All posts by mark

A writer of speculative fiction and all round good egg. Well, mostly good. OK, sometimes good.

Ditmar award results

The Ditmar awards were handed out last night at Swancon, the Western Australian convention that doubles as the National Convention this year. Unfortunately I couldn’t get over to Perth (Easter is a time where small children will not forgive you if you’re not at home to hand out copious amounts of chocolate), however I was watching along on Twitter.

I’ve summarised the results below. Note – these are what I gleaned from watching along with Twitter – any mistakes are mine alone!

A couple of notes from me. Firstly, congratulations to all winners and runners up! A wonderful field this year, and a very deserving set of awards was handed out.

The podcast I do some work for, Galactic Chat, was up for Best Fan Publication in Any Medium. We didn’t win, but the entry that did (The Writer and the Critic podcast) is one of my favourite podcasts, and a thoroughly deserving winner.

I couldn’t be more thrilled for fellow podcaster Helen Stubbs, who took out the Best New Talent award. Helen is a vibrant and energetic member of the SF field and it is wonderful to see her recognised in this way.

A tie for best novel is always interesting in a voted award. I’ve just finished The Lascar’s Dagger (review here) and I’m 1/2 way through Thief’s Magic, and both a very good novels. Actually, it was a good ballot for Best Novel – I’ve read or are reading all of them and I can honestly say I’m enjoying them all.

It was great to see Kaleidoscope recognised in the Best Collection category, and seeing fiction that recognises such a broad range of diversity being voted for in an awards process. If you want to see more of that kind of thing, you could also support Defying Doomsday‘s Pozible campaign – a collection of stories featuring diverse characters who are in a post-apocalyptic setting.

And finally, it was good to see the Atheling award for criticism go to another single topic essay. While I can certainly see the value in recognising people’s broader body of review work, it would be good to see more in depth analysis on a broader range of topics coming from Australian authors. Hopefully this award will help this trend continue.

Anyway, enough from me – Ditmar results follow (winners bold and in red). Note – the list below doesn’t include the results for some of the Ditmar-adjacent awards like the A. Bertram Chandler Award (Donna Hanson) and the Norma K. Hemming Award (Paddy O’Reilly for The Wonders with honourable mention to Lisa L Hannett and Angela Statter for The Female Factory) and the Peter McNamara Achievement award (Merv Binns). I’ve probably missed some others (for instance the WA award – the Tin Ducks).

Best Novel

  • The Lascar’s Dagger, Glenda Larke (Hachette)
  • Bound (Alex Caine 1), Alan Baxter (Voyager)
  • Clariel, Garth Nix (HarperCollins)
  • Thief’s Magic (Millennium’s Rule 1), Trudi Canavan (Hachette Australia)
  • The Godless (Children 1), Ben Peek (Tor UK)

Best Novella or Novelette

  • “The Ghost of Hephaestus”, Charlotte Nash, in Phantazein (FableCroft Publishing)
  • “The Legend Trap”, Sean Williams, in Kaleidoscope (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • “The Darkness in Clara”, Alan Baxter, in SQ Mag 14 (IFWG Publishing Australia)
  • “St Dymphna’s School for Poison Girls”, Angela Slatter, in Review of Australian Fiction, Volume 9, Issue 3 (Review of Australian Fiction)
  • “The Female Factory”, Lisa L. Hannett and Angela Slatter, in The Female Factory (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • “Escapement”, Stephanie Gunn, in Kisses by Clockwork (Ticonderoga Publications)

Best Short Story

  • “Bahamut”, Thoraiya Dyer, in Phantazein (FableCroft Publishing)
  • “Vanilla”, Dirk Flinthart, in Kaleidoscope (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • “Cookie Cutter Superhero”, Tansy Rayner Roberts, in Kaleidoscope (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • “The Seventh Relic”, Cat Sparks, in Phantazein (FableCroft Publishing)
  • “Signature”, Faith Mudge, in Kaleidoscope (Twelfth Planet Press)

Best Collected Work

  • Kaleidoscope, Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2013, Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • Phantazein, Tehani Wessely (FableCroft Publishing)

Best Artwork

  • Illustrations, Kathleen Jennings, in Black-Winged Angels (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • Cover art, Kathleen Jennings, of Phantazein (FableCroft Publishing)
  • Illustrations, Kathleen Jennings, in The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings (Tartarus Press)

Best Fan Writer

  • Tansy Rayner Roberts, for body of work
  • Tsana Dolichva, for body of work
  • Bruce Gillespie, for body of work
  • Katharine Stubbs, for body of work
  • Alexandra Pierce for body of work
  • Grant Watson, for body of work
  • Sean Wright, for body of work

Best Fan Artist

  • Nalini Haynes, for body of work, including “Interstellar Park Ranger Bond, Jaime Bond”, “Gabba and Slave Lay-off: Star Wars explains Australian politics”, “The Driver”, and “Unmasked” in Dark Matter Zine
  • Kathleen Jennings, for body of work, including Fakecon art and Illustration Friday series
  • Nick Stathopoulos, for movie poster of It Grows!

Best Fan Publication in Any Medium

  • 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, and Sean Wright
  • It Grows!, Nick Stathopoulos
  • Galactic Suburbia, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, and Andrew Finch
  • The Writer and the Critic, Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond
  • Galactic Chat, Sean Wright, Helen Stubbs, David McDonald, Alexandra Pierce, Sarah Parker, and Mark Webb

Best New Talent

  • Helen Stubbs
  • Shauna O’Meara
  • Michelle Goldsmith

William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review

  • Reviews in The Angriest, Grant Watson
  • The Eddings Reread series, Tehani Wessely, Jo Anderton, and Alexandra Pierce, in A Conversational Life
  • Reviews in Adventures of a Bookonaut, Sean Wright
  • “Does Sex Make Science Fiction Soft?”, in Uncanny Magazine 1, Tansy Rayner Roberts
  • Reviews in FictionMachine, Grant Watson
  • The Reviewing New Who series, David McDonald, Tansy Rayner Roberts, and Tehani Wessely

The Lascar’s Dagger by Glenda Larke – review

This review forms part of my contribution to the Australian Women Writers 2015 Reading Challenge. All my 2015 AWWC reviews can be found here.


The Lascar's Dagger

The Lascar’s Dagger by Glenda Larke first came to my attention by being nominated for both of this year’s major Australian SF awards – the Ditmar (voted) and the Aurealis (juried). I must admit, while I was vaguely aware of Larke’s name before seeing the nominations, I hadn’t had the chance to read any of her work.

Larke has chosen an interesting setting for this series. While based in a secondary world, it has an 18th century kind of feel to it, in particular around the heyday of the spice trade. The major powers in the equivalent of Earth’s northern hemisphere (socially/politically) are in a race to capture the spice trade from an archipelago of tropical islands. Political and religious forces vie for supremacy.

Religion is portrayed in interesting ways. A Christian-analagous monotheist religion (worshipping “Va” and opposing “A’Va” – the devil) has explicitly incorporated existing religions that have a more druidic feel. When the novel starts, the bricks and mortar part of the church (town-based, worship in built churches) has started to edge out the more nature based parts of the religion. It is a good reflection on how many successful religions spread by coopting local religions in the countries they conquered. It also sets up some fascinating internal conflict.

The magic system centres around the concept of “witcheries”. These witcheries are granted by powers that seem to be linked to nature (the tree-based religion of one region, the water based religion of another, the tropical island based beliefs of a third region). The witcheries are granted to people who give themselves over to serving the land/water, and are usually based on the need of the person at the time they make the bargain. One character, for instance, is desperate to hide when she bargains for her witchery, and she gains the power of glamour, to hide herself or reshape her appearance. These narrowly defined powers with specific purpose make for interesting impacts on the storyline, and the characters are forced to be innovative within the range of their abilities. The motivation of the powers also seem focused on self preservation of the land/water/island – you are granted the power only so long as you are acting in the best interests of the natural world. This is reflective of the strong streak of environmentalism/conservation in the book.

A second magic, sorcery, is hinted at as a long extinct power, but in a way that telegraphs it will probably return during this series of books. I’m sure there will be more made of it during future books.

The plot is solid, with some good old fashioned conspiracies and hijinks. There is a great sense of fun in many of the segments, and the interplay between cultures is highlighted in interesting ways.

Sakar Rampion is the main protagonist. Interestingly, the way he is described in the first few pages (as a sort of loveable rogue) doesn’t actually play out in the way the character is represented across the rest of the book. I didn’t dislike Sakar as a character, but I had a slight sense of dislocation when the expectations set at the start of the book weren’t really met. And for a smart guy, he certainly did some dumb things.

One of the other main characters, Sorrel Redwing, made up for my slight disapointment in Sakar. Sorrel has by far the more pronounced character arc, going from a somewhat timid and grieving housewife to an active character with a lot of agency.

Ardhi (the “lascar” of the title) is from the island nations and while he isn’t in it much, those parts seen from his point of view are a valuable “fish out of water” insight into the setting and cultures of the book. He also gives tantalising hints of back story all the way through, as the reader slowly pieces together what happened and how he ended up on his quest.

Some of the other minor characters ran along the fine edge of cliche (the playboy prince not wanting the responsibility of the throne, the resentful princess being married off for political advantage, the wise old shrine keepers etc). However, Larke injects enough freshness into her prose that even these characters had an energy which I found engaging.

All up I really enjoyed The Lascar’s Dagger and will be reading the sequel later in the year (it is out now). Recommended, especially if you are keeping up with Australian fantasy this year!

Update 10/4/2015

A few days after posting, The Lascar’s Dagger took out Best Novel in the 2015 Ditmars, in a tie with Trudi Canavan’s Thief’s Magic.

I also reviewed this book on Goodreads. View all my reviews.


Creative Commons License

This work by Mark Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia License.

Burst of crowd funding

I’ve supported a few crowd funded initiatives lately. Why not list them all out on the blog as a signal boost? I thought to myself this morning, then ignored the small voice at the back of myself that said because so few people read this blog that you’re as much use signal boosting as a broken AM radio antenna.

Why be so negative? It’s Easter. There’s chocolate, or at least the promise of chocolate. Look, I’ll come back when I’ve got the blood sugar up to an acceptable level.

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.

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That’s better. Now, where was I?

Night Terrace Season 2

I loved the first season of Night Terrace, an Australian radio play with a distinct Doctor Who homage vibe. More importantly, my 6 year old daughter loved it even more. We listened to the entire season in one hit while we drove from Sydney to Wollongong to Canberra and back to Sydney in one day. She often asks me if there is “more of that Eddie show”.

Well, I’m now pleased to say that more of that Eddy show is indeed in the offing. Night Terrace season 2 is now being crowd funded through Kickstarter. I may or may not have selected the option that allows you to name a character, just so my daughter can have the surprise of hearing her name included in the season. There are still a few weeks to go – get in there and throw money in their general direction. You’ll be very pleased you did.

A blurb from the Kickstarter page follows:

Scientist Anastasia Black had retired from her job saving the world, preferring the adventure of a good book and a pot of tea. Then her house unexpectedly began travelling randomly through time and space, taking with it hapless university student Eddie Jones. From the far future on other worlds to the distant past of Earth, Anastasia and Eddie have faced deadly monsters, evil corporations and a sinister disco, before finally discovering the origins of the house’s strange power.

But with no way to direct the house back home, there are even stranger adventures awaiting the tenants of “Night Terrace”: impossible spaceships, unlikely quests, ghosts of the past and the most terrible peril of all: a new housemate… 

Defying Doomsday

Regular readers might recall that I supported the crowdfunding of a book called Kaleidoscope last year, which highlighted speculative fiction stories featuring people with some kind of disability. I reviewed the book here as a part of the Australian Women Writers Reading Challenge last year.

Well, the publisher (Twelfth Planet Press) of Kaleidoscope is at it again, this time starting a Pozible campaign to fund a new book called Defying Doomsday. There is a similar premise (stories featuring protagonists with a disability), but this time the landscape is post apocalyptic.

It’s great to see a broader audience develop for books with different protagonists, and Defying Doomsday certainly seems to be continuing that trend. Going off the quality of KaleidoscopeDefying Doomsday will be of excellent quality and well worth your support. I’m also very interested in seeing how Australian editors Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench go with this project.

From the campaign page:

We love apocalypse fiction, but we rarely find characters with disability, chronic illness and other impairments in these stories. When they do appear, they usually die early on, or are secondary characters undeveloped into anything more than a burden to the protagonist. We believe that disabled characters have a far more interesting story to tell in post-apocalyptic/dystopian fiction, and we want to create an anthology sharing those stories. 

Defying Doomsday

We want to create an anthology that is varied, especially among protagonists, with characters experiencing all kinds of disability from physical impairments, chronic illnesses, mental illnesses and/or neurodiverse characters. There will also be a variety of stories, including those that are fun or sad, adventurous or horrific, etc, but we are avoiding stories in which the character’s condition is the primary focus of the narrative. 

The stories in Defying Doomsday will look at periods of upheaval from new and interesting perspectives. We want to share narratives about characters with disability, characters with chronic illnesses and other impairments, surviving the apocalypse and contending with the collapse of life as they know it.

Con Man

OK, this one doesn’t need a lot of boosting from me. Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion (from the ill fated TV series Firefly – and if you don’t know what that is then you’ve missed out on a treat – and this project probably isn’t for you!) have decided to create a web based series based on a familiar premise. Fillion and Tudyk play actors who starred on a TV series Spectrum that ran for 14 episodes and was cancelled. Fillion’s character went on to acting success, while Tudyk’s character makes the rounds of science fiction conventions. Semi-auto-biographical.

The reason this campaign doesn’t need much boosting from me is that they are currently sitting on $2.6m from a starting target of $425,000. They were obviously prepared for success though, they have been revealing extra stretch goals as they go along, and those stretch goals are clearly well thought out.

Still, I love the premise and the “sample” video they have seems pretty funny. Well worth checking out.

From their website:

Wray Nerely (Alan Tudyk-Me!) was a co-star on Spectrum, a sci-fi series which was canceled -Too Soon- yet became a cult classic. Wray’s good friend, Jack Moore (Nathan Fillion) starred in the series and has gone on to become a major movie star. While Jack enjoys the life of an A-lister, Wray tours the sci-fi circuit as a guest of conventions, comic book stores, and lots of pop culture events.  The show will feature all the weird and crazy things that happen to Wray along the way to these events.

The series is a light-hearted take on the personalities, luminaries, and characters in the sci­fi community we are privileged to call ourselves members. Con Man is a way to share some of the surreal occurrences we have had, while telling the story of a guy learning to love and embrace his fans. 

I wanted to make a show that featured all of my favorite convention artists and friends together. Not only that, I wanted to celebrate the world where heroes, villains, zombie hunters, and space pirates all overlap. I especially wanted to work with my friend Nathan Fillion again.

Serial Crises: Car, Cat, and Root Canal!

And finally a crowd funded initiative that is slightly less frivolous. Kij Johnson is a speculative fiction author in the US who has had a string of bad luck. I’ve always enjoyed Johnson’s work, and while sad to see that bad things had happened, I was glad to see the power of crowd sourcing to help out. This one probably isn’t of interest unless you are familiar with Kij’s work (you might be familiar with the short story The Man Who Bridged the Mist which received a lot of acclaim a few years back), but if you are you should go and check the campaign out.

From the website:

Hello, all! I’m Kij Johnson, a writer of science fiction and fantasy. At the moment, I’m in dire straits, and I really hope you can help me. We all have horrible things happen that eat away our emotional and financial reserves; mostly I manage fine, but this last week, I finally hit the wall, so I’m asking my world for help. This is hard for me, and I feel weird doing it, but the stress of not doing it is rapidly outweighing the stress of asking. 

Here’s the troubles, all of them: My beloved Subaru Forester (it’s the blue of summer skies when you look straight up) destroyed its engine when I was on my way to a conference last weekend. I had it towed back to my mechanic. The bad news is that it needs a replacement engine, but we found a good used one with the same mileage ($4500 installed). 

So there’s that. But I was already struggling to come up with the money for two other urgent situations: my small, charming black cat (who has no official name but is generally known as The Black Cat of Ulthar; that’s her in the picture) is popping out all over her stomach with fatty tumors that need to be removed ASAP (this is probably $1200 or so) — and I need a root canal (my share is $600). Both urgent and both not happening: I’ve been stalling both for the last four months, even knowing how ill-advised this is, because I’m trying desperately to save for food, rent, and student loans over my unpaid summer — I just haven’t had the time to build any financial pad.

This all adds up to $6300, which is a lot, I know. Anything at all helps! 

I see that people don’t usually offer rewards for donations here at indiegogo life; but I’m a writer, and that’s how many of you know me. So here are some collective rewards. 

1. If we make $2000, I’ll post online for free an epic chicken poem. It’s a sequel to Chaucer’s “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale” and it’s funny. To me, anyway.

2. If we make $4500 (paying for the car: I need the car to drive the cat places!), I’ll post online for free a poem or story about a car. I haven’t written this yet, so I’ll be on my game. 

3. If we make $5700 (adding the cat), I’ll give her an official name, and it will be brilliant and awesome. 

4. If we make $6300 (adding my teeth), I’ll write a story that involves cars, cats, and teeth. 

As I said, it feels very strange to be doing this, but I’m hoping that some of you will remember some story of mine you read for free online (my website is www.kijjohnson.com, but I have free fiction all sorts of places), and might consider helping out. It would mean everything to me, my cat, and my car.

 

How about you – have you supported any crowd funded projects recently? Let us know in the comments below.

Monthly roundup – March 2015

Welcome to my round up of March 2015. I’m going to focus on being more consistent with these monthly updates, and include a wider range of culture consumed if I’ve got something to say. I’ll also be including brief updates on my writing.

I finished my run through the Xbox One game Dragonage Inquisition. I don’t play many games these days – too much other stuff going on in life, work and writing. But I thought I’d mention Dragonage particularly. Its strong emphasis on story telling made the experience very enjoyable (and a bit addictive – my wife has been a bit annoyed at the amount of time I’ve spent with the game). There is a wonderful spread of gender, sexual orientation and general diversity in the casts of characters, and a lot of the writing/voice acting is surprisingly well done. Well worth the price of admission if you like your fantasy epic and your games role playing.

My wife and I have been watching, and enjoying, the TV series Grimm. Season 4 started recently on Foxtel, so we’ve been following along over the last couple of months. I really like Grimm – the take on the storybook monsters is interesting and there have been some great storylines over the first three seasons. Season 4 has been good so far, and I’m particularly enjoying the digging into the broader world building. They have introduced/developed some of the female characters over the last season, which has provided some good balance to the earlier series (which was very male-dominated). This season continues the “strong women” theme.

I also dipped into up and coming Australian SF author David McDonald’s work, with his recently released short collection Cold Comfort and Other Tales. You can read the full review here, but spoiler alert – I liked it!

I’ve been a bit disturbed by how few of the Ditmar and Aurealis award nominated novels I’ve actually read. With that in mind, I’ve started by Australian speculative fiction award nominated reading with The Lascar’s Dagger by Glenda Larke. A full review will come soon (it will double as my first Australian Women Writer’s 2015 challenge novel as well).

I’ll be moving on to Thief’s Magic by Trudi Canavan, Bound by Alan Baxter and Clariel by Garth Nix over the next few weeks. I’ve also nabbed Phantazein by Tehani Wessely. That will get me through the Ditmar shortlist (when you add in The Godless by Ben Peek that I reviewed last year), but there are still a lot of novels on the Aurealis lists that I’ll need to get to.

On the writing side, I’m still struggling to find time to edit my novel length manuscript Unaligned. I’m finding that while I can write first draft materials in fits and starts, I don’t seem to be able to dive into editing without a long stretch of time (at least a couple of hours). A busy job and two small kids don’t provide many opportunity for that kind of time. As a result, I’ve been feeling a bit stalled over the last month or so.

To break the impasse, I’ve started writing some more first draft material for other work just to make sure the daily creative juices are flowing. I’ve done a bit of editing on a shorter work and I’m trying to use shorter amounts of time more effectively. We’ll see!

So, what have you been watching/reading/playing/writing/creating lately? Update us all in the comments below.

Dimension6 – Issue 4 available now

Dimension6Medium term readers would remember that this site acts as an affiliate for Dimension6, a free magazine showcasing mostly Australian speculative fiction. Editor Keith Stevenson has brought together an impressive lineup of stories over the first four issues of the magazine.

There is a Dimension6 page under the “Links” menu item along the top of the screen, that contains links to the ePub and mobi files for all four issues.

This issue features stories by Jen White, Chris McMahon and Bren MacDibble and is excellent reading that I commend to you.

Cold Comfort & Other Tales by David McDonald – review

Cold Comfort and Other Tales

David McDonald is an Australian speculative fiction author on the rise, with a lot of short fiction credits to his name and even a recent announcement of a novelisation of a Canadian movie in the works.

Cold Comfort and Other Tales is a collection of three of his science fiction short stories from Clan Destine Press, consisting of two reprints (Cold Comfort and Through Wind and Weather) and an original story (Our Land Abounds).

The first story, Cold Comfort, is based on a post apocalyptic Earth where the planet is covered in snow and ice, with the remnants of humanity confined to a series of giant domes, each a heated oasis in a desert of cold. The main character, Vanja, is a trader, moving from dome to dome to make a living and in search of knowledge about the past. Vanja is a strong female protagonist, in a world where societies in each dome have reverted to more primitive forms and in many cases don’t smile on women taking an active role. She uses a mixture of guile and sheer competence to make her way, which makes her a very sympathetic main character.

I liked the world building here, with society reduced to “cargo cult” status, eeking out an existence utilising the technological infrastructure of the past without understanding how it works. It built to a very satisfying conclusion, and I could very well imagine a longer story set in the same world.

The second story in the book, Through Wind and Weather, is quite short, almost a vignette of a pilot, Nick, seeking the help of a sentient spaceship to deliver vital supplies to a colony world. In order to get there, they have to navigate their way through a massive solar storm. The story was originally written for a themed collection (I won’t tell you the theme – it would ruin the end). In some ways it is a flash fiction piece, built around a single idea. However, once again McDonald has sketched in a broader world with a few deft strokes. I could well imagine more stories set in the same world.

The last story in the collection, Our Land Abounds, is original to the collection. In current Australian politics, there is a lot of debate over our approach to immigration. As a country whose modern structures are built on an immigrant population (recognising of course that we have ancient structures built on the worlds longest continuing culture), we continue to debate levels of population and immigration as a fundamental building block of our future. Successive governments have grappled with controversial issues around unsanctioned immigration of different types. I’ve noticed that this debate has continued in the fiction of various Australian authors.

McDonald posits a world where Australia’s isolation has worked to its benefit, and in the face of global catastrophe the new Republic of Australasia has become an oasis of relative plenty. In order to deal with the swarms of refuges now trying to reach the country, Australia has adopted a strong military presence around their borders. Inside the country, a much more nationalistic culture has taken root. The story follows an officer in the border patrol, as he deals with a refuge’s story that hits a little close to home.

It is a good story well told, although I suspect that it needed a little more space to reach its full potential. The main character’s arc felt a little forced and with a little more space it may have resolved a little more naturally. I’d also be interested in how an international reader engaged with the story, if not exposed to the current Australian debate (feel free to leave a comment below!).

McDonald is an upcoming author to watch in Australian circles, and this short collection is an excellent way to engage with his work if you haven’t had a chance to before. Highly recommended.

Disclosure: I do a small amount of work with McDonald on the Galactic Chat podcast. I don’t think that has impacted this review, but who knows? 

Update 29/3/2015

It turns out that McDonald’s new novelisation referenced above is out already (blame my faulty research). The novel is called Backcountry, and can be found here.

I also reviewed this book on Goodreads. View all my reviews.


Creative Commons License
This work by Mark Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia License.

Some things I liked in 2014 that didn’t make the Ditmar ballot

I recently posted that the Ditmar ballot had been released, and focused in on some of the items that I really liked that were on the list. I’ve been subsequently dwelling on a few things that I would have liked to see represented in the shortlist. This takes nothing away from the nominees – they are all fine human beings and worthy selections to a woman/man. But if there had been an extra voting slot available in a few categories, there are a few endeavours I would have liked to see represented.

Coode St podcast. Seriously, when are these guys going to win a Ditmar? Jonathan and Gary come together week in and week out to bring some of the most in depth discussion of the speculative fiction genre there is, but as far as I can tell they haven’t ever got a Ditmar gong. Perhaps with their recent move to Tor.com they might get more recognition.

AntipodeanSF had its 200th issue recently and has been a stalwart of the Australian speculative fiction scene for so long, it would be great to see Nuke’s work recognised again. Maybe next year!

Horizon a science fiction novel by Keith Stevenson, mainly ’cause I liked it.

Ian Mond – I like his current project reading and reviewing award shortlists, with some emphasis on genre fiction. Maybe that will get him up on the nomination list next year.

So, what did you like that didn’t make the shortlist this year? Feel free to signal boost in the comments below.

2014 Aurealis Awards – shortlist

I’m a bit late to the party, but the Aurealis Award shortlist for 2014 was recently announced. The announcement article can be found here, but for your convenience the shortlist is replicated below.

The Aurealis Awards are Australia’s premier speculative fiction awards, and are judged rather than decided through a popular vote. My first reaction is one of surprise at how few of the finalists I have actually read. I will attempt to remedy that, at least partially, over the next few months.

2014 Aurealis Awards – Finalists

BEST FANTASY NOVEL

Fireborn, Keri Arthur (Hachette Australia)

This Shattered World, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Allen & Unwin)

The Lascar’s Dagger, Glenda Larke (Hachette Australia)

Dreamer’s Pool, Juliet Marillier (Pan Macmillan Australia)

Afterworlds, Scott Westerfeld (Penguin Books Australia)

Daughters of the Storm, Kim Wilkins (Harlequin Enterprises Australia)

BEST FANTASY SHORT STORY

“The Oud”, Thoraiya Dyer (Long Hidden, Crossed Genres Publications)

“Teratogen”, Deborah Kalin (Cemetery Dance, #71, May 2014)

“The Ghost of Hephaestus”, Charlotte Nash (Phantazein, FableCroft Publications)

“St Dymphna’s School for Poison Girls”, Angela Slatter (The Review of Australian Fiction, Volume 9, Issue 3)

“The Badger Bride”, Angela Slatter (Strange Tales IV, Tartarus Press)

BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL

Aurora: Meridian, Amanda Bridgeman (Momentum)

Nil By Mouth, LynC (Satalyte)

The White List, Nina D’Aleo (Momentum)

Peacemaker, Marianne de Pierres (Angry Robot)

This Shattered World, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Allen & Unwin)

Foresight, Graham Storrs (Momentum)

BEST SCIENCE FICTION SHORT STORY

“The Executioner Goes Home”, Deborah Biancotti (Review of Australian Fiction, Vol 11 Issue 6)

“Wine, Women and Stars”, Thoraiya Dyer (Analog Vol CXXXIV nos 1&2 Jan/Feb)

“The Glorious Aerybeth”, Jason Fischer (OnSpec, 11 Sep 2014)

“Dellinger”, Charlotte Nash (Use Only As Directed, Peggy Bright Books)

“Happy Go Lucky”, Garth Nix (Kaleidoscope, Twelfth Planet Press)

BEST HORROR NOVEL

Book of the Dead, Greig Beck (Momentum)

Razorhurst, Justine Larbalestier (Allen & Unwin)

Obsidian, Alan Baxter (HarperVoyager)

BEST HORROR SHORT STORY

“The Executioner Goes Home”, Deborah Biancotti (Review of Australian Fiction, Vol 11 Issue 6)

“Skinsuit”, James Bradley (Island Magazine 137)

“By the Moon’s Good Grace”, Kirstyn McDermott (Review of Australian Fiction, Vol 12, Issue 3)

“Shay Corsham Worsted”, Garth Nix (Fearful Symmetries, Chizine)

“Home and Hearth”, Angela Slatter (Spectral Press)

BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL

The Astrologer’s Daughter, Rebecca Lim (Text Publishing)

Afterworld, Lynnette Lounsbury (Allen & Unwin)

The Cracks in the Kingdom, Jaclyn Moriarty (Pan Macmillan Australia)

Clariel, Garth Nix (Allen & Unwin)

The Haunting of Lily Frost, Nova Weetman (UQP)

Afterworlds, Scott Westerfeld (Penguin Books Australia)

BEST YOUNG ADULT SHORT STORY

“In Hades”, Goldie Alexander (Celapene Press)

“Falling Leaves”, Liz Argall (Apex Magazine)

“The Fuller and the Bogle”, David Cornish (Tales from the Half-Continent, Omnibus Books)

“Vanilla”, Dirk Flinthart (Kaleidoscope, Twelfth Planet Press)

“Signature”, Faith Mudge (Kaleidoscope, Twelfth Planet Press)

BEST CHILDREN’S FICTION

Slaves of Socorro: Brotherband #4, John Flanagan (Random House Australia)

Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy, Karen Foxlee (Hot Key Books)

The Last Viking Returns, Norman Jorgensen and James Foley (ILL.) (Fremantle Press)

Withering-by-Sea, Judith Rossell (ABC Books)

Sunker’s Deep: The Hidden #2, Lian Tanner (Allen & Unwin)

Shadow Sister: Dragon Keeper #5, Carole Wilkinson (Black Dog Books)

BEST COLLECTION

The Female Factory, Lisa L Hannett and Angela Slatter (Twelfth Planet Press)

Secret Lives, Rosaleen Love (Twelfth Planet Press)

Angel Dust, Ian McHugh (Ticonderoga Publications)

Difficult Second Album: more stories of Xenobiology, Space Elevators, and Bats Out Of Hell, Simon Petrie (Peggy Bright Books)

The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings, Angela Slatter (Tartarus Press)

Black-Winged Angels, Angela Slatter (Ticonderoga Publications)

BEST ANTHOLOGY

Kisses by Clockwork, Liz Grzyb (Ed) (Ticonderoga Publications)

Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories, Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios (Eds), (Twelfth Planet Press)

Amok: An Anthology of Asia-Pacific Speculative Fiction, Dominica Malcolm (Ed) (Solarwyrm Press)

Reach for Infinity, Jonathan Strahan (Ed) (Solaris Books)

Fearsome Magics, Jonathan Strahan (Ed) (Solaris Books)

Phantazein, Tehani Wessely (Ed) (FableCroft Publishing)

BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL/ILLUSTRATED WORK

Left Hand Path #1, Jason Franks & Paul Abstruse (Winter City Productions)

Awkwood, Jase Harper (Milk Shadow Books)

“A Small Wild Magic”, Kathleen Jennings (Monstrous Affections, Candlewick Press)

Mr Unpronounceable and the Sect of the Bleeding Eye, Tim Molloy (Milk Shadow Books)

The Game, Shane W Smith (Deeper Meanings Publishing)

Australian Women Writers Reading Challenge – 2015

aww-badge-2015And here I go once again, diving into the wonderful world of the Australian Women Writers challenge for 2015. 2014 was a bit of a dip for me, unlike previous years I was reading and reviewing right up until the end of the year (and maybe an insy-winsy bit into 2015). But this year I have a good feeling. With that in mind, I’m still going to attempt the Franklin challenge with a small twist – read 10 books and try to review all 10. I should stray outside the speculative fiction realm – it would probably be good for me. But I suspect that I won’t.

So, if you have any suggestions for books to read or authors to check out, let me know in the comments below. And hopefully I’ll have my first review up very soon.

Monthly Roundup – January & February 2015

Welcome to the first monthly roundup post for 2015. Can you believe it is March already? The pace of year scares the bejeesus out of me, I don’t mind telling you.

Earlier in the month I reviewed The Marching Dead by Lee Battersby, and what an excellent read it was. Go and check out the review. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

Welcome back.

I also went back a bit in time I read Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy (plus bonus novella). I usually review Australian authors separately, however the trilogy is from a while ago and Garth Nix is popular enough that I very much doubt he needs my signal boost! The individual titles of the series are SabrielLirael and Abhorsen. I enjoyed the world building and background to the story, the late 19th-early 20th century feel of the non-magic land and the fantastic world “over the Wall”. The stories were interesting, but I must admit the head-hopping between characters was quite distracting and kept throwing me out of the story. I note that Nix has recently released a prequel Clariel - still deciding whether to purchase that one.

Brandon Sanderson’s latest YA novel Firefight was released and I had a quick read through. I enjoy Sanderson’s writing, and Firefight is another fast paced, interesting read with an interesting premise. Apart from the main character’s “bad metaphor” schtick (which was very distracting and felt quite forced) I enjoyed the ride. I also read his short novella Mitosis which is set between the two books in the series. I’ve probably succumbed to a shameless grab for cash from the hordes of Sanderson fans, but it was only a small amount of money and was a good read in and of itself. One of the things about Sanderson’s writing that I’m thinking a lot about is how he maintains a certain high octane pace through his books. It’s something that I think is missing from my own writing and reading these 1.5 books has given me a lot to think about.

My power drive through True Blood continued at lightening pace, and in late February we finished season 7, and therefore the whole series. I enjoyed True Blood more than I thought I would – the delivery of a few of the characters was hilarious (Eric, Pam and Jason in particular for those that have watched the show). The seventh season did feel like a bit of a clumsy add-on – I suspect it probably should have ended towards the end of season 6. Still, all up some great genre television.

I finally got the chance to listen to the sci-fi radio play series Night Terrace on a Sydney – Wollongong – Canberra – Sydney drive one weekend. My 6 year old daughter listened to it with me, and was quite taken by it all. “Is there any more of that Eddie show?” she asked me just the other week. If that’s not an endorsement for a second season, I don’t know what is. Very funny and clever writing, if you haven’t checked it out you should be very disappointed in yourself.

I’ve been to the movies more than normal over the last couple of months. Actually out to the cinema. I know, I was surprised too. I enjoyed the final instalment of The Hobbit although I don’t think I’ll need to see another CGI orc for quite some time. Penguins of Madagascar was hilarious – it is great that one of my kids has got old enough to justify me going to see goofy cartoons. Big Hero 6 was a surprisingly good super hero animation – Ms 6 loved it too. I definitely didn’t take her to see Kingsmen - that movie has a LOT of violence, but so over the top that it is hard to be too grossed out. Very much enjoyed that too. Most recently we saw The Imitation Game which is a very good bio-pic of Alan Turing’s life and well worth a look if you’re interested in the history of computing.

And it wouldn’t have been the holiday season without watching the Doctor Who Christmas special. I enjoyed it – some very funny Santa Claus action. But was it just me or did it seem like the ending was left open so Jemma Coleman could make up her mind about staying on with the show at the last minute? Probably just me.

I enjoyed Tansy Rayner Robert’s Musketeer Space prequel novella Seven Days of Joyeux, all about the lives of the three Musketeers pre-Dana. If you’re reading along with Musketeer Space, the novella adds some great depth to some of the main characters and fills in some interesting backstory. If you’ve been thinking of investing in this interesting experiment in serial novel writing, Seven Days of Joyeux is an excellent way of trying before you commit to a whole novel.

In preparation for watching the movie on Foxtel, I reread Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card during the holidays. It has been very many years since I read the book, and I was struck by the bleakness of the narrative and the extent to which Ender perpetrates such  atrocities in the name of survival. An interesting blast from the past, although I don’t feel particularly compelled to read any more of the series.

I’ve recently finished Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal. I’ve read reviews that say “Pride and Prejudice with magic thrown in”, which about sums it up. Kowal is one of the presenters on the podcast Writing Excuses, and I’ve heard her talk about the series of books, in particular how she has combined the base characters with different styles of novels (e.g. regency “manners” novel, heist novel etc). I’m interested in reading more of them, to see how she does it. The writing was good and the story pulled me through – not normally my cup of tea but a refreshing change.

I also finished Cold Comfort & Other Tales by David McDonald, but I’ll write that up separately.

That’s all for now. What have you been reading/watching/listening to?