Cranky Ladies of History
This is another book that I’ve given my mum recently. She started reading it and rather smugly emailed to say that now she doesn’t feel so bad about being one sometimes. She says:
I particularly loved “A Song for Sacagawea” because it is the story of all those unsung women who were forced to help conquerors take their lands. They were looked on as trade goods, but much of the exploration/exploitation wouldn’t have occurred without them. There is a similar story of a woman who translated for the conquistadors in Central America [she means Malinche]. Much as I admire those women, their treatment really p….d me off, of course. Don’t quote me on that, though.
Anyway, I am so totally excited that this book exists. I supported it in its Pozible funding, I did a little bit of supporting in terms of writing a blog post (I had big intentions to do a few but whoosh there went the month), and generally YAY stories about real historical ladies!
So I finally got around to actually reading it. Firstly let me say I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE WITH THE ORDER OF THE STORIES, TEHANI AND TANSY.
The first few stories were the sorts of things I expected. Mary I as a child, Lady Godiva, Mary Wollstonecraft… and then Bathory Erzsebet. Who is someone I had never come across and who was very, very not nice. Very not nice. Like, Deborah Biancotti you had already scarred me with your Ishtar and now my brain is even WORSE. Because this story does not redeem Erszebet. It shows that women are quite capable of being cold and cruel and nasty. And, at a chronological and geographical distance, this is almost something to be pleased about… since after all, we are just human.
Hmm. Getting to Erszebet has meant skipping over Mary (a story showing how difficult her childhood must have been, thanks Liz Barr), and Godiva (thank you, Garth Nix, for making her more than just That Nude Lady) and Wollstonecraft (Kirstyn McDermott, I have always loved her at a remove – that is, knowing only basics of her life, I knew she was wonderful. This fictional take helps just a bit more).
Leaving Europe, Foz Meadows goes to the Asian steppes with “Bright Moon” and a fierce tale of battle and kinship obligation; Joyce Chng to China and silkworms and captivity. Nice Shawl teases with “A Beautiful Stream” by talking about events and people from the 20th century I felt I ought to know and drove me to google find out if I was right (yes); Amanda Pillar pleased me immensely by being all provocative about Hatshepsut, one of my favourite historical women ever.
Sylvia Kelso stunned me by talking about two women from Australia’s history that I had no knowledge of (a doctor? lesbians?? in the early 20th century?!) and Stephanie Lai puts flesh on the bones of Ching Shih, the female Chinese pirate I’ve only encountered in passing. I would like to thank Barbara Robson profusely for writing Theodora so magnificently and by incorporating Procopius, to show just how such historical sources can be used. Lisa L Hannett continues (what I think of as) her Viking trend, while Havva Murat takes on Albania’s medieval past and the trials of being born female when your father wants a son.
I don’t mean this as a negative, but I am so not surprised that Dirk Flinthart wrote of Granuaile, the Irish pirate. I was surprised where he took her; pleasantly so, of course. LM Myles brought in one of my other very favourite and bestest, Eleanor of Aquitaine, this time as an old, old woman – still cranky and sprightly and everything that was great about her. I didn’t love Kaaron Warren’s “Another Week in the Future,” but I have no knowledge of Catherine Helen Spence so I had no prior experience to hang the story on. Laura Lam brought in a female pirate I’d never even heard of, the French Jeanne de Clisson, while Sandra McDonald writes a complicated narrative of Cora Crane: there are unreliable narrators and then there are unreliable timelines and sources and they get fascinating.
Thoraiya Dyer introduces someone else I’ve never heard of, by way of 19th century Madagascar and a royal family negotiating the introduction/imposition of European ideas. Juliet Marillier brings a compassionate, loving and beloved Hildegard of Bingen, while Faith Mudge caps the whole anthology with Elizabeth I.
Look, it’s just great. A wonderful range of stories, of women, of styles, of close-to-history and far (but still with that element of Truthiness). I think we need a follow-up volume. I’d like to order Jeanne d’Arc, Julia Gillard, the Empress Matilda, Pocahontas, Eleanor Roosevelt, Malinche, and the Trung sisters. Kthxbai.
You can find Cranky Ladies over here.
Reign of Beasts: a belated review
It always takes me ages to review Tansy’s books, because there are so many things I want to say that they get in the way of each other and I know it will take ages and then I put it off and… you get to this point, where it’s five months since I read the book and I’ve forgotten half the things I wanted to say. So this is just a few comments, really, about things I enjoyed (because I did enjoy it, and there’s not much I didn’t).
Spoiler for book 1 and 2; why on earth would you read this review if you haven’t already read them?? Also, I’m friends with Tansy, if it makes a difference to you.
Roberts takes a different narrative tack with this novel: she introduces a reminiscing point of view, the identity of whom is hidden for most of the book. Of course I think it’s obvious in hindsight, but there really were a number of people it could have been! It is clearly someone currently involved in the Creature Court, but who… yeh, that’s clever. This serves a really important purpose: the perspective of an outsider becoming an insider. Velody sort of performs this task in the first two books, but she is older than this perspective (at least at the start), and also comes from a different background – in terms of family, and class, and expectations too. Also gender. So seeing the Creature Court from this (also much earlier) view gives a whole new angle on the interactions between various characters, and the events preceding our events, too. This was a very excellent part of the novel.
I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that there’s a lot of catastrophe in this novel. This should not be a surprise. Velody has returned with Garnet, which was always going to bring down ruination and destruction of one sort or another, on the city or the Court or both and/or the sky. Also, Rhian starts telling everyone that everything will be decided at Saturnalia, which is awfully soon when the novel opens. So, there’s that. Plus Garnet in full flight (heh, literally), other members of the Creature Court acting as only they can, and Rhian and Delphine… well. Acting as we’ve come to expect. Except when they don’t. Roberts does seem really interesting things character-wise that are quite unexpected but at the same time entirely in keeping. Which is awesome.
It might also be a slight spoiler to say that Velody actually leaves Aufleur for a brief period in this novel, which is another quite different and awesome aspect. Too often third books are merely, if awesome, conclusions to a series, following on from everything that has come before. Roberts manages to introduce entirely new elements of her world, which – as with the characters – are still entirely in keeping. Seeing more of this world, outside the jaded, familiar, decayed and corrupt Aufleur, adds a whole new dimension to our understanding of Aufleur and our characters – just as understanding its history does, with the new point of view.
Keep in mind that Roberts is a bit mean, and you won’t be surprised that few if any of her characters escape without scars (literally) from this novel. That said, it’s a worthy and brilliant conclusion to the trilogy, even if you might not be entirely happy with some of the resolutions. I mean, really, would you expect to be? It’s not like she has been in the two earlier novels.
The Great NatCon Blog Post Round-Up
Because reading one blog post about a NatCon weekend is just not enough. The official website, with info about Ditmar and other award winners, is here. (Also, the opening ceremony video is online, too.)
Tansy has several posts about different aspects of the con: first there was discussion of the craft and the programme; then there was all that food (cocktails, cupcakes, trifle oh my!); and then the Night of the Squeaking Octopus (aka awards night).
Ben has a great post about being inspired about writing and about how awesome he found the fan community to be in general (awww).
DarkMatter Fanzine has a good round-up of the awards night, including some of the Kirstyn&Mondy banter that really set the mood.
Alisa also succumbed to the con-report-in-parts bug, beginning by smugly showing off the books she bought but also exclaiming over how social and fun the con was as a whole (this is a theme…). In part 2 she goes into great detail about the preparation for Twelfth Planet Press hour, which saw mountains of cupcakes consumed (a few even managed to be photographed), while the third post is mostly devoted to the podcast undertaken by nine of the Twelve Planets authors at Embiggen Books, as well as some crafty things (and annoying news about Kaaron Warren’s Through Splintered Walls). Kirstyn has posted said podcast over here, for your listening pleasure. (Other podcasts recorded at Continuum is episode 309 of Boxcutters, a debate that All SF TV is rubbish; Galactic Suburbia 61; and a Writer and the Critic ep that I’m sure will be up sometime soon…)
Terri, the whiz behind the cupcake extravaganza, has a short post about her experience at the Con wherein she coins the acronym WWTD (What Would Tehani Do?) to describe her method of how to sell Twelfth Planet Press books… and then goes into even more detail about the creation of those cupcakes (the photo on the left, c/o Cat Sparks, is too good not to feature again). What an effort!
Mark, a NatCon newbie, blogged basically on a daily basis: Day 1 (panels! lots of panels!); Day 2 (more panels! including Galactic Suburbia!); awards (a list, and recounting the less than sterling start to the evening for Mondy…); Day 3 (more panels, and some time at the bar); and Day 4 (more panels, and generally being happy with the con). If you want a good feel for the programming at this con – which I thought was very good – this is a really good wrap of one person’s attendance.
Sean the Bookonaut, another NatCon newbie and one that many took great pleasure in meeting (not that we didn’t enjoy meeting Mark, too!), had quite the experience in getting home, but starts off with recounting Thursday… and then Friday, complete with discussion of panels and nude cyclists. ETA: And Saturday, now, too: panels, and Embiggen Books, and being a one-man audience to various people.
Jason managed to keep his con report to just one post, talking about launching his novella Salvage, going to the podcast and Embiggen Books, and the Ditmar/Chronos Awards as well.
Alan too kept his report to one post. He discusses panels he was on, including one on religion in world-building, and the experience of launching Felicity Dowker’s Bread and Circuses, among other things.
Ian, redoubtable awards-night co-MC, has a post that mostly focusses on his probably-not-food-poisoning experience pre-awards, and the glory of winning both a Chronos and a Ditmar (and well deserved too).
Russell discusses some highlights, which included doing a reading from his own fairy-tale retelling, and attending/being on various panels.
Sue mentions an orange scarf she started courtesy of the free yarn strewn around, as well as attending the launch of ASIM 56 and Light Touch Paper, Stand Clear, among other things.
Kathleen used the con as an opportunity for one of her awesome Dalek pictures – Lady Churchill’s Dalek Wristlet – as well as other snippets of drawing and crocheted octopi. Plus winning two awards.
Admittedly Flinthart’s post focusses primarily on the disaster that was his departure from Melbourne, and some food… but he looms large wherever he goes, so I think it counts.
Deb provides a reading list as a follow-up to a panel she was on (with Gillian Pollack, Trudi Canavan and Louise Cusack) called Writing Diverse Genders, Sexualities and Cultures. (She is also mentioned regarding the launch of Ishtar, a set of three novellas – one of which she wrote – which happened at Continuum.)
And, yes, I too wrote two posts about my experiences: one that was really all about my time on panels etc here, and another a bit more generally on the programming and craft and awards etc here.
ETA: Jo writes about her experience over here, complete with winning a Ditmar and talking about books so much her voice packed it in afterwards. Also, Gillian Polack-with-one-l has posted numerous thoughts: here, talking about racism and suchlike; on stereotypes; on being a critic.
**I’m sure there are other posts out there that I haven’t linked to – please feel free to comment with the links!
Snapshot 2012: Tansy Rayner Roberts
So you’ve just had the final book in your Creature Court trilogy published by HarperCollins. How did that feel and what’s been the reaction to it?
It was a huge relief to get the book out there and have the trilogy be complete – and while I was expecting pangs of loss as well, they haven’t arrived yet, possibly because it’s so long since I completed the third book and left the characters behind. I’ve been delighted by the response to the books – a bunch of award nominations certainly help a nervous author feel like they’re doing the right thing! And very happy that many of my loyal readers seems to think that it ties up well with the third book. Would be terrible to stumble at the last post…
I understand you’re currently working on a novel-length treatment for Nancy Napoleon, the character first introduced in the novella “Siren Beat” as the supernatural protector of Hobart. Aufleur of the Creature Court books were set in a heavily fictionalised Rome, but you took a fairly faithful approach to Hobart in the novella. What is it like giving your home town the fictional treatment? Does it liberate or restrict you?
Faithful apart from the kraken in the Derwent, the Fates running a pub in Salamanca Place and the sexy sea pony, you mean? One of the things I love most about urban fantasy is the way that it conveys a strong sense of a realistic location – it’s one of the best aspects of the crime genre that it has taken on as its own – and I definitely wanted to Just Add Magic to Hobart for this particular series. I actually find it quite intimidating to write work set in Tasmania rather than in imaginary worlds, which is part of the reason I avoided it so long. There’s a freedom to it but it can be stressful too – at one point I destroyed a very specific area of the city, part of which is where friends of mine live, and I actually felt incredibly guilty about that, as if it might have some kind of sympathetic magic effect on the real population.
Another danger is that I know the area so well but don’t necessarily know what parts I’m taking for granted rather than describing properly, which is where good beta readers and editors come in!
The Creature Court is set in a secondary fantasy world, Nancy Napoleon in a recognisable Australia. Your short stories have bounced between near future ‘real world’ settings and fantastical ones. What sort of settings do you see yourself working in for the future? And is there one genre that is most likely to keep you, or do you anticipate genre-crossing and -blurring?
The lovely thing about science fiction and fantasy is that I don’t have to choose, not at all. If one piece of work is especially successful then I have no qualms about doing more of that sort of thing, but otherwise I prefer to keep my work as diverse as possible, to keep me entertained. Lots of genre crossing and -blurring, as much as possible! BRING IT.
Right now, for instance, in an only slightly chaotic tangle of novel and short story projects, I am writing steampunk Victoriana gothic with faeries and robots, contemporary ghostbusting comedy, genderbending science fiction, smutty superheroes, and a boarding school time travel romp (or tragedy; haven’t decided yet). The four shorts I’ve written so far this year (I am RICH in short stories) are post-apocalyptic surrealism about Wuthering Heights, magical realism with talking kangaroos, horror-fantasy with imps, and a war veteran romance set against the backdrop of a famous children’s fantasy novel. I really don’t like to be tied down…
Which Australians’ work have you been loving recently?
So much great short fiction! I have a soft spot for Narrelle M Harris’ Twelfth Planet collection Showtime, though not remotely unbiased because I helped edit some of the stories. I really enjoyed Ishtar, featuring stories about the goddess by Kaaron Warren, Deb Biancotti and Cat Sparks – some of the best work than any of them have ever done, plus the theme itself makes me so very happy. It’s a great book to read for big bad mean goddess action. In the comics world I am excited to see Nicola Scott back drawing for DC Comics, and the title in question Earth 2 is looking pretty fantastic so far. When it comes to art, I want to hug every single thing that Kathleen Jennings draws, and I was particularly impressed with her work on the Fablecroft book To Spin a Darker Stair.
It’s two years since Australia hosted the WorldCon. What do you think are the biggest changes to the Australian speculative fiction scene in that time?
Are we absolutely sure that it’s only been two years? I feel like I blinked and missed them. The rise of podcasts is something I have greatly enjoyed, but that was already well underway when the Worldcon happened. I think the interest in e-books from readers is probably one of the biggest changes, but we’re still yet to see how that pans out for Australian publishing. And of course, we’ve been losing bookshops hand over fist across the country. Sad, and a sign of a new paradigm heading our way. If only we knew exactly what it looked like…
This interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 1st June to 8th June and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus. You can read interviews at:
Shattered by The Shattered City
I read this about 10 weeks ago, and I’m not sure why I’ve left it til now to actually review it. I think it’s because I read it too fast, and was then a bit shell-shocked. I couldn’t face reviewing it immediately, and then I kept putting it off… so now the review isn’t as good as it might have been, but I can at least tick it off my to-do list and move it to the bookshelf, rather than having it staring at me accusingly from the shelf above my computer…
Tansy is very very mean to her characters. If you’ve read the first book, Power and Majesty, this will not be a surprise to you.
Velody is coming to terms with being the Creature Court’s Power and Majesty. Delphine and Rhian are not coping with the changes quite so well, and neither are swathes of the Court itself – never exactly predisposed towards being welcoming or accepting of another’s power in the first place. Ashiol is still having to do great soul-searching and agonising over what to do about his power, and Velody and Garnet… something bad might be happening to the Duchessa… and something really bad might be going down in the sky.
Shattered City is a magnificent second book in that it develops the characters in unexpected ways, furthers the plot in totally twisty, snarky, and unexpected ways, and ups the ante in occasionally devastating ways. The writing continues to be elegant and precise and enticing. The world of Aufleur grows more and more well realised, as details are added about the different festivals, the food, the clothes, and the architecture… nice details that add depth.
I am desperate for the third book. I really hope it comes out this year. And I will try my best to give it a better review than this one…
Love and Romanpunk: not a review
This is not a review. It can’t be, really. Partly because it’s by a friend – although I have reviewed Tansy’s work before, and that by other friends too (fortunately, I usually like it, so that’s no hardship). No, the main reason why this isn’t really a review is the dedication. It’s dedicated to meeee!! Tansy says that this is dedicated to Random Alex (heh), and that I am totally wrong for liking Marc Antony more than Octavian.
Of course, she is totally wrong about that. How could anyone appreciate a psychopathic megalomaniac, who played up his relationship with Caesar in order to capitalise on Roman sentimentality and killed opponents willy-nilly, who rewrote history to make him and his look better and changed laws to suit himself, and who was utterly ruthless when it came to his family? Especially when said ego-tripper is set in opposition to a man who evinced so much humanity that he loved a non-Roman woman and anticipated that his children with her would actually inherit from him, whose prowess in battle didn’t need to be eulogised by an imperial flunky, and whose generosity was legendary.
Ahem. So Tansy and I have some… issues. Clearly, however, she loves me despite our differences, and that’s very nice indeed. She did put me in a slightly awkward position, though, when I made her sign my copy: she said (in caps no less), that I HAVE TO LOVE THIS BOOK.
Oh yeh, no pressure.
I am, of course, a fan of Roman history. I studied at uni, and I even wrote my honours topic on Nero and his love of Greek things. Thinking about Tansy’s area of study, though – Roman imperial women – makes me realise that my study of Rome was entirely typical. That is, a bit of the Gracchi, Marius-Sulla-Caesar, a run through of the Empire… and a little bit of ‘daily life’ blah. Not a whole lot on women , really, except where they happen to be interesting either for genealogical reasons or because of their notoriety. Like Julia Agrippina Minor. I’ve always liked her.
The first story in this collection is “Julia Agrippina’s Secret Bestiary.” It gives a potted history of the Caesar family… with added monsters. I really enjoyed Tansy’s characterisation of the various members of this crazy family. She captures an essence, I think, of the various emperors and their wives/sisters/mothers that actually rings quite true. I particularly liked that although Gaius – Caligula – is shown to be a bit nuts eventually, he’s handled much more sensitively than most other fictional representations bother. Of course. And the monsters made a bizarre sort of sense; they fit in delightfully well with the overall vibe of the story.
The stories progress chronologically through what Tansy affectionately calls the Agrippinaverse. The second story is “Lamia Victoriana” – lamias being the Roman equivalent of female vampires. Here, in Victorian England, Fanny and Mary run away “with a debauched poet and his sister,” as the blurb has it, with the coda that “If it was the poet you are thinking of, the story would have ended far more happily, and with fewer people having their throats bitten out.” The blurb is, by the way, one of the most enticing and true to the story that I’ve read in a long time. It gives an accurate, and seductive, portrayal of each story, and teams that with snarky comments which perfectly fit the tart, sometimes lovingly exasperated, voice of the stories. This second story is the odd one out in some ways; it’s a great story, still, but it’s different in mood and tone from the other three. Darker.
“The Patrician” is the story written in a time most clearly like our own… if Australia had a recreated Roman city somewhere. This is in many ways the centrepiece of the collection. Clea Majora meets a stranger visiting her town, and gets drawn into an adventure even weirder than living in a town called Nova Ostia. There’s not much to say without giving away the awesome way in which the story develops. It’s brilliant. Everyone should read it. It stands by itself as well as being perfect within the context of the other stories.
Finally, the collection is rounded out with “Last of the Romanpunks.” Where the first story is basically historical fantasy, and the second riffs off the Gothic sensibilities of the Victorian era, and the third is beholden to urban fantasy, the fourth ventures into science fiction territory. Managing all four of those genres, clearly connecting the stories through characters and ideas but keeping the vibe of each distinct, is quite the feat. Anyway, Tansy decided to close the collection with a bang, since I think of this story as the most action-based of the four. And again, very enjoyable.
So… it wasn’t going to be a review, but I guess it sort of has. Oops.
Guest post: Aufleur and Rome
This is a guest post from the wonderful Tansy. Her second book, The Shattered City, has in theory been released recently but I’ve not found it yet (grr) 😦 . When she announced that she was going to do a Mighty Slapdash Blog Tour, I had to be a part of it – and since I got to choose her topic, I asked her to discuss the development of Aufleur, her fictional city. It’s one of the aspects I adored in Power and Majesty (the first book).
Aufleur and Rome
So, I fell in love with Rome nearly ten years ago, when an academic scholarship gave the the opportunity to spend a month there, in a little rental flat with my honey. By day, we went hunting statues of Roman imperial women, tramping across cobbled and concreted streets to various museums or archaeological sites. By night we practiced Italian recipes, copied from the restaurants we’d visited, and watched our landlady’s collection of classic Hollywood movies, or episodes of Charmed and Buffy dubbed into Italian.
Charmed is way better in Italian.
We weren’t great tourists. We barely managed to have a conversation with anyone except each other, and we didn’t shop for anything but groceries (and shiny museum books!). But we hovered in a strange, happy bubble together in the middle of an ancient city, ignoring every modern bit (I couldn’t even bring myself to visit an exhibition of my favourite Renaissance artist of all time because omg, mustn’t get distracted!) and choosing just to exist in the ancient and ruined parts of the city. Sadly these were also the bits with the most expensive sandwiches, but we survived. Later, when I began to write the Creature Court, and I needed a city, Rome was there for me. Not the real, actual city (this much became obvious when my poor mother tried to map the place) but am imaginary, dreamlike Rome, with all my favourite bits and features mushed together. Memories of walks on the Palatine and around the baths of Trajan and the Forum, and the Capitolini Musei, and along the river Tiber, and around the Teatro Argentina, swarming with cats (near which we had a lunch so accidentally expensive that we have since compared its cost to every extravagant meal we have bought in the years since) all poured into my strange, fantastical city. When Ashiol walked from Kelpie’s nest all the way to the Gardens of Trajus Alysaundre with his bare feet in Book One, I was there with him.
All this, of course, means that the city is a real thing for me, something I love, so it means something personal to me when I put it
in danger. Most of the characters in my books are either desperate to save the city, or so cynical and beaten down that they are ready to see it fall. They all have some kind of relationship with it – love, or hate, or loyalty, or resentment.
One of the first images I had in my head of Aufleur was a scene of Ashiol, standing in a wreck of a city, watching scars slide and fall off his skin at the same time as the city rebuilt itself around him…. While the scene didn’t entirely survive the final manuscript, I always knew that this would be the key point of my city, that it was damaged and destroyed and beaten every night, but that it would heal itself, brick by brick, when daylight came.
Until, of course, it didn’t any more.
Tansy Rayner Roberts is the author of Power and Majesty (Creature Court Book One) and The Shattered City (Creature Court Book Two, April 2011) with Reign of Beasts (Creature Court Book Three, coming in November 2011) hot on its tail. Her short story collection Love and Romanpunk will be published as part of the Twelfth Planet Press “Twelve Planets” series in May.
This post comes to you as part of Tansy’s Mighty Slapdash Blog Tour, and comes with a cookie fragment of new release The Shattered City:
“You have a city to think of,” he said sharply. “One house shouldn’t matter. It can’t matter.”
“And that’s why you live underground, so you care about nothing?” Velody flared. “How would you feel if it was the palazzo that fell to the skybolts? If the Duchessa didn’t wake up one morning, and you knew exactly why? How many cups of wine would it take to drown that one out?”
Galactic Suburbia 23!
This is my 1000th post! And it’s a Galactic Suburbia one!
In which we greet a brand new year with discussion about digital media, awards, books, feminism, feedback, more books, anti-heroes, gender roles and take a look at what to look forward to in 2011. We can be downloaded or streamed from Galactic Suburbia, or from iTunes.
Follow up on the Jewish fantasy discussion by Rachel Swirsky.
Locus to go digital with issue #600.
Launch of the Cascadia Subduction Zone, new critical zine with focus on women’s work.
The i09 Power List: 20 people who rocked SF & Fantasy in 2010.
Carl Brandon Awards: Hiromi Goto and Justine Larbalestier.
Hugo nominations open – last year’s members of Aussiecon 4, don’t forget you’re eligible to nominate!
Feedback: Kaia, Kathryn & Thoraiya
What Culture Have we Consumed? [AND what culture are you most looking forward to consuming in 2011?]
Alisa: Fringe Season 3, Dexter Season 4, Being Erica (ep 1), Nurse Jackie, How I Met Your Mother, reading Managing Death (Trent Jamieson)
Looking forward to: LSS 2011
Alex: Zombies vs Unicorns, ed. Larbalestier and Black; Factotum, book 3 of Monster Blood Tattoo, by DM Cornish; Dervish House, by Ian McDonald; The Killing Thing, by Kate Wilhelm; Surface Detail, by Iain M Banks.
Looking forward to: Blue Remembered Earth (probably), by Alastair Reynolds; books 2&3 of The Creature Court, Tansy Rayner Roberts; the 2011 Women in SF Book Club; Bold as Love sequence (Gwyneth Jones); Twelve Planets (from Twelfth Planet Press).
Tansy: Wiped, Richard Molesworth; The Doctor Who Christmas Special! The Gene Thieves & the Norma; Ascendant, Diana Peterfreund; Big Finish Podcast
Looking forward to: Doctor Who and Fringe (SHOCK, I know), Sherlock, Torchwood, The Demon’s Surrender by Sarah Rees Brennan, Burn Bright by M. de Pierres.
Please send feedback to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!
Snapshot 2007: Tansy Rayner Roberts
Dr Tansy Rayner Roberts’ novel for children, Seacastle – book 1 of The Lost Shimmaron series – was published this year. She is also involved in the Young Adult-focussed ezine Shiny, and can be found online here.
Q1. So. Shiny and Shimmaron. What’s the go with the Young Adult focus? And the alliteration?
The alliteration is coincidental! I’ve been moving towards doing children’s and young adult fiction for some time, because I really believe that’s where the exciting stuff is happening in our genre right now (plus, the books? shorter!) but it’s something of a coincidence that it’s all happening for me this year. The Shimmaron has been a project in motion for four years that just happened to appear Right Now, and as for Shiny… well, I take total credit for the idea, if not the project!
Internationally, as the profile of YA SF has increased, there have been a number of anthologies released to appeal to that audience (that audience including teenagers who don’t want to be talked down to, and adults who like to read about smart teens) but no magazine markets that follow up on that. So we made one! We’re really excited with some of the authors and stories we’ve picked up so far, and will be making a splash with our first issues later this year. Stay tuned!
PS: The Lost Shimmaron series is actually aimed at children – it occasionally gets listed as YA, but it’s definitely the lower end, as in 8-12 yr olds. I keep getting fan comments from people who read it to their 4 year olds! I don’t want people to expect there are going to be, like, faery drugs and troll sex and all those other good YA things in it. It’s a mermaidy adventure story.
Q2. You’ve had a few short stories published in places like Andromeda Spaceways, and more recently Fantastical Journeys to Brisbane, as well as novels. Do you have a preferred length to write towards? – do you always know whether an idea is a short or a novel?
Actually, the perfect length for a story for me is about 13,000 words. Which is tragic, really. It’s a cross I have to bear.
I’m a novel girl at heart, it’s how I think. I’m always surprised and delighted when I get a short story idea that will actually work in 6,000 words or less, but it doesn’t come naturally to me. Having said that, I *loved* writing Seacastle, Book 1 of the Lost Shimmaron, because 20,000 words is such a beautiful novel length. Should be more of it!
My trouble is that I think in worlds, so even when I write shorts, I usually want to jam them into a series. It has to be all about the novels right now, though, because last year I swore I’d have three new novel-length manuscripts completed by the time I was thirty, and I have just under a year to go. Score is currently at one with just minor edits to go, one which needs about 30,000 words added to the front of it, plus edits, and one that needs to be written from scratch. I can totally do it.
Q3. You’ve just completed your PhD looking at the use of the term ‘Augusta’ and how it was applied to various Roman women. Can we look forward to a historical fantasy story from you sometime in the future – perhaps with Agrippina or Julia meeting a mermaid? And if not, why not, choose your favourite colour… or explain what else might be coming up.
Heh – I have just completed it, as of about 6pm yesterday [Friday]! Hooray! You may address me as Dr Tansy.
I’ve been wanting to write about my period of Ancient Rome for years, but never quite got up the nerve. I had an alternate history all planned for a while, kind of Roman steampunk (because there’s this legend that steam engines were invented but the Emperor dismissed them because “what would we do with the slaves”) and I was researching Egyptian technology for ages, but I’ve never followed through.
I’ve written half a short story about Caesar being haunted by Pompey’s severed head when he meets Cleopatra. I want to finish that, but as usual, I have no idea how to finish the damn thing. Maybe I need to add smut…
I *really* want to write about the romance of Octavian and Livia, because that story fascinates me (she was pregnant with her second child to first husband when he married her), and none of the historical novelists seem willing/interested to cover it. I adore young Octavian, he was such a little psychopath and yet he reinvented himself so effectively later on.
And I had this whole idea about writing a story about the afterlife of the deified members of the Julio-Claudian family. Drusilla and Livia, in particular. Such a catfight waiting to happen. Livia died first, but her great-granddaughter got to be a goddess first! Imagine the tensions.
I actually have a huge epic book/series planned which incorporates magic and Roman women’s history, but it’s way down the list of manageable projects, because it’s going to be so damn big! And of course there’s the ‘history fear’ thing to get over, where the more you know about a historical era, the more paranoid you become about getting it Wrong.
In the mean time, the novel I’m working on (the one that needs the beginning added to it) revolves around a festival calendar directly inspired by the Ancient Romans, and the city itself is grounded in my memories of Rome. So that will have to be enough for now!
PS: My favourite colour is green.
Q4. You’re part of the Last Short Story crew, and well known as having a Harry Potter fanfic obsession: what’s the best thing you’ve read this year?
Ooh, that is a really difficult question. I’ve read over 90 books, over 1000 short stories and um, mumble, over 1500 fanfics (including at least 50 novel & 100 novella length ones).
Having said all that, the one piece of reading I’ve picked up this year and adored uncritically is the Fruits Basket manga series – I resent it when I really like something that’s hugely popular and have to join the crowd, but I couldn’t resist this one.
I also loved Castle Waiting by Linda Medley, The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke, The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs Beeton by Kathryn Hughes, everything that fanfic writers mistful and sam_storyteller have ever written, and two stories from Aurealis #37: “John Wayne,” by Ben Peek and “Domine” by Rjurik Davidson. And I’m ordering Steve Berman’s novel Vintage on the strength of his gingerbread boys story “Bittersweet” in the new Endicott Studio zine.
Q5. Last, but most salacious: choose one fictional character to get it on with. Who would it be?
Colleen McCullough’s version of Julius Caesar. Mmmm.
This interview was conducted as part of the 2007 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from Monday 13 August to Sunday 19 August and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus. You can read other interviews at:
If you’re involved in the Scene and have something to plug, then send us an email and we’ll see what we can do!