Monthly Archives: May 2012

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Continuum Program

With only a week to go I am starting to get very excited about Natcon! As usual, the organisers have done an incredible job and the program looks amazing.

For those interested, my schedule looks like this:

Daikaiju Go Heavenly!

From Friday 17:00 until Friday 18:00 (60 Minutes)
Dirk Flinthart, David McDonald, Cat Sparks

What if the gods were daikaiju? Could Buddha beat Jesus, could Loki outwit Allah? Is anyone strong enough to defeat Thor and his mighty Hammer? Jade Emperor, Kali, Ganesh. Which deity will reign supreme, or will king of the daikaiju Godzilla crush them all?

Venues: Argyle Room, Lincoln Room

Continuum 101

From Friday 20:30 until Friday 21:00 (30 Minutes)
Hespa , David McDonald, Sarah Lee Parker

Everything you wanted to know about fan conventions and con-going – an ideal starting point for anyone relatively new to conventions. Learn the secrets from those who have been around long enough to know better.

Venues: Pelham Room

New Faiths For New Worlds

From Saturday 10:00 until Saturday 11:00 (60 Minutes)
Alan Baxter, Jenny Blackford, Russell Blackford, David McDonald

Love it or hate it, religion plays a huge role in our society. When creating a new society from scratch, what part will religion play? How do you create a convincing set of beliefs, and what are the pitfalls you need to avoid?

Venues: Lincoln Room

Fans And Faith

From Saturday 11:00 until Saturday 12:00 (60 Minutes)
Avril Hannah-Jones, David McDonald, Ian Mond, Alexandra Pierce

Religion often frowns upon science fiction and fantasy, and fandom can be quite critical of religion. So how do our panellists reconcile their passion for SF/F/H and their faith?

Venues: Faraday Room

Winter Is Coming

From Saturday 14:00 until Saturday 15:00 (60 Minutes)
Kelly Link, David McDonald, Ben McKenzie, Mick Mihalic, Jules Wilkinson

As the second season of the TV adaptation draws to a close, join us for a discussion of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series in all its forms.

Venues: Argyle Room

Readings – Fablecroft Hour

From Saturday 15:00 until Saturday 16:00 (60 Minutes)
Including: Joanne Anderton, Steve Cameron, Dirk Flinthart, David McDonald

Venues: Faraday Room

We Want Your Brainz

From Sunday 11:00 until Sunday 12:00 (60 Minutes)
Peter M. Ball, Stephen Dedman, Felicity Dowker, Kelly Link, David McDonald

Zombies have taken over in the last 5 years or so and have gone mainstream, but their lore is still being written. How have they changed since the 1970s and what does the explosion of them now say about our present psyche? Could it be a pandemic as recent writers have postulated? And will they ever become sparkly?

Venues: Pelham Room

The Newbie’s Guide To Writing

From Sunday 15:00 until Sunday 16:00 (60 Minutes)
Steve Cameron, David McDonald, Travis McKenzie, Amanda Pillar, Jane Routley

New to writing? Not sure what to expect? Our panellists discuss critiquing, dealing with rejection, and everything else they wish they’d known when they’d started.

Venues: Pelham Room

Not only am I thrilled with the panels I am, but with the people I get to do them with! And, my first ever reading – how nerve wracking!

Hope to see you there. :-)

Wednesday Writers: Zena Shapter

It always amazes me, and makes me green with envy, to see how much some people manage to pack into their time! However, it’s very inspiring as well. Zena is an great example of someone who has not only acheived a great deal in a  short amount of time when it comes to their writing, but has also managed to do a lot of living on the way. Well travelled and well rounded, Zena is definitely qualified to talk about enjoying the journey, not just the destination!

Live deep and suck out all the marrow of life

Thanks for inviting me over here, David! Wednesday Writers is turning into a great place to read about other writers’ journeys. And we all have such different writing journeys! It’s been fascinating reading what everyone has to share about theirs. Me? It feels premature to write about mine, since it feels as though I’ve only just started. But then that’s because I’m always looking forward, planning where I’m going next, working out how to get there and what I’ll need to take with me.

That there is my bad.

I’m a big traveller – I’ve managed to visit almost fifty countries to date – and if there’s one thing I’ve finally realised after all my years of travelling, it’s how important it is to enjoy where you are. I remember sitting on a beach in Koh Samui, Thailand, in 2001, flicking through a Lonely Planet guide trying to decide whether West Thailand or Malaysia should be my next stop. Three months later, after I’d finished with South East Asia, which do you think was my favourite place in the region? Koh Samui. How long did I stay there before getting itchy feet and letting my curiosity tempt me away – three days! It was the same in Costa Rica in 2004. Should I go to Guatemala or Honduras next? Silly me, I shouldn’t have been so keen to leave where I was – I loved Costa Rica! I should have enjoyed it more.

But how does one temper a drive that’s so good at getting you where you want to go?

So far, mine has enabled me to experience a fantastic array of lives in just one. And, as far as writing goes, while I may consider myself at the beginning of my journey – others consider me well on my way! When I think about it, I have achieved a lot over the past few years. I just don’t spend the time I should appreciating that fact – who does! But I’ve:

  • found my voice
  • won lots of writing competitions
  • been published in short story anthologies, with two more coming out later this year (maybe more)
  • created a critique group for writers (the Northern Beaches Writers’ Group)
  • written a novel and outlined two more
  • established a fully integrated online presence
  • published a legal volume on trade mark law (not terribly exciting for someone who loves writing fiction, still it does make me a published author)
  • AND decided on my dream destination – on the shelves of Big W and Target, Berkelouw, Shearer’s and Amazon, selling to the masses! Ahhh… that would be a dream come true!

But what’s my primary thought about all of the above? How to reach my dream destination of course! I want to:

  1. Find a publisher for my novel and finish writing my other two novels – isn’t that obvious!
  2. Sell so many copies of my debut novel that my publishers will be as excited as I will be to publish the other two – definitely!
  3. Enjoy my present – What the?

It’s against all my instincts, and yet I know I must. Otherwise I might find myself in Hawaii wishing I’d stayed longer in Costa Rica!

Okay, so that’s never really going to happen, Hawaii is awesome – and it will be even more awesome to have my novel published and being read by, you know, readers! Still, I think you know what I mean.

Pushing yourself forward can help you achieve, but it’s also important to stop and smell the odd rose. One of my father’s favourite mottos is ‘don’t worry, be happy’. Now, I don’t exactly worry about my writing journey, although I do often feel anxious about meeting my self-imposed deadlines and targets. But I do need to rejoice a little more. Believe it or not, but Facebook and Twitter are helping me with that – when I sell a short story or win a competition, I squee about it (yes, Alan Baxter, I am the type to squee!). And when I receive congratulations for such things, it slows time down for me a little – makes me appreciate my present. So I thank you, friends and followers, for helping me control time (and yes, I believe that man’s measure of time doesn’t necessarily reflect the reality of how our time actually passes)! I don’t want to temper my drive, but I do want to enjoy my journey a little more as I travel it.

What about you? I bet you could enjoy the achievements you’ve made along your own writing journey a little more often – if you were to give them the appreciation they deserve. So I say to you, so I say to myself: live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, lest you come to die and discover that, though you lived, you missed the whole and genuine sublimity of it.

Thank you, David. I’ve enjoyed my visit.

Zena Shapter is an emerging fiction writer based in Sydney. She has won multiple awards for her short stories and was published last year in both Winds of Change (CSFG, 2011) and A Visit from the Duchess (Stringybark Publishing, 2011). She has two further short stories being published later this year; leads and is the founder of the widely attended Northern Beaches Writers’ Group; blogs about contemporary book culture at http://www.zenashapter.com/blog/; enjoys a successful online presence through her website at http://www.zenashapter.com/ as well as social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Goodreads; and is currently editing her debut novel. With a BA (Hons) in English Literature from the University of Birmingham, England, she also edits.

An adventurer at heart, Zena enjoys travelling in search of unusual stories and uncommon sights, and relaxing on the beach with a good book, a glass of champagne and a bar of chocolate.

Read more about Zena on her website at http://www.zenashapter.com/ or follow her writing journey by subscribing to her blog at http://www.zenashapter.com/blog/. Find her on Twitter as @ZenaShapter, at http://www.facebook.com/ZenaShapter, or on a host of other social media also as Zena Shapter.

The Evils of Comic Books

Given my love for all things super hero, it may surprise some people to learn that I never really got into the whole comic book thing. There only three or four comic books that stand out from my childhood, and I assume that I was given them by someone. I can vaguely remember a Thor comic, a Ghost Rider comic and an Obsidian comic, but that is about it. My passion has always been for all the peripherals, the tie novels (I really should do a post on some of the good ones I have come across), the movies and especially the animated series.

I devoured Smallville and if I ever met Bruce Timm I would probably fall down at his feet, and I have to confess to spending a lot of time reading Wikipedia entries on story arcs and characters (which is pretty sad, I know). I think Avengers is one the greatest movies ever made and I dream of a great Superman movie. But, the actual comics themselves? They left me cold, to be honest.

I think there were a few factors that contributed to this. One was the often convoluted storylines that made it hard to just dip and pick up what was going on fairly easily. There was also the thinly concealed contempt that the big comic houses seemed (and still seem to) have for their readers, as if they felt that whatever they did, the fans would keep coming back. So, they just kept on with the retcons and reboots and plain butchering of characters.

But, the biggest obstacle for me has been the sheer immensity of the investment of time and money involved in being a serious collector of comic books. It’s usually not enough to read the core comics of a story arc, there are all the crossover titles as well, and it can be pretty daunting for the casual reader. It may seem lazy, but it has always just been easier to get into the condensed versions, the movies or the novelisations or the TV shows, which hopefully take all the good bits and discard the fat.

The comics that I had managed to get into in the past were the self contained ones, that didn’t rely on too many external titles. Perhaps my favourite was the Kingdom Come series, which in my opinion is a work of Art witha  capital “A”. I actually purchased the trade paperback of that by mistake in an attempt to buy the very hard to get Eliot S! Maggin novelisation, but it was serendipity. I’d buy anything involving Alex Ross.

But, recently I discovered a real game changer and it has changed the way I have looked at comics, and I fear for my financial future. It’s the Comics app by comiXology on my iPad, and it is brilliant. A very quick rundown, the Comics app is very much like a Kindle store for comics. It allows you to browse titles by the major publishers and a lot of the smaller imprints. You can then purchase the titles within the app, download them and read them on your iPad.

And this is where the app truly shines. It shows off the potential of the iPad as well as any app I have seen, taking advantage of the screen real estate and the graphical interface. As you read it zooms in on the current panel, then out to give you the whole page view. And, just like with ebooks, you can stores thousands of comic titles without the hassle of finding shelf space! In terms of ease of use it really makes the comic book experience hassle free.

But, it’s this ease of use that is the major problem, and has shown me that comic books are evil. It’s so easy to go on a shopping spree, especially when you get to the end of a comic it gives you a button to buy the next one. So, in the past three days I have purchased more comics than I had in my entire life beforehand.

So, sitting in on my iPad I have:

SALVATION RUN (COMPLETE)

KINGDOM COME (COMPLETE)

DEATH OF THE NEW GODS (COMPLETE)

SMALLVILLE Season 11 (ONGOING)

FINAL CRISIS (COMPLETE)

ALL STAR SUPERMAN (still reading)

JUSTICE (still reading)

CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS (still reading)

As much as reading on the IPad has ignited a fresh desire to read comics, I did notice that there is still the same issue where you need to read all the crossovers, Final Crisis especially gave me the impression I had missed a lot of backstory, But, perhaps because of the convenience of tracking things down, I find I am more tolerant of this.

So, what comics would people recommend for a relative newbie to the comics world?

 

 

Wednesday Writers: Andrew J. McKiernan

I have always wished that I could draw but, as anyone who has played DrawSomething with me can attest, it is not an area in which I am particularly blessed. I have to admit to a certain jealousy of those who are gifted in this arena, and when someone like Andrew McKiernan comes along who is not only is a very talented artist but a damn fine writer, it makes me sick, to be honest! Here, Andrew talks about how his experience as an illustrator has impacted his writing, and gives us some valuable advice about drawing with words.

Painting with Words

I am a writer and an illustrator.

It always seems a bit strange for me to say or type that. Like I should be standing in front of some support group, admitting to something for which I feel unworthy. Ever since I could pick up a crayon, I’ve been drawing. Ever since I could form a letter or a word, I’ve been writing.

And yet, I’ve never felt myself to be especially good at either, and I feel very lucky that I’ve had the opportunity to have some small success at achieving publication in both.

When I was at high school, my art teacher told me I’d never be an artist. I’m fine with that; he was right, my interest has always been in ‘illustration’ rather than ‘art’. Illustration was something that he saw as a lesser discipline, not worthy of his time or effort. To him, it wasn’t really creating anything original. It was just taking the words someone else had produced and giving them visual form. There is a lot about that point of view that I could argue with, but I don’t think that’s what I want to talk about today. Nevertheless, I still feel a modicum of ‘stuff you’ rise up within me whenever I see one of my illustrations in print.

The truth is, illustration is very hard for me. Illustration is a tough gig. There are a so many constraints that you have to work with, not the least being: trying to avoid stepping all over the author’s words. You have to produce something that harmonises with the story. You have to be conscious to not give too much away too early – often, as illustrator, you’ve read ALL of the author’s words, but you have little idea where the illustration might be placed in relation to them. Will I give the story away for the reader if my illustration appears on the cover or on the first page of the story? Often an editor or publisher will want you to illustrate a particular scene or character. Have I captured that scene the way the author saw it when they wrote it? Have I missed a particular detail? Have I added something that wasn’t intended? And then you have to fit all of that into what might be a single panel, constrained to the size of the work being published. Possibly black and white. Possibly colour. And if the editor, or publisher, or author really don’t like what you’ve produced you have to re-work the image or maybe go back and start all over again from scratch.

Sometimes I think being an ‘artist’ might have been easier. To be allowed the creative freedom to produce what I want, in whatever medium I want. That’s a fantasy, I know, because I have friends who are artists. When I see what they go through to turn the creative vision in their minds into something tangible (be it a drawing, a painting or a
sculpture) I’m glad I didn’t try and go down that path. I just don’t have the constitution to put my mind and emotions through all that. At least not when I comes to producing something visual.

I think that’s why I’ve moved somewhat, over the past two years, to concentrate more on writing.

With words I can paint in colours visible to more than just the eye. I can paint with sound, and with smell, and with emotion. I can use words to paint tastes and textures. I’m not confined to a static image, but can construct a scene where the reader feels like they’re standing right there inside it. Only the very best of visual art can accomplish that.

But with words strung into sentences and paragraphs and ultimately stories I feel I can get so much closer to passing on to others the things I see in my mind.

It’s not always a matter of piling on the description either. In fact, that’s rarely the case. When I’m writing, I’m not trying to build up the written equivalent of a photo-realistic image. Instead, I’ve found it always better to use broad brush strokes. It’s more like Impressionism.

As an author you have to trust your readers, and you have to credit them with some degree of imagination, especially if they’ve chosen to read speculative fiction. Too much description can hamper the reader’s ability to use that imagination to the story’s best advantage. And that’s the opposite of what you want.

So, even though I find myself moving away from illustration, I think it has taught me a few lessons about what can make a story come alive.

Firstly, use your words to paint with all the senses; sound, smell, touch and taste as well as the visual.

Next, use broad brush strokes; don’t get bogged down in excessive description.

And finally, and possibly most importantly, trust your reader; respect that they have the intelligence and the imagination to put your words together into characters, scenes and stories that come to life for them.

Remember, you’re not using words to paint a picture on a page. You’re using words to paint a picture in someone else’s mind! Once you understand that, you’ve discovered the greatest tool in the writer’s toolbox… the infinite canvas that is your reader’s imagination.

Andrew J. McKiernan is a writer and illustrator living and working on the Central Coast of NSW. First published in 2007, his stories have since been nominated for multiple Aurealis, Australian Shadows and Ditmar Awards and been reprinted in a number of Year’s Best anthologies.

His illustrations have appeared in, and on the covers of, various books and magazines and he was Art Director of Aurealis Magazine for eight years. He is currently a founding and contributing editor for Thirteen O’Clock: Australian Dark Fiction News & Reviews (www.thirteenoclock.com.au). His latest short story, ‘The Final Degustation of Doctor Ernest Blenheim’ will appear at the end of May in Midnight Echo #7.

A Conversational Journey through New Who – S03E10 – Blink

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 also joined today by guest viewer Joanne Anderton, who is also discovering New Who for the first time! We’re working our way through New Who, using season openers and closers, and Hugo shortlisted episodes, as our blogging points. Just for fun!

We would like to thank everyone who nominated our “New Who in Conversation” series for the William Atheling Jr Award – it’s a great honour to be on the ballot! Voting for the annual Ditmar Awards (which the Atheling is included in) is open to all members of Swancon 36 (2011 Natcon – Perth) and Craftinomicon (2012 Natcon – Melbourne), and can be done online.

Last time we looked at Human Nature and The Family of Blood, and now we move on to:

“Blink” – Season three, Episode Ten
Sally Sparrow – Carey Mulligan
The Doctor – David Tennant
Martha Jones – Freema Agyeman

 

TEHANI:
We move straight from the excellence that is “Human Nature / The Family of Blood” into the completely different, but equally amazing, “Blink”. And I want to say it straight up – Sally Sparrow ROCKS. Carey Mulligan, who plays Sparrow, absolutely owns this episode – it’s pretty amazing, for a one off appearance.

She shares very little screen time with the Doctor, as this is a “Doctor-lite” episode, and I wonder if this lets us really embrace her – she IS the focus of the episode. While the Doctor is there, making things happen, he’s not THERE, onscreen, with his dazzling charisma – it’s all about Sally – ordinary Sally thrown into the strangest of events – who really gets the job done. I LOVE her!

Favourite line: “I’m clever, and I’m listening. And don’t patronise me, because people have died and I’m not happy.” Go Sally – Doctor smackdown!

And two episodes in a row we have a gorgeous, strong woman finding the Doctor, and passing him up. Poor Matron Redfern in the preceding episodes really had a hard job of it, but Sally did it splendidly – she recognised the Doctor for who and what he is, and it made her choice easy.

TANSY:
I think Sally Sparrow is the character most requested to return as a companion – and as Carey Mulligan’s star rises in Hollywood it becomes less and less likely. She is playing Daisy in the new Great Gatsby movie opposite Leo DiCaprio!!

TEHANI:
Even more than Sophia Myles?? Wow, impressive!

DAVID:
Yes, Sally really is the star of this episode. She has some wonderful lines, and we see the whole range of human emotion in yet another stellar guest appearance. How moving was the scene in the hospital, or how cutting was the “We just run a shop together”? I love the line you mentioned, Tehani, but my personal favourite – “Sad is happy for deep people.” Carey Mulligan has a great screen presence, and I can see why people wanted Sally Sparrow to return. But, as I will no doubt talk about further, I think Sally makes the right decision in the end.

TANSY:
I do love Mulligan in this; her performance is fantastic and it’s one of my favourite Moffat scripts, not for the scary parts so much as the excellent banter, and the economy of words. Nearly every line is packed cleverly with so much character as well as driving the plot forward.

Sally is a wonderful example of someone who can be heroic without necessarily being violent or special. Though she is of course, clever!

I wondered watching this whether they could actually do a whole season (or mini-season) of Doctor Who stories that do exactly this, that show a one off character and their experience with the Doctor from their own point of view rather than that of the Doctor or an Official Companion. Would it work if this was the formula rather than an occasional experience?

TEHANI:
Do we love the Doctor too much to appreciate Doctor-lite episodes for a full season? :)

TANSY:
They wouldn’t have to be Doctor-lite! Just putting the point of view in the hands of new characters instead of a continuing companion. It could be argued of course that they did this in 2009, but I don’t want to spoil David so I’ll shut up now…

JO:
Don’t spoil for me either, thank you very much! :)
Continue reading

Introducing Mr Wilde

One of the lovely things about Twitter is that a you can have a passing conversation with soneone in another part of the country about a man who lived a century and a half ago and end up with an amazing post like this:

A friend asked me if I would please write an introduction to the works of Oscar Wilde. I’d pointed out in a conversation that Wilde was an author who could be approached when one was short of time. His works can be dipped into and out of, as well as savoured in more depth. They don’t only work well from different directions, but approaching him from the direction of casual reading or filling in a half hour gives a different sense of the man and his work to thinking “This is a Great Author and I must spend two weeks in solitary study of him.” My friend, David McDonald, wanted to know more. I won’t explain my views of the different readings here, for that would spoil David’s fun. I’ll walk through Wilde’s work and introduce it, from his plays to his lectures to The Ballad of Reading Goal.

The exceedingly clever Gillian Polack has produced a wonderful introduction to Oscar Wilde here – what are you waiting for? Go read it! :-)

Scalzi and the Game of Life

Like about 98% of the internet, I came across this post from John Scalzi where he attempts to explain privilege via a gaming analogy. It is a brilliant post, and I would encourage you to read the whole thing (he has started discussing topics like this a lot more regularly of late, and is doing a magnificent job).

Dudes. Imagine life here in the US — or indeed, pretty much anywhere in the Western world — is a massive role playing game, like World of Warcraft except appallingly mundane, where most quests involve the acquisition of money, cell phones and donuts, although not always at the same time. Let’s call it The Real World. You have installed The Real World on your computer and are about to start playing, but first you go to the settings tab to bind your keys, fiddle with your defaults, and choose the difficulty setting for the game. Got it?
 
Okay: In the role playing game known as The Real World, “Straight White Male” is the lowest difficulty setting there is.
 
This means that the default behaviors for almost all the non-player characters in the game are easier on you than they would be otherwise. The default barriers for completions of quests are lower. Your leveling-up thresholds come more quickly. You automatically gain entry to some parts of the map that others have to work for. The game is easier to play, automatically, and when you need help, by default it’s easier to get.

Like any analogy, it breaks down or falls short in a few places, which I am worried will be seized upon by people with an agenda as a way of invalidating the whole thing. Of course, Scalzi is more than capable of defending himself!

He has expressed the concept far more eloquently than I ever could, but that’s not going to stop me from sharing my thoughts, after all that’s why we have our own blogs, isn’t it?

Firstly, I think it is important that he points out he is talking about being born in the Western world, because that in itself is a huge advantage from the start. I think we often forget how much we take that for granted. Working for an international not for profit I am constantly confronted with how much even the worst off person in Australia has compared to someone in the Third World. That’s not to say that there is no suffering here, there is, but it is of a different kind.

The one thing I think he doesn’t make quite clear enough is that you don’t choose the settings in the game. Race, orientation, gender, the class you are born into, the initial settings are all decided for you. You can’t do anything about this, all you can do is play with the stats that are rolled for you. I don’t believe that I need to feel guilty for being born with the advantages of being a straight, white male. That doesn’t make me good or bad in itself, it is simply what is. What is important, though, is what I do with those advantages.

There is a passive response, where I do my best not to use my advantages to make the game of life harder for other players who don’t have them. That means being aware of my privilege, not discriminating, not participating in behaviours that disadvantage others, not buying into whingeing of other SWMs about how hard done by they are. But, is that enough? I don’t think so, I think that being born with these advantages requires more of me.

I think that I have a responsibility to make an active response. That means trying to change the fact that there are advantages to the circumstances I was born into. It means actively trying to change the mindset of other SWMs around me, of speaking out against discrimination, of agitating for social change and trying to let my awareness of my privilege inform everything I do. I spoke about this briefly in an earlier post.

While I don’t feel guilty about being born a SWM, I do feel guilty about the times where I have been content to enjoy the privilege that comes with that, without thinking about those who aren’t so lucky. I feel guilty about my lack of self awareness. I feel guilty that for a long time this didn’t even register for me. Even now, my understanding of all this is limited, something I readily acknowledge. I am trying hard to educate myself, and hopefully every day I get better at seeing the ways in which my privilege exists, and better at doing something about it.

It’s not fair that certain people start off with these advantages. But, what is important is that they use these advantages to try and change the way the game works so that, however gradually, the default setting becomes fairer and fairer. I think it is wonderful that John Scalzi has taken the advantages he has been given as a SWM and is using them to try and raise awareness, to try and change the way things are. I hope more of us start to do the same so that one day we won’t have any advantages simply because of the way the game works.

Wednesday Writers: Sean Wright

While I am relatively new to the Aussie Spec Fic community, I have been a member of groups that operate in a similar dependent, close knit fashion for most of my life. These experiences have left me convinced that there is a certain type of person vital to the health of such communities, without whom they cannot thrive. These are the people who spend their time promoting and building up the achievements of others, rather than focussing on themselves. Putting others first is not easy to do, but there are some people who do so consistently. I’m delighted to welcome one such person to my blog for today’s Wednesday Writer – Sean Wright.

A 21st Century Fan

I love living in the future.

I grew up in a time before the internet, before mobile phones, in a remote town at least 1500 km away from any major city.  My first brush with fandom came with the ABC’s running of Doctor Who (until the late 80’s the only TV channel we had).  Myself and four friends formed the Dr Who gang, our arch enemies were the Spades – think the Sharks and the Jets but with flowing multicoloured scarves and Men at Work rather than Leonard Bernstein .  This was primary school.

For many years Dr Who was the only game in town (Blake’s 7 I can dimly remember and it didn’t get the reruns) and ours the only fandom we knew – our main activity consisted of raising funds to buy BBC novelisations.

While the rest of Australia was aware of Dr Who Fan clubs, writing and reading fanzines, we were living an isolated idyllic existence.  VHS (video tapes) brought with it Star Wars, and Star Trek and later Blade Runner, biannual trips to Victoria (my father got tickets as part of his commonwealth job) filled in some gaps with cinema (I stupidly went to see Beyond the Stars rather than Empire Strikes Back).

But still we lived in somewhat of a vacuum.  In the early nineties, introduced to gaming( pen and paper) other aspects began to filter into my view.  Magazines (albeit three months out of date) featured all aspects of fan culture and I picked up my first copy of Aurealis (Issue 9).  These were sporadic though, arriving and or stocked at the whim of the local newsagent (sure I could have subscribed, but $24 was a lot upfront for me at the time).

University was my first real introduction to fandom in any sort of community sense.  The internet had arrived, though it was early days – cc mail and Netscape.  The benefits of having a group of like minded individuals, however, was offset by the fact that we were all rather short of dosh.  Still the conversations and the joy to be had discussing the latest Babylon 5 episodes are a happy memory.

Work then took over and working two jobs and paying off a house meant little time for delving too deeply into fan culture and I was still living in isolated circumstances.  Sure DVD’s came on the scene, the town now had a cinema but a largely transient population meant that social circles were hard to maintain let alone fan communities.

But skip forward to now.  I live rurally, perhaps more isolated than before, but closer to capital cities.  I connect not only to the local fan scene but to the rest of the world.  I can leave messages on forums, read digital copies of fanzines for free, write on author’s blogs, and download books that never would have made it to our shores ten years ago.

I talk regularly with authors, have interviewed them with me sitting in the middle of wheat fields and them atop mountains thousands of kms away or indeed across oceans.

Last night I sat on Twitter, compiling a selection of tweets – pictures and announcements, from the Aurealis Awards so that others unable to make it could get a sense of the proceedings.  It was almost as good as being there.

Yes I love living in the future.

Sean Wright (AKA Sean the Blogonaut, Sean the Bookonaut) considers himself an aspiring writer, he tends to do quite a lot of aspiring and not much writing.  

You can hear his dulcet tones on various episodes of Galactic Chat

He blogs at Adventures of Bookonaut in attempt to keep himself sane and connected with other humans who share his tastes in fiction and to comment on and support the Australian speculative fiction scene.

He has lived remotely for most of his life and currently lives rural South Australia, in the midst of wheat fields, in a 120 year old farmhouse which has its own history book but no ghosts.

Sean has worked as a teacher librarian, pizza delivery driver, a security guard, a workplace trainer for an international company and as an activities coordinator for a community mental health service.

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Quick Update

I haven’t had much time for blogging the last week or so due to being feverishly busy with a very exciting and secret project! In a few weeks you will know all about it, but for now a quick update:

  • The Lone Ranger Chronicles have made it into the wild, and features my story Reflections in a Silver Mirror. I am thrilled to see there is a hard back edition, that is a first for me!
  • Congratulations to all the winners at last night’s Aurealis Awards! Judging from the twitter feed, it looks like I missed out on an exciting evening, and that all the people behind the scenes did an amazing job od putting together a spectacular event. The full list of winners is here, but I was especially excited to see Galactic Suburbia get the Peter McNamara Convenor’s Award, Paul Haines’ gut wrenching “The Past is a Bridge Best Left Burnt” tie for Horror Short Story and Thoraiya Dyer pick up “Fruit of the Pipal Tree” for Fantasy Short Story. The last one makes me feel all the more priviliged to appear in Fablecroft’s upcoming anthology, Epilogue, alongside Thoraiya. Fablecroft keep producing quality work, and that’s what you want to be part of.

Hopefully I will have a more substantial post up soon!