Author Archives: David McDonald

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The Australian Spec Fic Snapshot 2014 – Terry Dowling

Terry Dowling is one of Australia’s most respected and internationally acclaimed writers of science fiction, dark fantasy and horror, and author of the multi-award-winning Tom Rynosseros saga and the much admired Wormwood. He has been called “Australia’s finest writer of horror” by Locus magazine, its “premier writer of dark fantasy” by All Hallows and its “most acclaimed writer of the dark fantastic” by Cemetery Dance magazine. The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror series featured more horror stories by Terry in its 21 year run than by any other writer.

The award-winning US genre newspaper Locus also calls him a “highly original” writer, “the most noted prose stylist in Australian speculative fiction” and regards his work as placing him “among the masters of the field.”

Dowling’s award-winning horror collections are Basic Black: Tales of Appropriate Fear (International Horror Guild Award winner for Best Collection 2007), regarded as “one of the best recent collections of contemporary horror” by the American Library Association, An Intimate Knowledge of the Night (Aphelion 1995) and the World Fantasy Award nominated Blackwater Days (Eidolon 2000). His most recent titles are Amberjack: Tales of Fear & Wonder (Subterranean 2010) and his debut novel, Clowns at Midnight (PS Publishing 2010), which London’s Guardian called “an exceptional work that bears comparison to John Fowles’s The Magus.

Dowling has written three computer adventures (Schizm: Mysterious Journey, Schizm II: Chameleon and Sentinel: Descendants in Time), and co-edited The Essential Ellison and The Jack Vance Treasury among many other titles. He lives in Sydney, Australia and his homepage can be found at www.terrydowling.com

Your “Rynosseros Cycle” stands as one of the significant works of Australian Speculative fiction. Looking back, how do feel about its legacy? Do you have any plans to return to that world?

I’m very proud of that cycle of stories and the part it played in helping Aussies become further recognised as global players – writers with their own valid take on the world. In many ways it’s where I refined my craft, and the whole saga is very precious to me. That said, one of the important things for any storyteller is knowing when to step back and let things be. I had no existing plan to abandon the cycle in 2004 (“The Library”, published in X6 in 2009, was written back in 1990), but because my dear friend and publisher Peter McNamara had a terminal illness, it became incredibly important to finish Tom’s journey in time for Peter to be able to have it all. I already had the final scene on Lake Eyre from 1993 and so knew where it was going.

BIOPIC Terry Dowling (photo Cat Sparks)

(photo Cat Sparks)

When Peter asked for a Tom story for his last editing project, Forever Shores, in 2003, I wrote “Coyote Struck by Lightning.” That story provided the shape of the whole closing sequence and grew in the telling, leading to “Coming Down” and “Sewing Whole Cloth.” Peter took the lot – all 24,000 words of that ending – for Forever Shores. So for the best reasons in the world, that’s where the saga not so much ends as stops (to make that important distinction) on a crucial open note. So as not to compromise the vital open-endedness of those final events, any further adventures in Tom’s future Australia would have to be set before that final showdown or concern one of the other Coloured Captains. Who knows what might happen, but as I’m seeing it now the close of the cycle was given when those three stories appeared in Forever Shores as the ‘novella’ “Rynemonn” which then, of course, became the closing section of the fourth Tom book Rynemonn.

9781862546226You continue to have short stories published all over the world, and are a regular part of international “Year’s Bests”. Over your career do you feel that the impact of Australian writers on the international scene has changed, for better or worse, and is it easier or harder for Aussies to break out into overseas markets?

There was a time when both science fiction and fantasy truly could be new, fresh and different, experimental, risk-taking and pretty much without conceptual borders, just by the nature of what was being done with story prior to, during, and immediately following World War 2. That watershed situation couldn’t last. The growth of the youth culture in the 60s, things like increased leisure-time, increased disposable income, ‘greatest return to shareholders’ thinking in a booming consumer culture tended to mean lowest common denominator standards in all areas of creative activity: pursuing safe ventures, using proven formula, encouraging franchise thinking.

To answer your important question, Aussie writers, then as now, are competing in a global market, and in what is usually a proven meritocracy, where quality, skill and originality tend to come to the fore as they have always done. That means we’re all in the same boat: all looking for the next great idea, the next flash of inspiration that will speak to the age about itself. That can come from anywhere. So we’re no longer out in the cold, lost and forlorn at the ends of empire. Fortunately, part of this global process has long included the roles of insightful editor and enlightened entrepreneur. They’re other forms of creativity in a sense, and while they too must bow to shareholder requirements to an extent, they nonetheless get to play a vital part in the discovery, championing and marketing of story and the promotion of worthy talents with this take on the global experience, no less than indie film-festival organisers presently do with film-making.9780819573674

The truth is that there are more people writing now, many of them good enough writers but often derivative rather than very original storytellers. They often don’t know any better, aren’t sufficiently aware of what else there’s been. And as I say in writing classes, the best storyteller in the room may in fact be the worst writer, and vice versa. So find out where you’re placed without buying into flattery and marketing hype, and understand just how the international scene has changed and, for Aussies, mostly in our favour. Accept too that the global scene does seem to be more self-imitating and self-enshrining, less original and daring now, and, most alarming of all, less aware that this is even the case. But quality does tend to come out. As Ray Feist said at lunch one time, “No-one expected J.K. Rowling to come along.” Old idea, magic school for children, but with a powerful new engine. That made the marketing people nervous, because no-one saw it coming.

So there it is. The nifty idea and the right skills, inspiration and opportunity will ensure that it stays a level playing field. But you have to get on the radar of the right people. And that generally means writing powerful short fiction, because unless you’re channelling Philip K. Dick, most of us don’t live long enough to risk building a lasting career writing novels. As I often say in writing classes: short fiction for the reputation, novels to pay the mortgage. All going well, once you’re on the global radar, novels will then replace the short fiction in that equation.

As well as your writing, you are a noted academic and critic. How has that impacted your writing, and vice versa?

Being a critic or commentator about F&SF as in any field tends to keep you aware of enduring standards and historical context – in other words, what has gone before. But while that kind of perspective can be valuable, the role can take over. The great enemy of becoming a creative writer is what I call Creativity Gone Elsewhere, when you fill up your life with busy, rewarding and important tasks that stop you putting yourself on the line doing what you really want to do: in my case telling stories. For a while there, I tended to use my academic efforts to keep me from taking my chance. We’re all storytellers, though not necessarily good enough writers, so what if we fail? It was easier to write about the work of others. That kept me off the streets for some time, but the emerging creative zeal was always there.

And as a singer-songwriter, poet, television performer, critic, reviewer etc, I already had enough valid creative outlets that I felt busy and purposeful. What it meant in real terms was that my skills were pretty well in place by the time I sold my first story at age 35. I’ve reviewed for The Sydney Morning Herald, The Bulletin, and finally for The Australian newspaper for 19 years. In that time I read a great deal of wonderful material, but also an overwhelming amount of derivative, formula fare that marketing labelled breathtaking, edgy and new when it wasn’t. That taught me to urge new writers to read the classics prior to 1990, to know what’s already been done and at least have the courtesy to pay their dues and name names. Full marks to the writers who do this.

As for the scholarly side, I still do the occasional academic piece, though now only at someone’s invitation and usually concerning aspects of my own work. For instance, “Dancing with Scheherazade: Some Reflections in the Djinni’s Glass” recently appeared in Parabolas of Science Fiction and concerns my approach to producing the Tom Rynosseros stories. What made me smile was when some reviewers of Clowns at Midnight saw my novel as the result of me doing my doctorate, all the philosophical noodling of an academic unable to help himself, when in fact the novel was written years before the degree was even considered and does precisely what was needed for the story. Exploring the mysteries of the world as a scholar has its attractions, but good story will always do that anyway. As someone who firmly believes that much of the time wisdom must be protected by enigma, I’d rather write a new story any day.

What Australian works have you loved recently?

There are so many local voices I find really strong and interesting, but for the reasons I’ve given regarding global publishing realities, it’s often hard to find work that’s new, fresh and different.

Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

I haven’t changed the way I work much at all. Café longhand keyed in one day, continued on printed out text the next. I’m currently preparing much of my material for e-book release because that’s the shape of the market-place right now and a sensible approach to take. I prize the paper-book as an optimum form, however, the way a chair or a spoon are optimum forms despite what designers do to them. The paper-book form requires comparatively minimal technology to produce, is surprisingly durable, and is not dependent on other levels of technological infrastructure to maintain it once it exists. I suspect it will never go away because of that. RYNEMONN

Also, small print-runs can still reach the right readers, editors and reviewers. My award-winning Blackwater Days exists in only 350 copies or so, but it was nominated for a World Fantasy Award. Historically, ideologically, the right kind of tail will always wag the dog. I tend to read the Best of’s in any year and try some of the international award-winners to see what’s making it; otherwise I tend to re-visit titles I’ve loved over the years, see what masters like Harlan Ellison, Theodore Sturgeon, Alfred Bester etc continue to give. As for what I write, my horror and dark fantasy does well for me internationally and leads to working with editors I respect and admire. So more of that. But this is where it becomes fun. You never know what will surface next? The journey is everything!

This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot. In the lead up to the World Science Fiction Convention in London, we will be blogging interviews for Snapshot 2014 conducted by Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, , Helen Stubbs Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright.

To read the interviews hot off the press, check out these blogs daily from July 28 to August 10, 2014, or look for the round up on SF Signal when it’s all done. You can find the past Snapshots at the following links: 2005, 2007,  2010 and 2012.

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The Australian Spec Fic Snapshot 2014 – Tracie McBride

Tracie McBride is a New Zealander who lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and three children.  Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in over 80 print and electronic publications, including Bleed, FISH and the Stoker Award-nominated anthologies Horror for Good and Horror Library Volume 5. Her debut collection Ghosts Can Bleed contains much of the work that earned her a Sir Julius Vogel Award.  She helps to wrangle slush for Dark Moon Digest and is the vice president of Dark Continents Publishing.  Visitors to her blog are welcome at http://traciemcbridewriter.wordpress.com.

You’re listed as the Vice-President of Dark Continents Publishing which is described as a writers’ co-operative. How is this different from the traditional model of a publisher, and what was the impetus behind going in this direction?

Dark Continents was born out of an informal conversation between authors on separate sides of the planet. One person was venting about the reluctance of his publisher to embrace modern technology, another concurred, a third suggested a writers’ co-op to do it “our way” and take back control of our work…and next thing you know, we were running a publishing company.

Soon after the company’s inception, we began to follow a more traditional small press approach by soliciting outside submissions. The spirit of the company remained the same, with a strong focus on giving our authors creative input and control over the publishing process as much as possible.
profile 2013 colourAs well as being VP of DCP, you are also Associate Editor of Dark Moon Digest, a fiction quarterly. How has being on that side of the desk, as a publisher and editor, affected your own writing?

I find it difficult to be objective about my work, and I’m sure that’s a feeling many authors share; I lurch between, “This is the best thing I’ve ever written!” and, “This is utter, utter, utter crap!” So it’s hard to say how it’s affected my writing. Unless you’re talking about volume; the time I spend on publishing, editing and reading the slush pile means I spend a lot less time on my own work. (Excuses, excuses, excuses…)

Your work been recognised with awards and nominations on both sides of the Tasman, and we do love adopting talented New Zealanders here! Do you see many differences in the speculative fiction writing scene between the two countries? Has moving between the two influenced your own work?

The difference between the two scenes is mostly one of scale; New Zealand is tiny, both geographically and in population, and that is reflected in the number of speculative fiction writers and local markets available. Ironically, moving to Australia has made me more confident to give my stories Antipodean settings and themes; when I was in New Zealand, almost all of my work was aimed at American publications. Perhaps the move to a country with a small but vibrant and well-respected community of speculative fiction publishers is responsible for the change.

What Australian works have you loved recently?

The sad reality is that I don’t get to read nearly as much as I would like, so I’m sure that I’m missing out on a lot of sterling recent publications that ought to be pushed to the top of my TBR pile. I’m all about the short story, both writing them and reading them; at the risk of being accused of promoting my own interests, I was delighted to see contributions from Australian authors Rob Porteous and Simon Dewar included in Dark Continents’ latest anthology, “The Sea”, which was compiled and edited by South African author Nerine Dorman.

the sea cover ebookHave recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

The actual writing process remains the same, but once a story is finished, I feel like I’m spoiled for choice. Submit to a publisher? Or self-publish? Go big and launch a Kickstarter campaign? Or cultivate a small yet dedicated fan base via social media?

Whatever changes are still in store for us in the next five years, I hope to be striving for the same things I always have – to find a thought-provoking story and to tell it well.

This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot. In the lead up to the World Science Fiction Convention in London, we will be blogging interviews for Snapshot 2014 conducted by Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, , Helen Stubbs Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright.

To read the interviews hot off the press, check out these blogs daily from July 28 to August 10, 2014, or look for the round up on SF Signal when it’s all done. You can find the past Snapshots at the following links: 2005, 2007,  2010 and 2012.

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The Australian Spec Fic Snapshot 2014 – Amie Kaufman

Amie Kaufman is the co-author of These Broken Stars, the first in a young adult science fiction trilogy published in thirteen countries, including by Disney-Hyperion in the US and Allen & Unwin in Australia. Film and television rights are in development with Off The Grid Entertainment. The sequel, This Shattered World, will be out in November 2014.

These Broken Stars won the 2013 Aurealis Award for Best Young Adult Novel, received a starred review from Booklist, was named Best Overall YA Book of 2013 by the Huffington Post, and was a Romantic Times Top Pick, being longlisted for the Gold Inky Award.

She’s also the co-author of Illuminae, a new transmedia trilogy coming from Random House/Allen & Unwin in 2015. Raised in Australia and Ireland, Amie has degrees in history, literature, law and conflict resolution. She lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and their rescue dog, and an extremely large personal library.

Your debut novel, These Broken Stars, has been a huge success, with a number of awards, critical acclaim, and international exposure.  What led up to These Broken Stars—was it your first major piece of writing, or had you been working on other projects for a while?

I’d been writing for fun for a number of years, but never with an eye to publication. These Broken Stars started that way too—my co-author Meagan Spooner and I were flatmates, and we were writing the story together for fun, to indulge our love of space opera and shipwreck stories. It was quite some time into the process that we realised we were writing something that might work for publication.

These Broken Stars was the first book I ever sent to an agent or had submitted for publication, but in a way I’d done my apprenticeship in the years before that, even though I wasn’t sending my work out anywhere.

Amie HeadshotYou obviously enjoy collaborating with other authors, with These Broken Stars being written alongside Meagan Spooner, and an upcoming series with Jay Kristoff. What is it about the act of collaboration that you enjoy, and are there any particular challenges you’ve faced?

I love working with a writing partner. You’ve always got someone in the trenches with you to bounce ideas around, challenge you and support you. The best stuff comes when you work together, and take each other places you’d never have found on your own.

I picked both my co-authors very carefully, so my journey’s been wonderful. My best advice for working with a co-author is to check you both have matching expectations in terms of who’ll do what work, what your goals are, how you’d deal with the project if one of you didn’t want to continue, and to make sure you have rock solid communication. Solve problems ahead of time, and you won’t have to deal with them halfway through.

TBS Aussie CoverDo you have any plans for more stories set in the world of These Broken Stars to go alongside the novels?

Yes! In October we’ll be releasing a free e-short titled This Night So Dark. It’ll be available on all e-reader platforms, and it’ll have the first two chapters of This Shattered World (Starbound #2) in the back, so readers can get a sneak peek.Starbound_Night So Dark

It’s set before These Broken Stars, and tells the story of how Tarver Merendsen came to be on the Icarus, why he has those medals, and why he doesn’t want to talk about it. We had a blast writing it—I haven’t done much with short stories before, but I definitely want to dip my toe in this pool again!

What Australian works have you loved recently?

Although it’s not spec fic, I loved Every Breath by Ellie Marney—it kept me up late. I also loved Jump by Sean Williams and I got an early read of Endsinger by Jay Kristoff, which finishes off the Lotus War trilogy perfectly.

Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

I think authors have the opportunity to be far more in touch with their readers these days—for some it’s a mixed blessing, but I love it. It impacts my work in that I get to share the journey with readers. Once a month, Meg and I send out a newsletter that gives readers behind the scenes glimpses at what’s coming up, talks about our writing process, and really invites them into a part of the process they wouldn’t usually see. (If you want to sign up for that, by the way, you can do so at www.thesebrokenstars.com.au .) We also have the chance to offer stories like This Night So Dark that would have been harder to distribute in years gone past. We get to interact with fans via social media, and they produce all kinds of amazing stuff—illustrations, playlists of songs for each chapter of the book, photosets, the works. Their creativity is amazing, and I love the opportunity to have them share in the story.

TSW_C_2-6 alt3Five years from now, I hope I’ll still be writing and publishing speculative fiction—that’s certainly the plan! I think the ways in which we produce and consume it will continue to change, with more authors experimenting with new platforms and self-publishing, pursuing hybrid careers—and I think that’s exciting—but I do also think rumours of the death of traditional publishing have been greatly exaggerated.

This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot. In the lead up to the World Science Fiction Convention in London, we will be blogging interviews for Snapshot 2014 conducted by Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, , Helen Stubbs Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright.

To read the interviews hot off the press, check out these blogs daily from July 28 to August 10, 2014, or look for the round up on SF Signal when it’s all done. You can find the past Snapshots at the following links: 2005, 2007,  2010 and 2012.

Galactic Chat Post Ditmar Bonus Cast

From the Galactic Chat Website:

In this week’s cast, we decided to do a Skype catch up with the team to talk about out recent Ditmar win.  In addition to congratulating each other we also took the time to engage in a little reflection.  We discuss podcasting as a way that authors can skill themselves up for interviews in other media spheres. We also talk about some of our favourite interviews and who we would interview if given the chance and money being no impediment.  

Enjoy our slightly Coode Street-esque ramble.

Credits

Interviewer: Sean Wright

Guests: Mark Webb, David McDonald, Alex Pierce, Helen Stubbs

Music & Intro: Tansy Rayner Roberts

Post-production: Sean Wright

Feedback:

Twitter: @galactichat

Email: galactichat at gmail dot com

The Australian Spec Fic Snapshot 2014

The Aussie Snapshot has taken place four times in the past 10 years. In 2005, Ben Peek spent a frantic week interviewing 43 people in the Australian spec fic scene, and since then, it’s grown every time, now taking a team of interviewers working together to accomplish!

SnaphotLogo2014In the lead up to the World Science Fiction Convention in London, we will be blogging interviews for Snapshot 2014, conducted by Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright. Last time we covered nearly 160 members of the Australian speculative fiction community with the Snapshot – can we top that this year?

To read the interviews hot off the press, check these blogs daily from July 28 to August 10, 2014, or look for the round up on SF Signal when it’s all done:

Writing update with shiny sales and shiny trophies!

Yet again I have been very bad with keeping up to date on my blog. But, I do have lots of exciting stuff to talk about!

Firstly, I have started a new job! I am working for the same organisation, but I have been seconded to our Editorial Department and am now responsible for a fortnightly magazine. It’s been a steep learning curve, but I am loving it. So, I guess now I am a professional writer/editor. The last issue was the first I did completely alone and having survived that I think I am going to be all right – but it was a long fortnight. The downside is that I have been so consumed by learning the ropes that I have let some stuff slide and let some people down with other things. :-(

I am also very excited to announce the sale of my story, “Her face like lightning”, to Fablecroft’s “Insert Title Here”. You can find out more details here.

I am currently working on two major projects that I hope to be able to announce in a month or so, but they are taking up most of my writing time. If they work out, they will be a big deal but until contracts are signed I will be keeping it quiet.

In June I went along to Continuum X and had an amazing time. I am a bit biased, being on the committee and all, but it seemed to be a smashing success. I spent a fair bit of time running around trying to help with organisational matters, but I also managed to catch up with heaps of friends, and make some new ones. My panels went reasonably well, and I even managed to organise a reprint of one of my stories. Well done to everyone who contributed to making it an awesome convention!

And, in a very surprising turn of events, we won both our categories in the Ditmars! I honestly didn’t expect it, given the other nominees, so it was a wonderful surprise. In the Atheling, New Who Reviews tied with Galactic Suburbia. As Galactic Suburbia was the first Aussie podcast I started listening to, and has had a huge influence on my perception of the genre, this was a huge honour. It’s been a great deal of fun working with Tansy and Tehani, so a big thank you to them for all their hard work and letting me be part of it (and a shout out to our guests over the years  – Lynne Thomas, Jo Anderton and Kathleen Jennings).

Then, in the Best Fan Publication, Galactic Chat won! Again, I have been fortunate to get to work with an incredible group of people, and Sean has worked extremely hard in his role as our fearless leader. We were very excited to see him win Best Fan Writer, as well – a very deserved result.

But, looking at the rest of the nominees in all the categories, it was an extremely strong list – and congratulations to all the winners, and nominees, for the wonderful work you are doing! You can see the full list here.

So, it has been an exciting few months! How is your year going?

Finally, all three of the New Who Review team together at a Con!

Finally, all three of the New Who Review team together at a Con!

A lovely work of art by Kathleen Jennings

A lovely work of art by Kathleen Jennings

Lunch on the last day - photo by Alan Baxter

Lunch on the last day – photo by Alan Baxter

with Alan Baxter and Alex Pierce - photo by Cat Sparks

with Alan Baxter and Alex Pierce – photo by Cat Sparks

Reprint deal with Clan Destine Press

Observant followers of the scene may have noticed that Clan Destine Press have launched a new website, and have been signing some new authors – including fellow SuperNOVArians Jason Nahrung and Pete Aldin.

I am delighted to announce that Clan Destine have asked to reprint my story “Cold comfort” (originally published by Fablecroft in the anthology, “Epilogue”). Details are yet to be completely hammered out, but it looks it will be part of their new fiction imprint and it is likely that it will be paired with another of my shorts.

Clan Destine have a great catalogue of writers, and have produced some wonderful books, so I am very excited to have a chance to work with them.

More details to follow!

CDP Poster

 

Story sale to Fablecroft: Insert Title Here

I am thrilled to announce I will be appearing in Fablecroft’s next anthology, “Insert Title Here”. Looking at the ToC I am delighted to find myself in the company of so many amazing writers. Fablecroft is one of my favourite publishers, and Tehani one of my favourite people, so this is a wonderful sale!

This story is a bit of a different style than I usually write. It’s got angels, steampunk and heresy, and a bit nastier than my usual sort of thing.

You can find out stats and details at the Fablecroft website.

Kathleen Jennings The Last Case of Detective Charlemagne
Joanne Anderton 2B
DK Mok Almost Days
Matthew Morrison Sins of meals past
Tom Dullemond The Last Voyage of Saint Brendan
Dirk Flinthart Collateral Damage
Dan Simpson The Winter Stream
Darren Goossens Circle
Alan Baxter Beyond the Borders of All He Had Been Taught
Thoraiya Dyer The Falcon Races
Robert Hood Footprints in Venom
Caitlene Cooke Circa
Tamlyn Dreaver Reflections
David McDonald Her face like lightning
Marianne de Pierres Salvatrix
Dan Rabarts Oil and bone
Ian Creasey Ministry of Karma
Stephanie Burgis The art of deception
Marissa Lingen & Alec Austin Empty Monuments
Sara Larner Living in the Light
Alexis A. Hunter Always Another Point

A Conversational Journey through New Who – S06E01/02 – The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon

We are incredibly honoured to have tied for the William Atheling Jr Award, alongside Galactic Suburbia. Thank you to everyone who voted for us, and to all our readers for your support and for spreading the word. We also want to thank Lynne Thomas, Jo Anderton and Kathleen Jennings for their guest contributions. Congratulations to not only Galactic Suburbia on their well deserved win, but all the amazing nominees – you are producing some wonderful writing! We are looking forward to writing many more reviews about the show we love, and hopefully catching up with the new season soon.

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 are working our way through New Who, using season openers and closers, and Hugo shortlisted episodes, and sometimes a couple of extra episodes we love as our blogging points. Just for fun!

“The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon”
Season six, episodes one and two
The Doctor – Matt Smith
Amy Pond – Karen Gillan
Rory Williams – Arthur Darvill
River Song – Alex Kingston
Canton Everett Delaware III – Mark Sheppard
President Richard Nixon – Stuart Milligan

DAVID:
Well, what a great setup for for an episode, and what a great start to the season! Obviously we know that the Doctor can’t really die (especially from my viewpoint of knowing there is a Season 7), but we are immediately presented with a whole heap of questions and a massive time gap to fill. I may be a little obsessed here after watching all five seasons in a few weeks, but it reminded more than a little of Breaking Bad where you would see the aftermath of some catastrophe in the intros and then be left wondering how exactly you were going to get there. It’s certainly left me very excited about this season.

TEHANI:
So that early scene, when the Doctor started regenerating, was AWFUL. I’m glad I already knew Matt Smith was the Doctor for the whole season to come, else I would have been devastated! But yes, it’s very good :)

TANSY:
This is a really excellent season opener – the first time we’ve had a two parter to start a season, which seems odd because it works so well. It also marks the first time they really made inroads into promoting the show substantially in the US – I really like that they chose to do a historical story using all that beautiful desert cinematography, and the 1960’s stuff around it.

This story has major knock on effects in the whole season but I really like it as a self contained piece of Doctor Who.

episode

DAVID:
Earth must get very cluttered with all the aliens behind the scenes pulling the strings, the basic premise is hardly new even to Doctor Who, let alone science fiction.

TEHANI:
Heh. The Doctor says it: Safe? No, of course you’re not safe. There’s about a billion other things out there just waiting to burn your whole world. But if you want to pretend you’re safe just so you can sleep at night, okay. You’re safe. But you’re not really.

DAVID:
But, there aren’t many completely new ideas, it’s all about how you execute them, and I thought that this was executed wonderfully. It had a great storyline, an excellent supporting cast and a very disturbing set of monsters. I was fascinated to discover the father-son sharing of one of the roles, and I thought Richard Nixon was portrayed really well. I can imagine there was a temptation to have him as a complete villain, but instead we saw a great performance. I did enjoy the little digs, though, like the reference to Frost, and the perfectly reasonable explanation for his obsession with recording all the conversations that took place in the Oval Office! But, the real stars for me were Gillan and Darvill, however I will expand on that further a bit later on.

Dod not adjust..

TANSY:
I think the Silence are officially the scariest New Who villains now – Raeli has got over her fear of Sontarans but she can’t even cope with looking at these guys. The premise behind them is so chilling, the idea of taking away memories.

I do love all the Nixon stuff (if Abigail and Kazran are companions, so is he!) and that he came across as likeable but problematic. River and the Doctor debating his legacy (“Hippy!” “Archaeologist!”) was quite charming. Stuart Milligan, who played him, is perhaps best known as the kooky magician Adam Klaus in Jonathan Creek, and he also plays an amazing Big Finish comedy villain. It’s funny the way that the Doctor reacts to having a President in his pocket by employing him a bit like a sonic screwdriver, to open doors and unlock new areas.

TEHANI:
And I like that Nixon isn’t portrayed as a monster, either, even though we know (historically) his flaws. It’s very, hrm, human?

Nixon

DAVID:
The Silence could have been been a bit ridiculous if they hadn’t been handled right, but I found them very creepy. You’d think that after the Angels, a creature that you had to keep your eyes on would be a bit old hat, but the twist was more than enough to differentiate them completely. For some reason the idea that you forgot them every time you looked away made me really uncomfortable, it made the characters seem so vulnerable and manipulated. No matter how vigilant they were, seeing the Silence was not enough. The scenes in the children’s home were particularly creepy, especially when Amy is all of a sudden covered in pen marks (which was a brilliant idea). At least with the Angels you knew they were coming for you, the Silence didn’t even give you that.

TEHANI:
That awful, “As long as there’s been something in the corner of your eye, or creaking in your house or breathing under your bed or voices through a wall…” line *shudder* – I think that’s what makes them so darn scary. Also, this:

silence meme

TANSY:
The horror concept of not being able to remember the monster is terribly clever and creepy. The haunted asylum is genuinely disturbing.

When I remember this story though it’s less for the effective horror stuff and more for the crunchy character material. I adore Canton as an addition to the TARDIS team, and all of the River Song stuff is great. She’s definitely on the team now, with friendship ties to both Rory and Amy as well as the Doctor.

And oh, TIME GAP. The Doctor who summons them all to witness his death is about two hundred years older than our usual model, and how interesting that Amy and Rory have been home since the Christmas Special, balancing domesticity with adventure. There are so many delicious implications to this story, not least that the Eleventh Doctor’s timeline is complicated, more complicated than we could ever understand, and that he’s going to be around for a good long time.

DAVID:
Excellent point. Certainly leaves lots of room for lots of adventures.

TEHANI:
Yay!

DAVID:
I was interested to discover that this isn’t the first major time gap in the Doctor’s chronology. The First Doctor claims to be 450 years old at one point, but that jumps up around 300 years by the time Four is travelling with Romana. Then, when we get to Six he is around the 900s! While we need to take the Doctor’s claims regarding his age with a pinch of salt, that does leave lots of room for “missing” adventures. It does make sense that a time traveller’s chronology is going to be complicated, of course!

TANSY:
Moffat has actually done a great job at leaving deliberate gaps in the chronology, for the associated media to play in whether it’s now or in 25 years time. He has said that he does it on purpose. Unlike RTD, who gave us that distressingly closed-in Series 1, so the only non-Rose adventures we can insert happen somewhere in the middle of “Rose”.

He has been thinking too much about continuity..

He has been thinking too much about continuity..

TEHANI:
The first time I watched this season I got all sorts of terribly confused. I’m still not sure I completely understand the timeline. Where’s that River Song chronology again?

TANSY:
It bears multiple rewatching! And I believe there’s a bit of retooling we need to do after the fact with later revelations in the show…

David, let’s talk about Amy and Rory! What was it you loved so much about Gillan and Darvill’s performances?

Creepy

DAVID:
There are a number of scenes where they shine (like Amy in the children’s home *shivers*) but, for me, the real emotional core of this story is Rory trying hard not to be jealous as he fights against his insecurities, and Amy’s feelings for him and the Doctor. Who wouldn’t struggle with feelings of inadequacy if they felt they were competing with the Doctor? I think it is a really pivotal moment when Amy clarifies things properly, and certainly left me feeling much better about things (“Poor Rory!” punctuates most of my notes that I make while watching these episodes!).

It would be quite obvious to anyone reading this review series that I had some real issues with the Nine-Rose-Mickey dynamic, but I find the Eleven-Amy-Rory one a lot easier to deal with. Nine was quite obviously competing with Mickey for Rose, and often rather nasty about it, and I often found it hard to watch. It was such an unbalanced competition and I constantly felt sorry for Mickey, and disdain for the Doctor’s bullying of him – because that’s what it was. There is a lot more friendship and genuine affection between the current (well, current as of this episode – I am SO far behind!) trio, and the Doctor has shown much more integrity in how he deals with Rory and Amy, and is far more mindful of boundaries. Plus, I do love the banter!

TEHANI:
Plus Matt Smith’s Doctor is a less “sexual” being than Tennant’s anyway, I think. He’s far more the goof (mingled nicely with the dark weight of everything he has seen) than Tennant ever was – this shows in his interactions with River Song, even as he grows into their relationship, I think.

TANSY:
I enjoy the odd, awkward balances and imbalances that come out between this trio and I agree that the Doctor’s role in it makes him a lot more likeable than when Nine was doing something similar – most of the Doctor messing up their relationship is a blunder rather than a deliberate jibe. I think it also shows that there are different kinds of friendship and jealousy and conflict doesn’t have to be romantic. Rory is brilliant in this story, it feels like he is coming into his own. I think my favourite bit is where he gets to explain everything to Canton, and that means Rory himself isn’t the new boy any more.

This team, running around solving mysteries in an invaded Earth in the 1960s. I could watch this team forever. I could have watched a whole season that was just this. Except, of course, that’s not how Doctor Who works…Trio

Previous Episodes
“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 – David, Tansy, Tehani
“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
“Smith and Jones”, S03E01
“The Shakespeare Code/Gridlock”, S03E02/03″
“Human Nature/Family of Blood”. S03E08/09″
“Blink”. S03E10″
“Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Timelords”, S03E12/13/14
Classic Who Conversation podcast – Spearhead from Space (1970)
Season Three Report CardDavid, Tansy, Tehani
Classic Who Conversation podcast – Genesis of the Daleks (1975)
“Partners in Crime”, S04E01
The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky, S04E0708
“Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, S04E0910
Turn Left, S0411
The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End,S04E1213
Season Four Report Card – David, Tansy, Tehani
The Next Doctor / Planet of the Dead / The Waters of Mars
End of Time
The Eleventh Hour. S0501
The Beast Below/Victory of the Daleks,S050203
The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone,S05E0405
The Vampires of Venice/Amy’s Choice,S050607
The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood,S050809
Vincent and the Doctor/The Lodger,S05E10/11
The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang,S05E12/13
2010 Christmas Special – A Christmas Carol
Season Five Report Card – DavidTansyTehani

My Continuum X Schedule

It’s hard to believe, but tomorrow Continuun X starts! I am on commitee (my excuse for being very absent here of late) so it feels like there has been a mad rush to get everything ready, but the time for preparation is over and the fun begins soon.

What is ContinuumX? From the website:

Continuum is an annual Melbourne speculative fiction and pop culture fan convention celebrating creativity across genre and media. From hard-edge science fiction to high-flown fantasy, comic books to film noir, high culture to sub-culture… we sink our teeth into it all! Continuum is run on a not-for-profit basis and all revenue goes towards venue and equipment hire, transport and accommodation for our guests, and other convention specific expenses. The Continuum Foundation supports Continuum conventions and we are grateful for their support.

Continuum 10 will take place on the Queen’s Birthday Weekend, June 6 — 9, 2014. Our guests of honour this year are Jim C. Hines and Ambelin Kwaymullina. Supporting them will be a wide range of other speakers and panellists in a fabulous line up of panels, presentations and special events.

Continuum 10 is also proud to be host convention for the 53rd Australian National Science Fiction Convention for 2014.

I may be biased, but I think we have an awesome program, with something for everyone. You can check it out here.

My schedule is below, but you will also find me at most of the book launches, running around doing errands…or in the bar. Come and say hello!

Friday, 6 June

Continuum 101
The Haunted House, 6pm – 6:30pm
Hespa, David McDonald, Fran la Fontaine
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.

Continuum 101 – Getting To Know You
The Haunted House, 6:30pm – 7pm
Hespa, David McDonald, Fran la Fontaine
A quick round of ice-breaker games to introduce you to your fellow newbies and your Continuum 101 hosts.

Spicks & Speckulations
The Haunted House/The Big Top/The Hall of Mirrors 8pm
George Ivanoff, Jim C. Hines, Narrelle Harris, Kirstyn McDermott, Ambelin Kwaymullina, Danny Oz, David McDonald
Inspired by the ABC music game show, our two teams of “experts” go head-to-head as their spec fic and music knowledge is tested to its (possibly quite limited) limits. Who will prevail? How silly will this get? We suspect quite silly.

Saturday, 7 June

Continuum 101
The Hall of Mirrors, 11am – 11:30am
Hespa, David McDonald, Fran la Fontaine
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.

Monday, 9 June

In Conversation: DUFF Delegate Juanita Coulson
The Hall of Mirrors, 11am – 11:30am
David McDonald, Juanita Coulson
Juanita Coulson joins us all the way from America to talk about being a writer, the changing face of American fandom since the 1950s, and filking.

Feedback Panel
The Haunted House 3pm
Julia Svaganovic,, Liz Barr, Amanda Elliott, David McDonald, PRK
The con’s nearly over! What did you like? What did you hate? This is your chance to chat directly with the CX and C11 committee and help make the next Continuum even better.

Fake Geek Pride
The Big Top 4pm
Jim C. Hines, Alex Matti, David McDonald, Kirsty Sculler
Many fans see fandom as a welcoming home to all, but sagas like the “fake geek girl” furore are starkly at odds with this rosy picture. Where does the idea of non-judgemental fandom come from and how much truth is in it really?