Sunday, March 30, 2014


When I was a teenager, I would walk down to the local record store every Monday after school and pick up that week's charts. They were published by the radio station we all listened to, at least everyone my age listened to 3XY. These charts (and yes, I wish I'd kept them) were the same size as a vinyl single (7" for those of you who weren't around when dinosaurs walked the earth), had a picture on the back, and the week's charts on the front.
I've loved music since I can remember, and I've been fascinated by song titles just as long. I had a couple of catalogues - one was from the World Record Club - and I remember spending hours reading through these charts, reading the catalogue, looking at artists, albums and the song titles, wondering what those songs were like.

I was always a Beatles freak, and I have a book that listed a whole bunch of unreleased music by the fabs. Again, I spent hours poring over those lists, and I could tell you the title of every track I'd never heard.

I always figured titles were important. I've given an album, or a book a second look, read the notes, researched the author, simply based on a title that appealed. And I still have no real idea what makes a great title.

I've had moments where I've created titles I thought were great. I even have a list of titles waiting for the right story. There are those titles where I think I'm the only one that sees the connection with the story. And then there are the titles that seem generic, too simple. Believe me, I've even spent time over those simple ones, and chosen them for a reason.

I picked up a collection recently where I thought the author was probably trying to be too clever with all the titles. They all seemed a little forced. But maybe not - our minds all work differently, and maybe they mean as much to that author as mine mean to me.

Ultimately, a title is only a clue as to what is (hopefully) within. We succeed or fail on the story, not the name it's given.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Through The Storm.

I started teaching at my new school a couple of weeks ago, and I feel like I'm just starting to settle in. After nine years at my last school, it has been quite a change. Different methods, procedures, texts, classes, students, culture and so on.

My new colleagues have been fantastic - very encouraging, giving and supportive. I've been able to ask them for advice and help as I get up to speed with what's being taught. I came in to teach a couple of classes in the very last week before their assessment, which meant I not only had to read and comprehend the texts in a matter of days, but also had to look at what they'd been taught and what was expected from them.

But I feel like I'm (almost) on top of it all now.

In writing news, I don't have much to offer at the moment. The change of school has meant writing has taken a back seat for the past month, although I plan to get some new writing done shortly. I have a story due for publication in Outposts of Beyond next week and another story due for publication in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine anytime now.

I also had a story placed on hold for further consideration a couple of days ago, which is really exciting - or at least it will be if it is purchased.

All in all, life is pretty good. And although I fear change, I think I'm adapting to my new surroundings rather well.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Thirty Three And A Third.

Twelve months after its launch, Galaxy's Edge has been approved by the SFWA as a professional market. Congratulations to Shahid Mahmud, Laura Somerville and Mike Resnick who have worked so hard in achieving that goal.

In September of last year, I wrote on how impressed I was with this magazine, so I was thrilled when I was able to sell Mike a story a short time later. (I also mentioned two other magazines in that piece - interestingly I've also sold to Keith Stevenson at Dimension6. Now I have to sell to Dean Wesley Smith at Fiction River to hit the prophetic trifecta.)

What does it mean for me?

It means that my first pro-level sale, a story entitled Holland:1944, now qualifies as one-third of the required three sales to become a full SFWA member, and I'm pretty happy about that.

Oh, and for the next five weeks or so, Holland:1944 continues to be available to read for free here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


With a longer drive to work, I now have more time to listen to music. Until a week ago I generally managed one song. On good traffic days, that journey was just over 3 minutes; on bad days it was still under 4 minutes. Now my trip is closer to half an hour each way and so every day I get to enjoy an entire album.

I've been revisiting my teenage years, listening to the remasters of McCartney's albums. Yesterday (pun not intended) I checked out Wings Over America. This morning was McCartney II. Last week I listened to Ram, and Band On The Run.

Surprisingly, I think Ram holds up rather well. Band On The Run, like much of his other work since, has a few special moments but is generally shallow and lightweight.   McCartney II sounds like demos that should have stayed that way. Wings Over America, being a selection of his personal and The Beatles' best, works quite well.

I've posted before about how so many of our old rockers have lost their musical way. In McCartney's case I think he's lost touch with more than just his musical beginnings. How could such an influential rocker have become the parody of himself that he now is?

I suspect it has to do with a number of things. Looking back at documentaries from the early 60s I can see glimpses, with the added benefit of hindsight, of what he would become. The last to leave when the cameras are running, the continual hamming, the lame jokes, and the willingness to please and be seen as the nice guy. And the continual rewriting of Beatles history.

By the late 60s McCartney was the most business savvy of the Fab Four, the one who was stockpiling Apple shares surreptitiously. I suspect once that became his focus, once he started to grow up and become an adult, he lost that edge, that creativity.

I recently had a discussion about this with an artist I know. His view was that our creative types need to remain like children. And that means innocent, full of questions, seeing wonder, and, sometimes, behaving childish. And this is a problem record companies and management have - they want their artists to be creative, but want them to behave like business people.

Very few manage to 'stay young' once they get old and rich. Neil Young is one of the few exceptions I can think of.

Is this true of writing also? What does this mean for our future, when so much of the business and financial responsibility is being thrown back on artists?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Cons For Everyone.

I only started going to Cons about five years ago. Until then, I wasn't even aware they existed. In the pre-internet days SF reading and fandom was a reasonably solitary existence, and I never really connected with too many people who were into the same books I was.

In many ways I wish I'd known about fandom much earlier, become involved when I was younger. Not only because I could have gone to more cons and met more people, but I think some of those older cons would have suited me more.

When I think of SF, I tend to think books. Very few SF movies have left the same impression on me as the printed word, and TV series, while enjoyable, have had a lesser impact. Maybe it's my age, maybe it's growing up in an era when SF TV was pretty hokey. Maybe it's the way I am, an avid reader and an able visualiser.

So cons, over the past few years, seem to have moved away from the books and towards the pop culture. Lots of vampires, anime, superheroes and TV series. And while I don't mind some of those (vampires), I simply cannot relate to others (anime and superheroes).

Now I'm certainly not mourning the passing of cons, or anything so dramatic. I recognise they have to change in order to survive. They need to reflect the interests of the membership. And with SF becoming a huge amorphous beast, those interests can be very wide ranging indeed.

I read a post during the week, some of which I agreed with, some of which I didn't, but it certainly reflected much of my recent thoughts. It's true you can't please everyone all of the time, and I have some of the concerns about the divisive behaviours and attitudes that some cons seem to engender.

It seems to me that we need to remember the wide variety of tastes and interests, and reflect that in the programming. We need to remember and enjoy the legacy of SF, whether the popular canon, the diverse or the forgotten. We must also remember that it's more than just what's cool, hip and young. Don't forget the access we have to those older, experienced heads who still have links to the past.

But mostly, don't forget what cons are about.

I'm personally not very interested in panels on politics, for example, or social justice (although it can have its place within the genre). I get enough of that in the rest of the world, in my past, in my workplace. When I go to a con, it's about escapism. Yes, I'm at a con to learn, to share, to meet with others, but mostly I'm there to have fun.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Awards And Such.

Awards season is here, and although I don't really feel comfortable promoting myself in this manner, I recognise it is necessary to at least mention which works are eligible for nomination.

For those who are eligible to nominate in both the Ditmar and Chronos Awards (and if you have to ask, you probably aren't), a quick look at my bibliography page will show what was published last year.

I guess the work that received the most recognition is I Was The Walrus, my John Lennon re-incarnation story which was published in the Bram Stoker Award nominated After Death collection. This piece had many favourable reviews, including one in Publishers Weekly.

While I would dearly love to be recognised for my work and the progress I'm making, I would encourage you all to nominate in these awards, and to nominate the works you feel most deserving.

Which, if it happens to be mine, would make me very happy.

Ditmar rules:

Ditmar  nominations:

Chronos rules:

Chronos nominations email:

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Turn And Face The Strange.

On Friday, after nine years, I finished working at Mooroolbark College. Last week I accepted a position at Vermont College.

My last day was emotional and surrealistic. (is that the right adjective for one who feels as though in a surreal landscape?) Not only had I had an insanely busy week, but the whole process, from application, through interview to finishing was incredibly fast. Plus my performance review, plus wrapping up the student tour to China I was organising, plus finishing all my marking in a very short timeframe, plus the whole 'am I doing the right thing?' insomniac questioning...

But the time is right, and the move is a good one.

I'm scared (I don't welcome change) yet thrilled by the challenges ahead.
My brother-in-law is a poet, and so I asked him what the word is for excited yet terrified. He invented the word ''extrified'' for me. It works.

You never really know for sure how your colleagues regard you, until it comes to the goodbye card and the gift. I was stunned by their generosity with only a couple of day's notice, and to find so many personal and real messages in the card. There were hardly any of the 'nice' or 'good luck' or 'who are you?" ones.

A friend once said, "You never really ever leave Mooroolbark College." At the very least I believe it will never really ever leave me. It shaped me into the teacher I am now.

Hi to everyone at Vermont College. Thanks for being so welcoming.

Thanks, MC. And thanks to all my friends and colleagues. I will miss you.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Overheard On A Plane.

Two people, a teenage boy and a young professional woman, met for the first time on a plane. They were seated directly behind me.  People 15 rows away would have heard this exchange.

F: "I'm more weirder than anyone I know, when it comes to music."

M: "Yeah? Well my tastes are right out there - left of centre."

F: "Well, my colleagues hate travelling in my car because I'm so out there."

M: "Really? Well, who do you like to listen to?"

F: "Coldplay. And Angus & Julia Stone."

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Holland: 1944.

I'm thrilled to announce that my story, Holland:1944, is now available in Galaxy's Edge #7.

The magazine is free for the next two months, or it can be purchased in a number of formats either from the webpage, or through your usual online retailers.

But wait, there's more.  Check out the names on this TOC and tell me this isn't worth reading.

Once again thanks to Mike, Laura and Shahid. Thanks to Stewart C. Baker, who suggested I turn this idea into a story, although he probably doesn't even realise it. (There is a story in itself behind all this.) And special thanks to David McDonald, Pete Aldin, and the amazing Tina Gower, who all spent time critiquing my story.

And to Bob Writer, wherever you may be.

Table of Contents:

Cassandra, by C. J. Cherryh
Holland, 1944, by Steve Cameron
Cordle to Onion to Carrot, by Robert Sheckley
Pallbearers, by Martin Shoemaker
Werehunter, by Mercedes Lackey
The Tour Guide, by Lou J. Berger
Faster Gun, by Elizabeth Bear
The Necronomator, by Brad R. Torgersen
In a Green Dress, Surrounded by Exploding Clowns, by Robert Jeschonek
One Sunday in Neptune, by Alexei Panshin
Except for the Plumbing, by Greg Benford
From the Heart’s Basement #7, by Barry N. Malzberg
Book Reviews, by Paul Cook
Lest Darkness Fall (Part 1), by L. Sprague de Camp