like an incredibly nice guy. It was obvious that his energy levels weren’t great and I don’t think he was able to socialise as much as he would have liked, but he still made time to chat to this wannabe writer.

After meeting him I made a point of picking up his latest collection of stories, The Last Days of Kali Yuga. I had been warned that his writing was disturbing and visceral, but I wasn’t prepared for what I found in those pages. Never have I read anything that made me as uncomfortable as that collection, but I simply could not put it down. His writing was dark, it was revolting, it was deeply personal and it was, above all, brilliant.

When I had finished I sent him an embarrassingly gushing email of praise (in which I also told him I was glad I read Kali Yuga after meeting him and discovering how nice he was, not before, because I probably wouldn’t have slept a wink knowing I was sharing a hotel with the mind that came up with those tales!), and after that we stayed in semi regular contact.

I was conscious of his failing health, and not wanting to impose, but he made it clear he was always happy to receive visitors and talk about writing, so I was privileged enough to be able to catch up with him a few times when work took me down his way. Even sick, Paul was great company, and generous with advice on writing.

The times I saw him he was still reasonably optimistic about his health, and had some exciting projects in the pipeline which would have given him some of the recognition a writer of his ability deserved. He displayed a remarkable amount of stoicism about his illness, and his main concern was that he didn’t want to be isolated because people felt uncomfortable or not sure what to say to him. I sure as hell had no idea what the right things to say were, but his self deprecating humour eased our conversations a great deal.

Sadly, it was obvious from following his blog that his health was continuing to degenerate and eventually it became clear that it was really just a matter of time. But, just because something is expected doesn’t make it any easier to deal with and I know I am not alone in feeling a deep sense of sadness at a life cut off before its time.

There is always a temptation to place the dead on a pedestal, and in our time of grief go overboard in our praise. But, in Paul’s case I don’t think that is a factor, because when people talk about what an amazingly talented writer Paul Haines was they are simply giving him his due. More importantly, though, when they talk about what a wonderful man he was, they are telling the truth. Writing aside, the thing that struck me most about Paul was how fiercely he cared for his family. He fought and raged against that bastard cancer for their sake, to spend as long as he could with them.

The last email I sent to Paul was after writing a story that had made me really uncomfortable, that had made me worry what people might think about me when they read it. I had almost put it aside for good when I thought about the stories Paul had written, how he had refused to compromise his words for fear of what people might think, and I pushed through. I wanted to thank him for that lesson, for inspiring me. I don’t know whether he ever got that email.

When I think of Paul Haines that is what I will remember, his courage and his bravery. Not just the courage he showed in his writing, the way he bared his soul to the world, but the courage with which he faced illness and death. I can only hope that when my time comes I show even half his balls, in the meantime I can only try and be even half as bold in my writing.

As I said, I wasn’t fortunate enough to know Paul as well as many of those in Aussie Spec Fic circles did, and as difficult as it was for me to hear the news I can only imagine how hard it is for them at this time. My thoughts and prayers are with those who are grieving right now, especially for the two he loved above all, Jules and Isla.

Vale, Paul, you were a hell of a guy.