Monthly Archives: April 2012

Ditmar Shortlist Announced

I awoke this morning to see that the Ditmar shortlist had been released:

Best Novel
* The Shattered City (Creature Court 2), Tansy Rayner Roberts (HarperCollins)
* Burn Bright, Marianne de Pierres (Random House Australia)
* Mistification, Kaaron Warren (Angry Robot Books)
* The Courier’s New Bicycle, Kim Westwood (HarperCollins)
* Debris (The Veiled Worlds 1), Jo Anderton (Angry Robot Books)

Best Novella or Novelette
* “The Sleeping and the Dead”, Cat Sparks, in Ishtar (Gilgamesh Press)
* “Above”, Stephanie Campisi, in Above/Below (Twelfth Planet Press)
* “The Past is a Bridge Best Left Burnt”, Paul Haines, in The Last Days of Kali Yuga (Brimstone Press)
* “And the Dead Shall Outnumber the Living”, Deborah Biancotti, in Ishtar (Gilgamesh Press)
* “Julia Agrippina’s Secret Family Bestiary”, Tansy Rayner Roberts, in Love and Romanpunk (Twelfth Planet Press)
* “Below”, Ben Peek, in Above/Below (Twelfth Planet Press)

Best Short Story
* “Breaking the Ice”, Thoraiya Dyer, in Cosmos 37
* “Alchemy”, Lucy Sussex, in Thief of Lives (Twelfth Planet Press)
* “The Last Gig of Jimmy Rucker”, Martin Livings and Talie Helene, in More Scary Kisses (Ticonderoga Publications)
* “All You Can Do Is Breathe”, Kaaron Warren, in Blood and Other Cravings (Tor)
* “Bad Power”, Deborah Biancotti, in Bad Power (Twelfth Planet Press)
* “The Patrician”, Tansy Rayner Roberts, in Love and Romanpunk (Twelfth Planet Press)

Best Collected Work
* The Last Days of Kali Yuga by Paul Haines, edited by Angela Challis (Brimstone Press)
* Nightsiders by Sue Isle, edited by Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet Press)
* Bad Power by Deborah Biancotti, edited by Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet Press)
* Love and Romanpunk by Tansy Rayner Roberts, edited by Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet Press)
* Ishtar, edited by Amanda Pillar and K. V. Taylor (Gilgamesh Press)

Best Artwork
* “Finishing School”, Kathleen Jennings, in Steampunk!: An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories (Candlewick Press)
* Cover art, Kathleen Jennings, for The Freedom Maze (Small Beer Press)

Best Fan Writer
* Tansy Rayner Roberts, for body of work including reviews in Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus! and Not If You Were The Last Short Story On Earth
* Alexandra Pierce, for body of work including reviews in Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus!, Not If You Were The Last Short Story On Earth, and Randomly Yours, Alex
* Robin Pen, for “The Ballad of the Unrequited Ditmar”
* Sean Wright, for body of work including “Authors and Social Media” series in Adventures of a Bookonaut
* Bruce Gillespie, for body of work including “The Golden Age of Fanzines is Now”, and SF Commentary 81 & 82

Best Fan Artist
* Rebecca Ing, for work in Scape
* Lisa Rye, for “Steampunk Portal” series
* Dick Jenssen, for body of work including work in IRS, Steam Engine Time, SF Commentary and Scratchpad
* Kathleen Jennings, for work in Errantry ( including “The Dalek Game”
* Rhianna Williams, for work in Nullas Anxietas Convention Programme Book

Best Fan Publication in Any Medium
* SF Commentary, edited by Bruce Gillespie
* The Writer and the Critic, Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond
* The Coode Street Podcast, Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
* Galactic Chat, Alisa Krasnostein, Tansy Rayner Roberts and Sean Wright
* Galactic Suburbia, Alisa Krasnostein, Tansy Rayner Roberts, and Alex Pierce

Best New Talent
* Steve Cameron
* Alan Baxter
* Joanne Anderton

William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review
* Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene, for “2010: The Year in Review”, in The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2010 (Ticonderoga Publications)
* Damien Broderick and Van Ikin, for editing Warriors of the Tao: The Best of Science Fiction: A Review of Speculative Literature (Borgo Press)
* David McDonald, Tansy Rayner Roberts and Tehani Wessely for “Reviewing New Who” series, in A Conversational Life
* Alexandra Pierce and Tehani Wessely, for reviews of Vorkosigan Saga, in Randomly Yours, Alex
* Russell Blackford, for “Currently reading: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke”, in Metamagician and the Hellfire Club

Not only is wonderful to see so many friends have been nominated (many of whom who have featured in Wednesday Writers as well!), but obviously I am thrilled and honoured to get mention for the New Who conversations I have been part of. Thanks to Tansy and Tehani for making me look good!

I am busy preparing for my Sydney trip (yay!) and the start of winter cricket (yes, winter cricket) so I will have to come back with further thoughts. But, my initial impression is that this is a very strong list and shows how vibrant the Aussie scene is right now.

Voting and further details can be found here.

Wednesday Writers: Cat Sparks

Often it is something said as a polite fiction, but Cat Sparks really does need no introduction. One of the brightest lights of Australian spec fic, she has done it all from editing award winning anthologies to writing award winning fiction. As the Editor of Australia’s only pro sci fi short fiction market and as a writer of exquisite short stories sharp enough to cut you if you are careless, there is no one more qualified to talk about the craft of writing. Here, Cat tells us about the importance of finding the right title.

On the importance of titles and why you should put some effort into ensuring yours don’t suck by Cat Sparks

If fiction is a delicious slice of cake, the title is the icing. Titles should be enticing: lush but not too rich. The perfect accompaniment to the dense slab of literary calories beneath. But enough talk of cake, it’s making me peckish. Titles are important for several reasons, yet many writers don’t give them so much as a cursory effort.

To me, it’s a bit like this: when you attend an important event, such as a wedding or dinner party, you dress accordingly and mostly that means smart clothes. To turn up in tracky pants and a dirty t-shirt is lazy, amongst other things. Boring titles are lazy. Writing is hard work. Why top off your efforts with something slack and half arsed?

Your title is an advertisement for your prose. Stylish and intriguing versus dull and descriptive. It’s a story you’ve written, damnit, not a catalogue entry.

Your title should reflect, echo, enhance or qualify your story’s theme. If your story doesn’t have a theme, no need to bother — I’m probably not going to be all that interested in reading it anyway.

A title can be important to the understanding of the work. Your title should be meaningful, memorable or evocative. Your title should resonate.

A title is often the hardest part of the story to write.

Stylish titles speak to professionalism and hint at the possibility of stylish prose to follow.

If a slushpile story title is intriguing, I am automatically predisposed to want to like the story that comes with it. Maybe I won’t end up liking it after all, but isn’t positive anticipation an excellent place to start?

A stylish title tells me that you’ve put some thought into it. It suggests you might be an artist — or at the very least, an artisan.

Some titles are so powerful or beautiful that they scream out for stories to accompany them.

I keep a lookout for potential titles for my own stories long before I have the stirrings of ideas. All the Love in the World and The Sleeping and the Dead are two examples. Both made me think long and deep about what such sets of words might encompass. Eventually the right stories made themselves apparent and I endeavoured to bring them into being. The Alchemy of Light is the title of a story I’ve been trying to get right for years. Still failing miserably, unfortunately — but isn’t the title a stunner!

I’ve never rejected a story from Cosmos or Agog! because it had a crappy title, nor have I selected a crappy story because it had a brilliant title. Most stories we buy for Cosmos end up having their titles changed. The reasons vary. Sometimes they’re too long for the page layout, sometimes too short can look odd when married with the illustrator’s work. Mostly a much cleverer option seems obvious.

Give yourself — and your story — the best chance possible of being chosen. Dress your story in its Sunday best, make sure its shoes are shiny and its nose is clean. Sometimes in life — and publishing — it’s the little things that matter.

Check out this interesting article on titles:
Titles That Didn’t Smell as Sweet

Cat Sparks is fiction editor of Cosmos Magazine. She managed Agog! Press, an Australian independent press that produced ten anthologies of new speculative fiction from 2002-2008. She’s known for her award-winning editing, writing, graphic design and photography.

Cat was born in Sydney and has traveled through Europe, the Middle East, Indonesia, the South Pacific, Mexico and North America. Her adventures so far have included winning a trip to Paris in a Bulletin Magazine photography competition; being appointed official photographer for two NSW Premiers and working as dig photographer on three archaeological expeditions to Jordan.

A graduate of the inaugural Clarion South Writers’ Workshop, she was a Writers of the Future prize winner in 2004. She has edited five anthologies of speculative fiction and more than fifty of her short stories have been published since the turn of the millennium.

Cat has received a total of seventeen Aurealis and Ditmar awards for writing, editing and art including the Peter McNamara Conveners Award 2004, for services to Australia’s speculative fiction industry. She was the convenor of the Aurealis Awards horror division in 2006 and a judge in the anthologies and collected work category in 2009.

An active member of Science Fiction Writers of America, her fiction is represented by Jill Grinberg Literary Management, New York.

She is currently working on a biopunk trilogy and a suite of post-apocalypse tales set on the New South Wales south coast.

Her story ‘All the Love in the World’ is reprinted in Hartwell and Kramer’s Years Best Science Fiction, Volume 16.

In January 2012 she was one of 12 students chosen to participate in Margaret Atwood’s The Time Machine Doorway workshop as part of the Key West Literary Seminar Yet Another World: literature of the future. Her participation was funded by an Australia Council emerging writers grant.

In March she will be embarking upon provisional candidature for a Doctorate of Philosophy – Media, Culture and Creative Arts through Curtin University.

Lest We Forget

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

Wednesday Writers: Gwen Hernandez

I first came across Gwen Hernandez when I was looking for tips on using the excellent Scrivener writing software (see my post on writing tools for the Modern geek here). Her blog was easily the best resource around but, even after I had found the information I needed, I continued to follow her blog. As well as being a wonderful person to know, Gwen has done all sorts of fascinating things in the name of research for her writing, and her website can be counted on to be both entertaining and informative. Here she talks about getting back the joy that made us start writing in the first place.

Thanks so much to David for inviting me to Ebon Shores today! He didn’t give me a specific topic, so here’s what’s on my mind…

When I started writing about three years ago, it was nothing but pure joy. My ideas came to me at all hours of the day, and if I was out, I couldn’t wait to get home to write. I wanted to write for publication, but I didn’t know any other writers, didn’t read blogs, wasn’t on Twitter, and just let the story drive me.

That was before I knew what I was doing. Years of studying craft, learning about the industry, getting feedback, and attending conferences improved my writing dramatically. But somewhere along the way, that spark slowly dimmed.

I still wanted to write, and I still had ideas, but sitting in front of the computer had become a chore at times. Writer’s block was common. Insecurity over whether I was “doing it right” ruled. My internal editor had me rewriting scenes, openings, and whole plot ideas over and over again.

I started books and stopped halfway through, sure that something was wrong with the story, but not knowing what. I struggled with how to ditch the stress and get back to the joy that had driven me early on.

Then something unexpected happened. I got a contract to write Scrivener For Dummies. *insert happy dance*

To find out how that seemingly out-of-the-blue event happened, click here, but what’s more important is what happened after I immersed myself in technical writing for hours on end.

After taking an extended hiatus, my creative brain resurfaced. Now that I don’t have so much time to focus on my romantic suspense manuscript, the scene ideas are flooding in.

You’re probably not surprised. If you’re like most writers I know, inspiration strikes when you’re not looking for it. Driving the car, taking a shower, mowing the lawn, walking the dog.

For me, it’s usually while I’m running.

Maybe the real problem–in addition to that infernal editor that only NaNoWriMo knows how to banish–is that I was so involved in building my story that I thought of little else. I didn’t give myself the mental space I needed for my brain to work its magic in the background.

And I was trying too damn hard.

Now that I’ve been forced to focus my attentions elsewhere, the spark is back. So, in the midst of trying to meet my deadlines for the Scrivener book, I’ve also been fitting in some “fun” writing again.

I just have to remember to keep it that way.

How do you get back to the joy when you lose it along the way?

While following her husband around for his Air Force career, Gwen has worked as a programmer, a business school instructor, and a manufacturing engineer, but now she’s finally doing what she always dreamed of: writing. She spends her days trying to silence her left brain and coax stories of romance and suspense from her creative side. She also shares her love for Scrivener–a.k.a. the world’s most awesome writing software–with other writers through online classes and her forthcoming book Scrivener For Dummies (John Wiley & Sons, fall 2012).

When not writing, she’s usually reading from an eclectic selection of fiction and nonfiction, but she also loves to run, explore the local area with her family, travel, and practice martial arts. She lives in northern Virginia with her husband, two heroes in training, and a (really, really) lazy golden retriever.

You can find out more about Gwen at www.gwenhernandez. com

Rabid Animals

I generally avoid blogging on certain topics, not because I don’t think they are important, but because I don’t feel qualified or knowledgeable enough to comment, or because I simply don’t feel I have any right to do so (cowardly of me? Perhaps. You know, I actually found writing this a bit scary*). But sometimes you read things, and they make you feel so sad or mad or depressed (or all of the above) that you simply must say something.

Amidst the furore created by Christopher Priest’s comments on the Arthur C. Clarke Awards were a number of excellent posts, one of which by Catherynne M. Valente really stood out for me, where she discussed how Mr Priest could get away with a lot more by virtue of being male. It is an excellent and thought provoking piece, and I suggest you read it, but it is actually her follow up post that really hit home for me and made me want to write this post.

You really should read the whole thing. But there are bits that leap out at you and grab you by the head and shake you.

The fact is, to be a woman online is to eventually be threatened with rape and death. On a long enough timeline, the chances of this not occurring drop to zero.

This is not exaggeration for the purposes of making a point. It is simply a fact. It’s one of the main reasons why I don’t read below the comment line on many blogs because the amount of hatred and vitriol make my stomach churn, and, while it gets directed at men too, it is undeniable that when it comes to women it goes up a whole other level.

Chris Priest can say what he says not only because he is a giant in his field (Sady Doyle is barely less prominent in hers, and while I do think that harsh criticism goes down better when it’s not the authors in the field at hand who do it, both Sady and Requires are not SF authors of any stripe) but because he is a man. And we respond to it with some anger, but mostly reasoned philosophical or humorous posts, macros, examining what it means, the value of juried awards, defending the authors and jurors but mostly accepting what he said as either a sad gesture by an old man, a hilarious and miserable rant, or valuing that at least someone cares that much–even wishing someone would go equally ballistic about a different award. There is a marked lack of viciousness–and what he said was every bit as bad as some of the stuff that gets Requires Only That You Hate a fever pitch of loathing and seething fury just about every time she posts.

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Wednesday Writers: Abigail Nathan

As I have mentioned before, one of my favourite things about going to Conflux was the chance to meet so many amazing people who share my love of the written word, and learn more about how the industry works. Something that that has become increasingly clear to me as I continue on the writing journey is how vital editors are to the process and how a good editor is a writer’s best friend. Here, Abigail Nathan gives us a fascinating insight into some of the work that is involved, and dispels some of the myths about the freelance lifestyle.

David has asked me to write about being a freelance editor. Now usually I would point out that this is Top Secret Business not to be shared with the Uninitiated… but I have agreed in the interests of laying some myths to rest about the Rockstar Freelance Lifestyle (™ In Association with Kylie Mason). Here are just a few things that have come up in the past few weeks:

Freelance editors:

Choose their own hours. This is… only sort of true. Freelancing = running your own business. If you’re not working, you’re not getting paid. And freelancing is a notoriously feast or famine scenario so there’s always The Fear (always capped) that if you say no to any job offer you will Never Work Again (capped at will). Sure, it’s a nice idea that you can take a day off whenever you like, and there are countless articles about time management for freelancers, but the reality is that you’re probably managing multiple deadlines for different clients. It’s far more likely that you grab free time or jobs when you can.

All work in their pyjamas. You can. I am sure we all have done more than once. And when you work from home and you’re on a particularly tight deadline, it can be very easy to lose track of the day. However, everyone has their caught-out-by-the-courier limit. Or the shock of an author showing up on the doorstep “to go through some edits”. (In my case said author was a High Court Judge.) Continue reading

Night of the Nyctalope

Very excited to see the TOC for Black Coat Press‘ upcoming anthology, “Night of the Nyctalope“, and thrilled to have one of my stories included!

“The Girl from Odessa”, is set, rather unsuprisingly, in Odessa during the chaotic years after the Revolution, and features some familiar characters from my story Catspaw. It was my first time writing about the Nyctalope, a fascinating character you can read more about here.

The full TOC is:
Introduction by Jean-Marc Lofficier
Jean de La Hire: Night of the Nyctalope Steps In [Rien qu’une Nuit] (1944)
Travis Hiltz: First Steps (1900)
Matthew Dennion: The Angel and the Exorcist (1906)
Matthew Dennion: Dangerous Territory (1909)
Martin Gately: The Dam Busters of Mars (1911)
Chris Nigro: Justice and Power (1917)
David McDonald: The Girl from Odessa (1919)
Emmanuel Gorlier: Una Voce Poco Fa (1936)
Philippe Ward: The Hour of the Grail (1936)
Matthew Dennion: The Road Not Taken (1942)
Chris Nigro: Requiem for a Regime (1945)
Travis Hiltz: Showdown at Steam Town (1949)
Emmanuel Gorlier: Madison Square Garden (1949)
Roman Leary : The Devil You Know (1950)
Emmanuel Gorlier: The Algerian Dilemma (1959)
Jean-Marc Lofficier : The Ides of Mars (2012)

Wednesday Writers: Steve Cameron

I first met Steve at last year’s Continuum where I had the pleasure of appearing on a panel he moderated. The happy coincidence of some mutual acquaintances outside of writing and a shared love of spec fic gave us enough common ground to stay in touch. Since then, not only have we become good friends but we have also forged an excellent critiquing partnership which I have found very helpful and has proved a considerable success. For example, my upcoming story in the Epilogue anthology was the product of a booze fueled crit session (he drank, I wrote lol) in the bar at Conflux (though I did ignore his advice to go with polka dots).

Here Steve gives excellent advice on, well, advice and makes some excellent points. The only point I would strongly disagree with is that I think he is a bit humble in his introduction – as one of the most exciting new voices in Aussie Spec Fic he is more than qualified to talk on writing, and well worth listening to.

I was, of course, completely flattered when David originally invited me to write a guest post for his Wednesday Writers’ series. Immediately I started considering the content, only to question myself as to whether or not I was qualified and experienced enough to be writing this.

I consider myself to be an emerging writer with limited exposure, experience and publication history. I only commenced writing seriously three years ago and have sold around half a dozen stories. So who am I to be giving advice to any other writer?

And so I decided to give advice on advice.
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Thoughts on the Hunger Games – Not a review.

Last Sunday I went along to see The Hunger Games with the Continuum crowd (And I must say, it was lovely to catch up with them again!). I had only recently read the trilogy, devouring it in about two days, and I had really enjoyed it. So, while I was very excited at seeing it on the big screen, I was a touch nervous about how well it would measure up to the books. Fortunately, I thought they did a wonderful job of translating it and I walked out really impressed. I’ve been reading online discussion about it, and I decided to jot down my thoughts. This isn’t a review as such (if you want to know whether to go see the answer is YES!), or even that structured, just my musings.

Before I go on to talk about what I thought the film did right and wrong, I think it is worth saying how exceptional the books really are. Some people tend to look down on books that are labelled as young fiction, but some of my favourite stories, ones that I come back to again and again, come under that label. I think judging young adult as somehow “lesser” is really just snobbery, and I try and judge a book on its merits, and there is plenty to like about The Hunger Games. I will try and not give away too much in the way of spoilers, but there might one or two in here, so be warned – proceed with caution!

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