Sunday, August 29, 2010

We're Off To Worldcon.

Worldcon looms.  And I can't wait.

Hotels are booked, plans are made, schedules are checked, sessions are highlighted, supplies are bought and bags are packed.

There are people I'm looking forward to meeting, people I'm looking forward to catching up with, and even one or two I'm planning to keep my distance from.

Yes, conventions bring out all sorts. And, fortunately for us, that makes the 'speculative world' richer for it.  Hopefully I'll get next week's blog uploaded, but who knows - especially since my laptop accidentally died yesterday.  Hopefully the techs will get it up and running tomorrow, but it depends on the damage that was done.

Otherwise, I'll hopefully see you at the con.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Who Will It Be Now?

We wake up this morning in a world of uncertainty.  We don't know whether we'll be 'moving forward' with Julia Gillard, or whether we will get 'real action' with Tony Abbott. When I arrived at the polling office yesterday, (office? OK, school hall) I asked the official there who I should vote for.  He laughed, and told me he had no idea as they were both stinkers.  This really has been the 'who really cares who gets in' election.

There are more pressing matters.

It's another morning where I still don't know who will coach Essendon next year. We've had enough of the whole 'Matthew Knights has a contract and has the support of the board' rhetoric - which in football, as in politics, often indicates he's not long for the job. And then the whole James Hird announcing his interest, only to completely backflip two days later.  Did someone at the club tell him to keep quiet because plans are afoot? James on board as assistant for three years with a seasoned coach before he gets the main gig?

And on top of that Essendon fans, and myself personally, have been accused of a number of things this week.  We've been told that:
  1. We're so used to winning we just can't handle losing.
  2. We're not getting Sheedy back, so get over it.
  3. We had it in for who-ever replaced Sheeds, so grow up
  4. We need to give Knights time.
OK, I'm game - I'll respond to those.

1: In many ways, the 27 years under Sheedy was very frustrating. OK, we won four premierships  - which fans at other clubs would consider successful, but with the teams, money and talent we had, we should have won at least two more. And we don't think losing is the end of the world. After all, we had ten years of being stuck two-thirds of the way down the ladder. We fought to remain there. Maybe we should have tanked, and had a better playing list than we have now.

2: We weren't happy with the way that Sheedy was dumped, but many of us felt that he should have left five years or more before he did. I was rather pleased he went. And no, most of us don't want him back.

3: I've been told they interviewed Hardwick, Harvey - even Bomber Thompson was spoken to - but for whatever reason they decided to rush and give the job to Knights. (I am quite glad they didn't get Voss.) Someone who had been underwhelmingly unsuccessful as an Assistant at AFL level, and as a coach at VFL level. No, we were mystified by the decision, but the results (or lack of) have spoken for themselves.

4: Knights has had three years.  His win ratio has fallen, he still alienates the fans (and, I believe a number of players too), and still seems to have no real strategies or game plans. He hasn't proven himself, hasn't shown any leadership, hasn't shown the least bit of hope, and seems to be in complete denial about his lack of vision. "Score enough goals and we won't have to defend" is not a game plan.

Who will be in charge next year?  Mark Williams doesn't excite me, James Hird (prove yourself as an assistant first) is unknown, and great players don't necessarily make great coaches),  I don't know much about Laidley and I'm not really sure who else is available.

But it's time for Knights to go. And for us to get an experienced coach with leadership.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

You're Feeling Sleepy, Sleepy...

On the right hand side of this page, I have a column of recent 'doings'. Recent Youtubing, Recent Reading, Recent Listening ... and so on.

And I update the pictures and links every Sunday.

This morning, as I was starting to put this all together, I selected the picture for a book I've just finished this week entitled "The Reluctant Fundamentalist", and prepared the image for encoding. But then something struck me.

While I've always planned for that column to not be a recommendation list, but rather a snapshot into the things that have influenced me that week, I have, however, always consciously avoided posting images of things I didn't at least partially like. And I really didn't like The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

The dialogue is boring and unnatural. I didn't care for the characters at all. The story is dull, as is the storytelling. And fairly pointless.  It reminded me, in fact, of the old Monty Python skit where nothing happened, entitled "A Minute Passed."
  • A minute passed. Then another. Then, another minute. Then ... another minute passed. Then another minute passed. And another. A further minute passed quickly, followed by another minute, when suddenly, a different minute passed, followed by another different minute. And another. And yet another further different minute. A minute passed.
And still nothing happened.

Unfortunately, as an English teacher, I'm required to read books I wouldn't ever choose to read.  On occasion, of course, this has worked positively for me, and I've discovered something great. But when I start one of my own books I don't like, I don't finish it. A school book, however, must be read to the conclusion. When I have a stack of thirty or more promising books waiting to be read, I almost resent having to waste time finishing soporific texts like this.

This book is one of the most boring I've ever encountered, so even though I finished it, I finally decided not to post the cover. Not everything that goes up here is a recommendation, but it's usually something from which I feel I have gained something.

And yet I am still talking about the book here. And I guess the unusual way in which it's written will influence my writing - (in that I'll never try it because it didn't work for me)

Each their own, I suppose. I noticed Philip Pullman loved it, and stated, "this is more exciting than any thriller I've read for a long time..."

Maybe he hasn't read much else recently.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Free Market?

I had a conversation with another writer this week about the process of submitting and getting published. Standing with us was a non-writer, who seemed genuinely surprised at the long delays, non-allowance of multiple submissions and general difficulty we have in selling stories.

There is one particular story I have that has only been submitted four times in two years.  On its first submission it was gone for four months before rejection, then seven months before rejection, then nine months before rejection. At least its final rejection came after only three weeks.

The delays were extremely frustrating. And I suppose I could have pulled it earlier each time, but I was given hope and encouragement on each occasion that made me think it was worth leaving there.  What I found most frustrating, however, was the lack of reply to my enquiries each time. I finally sent four enquiries (two to each of the longer submissions), each a month apart, and each extremely polite.

And I never received a reply to any of them.

Now I understand the editing process is a long process, but a simple response after that amount of time would have meant a lot to me. My non-writing friend was amazed, and suggested we should just ignore those guidelines and submit to as many places as we liked. If the editors want my story, then they should claim it quickly or lose it. (Of course this presumes my writing is such that editors want it.)

At first I could see the thought behind this, but after I considered it for a while I realised this would work against beginning writers, as publishers' in-boxes and in-trays all over the world would be stuffed with submissions. My sub, with my unknown name, would be sat at the bottom of a very big pile every time, with known writers getting snapped up before others could get them.

It's easier just to vote with your stamps. The above mentioned mags don't receive my subs anymore. If they can't be bothered even replying to my polite enquiries, then I don't wish to deal with them. Anyway, the best way to get your stories snapped up is by writing quality stories. That's the direction I hope I'm heading in.

And of course I have this fantasy running in my head where one day, as a famous guest-of-honour at a con, an editor asks me why I never submit to them.  I smile, and explain I did...

Ah well, it's a nice image.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

It Just Doesn't Seem to Make Sense.

Last week I read an internet article written by someone involved in publishing.  This person was writing about small press publishers and how important they were to not only emerging writers, but to the publishing industry in general. The writer commented on how these small publishers filled niches and satisfied readers of genre that the larger publishers wouldn't touch due to economics.

So far, so good.

Then this writer selected a couple of small publishers (by name) and proceeded to praise one (publisher A) while viciously attacking the other (publisher B). Publisher A could do no wrong, while Publisher B was doing nothing but harm to writing in general. The reasons given? Publisher B had poor editors, terrible layouts (with examples given) and was heavily criticised as being nothing more than fans turned publishers.

Fair enough.

Except for one thing.  It so happens I have several anthologies from both these publishers. And what I've noticed is this.  The perceived faults with the layouts described for publisher B are exactly the same as those found in publisher A's work. I found as many 'missing words' in sentences in both, while in Publisher A's work, I found more mistaken homophones - really obvious ones too. As for the quality of the selected writings? Well, I found both had excellent inclusions, both had a couple of average ones, while Publisher A even had one or two that were just poorly written with several examples of confusing and amateurishly constructed sentences and paragraphs that were embarrassing to read.

I enjoyed the work from both publishers - I just wonder what the writer of the article had against Publisher B, and whether the writer had any sort of interest in Publisher A. And, of course, it's a shame there were grammatical and editing mistakes in both of these publisher's works.

It does make you remember one thing, though. Keep an open mind on reviews, unless you see the same comments pop up over and over again.

(Unfortunately I didn't bookmark the article at the time, and can't seem to find it now.  I'm sure it must still be out there under layers of other webpages.)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Time For A History Lesson.

There is currently some fantastic Spec Fic coming out of Australia. And some wonderful small publishers grooming the next crop of writers. But it only just occurred to me that I have very little idea of the tradition of SF writing in this country.

Sure, I know of Damien Broderick writing in the 70s, and the publishing work of people like Bruce Gillespie and Paul Collins, and I've even heard of a guy called George Turner from the 60s.

It's always cool when you receive an email from, or meet an author you've been reading for a while. That's happened to me with all the above (except Turner) and several others. It turns out that I originally met Paul Collins around 25 years ago. An old friend of mine, Steve Dash ( A talented artist indeed. You still around Steve? Still painting?), did the artwork for The Tempting of the Witch King (Russell Blackford) and Ring of Truth (David Lake) and introduced me to Paul when he ran a shop down in St. Kilda. And it's very cool seeing Paul still around and still publishing. Then there was the new breed of writer that came to the fore over the past 25 years. (Lucy Sussex, Sean Williams, Greg Egan, Terry Dowling) I've been lucky enough to meet some of them too - and even to be on first name terms with them. And I've met several of the up and comers.

We've certainly had a long history of fandom here. Melbourne Science Fiction Club is the second longest running SF club in the world.

But what about writers of Australian SF before the 70s. There's only one that I really know of. I went to school with a kid who was the niece, or granddaughter, or something, of Ivan Southall who wrote the Simon Black series. Unfortunately, I only ever read his adventure books. But surely there had to be SF written before that.

It looks like Aurealis Publishing is about to rectify the gaps in my knowledge.  Just in time for Worldcon 68, they are reprinting 'lost' Australian classics, dating from between 1880 and 1930.  A set of six to start with, and then I believe there will be more on the way. This is a series I'm looking forward to reading.

Support your small independent publishers who are helping to keep Spec Fic alive.  Order a set today.

And don't forget to vote for the Ditmars.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Happy Apocalypse, Everyone.

It's been an interesting kind of week here at Chateau Cameron.

First of all my slipped disc (or bulging disc or pinched nerve or whatever it is) re-slipped.  It's been playing up for close to a year now, but this is the worst it's been. My back, legs and feet were in all kinds of pain which made walking very difficult. And, on top of that, I had that stupid chest bug that everyone seems to have at the moment. And so I was off work for a couple of days, hobbling around like a little old man and coughing like a seasoned smoker.  Thank goodness my doctor referred me to a physiotherapist who seems confident it'll all be sorted soon.

Of course something else just had to occur to make things worse. And so my hot water system decided to blow up. The Blu-Ray player I'd been planning to buy last week is now back on hold. Apparently, according to my wife, showers are important. And while I can see that, I think it's a very fine line as to which is more important - hot showers or a Blue-Ray player.

To cheer myself up, I grabbed the opportunity to read a couple of books. The Road and Things We Didn't See Coming. Both these books are post-apocalyptic, (and for those out there who didn't realise, they're both Science Fiction!) with various degrees of bleakness. Yay, happy time!

I've been wanting to see The Road on film for a long time, but I wanted to read the book first. And now that I'd finally gotten round to that, I was able to jam the DVD in the machine, press play and curl up on the couch to watch it.

I loved the film - although not as much as the book. The film is suitably grey and (dare I use the word again?) bleak. The book allows for less use of dialogue - it's much more sparse and restrained which I thought was wonderful. Being a Hollywood film, I was concerned they'd change the end to have them arrive at a commune where they are welcomed, blah, blah, blah.  Much like they did with I Am Legend.

Things We Didn't See Coming isn't as grey - it's a series of short stories that travels across many years showing life under many forms of government and authority - or even non-government and anarchy. It works well, and I thoroughly enjoyed it as well.

And on the subject of bleak, that's exactly the forecast I have for the new movie that's coming out in August, Titanic 2.

And I'm not joking.