Thursday, December 20, 2007

Merry Christmas & All That.

I hope you all have a wonderful and safe Christmas and New Year. This has been a particularly busy, weirdly stressful one for me.

Time to disconnect for a week or so and reflect on the good and the bad things that have happened this year, oh, and to read the new Iain M. Banks - oh, but I do love uncorrected proofs.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Oh, and one of the best answers ever to a question of clarification

So, I am an utter Okkervil fanboy, but in their series of Q&As arround the new release someone asked singer/songwriter Will Scheff to explain some of his songs/thematic connections/creative processes and so on. I just thought this bit was wonderful:

At the same time, I feel like if this stuff isn’t a little mysterious, even to me, than some kind of wholeness is broken. And if it’s not mysterious to listeners than the whole album can be thought of as just a bright fluorescent-lit room with nothing in the corners, no secret doors, nothing hidden, nothing special.

Oh, and you can read the rest of the Q&A here.

All right, enough Okkervil River stuff already, I promise.

The Best Christmas Present Ever - if you like Okkervil River that is

Okkervil River have released an album of covers as their Christmas Present to their fans. Having only just this minute downloaded it (well, a few minutes ago) I can say that if you're at all into Okkervil River go here and download it and realise that Christmas has come early. And if you've never really gotten into Okkervil River here's your chance to get a feel for the band, and then you can all fall in love with them, and go and see them when they play the Laneway Festival, and we can all hold hands and dance (or not).

Friday, December 14, 2007

Favourite Things and What Have You, Spoken with all the Authority of Someone who has no Authority – like a mouse, but not one of those cool mice.

I'm feeling all work avoidy today. And just a little nostalgic for the year that was.

We bought a new dog this year, and Ziggy is such a lovely little bloke. The highlight as far as I'm concerned was teaching him the joy of walking, also a lowlight as he wakes me up around five raring to go, and Ernie's cottoned on to the whole thing now – though I make them wait, yup no earlier than six, not one second, yes, I rule that household.

Looking back it's been a great year of reading and music listening, and not such a great year of cinema going, in fact about the only movies that I saw this year that I really enjoyed were Stardust and A Death at a Funeral. I can honestly say 2007 was the year of the crap blockbuster – and I'm a sucker for Blockbusters, my taste is so bad, when it comes to movies, that I sometimes shock myself, but even I couldn't sit through all of that last Pirates of the Caribbean movie, barely made it through Harry Potter and the Something, Something, and thought the Simpsons Movie was a bit D'oh. Oh, I did enjoy the new James Bond. (But see how I'm not even bothering to check the name).

Now Books. So many wonderful books.

You all know how much I loved Dark Space, but let me say it again. Loved it.

Dug Sean William's Saturn Returns, looking forward very much to the sequel.

Doubly dug Jason Nahrung and Mil Clayton's fine horror/thriller The Darkness Within, and fully expect it to win the Aurealis Award for that category, though there isn't a shortlist I just have a feeling, is all.

I thought Princess of Roumania by Paul Park was just brilliant. Neal Asher wowed me with Polity Agent and Hilldiggers, I still think no-one delivers more bang for your buck, and there's some interesting political satire sneaking in there too. Peter Watt's Blindsight blew me away.

Then there was Tolkien's Children of Hurin, so, it was cribbed from a bunch of sources, but I still contend that it's a fine and heartbreaking piece of work. Talking of fine Jay Lake's Trial of Flowers was wonderful, Mainspring didn't quite fulfil its promise for me, but it was still an entertaining and energetic read and I'll still be buying Escarpment because Jay is one of the most interesting new writers out there.

The new Don Dellilo was not quite a return to the form of Underworld, but it was still filled with multitudes. Cormac McCarthy's the Road, was very good, and better for it's brevity, though my favourite of the Old White Authors What Had New Books was Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach, which is beautifully and understatedly written and deliciously gloomy.

Ben Peek's Black Sheep sits staring at me in the study, I expect this to be the last book I read of the year, kinda wanted to hold back something special. Gee, isn't this one big love in?

Finally, Patrick Rothuss' The Name of the Wind enchanted me, and I was dubious. If you're after a great fix of fat fantasy this could be the one for you. I am extremely interested in seeing where he takes this story, and I am, I must admit a sucker for framing devices, and he uses it so very, very well.

Then there were the anthologies. Hands down the Strahan and Dozois The New Space Opera was my favourite, in fact, it may well be my favourite anthology since those Galaxy ones put out in the Eighties. I also thought Russell B. Farr's Fantastic Wonder Stories was a fine piece of work with excellent stories by Rowena Cory Daniells, Geoffrey Maloney(who never disappoints, and is certainly one of Australia's finest short story writers), Cat Sparks and Deborah Biancotti.

Well, I was spoilt.

There was a new Okkervil River album, The Stage Names, which while not as epic as Black Sheep Boy (and it's appendix, see it had an appendix that's how epic it was) was simply luminous. I can listen to this album over and over again, and have. Highlights being "Unless it Kicks" as energetic a rock song as they have ever produced and "Savannah Smiles" a truly, aching piece of story telling, as wonderful and melancholy as anything on Down the River of Golden Dreams.

Then there were new Spoon and Radiohead albums, and neither disappointed. I also discovered* Midlake, the Decemberists, and C.W. Stoneking, and my life has been better for it. Oh, and then there was the new Bright Eyes album, and the new And You Shall Know us by the Trail of Dead album. And that new Killers B-side album's great. And Tom Waits, yeah, I finally got into Tom Waits, I don't know why it took so long, but there you go. (oh, and then there was Belle & Sebastian, finally got into these guys, and Isobel Campbell Mark Lanegan's album Ballad of the Broken Seas, and probably a half dozen other albums and bands I've forgotten, including my current guilty pleasure A.F.I.)

Yes, it was a wonderful year for music.

And to short stories.

Here are my two favourites, the ones that have stuck with me, and invite deeper scrutiny, with the proviso that I haven't read all that many shorts this year, maybe a couple of hundred, and that I really only read hedonistically, so if I `ain't getting the pleasure I put it away. Anyway… for the little that it's worth… hands down favourite of the year was Jeff Vandermeer's The Third Bear, the next was Gene Wolfe's Memorare. Two marvellous fictions and Jeff's you can read here. I urge you to do so, even if it's just to disagree with me.

*and planted a flag in.

Shiny is Here, being all Shiny

So Shiny is here, containing:

The Goats Are Going Places by Tina Connolly
Cracks by Trent Jamieson
Blurred Horizons by Bren MacDibble

As well as a review section written by Tansy Rayner Roberts

I'm quite pleased with Cracks. So here's what I am going to do, if you buy a copy of Shiny and email me* at teacupthrenody at I will send you another story. You can have your pick of Persuasion (No, not the Jane Austen one, the Trent's not as good) which has scored me quite a few honorable mentions (basically stories that year's best editors liked, but not enough to publish again. Gee, I'm selling that one), Slow & Ache (which won an Aurealis award, read it and wonder why) or Clockwork (which was an honorable mention for an AA).

Hell, if there's a story you want to read that I've published, but you couldn't get your hands on, let me know and I'll email it to you.

Now, I'm just going to sit back and let the emails flood in.

Where's my pipe? :-)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Rain & Headaches

It's day two of a particularly bad sinus headache, so I'm giving my eyes a break. Brisbane's been getting a bit of rain lately, not so much in the catchments which would be useful, but in the city itself.

Everything is green and gorgeous, and something that's flowering is getting right up my nose. The park nearby, where I take my dogs for a walk, has been producing some truly amazing fungi so it's not all bad.

Also, sold a story to Pseudopod today. It's one that's been very kind to me. Tumble. So far this story has been in Ideomancer, and reprinted in Australian Dark Fantasy and Horror 2006. I'm looking forward to hearing what the wonderful folk there make of it. Also in the middle of a story, set in the same world as Tumble, called Midnight, Two Men Cross Victoria Bridge. I'm digging it so far, it's dark and a little messy, so as long as it doesn't fall to bits in my hands I hope to find a home for it next year.

Talking of next year, 2008 is looking to be great for me. I already have something like five stories due out, not to mention my first kids' book. And there's more where that came from, baby.

Marianne's Straddie Stories

I'm going to start this straight out by saying I've known Marianne De Pierres for around ten years, and that she's one of my dearest friends: just so you know where my biases lie. But I've been thinking that it would be wonderful if one of the small presses published Marianne's "Straddie" stories. There's been three so far, Glimmer by Dark, Moonflowers at the Ritz, and The Flag Game. You can check out The Flag Game here.

Marianne has written some wonderful novels, and I'm totally digging the new Sentients of Orion series, but these shorts are the bomb. If I was a small press I'd be thinking, hmm, established audience, good fan base, maybe I should publish those "Straddie" Stories. They exhibit everything that is beautiful, warm and humane, about Marianne's writing, not to mention her precise and poetic sense of place. Marianne is not only brilliant at pacing a story she knows how to bring her settings alive, and set them alight in your mind.

It's in the novels, of course, those grounded living worlds, but the Straddie stories show something again. They bring out a different tone in what is one of Australia's most unique sf voices, and to see those stories together in one book would be a joy. What's more, a collection would probably encourage her to write more of them.

Just a thought, and maybe someone is already considering it, but if they're not, well, they should.

Monday, December 10, 2007

New Story on the Horizon, Captain.

Just emailed back the edits on my story Cracks. You should be able to read it soon at Shiny. I really, really love this story. I loved Small Change, but this story is a little more me, it's a teensy bit bleak, though. I do write stories that aren't about death, just not that many of them.

Oh, and for a bit of fun, check out the fantastical(true) bio I wrote of Tansy Rayner Roberts here, not at all bleak. And don't forget to donate some money to ASIF while you're, there, it's a really, really worthwhile review site.

Talking about reviews*. Rich Horton said some lovely things about Zahir 14 in the latest ed of Locus magazine, and about my story Harden Reflects on the Dark Arts and His Wife in particular. My favourite bit was: His love for her is convincingly portrayed -- and his reaction to her death is believable and utterly sad.

Which is what I was aiming for.

*what a neat segue way

Congratulations AA Shortlisters

Congratulations to all the Aurealis Shortlisted authors. Looking through them it's so good to see so many people that I count as friends there, and excellent to see that what has been such a good year of sales for Cat Sparks is reflected in the shortlists. And very nice to see Ben Peek there, who has put out some of the strongest shorts I've read this year. You can check out his nominated short Black Betty here, or his new tale Possession here.

There's a an excellent ROR presence, too, with Marianne De Pierre's wonderful Space Opera Dark Space up for Best Science Fiction Novel, and Richard Harland's Special Perceptions up for best Horror.

And word to my mate, Chris McMahon, and his SF story The Eyes of Erebus, fingers-crossed for you, buddy.