Tag Archives: jane rawson

Julie Koh: #Robinpedia

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Julie Koh has been described as ‘the brightest new star in Australia’s literary galaxy’ by Louise Swinn. Oh God, I can already tell that this is one of those entries that will have me feeling so inadequate by the time I finish the research that I end up crying in the shower whilst drinking… again. Deep breath. She studied Politics and Law at the University of Sydney but quit corporate law to peruse writing.

Spineless Wonders published her first story collection, Capital Misfits, in 2015. This same collection was also picked up by Math Paper Press in 2016 and published with illustrations by Matt Huynh. Portable Curiosities was also published in 2016, through UQP.

Portable Curiosities, Julie Koh’s first full length collection, was met with critical praise. It was shortlisted for the Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction, the Queensland Literary Awards, the Steel Rudd Award, New South Wales Premiere Literary Awards, the UTS Glenda Adams Award, to list just a few…. These are happy tears of congratulations I’m crying, not envy.

Julie Koh’s fiction can be hard to pin down, so is at times classified as Weird Fiction as it it quite literary but with speculative elements. This has surprised her as she felt that her writing was quite normal. It is set around real issues and sure there’s the odd god or ghost, but hey that’s just life. People in Julie Koh’s family on her mother’s side are quite spiritual and can see ghosts.

 

On her down time she is also one of the founding members of Kanganoulipo, a super secret writing sect tasked with shaking up the landscape of Australian literature. Former Robinpedia entrant, Jane Rawson, is also part of this top secret collective. So keep your eyes, including the third one, peeled. 

Find Julie Koh’s website here.

Tweet with Julie Koh here.

Like Julie Koh on Facebook here.

If there is any information that you have that you believe would enhance this entry, please leave it in the comment section. 

Read more about Robinpedia here

Read about my experience of being a dyslexic writer here.

Read about my opinion on author branding here.

Buy my shit here.


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New South Wales Writers’ Centre Speculative Fiction Festival 2017

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Content warning: I’m dyslexic, deal with it.

Every second year New South Wales Writers’ Centre hosts a Speculative Fiction Festival to much whooping and wooting from Spec Fic fans. This was its third run and it has sold out every single time.
For those wondering what Spec Fic is our glorious convenor, Cat Sparks, described is as ‘the literature of what the fuck.’ Which sums it up pretty nicely. In a nutshell Spec Fic is an umbrella term that covers Fantasy, Horror and Sci Fi. Wikipedia says-

Speculative fiction is an umbrella genreencompassing narrative fiction with supernatural or futuristic elements.[1] This includes the genres science fiction, fantasy,horror and supernatural fiction, as well as their combinations.[2] The broader usage of the term is attributed to Robert Heinlein, who referenced it in 1947 in an editorial essay, although there are prior mentions of speculative fiction or its variant “speculative literature”.

As you can see it covers quite a bit. All that we fear about the future of technology, politics, and human nature, is crystallised and taken to its extreme in Speculative Fiction.

But you don’t care about dry definitions, you want to know who said what. So I’ll give a quick summary of the panels I saw.

The first panel was New Gods and Monsters. The chair was Robert Hood, and the panelists were MARIA LEWISAlan BaxterJames Bradley and….. dramatic pause….. suspense building….. so much suspense…….. Margo Lanagan. In the warm up Robert Hood says that the origins of superheroes lies in mythology. Maria Lewis adds that the split nature of heroes with one identity by day and another by night lies with the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Margo Lanagan mentions Saints as having super powers and everybody giggles. James Bradley mentions that Sherlock Holmes is a great precursor to superheroes with his almost super human intelligence. And the modern day superhero is essentially Houdini in a circus costume….. Pretty sure he means more like the contortionist than a clown.

James Bradley then takes the excitement down a notch and mentions that comics have a lot to do with the economics of the time. That they are a business and want to make money. Maria Lewis tries to lighten the mood and says it’s also about need. The world is pretty scary right now and we need heroes to step up. 

Robert Hood mentions that in the 80s Stan Lee made the heroes much more relatable to people by being diverse and having real human flaws. James Bradley agrees that MARVEL became more fun and people loved it. Maria Lewis mentions how not only the content was diverse but the writing approach became so. Comic book authors writing movies, authors writing comics. People were becoming format fluid writers. James Bradley says that the diversification is good but to be wary because it is economically motivated. Major corporations own these comics and they’re doing it because it sells and they can get more money from it. So be happy because diversity and representation matters… but hold off on praising these corporations too much because they’re doing it for money not the goodness of their own hearts. 
Onto Urban Fantasy Noir chaired by Marlee Jane Ward with Alan Baxter, Angela Slatter and Maria Lewis. Alan Baxter says he likes Urban Fantasy because he loves genre mashing. He loves mongrel dogs and mongrel genres. He takes themes from big fat epics and puts them into the real world. Maria Lewis says it just makes sense to combine ancient beings with modern days settings because everybody knows a Xerxes. Sure, who hasn’t felt so angry that they’ve ordered the water to be whipped for disobedience?

Angela Slatter says that Urban Fantasy is about tears. Fractures in your life being echoed by tears in the veil between reality and beyond. It is about that point where everything is ripped so it lends itself to crime and the supernatural as the logical two extensions.

Alan Baxter drops that Urban Fantasy is dead. Maria Lewis says not only is Urban Fantasy dead, whatever supernatural creature you are writing about is the wrong one. If you’re writing about werewolves you’ll be told by publishers that it’s Vampire Season. If you’re writing about fairies it’ll be Troll Season. And if you’re writing about mermen, you’ll need to self publish. Maria Lewis will be self publishing From the Deep in September. 

Next I saw Myth, Legend and Fairy Tale chaired by Thoraiya Dyer with Cathy CraigieRebecca-Anne Do Rozario, Margo Lanagan and Garth Nix. Cathy Craigie opens by talking about oral story traditions and how they’re organic and moving like their own growing being. They can change depending on the storyteller and the place. Rebecca-Anne Do Rozario says that with the European folk tales they veer from oral to written to oral and back again. Snaking back and fourth as they develop.

Rebecca-Anne Do Rozario says she loves research and does research for its own sake. Margo Lanagan says she can get lost in research. Cathy Craigie says research allows her to expand on stories…. Garth Nix says he doesn’t so much actively research as passively. He just naturally reads widely to be inspired and learns ew things. He rarely comes up with an idea and has to go research it. He doesn’t go looking for stuff, stuff comes and finds him.

Thoraiya Dyer asks the panelists if when recasting old tales should authors stick to the now accepted happy endings if they want commercial success. Margo Lanagan says if they wanted commercial success they shouldn’t become writers so just give it the ending it needs. 
And then we had lunch. I got a couple of books signed.

Weird Fiction chaired by Kaaron Warren with Julie KohJane Rawson, and Rose Michael is what I attended next. Full disclosure, I spent much of this session watching Julie Koh’s hand movements. They were hypnotic. At one stage she ran her fingers over the arm of her white leather chair so softly and so serenely that I could almost feel it raise tingling goosebumps up my neck and into my hair line.

Julie Koh opened up the dialogue by stating that she always felt that she was normal but people kept saying that she was not. And being placed in Weird Fiction has simply reinforced this message. She considered herself literary. Rose Michael says that she too believed that she was a straight literary writer and only found out that she was not when her first rejection indicated that the publisher wasn’t taking on literary fiction with speculative elements. Now she has embraced the weird and uses speculative elements to resolve impasses in her literary manuscripts. It has given her another bag of tricks to use.

Jane Rawson just wanted to write stuff people loved and people seemed to love literary. But she can’t help but write Weird Fiction because life is weird. Julie Koh casually mentions that people in her family have the third eye and can see ghosts and gods. No big D. So it’s not really weird it’s just stuff some people can’t see. Mebe the literary people are the weird ones because they can only see part of the world?

Rose Michael says – Reality is a conspiracy theory that we’ve all signed up for.

Jane Rawson says that there is a definite market for Weird Fiction in Australia but there might not be so many publishers that will commission it. Julie Koh admits she’s weirded out by how narrow the definition is of what Australians read because they really read much wider.

As for advice on craft, Kaaron Warren recommends a little nap in the afternoon to awaken the ideas. Jane Rawson says fall out of bed in the morning and start writing while your brain is still floating between awake and asleep. I knew napping was important.

Also, Jane Rawson and Julie Koh are part of a collective known as Kanganoulipo that are shaking up Australian literature. I’m quietly confident that they meet in an underground lair and have a secret handshake. So keep your eyes open for their work.

For the Kaffeeklatsches I saw Margo Lanagan. 

She is also a fan of writing in the morning, but that’s because she likes to write before her inner critic wakes up and judges her. 

Deadlines don’t work for her. They don’t motivate her to work better and quicker. It comes when it comes.

She doesn’t write and edit beginning to end, more so in chunks.

Margo Lanagan recommends that you get your words to the point that even if they’re read in a monotone they still have power.
The final session of the day was The Road to Publication chaired by Rose Michael with Alison GreenLex HirstJoel Naoum, Garth Nix and Angela Slatter. The main takeaways for me were that Garth Nix believes that hybrid authors are the way of the future. Alison Green says the writing is a craft but publishing is a business. Lex Hirst says that she loves Dystopian Fiction because they are the perfect balance of escapism and instruction manual. Angela Slatter urges everyone to write to the publishers guidelines and not write a cover letter explaining why you haven’t. Penguin is currently running a Literary Prize that has a $20k advance for the winner. Competition closes October 20.
And that was the formal part over. It was followed by wine and chatting. I shall now leave you with some quotes from the day that I have imgflipped onto pictures. Enjoy.

Read up about being a dyslexic writer here.

Book Review: From the Wreck by Jane Rawson #AWW2017

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Move over Kurt Vonnegut Jr’s Tralfamadorians, there’s a new alien in town.

 

In Jane Rawson’s fourth novel, From the Wreck, she takes her unique approach to historical fiction. Rawson is known for playing with form and function within narrative structures. Her first novel, A wrong turn at the Office of Unmade Lists, blended dystopian fiction with the motifs of a humorous road trip and was shortlisted for an Aurealis award. Her novel Formaldehyde cemented Rawson as an author known for their quirky shifting of narrative points of view and time just like any postmodern master. From the Wreck is true to Rawson’s distinct style.

Rawson’s take on historical fiction is akin to that of postmodern juggernaut, Julian Barnes. In his History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters Barnes takes aim at Noah’s ark in his first chapter and concludes that redheads are the result of an unholy union between unicorns and one of the human members of the ark. Rawson, on the other hand, examines the sinking of the steamship off the South Australian coast in 1859 and concludes that there was possibly alien involvement. And what’s more, it is done in such a subtle and meticulous way that it doesn’t come across as being deliberately controversial or showy as elements of History of the World do.

At the enquiry, months later, he heard that some time on that first evening one of the horses had fallen, knocked from its feet by the rough seas. The racer’s owner had demanded a shift in course and the captain had turned the prow of the ship into the swell to ease its heaving. Had it brought about the wreck, this shift? Perhaps. It did not occur to George to stand and say that it was something other than the swell that had caused the horse to panic. He didn’t even believe it himself.

Rawson has taken on a postmodern master’s approach and won. The refusal to comment on the alien being is the logical reaction of a rational human to an impossible situation that would only lead him to be ridiculed should he dare utter it. The lack of commentary is just as powerful as what is said.

Now of course I can’t reference postmodernism and aliens without discussing how Rawson’s alien compares to Vonnegut’s famous, and much loved, Tralfamadorians. There are similarities, in that these aliens are both distinctly not human. Residents of Tralfamador are quite explicit in teaching humans that there are more than two sexes and there are more than five senses. They are quite active in their contact with people. Rawson’s alien is similarly different from humans. They are fluid, they are shape-shifting, they are confused by their surrounding on Earth because it is utterly alien to them.

I will sit slumping cold and starving here, in this cave, in this wet puddle of an ocean. Who would even mark my death? That crusty-shelled little nobody over there? That slippery piece of meat and teeth? I don’t think so. Weren’t we supposed to be a once-proud race of warriors? I flail at the memory of us and the hurt of it tears strips from me and I decide I can’t remember. Still, I am certain we were not the type whose deaths were marked by becoming passing food for some slippery piece of meat and teeth.

Where Tralfamadorians are willing to take action and do the odd human kidnapping, Rawson’s alien is a refugee on this planet, desperate for their people, wanting a connection, and trying to fit in. It is through this breaking from the butt probing stereotype of aliens that Rawson gives her novel real depth and again sets herself up as one of the greats.

The mood of the novel is intense. From the very first words the reader is sucked into this environment. We can feel the terror, sense the dampness, and recoil at the uncertainty.

He felt it first when the horses shifted and cried. They had been muttering among themselves all day, but this was different, a note of panic in it. The horses aren’t yours to care about, George, he reminded himself. He went from cabin to cabin and collected the crockery and cutlery smeared and encrusted with an early dinner, the passengers getting ready for bed.

The environment created is so vivid that it is hard to believe that this in anything short of real.

Rawson is undoubtedly a master of setting and atmosphere but she is no less a master of character and dialogue. Awkward family conversations crackle off the page.

‘And so cannibalism? What you’re saying is?’ asked George, wondering why William would always use ten words when one would do.

‘That should humans be the most widely available meat, eating the flesh of humans would be the best response to such availability.’

Oh, now he saw. George knew what William was poking at. The bubble solidified into something obsidian-cool, rubbed smooth and sharp-edged in the year after year. George weighed it in his palm, tested the blade, pocketed it. Said, instead, that this would be true, surely, only if you’d nothing else to eat, yes

We may not have been prodded over possible cannibalism but we’ve all been trapped with that family member who thinks that they are so clever and trying to push our buttons. It is through these normal components of life that the premise become completely believable.

Overall From the Wreck is a gorgeous miasma of textures and time. It is quite simply sublime and a must read. It has replaced Patrick Süskind’s Perfume as my favourite book of all time. I suspect that this exceptional novel will not only be a contender for an Aurealis but also a Stella award. Just give Jane Rawson all the awards already. 
But don’t just take my word for it, find out what ANZ LitLovers thought here:

https://anzlitlovers.com/2017/02/06/from-the-wreck-by-jane-rawson/

And find out what Newtown Review of Books thought here:

http://newtownreviewofbooks.com.au/2017/02/28/jane-rawson-wreck-reviewed-linda-godfrey/#more-10520
They have quoted a discount code for Abbey’s Bookshop so make sure you read until the very end.

 

Jane Rawson, From the Wreck Transit Lounge PB 272pp $29.95

Learn more about the 2017 Australian Women Writers Challenge here.

 

Jane Rawson: #Robinpedia

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Jane Rawson is an Australian writer, environmentalist, and tasty bit of frippet. Her interests include dawdling around San Francisco and applying formalin to shape-shifting, aliens’ feet.

By day Jane is a respected environmental writer who writes about cows and hover-boards  for The Man, by night she is a writer of quirky books that stimulate, amuse, and confuse the senses. Her first novel, A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists, came out in 2013 through Transit Lounge and was shortlisted for an Aurealis award. This dystopian/apocalyptic/road-trip quickly became a cult classic amongst sci fi fans (me) and cool people (Emma Viskic) with good taste (Tania Chandler) everywhere.

In 2015 Jane put out two books, Formaldehyde through Seizure which uses her signature style of shifting time, meaning and narrative; and a non fiction, The Handbook: Surviving and Living with Climate Change again through Transit Lounge. I am buying this for my husband for his birthday, so will let you know about it once I know. Let’s all just assume that it’s really good.

For her fourth book, From the Wreck, also through Transit Lounge, Jane took her unique approach to writing family history. The result is a delicious postmodern feast that shows human nature at its most primitive and yet also whilst it is attempting to be most civilised. Given that this historical fiction is written by Jane Rawson it involves an alien and references to cannibalism. It is fucking brilliant, end of. 

Find Jane Rawson’s website here.

Find Jane Rawson on twitter here.

Engage with her olden day jokes about travel here.

You can also read Jane’s short fiction through Review of Australian Fiction, Tincture, and Funny Ha Ha


If you have information you feel would enhance this entry please leave it in the comment section.

Learn more about Robinpedia here

A Thank You to Jane Rawson and All the Authors Who Allow Me to Escape

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Things have been getting on top of me of late. You probably noticed from my last post that I’m spiralling down into a depressive state again. I’m exhausted and there doesn’t seem to be a break for me in sight. There doesn’t seem to be a Robin sized shape in my life at all. Yesterday morning I could do little more than cry and vomit. I was trapped inside my own head and couldn’t see the light of day.
But then I had an external mood boost and it has made all of the difference in the world. Yesterday I received an early copy of From The Wreck by Jane Rawson to review. 

It is, quite simply, sublime. From the very first sentence the atmosphere is so thick that you could eat it with a spoon. I won’t comment any further on the book right now as that’s not the purpose of this blog entry, and I will definitely write a review closer to the release date in March. The reason I am writing this blog post is to affirm just how important good books are. Not just from an educational point of view. Not just from a place of social commentary. Not just to shine a light on horrendous issues. All those things are important but they can also provide a much needed escape.

As the great J. R. R. Tolkein said, ​”Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?” Unfortunately using literature for escapism is often derided as silly. It is as if some people think that you should be intensely feeling and consciously  changing your life at all moments of the reading journey. You must feel miserable and outraged. You can’t just grab a book and float away somewhere else, you must be very much here, on Earth, in your own tightly-fitting shoes, and in your own burning skin. Literature like that certainly has its place but so do stories that let us become so utterly immersed in their world that we can switch off our brain from our own troubles from time to time and go somewhere else. 
When you have a mental illness such as depression or anxiety, like I do, sometimes you just need to get out of the prison that is your own mind. Books provide a gaol-break. They are life saving, they are necessary, they are not simply trivial nonsense. So never be ashamed of reading to escape because it very well could save your life. And do keep an eye out in March for Jane Rawson’s From the Wreck. It is intensely gripping and has allowed me to escape from my head.