Category Archives: Random

Great Scott! presents: Top Gun

Tony: 1986images-1.jpeg

Every fortnight (ish)* my beloved and I are watching a film by either Ridley or Tony Scott. We’re watching in chronological order. There are, of course, spoilers.

*Yeh… not so much with the fortnight(ish)… but we ARE still committed to it!

(Of course, this is not actually chronological. But that’s because it turns out Bladerunner isn’t on iTunes, so now we need to source that. THEN we will be back to chronological.)

 

It should be noted that this is one of J’s favourite movies Of All Time, whereas A consistently and constantly disses it whenever it gets mentioned. 

A: The opening music is very cool. It builds a lovely level of suspense. I even like the opening on the aircraft carrier; the music matches beautifully. This movie has the opening of a truly awesome film. (Context: I grew up wishing I could have been a pilot in WW1 or 2 with Biggles and his crew, ignoring the whole ‘you’re a girl’ aspect.)

J: Tobacco graduate filters, steam catapults, jets, slow motion footage. AFTERBURNERS.  Jets doing unnecessary aileron rolls at takeoff.  This is the film that made me fall in love with Tony Scott’s cinematography.

A: A plane takes off and KENNY LOGAN AW YEH DANGER ZONE. LOTSA planes taking off and braking and men looking serious.  (cue some serious couch dancing)

J: All the aerial footage was all shot on super 35mm film from the jets and it still looks fantastic if a little gritty on blu-ray Continue reading →

Another One Bites the Dust, Jennifer Rardin

Unknown.jpegThis book was sent to me by a dear friend and unfortunately, it’s just terrible.

Too much? Perhaps:

This book is just not my thing.

I do believe that it has systemic issues that aren’t just problems for me, though.

Firstly, and I acknowledge this is partly my fault, I haven’t read the first book (Once Bitten, Twice Shy). So I don’t have the knowledge about the relationships that might have made some of the banter and the fraught silences make more sense. Pardon does attempt to explain how they’re all connected, but it didn’t always make sense.

Another thing that didn’t always make sense is the different others – and yes, that’s how they’re referred to in the book: the supernatural entities. It seems like a new being just pops up every now and then for the heck of it – and sometimes with narrative reason – and their powers or whatever aren’t clearly explained. Which is related to the biggest beef I had, narrative-wise: clearly Our Heroine, Jaz, is on the track of someone who happened in the first book – there’s occasional references to them and their Dastardly Deeds – but I have almost no idea what they did or how bad they are, aside being told they are Bad. I know info dumps are sometimes clunky, but gosh some detailed explanation would have been helpful so that I understood the stakes (… heh…).

Anyway. The narrative revolves around a team of maybe-CIA-connected types, who include a seer and a vampire, trying to track down and do… something… with a vampire who has stolen some technology. Things move incredibly quickly, but there’s still time for the description of intricate details about clothes, shoes and accessories being worn; this is problem for me, with rare exceptions like Gail Carriger. There’s a Winter Festival, and belly-dancing, and murder, and magical powers, and anti-other sentiment being expressed in unpleasant ways. There’s romance, although not in a very interesting way, and attempts at disguise, and Revelations of Nefarious Purposes.

And it’s just written badly. I did finish it, partly because I wanted to see how many twists cold try and get in, and where the romances would end up going (because this friend likes to send me romances), and because – well, it wasn’t quite so bad as to make me want to abandon it, and I was a little invested in some of the characters and knowing where they would end up.

I will not be chasing down any more Rardins.

FarScape Rewatch: s1, e10

Farscape rewatchSeason One, Episode Ten: They’ve Got a Secret

Peacekeeper issues are still on board as fits with the plot when it suits. It may have infected D’Argo, who is then hurled out of an airlock. All in a day’s work when you’re on Moya.

K: I wonder how this conversation started – ‘John, come here, I need a ladder I can order about?’

A: Oh I HOPE so. Plus, D’Argo is a right little whinger. “Wah, I’m doing droid work!”

K: And I wonder if Pilot can regenerate just so it’s easier to have his puppets back to normal after the last episode…

A: what, you don’t think it’s narrative-driven?! Continue reading →

2016 Snapshot: Kirstyn McDermott

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Author Photo Kirstyn McDermott

Author Photo Kirstyn McDermott

Kirstyn McDermott has been working in the darker alleyways of speculative fiction for much of her career. Her two novels, Madigan Mine and Perfections, each won an Aurealis Award and her most recent book is Caution: Contains Small Parts, a collection of short fiction published by Twelfth Planet Press. When not wearing her writing hat, she produces and co-hosts a literary discussion podcast, The Writer and the Critic, which generally keeps her out of trouble. After many years based in Melbourne, Kirstyn now lives in Ballarat where she is currently pursuing a creative PhD at Federation University with a research focus on re-visioned fairy tales. She can be found online (usually far too often) at www.kirstynmcdermott.com.

You recently hit 50 episodes of your podcast The Writer and the Critic – congratulations! You sounded quite surprised, in the episode, that you had got there. Was that because you didn’t think you’d put up with Mondy for that long? How are you feeling about the podcast at the moment? 

Thanks! I’m feeling pretty good about the podcast right now. We made some minor adjustments to the format so that we can be a bit more curatorial about the books we choose to pair together, rather than each of us simply recommending a book we like. Also, no longer constraining ourselves to picking books we have already read has been kind of liberating … especially for my To Be Read pile! It’s a little daunting as well, in that neither really want to spend half an hour bitching about a book we ended up hating, but we do make our selections in good faith, choosing books we are genuinely interested in reading and think we will enjoy. Of course, as with our latest episode, it doesn’t always work out that way! I also love the interaction we have with listeners and being on Patreon this year has been great for that. Our next episode is “Patron’s Choice” where some of our supporters on Patreon have nominated and voted for the books they’d like us to read. I’m really looking forward to that one.

And I see I’ve somewhat dodged your original question – ha! The only reason I didn’t think we’d make it to 50 episodes was that it covered such a long time period. We started recording eleven times a year, then only every second month for a while, so Episode 50 seemed a lifetime away. I wasn’t sure how long I’d have the stamina, especially once I started a PhD, but I’m glad we’re still recording. Ian, to his credit, seems indefatigable! I love chatting with with every month and coming across books I might not otherwise have thought to pick up. Having intelligent, in-depth conversations about books (whether I loved or loathed them) really is one of my favourite things to do in the world, and getting to have those conversations with a dear friend on a regular basis is brilliant. It’s like my own personal book club. Plus it makes me read non-PhD stuff and that’s a good thing.

Your novels Madigan Mine and Perfections recently got re-released by Twelfth Planet Press. How does it feel to see your older works (well, they’re not THAT old!) released back into the world? 

Yes, Madigan Mine was published in 2010 so not that old really! But it does feel a long time ago. I’m stoked that Twelfth Planet was able republish them both digitally as well as giving Perfections its first life as a physical book. I’m particularly grateful for the latter – Perfections had a troubled road to publication and was originally only available as an ebook with limited exposure, so it’s great to see it get a second chance, so to speak. That doesn’t come along too often in publishing.

You’re currently working on a PhD. You may be sick of answering this question, but what’s it on and have you been surprised yet by any of your research? 

It’s a creative PhD, so the core of it is a collection of re-visioned fairy tales which, as it happens, are all turning into novelettes. Research wise, I’m focusing on collaborative female relationships within narratives and I guess the surprise – though that word connotes delight, so perhaps it’s not quite the one I would use – is realising how pervasive the absence of these types of relationships really is, not just in fairy tales but in broader cultural narratives about real and fictional women. We don’t tend to tell a lot of stories where women (who might not even necessarily be friends) help one another or band together for a common purpose without animosity or acrimony –especially in a relationship which is defined in some way other than by a connection to a male character. Or else, when we do tell those stories, they tend not to be valued very highly or taken seriously by the larger culture. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I love the remake of Ghostbusters. For all its flaws, the collaborative relationship between those four women is the beating heart of that movie and it’s found an permanent place in mine. And Holtzmann. Oh my god, Holtzmann.

What Australian work have you loved recently?

Two novels spring immediately to mind: Lament for the Afterlife by Lisa Hannett and A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay. I adored both of them on all levels – intellectual, emotional and visceral – and think they’re both incredibly important and engaging books that should be widely read. Honestly, I’m still stunned by how damn good Lament is from a craft point of view; it’s one of those books that make me … not wish that I had written it precisely … but wish that I had written something like it. And Single Stone, well, I still tear up thinking about certain aspects of it. Highly, highly recommend them both.

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

Oh my goodness, what an opportunity that would be. I cannot choose a living author as that would feel way too much like stalking, so I’m going to nominate Shirley Jackson and Angela Carter. I’d tell Shirley that she has written the best opening paragraph to a novel EVER (The Haunting of Hill House). I’d tell Angela how her versions of fairy tales have edged me along the same fascinating path. All three of us would drink pre-mixed G&Ts and chat about ghosts and the gothic and fairy tales and feminism and the magic of words until we were completely sozzled and cackling like wise old crones while flagging down flight attendants to bring us more cheese and crackers. Can it be a flight all the way to Europe? Please?

2016 Snapshot: Tehani Wessely

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LogoTehani Wessely was a founding member of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine in 2001 and started FableCroft Publishing in 2010. Now firmly entrenched in Australian speculative fiction and independent press, she has edited for Twelfth Planet Press (among other duties), has judged for the Aurealis Awards, CBCA Book of the Year and the WA Premier’s Book Awards, reads far more in one genre than is healthy, and writes reviews, non-fiction and interviews. In her spare moments, she works as a secondary school Teacher Librarian.

A while ago you suggested that FableCroft might be slowing down, but you’ve recently put out both In Your Face and The Rebirth of Rapunzel. Is this a case of interesting projects just coming your way and being unavoidable? 

I’m pretty sure both those projects were already on the books by the time we had that conversation, which probably explains them, though it’s not uncommon for me to think I’m ready to take a break then come across a bunch of great projects I HAVE TO DO. There’s been a few big changes in my life recently, though, so FableCroft is on a slow down right now and I’m not too sure what the final outcome will be. I won’t call it hiatus, because I’m actively working on one book and potentially have at least two others on the cards, but as you can see from the submissions guidelines on our website, I’m not reading for anything else and I certainly won’t be planning any anthologies or other types of submission calls in the immediate future. A lot will depend on what happens over the next six months, so it’s a bit of wait and see. I’m starting to work a bit more on reviews again (see my ActiveReviews tag on my blog) and am looking at other creative outlets as well, while I mark a bit of time…

In Your Face coverIn Your Face might be described as a brave anthology, dealing as it does with controversial themes and ideas. What value do you see in exploring such topics in fiction? What was it like editing such an anthology? 

I found this book both incredibly challenging and incredibly rewarding to work on. So many of the stories are very personal to the authors who wrote them, and I felt very grateful they were willing to entrust them to me. This also made the editing process more personal, but I was very lucky in that most of the stories were absolutely beautifully done, and needed very little work. I think the value of presenting such stories is immeasurable, and I hope that every reader will find something that resonates for them. It’s not an easy book to read (and I don’t recommend trying to do it in one big chunk) but it is worthwhile.

Rapunzel CoverThe Rebirth of Rapunzel was quite a different book for Fablecroft, being mostly non-fiction. What drew you to such a project? Is this an avenue that you’re interested in Fablecroft continuing to explore? 

I blame Sean Williams for this – the thing is, writers are pretty good at what they do, even when the writing they are doing is compiling research. I read Sean’s PhD exegesis on matter transmission (which was awesome) and it made me think about all the fantastic authors I know who have done / are doing creative PhDs, and wonder if any might have similar works on their own topics that they might like to see published. Funnily enough, there are quite a few of them! I still hope to be able to do Sean’s exegesis, and I have a couple of others in my hands for consideration as well. I’m not sure it’s a terribly financially viable project, but it’s certainly one I’m enjoying.

What Australian work have you loved recently?

My favourite question! I have list… Vigil by Angela Slatter is fantastic and I’m excited to see where she takes the character next; I thoroughly enjoyed CS Pacat’s Captive Prince trilogy; I was delighted to see a new instalment in Tansy Rayner Robert’s superhero world with the story “Kid Dark Against The Machine”; revisiting Livia Day’s Café La Femme series last week was great fun; I FINALLY read Garth Nix’s Sabriel series this year (I know, I can’t believe it took me this long either!); Welcome to Orphancorp by Marlee Jane Ward was astonishingly good and I’m so glad I got a story from her for In Your FaceMagrit by Lee Battersby is perhaps the darkest and best children’s novel I’ve ever read; and this year I read for the WA Premier’s Book Awards, so powered through several dozen Aussie YA books too, which I can’t really discuss. But check out my Goodreads page and ActiveReviews to check out what I’m reading!

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

This is actually a really hard question, because how do you pick just one?! Hmmm. Okay, I’ll go with Anne McCaffrey, because she’s been my best and favourite for such a long time, and I wish I’d had the chance to meet her.

2016Snapshot: Cheryl Morgan

SnaphotLogo2016CMM-03.jpgCheryl Morgan is a writer, editor, critic, publisher, radio presenter and expert on trans history. She has no idea how she managed to end up with so many interests, and often wishes that there were more hours in the day, but at least she is never bored. Cheryl is of Welsh ancestry and currently lives in the English portion of the Disunited Kingdom. She has formerly lived in Australia and California, and very much wishes she had been able to stay in either of those places.

At a recent con in Finland (so jealous) you presented a panel on Trans Representation. Do you think that panels along these lines have become easier to present, or more generally accepted, in the last few years? Does it seem like people are more interested in discussing genuine diversity of gender? 

I’m not sure. I remember doing a trans panel at the Toronto Worldcon in 2003 and there were something like 8 people in the audience. LGBT panels at Finncon and Archipelacon have been packed out. I was a bit worried about a trans-only one, but we got a very good crowd (I have asked for numbers). So from that point of view things are looking good.

On the other hand, those panels happen because the Finns trust Suzanne van Rooyen and I to do a good job, and they have firm evidence of demand. I’m not sure that the same panels would work elsewhere. My local convention, BristolCon, doesn’t have them, but that’s because it is a one-day event with only two program rooms and an enormous amount of competition for program slots. I don’t know whether an Eastercon would run such a thing.

Something you’re currently involved with is presenting a show on the radio station Ujima. What does the radio show let you do? And what’s it like preparing for a regular show like that?

Being a presenter on Ujima is a great privilege. The station broadcasts mainly to the Afro-Caribbean community in Bristol, and I certainly don’t fit that demographic. However, the station management, and in particular my Producer, Paulette North, have a commitment to diversity. Having a trans woman fronting a women’s interest show appeals to them.

My main job on the show is to showcase feminist issues, which I am very happy to do. I’m also encouraged to do features about books. That enables me to run interviews with many famous authors, and a bunch of talented locals. I have to branch out of the SF&F field occasionally for the show, but that’s probably good for me. Finally I have to fill my diversity role by talking about LGB, and particularly Trans, issues.

A two hour radio show might not sound like much work, but it is. It can take me a couple of days to find all of the guests and research questions to ask them. I also have to decide what music to play. And although the show is only 2 hours long the studio is in Bristol, so doing the show takes up much of the day with far more travel than air time.

It is, of course, tremendous fun. Had you told teenage me that I would one day have my own radio show I would have laughed at you and said that dreams like that don’t come true.

On your blog you’ve talked a bit about the trials and tribulations you face with Wizard’s Tower Press, and especially the inability to have the Bookstore because of EU changes. Where do you see the Press going in the future? 

Thanks to the hard work of Juliet McKenna and her colleagues, we are starting to get somewhere with the VAT issue. It is now legal to sell ebooks without charging VAT if you email the book to the customer rather than allow them to download it direct from a website. I know that sounds stupid, but that’s the way government bureaucracies work. In the longer term the EU does want to sort this out, but as 52% of my fellow Brits have just thrown a gigantic spanner in the works no one has any idea of over what timescales that will happen, or if the UK will be affected.

Meanwhile I am definitely planning to do more books. I can use Kickstarter and Patreon now. Watch this space.

What Australian work have you loved recently?

Well obviously I am very fond of Letters to Tiptree and Galactic Suburbia, but that’s kind of incestuous. I do have a copy of Angela Slatter’s Of Sorrow And Such waiting to be read, and I’m looking forward to that. What I have read is an early ARC of Foz Meadows’ debut novel, An Accident of Stars. I’m slightly reluctant to pass judgement as the book was clearly still in the process of being edited, but there’s some really good material in there and I very much like how Foz handled the trans character.

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

Hmm, that’s a hard one. I can think of quite a few authors I’d like to spend time chatting too (Cat Valente, M John Harrison, Ursula Le Guin, Joanna Russ, Octavia Butler, Gene Wolfe, for example), but I suspect that over a long plane trip I would end up feeling embarrassed and stupid because they are so much smarter than I am.

I would appreciate a chance to catch up with Neil Gaiman, because although we have known each other for decades he’s so much in demand that when we are in the same place together we rarely get time for more than a few minutes chat. Then again, knowing Neil he probably looks forward to long plane trips as an opportunity to get some writing done.

So I think I will go for China Mieville. We have a lot of interests in common besides fiction. Also all of the other women on the plane would be incredibly jealous of me.

Crossposted, along with all the other Snapshot interviews, at the Snapshot blog.

2016 Snapshot: Kate Forsyth

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Kate H_S #74BB

Kate Forsyth wrote her first novel aged seven, and has now sold more than a million copies around the world. Her novels include The Beast’s Garden, a retelling of ‘Beauty & the Beast’ set in the underground resistance to Hitler in Nazi Germany; The Wild Girl, the story of the forbidden romance behind the Grimm brothers’ fairy tales; and Bitter Greens, a retelling of Rapunzel interwoven with the true life story of the woman who wrote the tale, which won the 2015 American Library Association Award for Best Historical Fiction. Kate’s children’s novels include The Impossible Quest, The Puzzle Ring and The Gypsy Crown. Named one of Australia’s Favourite 15 Novelists, Kate has a doctorate in fairy tale studies and is an accredited master storyteller. 

Your most recent book comes from your research into the fairytale of Rapunzel, and connects to your wonderful novel Bitter Greens. What was it like to prepare The Rebirth of Rapunzel for a general audience, rather than an academic one? Do you feel like you’ve got Rapunzel out from under your skin now, having spent so long thinking about her? 

It was great fun putting THE REBIRTH OF RAPUNZEL together. I included my doctoral thesis, which examined my long-held fascination with ‘Rapunzel’ and how I used it to write Bitter Greens, along with a number of topic-related essays, articles and poems. I did not rewrite my doctoral thesis for this publication, as my style has always been accessible rather than academic, and I trust greatly in the intelligence of my audience. So it was more a matter of deciding what to include, and putting it into order, than any new writing or research.

And yes! I think I have finally exorcised Rapunzel …

Last year saw the publication of The Beast’s Garden, a take on “Beauty and the Beast” set in Nazi Germany. What did you feel that you could accomplish by choosing that particular setting for the novel?  Continue reading →

Lustlocked

images.jpegThis story was provided to me by the publisher at no cost.

An amusing, light and fluffy story.

It’s the second story to be set in the restaurant Sin du Jour, and I’ve not read the first; that didn’t seem to be too much of a hindrance. I think I missed a little bit of the tension between characters (and initially I thought the two main characters were lovers, not housemates), but the cast is reintroduced well enough that I had no trouble following the various interactions.

The basic premise is that there’s going to be a goblin wedding – well, the crown prince of goblin-dom is marrying a human – and this version of goblins is that they are the bright and beautiful… in fact most of them are Hollywood celebrities. You already know who the Goblin King is (yes, really, Wallace went There); I’m not entirely sure who the queen is meant to be: she’s described as the most famous supermodel, and my mind went to Elle Macpherson, but maybe that’s just because I’m Australian? Perhaps it could be Naomi Campbell? (ETA: Thoraiya tells me a certain Goblin King is married to supermodel Iman. Oops.) Anyway, such beautiful creatures naturally require an extravagant wedding aaaaaand then things go bad. Some of the story is around preparing for the wedding (goblins eat jewels, of course) and some of it is dealing with, um, rampaging lusty reptiles. So half almost cosy culinary fantasy, half magic/mayhem fantasy.

Don’t read this for deep philosophical reflections. Do read this for a bit of banter, a bit of snark about celebrity, and people getting themselves out of sticky situations in amusing ways. It comes out from Tor.com in January.

Ballad of Black Tom

This novella was provided to me by the publisher at no cost.

26975675.jpgI may not have the context with which to really comment on this story – I have a bit of knowledge of America in the 1920s but not all that much; my understanding of race relations in America is slightly better than superficial but not exactly deep. Also I have next to no knowledge of HP Lovecraft’s work

With all of that said, I really enjoyed this story, so as someone without masses of history about the period of the story that’s a pretty good recommendation.

The story is split in two, with two different narrators – which actually really surprised me, so that’s kind of a spoiler I guess. The first half is told by Tommy Tester, a young black man who makes a living by hustling, basically. He wears a musician disguise to be both seen and unseen; he gets jobs that need that sort of look. One day he encounters a wealthy white man, Robert Suydam, and things… get weird.

The second half of the story is from the perspective of a white policeman, Malone, whom Tommy encounters early on and then later. He’s not entirely a stranger to unnatural occurrences, and gets more involved in the weird stuff Tommy and Suydam conjure up than he would perhaps like.

The plot isn’t especially intricate but it’s certainly compelling enough to keep me turning the pages. On top of that is what (with all the caveats above about my knowledge of the period) I found to be a very interesting commentary on race relations. The (white) police treatment of black people in Harlem wasn’t a surprise, dealt with bluntly but with compassion I thought; Suydam’s manipulation of race resentment struck me as all too plausible (hello living in Australia in 2015). I don’t know whether the attempt to make Malone sympathetic to the plight of non-white immigrants was an attempt at not making all whites evil, or whether it reflects reality; possibly it’s a case of both being feasible? Makes the story that much more compelling, anyway.

Lastly: Ma Att? Brilliant.

Certainly recommended.Th

Manners and Mutiny

Unknown.jpegThis book was provided to me by the publisher at no cost.

Firstly? I do not love this cover. It’s far too old to be Sophronia, which I don’t remember being a problem with the other covers. The crossbow is appropriate, at least. I am also not wild about the yellow.

Fortunately I do not tend to judge books by covers; at least, not books in a series I have been enjoying and whose author I tend to trust.

Continue reading →