Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Word Tyrant.

My friend, David McDonald, has just released an app that keeps track of writing and word count. Absolutely perfect for those of you about to attempt NaNoWriMo.

And it's cheap. Only 99 cents until Nov 2.

Check it out here, or here or here.

It looks fantastic, does incredible things, and has started getting great reviews.

Now all I have to do is convince him to get an Android version up and running.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Can You Dig It?

It's been a busy week at Chateau Cameron. I've been kept busy by circumstances. It hasn't been a bad week, although nothing positive seems to have occured. A few rejections, a few plans that didn't come to fruition, a lottery ticket that didn't win.

Still, I have hopes for some of these negatives to turn around in the near future.

I'm a great believer in karma. The people who tend to abuse or cheat others will get caught out one day. And those of us who try to do the right thing? Well, I think good things await us.

Sounds like I've had a terrible week, huh?  No - just some ideas that have entered my consciousness, plans commenced and a spot of people watching.

And, of course, gardening.  Last year our vegetable harvest was fantastic. And I have high expectations for this coming season.

Karma. You really do reap what you sow.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Many Australian writers and fans will be reasonably familiar with names such as A. Bertram Chandler, Wynne Whitford, Norma Hemming, and George Turner. But how much do you actually know about these writers, and how much of their work have you read?

As I've stated recently, I'm on a journey of discovery - exploring Australia's rich SF heritage, down into caverns I never even knew existed. And I've been excited to read some great works by these authors.

Although I only started writing a couple of years ago, I've been reading SF for more than three decades. However, I was never involved in fandom until a couple of years ago. Heck, I didn't even know it existed. Some of these writers appear to have been still alive in Australia with us until only recently. If only I'd known.

Missed opportunities.

But these names only scratch the surface. I've recently discovered Tomorrow and Tomorrow by M. Barnard Eldershaw (The pseudonym of two women who wrote this SF novel in 1947). How about writers such as James Morgan Walsh, Erle Cox or even Catherine Helen Spence, author of 'A Week In The Future' (1888)? Australians will find her image on our $5 note.

We all know Aurealis, and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, but how about Thrills Incorporated, Science Fiction Monthly, Popular Science Fiction, Vision of Tomorrow or Void.

And so my quest into Australia's SF heritage continues. I'd love to hear any suggestions and recommendations from anyone who has journeyed this way before me.

p.s. If you can help me with ASIM #1, #4 and #20, please email me or leave a comment.
Some further resources I've discovered:

For more fantastic covers, check this out.

Far from Void: The History of Australian SF Magazines (1992) in Aurealis #7 ed. Stephen Higgins, Dirk Strasser

The MUP Encyclopaedia of Australian Science Fiction & Fantasy (1998) ed.  Paul Collins and Sean McMullen

Strange Constellations: A History of Australian Science Fiction (1999) Russell Blackford, Van Ikin & Sean McMullen

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ideas All Around.

This week I actually had two people ask me that notorious question. Where do you get your ideas from?

I was, of course, tempted to use Harlan Ellison's famous answer. Tired of hearing the same question over and over, he declared that every week he sent $5 (or $10 or $25, depending on the source) to a little old lady in Schenectady, New York and in return she sent him a list of ideas. Everyone laughed, but apparently at the end of the session there was a queue of people asking for her address.

I even thought of stealing Nick Tchan's recent forum post that said flying monkeys delivered ideas to him on scraps of paper.

Or Theodore Sturgeon's statement that every evening he left a bowl of milk on his front porch, and in the morning the milk had gone and a list of ideas had been left.

Instead I told the truth, that I see them everywhere around me. And they're coming faster than I can write them. I keep a list of them, of course. Some of these gems may not get used for a long time, some of them may end up as a minor idea in a different story. Some of them many never find a home.

Yesterday, for instance, I saw a car being towed by a tow-truck. I started asking "What if?", dropping the event into a number of different scenarios, and had half a story unfolding before I'd even realised it.

As for Theodore Sturgeon's answer, I think he may have been joking. At least once he suffered writer's block, bereft of ideas, and so he wrote to Robert HeinleinHeinlein responded thus.

Check it out. It' a fabulous letter with everything from fully hatched ideas down to short, abstract thoughts.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Learning From The Past.

I often read other people's work and wish I could write as they do. I recently realised that I can't - I can only write as I write.

I can, however, improve my own writing and develop my own voice.

I've been reading some twenty year old SF magazines and anthologies - part of my current goal to become more familiar with Australia's SF heritage - and I'm really enjoying it. But I sometimes wonder what happened to some of these writers. They appear to have been the 'next big thing' at the time, or at least headed for continued publication success - but here in the 21st century I've never heard of them.

I'm reasonably active within the Australian SF scene, and am familiar with most of the names currently publishing, but these writers seemed to have dropped off the map completely.

Did they just decide writing wasn't for them? Did life get in the way? Was their career a priority? Perhaps they had kids who ate up all their time.

On the other hand, I have read first published short stories from writers who are now established names. And I was amazed at how 'average' (sorry guys) some of these stories were. I could see the potential, for sure, but I also saw a lot of flaws in their work. And that gives me hope.

Sometimes we think some of these writers, because they've been around the scene for so long, were always superb. That somehow they were born with this gift.  There's no doubt they had the talent, but they also had the determination and the drive to persevere and improve.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Nagging Optimism.

I have a feeling the next twelve months are going to be great.

In my working life, in my personal life and in my writing life, I feel as though the future is shiny. I don't have any news, or any secret information I can't share, but a few things are starting to happen around me.

Perhaps I'm mistaken. Perhaps it's my attitude that has changed and I'm just seeing the world around me through this optimistic filter. But I can't help but feel it's more than that. And even if it is just a better outlook, that's not a bad thing, is it? A positive view and good things happening - which is cause, and which is effect?

But I want to make things happen in a number of areas. I have plans that I've put in place and so far they seem to be paying off.

Keep watching to see where the road leads me.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The New Regime.

Day three of the new regime, and I'm still on it. Admittedly it's only been three days, but that's two days longer than I suspected it would last.

A diet you ask? Exercise? No, it's a writing regime.

I awaken each morning at 5.30, and write for 90 minutes before going to work. I've found that after a day of dealing with kids and words, the evening is not the best time for me to write. Plus I enjoy my evenings, spending time with my wife. Later at night would be good, but I'm not really a late night person. I suffer for it the next day.

And so day three of 5.30 starts, and all is going well.

Speaking of which, I should get some writing done. Out.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie.

I've attended some fabulous panels at conventions where the discussion has centred around the factors that make a piece of writing 'Australian.' Invariably these panels have focussed on the image of our landscape in writing; how dry, barren and hostile the country is. In general I agree with this sentiment. Henry Lawson, for example, recognised and utilised this. You only have to read his collection of short stories to see how dangerous the Australian outback can be.

But I realised something a few days ago. In the past 40 years I haven't had too many problems with snakes, bushfires or floods. And apart from driving, or the possibility of being mugged as I walk to my car after school, the most dangerous thing I regularly face, and the worst injury I've recently sustained, has been the result of stubbing my toes on furniture at home. (And, in complete honesty, it's happened a lot more than once)

Coincidentally, (or perhaps in synchronicity), I read an excellent interview this morning in issue #1 of Aurealis Magazine (1990) with 'Australia's Grand Master', George Turner. Written by Dirk Strasser, it looks at Turner's views on Science Fiction, literature, and the 'Australianness' of writing.

The issue also contains Turner's excellent "I Still Call Australia Home."

Here is part of the article:

Unlike many other Australian science fiction writers, he makes no attempts to ape American models (we shouldn't "give in to them," he says), nor are they set in a vague never-land. "I Still Call Australia Home" takes place in a future Australia, and is, like so much of his work, specifically set in Melbourne. "I use Melbourne because I'm a Melburnian," he says, "always have been."

George Turner is at his most passionate when talking about the uniquely Australian element of science fiction. You can see it in his eyes - not an overstated, hot-headed passion, but a passion nonetheless. There is the same pride when he writes in his autobiography of the possibility he has an Aboriginal ancestor. His fiction is deeply rooted in his environment; his Australianness is not a superficial gloss spread over a standard plot, it is essential and all-pervasive. "Australianness," he says, "is not a matter of familiar names and places - and mentioning wallabies and kangaroos and Ayers Rock doesn't get you anywhere either.  It's the sound of the prose. The English speak like Englishmen, the Americans speak like Americans - and Australians speak like Australians. Australianess is an attitude of mind. We think differently about things; we react differently to things."

The largelly ignored CJ Dennis nailed this. Songs Of The Sentimental Bloke brilliantly captures the Australian language, character and setting. It's a complete tragedy that his work is mostly out of print and forgotten while Henry Lawson and Banjo Patterson are so highly revered.

Of course there will be times when a story is written to suit a foreign audience. I've done this myself when subbing to American editors. But at the heart of the story, at its core, I'd like to think it is clearly Australian.

My writing is, after all, a reflection of my experience, values and culture. And despite my Scottish birth, I am Australian.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

To The Sea, To The Sea, To The Recovering Sea.

The newly released Shelter of Daylight #9, edited by Terri Leigh Relf, includes my short story, To The Sea, To The Sea, To The Recovering Sea.

I originally had the idea for this story down at Phillip Island waiting for the penguin parade. Some British relatives were visiting and we'd arrived really early, and so we were seated in an almost empty grandstand that faced straight onto the ocean.  What if, my mind began, this site is discovered and excavated in the future as an archaeological ruin, and the discoverers have no idea about the penguins landing here each night?

Why would a grandstand face the empty ocean?

And so the story developed from there. Except it didn't end up travelling in the direction I'd planned, as tales are wont to do, and so penguins, archaeologists and Philip Island never enter the narrative.

It's a story I like, and a world I might revisit in the future.