Tag Archives: speculative fiction

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.

 

Book Review: “Crossroads of Canopy” by Thoraiya Dyer #AWW2017

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Thoraiya Dyer is bringing classic High Fantasy back!

 


Crossroads of Canopy is Thoraiya Dyer’s debut novel but by no means her first foray into the world of Speculative Fiction. Dyer is a well-known short-story writer who has won four Aurealis awards and three Ditmar awards. As such her turn to novel length writing was highly anticipated, and she has not disappointed. The Epic Fantasy canon can now add another novel.

Classic Fantasy tropes are respected throughout this novel. We all know that a special child is usually required and preferably parentless. This pervades most of Speculative Fiction and beyond. Luke Skywalker thinks both of his parents are dead and so is raised by his uncle and aunt until a couple of robots show him the light. Harry Potter’s parents are dead so he is raised by his evil uncle and aunt until he receives word from an owl. Superman, dead parents, dead planet. Frodo Baggins, adopted. All of these guys for one reason or another do not have their biological parents anymore, and they receive a higher calling to leave their old life and become the super-bestest heroes ever. Awesome right? 

Dyer does a similar thing. Her main character, Unar, has less than loving parents. They think of their child as slave labour. In fact they are literally going to sell her to become a slave. Unar decides that she will run away rather than be sold into slavery. It is through this slight change in the dead parent motif, that Dyer gives her lead character more agency than other orphan heroes. It is not until after Unar has already made the decision to run away that she receives her “calling.”

As soon as she makes the decision, Unar’s heart races. The smell of quince blossom and wood fern fills her nostrils. Something inside her chest, like a seed sending out tiny root, begins to grow there. No idea she’s ever had has felt so right, yet the sensation is distressing; she clutches at her rib cage.

Unar gets this special feeling as a result of having made a decision, she is not simply dragged off unwittingly by a wise guide, she willingly chooses to leave and then receives her calling. Having the decision come first gives Unar an active role in her life in a way many popular, heroes of epic fantasy do not. From the start the reader knows that Unar is a person of action and capable of making tough decisions.

Despite this kick-ass aspect to Unar the reader knows that she has a softer side and has sympathy for her from the outset.

Unar Lies as still as a twelve-year-old can lie.

Eyes shut tight, anticipating her mother’s pleased and surprised reaction to her day’s work, she breathes, deliberately and deeply, with intent to deceive, in the wreckage of the cot that belonged to her sister. A curtain divides the cot from the rest of the hollowed-out, one room dwelling. The corner twitches. Tickles her foot. Father checking on her.

Unar’s bent arm is her pillow. She keeps her legs curled so they won’t dangle over the splintered edges. The cot bars have been broken off to burn for fuel but the body remains whole.

Father thinks she’s sleeping. She’s never been so wide awake. He lets the curtain drop.

“It’s time to sell her,” Unar’s mother says from the other side of it, dashing Unar’s excitement to dust.

We are introduced to an excited little girl who just wants to make her mother happy. A little girl that we then witness being callously betrayed by the people who are supposed to love her. To them she is simply a product to be sold rather than a little girl to be loved. This is heart-breaking to witness but also provides context to Unar being emotionally distant at times later in the novel. Her parents wanted to sell her, we also learn that her baby sister was swept away by floods; Unar has had a horrific life in the twelve short years before she runs away. Being strong and distant is an understandable coping mechanism and not simply arrogance over being the “chosen one.”

Crossroads of Canopy has the scope of a Raymond E. Feist novel. There are thirteen gods. There are different factions following each god. The gods are at the top of the hierarchy, walking amongst people in bodies of flesh and blood. Just under the gods are their body guards, after them are those who have received the calling to serve the gods, and below them are of course the slaves. Slaves being the lowest of the low without any agency at all. Unar, who we see as a strong person, with amazing talent, could easily have been one of those slaves.

On top of that there are layers within the world. Those who live in the canopies of the great forest are the most blessed, those who live below, considered less, and the world of the ground is seen as a dirty hole that is best avoided. My favourite nod to classic Fantasy is that the creatures from different areas actually look significantly different like in a J.R.R. Tolkien novel. As early as the first chapter we are introduced to a truly fantastical creature.

He dropped suddenly, suspended by clawed toes in front of her, upside-down with his skirt hems held in one hand, loincloth and concealed throwing knives showing, grinning, making her gasp. It wasn’t right, to have feet like that. Unar had heard rumours that those who served Orin, goddess of birds and beasts, were permanently changed in size and shape, but nobody had ever mentioned to her that the Bodyguard of Ehkis had the grey toes and talons of a sooty owl.

Going back to this traditional model of having creatures from different areas actually look different, rather than all being super sexy humans, opens up a whole range of actions and predicaments that cannot be achieved with merely the human form. This is followed up, with more references to the differences that people from other areas possess, in chapter two and continues on throughout the novel.

Unar examined this one closely for the first time. The woman had the baby-sick skin but not the deep forearm scars of Understorian warriors with retractable “claws” for scaling trees. She couldn’t be a slave taken in war, but instead must have been born a slave. Nobody had set snake’s teeth in place at puberty to form a grown fighter’s magically grafted climbing skills.

And last but not least, Dyer pays tribute to the randy teen trope. Don’t kid yourself, this is important in Fantasy. Think about Kvothe from Patrick Rothfuss’ Wise Man’s Fear who managed to be so great in the sack that he out classed the fairy of sex despite being a gawky teenager. And let’s not forget Robert Jordan’s Rand (should be Randy) al’Thor and his menagerie of lusty ladeez who are absolutely gagging for it, and him relatively happily bed hopping. The ladies of High Fantasy are no exception, with Kristin Cashore’s kick-ass heroine Katsa going weak at the knees for Po. Not that Epic Fantasy only has horny teens, the adults are pretty lustful too; I’m looking at you Chris Bunch and your continuous references to “oiled up” penises…. I might just go reread some Bunch… for… reasons. Anyway, Dyer’s Unar is plenty lusty. She’s celibate but still has enough urges to keep us secretly-lustful Spec Fic readers happy.

Instead of dwelling on it, she remembered how her whole body thrummed, like a hanging bridge in high wind, at the thought that Aoun might have undressed her.

Excuse me whilst I go smoke a cigarette…. I’m back, just remembered that I don’t smoke.

Although Dyer includes many tropes from Fantasy, Crossroads of Canopy is still fresh and original. This is because of the lush setting, the unique characters, the detailed hierarchy, and Dyer’s distinctive authorial voice. I cannot recommend Crossroads of Canopy highly enough but don’t just take my word for it, you can read these other reviews here:

https://ventureadlaxre.wordpress.com/2016/09/30/review-crossroads-of-canopy-by-thoraiya-dyer/

Book Review: Crossroads of Canopy by Thoraiya Dyer

 

Also, keep an eye out for a review of this book to appear on Newtown Review of Books   because they always quote a code for a discount at Abbey’s Books Shop  for all the books that they review.

 

Thoraiya Dyer, Crossroads of Canopy St Martin’s Press PB 336pp $34.99

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

My Son Pitched a Novel Idea to Three Writers and Not Me

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Today my youngest child, yes the youngest by a minute twin, child number 3, got my phone and tweeted. He went into a twitter conversation that I was not part of, god knows how he ended up there, and decided to join it. He tweeted the following message:

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So yeah, he tweeted award winning author Margo Lanagan, award winning author Deborah Biancotti, and Elijah who I am not familiar with but assume is a spec fic writer. Thanks Bubba, I already do enough “character building” stuff on my own without you adding to it. However, I’m pretty sure I’ve worked out what he was trying to say:

Hey Deborah, Elijah, and Margo,
Here’s my story idea which is so hot you’ll have to invent a new word like “settrfgaaszz” to describe it. You start with a love story. Like seriously in love, double the amount of kissing you’d normally have but then they get angy, and they’re like I can’t take this shit anymore, I’m not just fed up I’m fucking angry. So then this cow shows up, but the cow is like a metaphor for a bird, but the bird is really symbolic of a sheep dressed as a turtle. The turtle is the important bit. Don’t forget the turtle. Look, I’ll put it in twice so that you don’t forget. Trust me, turtles are going to be big! And then they get swallowed by a whale. Yeah it’s been done before, plenty before, but we’re bringing  it back with turtles! Now this whale is allergic to tomatoes. So in the dead of night he accidentally eats a tomato and spews the angry lovers and the turtle off of the planet Earth. It’s like biblical and Pinocchio and Hitch Hikers all at once. So then they get caught by an anchored monolith in space. A sacred monolithic statue in space. But inside there’s like a whole market and town and stuff. There’s even a statue inside the statue. How meta is that. Their main commerce is love so there’s a few love chapels, love factories, love hospitals. And so they go to the love hospital. Will they or won’t they find a cure? Awesome right? We’ll earn heaps of money on this. You’ll earn 6767% more money than you ever dreamed of. Pounds, Euros, you name it, we’ll earn it. Seriously, I cannot express how much money we’ll get. We’ll be bathing in money. Lots of bathing in money. Bathing and showering in money. All because of love hospitals and statutes within statues!!!

Firstly, I’m obviously impressed that he speaks Indonesia. He’s only two and he speaks twin, some English, and apparently Indonesian. Secondly, I’m slightly guilt ridden that I did not realise this before. Where has my head been at that I didn’t pick that up? No wonder he’s off sending tweets to people, I’m clearly not with it. But thirdly, and mostly, I’m hurt. I’m hurt that he didn’t pitch his idea to me first. Clearly we’ve got a lot of work to do on our relationship.

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ABC Book Club Season 10 Episode 10 #bookclubABC

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JByrne is gracing our screens and she is in the most glorious jacket that I have ever seen. I want to reach through the screen and rip it off of her body. She’s saying something about this being a special about Books that Transport You, but I can’t hear her over how awesome her jacket is. I can see that Noel Pearson, John Birmingham, my favourite comedian Kitty Flanagan, and OMG OMG OMG it’s Fantasy author CS Pacat.

A spec fic author has been let out amongst the regular people. Usually spec fic readers and writers are cordoned off away from the other writers and readers but she’s here, she’s right in the middle of it at all. Tears of pride glisten in my eyes and I give a little chest thump in solidarity.

Now, I usually like to guess the novels that guests are going to pick prior to each episode but I have failed every single time so I’m  just going to give up… Stuff it, I’m no quitter. I shall guess!

Noel Pearson will choose The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis.
Kitty Flanagan will hopefully choose something by her dad. I’d love to hear her say, “Because he’s my daddy and I love him!”
John Birmingham will choose Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie.
CS Pacat will choose The Ship Who Sang by Anne McCaffrey.

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Okay, Noel Pearson is the first guest to reveal his choice, he’s gone big, he has gone with the epic battle of heaven and hell that is Paradise Lost by John Milton. Awesome choice, in my opinion, but I have recently been told I have wanky taste in books. Pffft, if loving Calvino is wanky then I don’t want to be unwanky. Noel says that Paradise Lost and the Bible are probably the two books on God’s bedside table and that he thinks Milton is better than Shakespeare. POW! Them be fightin words in some parts. I sit and wait for someone to rip their shirt off and scream, “It’s go time!” it doesn’t happen. Noel even says, “Homer, you’re good, this is better.” Oh my. I’m biting my fingernail in anticipation. If someone had said that back in my uni days in one of the lit classes then it would have been on like Donkey Kong. It is not on. Why isn’t it on? Marieke or Jason would have argued with someone by now.

John Birmingham says it wasn’t easy and that it felt like homework. But he agrees that it’s better than Shakespeare. Still no explosive argument. My poor heart can’t keep up this level of suspense. There has to be an explosion. John says that although it was hard work to read he felt better for reading it.

Noel says knowing the Bible helps to be able to read it. And that reading with your ears helps because Milton wrote it whilst he was blind. John adds that it came to Milton in a dream and it just flowed from him and that mimicks the dreamy, lyrical flow of Paradise Lost.

CS Pacat speaks. The spec fic world hold their collective breath, one of us has been allowed to speak, will she do us proud. CS calls bullshit. She says the devil is the hero, so God would not have this on his bedside table and that Milton would be nothing without Shakespeare. CS, you little rebel you, I knew I liked you. She basically infers that Milton is the Melania to Shakespeare’s Michelle. She says Milton is just riffing off Hamlet. JByrne is shocked. She didn’t expect CS to be so academic and knowledgeable. Firstly, spec fic writers and fans may have the reputation for being “dumb genre readers” but they’re actually highly educated and literate, particularly in literary and historical studies. So ner! And secondly, am I wrong in thinking that CS is dressed like a private school student? She literally looks like she’s walked off a school assembly and come on the show. If that outfit doesn’t scream book smart, I don’t know what does.

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Noel defends Milton and says that he and Shakespeare operate on different planes. Shakespeare and Darwin operate at the human level whereas Milton and Einstein operate at the cosmic level. CS is a bit meh, about the metaphor, whilst the rest of the world is like, HOW FUCKING PROFOUND IS NOEL PEARSON! She says Paradise Lost is a bit of an obedience parable and obedience is probably her least favourite thing. I knew she was a rebel. Spec Fic fans everywhere are shouting at their TVs with pride. Some have no idea why, because they’re not even watching the show, but the psychic bond is so profound that they find themselves shouting anyway.

JByrne said she found it hard to read but loved the audio book…

Noel says he liked how Milton had come up with a new theology surrounding Satan as more of a gatekeeper rather than just a straight up bad guy without being blasphemous. I smash my wine glass and scream, THAT’S NOT ORIGINAL TO MILTON! Heck, the concept predates him by a long shot. CS and her rebellious ways have rubbed off on me. But seriously, it wasn’t new to Milton. That was actually standard until around the 800s. With Satan being the minder of the underworld and punisher of the wicked that God sent to Hell. Then by the 1200s he had developed into this full on tempter for his own sake kind of dude and not part of the continuum. He’s just playing with that. But, whatever.

Kitty Flanagan says she found it hard to read and didn’t like it and it was way over her head. She didn’t think the Bible was much chop either. Noel does not like this. But let’s move on from Milton.

Kitty introduces John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. She is quite timid about it, given that it’s YA and Noel has just been talking about an epic battle between heaven and hell. I say, don’t be timid, genre snobbism is bluuuurrrggghhh. Read what resonates with you, and never apologise. Kitty says that The Fault in Our Stars transported her back to her teen years and made her wish that she was a more worthy teen. This book wasn’t about sex and alcohol it was about love and purity and she loved it.

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Kitty then pulls out how John Green made her understand mothers. That she’d never thought about how much you could love a role and have it come to define you and how important it becomes to your very soul. She pulls out a quote that really brought this home for her from when the lead character’s mother is overheard privately talking and crying on her husband’s chest and says “I won’t be a mom anymore.” Kitty has tears in her eyes, and now so do I. JByrne says the mum is selfish and how could she care about herself when her daughter was suffering. It’s because her daughter’s suffering is killing her, and it’s because she loves her daughter more than herself and her life will feel empty without her. Kitty points out once someone is dead, they’re dead, and that those awho are left are the ones suffering and grieving. My god, Kitty is just so profound and beautiful and I love her even more. Now excuse me whilst I go cry in my room for the next year. Yes, I have three children. Yes I have my period. Yes I am feeling emotional.

John said he liked it.

JByrne said the book made her feel old.

CS says the subject matter was too close to hoe for her so althought it was well written she kept it at arms-length.

Noel doesn’t speak about it much, I suspect he didn’t read it. NAUGHTY!

JByrne talks about how many of the books that really affect you are from your childhood, such as Alice in Wonderland, Marry Poppins and Mr Toad’s Wild Ride. I have to admit the first book I thought of when they said – books that transport you – was, The Enchanted Woods.

John Birmingham’s turn. He goes for a literal transportation to Italy with Midnight in Sicily by Peter Robb. It’s an Australian Author, so, you know… buy it. (John and CS are both Australian authors, so buy their stuff too please.) It’s got lots of description about fruit, colours, and crime. That’s right people, there’s some mafia action in this.

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Kitty says she liked it but there were so many words and descriptions that it was a bit heavy, and a bit too much like doing work. Yuck, work sucks. She said it wasn’t an easy read, have a laugh and quick flick, Bill Bryson type affair. She couldn’t quite pick the narrative thread. And she would have found it a little easier if it had a clearer narrative arc rather than jumping from place to place. John says it was a metaphor for being there.

Noel said he found it really easy to read and had zero trouble. I feel like he and Kitty are secretly twins. Kitty suggests that they must do dinner sometime because they’ll just have so much to talk about… like all the stuff that they don’t have in common.

CS has family from that region so found that Robb’s view of Sicily was different from hers so that distanced her from the book. She wouldn’t comment specifically on its accuracy but was skeptical of certain parts. There is far more to Sicily than the mafia and food.

Now it’s time for the final book and the rebellious CS has gone with SCI FI!!! Hooray. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. CS says that the best sci fi doesn’t just make you look at the world created but makes you look at your own world differently after reading it. And that Ancillary Justice made her rethink how she viewed gender and how she thought about sexes.

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Kitty and Noel struggled with the whole, a person who becomes a ship who becomes a person aspect. Noel said he transported himself elsewhere and it wasn’t to sci fi. Might I suggest they watch a little Doctor Who, in particular, The Girl in the Fireplace episode, and Man to Man with Dean Learner, in particular the episodes that feature BOB, in order to get yourself into the mindset where that kind of stuff is normal. Yes Ancillary Justice did revolutionary stuff with gender but the whole using people as parts stuff isn’t that unique, however it is done incredibly well. Incredible book. But not every aspect of it is holey unique and groundbreaking, otherwise it would be way too hard to read if there wasn’t a single grounding element. Just my opinion.

John didn’t like it. But he doesn’t like to admit that because generally the people who don’t like it are whiny entitled man babies and he hates to side with them on anything because they’re such wankers. He talks about how awful these dudes are and how they hijacked awards and devalued sci fi in America with their tantrum over this novel, and how they voted in shit novels for future awards after Ancillary Justice took out all the major awards. And so he really dislikes them, but… he just didn’t like the novel. And that makes him sad, because he wants to like it so that people don’t call him a whiney man baby.

JByrne says she was glad to read it because she felt like it was an important book even if she didn’t understand all of it. And she liked that it challenged her.

John ponders what books they’ll be talking about from now in 400 years.

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And that’s a wrap. Were you transported? Toni Jordan, my Michael Williams and Gorgi Coghlan are on next week for a regular episode. I cannot wait. Haven’t seen Gorgi before but everyone knows how much I love Toni and Michael, so it is bound to be smashing! SMASHING!!!

Read my recap on the last Book Club special ep here.

Watch past episodes on ABC iView.

Speculative Fiction Workshop with Marianne de Pierres through New South Wales Writers Centre

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Over the weekend I undertook a Speculative Fiction course taught by Marianne de Pierres (MDP) through the New South Wales Writers Centre. I saw a few familiar faces from other Spec Fic courses and got to meet a couple of people I interact with on twitter in person. More importantly I noted that the real New South Wales Writers Centre Stick, had been replaced with an imposter. Which I’m sure you don’t care about at all. “JUST TELL ME WHAT YOU GOT TAUGHT,” you demand “Maybe a little more info about the stick, because we all care about that, but seriously, JUST TELL ME WHAT YOU GOT TAUGHT!” Now of course to get the full benefit of MDP’s wisdom you’ll actually have to go to a MDP workshop yourself. There really is no substitute for the real thing. But I’ll share some takeaways. But seriously, you need to attend a workshop yourself to take it all in.

The course was largely about world building so I’ll give some tips I picked up from that part of the workshop.

In regards to researching to build your worlds MDP says, before writing, during writing, or during editing, is all good. Just do what works for you. There is no best way. The only way to learn what works for you is through trial and error. Which means, you actually need to try different ways and see which one suits. Play to your strengths rather than work to a formula.

Her rules for using your research in your writing are essentially be original, don’t simply rehash, don’t distract the reader with slabs of info, be authentic, and know more details then you actually include. Don’t bore your reader.

Backstory can be the enemy of narrative drive. If the reader doesn’t need to know it, don’t explicitly list it and bore your reader. NEVER BORE YOUR READER!

Be mindful regarding tropes. You have to make choices as you write as to whether you subvert or use tropes. Always be thoughtful, don’t simply bung them in.

Think of your setting as another character. How does it feel to be in it? What are the smells? What is the history? And never forget the food.

The workshop also included segments on narrative drive, blending genres, new media, transmedia and a one hour question time where participants got to ask whatever we wanted. So, as I said earlier, there really is no substitute for attending in person.

An Ode to Vaguebooking: Arguments That Never Happen in the Spec Fic World

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An Ode to Vaguebooking: Arguments That Never Happen in the Spec Fic World

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Dear Fellow Writers,

Recently there was a vague Facebook status on a popular page (a vaguebook if you will), that indicated that writers are not allowed to write about the same topics as each other, especially not if they are friends. The status publicly shamed people who wrote about the same topic as the poster and anyone who dared to say that it isn’t cool to try to publicly humiliate those who write about the same topic as you merely for writing in the same field were called bullies. Ironic. So let’s see how this would play out if it is in fact appropriate to bags topics and deny your friends and others the right to write about the same issues as you… as we all know about six degrees of separation we can’t just leave it to divide topics amongst those nearest and dearest because they’ll somehow be connected to the big players. So let’s see what this would look like on a large scale. Let’s look at the celebrated writers.

I personally would need to throw out a bunch of work because I recently read a wonderful book by internationally acclaimed Kate Forsyth where she recasts an old tale (The Beast’s Garden) so that means I would have to scrap the “Asylum” series that even Garth Nix himself felt had merit (oh yes, that’s a shameless brag, shameless and proud – I did a course with him and he read my first chapter). I really quite liked it… shit, better throw out Snake Song whilst I’m at it. An established writer has already done this kind of thing so I’d just be a “random” or a pretender and never as good, that’s what the vaguebook post stated. I apparently would totally deserve a public dismissal if I ever tried… But then again, Margo Lanagan writes retellings of old folk lore, Tender Morsels, READ IT, it is brilliant. And I’ve heard that Kate Forsyth and Margo Lanagan are friends so I guess Dr Forsyth would have to pull all those books from shelves… but oh wait, Juliet Marillier wrote Daughter of the Forest, one of the best spec fic books of all time in my humble opinion. Does this mean Lanagan and Forsyth would both have to pull work from publication? My brain is about to seep out of my ears now that I think of Sophie Masson. They all breathe fresh life into old tales. And I’m pretty sure they’re all friends. (This assumption is based on hearing them speak at festivals and avidly following them on social media.) I’m pretty sure they all recommend each others books too. Oh my brain.

It’s pretty clear in the Spec Fic world that nobody owns a topic or sub genre or issue or whatever. There is enough unique voice in each and every one of us that we can write about the same things without it being a threat to anyone else because we will all do it our own way.

Thank you Australian Speculative Fiction Women Writers for showing the true spirit of writing comradeship. You are an inspiration to me daily and you do the whole writing community  proud. I’m thankful for your generous spirit towards up and coming, and established authors alike. May we all be more like you and raise more people like you too.

My heart is bursting with Speculative Fiction pride at the moment but…

I’d like to note this same kind of comradary is seen in other genres. To give just one example, both Lisa Heidke and Anita Heiss write fabulous “Chick Lit” novels and are best friends. At least from my cyber stalking they seem to be. And both encourage upcoming writers beautifully.

In the blogasphere there is Kerri Sackville  (also an author) and Lana   Hirschowitz that come readily to mind. They are constantly referencing each other on their pages and even sharing some of the same stuff. They are always encouraging of people commenting and participating. So this encouragement in writers isn’t just in the novel world. It is on Facebook, on Twitter and on Blogs.

Writers by and large are awesome and generous. Don’t let anyone vaguebook you into thinking otherwise.

If you are unfamiliar with any of these women please search them out and follow their pages/blogs/tweets/books. Support those who support others.