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This is a book review and science fiction blog, for the most part, with the odd convention report and travel notes. And maybe the occasional Celtic goddess, such as the Great Raven...
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1. Some of my Favourite Novel Adaptations of Fairytales


Over the last year or so I have discovered a number of delightful blogs dedicated to fairytales. While I don't intend to turn this into such a blog, it made me think of how many novels people are writing which are based on fairytales - and how many I've read and loved. I won't list all of them as I would be here all day, but just mention a few that come to mind.

Cinderella

Moonlight And Ashes by Sophie Masson. This one is inspired by Ashputtel, the Brothers Grimm version, rather than Perrault's Cendrillon. This means that the heroine, Selena, is a lot stronger and less passive than in the other version. It's also only the starting point for a full scale adventure.

The same author also wrote Cold Iron, which was based on Tattercoats, the British version of Cinderella. That one was great fun, set in Elizabethan England and mixing in elements of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. 



While I'm writing about Cinderella, I'll slip in one play, The Other Cinderella by Maxwell Anderson. That one is also fun. Cinderella - Ellen - has been lying about her stepmother and sisters, who are all sweethearts. She resents suddenly being the youngest member of the household when she was running it before her father remarried. The only reason she isn't going to the ball is because she had a fit of the sulks - she thought her white dress too plain and refused to go. There are also the pantomime characters, the fairy and the demon, who participate in the usual pantomime storyline. The fairy is disappointed when everyone is nice to her in her old woman disguise!  

Beauty And The Beast

Beauty by Robin McKinley. A gently humorous novel. Beauty is actually Honor, but has been nicknamed Beauty since she scoffed,"Huh! I'd rather be Beauty!" Her sisters are sweet, gentle and not very practical; it's up to Beauty to do the sensible things to keep the family going. The Beast eventually explains that he is under a family curse, because his ancestors were so disgustingly good and holier-than-thou, that a local enchanter said that the first family member to put a foot wrong would really get it. And that was him. The scholarly Beauty simply adores his library, which contains a lot of books that haven't been written yet(she loves Sherlock Holmes, but other books are confusing - what on earth is an aeroplane, for example?). It says something about her that when she finds herself confronting an "alarmingly handsome" young man, she yells, "What have you done with my Beast?"

Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier. This is set in early mediaeval Ireland. The heroine has escaped her dreadful stepfamily and taken a job for the summer at a local castle whose lord is under a family curse - but his facial deformities are due to a childhood illness, not to the curse. She is a scribe like her late father, and has a job researching and working on the family history. Please note that women in early Ireland had a lot more rights than women elsewhere, so this is not too hard to swallow.

The Wild Swans

Juliet Marillier's first Sevenwaters book, Daughter Of The Forest, is set in Ireland too, eleventh century. The heroine is a lord's daughter whose stepmother turns her brothers into swans. The "king" who finds her is an aristocrat from England. The story is pretty much as we know it, but has history woven in and the girl is even stronger than the original. And it is the start of a series, with the family's descendants taking on roles. 

The Seventh Swan by Nicholas Stuart Gray is out of print, alas. It is actually a sequel to The Wild Swans, set in sixteenth century Scotland. Recommended if you can get it from your library or find it secondhand. I don't have a copy, I borrowed mine from a friend.

Rapunzel



Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth. The story of Rapunzel is told from the viewpoints of three women - Charlotte-Rose De La Force, the composer of the fairytale in seventeenth century France, Selena, the witch, an Italian courtesan who was a model for Titian, and the girl herself. You know, the fairytale never does tell you just why the witch wanted to lock up her victim. This novel does give you a reason. And it's wonderful! 

Others

Red As Blood,Tanith Lee's collection of fairytale-based short stories, has everything from a vampire Snow White to a futuristic Beauty And The Beast - and you'll never look at a frog the same way again after reading her horror story version of The Frog Prince!

Tam Lin by Pamela Dean, sets the story of the ballad in a small 1970s university campus in America. Janet is an English student who becomes caught up in the truly scary things likely to happen to a boy she cares about because the Queen of Faerie, the head of the Classics Department, has to pay the rent to hell on Halloween. There are two students who arrived in the twentieth century with the Faerie court and were members of Shakespeare's company. They laugh their heads off at modern productions.

In the same series of books is The Nightingale by Kara Dalkey, based on the Hans Christian Andersen tale. The nightingale is a young woman, a flautist whose music is magical, and it's set in Japan instead of China.



Jim C Hines wrote a series of books about fairytale characters Cinderella and her friends the Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. The Beauty character is an assassin, having awoken to rape. The Snow White character is a sorceress whose choker made of bits of mirror forms the basis for her magic. In The Stepsister Scheme, they have to rescue Cinderella's Prince, who has been kidnapped by the fairies at the instigation of her wicked stepsisters. In The Mermaid's Madness they must save Cinderella's wonderful mother-In-law, who has been attacked by the grief stricken Little Mermaid who had stabbed the prince who rejected her and gone mad. Highly recommended and I believe there's another one about an assassin known as the Lady of the Red Hood. 

There are plenty more, but these are the ones that came to mind. Do you have any favourites?



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2. Anyone But Ivy Pocket by Caleb Krisp. Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2015

Ivy Pocket is a twelve-year-old maid of no importance, with a very lofty opinion of herself. Dumped in Paris by the Countess Carbunkle, who would rather run away to South America than continue in Ivy's companionship, our young heroine (of sorts) finds herself with no money and no home to go to ... until she is summoned to the bedside of the dying Duchess of Trinity. 

For the princely sum of £500 (enough to buy a carriage, and possibly a monkey), Ivy agrees to courier the Duchess's most precious possession – the Clock Diamond – to England, and to put it around the neck of the revolting Matilda Butterfield on her twelfth birthday. It's not long before Ivy finds herself at the heart of a conspiracy involving mischief, mayhem and murder.


There is a lot of Victorian era fiction for children nowadays, since the Lemony Snicket books became so popular. This is the latest. I have heard it compared to both Lemony Snicket and Neil Gaiman. I haven't read the former and mostly only the adult books of Neil Gaiman, apart from a recent burst of children's books and, of course, the wonderful Graveyard Book. Not really Neil Gaiman, from the ones I have read. Myself, I would compare it to Judith Rossell's Withering-By-Sea, which I read for the Aurealis Awards and which is now on the CBCA shortlist. If you, or your children, liked that one, you should enjoy this. It had the same quirkiness and the art was delightful.

Ivy is irritatingly self confident, but means well and as the novel progresses you learn more about her background and she becomes a sympathetic character. I liked Ivy's bizarre, over-the-top adventures and the equally over-the-top characters, from the bloated, frightening Duchess to the dreadful Matilda and the dwarf monks. 

Children from about nine upwards are likely to enjoy it. I can't comment on the drawings, which didn't come with the proof copy I received, but I suspect they will be very good. The artist is John Kelly, a British book illustrator who has won some major awards.


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3. The CBCA Shortlist for 2015!

This year's theme. Used under fair usage

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It's that time of year again. While I've been fussing about over the Hugos and the Ditrmars and the Aurealis Awards a bunch of judges across Australia have been reading hundreds of books and discussing them before making up their minds which should be shortlisted. 

 I pinched this list from the Reading's Website. You can check it out yourself, along with the Notables. As the author of two CBCA Notable Books(Potions To Pulsars: Women Doing Science - which also scored a place on the Clayton's shortlist and Wolfborn) I do urge you to check out the Notables too; sometimes there's a little as one vote between something that makes it to the shortlist and something that gets a Notable. And I was delighted to see how many of our Aurealis shortlisted books and nearly-shortlisted books made it to the Notables. Great minds think alike, it seems.
Unfortunately, I've read very few of this year's shortlist and only two are in our library just now. Time to call Sun Bookshop and see if they can get us the rest before they run out!

Older Readers
Younger Readers
Early Childhood
Picture Book of the Year
Eve Pownall Award for Information Books
Crichton Award for New Illustrators
  • Rivertime by Trace Balla
  • Kick with My Left Foot illustrated by Karen Briggs with text by Paul Seden
  • One Minute’s Silence illustrated by Michael Camilleri with text by David Metzenthen
  • Little Dog and the Christmas Wish illustrated by Robin Cowcher with text by Corinne Fenton
  • Meet Douglas Mawson illustrated by Snip Green with text by Mike Dumbleton
  • The Lost Girl illustrated by Leanne Tobin with text by Ambelin Kwaymullina



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4. And The Award Goes To... The AAs 2015

AA logo, used under fair usage


So here are the winners of the AAs for 2014! I confess I've read the children's books, obviously, nothing else, but I do have some of the others either on my TBR pile or on my ibooks shelf, shortlist and winners alike. 

And this week, there will be another shortlist announced, for this year's CBCA shortlist and I probably haven't read most of those either, but will have to, and buy anything not already on the shelves. Stand by for another shortlist! 

I earned this list below, by the way - it wasn't up on the AA web site this morning so 
I had to wade through the tweets made last night. 

Now, get reading, not only the winners, but the others! If it's on a short list, it was potentially good enough to win and believe me, as a judge, it was HARD to make up our minds. I'd like to thank the other members of my team, Sarah Fletcher, Jordi Kerr and Sarah Mayor Cox. They are all true ladies, very easy and pleasant to work with. Thanks also to the convenors for letting me be in this. Do let me do it again next year! 


BEST FANTASY NOVEL

Fireborn, Keri Arthur (Hachette Australia)

This Shattered World, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Allen & Unwin)

The Lascar’s Dagger, Glenda Larke (Hachette Australia)

Dreamer’s Pool, Juliet Marillier (Pan Macmillan Australia)

Afterworlds, Scott Westerfeld (Penguin Books Australia)

Daughters of the Storm, Kim Wilkins (Harlequin Enterprises Australia)

BEST FANTASY SHORT STORY

“The Oud”, Thoraiya Dyer (Long Hidden, Crossed Genres Publications)

“Teratogen”, Deborah Kalin (Cemetery Dance, #71, May 2014)

“The Ghost of Hephaestus”, Charlotte Nash (Phantazein, FableCroft Publications)

“St Dymphna’s School for Poison Girls”, Angela Slatter (The Review of Australian Fiction, Volume 9, Issue 3)

“The Badger Bride”, Angela Slatter (Strange Tales IV, Tartarus Press)

BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL

Aurora: Meridian, Amanda Bridgeman (Momentum)

Nil By Mouth, LynC (Satalyte)

The White List, Nina D’Aleo (Momentum)

Peacemaker, Marianne de Pierres (Angry Robot)

This Shattered World, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Allen & Unwin)

Foresight, Graham Storrs (Momentum)

BEST SCIENCE FICTION SHORT STORY

“The Executioner Goes Home”, Deborah Biancotti (Review of Australian Fiction, Vol 11 Issue 6)

“Wine, Women and Stars”, Thoraiya Dyer (Analog Vol CXXXIV nos 1&2 Jan/Feb)

“The Glorious Aerybeth”, Jason Fischer (OnSpec, 11 Sep 2014)

“Dellinger”, Charlotte Nash (Use Only As Directed, Peggy Bright Books)

“Happy Go Lucky”, Garth Nix (Kaleidoscope, Twelfth Planet Press)

BEST HORROR NOVEL

Book of the Dead, Greig Beck (Momentum)

Razorhurst, Justine Larbalestier (Allen & Unwin)

Obsidian, Alan Baxter (HarperVoyager)

BEST HORROR SHORT STORY

“The Executioner Goes Home”, Deborah Biancotti (Review of Australian Fiction, Vol 11 Issue 6)

“Skinsuit”, James Bradley (Island Magazine 137)

“By the Moon’s Good Grace”, Kirstyn McDermott (Review of Australian Fiction, Vol 12, Issue 3)

“Shay Corsham Worsted”, Garth Nix (Fearful Symmetries, Chizine)

“Home and Hearth”, Angela Slatter (Spectral Press)

BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL

The Astrologer’s Daughter, Rebecca Lim (Text Publishing)

Afterworld, Lynnette Lounsbury (Allen & Unwin)

The Cracks in the Kingdom, Jaclyn Moriarty (Pan Macmillan Australia) (Should have read this as I got it for reviewing, but never finished due to other commitments)

Clariel, Garth Nix (Allen & Unwin)

The Haunting of Lily Frost, Nova Weetman (UQP)

Afterworlds, Scott Westerfeld (Penguin Books Australia)

BEST YOUNG ADULT SHORT STORY

“In Hades”, Goldie Alexander (Celapene Press)

“Falling Leaves”, Liz Argall (Apex Magazine)

“The Fuller and the Bogle”, David Cornish (Tales from the Half-Continent, Omnibus Books)

“Vanilla”, Dirk Flinthart (Kaleidoscope, Twelfth Planet Press)

“Signature”, Faith Mudge (Kaleidoscope, Twelfth Planet Press)

BEST CHILDREN’S FICTION

Slaves of Socorro: Brotherband #4, John Flanagan (Random House Australia)

Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy, Karen Foxlee (Hot Key Books)

The Last Viking Returns, Norman Jorgensen and James Foley (ILL.) (Fremantle Press)

Withering-by-Sea, Judith Rossell (ABC Books)

Sunker’s Deep: The Hidden #2, Lian Tanner (Allen & Unwin)

Shadow Sister: Dragon Keeper #5, Carole Wilkinson (Black Dog Books) 

BEST COLLECTION

The Female Factory, Lisa L Hannett and Angela Slatter (Twelfth Planet Press)

Secret Lives, Rosaleen Love (Twelfth Planet Press)

Angel Dust, Ian McHugh (Ticonderoga Publications)

Difficult Second Album: more stories of Xenobiology, Space Elevators, and Bats Out Of Hell, Simon Petrie (Peggy Bright Books)

The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings, Angela Slatter (Tartarus Press)

Black-Winged Angels, Angela Slatter (Ticonderoga Publications)

BEST ANTHOLOGY

Kisses by Clockwork, Liz Grzyb (Ed) (Ticonderoga Publications)

Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories, Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios (Eds), (Twelfth Planet Press)

Amok: An Anthology of Asia-Pacific Speculative Fiction, Dominica Malcolm (Ed) (Solarwyrm Press)

Reach for Infinity, Jonathan Strahan (Ed) (Solaris Books)

Fearsome Magics, Jonathan Strahan (Ed) (Solaris Books)

Phantazein, Tehani Wessely (Ed) (FableCroft Publishing)

BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL/ILLUSTRATED WORK

Left Hand Path #1, Jason Franks & Paul Abstruse (Winter City Productions)

Awkwood, Jase Harper (Milk Shadow Books)

“A Small Wild Magic”, Kathleen Jennings (Monstrous Affections, Candlewick Press)

Mr Unpronounceable and the Sect of the Bleeding Eye, Tim Molloy (Milk Shadow Books)

The Game, Shane W Smith (Deeper Meanings Publishing)


The Convenors' Award for Excellence, according to the AA web site, is "awarded at the discretion of the convenors for a particular achievement in speculative fiction or related areas in the year that cannot otherwise be judged for the Aurealis Awards." I assume this means it's for something that doesn't quite fit into the AAs otherwise. We have a list and a winner this year. Here it is:

“It Grows!”, a film by Ryan Cauchi and Nick Stathopoulos

“Night Terrace”, a serial podcast story, produced by John Richards, Ben McKenzie, David Ashton, Petra Elliott and Lee Zachariah 

“The Australian Women Writers Challenge”, an online reviewing initiative

“Useless Questions”, a radio play by Laura Goodin, performed by fans at Conflux.

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5. Stand By For AA Winners!

I am still waiting to see if I'm allowed to post the list of winners from last night's Aurealis Awards ceremony before the official one is up. It will probably be okay, since it was all over Twitter last night, not as if nobody knows yet, but I will give it an hour or two.

I seem to have missed this year's Supanova events. I could still go today, I guess, but tomorrow back to work and there are things to do. I'll probably regret it later. I missed the very last visit to Australia of comedian Anna Russell because I was starting a new job next day. :-(

Anyway, stand by, hover around and you'll find out who got the awards!

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6. Vale Rosemary Hawley Jarman!




                         

Oh, no! Yet another wonderful writer is gone from the world. 

I was re-reading The Daughter Of Time on my iPad in the dark and trying to remember Henry VII's relationship with Owen Tudor(grandson, so not that long before) and, as you do, I googled him. I found him easily in the entry about Katherine De Valois with the help of my friend Dr Wikipedia and you know how you follow links, so when I got to the bit about "historical fiction" I couldn't resist following the link to Rosemary Hawley Jarman, thinking, well, at least she's alive! She has a Goodreads profile and a website, for goodness sake! 

Wrong. In fact, she died on March 17th, three weeks ago, and it wasn't in the newspapers and it's not all over social media that I know of. SF fans make a huge noise when one of their own dies, but  not so much historical fiction buffs, though I follow some blogs I would have thought would mention it.

So, for those of you wondering who I'm talking about, she was the author of a number of historical novels, of which I've read four. Three of them are about Richard III - well, one of them more or less, anyway. The Courts Of Illusion is about Perkin Warbeck, but it's in the same universe, because one of the viewpoint characters is the son of a fictional character who died in We Speak No Treason, executed by that horrible man Henry VII for fighting for his anointed king. So, I've read We Speak No Treason, The Courts Of Illusion, Crown In Candlelight(Henry V) and her Elizabeth Woodville novel, The King's Grey Mare. 

When I read We Speak No Treason, I was in the middle of a Richard III binge, reading everything I could lay my hands on. I was enchanted by the visuals. And the tactileness. You could see it happening, feel the rich fabrics described. You could almost hear the music, the trumpets blowing, feel the chill of a winter morning and the warmth of May Day. I have read a lot of Richard III stuff since then and there's some great books around, but none affected me like that one. IMO, it's her masterpiece and would gave been a classic even if she never wrote another thing - but she did. 

The King's Grey Mare was the next one I read - believe it or not, I discovered it serialised in a women's magazine! I faithfully collected them, with their illustrations and all, and may still have them somewhere on my bookshelves. I was glad, though, when I could read it properly in book form. It was still beautifully written, though not, I think, quite as good as We Speak No Treason. I can't put my finger on it, I just didn't enjoy it quite as much. It was interesting, though. Like the first book, it was told from different viewpoints, Elizabeth herself, Edward IV, his bastard daughter Grace Plantagenet, even Henry Skinflint VII. Unlike the first, it isn't in first person, making it a bit more flexible. And despite the thing being a sort-of romance, serialised in women's magazines, this isn't sympathetic to Elizabeth Woodville. Not once she starts going after her second husband, anyway. There is a touch of fantasy here, with Melusine the fairy ancestress being very real and able to help Elizabeth get what she wants, whether it's a royal husband or revenge on an enemy. Interesting to note that in her later years RHJ wrote some fantasy novels, though set in a world more like the Austro-Hungarian Empire than the Middle Ages. I haven't read them yet.

You can't ignore Elizabeth Woodville, by the way. Through her first marriage, she is the ancestress of a large chunk of the current British royal family. Go check it out. 

In The Courts Of Illusion, the family of The Man Of Keen Sight(never named in the first novel, except jokingly as "Mark Eye", but called Mark in this one) follow Perkin Warbeck. I haven't read it in years, alas! 

Crown In Candelight went back to the reign of Henry V and was seen from the viewpoint of his Queen, Katherine De Valois. The trouble is, I haven't read that one for some time either, and tend to get it mixed up with Martha Rofheart's Cry God For Harry. I can see I will have to do some hunting up of those books - I bought the first two in ebook, so have re-read them recently. 

I see that she also wrote a couple of non-fiction books, but if they're available in ebook, I can't find them, so may have to see if I can get my local bookshop to order them in.

There has been a spate of historical fiction in recent years, including Richard III novels. I haven't read much of it, though I'm currently reading and quite enjoying the Cromwell novel, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel; I got it for $4.99 when it was on special in iBooks. I just can't bring myself to read the more soap opera ones of the last few years, I don't care how many of them land on the box. 

And now, no more Rosemary Hawley Jarman! All I can say is that she lived longer than Terry Pratchett and was writing all the way. Vale!

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7. April 10 : On This Day


Things that happened: 

837: Halley's Comet makes its closest approach to Earth. No doubt there were a lot of people seeing it as an omen, but we're still here, so that's okay. Wish I could time travel to one of the years when it was nice and bright; the only time it appeared in my lifetime, it was a disappointment. You had to know where to look and you needed help - I found it with a strong pair of binoculars. 

1912: The Titanic leaves port on its maiden voyage. Oh, dear... 

1925: Publication of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby. Nuff said!

1970: Paul McCartney announces he's leaving the Beatles. Sniff!

1972: American bombers start bombing North Vietnam. Not connected with things on this blog, but you can't leave out the Vietnam war.

1972: In Shandong Province, China, discovery of tombs and guess what? Some had books in them! One was a copy of Sun Tzu's Art Of War. I have to cheer for people who wanted to take their libraries to the afterlife. I know how they feel.

Birthdays: 

1778: William Hazlitt, artist and writer of essays and criticism. He's still quoted quite a lot.

1827: Lew Wallace: Author of Ben-Hur. I've actually read this one. If you're a Christian, it's a Sunday school lesson, but I'm not, so I got to enjoy the adventure. If you ever read this, get past the first chapter, a rambling description of a place and a bunch of shepherds - it starts with the journey of the Three Kings. Once you get to Ben-Hur himself, it improves. Lew Wallace lived long enough to see his novel become a huge hit and a Broadway play. The first version of the film, which I've seen, was ten minutes long, with a cast of dozens, ending with the chariot race. It was interesting in that it was made without permission and ended up leading to some of the copyright laws we writers enjoy today(for whatever good it does in these days of free illegal downloads!). Thank you, Lew!  

1880: Montague Summers, author of a classic book on the history of witchcraft that has had a lot of influence on how people have seen witches. Probably just as well he wasn't around in the days when you could burn or hang witches! Still, he also edited a lot of Restoration plays, including those of Aphra Behn, and got them performed for the first time in ages, so we owe him.  

1934: Richard Peck, YA novelist. I think I may have read some of his fiction, but it has been a long time. We do have some of his books in my library. Happy 80th birthday, Richard! 

1957: John M. Ford - dead, alas! - author of one of my favourite novels, The Dragon Waiting, an alternative universe version of the story of Richard III. Also, he did two Star Trek novels, one of which established a version of Klingon culture that was enthusiastically embraced by many Trek fans, including a lot of my friends, who used it in their costuming, role play and fan fiction and drove me nuts! But the book was good. 

Holy Days/Feast Days

I simply must mention that today is the Feast Day of William of Ockham(1287-1347), creator of Occam's Razor, which boils down to, when there are two explanations for something, go for the simpler one. 

Finally, sadly, it's the anniversary of the passing of Peter Jones, who was the Voice of The Book in Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy(2000), and of Sue Townsend(2014), author of the delightful Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole. I never read any of the sequels and the original is a bit dated now, but worth reading.

Have I missed anyone or any event you want mentioned? There are plenty out there, but only so many I can put on a blog post and easy to miss.

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8. A Guest Post From Sophie Masson On A New Project!

Original book cover


As you'll know from some of my Christmas Press reviews,  veteran YA writer Sophie Masson's small press has been publishing some gorgeous titles, (including an anthology with a story by yours truly. ;-D )

Now, Christmas Press is going back to its beginnings with a new crowdfunding activity, which will allow us to read a book that hasn't been translated into English for a century. I hope you'll check it out. It's rather more expensive to get a copy of this than last time, but worth it, if previous publications have been any indication.'

Sophie has kindly agreed to tell us about it. Take it away, Sophie!


A thrilling new project: launching a ‘new’ classic from the great Jules Verne!
Most readers know the name of Jules Verne. Most English-speaking readers have read or seen a film of  some of his most famous works: Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Around the World in Eighty Days. But Verne also wrote dozens of adventure stories, set in all sorts of exotic locales, such as Australia and the Pacific (Captain Grant’s Children, Mistress Branican) Alaska, China, South America … And, in the 1876 novel, which is reckoned in France to be the very best of all his works, he’s focussed on the biggest country in the world, Russia.
That novel’s simply called, in French (in which language I read it) by the name of its central character, Michel Strogoff . It was my favourite book, aged about eleven or twelve, and it had a huge impact on me, not only in a love of reading—and writing!—exciting stories set in colourful locations, but also set me on a life-long fascination with Russia. 
Basically, the story is that Michel (or Mikhail, in Russian) Strogoff, a young Siberian-born soldier in the service of Tsar Alexander II, is sent by the monarch to take a vital, urgent message to the Tsar’s brother, who commands the army in Siberia. He has to take the message by hand because a rebel Tartar army under Khan Feofar has cut all telegraph communications with Siberia, prior to taking over towns in the far east. And they’re being helped by a Russian traitor called Colonel Ivan Ogareff.  Colonel Ogareff, a master of espionage and subterfuge,  is in disguise and on the run, and no-one knows where he is,  though they suspect he’s going to try and get to the Archduke. So Michel sets off, by road and river, on a mission which becomes increasingly dangerous as his enemies come to hear of his presence. Meanwhile, a young Latvian woman named Nadia is on her way to rejoin her political prisoner father in Siberian exile; and soon enough they meet. Then there’s Englishman Harry Blount and Frenchman Alcide Jolivet, rival war correspondents reporting on the upheaval in the empire, who are ready to brave any dangers to get first scoop! 
I read the novel I don’t know how many times, swept away by the grandeur of the story, the fantastic adventure, with its wolves, bears, mountain storms, bandits, iced-up rivers, cruel torturers and traitors. I thoroughly enjoyed  the funny  rivalry and repartee between Alcide Jolivet and Harry Blount,  I thrilled to the love I could see developing between Nadia and Michel, both equally tough and brave. And I was swept away too by the description of the journey, which starts in Moscow and ends in Siberia — a journey over water, through forest and mountain and cities and villages: you get a real sense of the vastness and amazing diversity, both human and environmental, of Russia.  Basically, it’s a chase novel, and it has the breakneck pace of that, and lots of twists and turns, culminating in an especially unexpected and satisfyingly resolved one. But it is also beautifully written, as tight and clever and witty as Around the World in Eighty Days, and much more passionate and exciting. 
 Equally to be relished by kids and by adults,  it’s no wonder that despite historical anachronisms(the real Tartars not being a threat at all in the 19th cent) French critics reckon it’s Verne’s best novel, and it has also influenced many French writers and film-makers. It’s never been out of print in France and is still a huge favourite with readers, as well as having been transformed into many films and TV series. 
But what has always frustrated me is that this great novel was practically unknown to my English-speaking friends. The trouble is that the original English translation(also published in 1876) is stodgy and dated and does not at all capture the lively, crisp, witty and pacey quality of the original work. 
And so it’s a dream come true for me to be part of the publishing team bringing back this wonderful novel to English-speaking readers, in a fabulous new translation that will be the first in over a hundred years!  To be the launch title for Eagle Books, the new imprint of Christmas Press, Jules Verne’s Mikhail Strogoff, as we’ve titled it, will be translated by Stephanie Smee, whose   translations of the Countess de Segur’s classic French novels for kids have been bestsellers. Right now, we’re running a crowdfunding campaign to fund production of a gorgeous  illustrated limited edition, and working towards the book’s publication in early 2016. I’m editing Stephanie’s translation as well as writing a foreword—and it feels so magical to be re-introducing to readers worldwide one of the big books of my life! 
Readers can contribute to the campaign to get their own collectible copy of this pre-commercial-release exclusive edition, which will be a gorgeous hardcover book, illustrated internally in black and white and with many special features:   www.indiegogo.com/projects/eagle-books-present-jules-verne-s-mikhail-strogoff  We invite you to check it out and join us in this wonderful adventure!
The campaign runs till mid-May.  You can find out more about the book, and our team, including Stephanie, at the campaign site, which features videos, short extracts from the new translation, and more. You can also visit our Eagle Books website,  www.eaglebooksadventure.com
Note that the campaign is built around flexible funding, which means that we get to keep the funds raised, even if we don’t reach our target(though of course we hope we will!) This means that no contributor will be disappointed!
Sophie Masson is the award-winning author of over 60 books for children, young adults and adults. She is also one of the founding partners in Christmas Press and Eagle Books.

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9. Ditmar Award Winners 2015

Life has to go on and the dreadful fuss over the Hugos can't take up everything online so, here it is! 

This is pinched from Tsana Dolichva's excellent review blog, tsanasreads.blogspot.com, which you should  definitely check out. Tsana was actually there when the awards were presented and I gather that Glenda Larke, who ended up winning both a Ditmar and a Tin Duck, was thrilled, as it was her first. I must say I'm also pleased for Merv Binns, a veteran Melbourne fan with a history going back to the fifties, I think, if not earlier, who ran the amazing Space Age Bookshop, where I used to do my SF shopping years ago. It's about time! I hope he and his wife Helena were able to get there. If they did go, I'm sure Helena will show us a lot of photos! 

Congratulations, also, to Donna Maree Hanson for the A. Bertram Chandler Award, also thoroughly deserved.

And thank you to the Snapshot team, who invited me, twice, to have my say as a writer! It makes me feel as if I, too, have a part in this year's awards.

The Ditmar Awards

The winners in each category are in bold.

Best Novel

The Lascar's Dagger, Glenda Larke (Hachette)
Bound (Alex Caine 1), Alan Baxter (Voyager)
Clariel, Garth Nix (HarperCollins)
Thief's Magic (Millennium's Rule 1), Trudi Canavan (Hachette Australia)
The Godless (Children 1), Ben Peek (Tor UK)
No Award 

Best Novella or Novelette

"The Ghost of Hephaestus", Charlotte Nash, in Phantazein (FableCroft Publishing)
"The Legend Trap", Sean Williams, in Kaleidoscope (Twelfth Planet Press)
"The Darkness in Clara", Alan Baxter, in SQ Mag 14 (IFWG Publishing Australia)
"St Dymphna's School for Poison Girls", Angela Slatter, in Review of Australian Fiction, Volume 9, Issue 3 (Review of Australian Fiction)
"The Female Factory", Lisa L. Hannett and Angela Slatter, in The Female Factory (Twelfth Planet Press)
"Escapement", Stephanie Gunn, in Kisses by Clockwork (Ticonderoga Publications)
No Award 

Best Short Story

"Bahamut", Thoraiya Dyer, in Phantazein (FableCroft Publishing)
"Vanilla", Dirk Flinthart, in Kaleidoscope (Twelfth Planet Press)
"Cookie Cutter Superhero", Tansy Rayner Roberts, in Kaleidoscope (Twelfth Planet Press)
"The Seventh Relic", Cat Sparks, in Phantazein (FableCroft Publishing)
"Signature", Faith Mudge, in Kaleidoscope (Twelfth Planet Press)
No Award 

Best Collected Work

Kaleidoscope, edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios (Twelfth Planet Press)
The Year's Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2013, edited by Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene (Ticonderoga Publications)
Phantazein, edited by Tehani Wessely (FableCroft Publishing)
No Award 

Best Artwork

Illustrations, Kathleen Jennings, in Black-Winged Angels (Ticonderoga Publications)
Cover art, Kathleen Jennings, of Phantazein (FableCroft Publishing)
Illustrations, Kathleen Jennings, in The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings (Tartarus Press)
No Award 

Best Fan Writer

Tansy Rayner Roberts, for body of work
Tsana Dolichva, for body of work
Bruce Gillespie, for body of work
Katharine Stubbs, for body of work
Alexandra Pierce for body of work
Grant Watson, for body of work
Sean Wright, for body of work
No Award 

Best Fan Artist

Nalini Haynes, for body of work, including "Interstellar Park Ranger Bond, Jaime Bond", "Gabba and Slave Lay-off: Star Wars explains Australian politics", "The Driver", and "Unmasked" in Dark Matter Zine
Kathleen Jennings, for body of work, including Fakecon art and Illustration Friday series
Nick Stathopoulos, for movie poster of It Grows!
No Award 

Best Fan Publication in Any Medium 

Snapshot 2014, Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely, and Sean Wright
It Grows!, Nick Stathopoulos
Galactic Suburbia, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, and Andrew Finch
The Writer and the Critic, Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond
Galactic Chat, Sean Wright, Helen Stubbs, David McDonald, Alexandra Pierce, Sarah Parker, and Mark Webb
No Award

Best New Talent

Helen Stubbs
Shauna O'Meara
Michelle Goldsmith
No Award 

William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review

Reviews in The Angriest, Grant Watson
The Eddings Reread series, Tehani Wessely, Jo Anderton, and Alexandra Pierce, in A Conversational Life
Reviews in Adventures of a Bookonaut, Sean Wright
"Does Sex Make Science Fiction Soft?", in Uncanny Magazine 1, Tansy Rayner Roberts
Reviews in FictionMachine, Grant Watson
The Reviewing New Who series, David McDonald, Tansy Rayner Roberts, and Tehani Wessely
No Award 

The Peter McNamara Achievement award goes to Merv Binns

The Norma K Hemming award goes to Paddy O'Reilly for The Wonders.
Runners-up Lisa Hannet and Angela Slatter for The Female Factory.

The A. Bertram Chandler Award goes to Donna Maree Hanson.

The Tin Duck Awards

The Tin Ducks are the awards for Western Australian SF achievement awards, given out at Swancon every year. 

The Marge Hughes award goes to Damien McGee.

Best WA Professional Long Written Work

The Lascar's Dagger, Glenda Larke (Hachette)

Best Professional Short Written Work

"Siri and the Chaos Maker" by Carol Ryles, in Kisses by Clockwork (Ticonderoga Publications)

Best WA Pro Production or Artwork

Kaleidoscope, edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios (Twelfth Planet Press)

Best Fan Written Work

The 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction interview series


WA Fan Artwork 

2014 Tin Ducks, by John Parker(Tsana says he had to make his own award. I vaguely recall this happening with Dick "Ditmar" Jenssen, after whom the awards were named!)


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10. The Hugos 2015

Here is the list of nominees for this year's Hugo Awards. 
You might notice, down towards the bottom, that my name is there as one of last year's editors for ASIM, which has made it to the short list for Semiprozine. For several days, I have been hugging myself with delight, unable to share this information till the short list was announced.
Friday, it was somewhat spoiled for me when one of our members discovered that we owe our shortlisting to an organisation called Sad Puppies, run by conservatives, of which none of us have ever heard, but which apparently does block votes. And doesn't, it seems, ask any of its proposed nominees whether they want to be on its list. It's not against the rules, but seems to inspire a lot of anger, and this morning's Twitter posts were full of it, including one woman who declared she wasn't going to read her Hugo packet because anything SP nominated had to be awful. And a blog post in which one comment said "don't vote for it even if it IS good, on principle". 
I don't know any more of it than this - it's all I have had time to check out. There will be a statement on the ASIM web site some time today. Here's the URL: http://www.andromedaspaceways.com. Please read it. 
I just want to say that we're a small press like other Aussie small presses. A good one, that has lasted twelve years and launched the careers of some writers who have gone on to Hugo and Nebula short listings and some we published early in their careers, if not their first sales. 
 I am very proud of my issue, #60, and of my writers, six of whom were first sales. I know they will do well in years to come. One of them has already been on the James White long list and won a Writers of the Future prize. Ellie Clarke, the artist who did the amazing sensawunda cover has won Ditmar awards, as has the internal artist, Lewis Morley.
If you're a member of Worldcon, please at least read your Hugo packet before deciding what you want to vote for. Don't make assumptions. Just read. 
Here's the list as I got it from the Hugos site. I have only deleted the blurb. 
Best Novel (1827 nominating ballots)
  • Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit US/Orbit UK)
  • The Dark Between the Stars, Kevin J. Anderson (Tor Books)
  • The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette) (Tor Books)
  • Lines of Departure, Marko Kloos (47North)
  • Skin Game, Jim Butcher (Roc Books)
Best Novella (1083 nominating ballots)
  • Big Boys Don’t Cry, Tom Kratman (Castalia House)
  • “Flow”, Arlan Andrews, Sr. (Tor.com, 11-2014)
  • One Bright Star to Guide Them, John C. Wright (Castalia House)
  • “Pale Realms of Shade”, John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
  • “The Plural of Helen of Troy”, John C. Wright (City Beyond Time: Tales of the Fall of Metachronopolis, Castalia House)
Best Novelette (1031 nominating ballots)
  • “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium”, Gray Rinehart (Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, 05-2014)
  • “Championship B’tok”, Edward M. Lerner (Analog, 09-2014)
  • “The Journeyman: In the Stone House”, Michael F. Flynn (Analog, 06-2014)
  • “The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale”, Rajnar Vajra (Analog07/08-2014)
  • “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus”, John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
Best Short Story (1174 nominating ballots)
  • “Goodnight Stars”, Annie Bellet (The End is Now (Apocalypse Triptych Book 2), Broad Reach Publishing)
  • “On A Spiritual Plain”, Lou Antonelli (Sci Phi Journal #2, 11-2014)
  • “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds”, John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
  • “Totaled”, Kary English (Galaxy’s Edge Magazine, 07-2014)
  • “Turncoat”, Steve Rzasa (Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House)
Best Related Work (1150 nominating ballots)
  • “The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF”, Ken Burnside (Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House)
  • Letters from Gardner, Lou Antonelli (The Merry Blacksmith Press)
  • Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth, John C. Wright (Castalia House)
  • “Why Science is Never Settled”, Tedd Roberts (Baen.com)
  • Wisdom from My Internet, Michael Z. Williamson (Patriarchy Press)
Best Graphic Story (785 nominating ballots)
  • Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal, written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Jake Wyatt, (Marvel Comics)
  • Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery, written by Kurtis J. Weibe, art by Roc Upchurch (Image Comics)
  • Saga Volume 3, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics))
  • Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick, written by Matt Fraction, art by Chip Zdarsky (Image Comics)
  • The Zombie Nation Book #2: Reduce Reuse Reanimate, Carter Reid (The Zombie Nation)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form (1285 nominating ballots)
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier, screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, concept and story by Ed Brubaker, directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo (Marvel Entertainment, Perception, Sony Pictures Imageworks)
  • Edge of Tomorrow, screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, and John-Henry Butterworth, directed by Doug Liman (Village Roadshow, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, 3 Arts Entertainment; Viz Productions)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy, written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, directed by James Gunn (Marvel Studios, Moving Picture Company)
  • Interstellar, screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, directed by Christopher Nolan (Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Legendary Pictures, Lynda Obst Productions, Syncopy)
  • The Lego Movie, written by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, story by Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, directed by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller (Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, LEGO System A/S, Vertigo Entertainment, Lin Pictures, Warner Bros. Animation (as Warner Animation Group))
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form (938 nominating ballots)
  • Doctor Who: “Listen”, written by Steven Moffat, directed by Douglas Mackinnon (BBC Television)
  • The Flash: “Pilot”, teleplay by Andrew Kreisberg & Geoff Johns, story by Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg & Geoff Johns, directed by David Nutter (The CW) (Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television)
  • Game of Thrones: “The Mountain and the Viper”, written by David Benioff & D. B. Weiss, directed by Alex Graves ((HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions)
  • Grimm: “Once We Were Gods”, written by Alan DiFiore, directed by Steven DePaul (NBC) (GK Productions, Hazy Mills Productions, Universal TV)
  • Orphan Black: “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried”, ” written by Graham Manson, directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions, Space/BBC America)
Best Editor, Short Form (870 nominating ballots)
  • Jennifer Brozek
  • Vox Day
  • Mike Resnick
  • Edmund R. Schubert
  • Bryan Thomas Schmidt
Best Editor, Long Form (712 nominating ballots)
  • Vox Day
  • Sheila Gilbert
  • Jim Minz
  • Anne Sowards
  • Toni Weisskopf
Best Professional Artist (753 nominating ballots)
  • Julie Dillon
  • Jon Eno
  • Nick Greenwood
  • Alan Pollack
  • Carter Reid
Best Semiprozine (660 nominating ballots)
  • Abyss & Apex, Wendy Delmater editor and publisher
  • Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine, Andromeda Spaceways Publishing Association Incorporated, 2014 editors David Kernot and Sue Bursztynski
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies, edited by Scott H. Andrews
  • Lightspeed Magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams, Stefan Rudnicki, Rich Horton, Wendy N. Wagner, and Christie Yant
  • Strange Horizons, Niall Harrison, editor-in-chief
Best Fanzine (576 nominating ballots)
  • Black Gate, edited by John O’Neill
  • Elitist Book Reviews, edited by Steven Diamond
  • Journey Planet, edited by James Bacon, Christopher J Garcia, Lynda E. Rucker, Pete Young, Colin Harris, and Helen J.Montgomery
  • The Revenge of Hump Day, edited by Tim Bolgeo
  • Tangent SF Online, edited by Dave Truesdale
Best Fancast (668 nominating ballots)
  • Adventures in SF Publishing, Brent Bower (Executive Producer), Kristi Charish, Timothy C. Ward & Moses Siregar III (Co-Hosts, Interviewers and Producers)
  • Dungeon Crawlers Radio, Daniel Swenson (Producer/Host), Travis Alexander & Scott Tomlin (Hosts), Dale Newton (Host/Tech), Damien Swenson (Audio/Video Tech)
  • Galactic Suburbia Podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Presenters) and Andrew Finch (Producer)
  • The Sci Phi Show, Jason Rennie
  • Tea and Jeopardy, Emma Newman and Peter Newman
Best Fan Writer (777 nominating ballots)
  • Dave Freer
  • Amanda S. Green
  • Jeffro Johnson
  • Laura J. Mixon
  • Cedar Sanderson
Best Fan Artist (296 nominating ballots)
  • Ninni Aalto
  • Brad W. Foster
  • Elizabeth Leggett
  • Spring Schoenhuth
  • Steve Stiles
The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (851 nominating ballots) 
Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2013 or 2014, sponsored by Dell Magazines. (Not a Hugo Award, but administered along with the Hugo Awards.)
  • Wesley Chu*
  • Jason Cordova
  • Kary English*
  • Rolf Nelson
  • Eric S. Raymond
*Finalists in their 2nd year of eligibility.
2122 valid nominating ballots (2119 electronic and 3 paper) were received and counted from the members of Loncon 3, Sasquan, and MidAmeriCon II the 2014, 2015, and 2016 World Science Fiction Conventions.
A list of the top 15 nominees in each category, along with the number of nominations received by each, will be released after the Hugo Awards Ceremony on Saturday, 22 August, 2015 at Sasquan.

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11. Earthfall: Retribution by Mark Walden. Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2014


In Earthfall - reviewed on this site here, we met Sam Riley, a teen who is one of the very few people left on Earth who are still awake, after an alien invasion. The rest have been turned into zombies who do as they are told and sleep the rest of the time. Due to events I can't tell here without spoilers, the young rebels have managed to take over one of the alien motherships and its connected equipment and are living together in London, while the only adult with them, Doctor Stirling, is trying to find a way to wake up the sleepers in the dormitories. 

Now, they have discovered that there may be others awake in Edinburgh. Sam and some of his friends decide to go and find out. There, they find that there are worse things than the Sleepers and the alien Hunters and Grendels. And there may just be more than one alien race around...

Again, Mr Walden shows his computer game background. There are more fights, explosions and giant robots fighting each other, nightmarish creatures with fangs appearing in their hordes to be mowed down and then rise again... Boys who like Matthew Reilly should enjoy this action adventure, which ends on a cliffhanger. We do learn the answers to some things that were not made clear in the first volume, but there are more questions left unanswered, perhaps for the next volume.  You do need to have read the first book to understand this one, so if you haven't read it, do go back and find it!

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12. Women's History Month - Spare Post

Some weeks ago, my friend Gillian Polack, historian extraordinaire and novelist, kindly invited me to do a post for Women's History Month on her Livejournal blog (and, as I discovered, her offical web site). The brief was to write about something that happened to yourself or a woman you know, and I wrote a post about my sister, who went from a secretary with a manual typewriter to a writer of articles published all over, and a delight in the Internet. After reading some other posts I concluded that I must have got it wrong; they all seemed to be about the author of the post. So I wrote another post and offered that. As it happened, Gillian ended up publishing my original post, so I have a spare I thought I might publish here before Women's History Month is quite over!

I'd only sold one story, a short, humorous fantasy tale, to Family Circle, via its annual competition, when I sold my first book.

I was at Richmond Girls Secondary College when this began. My previous school, Flemington Secondary College, had been closed down by the new Tory government, so that they could sell it to the Victoria Racing Club, which had lusted after the site for a long time, to turn it into a jockey school. I'd been there for eight years and was working with two wonderful people in the library. We had a delightful relationship. And then a new government, led by a man not unlike the current Australian PM, was in power, and was selling anything not nailed down.

Suddenly, my library was stripped bare and I was without a workplace. You can imagine how I felt.

Towards the end of January I was relieved to receive an offer from Richmond Girls'. My new library turned out to be old and shabby and had been a sewing room in the old days. But it was mine. I did have an offsider, a Vietnamese gentleman who taught maths and was hardly ever in the library. There was a technician who, for some reason, didn't like being in the library and was off socialising most of the time.

So it was up to me to do something to make the library worth visiting and looking at. My colleagues on staff were pretty helpful, one of them bringing in her Year 8 class to move the shelves around to let in some light. Then I started the displays. I wrote things to put up on the wall to go with them. History, science, SF, whatever the occasion called for.

And then I had a phone call from my friend Natalie Prior, who had started to sell quite a lot and is, to this day, one of the few writers I know in this country who can make a living out of it(and, unlike many of the others I know, managed to get going without being married at the time and having a partner to pay the bills so she could write full time). Natalie had been writing for Allen and Unwin and had rung to tell me that they had a new series beginning, True Stories, which was non fiction for children.

"I've told them about you, here's the name and number," she finished. I asked myself if I could even do non fiction, then looked at the library walls and thought, yes, I've done this. I can.

I phoned and made an appointment to see Beth Dolan, who was doing the series. Deciding to give myself the best chance I could, I researched a few things that interested me to make sure they were possible and prepared a list of potential book themes. When I met Beth, I invited her to choose a topic for me to write up as a proposal. She chose monsters.

That was my first book sale. It was in the very early days of the Internet; any Internet research I did had to be done at one of the few Internet cafes that had begun to turn up in the suburbs. It was at the end of a long tram ride, and cost $12 an hour. I limited it to once a week. The rest of my research was done in the State Library, two nights a week.

I didn't eat well, of course, buying my dinner as takeaway and eating quickly before my research session. It told on my body after a while, so when I eventually did another book I was more careful.

It was the first of several books and quite a few articles I wrote and I had quite a lot of work in those days, before publishers decided that children's non fiction didn't sell and stopped publishing it. These days there's only education publishing to do non fiction books and some published by museums to go with exhibitions. I did manage to sell to the education industry before my publisher suddenly left and was replaced by a gentleman who indicated he simply wasn't interested, despite the fact that my books for his company are still selling in the thousands, after twelve years. He told me in his last email that he has a stable of writers and doesn't want any more.

So, in recent years, I've gone back to fiction, mostly short stories, but I'll never forget that it was non fiction that made me a professional writer and taught me a lot. 

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13. ThThe Warlock's Child by Paul Collins and Sean McMullen. Books 1 and 2. Melbourne: Ford Street, 2015.



The Burning Sea and Dragonfall Mountain are books 1 and 2 of a new children's fantasy series by veteran Australian spec fic writers Paul Collins and Sean McMullen. There are to be six, one published each month.





I say series, but it feels more like a single novel broken up into parts, with a cliffhanger at the end of each. This isn't the first time I've come across this in recent months. It might be argued that handing a child a thick book to read all at once might be off-putting. Or maybe it might be more off-putting to have the novel break off in the middle of a scene. At least the young readers won't have to wait long for the next one.

And this is definitely a children's book, despite the hero's age, fourteen. He thinks like a child and is, in fact, working as a cabin boy on board one of the ships of the Dravinian fleet, on its way to conquer the Kingdom of Savaria. He wishes he didn't have to be there. His father, the warlock of the title, (battle warlock), had insisted on having both of his children with him, so Dantar and his sister Velza have jobs on board. Velza is an officer, a fire shapecaster, and a stickler for the rules. The two of them don't get on, needless to say.

In this world, humans used to be able to produce wizards who could control all four elements - earth, air, fire, water - until they stuffed it up a thousand years ago. The dragons, who have control of all four magics, stopped this and broke it up so that each person who can do magic can only do one kind. Using magic in this way - as opposed to the far more powerful magic of Dantar and Velza's father - is fairly ordinary; each ship has specialists to produce fogs, arm the weapons, etc. And the enemy can do the same. But they can also use mirror technology to set ships on fire, the cads! 

And the dragons are interested in the fleet. Somewhere on board one of them there's a dragon chick. And Dantar has noticed that anyone who tries to harm him ends up as a pile of ashes...

There's enough humour in these two books to keep the tone light. There's certainly enough action to keep young readers continuing on, wanting to know what happens next. Dantar is a bit of a whiner, but will hopefully improve over the next few volumes; meanwhile, his understandable terror of being burned or drowned in the next few minutes adds to the humour. 

Some words are a bit hard for younger readers, but they are more or less explained by the "show, don't tell" bits surrounding them.

The cover art, by the wonderful Marc McBride, is gorgeous, reminiscent of the style of the Quentaris books(I think he may have done some or all of those too). 

Recommended for children ten years and up.

Buy the series from April on in all good bookshops or check it out here
 

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14. The Norma K Hemming Awards 2015: A Guest Post By Bill Wright

Compared with a lot of other science fiction awards the Norma K Hemmings are quite new, having only started in about 2010. This year's will be presented at Swancon in only a couple of weeks. I've posted this on the ASIM blog, but as a fan, thought it might be nice to make this guest post available here as well.

Take it away, Bill!


The Norma K Hemming Award sponsored by the Australian Science Fiction Foundation

Contributed by Bill Wright, ASFF awards administrator on 21 March 2015.

What is the Australian Science Fiction Foundation and what is it for?

The Foundation’s website at: www.asff.org.au says its main purpose is to sponsor and encourage the creation and appreciation of science fiction in Australia. 

It does that through the sponsorship and administration of writing workshops and short story competitions, seed loans to national conventions, and the publication of its newsletter, The Instrumentality. The Foundation has, since its inception, been a resource centre for everyone involved in science fiction in Australia. 

The Australian Science Fiction Foundation runs two jury awards, viz.

The A. Bertram Chandler Award for outstanding achievement in science fiction, established in 1992, where the winner is selected from eminent achievers nominated by Australian science fiction fans; and

The Norma K Hemming Award for excellence in the in the exploration of themes of race, gender, sexuality, class and disability:

What is the Norma K Hemming Award, why is it given, and who is Norma K Hemming?

Established at Aussiecon 4, the 68th World Science Fiction Convention in Melbourne in August 2010, the Norma K Hemming Award is given by the  ASFF for excellence in the in the exploration of themes of race, gender, sexuality, class and disability:
 - in the form of science fiction and fantasy or related artwork or media.
produced either in Australia or by Australian citizens.
- first published, released or presented in the calendar year preceding the year in which the award is given.
The Norma K Hemming Award is gaining in prestige. Its gestation was foreshadowed in the late 1990s when academic researchers Van Ikin, Russell Blackford, Sean McMullen and Paul Collins uncovered works by pioneer Australian feminist science fiction writer and playwright Norma Kathleen Hemming.

Norma wrote in the 1950s, throughout the decade  before her death from breast cancer in July 1960. She was 33 years young.

Her writing fizzes with potential. The science was not always sound but it was on a par with the majority of science fiction writers of her day. 

Most of her stories, but only two of her five plays, have survived. 

Readers can visit Norm’s Wikipedia entry at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norma_K._Hemming for her biography, her bibliography, and how to purchase a collection of her works by Dr Toby Burrows, Principal Librarian, Scholars' Centre, University of Western Australia Library (M209).

One of Norma’s plays, 'The Matriarchy of Renok’, in which a cast of formidable and at times vulnerable women wrest control of the galaxy from the depredations of alpha-males, was read over two successive Swancons (peak WA sf conventions) in the mid-noughties. 

The 'Matriarchy of Renok' was again performed at Aussiecon 4 (the 68th Worldcon) in Melbourne in August 2010) as a staged reading produced by Sean McMullen, with overhead space opera storyboard projections by Katoomba-based artist and digital image pioneer Lewis P Morley, 

Besides being a powerful drama with lots of interpersonal tension, the play is a work of unalloyed, rapturous joy – that is fun to read, fun to act in, and fun to watch. I can’t understand why an enterprising movie mogul hasnpt picked it up for global release. 

Given the patriarchal and, by today’s standards, sexist mores of the fifties, it was more than a tad courageous of Norma and her troupe, which she named The Acturians, to expose their parts to varying degrees of hostile response from science fiction fans. A notable  response was by male chauvinist denizens of the Sydney Futuran Society whe staged a mock auction where they sold her off to the highest bidder. Such was the excitement – if that’s the word for it – that they are rumoured to have accidentally set her hair on fire. She fared better in Melbourne, where she and her troupe were welcomed by members of the Melbourne  Science Fiction Club at their conventions.  

Gestation of the Norma K Hemming Award

The two Swancon readings were so popular that the Western Australian Science Fiction Foundation thought of instituting an award in Norma Hemming’s memory, However, they soon realised that her importance as the pioneer feminist science fiction writer in Australials post-WWII history demanded a national focus. So their spokesperson, Emma Hawkes, referred the proposed award to the Australian Science Fiction Foundation for implementation.

At the time, in mid-2007, I had just been appointed to the ASFF board, taking over the position of A. Bertram Chandler Award administrator from Julian Warner who was, and still is, a tireless effectuator across a wide range of activities in Melbourne’s science fiction community.

Needless to say, my job description was upgraded forthwith. With no experience in awards administration and no small press contacts (except from being part of the audience at panel discussions at science fiction conventions) I was thrown in at the  deep end and told to set up from scratch an ASFF-sponsored Norma K Hemming Award with a national focus.

I quickly discovered that an ASFF board member had access to a vast array of resources, most of them human, chief among whom was the Foundation’s academic representative Van1kin.

Van Ikin the Icon

Van Ikin is an academic and science fiction writer and editor. He was, until his retirement in 2015, a Professor in English at the University of Western Australia, where he acted as supervisor for a number of Australian writers completing their post-graduate degrees and doctorates. They include such literary luminaries as science fiction and fantasy writers Terry Dowling, Stephen Dedman and Dave Luckett. In 2000, he received the University of Western Australia's Excellence in Teaching Award for Postgraduate Research Supervision. 

He has reviewed science fiction and fantasy for The Sydney Morning Herald since 1984, but he is best known in the Australian science fiction community for his editorship of the long-running critical journal Science Fiction - A Review of Speculative Fiction.

Van was the inaugural winner of ASFF’s prestigious A. Bertram Chandler Award for outstanding achievement in science fiction in 1992.

With Van smoothing contacts in academia and my awesome title giving me the clout to negotiate program space with with peak State and National convention organisers, I spent the next three years hobnobbing with my intellectual betters in the academic streams of those conventions. Taking our cue from the feminist bias in Norma’s stories, Gender was an obvious criterion for the award. Universities being hotbeds of disputation on social issues, my academic collaborators sought to identify additional criteria in that milieu. 

The ‘Eureka’ moment came when I suggested they look for skify elements in their search. Being possessed of minds of power that, for all I knew, might have been stable at the third level of stress (ref. Gray Lensman by E. E. Smith Ph D. first published in book form in 1951 by Fantasy Press), albeit Van assures me that, academics, it ain’t necessarily so, they ascended into realms of abstraction inaccessible to mortals of lesser degree.

Coming down from on high, they evinced oracular abstractions in humorous dialogue concerning  literary allusions that were opaque to me. Venturing to intrude where Angels fear to tread, I sought to enter the conversation with an observation to the effect that their gestalt was passing strange. Suddenly I was in there, informed by past reading from Weird Tales and Face in the Abyss by A. E. Merritt and wrestling with concepts of the postmodern with the best of them.

Strange carved out of mind space by science fiction is acknowledged as its sovereign territory. Strange is the Key Word. Look for Strange in the human condition. Gender is strange, Sexuality is strange. Class differences are strange. The concept of Race as applied to human beings is very strange. Engulfed in a tide of memories long suppressed, I fought for stability on a mental plane of utter desolation contemplating the isolation of people in our midst whom many regard as strange.

Such was the gestation of the Norma K Hemming Award for race, class, gender and sexuality in speculative fiction  Disability was added as an additional category for the 2011 competition.

Establishment of the Norma K Hemming Award at Aussiecon 4

Despite its aforementioned careful gestation with inputs from the academic community at every turn, the inaugural Norma K 0Hemming Award presentation at Aussiecon 4 came at speculative fiction writers, editors and publishers from left field, so to speak. No other award encourages writers to have something worthwhile to say about all categories of otherness in the human condition. Isolated minorities have been have been ignored or characterised in negative stereotypes much too often in the past, and it is time to redress that.

Anyone who doubts the efficacy of having such an award to set standards for speculative fiction writers has only to read the 2013 winning entry, ‘Sea Hearts’ by Margo Lanagan, to be convinced that ASFF’s full on approach works. In her novel, Margo shines fresh light on what it is like to be a man, what it is like to be a woman, what it is like to be human.

Parallel initiatives on the way to establishing the Norma K Hemming Award

As mentioned earlier, In the late 1990s a small number of fannish scholars including Van Ikin, Russell Blackford, Sean McMullen and Paul Collins researched the life and times of pioneer Australian feminist sf author and playwright Norma Kathleen Hemming (September 1928 - July 1960) whom a few surviving oldies such as Doug Nicholson (Sydney) and Mervyn Binns (Melbourne) knew well. Among publications arising from that research was a biography of Norma K Hemming in ‘Strange Constellations : A History of Science Fiction’ by Russell Blackford, Van Ikin and Sean McMullen, published 1999 in the USA by Greenwood Press. 


Dr Helen Merrick is co-editor, with Tess Williams, of ‘Women of Other Worlds: Excursions through Science Fiction and Feminism’ (University of Western Australia Press, 1999) in which the contribution of the feminist fan community to science fiction is strongly acknowledged. This scholarly and informative publication makes the point that Australian SF fandom, in tandem with American fandom, has over the last 40 years moved to include issues of racial, sexual and cultural diversity and has contributed to major feminist fan movements such as slash fiction and the femmefan movement of the 1970s. 

In a contribution to the work, Helen recalls that trailblazing Canadian femmefan Susan Wood visited Australia in 1975 for the first Aussiecon, meeting with and being strongly influenced by principal Guest of Honour Ursula Le Guin who ran the seminal writers workshop at that first Australian Wordcon. A year later Susan ran the first identity-oriented panel at a SF convention, entitled ‘Women and Science Fiction’. The following year WisCon (the feminist Worldcon in Madison, Wisconsin) was established as an annual event.  Obviously, Australian fandom benefited from these influences. Today, women are involved in Australian science fiction as authors, editors, publishers and fans at all levels.

Interestingly, Helen Merrick’s co-author, Tess Williams, is one of the four distinguished permanent Jurors for the Norma K Hemming Award.

The 2015 Norma K Hemming Award

The 2015 Norma K Hemming Award will be presented to the winner at Swancon 40, the 54th Australian National Science Fiction Convention in Perth on 2-6 April 2015. The judges, writer and editor Russell Blackford; editor Sarah Endacott; writer, editor and publisher Rob Gerrand; and writer Tess Williams, have released their shortlist:

Collection: ‘The Female Factory’ by Lisa L Hannett and Angela Slatter published by Twelfth Planet Press in November 2014

Novel:         ‘Nil By Mouth’ by LynC published by Satalyte Publishing in June 2014

Novel:         ‘North Star Guide Me Home’ by Jo Spurrier published by
          HarperVoyager in May 2014

Novel:         ‘Razorhurst’ by Justine Larbalestier published by Allen and Unwin in
         July 2014

Novel:         ‘The Wonders’ by Paddy O’Reilly published by Affirm Press in July 2014

The Norma K Hemming Award has no cash prize because it is a fan award. Fan activity is much the same all over the world, conforming to traditions of the World Science Fiction Society, an unincorporated entity described in its Wikipedia entry at: : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worldcon#World_Science_Fiction_Society. 

Why there is no cash prize for the Norma K Hemming Awards

Fan activity includes convention running, encouraging sf small press enterprises, and writer and reader education at conventions, writing groups and workshops - all run on a not-for-profit basis  by volunteers drawn from, and trained within, our ranks. 

Within socially acceptable parameters of passion and dispassion, we capture the young and imprint them with a sense of wonder, respect for xcience and the scientific method, and an appreciation of good story telling in literature, art and theatre.  That community of interesta breeds talent.

It is why there is no cash prize for the Norma K Hemming Award, and why ASFF cannot afford to cover competition winners’ travel expenses.  It is also why we go out of our way at conventions to have high profile luminaries in Literature and the Arts ‘on tap’ to represent award winners when they can’t be present to receive their trophies.

In conclusion, I wish to make the observation that ASFS does  not have an exclusive patent on Norma Kathleen Hemming. She belongs to all of us. There is nothing to prevent any fannish institution, e.g. the Canberra Speculative Fiction Group (CSFG), setting up, say, the Norma K Hemming Medallion for Romance of Science in Science Fiction, under criteria that support respect for Science and the Scientific Method via storytelling.

Norma Hemming confronted gender issues head on. For its own purposes ASFF added additional categories of otherness in its award. Peak fannish institutions in each State may take different approaches.

It has been a privilege to have been entrusted with the development of the Norma K Hemming Award under the auspices of the Australian Science Fiction Foundation and it has been a  pleasure as its administrator to have developed the award to its present stature. 

Health issues in old age may force me to pass the baton to a younger administrator. Or ASFF might have a succession plan. In either event, having fought the good fight and won, I am content.

Bill Wright
ASFF awards administrator
21st March 2015

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15. The Ditmar Awards 2015 - The Short List!

Good grief, how did I forget to post this?

Listed below are this year's shortlisted books for the Ditmar Awards. Unlike the Aurealises, these are nominated and voted for by readers. For readers outside Australia, the Ditmars are our answer to the Hugo Awards. I read on Twitter this morning that the biting period has been extended by a week, so if you're a member of this year's Natcon or have a voting membership, you still have a few days to send your vote. There is a voting form here:  


There's an interesting analysis of the list on Michelle Goldsmith's web site, here:


While assuring her readers that this is a reader thing and they have nominated stuff they love, she points out, as a bookseller, that it's more likely to end up on the shortlist if a lot of people had the chance to read it, so distribution...

Anyway, have a look and do vote if you can.

Best Novel

The Lascar's Dagger, Glenda Larke (Hachette)
Bound (Alex Caine 1), Alan Baxter (Voyager)
Clariel, Garth Nix (HarperCollins)
Thief's Magic (Millennium's Rule 1), Trudi Canavan (Hachette Australia)
The Godless (Children 1), Ben Peek (Tor UK)

Best Novella or Novelette

"The Ghost of Hephaestus", Charlotte Nash, in Phantazein (FableCroft Publishing)
"The Legend Trap", Sean Williams, in Kaleidoscope (Twelfth Planet Press)
"The Darkness in Clara", Alan Baxter, in SQ Mag 14 (IFWG Publishing Australia)
"St Dymphna's School for Poison Girls", Angela Slatter, in Review of Australian Fiction, Volume 9, Issue 3 (Review of Australian Fiction)
"The Female Factory", Lisa L. Hannett and Angela Slatter, in The Female Factory (Twelfth Planet Press)
"Escapement", Stephanie Gunn, in Kisses by Clockwork (Ticonderoga Publications)


Best Short Story

"Bahamut", Thoraiya Dyer, in Phantazein (FableCroft Publishing)
"Vanilla", Dirk Flinthart, in Kaleidoscope (Twelfth Planet Press)
"Cookie Cutter Superhero", Tansy Rayner Roberts, in Kaleidoscope (Twelfth Planet Press)
"The Seventh Relic", Cat Sparks, in Phantazein (FableCroft Publishing)
"Signature", Faith Mudge, in Kaleidoscope (Twelfth Planet Press)


Best Collected Work

Kaleidoscope, Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios (Twelfth Planet Press)
The Year's Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2013, Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene (Ticonderoga Publications)
Phantazein, Tehani Wessely (FableCroft Publishing)


Best Artwork

Illustrations, Kathleen Jennings, in Black-Winged Angels (Ticonderoga Publications)
Cover art, Kathleen Jennings, of Phantazein (FableCroft Publishing)
Illustrations, Kathleen Jennings, in The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings (Tartarus Press)

Kethleen Jennings is a terrific artist, but I have to admit to being disappointed, here, that the wonderful Eleanor Clarke cover for ASIM 60 didn't make it to the shortlist. 


Best Fan Writer

Tansy Rayner Roberts, for body of work
Tsana Dolichva, for body of work
Bruce Gillespie, for body of work
Katharine Stubbs, for body of work
Alexandra Pierce for body of work
Grant Watson, for body of work
Sean Wright, for body of work

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16. GNU Terry Pratchett And The Clacks!

My sister, a fellow Terry Pratchett fan, told me about this, so I googled it and found this article in the Guardian. What a great idea! I'm going to have a go at it today, when I get home and can try it on my own computer. It will probably work on the iPad, because it's about your browser or your email link, not your computer, but I'll feel better playing with it there.

If you're a Pratchett fan, you will have read Going Postal, in which the clacks men keep the dead man's name alive through a message system on the clacks. Tech-savvy fans have worked this out. I don't have any of the appropriate browsers, but it works with Gmail. Apparently it's subtle; you have to "view source" to see the tribute. But it's there. I'll let you know how it turns out, when I get it going.

I think Sir Terry would have loved it. He was certainly amused with the verses people came up with for the Hedgehog Song. And the fact that people actually created a game of Thud.

And if you're not a fan, you probably have no idea what I'm talking about, so the only advice I can give you at this stage is to start reading the Discworld novels RIGHT NOW! 

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17. Just Finished Re-Reading...Good Omens



This morning, I finally closed my battered paperback copy of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens. It's rather sad to finish a reread. You open it up, knowing you're going to enjoy it, and loving the fresh start...and then it's all over again. And yes, you can read it again, but you don't do that immediately. In my case, I know I have a TBR pile of review copies. I really do most of my rereads at night, in bed, because I won't sleep if I don't know what's coming next.

I have one of the early copies of Good Omens that doesn't have the extra bits with the authors talking about each other and how they started it and sent each other floppy disks and yelled excitedly over the phone. Some of it is in the Terry Pratchett collection A Slip Of The Keyboard anyway, but my e-copy of GO has the lot. It's kind of sad to think that when they finally did dramatise it, they did a radio play, which is unlikely to turn up here, instead of a film or even one of those telemovies that are based on the Discworld novels and have Terry Pratchett playing cameos at the end. Oh, well...

It's a wonderful sendup of those horror movies in which the AntiChrist is born and the end of the world is nigh, only in this one the AntiChrist baby goes to the wrong family and grows up more or less normal. I believe it was meant, originally, to be a sendup of the William stories by Richmal Crompton - that was Neil Gaiman's idea, and it was called William the AntiChrist - but it seems to have gone further, much further. And there is the young woman who is a "professional descendant" of Agnes Nutter, the author of the world's only truly accurate book of prophecies, who knows the world is going to end, not in New York or Paris, but in a little village in the south of England. And there are the demon who tempted Adam and Eve and the angel with the flaming sword from Eden(he gave them the sword to keep warm with). They've both been living in Earth since the beginning and don't want it to be wiped out, so are trying to stop Armageddon.  And the Four Horsemen, one of whom is Death as we know him from Discworld.

Hilarious stuff, and if I'm not laughing out loud these days I'm laughing inside.

I definitely don't regret this reread and if you haven't read it, what are you waiting for?


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18. Found While Surfing The Net - A Post About Fight Scenes

I can't recall how I found this post, which was on Lisa Voisin's web site, written late in 2012, but I thought it good enough to save to my iPad desktop. It's about things writers tend to forget when writing fight scenes. I keep mine vague, but some years ago I did take the trouble to try it out for myself by joining the Society For Creative Anachronism and let me tell you, even with a rattan sword and basic armour made with carpet, I soon learned what you can't do in a fight! 

Anyway, here's the link to the post - and I should say that even the comments are valuable. I never knew most of the things said in those.


Follow, read, enjoy, and let me know what you think.

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19. Some Great SF Movies of the 1980s!

There's a rather delightful post over at tor.com:


on the subject of fantasy movies of the 1980s, ranking eighteen of them. I must admit, there were some of the list of which I had not heard, probably with good reason, others which I remember with great fondness. This was the era of speculative fiction movies - there was at least one on every school holidays.

My favourites on that list were The Princess Bride, Excalibur, The Neverending Story, Labyrinth and Highlander, though I could understand adding Willow(one of Warwick Davis's first films - he was only 18 at the time, and was the head Ewok in Return Of The Jedi) and Clash Of The Titans, which was not a very good film, but was lucky enough to have the SFX of Ray Harryhausen and deserves to be seen if only for those. It was his last film. I found Conan The Barbarian a disappointment on a re-view. Dull, dull, dull!  Legend : another dull film that had fabulous effects. The unicorn was gorgeous and Tom Curry's make-up as the demon was wonderful, though he didn't have much to do. But go to the web site and check it out for yourself. 


It's a pity the list didn't include SF movies, because one of my favourites would have been The Last Starfighter, which I think may have been Robert Preston's last film; I still watch it occasionally. It's delightfully - intentionally - silly, with Robert Preston as an alien who has set up a computer game called Starfighter on Earth in hopes of recruiting real starfighters, gunners who can fight from spaceships against a real menace somewhere far off in the galaxy. The young hero, who is not quite good enough to get into his university of choice, is a fabulous computer game player and finds himself whisked off to fight the bad guys using those skills. Yes, I know, silly, but probably not much sillier than the premise of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, and that worked out fine, didn't it? And became a classic?


I was delighted to get Tron on DVD. Both this and The Last Starfighter  did some "firsts" in computer animation. But the stories were a delight. Pity someone made a sequel to Tron; it just wasn't as good. In the far superior original, Jeff Bridges was the computer game designer who is pulled into his own computer game, where he encounters Tron, the hero of his game, who helps other computer characters. The title role was played by Bruce Boxleitner, who went on to play the role of Captain John Sheridan, station commander, in Seasons 2-4 of Babylon 5, and in one scene Bridges encounters and has to fight a character played by Peter Jurasik, who, as  Centauri Ambassador Londo Mollari, got some of the best lines in Babylon 5.

And there was Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home, still my favourite of all the Trek movies. That's the one with the whales, and that joyous music as the whales romp in the ocean of 23rd century Earth. The one where Kirk doesn't get the girl and Spock experiments with swearing and Chekhov, lying on a hospital trolley and not quite awake, implies he's after Kirk's job. Walter Koenig, by the way, was another Babylon 5 cast member, and made a great villain. And Scotty, in a glass factory, tries to speak to the computer using a mouse, then uses the keyboard with great proficiency.

I watch that to cheer me up when I'm feeling low.

Another one I watch to cheer myself is the 1980 movie of Flash Gordon. It's great fun, played with tongue firmly in cheek. Chaim Topol, best known as Tevye in Fiddler On The Roof, was scientist Dr Zharkov, the delectable Tomothy Dalton, a future James Bond, was Prince Barin, Brian Blessed was Prince Vultan of the Hawk Men- you may have seen him in Blackadder 1 as King Richard IV, or in   I,Claudius as the Emperor Augustus or even in Dr Who as a barbarian chieftain... No, probably not unless you're my age...   and Max Von Sydow, star of many a Swedish movie and Jesus in The Greatest Story Ever Told, was Ming The Merciless. And that score by Queen is absolutely perfect! You can see the actors are having a ball. I once won a prize at a SF convention masquerade as a lady of the court of Ming The Merciless, back in the days when I was embroidering a lot with sequins and I had the figure to carry it off. 

And who could forget the classic Back To The Future? Michael J Fox as Marty McFly and Christopher Lloyd as the delightful Dr Emmett Brown? Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover, who played as his parents, were actually not much older than the teenagers they played in the 1950s scenes and had to be made up to look middle aged. Lea Thompson said she wore her make up home once to shock her own parents! You couldn't do a remake now, not with the 1950s settings because the 1950s are too far away. 

What about you? Any favourites?

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20. On This Day - March 7

A meme for March 7, which it us here Downunder.


Events: 


321 – Sunday becomes the day of rest in the Roman Empire. The weekend is created! Yay!

1876 – Alexander Graham Bell patents his invention, the telephone. The rest is history.

1994 – Copyrighta Law in the US: it is decided that parodies of an original work are covered by "fair use". Probably just as well or we wouldn't have quite a lot of comedies and we would have a lot more court cases.

2009 – Launch of  The Kepler space observatory, which is there to find Earth-like planets orbiting other stars. 

Birthdays! 

1792: John Herschel, son of the Astronomer Royal, William Herschel, nephew of the amazing Caroline Herschel, and guess what? He was a big name astronomer himself and named some of the moons of Uranus, with names they still have. He was also a big name in photography and, with his wife Margaret, worked on some botany while they were in South Africa doing astronomy. Go look him up on Wikipedia. I did.

1875: Maurice Ravel. If you've never heard his Bolero, you must have had your head in the sand.

1944: Stanley Schmidt, American SF writer. I can't remember if I 've read anything of his, but I've certainly read Analog, the U.S. hard SF magazine, of which he was editor between 1978 and 2012.  For me, hard SF is the source of my sensawunda.

1946: The wonderful Elizabeth Moon, whose space operas I discovered while waiting for more Lois McMaster Bujold. LMB is a fine fantasy writer, but I prefer SF - and I haven't read any Moon fantasy either, for the same reason. But plenty of space opera to read in the Serrano, Esmay Suiza and Vatta's War series. More, please! 

Today is Teacher's Day in Albania. Nice to know teachers are appreciated in some parts of the world. Here in Australia the perception seems to be that teachers are useless lazy good for nothings who have these cushy jobs with short hours and long holidays. Interestingly, no one who says this in newspaper letters pages ever says, "I think I'll go and train as a teacher to show them how it's done and get all those holidays." Or seems to know that uni entrance scores are about demand, not about how good you are. And teacher entrance scores are low because, despite all those holidays, not many people want to teach. I wonder why?

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21. Two Tales Of Twins From Ancient Greece And Rome. The Audiobook

Two Tales Of Twins From Ancient Greece And Rome. Audiobook. Written and Narrated by Ursula Dubosarsky. Ill. By David Allan. Incidental music by Bevis Masson-Leach. Published Christmas Press 2015

This is the second Christmas Press audiobook.

I reviewed this title when it first came out. You can read the original review here

They are the stories of Apollo and Artemis(Greece) and Romulus and Remus(Rome). I've always thought that audiobooks are a separate thing from reading books. It's not for nothing that they are so often read by well-known actors. Stephen Fry, for example, reading Harry Potter, and Tony Robinson reading Terry Pratchett books. They are someone else's interpretation of the story and an entertainment in their own right. I rarely listen to an audiobook I haven't read, for that reason(the only exception is Georgette Heyer's novel Sylvester, beautifully read by Richard Armitage, but then that man could read the telephone directory and I'd love it!).

And sometimes the author reads their own book; Neil Gaiman is such a wonderful reader that if he wasn't a writer he could be an actor. Graeme Base is another of that kind. Douglas Adams was the perfect reader of the Hitchhiker's Guide novels.

In this case, author Ursula Dubosarsky has just the right comfortable "Mum" voice to read her children's picture storybook, and the music by Bevis Masson-Leach complements it beautifully.  

It's seventeen minutes long, just right for an evening reading before the little ones go to bed(once they're in bed, needless to say, parents should do their own reading!)


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22. The Stella Awards Long List 2015

I'm announcing this here because Laurinda, by the lovely Alice Pung, who was so good to my students last week, is on it. The only other writer on the list whose work I have read is Sonya Hartnett, best known for her YA novels, but I believe this one is for adults.

Here is the list for you:

  • Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clarke (Hachette)
  • The Strays by Emily Bitto (Affirm Press)
  • Only the Animals by Ceridwen Dovey (Penguin)
  • This House of Grief by Helen Garner (Text Publishing)
  • Golden Boys by Sonya Hartnett (Penguin)
  • The Invisible History of the Human Race by Christine Kenneally (Black Inc)
  • The Eye of the Sheep by Sofie Laguna (Allen & Unwin)
  • The Golden Age by Joan London (Random House)
  • Laurinda by Alice Pung (Black Inc)
  • Nest by Inga Simpson (Hachette)
  • Heat and Light by Ellen van Neerven (UQP)
  • In My Mother’s Hands by Biff Ward (Allen & Unwin)
If you want the details of what these books are about, check out the Stellas web site here.

The short list will be out this week. I do hope Laurinda is on it!

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23. Australia's Favourite Authors - Some More Info!

In January I posted the list of Australia's favourite authors, as taken by Booktopia, which invited readers to vote. My only comment, from my friend Lan Chan, said she had never heard of half of them. As I have no idea which half, I thought I would re-post the list with the names of some books written by each, because a lot of the time, people slap their foreheads and say, "Oh! Him! Of course!"

So here we go.


10. John Marsden - best known for the Tomorrow When The War Began series for teens. He has done his first adult book recently, but this series is what made him famous and gets him about $750 an hour for school visits(or did - it may be more by now)

9. Mem Fox - best known for Possum Magic, that delightful picture book in which an invisible possum travels Australia trying to become visible again and sees a lot of Australian icons. The wonderful artist is Julie Vivas. It was rejected by nine publishers who must now be kicking themselves, because it's sold in the millions.

8. Markus Zusak - mostly YA writer, though these days everyone is reading The Book Thief and watching the film. I heard him speak at a conference when he'd done only one book; he looked about sixteen.

7. Andy Griffiths - huge favourite of children, for the Just! Series, the (multi) Storey Treehouse series and the Bum series that began with The Day My Bum Went Psycho. Famous for his very silly, over-the-top style, which kids love(and so do I)

6. Monica McInerney - heard of her, but have no idea what her writing is like. I had to Google this one. She's Australian, but doesn't live here - she is Dublin-based. Top of the list on her web site is a novel called Hello From The Gillespies. There's also a quote from the Sun Herald describing her as a modern Jane Austen. What - gentle comedy-of-manners romances? Well, I'll take their word for it. She is Australia's sixth favourite writer.

5. Kerry Greenwood - Best known for her Phryne Fisher series, now on TV, and Corinna Chapman mysteries, not yet filmed and she says they won't be unless an appropriately fat actress can be found to play the lead - Magda Zubanski, who would have been a lovely Corinna, has taken off weight! She has written a number of children's and YA books but they're lesser known than the mysteries.

4. Matthew Reilly - writes thrillers in which, he told a Melbourne Writers Festival audience, characters are chased by monsters across the landscape. Something or someone is blown up every other page. I managed to read about 250 pages of Temple before throwing it aside in disgust and deciding it was perfect for fourteen year old boys, but even as a teacher librarian I couldn't bring myself to finish it. So it went in my library, where teenage boys could read it. But I'm in a minority, judging by his sales and by the fact that he ranks above John Marsden on this list.

3. Tim Winton - as a teacher-librarian I have only read his Lockie Leonard books, lovely, gentle things set on the coast of Western Australia, but most adults would probably know him better for such books as Cloudstreet.

2. Liane Moriarty - I see, on a Google, that she's the sister of YA novelist Jaclyn Moriarty, of whom I have heard. Apparently she wrote three children's books, early in her career. Her book Big Little Lies is a NY Times bestseller, but I haven't read it and can't comment, alas. Her sister, on the other hand, has a book on this year's Aurealis Awards shortlist.

1. John Flanagan - Ranger's Apprentice and Brotherband. Fabulous adventure stories for children set in an alternative universe not unlike mediaeval earth, but cleaner and everyone drinks coffee, not just Arabs. And funny! Even my US readers will have heard of these, as I know there are US editions.

As I'm writing this, I'm listening to a radio interview with that wonderful writer Tom Keneally, in his eighties and still going strong. I'm a bit surprised he didn't get into the list, but then, it is a vote on one web site. And Booktopia sells a lot of books to a lot of readers. He has, however, just won a Lifetime Achievement award, which tells you that his real achievement is in a lot of books; it might be easier if there was just one or, maybe two, books for which he was best known.

Hope this is of help to those who, like Lan, hadn't heard of some of the people on this list!

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24. Terry Pratchett Is No More! Oh, no!

I just heard the news this morning while making breakfast. I will do a proper post later, but sneaking this in as a placeholder, seeing I'm at work.

I'm hoping to drink a toast to him later - wonder if the local pub does Dakry's? Not bananana Dakry's, of course, too much to expect, I'll settle for strawberry. 

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25. Here's To Terry Pratchett! A Toast In Bananana Dakry!


                                                    
Yesterday morning I woke up to the news that Terry Pratchett had died. It was around 6.15 and I was in the kitchen making breakfast before heading for work. I had to go into work and be cheery for the kids while feeling sad. It will become one of those "Do you remember where you were when..." events. That's where I was.

We actually have quite a good collection of Pratchett books on our shelves. I bought most of the newer editions from the now defunct Of Science And Swords bookshop in the city, because one of our students, Jake, was a fan. Nobody has picked them up since, alas. Ironically, the day before I had shown them to two of our current students, James and Lordon. James listened politely and said he still had a Brotherband book to finish(and, admittedly, two after that, because I've donated both Aurealis entries), while Lordon, a new student, says he really prefers his fantasy dark. 

So, no current Pratchett fans in my library. Nobody to mourn with among the students, though one fellow fan among the staff, my friend Jasna, went with me to the pub after school to drink a toast to the man who had given us such reading joy over the years. We couldn't get a daiquiri, "bananana" or otherwise, of course, I can't recall the last time I saw them in a pub - and the young bartender didn't even know what a Cointreau was, with a bottle right behind his shoulder - but we drank the toast with a Cointreau and ice(me) and a half vodka and orange(her). And banana bread(her) and raisin toast(me). Jasna and I did a joint download of Raising Steam, his last Discworld novel, on the day it came out. 

I remember my discovery of Terry Pratchett's work. I'd tried getting into The Colour Of Magic, failed the first time and not looked at it again for some years(I did read it, eventually, though I still think it's his weakest book - and I once heard him speak and he himself advised his listeners not to begin with that one). Then I found a copy of Mort, in which Death takes an apprentice, who stuffs up his first job disastrously, while Death is taking a holiday as a short-order cook and discovering the delights of having cats in his un-life. I snorted. I chortled. I laughed out loud, in public. I soon followed it up with Pyramids, a stand-alone tale which starts in Ankh-Morpork, where a young prince is studying at the Assassin's Guild before heading back to his family's ancient kingdom of Djelibeybi(pronounced jelly baby) giggle! - and some bizarre adventures. I remember laughing out loud again, in a bus, during the scene where he is remembering his first night at the Assassin's Guild school, and the delicious send-up of a scene from Tom Brown's Schooldays. A send-up richly deserved, IMO. 

                                                
   

He did send-up to perfection. He commented about this world as much as the one on the backs of four elephants and a giant turtle. Anne Rice-style vampire novels, New Age, philosophy, movie stardom, rock stardom, opera, religion, folk songs, war, racism, newspapers, banks, post offices, society in general - nothing was safe. It's interesting to see how his characters and his world developed over the years, though you could read most of the books stand-alone. 

And this is where you get the fact that it was not only fantasy, not only funny, but more. Much more. There is a whole discussion going on another blog, right now, about how people think they're doing fantasy and children's books a favour by saying that they're not really fantasy or too good for children. What I say is that those adults too scared to be seen reading a children's book or who sneer at speculative fiction because "it's trying to escape from reality" are missing out big time. Their loss. In the case of this writer, a huge loss. He is, in my opinion, one of the greatest writers of the last century, not greatest fantasy writer, but greatest writer. And he said what he wanted to say by making you laugh and touching you at the same time. That's something you'll never get from mainstream writers whose only claim to fame is "beautiful writing". You know the kind. You ask someone what this or that book is about and they can't tell you, but say,"But it was beautifully written!"

He had some characters who spoke for him. There's Sam Vimes, the policeman who remains a policeman even when he's been promoted, kicking and screaming, to Duke of Ankh, and Rincewind, the totally incompetent wizard, who has stitched the word "wizzard" on his hat. Rincewind is described as a coward, but he's not, really. When it counted, he was shown as willing to face huge scary monsters with nothing but a sock full of sand to enable a young boy to escape. He's just realistic. Why hang around when someone is trying to kill you? And during his various adventures/misadventures, he sees a bizarre world as the author sees it. Read the Rincewind books and tell me I'm wrong. His witches Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, between them, also say and think things the author wants us to hear. And his young heroine Tiffany Aching, apprentice witch.

I got to meet Mr Pratchett a couple of times. He kindly agreed to speak to the children when I was organising the children's program at Aussiecon 3 in 1999, so I do have a couple of emails from him, or did, since my Hotmail account has lapsed. I had to leave the writing workshop to set it up, he missed out on lunch. He had the kids enthralled with his tales of a teacher he'd had who impressed the class by hanging a badly behaved boy out of the window by his ankles. 

I went to the first two Discworld conventions in Melbourne. He was at the first one, but was already sick by the second. The first time he had brought a lot of plastic teeth from the Hogfather movie, which he handed out. I still have two lying in one of my jewellery cases, waiting to be turned into earrings. He was working on Making Money at the time and kept reading to us from it until his laptop battery ran out, a good hour and a half of his time. When a group of Melbourne University students performed a play of Mort(the plays are written for amateur groups) he made sure he was there to chat with the cast and crew afterwards. I never hung out with him, but he was a nice man, from what I could see, and if that sounds a weak description, it's what counts to me. Too many people aren't, or are only nice until they become famous or get a position of power. 

I could say a lot more, but the Net is overflowing with tributes, so I'll finish this one with raising my glass of Bananana Dakry in a toast, in which I hope you'll join me, with a comment below! 

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