Category Archives: Writing

Obligatory Ditmar Post for 2015

I feel like I have been a bit self promotional lately, with the FFANZ stuff, the ebook release and trying to boost the signal of the Galactic Chat interviews I have been lucky enough to do. So, I am going to bury my own eligible works right at the bottom of the post.

Don’t feel you need to read down that far, the important message is: make sure you nominate and vote in the Ditmars! There are so many amazing people in the Aussie scene, and they are producing so much good work. The list of eligibles will blow your mind. So, if you have loved someone’s work last year, why not nominate them?

Nominations for the 2015 Australian SF (“Ditmar”) awards are now open and will remain open until one minute before midnight Perth time on Sunday, 1st of February, 2015 (ie. 11.59pm, GMT+8). Postal nominations must be postmarked no later than Friday, 30th of January, 2015.

The current rules, including Award categories can be found HERE.

You must include your name with any nomination. Nominations will be accepted only from natural persons active in fandom, or from full or supporting members of Swancon 40, the 2015 Australian National SF Convention. Where a nominator may not be known to the Ditmar subcommittee, the nominator should provide the name of someone known to the subcommittee who can vouch for the nominator’s eligibility. Convention attendance or membership of an SF club are among the criteria which qualify a person as “active in fandom”, but are not the only qualifying criteria. If in doubt, nominate and mention your qualifying criteria. If you received this email directly, you almost certainly qualify.

You may nominate as many times in as many Award categories as you like, although you may only nominate a particular person, work or achievement once. The Ditmar subcommittee, which is organised under the auspices the Standing Committee of the Natcon Business Meeting, will rule on situations where eligibility is unclear. A partial and unofficial eligibility list, to which everyone is encouraged to add, can be found HERE.

While online nominations are preferred, nominations can be made in a number of ways:

1. online, via this form.

2. via email to ditmars [@] sf.org.au; or

3. by post to:
Ditmars
6 Florence Road
NEDLANDS WA 6009
AUSTRALIA

I don’t have a huge amount of eligible work from 2014. I didn’t even enter my collection in the Aurealis Awards as it is only three stories, and I wouldn’t think it would be competitive with all the amazing anthologies and collected works we have seen over the past twelve months.

Something that I didn’t create, but was part of, and that I think was amazing (not through anything to do with me, but because of the creator) was Laura E. Goodin’s radio play, “Useless Questions”. I am not sure what category Laura would be eligible for that under, but I wanted to highlight it as something worth considering.

So. my list:

Best Short Story

  • “Our Land Abounds”, David McDonald, in Cold Comfort and Other Tales, Clan Destine Press.

Best Fan Publication in any Medium

  • “Galactic Chat”, Sean Wright, Helen Stubbs, David McDonald, Alexandra Pierce, Sarah Parker and Mark Webb.
  • “Snapshot 2014″, 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, Sean Wright.

William Atheling Jr. Award for Criticism or Review

ditmars

Useless Questions Radio Play

Earlier this year at Conflux,  my good friend Laura E. Goodin asked me if I would be willing to help her out with a performance of her radio play, “Useless Questions”. I have done a bit of acting in the past, but this was something new and I was a little dubious!

But, I was so glad I agreed, as we had so much fun performing the play. It is very hard to write good humour (especially humorous science fiction), often times it falls flat or comes across as lame, but Laura got it spot on and the audience loved it. So much so that we did a repeat performance later in the con!

While we didn’t have any specialised equipment, Laura did make a recording, which you can find here. It’s not perfect, but hopefully it will give you a sense of how much fun we had. Enjoy!

From left to right: Cat Sparks, Nichole Murphy, Laura E. Goodin, David McDonald, Stephen Ormsby and Satima Flavell

From left to right: Cat Sparks, Nichole Murphy, Laura E. Goodin, David McDonald, Stephen Ormsby and Satima Flavell

My 2014 in Review

So, 2014 has come and gone. Wow. Time flies, huh?

Looking back, 2014 was a much better year than I realised. Even though I only had one story published, there were a number of significant milestones that are well worth celebrating.

But, first, let me get the negatives out of the way.

We lost some good people last year, and some people I care about had some tough times. That puts my problems into perspective, in the scheme of things I was very fortunate. So, I don’t really want to go into details as so many others have it so much worse, but during 2014 I struggled with some medical issues and, when added to my talent for taking too much on, I had a bit of a meltdown. The medical stuff is nothing life threatening, or anything for anyone to worry about, but enough to cause some issues. It’s not an excuse, but this did contribute to me messing up a couple of deadlines and letting some people down. You know who you are and, again, I apologise. It’s something I am very disappointed with myself in, and I hope that 2015 will be a much better year for that!

Looking back at the goals that I had set myself, I am disappointed to note that I still haven’t caught up on Doctor Who! Hopefully I can remedy that before Easter for reasons that will become clear later in this post.

I also haven’t made that first pro rate sale, though I do feel that I am getting closer and closer, and I might have another announcement to make soon..

But, on to the good things! There really were some wonderful moments, and I have a lot to be thankful for. And, it’s been great to feel like I am actually making some progress with my writing.

Unfortunately, I can’t share my biggest piece of news yet, but stay tuned as it will be announced around February.

Amongst the things I can talk about are:

  • After an eighteen year career in the field (pretty much straight out of Year 11), I left IT. I was seconded to our Editorial Department for 6 months in the position of Deputy Editor of one of our magazines (though I was essentially doing the Editor’s job). I can now announce that last  week I signed a contract extending my contract and naming me Editor. So, I guess I can say that I am a full time editor and writer now! There are not many people who get the chance to make a living from writing, so I feel incredibly blessed to have this opportunity– it really has changed my life. And, this has been so beneficial to my own writing, both in what I am learning from editing, and  because I am excited to be at work everyday instead being stressed and frustrated all the time. (which I know makes me very fortunate). I also think it has made me more productive, too, if there is a writing muscle, the more you use it the stronger it gets
  • From a fiction writing POV, one of the highlights of 2014 was being shortlisted for the WSFA Small Press Award. As I said at the time, seeing my name alongside all the past nominees and winners was a huge thrill and I was gobsmacked when I found out. I never expected to be nominated, let alone win, so I wasn’t that disappointed to lose–especially to a great story.
  • After two previous nominations, winning a William J. Atheling Jr Award for the New Who reviews. I have felt very privileged to get to work with Tehani and Tansy, and humbled to tie with Galactic Suburbia, one of my biggest influences. Hopefully I can catch up on the latest seasons soon!
  • The Ditmar for Galactic Chat. A huge amount of the credit for this needs to go to Sean Wright, our podcast overlord, and it was great to see him recognised for his hard work. It felt a bit weird winning an award for having the opportunity to get to talk to some of my writing heroes. Seems like a bit of a rort, really! lol
  • Which leads on to the interviews with Ken Liu and Kameron Hurley. Wow, talk about gushing fanboy moments. Just a hint: next year wills ee even more fanboying! I have a few more writing superstars lined up for you.
  • Being asked to return as part of the Aussie Snapshot team. This one was even bigger than the last one, and we managed to cover a huge cross section of the Aussie Spec Fic scene. If you haven’t read it yet, you are really missing out!
  • Even though I had a quiet year in publications, I managed to sell some stories and I have already have three new stories confirmed for 2015 (including a sale to Fablecroft and coeur de lion) as well as something a bit longer which I can’t talk about yet (and that is killing me).
  • The release of a bundle of my short stories from Clan Destine Press, including a brand new story that I am rather proud of, and am very glad to see find a home. It already has a great review!
  • Managing to make a good start on the collaborative young adult novel I am working on, It’s definitely starting to take shape now and has gotten to that point where it has developed some momentum, and the process that we decided to use seems to be working (big thanks to Amie Kaufman for her generosity with her time and advice. I am very excited about where it is heading, and you can expect to hear more about it in 2015
  • Helping my good friend, Laura Goodin, perform a radio play at Conflux. Hopefully there will be a version available for your listening pleasure soon
  • Beating “Hold Over Funds” to become the FFANZ delegate. I am really excited about heading over tot New Zealand in 2015, i am sure that it is going to be a blast. It looks like I need to be caught up on Doctor Who by then, though!
  • Amazing fun at Continuum X and Conflux 10

Aside from all these, there is something even more important to mention. I got to spend time with existing friends, made a number of new friends and, most of all, was continually reminded of what an amazing community we have in Australia. A number of my friends had some great moments of their own, and I was delighted to see their successes (and quite often got to help celebrate them, which is always fun).

The big goals for 2015:

  • Get that elusive pro sale!
  • Finish the YA novel and get it off for submission.
  • Catch up with Doctor Who.
  • Get my solo novel done.
  • Start another conversational review series about a series of books that are very dear to my heart
  • Try and get involved in some sort of news/discussion podcast

And, that’s probably enough for now!

Hopefully I will be at a few cons in 2015. I always try and get to Continuum, and I have brought my membership and booked my hotel for the Worldcon on in Spokane. And, of course, I will be in NZ for their Natcon.

I am looking forward to 2015, which I think might be my biggest yet, and I will be hoping for the same for you!

“Cold Comfort and Other Tales” Ebook Release

A few months ago, I was delighted to announce that I had reached an agreement with Lindy Cameron of Clan Destine Press to reprint my short story, “Cold Comfort”, which first appeared in that most excellent anthology, Epilogue.

After some discussion, we decided to bundle it with another of my already published short stories–and to throw in a completely new story!

Now, in an awesome way to finish off the year, “Cold Comfort and Other Tales” is available for purchase here (direct from Clan Destine) or here (for Amazon users)–just the thing for people looking for something to load onto their new eReader!

Ambelin Kwaymullina (the author of the YA dystopian series, the Tribe, and amazing Continuum X guest) was kind enough to offer these words of praise for Cold Comfort:


“She began to run, following the blue line, not knowing were it lead but oddly sure it would take her to safety. Numbers appeared, counting down from three hundred, and she focussed on them to stop herself looking behind her. The shrieks were louder now, and mixed with grotesque slurping sounds, but she knew that to look would steal the last shred of courage from her body.”

What a great story. A believable world of snow and ice, and a tough, engaging protagonist. Vanja is a trader moving between isolated settlements, navigating the hazards of a harsh environment and sometimes prejudiced attitudes towards women as she searches for relics relating to the mysterious ‘Builders’. This story has it all: ice spiders, snow bears, and terrific action sequences – immersive and beautifully paced. More! More! More!


To say that I was happy to hear that sort of feedback from such a talented author is a bit of an understatement!

As well as helping select the right stories for this format, Clan Destine had a spiffy cover designed, which you can see below:

cool19

Inside, you’ll find the following three stories:

Cold Comfort (first published in Epilogue, from Fablecroft Publishing)
Ice spiders, snow bears and deadly cold are only most obvious of the dangers a young trader faces as she searches for the secrets of the Elders on a post-apocalyptic Earth.

Through Wind and Weather (first published in Deck the Halls, from eMergent Publishing)
A rebellious pilot races against time to make a vital delivery to a planet in need. But in the face of the worst solar storm in years, his only ally is a sentient spaceship who is an outcast even to its own kind.

Our Land Abounds (appearing for the first time)
In a world divided by war and wracked by food shortages, the Republic of Australasia is an oasis protected by its isolation and the Border Patrol. But, a chance encounter leaves a weary veteran asking whether the price of plenty is too high.

I hope that you enjoy all three of the stories, and I look forward to seeing what the future holds in my association with the lovely folk at Clan Destine Press!

Sale to Dimension6

In a delightful early Christmas surprise, I received an email yesterday telling me that my submission to Dimension6, “Red in Tooth and Claw”, had been accepted.

Dimension6 is a relatively new market, but in 2014 they published 3 issues featuring stories by:

Robert Hood
Steve Cameron
Cat Sparks
Dirk Strasser
Alan Baxter
Robert N Stephenson
Richard Harland
Charlotte Nash
Jason Nahrung

As you can imagine, I am absolutely delighted to share a magazine with names like those!

D6cover2014-res-218x300So, a sale to Dimension6 would be a great thing in itself, but added to that is the fact that the magazine is edited and published by Keith Stevenson though his press, coeur de lion publishing–one of Australia’s premier publishers. This means that this sale is a significant milestone for me.

(Incidentally, all the previous issues are available as free downloads from the site, and the annual collection is extremely cheap given what you get inside. It’s well worth taking the time to check it out)

When I first decided to start taking my writing seriously, and begin submitting, I looked around the Australian scene and there were a few publishers that stood out from the rest. Like most writers I know, I have a list of markets I want to crack, and coeur de lion publishing was right near the top of the Australian list. After all, this was the publisher responsible for, amongst many other great books, X6, one of Australia’s most lauded anthologies (and containing one of the creepiest stories I have ever read. I’ll let you guess which one).

One of the first markets I ever submitted to was Anywhere But Earth. A look at the spectacular TOC would tell you that I didn’t make it, and looking back I didn’t deserve to be in it. Still, I made getting into a coeur de lion one of my goals. Along the way, I have ticked off a number of publishers on my list, and it is incredibly satisfying to have finally been able to do the same with coeur de lion publishing.

The story itself has an interesting history, and acts as example of why you shouldn’t give up on a  story easily. “Red in Tooth and Claw” started out as “Adaptive Immunity”, and one of the other Dimension6 authors, Steve Cameron, critiqued it for me before I sent it off into the cold loneliness of submissionspace (funnily enough I critiqued Steve’s D6 story for him, too!). It did okay, getting held  for one anthology, and then shortlisted for another, but obviously it was falling just short.

I was lucky enough to get into the AHWA Mentor Program (something I would definitely recommend as value for money), and it was one of the stories my most excellent mentor, Jason Fischer, had a look at and he made a number of suggestions of how to improve it.

After a slight reworking and some tweaks, I sent it off to Dimension6, where it found a home. So, a big thanks to Steve and Jason for their contributions! One of the foundations of writing success is perseverance (or bloody mindedness), and I am glad that I persevered with this one.

In another delightful convergence, my story will appear in the July issue alongside my mentee sister, Stacey Larner (Jason’s other charge during our year of the program). I am very happy to be appearing alongside such a talented writer as Stacey.

It’s also an example of why rejectomancy is a black science to be avoided by virtuous writers. Of the three stories I subbed to Aussie markets over the past three months, there was one that I thought had a great chance of acceptance, one that I thought was worth a try but unlikely to succeed, and one that I thought didn’t have a hope in Hell.  The first was rejected, this was the second one (the third is still out there like Schrödinger’s story, neither accepted or rejected).
Just goes to show you never can tell.

So, as you can see, there are all sorts of reasons why I am absolutely thrilled by this sale. I’d say it is a great way to close out the year, but I still have a few announcements left before I can close the books on 2014, so..stay tuned!

Galactic Chat 61 – Kameron Hurley

In this latest episode of Galactic Chat, I get to talk to another one of my favourite writers—Kameron Hurley. I discovered her writing through the Bel Dame Apocrypha (God’s War Trilogy), one of the most original works of sci fi in recent times. But, she is also one of the leading fan writers in the spec fic community, and continues to challenge and subvert many of the things we take for granted with her blogging and essays.

As usual, my inner fanboy was fighting for control the whole time, but Kameron still managed to deliver a fascinating interview, where she talks about everything from Dragonlance to blog tours, and other topics listed below.

Plus, you get to find out more about her amazing new series!

This week David chats with award winning author and blogger Kameron Hurley. Kameron has been nominated for the Nebula, Clarke and the BSFA, selected for the Tiptree honour list and this year won the Hugo for Best Fan Writer. Additionally, her essay “‘We Have Always Fought': Challenging the ‘Women, Cattle and Slaves’ Narrative” also won the Hugo for Best Related Work.

Please enjoy their chat where they talk about the influences on her most famous trilogy (including a dodgy rental apartment with bugs), when authors should speak out on issues of poor or disadvantageous contracts and what’s next on Hurley’s agenda.

You can find Kameron at her website

Credits
Interviewer: David McDonald
Guest: Kameron Hurley
Music & Intro: Tansy Rayner Roberts
Post-prod.: Sean Wright
Feedback:
Twitter: @galactichat
Email: galactichat at gmail dot com

This Shattered World launches in Australia!

Many of you would already have, or be meaning to, read the AMAZING These Broken Stars by Meagan Spooner and Aussie author, Amie Kaufman. These Broken Stars was a tour de force in YA science fiction, taking the world by storm—and even getting optioned!

So, it is a  very exciting day today—the day that the second book in The Starbound Trilogy, This Shattered World, is being launched in Australia!The link to the book website is here.

And, for once, we get to enjoy something before the U.S., where it launches on the 23rd of December. Make the most of that month or so to taunt your overseas friends with how awesome the book is, and the fact they have to wait!9781743319703

Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met.

Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet’s rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents.

Rebellion is in Flynn’s blood. Terraforming corporations make their fortune by recruiting colonists to make the inhospitable planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion.

Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape the rebel base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war.

The stunning second novel in the Starbound trilogy is an unforgettable story of love and forgiveness in a world torn apart by war.

You can find out more by visiting the following links:

Twitter:
@amiekaufman and @meaganspooner and @allenandunwin
Tumblr:
FB:
Instagram:

Galactic Chat 58 – Ken Liu

In this latest episode of Galactic Chat, I get to talk to one of my favourite writers – Ken Liu! I have to apologise to all our listeners, because I was completely starstruck, and not very articulate. Fortunately, Ken more than makes up for it with one of the most fascinating interviews I have done.

We cover a huge range of ground, from the art of short stories to the challenges and pleasures of translating into English. We also get to hear about Ken’s upcoming “silkpunk” novel, which sounds absolutely amazing.

Anyone who loves short stories, epic fantasy, going out into the broader culture of spec fic or sweeping sci fi will get a huge amount out of this podcast. Actually, any spec fic fan is going to love it!

In this week’s episode David interviews Hugo and Nebula Award winning author Ken Liu. They talk about the short story form, the difficulty in translating from Chinese to English, Ken’s translation of the Chinese sci-fi masterpiece The Three Body Problem by  Liu Cixin and Ken’s own epic fantasy”Silkpunk” series called The Grace of Kings. 

The blog post they reference in the cast is  http://www.jasonsanford.com/blog/2014/8/want-to-be-a-successful-writer-avoid-short-stories

You can find Ken at his website.

The-Three-Body-Problem-Liu-Cixin

WSFA Small Press Award Winner Announced

The winner of the WSFA Small Press Award was announced today at Capclave 2014. Congratulations to Alex Shvartsman on his winning story, Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma!

I know it is one of those things people say so often that can be seen as a cliché, but it really was an honour to simply see my name next to the other nominees, all writers whom I look up to. It is also an honour have my name associated with all the past nominees and winners—talk about being in exalted company!

I think that the WSFA deserve our commendation for creating this award. To me, small press is the heart of the publishing world, and is worth celebrating and promoting. For many authors like myself, small presses are the first place we are given an opportunity to see our work in print, to work with editors and publishers, and learn our trade as writers. Through small presses, I have had a chance to work with editors like Tehani Wessely and Robert Greenberger, both of whom who have had stories appear on WSFA shortlists, and who have gone out of their way outside that initial relationship to take me under their wing, to mentor me, and continue to take an interest in my progress.

I also wanted to acknowledge John McKinlay, my great-great-great-great grandfather. He doesn’t have the same recognition as Sturt or Major Mitchell, but his journeys make incredible reading, and his resourcefulness and achievements make him the rival of any of Australia’s great explorers. It was a truly special experience to be able to take his journals and turn them into this story and I hope that it will lead people to read the originals, which are available in the public domain (you can find a copy here).

Writing this story brought some uncomfortable challenges. As I read, I realised that I couldn’t talk about McKinlay’s journeys without touching on his encounters with indigenous Australians. When writing about a culture that is not your own there is always the fear of getting things wrong or committing cultural appropriation, but it seemed to me that the only other choice was to erase them from this history, and that has been done too many times before. So, I attempted to portray them with respect, disavow the bankrupt idea of an empty land that white settlers filled by default, and acknowledge the place that the first inhabitants of our land have in all its stories. How well I have succeeded I will leave to the reader to decide.

I also need to thank Steve and Marieke Ormsby, the owners of Satalyte Publishing. It is no exaggeration to say that this story would not have been written without Steve’s prompting and coaxing and patience­—thanks for sticking with it, Steve! And, without Marieke, there would have been no were-dingoes! It’s a measure of the quality of what they are doing that two stories from their inaugural anthology made it on to this shortlist and I am sure it is just the beginning.

Congratulations to all the nominees, and especially the winner!

  • WINNER: “Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma” by Alex Shvartsman, published in Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, edited by Edmund R. Schubert (Hatrack Publishing, April 2013)
  • “Acts of Chivalry” by Sean McMullen, published in Tales of Australia: Great Southern Land, edited by Stephen C. Ormsby and Ellen Mae Franklin (Satalyte Publishing, December 2013)
  • “Bits” by Naomi Kritzer, published in Clarkesworld Magazine, edited by Neil Clarke (October 2013)
  • “Like a Bat Out of Hell” by Jonathan Shipley, published in After Death, edited by Eric C. Guignard (Dark Moon Books, April 2013)
  • “Morning Star” by DK Mok, published in One Small Step, an anthology of discoveries, edited by Tehani Wessely (FableCroft Publishing, May 2013)
  • “Set Your Face Towards the Darkness” by David McDonald, published in Tales of Australia: Great Southern Land, edited by Stephen C. Ormsby and Ellen Mae Franklin (Satalyte Publishing, December 2013)
  • “The Traditional” by Maria Dahvana Headley, published in Lightspeed, edited by John Joseph Adams (May 2013)
  • “Trap-weed” by Gemma Files, published in Clockwork Phoenix 4, edited by Mike Allen (Mythic Delirium Books, July 2013)