Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Getting It Too Right?

While it's important for characters, settings, events and dialogue to be authentic in fiction, is it possible to have these elements too accurate for the reader?

I'm currently re-writing a story where John Belushi appears as one of the characters.In my story he becomes excited about something, and does a backflip in response. One of my readers informed me that Belushi would never have done this, and it didn't ring true. I know Belushi used a stunt double for the series of flips he did down the church aisle in the James Brown scene, but I understand that he did some of the other flips himself. More than that, I recall reading in his biography that when he got really excited about something, he would perform a standing flip spontaneously.

Yeah, so I read that book a long, long time ago, and now I need to dig it out and check that to make sure I just haven't imagined it. But even if he did behave like that, should I include it if readers don't feel it rings true?

Jack Dann published The Rebel, an alternate history that imagines James Dean didn't die in a car crash and went on to become a politician. Dann had reviews that criticised his lack of research for describing James Dean as a blond. While the public perception may be that Dean was dark, he was actually dirty blond. Of course, if Dann had given Dean dark hair, others would have criticised that.

I wrote a short story, Best Served Cold, about a detective who becomes involved in the vampire world. This story was rejected from one market, with a comment that in a particular scene 'a real detective wouldn't behave like that'. There was no reason to point out that after thirteen years on the police force, I actually knew of detectives who had done that. Mind you, this same critic also described a major plot point and said it made no sense. Um, yeah. That's because it never happened in my story. I guess they were too busy watching TV while rejecting the story. Ultimately the story worked for another editor who took it without any major changes.

A friend once showed me a painting he was working on. It was fabulous, but then he pointed out that one of the characters was missing a foot that should have shown behind the other leg, and one of the metallic objects had reflections on it that were impossible. He showed me that with the extra foot in place the character actually looked awkward and wrong, and the reflection was what the observer expected to see rather than what would actually be seen.

A story needs to sit right with the reader, bearing in mind that you will never be able to please everyone. It needs to feel authentic rather than be authentic.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Ditmar Awards 2014.

The shortlist for the 2014 Ditmar Awards has been announced.

The Ditmars have been awarded annually since 1969 to recognise achievement in Australian science fiction, fantasy and horror, and operate in a similar manner to the Hugos, although on a national rather than international scale.

It's always great to see friends and acquaintances on the list. Congratulations to all those nominated.

Best Novel
  • Ink Black Magic, Tansy Rayner Roberts (FableCroft Publishing)
  • Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead, Robert Hood (Wildside Press)
  • The Beckoning, Paul Collins (Damnation Books)
  • Trucksong, Andrew Macrae (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • The Only Game in the Galaxy (The Maximus Black Files 3), Paul Collins (Ford Street Publishing)
Best Novella or Novelette
  • "Prickle Moon", Juliet Marillier, in Prickle Moon (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • "The Year of Ancient Ghosts", Kim Wilkins, in The Year of Ancient Ghosts (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • "By Bone-Light", Juliet Marillier, in Prickle Moon (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • "The Home for Broken Dolls", Kirstyn McDermott, in Caution: Contains Small Parts (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • "What Amanda Wants", Kirstyn McDermott, in Caution: Contains Small Parts (Twelfth Planet Press)
Best Short Story
  • "Mah Song", Joanne Anderton, in The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories (FableCroft Publishing)
  • "Air, Water and the Grove", Kaaron Warren, in The Lowest Heaven (Jurassic London)
  • "Seven Days in Paris", Thoraiya Dyer, in Asymmetry (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • "Scarp", Cat Sparks, in The Bride Price (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • "Not the Worst of Sins", Alan Baxter, in Beneath Ceaseless Skies 133 (Firkin Press)
  • "Cold White Daughter", Tansy Rayner Roberts, in One Small Step (FableCroft Publishing)
Best Collected Work
  • The Back of the Back of Beyond, Edwina Harvey, edited by Simon Petrie (Peggy Bright Books)
  • Asymmetry , Thoraiya Dyer, edited by Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • Caution: Contains Small Parts, Kirstyn McDermott, edited by Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories, Joanne Anderton, edited by Tehani Wesseley (FableCroft Publishing)
  • The Bride Price, Cat Sparks, edited by Russell B. Farr (Ticonderoga Publications)
Best Artwork
  • Cover art, Eleanor Clarke, for The Back of the Back of Beyond by Edwina Harvey (Peggy Bright Books)
  • Illustrations, Kathleen Jennings, for Eclipse Online (Nightshade Books)
  • Cover art, Shauna O'Meara, for Next' edited by Simon Petrie and Rob Porteous (CSFG Publishing)
  • Cover art, Cat Sparks, for The Bride Price by Cat Sparks (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • Rules of Summer, Shaun Tan (Hachette Australia)
  • Cover art, Pia Ravenari, for Prickle Moon by Juliet Marillier (Ticonderoga Publications)
Best Fan Writer
  • Tsana Dolichva, for body of work, including reviews and interviews in Tsana's Reads and Reviews
  • Sean Wright, for body of work, including reviews in Adventures of a Bookonaut
  • Grant Watson, for body of work, including reviews in The Angriest
  • Foz Meadows, for body of work, including reviews in Shattersnipe: Malcontent & Rainbows
  • Alexandra Pierce, for body of work, including reviews in Randomly Yours, Alex
  • Tansy Rayner Roberts, for body of work, including essays and reviews at www.tansyrr.com
Best Fan Artist
  • Nalini Haynes, for body of work, including "Defender of the Faith", "The Suck Fairy", "Doctor Who vampire" and "The Last Cyberman" in Dark Matter
  • Kathleen Jennings, for body of work, including "Illustration Friday"
  • Dick Jenssen, for body of work, including cover art for Interstellar Ramjet Scoop and SF Commentary
Best Fan Publication in Any Medium
  • Dark Matter Zine, Nalini Haynes
  • SF Commentary, Bruce Gillespie
  • The Writer and the Critic, Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond
  • Galactic Chat Podcast, Sean Wright, Alex Pierce, Helen Stubbs, David McDonald, and Mark Webb
  • The Coode Street Podcast, Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan
  • Galactic Suburbia, Alisa Krasnostein, Alex Pierce, and Tansy Rayner Roberts
Best New Talent
  • Michelle Goldsmith
  • Zena Shapter
  • Faith Mudge
  • Jo Spurrier
  • Stacey Larner
William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review
  • Reviews in Randomly Yours, Alex, Alexandra Pierce
  • "Things Invisible: Human and Ab-Human in Two of Hodgson's Carnacki stories", Leigh Blackmore, in Sargasso: The Journal of William Hope Hodgson Studies #1 edited by Sam Gafford (Ulthar Press)
  • Galactic Suburbia Episode 87: Saga Spoilerific Book Club, Alisa Krasnostein, Alex Pierce, and Tansy Rayner Roberts
  • The Reviewing New Who series, David McDonald, Tansy Rayner Roberts, and Tehani Wessely
  • "A Puppet's Parody of Joy: Dolls, Puppets and Mannikins as Diabolical Other", Leigh Blackmore, in Ramsey Campbell: Critical Essays on the Master of Modern Horror edited by Gary William Crawford (Scarecrow Press)
  • "That was then, this is now: how my perceptions have changed", George Ivanoff, in Doctor Who and Race edited by Lindy Orthia (Intellect Books

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Getting It Right.

As an ex-cop, I generally find it difficult to watch or read police dramas.

Not for any reason associated with trauma from my past, but simply because they rarely provide an accurate portrayal of police work. Some are better than others, a few I have tolerated, most I don't bother with because I get frustrated.

Yeah, I know, it's only a show/book/film, get over it and enjoy it, but I can't. If it doesn't ring true for me then I have trouble sticking with it.

I recently watched The Returned, a superb French drama that the producers of Resurrection claim not to have seen. OK, so the final episode was less than satisfying, leaving too many questions unanswered, and sometimes there were giant leaps in behaviour (character development?), but I was fine with that. I accepted it and enjoyed the drama, the darkness and the superb performances. The things that bugged me were the little details, the actions taken by characters that were not normal or logical.

Example: The power in the town goes out, and no-one is sure why. The electric company people simply decide to leave the town after deciding there's nothing they can do, and without speaking to the authorities. The power is out for several days, and the police don't seem too concerned by it. No one in authority goes to ask why the power is out and when it will be restored. No one asks why the power station is now unattended.

Minor bits like that annoyed me, but not enough to outweigh the parts I was loving. I chose to stay with the program.

I saw the first ten minutes of Resurrection. The lapses in logic there were so great I couldn't watch any more.

As writers we need to make sure our worlds are internally consistent, and that includes making sure people's actions and reactions ring true for our readers.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Fandom Will Eat Itself.

The Hugo nominations have been announced, and I'm thrilled to see some friends, acquaintances, and people from my writing group on the list. Congratulations to all those shortlisted.

But already a brouhaha has erupted over some of the nominations.

I'm familiar with some of the so-called 'problems', less so with others. Some of those nominations I agree with, others I don't. And yes, there are a couple at which I took a second look and wondered what people were thinking.

But those are the nominations that have been made by fandom as a whole. And we need to simply accept that.

I must say, however, that on the back of a couple of other public brawls and 'controversies' in the SF world, I am wondering where fandom is headed.

Over the past few years I've been surprised to have had people tell me they were voting on awards with their decision based on a wide range of reasons often not connected with the actual writing. And that seems wrong.

Hey, I've got a novel idea. If you don't like values or themes a story contains, then don't vote for it.

But as for the people? Let's leave differing politics, beliefs, genders, sexual orientations, personalities and the like out of the awards, and vote for the best story/novel/zine/whatever from the shortlists.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Vale: Gabriel García Márquez.

One Hundred Years of Solitude wasn't the first magic realist book I'd ever read, but it was the first time I was aware I was reading that genre. The book was set as part of my university course, and while reading it I realised I'd encountered magic realism before - I simply hadn't known it.

I've since managed to read a few of Márquez's short stories, in anthologies such as Black Water 2, and although I've picked up a couple of other novels by Gabriel García Márquez, most notably Love in a Time of Cholera, I must admit  to not having read them yet. They're still in the TBR pile.

But magic realism is a genre I've fallen in love with, from the great South American movement through to writers like Haruki Murakami, Jonathan Carroll and Tea Obrecht, and it appears as though these writers owe a debt of gratitude to the South American movement that seemed to be spearheaded by Gabriel García Márquez.

He was 87.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Creative Space.

Several years ago I read the Charles Bukowski piece on the Ideal Conditions and Myths of Creativity. And then a year or so ago I found the illustrated version, which appears to have now been removed from its original website at Zen Pencils (at the request of Bukowski's publishers), which also ran the fantastic Bill Watterson piece on Creating a Life that Reflects Your Values and Satisfies Your Soul.

It covers a number of excuses people use to procrastinate, or never start creating - some of which I can certainly identify with. One of the lines refers to having the right space, the appropriately conducive surroundings in which to commence your masterpiece, and the piece concludes with:
“Air and light and time and space have nothing to do with it and don’t create anything except maybe a longer life to find new excuses for.”
It has been a dream of mine to set up my own writing space, and not just the study in the house. Now it's finally ready to go.

It's been gradual, setting up the space. It's taken me a couple of years. A lot of it had to do with clearing the room, painting it, getting shelves in for my music and books. Then I purchased the furniture needed - a broad table rather than a desk and a chair that feels just right. There was no hurry - my writing wasn't reliant on this dedicated space.

But the final piece fell into place yesterday with the purchase of a 2nd hand computer. This computer is special - it has no internet connection and no games installed.

And so, as of this morning, I'll be in my new space and working on the story I commenced at my mini-retreat last week.

Bukowski might not be satisfied, but then again he'd be very, very drunk.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

One Week Down, One Week To Go.

Halfway through the school holidays, and it's been great so far.

I received my welcome pack from the SFWA - I'm now an official member (associate), although my goal is to become a full member as soon as I can. It's a nice step, and another goal crossed off my list.

Writing has been good. I just returned from three nights down the coast on a writing retreat with David McDonald. There's nothing like being with another writer to keep you accountable. Lots of words, discussions, ideas and plans made.  Yeah, David, that private yacht is only a few more sales away.

Waiting and waiting on a couple of responses. Hopefully I'll hear something soon, and hopefully they'll be positive.

Caught up with a couple of friends from my old school, I've only been gone a month but it was great just hanging out.

And I have plans for the rest of the holidays. More writing, more catching up with friends, going to see a film with my new colleagues, and at least one lunch.

And music. There will be loud music.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Kicking Down Doors.

When I recently applied for a new job, someone told me that if I didn't get the job then it wasn't meant to be. I was successful in my application, and the job feels right for me. But there were many, many other applicants - probably quite a few who would have performed the role quite well. (Although I would like to think they wouldn't be doing it as well as I am.)

I've seen too many people not get the job they should have. I can recall many, many times when the wrong person was given the role and they screwed it up. Was that 'meant to be'? Surely if you don't get the job and it's 'meant to be', then getting the job must abide the same rule.

It's happened to me several times too.

And I usually end up hearing those pithy little sayings, such as 'If one door closes, another one opens.'  No, I don't see that at all. If one door closes, then it's up to you to open a door.

As a qualified careers advisor I've seen many students submit applications for jobs they were never going to get, but because they hadn't built an employment history, hadn't written an enticing application, or simply hadn't prepared. That had nothing to do with fate - only effort.

Many years ago I chased after a position. I prepared for the interview, did my research, practiced interviews and built an excellent case on why I should be employed. I was unsuccessful, and later I heard four different reasons why I didn't get the job. (I also heard I was the best interviewee, and that I was suited for the role, but they gave it to another person for ridiculous reasons). I decided not to wait for another door to open, and decided to kick that same door open.

It took me a year or so, and I was in while the other person, who had failed to perform, was out. Unfortunately, in the meantime, this person had done nothing, had destroyed rather than build, and debased the job to such an extent parts of the role had been farmed out to others and the position I inherited was a shadow of its former self - not only in duties, but in effectiveness.

My supervisor told me they should have originally given it to me, and apologised. I didn't stay long.

Don't be passive. Don't think things will happen around you. Make it happen. Write that story. Send it out. Pay attention to the rejections, but work on your craft and send out more.

Write. Submit. Repeat.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Some Time In Marrakesh.

My story, Some Time In Marrakesh, has just been published in Outposts of Beyond 4. It's currently only available in print, but the e-version should appear in the next few days.

I also appeared in issues 2 and 3, so I'm thrilled to have had three in a row. At this stage I have nothing slated for issue 5 so the run should end here.

I absolutely love the cover artwork for this issue. I have no idea who the artist is, but The artist is Laura Givens, and I'd like to congratulate her on her work. I'm pretty sure the editors at Alban Lake didn't commission the artwork just for my story, but I'd be surprised if it wasn't specially chosen just for this issue. It reflects my story so accurately it could easily have been commissioned art.

Some Time In Marrakesh was based on an incident that actually occurred to my wife and me when we were wandering around that great city. We were on our way to the souks when....

No, I'll leave you to read the story. The opening scene is very close to reality.

Thanks, Alban Lake, for publishing me again.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Dimension6 Has Issues.

The inaugural issue of Dimension6 will be distributed free from Friday, 4th April, (EDIT: Now available!)  on the Coeur de Lion website as well as a number of mirror sites around the web. The eZine will be published thrice yearly.

Dimension6 is an exciting new project by award-winning editor Keith Stevenson (Aurealis, Anywhere But Earth, X6). Keith, in an interview on Angela Slatter's website, states: "... I’ll continue to source the best stories I can find from new and established authors. With only three stories an issue, I can afford to be choosy."

I was fortunate enough to have had one of my stories selected for the nine slots available in the first year. The Last Of The Butterflies will be published in October (issue #3). I'm completely thrilled to find myself alongside the eight other names, including many I would consider inspirations and unofficial mentors. So unofficial, in fact, they probably don't even realise it. And, of course, I previously worked with Keith when he published So Sad, The Lighthouse Keeper in Anywhere But Earth.

Keith: "My initial reading period in January really took me by surprise and I was able to fill the first three issues from the submissions I got. So I know for sure that the next two issues will bring you stories from Dirk Strasser, Cat Sparks, Rob Hood, Robert Stephenson, Alan Baxter and Steve Cameron. With Richard Harland, Jason Nahrung and Charlotte Nash in issue #1 that’s one hell of an impressive line-up for our first year!"

Check out the complete interview here. Angela has interviews with the writers for Issue #1 during this week.

Ah Keith, thanks for including me. Did you notice how quickly I returned those contracts just in case you'd made a mistake?