28 September, 2007

Horn Book review

And here's what Deirdre F. Baker says about Red Spikes:
Lanagan’s ten stories delve into the crevices of nightmare, temptation, and helplessness with a mixture of earthy dialect and inventiveness that makes this collection mesmerizing, sometimes horrifying, and occasionally funny. “A human eye is bigger than the head of a bird like me,” one character (a budgie) says. “When it looks at you, it’s hard to think straight, for fear of where all that attention might lead.” That might be said of each one of the stories, which transfix the reader partly through their surprises (birth, rape, dead babies, nightmares that sound “spongy somehow, as well as bony”) but mostly through Lanagan’s language. She has an unerring ear for patterns of speech and for weird, terrifying combinations of words that conjure startling, vivid, fleshly images. “They ran so close together they were like a stretch of moss that pulled itself up and went hurrying off,” she writes of a magicked flood of mice. “The dark parts of his eyes skated about on his eyeballs,” she writes of a positively hair-raising Wee Willie Winkie. Physical desire and repugnance go uneasily hand in hand in most of the stories, which have the intensity of folktales and a powerfully visceral style.
(Thanks, Nancy!)

27 September, 2007

Red Spikes is a *starred* Horn Book book!


And so is Shaun Tan's The Arrival and Catherine Bateson's Being Bee. It's the attack of the killer Oz authors!

In other news, the revisions are going well. And I got all my tech. writing done. And the weather is summery.

26 September, 2007

'Lovely book by great authors'

That is, Click:
Gee turns up in every chapter, each set in a different part of the world, so I suppose this is the Amnesty feel to the story. There’s plenty about the effects of war and hardship, but more than anything there’s a lot of love in the stories.

25 September, 2007

Not connecting

Here is a kind of hilarious review of 'A Pig's Whisper', my Magic Pudding story. It demonstrates beautifully how dependent the story is on the reader knowing a bit of Australian stuff:
Why had the children been left in the bush? Who were the three men with the pudding? What was the pudding really and why did they call it Albert? Who were the thieves? Why were the three men roasting people? Who were the people who were being roasted and how did they die? Does the sister see the roasted people as being black because they were burnt or decaying, or because they were supposed to be a different race from all the other people in the story? Who were the foster-brothers who find the children’s corpses at the end and were they also dead?
He comes so close, but despite having his Australian girlfriend explain things, he's left uncertain:
I still don’t know the full details, though, so ‘A Pig’s Whisper’ still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. But I found it an interesting reading experience nevertheless. It was a curious feeling to be reading something that was clearly very well written, that pulled me in and engaged me as a reader, but which I couldn’t make any narrative sense out of due to a gap in my knowledge of the cultural context the story was being told in. I was lucky in this instance to have someone to tell me what it is I was missing, but I know I’ve had other similar reading experiences where I was left with the feeling that there was probably something I was missing, but having no real idea what or where to begin looking for it.
This story is going into Ellen's Year's Best, so I suspect there will be a few more bemused people out there before long.

18 September, 2007

Tender Morsels revisions

I hope I'm not fooling myself when I say that after 23 pages of editorial letters and two lo-ong conversations with my Australian editor, I feel almost clear-headed as I launch myself into these revisions. There's very little rewriting involved, some cutting, some filling out, quite a bit of small stuff, but nothing seems to have knocked the story off its foundations. Yet.

*crosses fingers, proceeds with caution*

Due end September. If it gets quiet here, that'll be the reason.

SF Signal review of Red Spikes

Over here:
PROS: Interesting premises; touches on numerous emotions and feelings.
CONS: Odd language used at times, which slowed reading; some stories simply not that engaging.
BOTTOM LINE: Red Spikes offers a variety of themes that should appeal to fans of fantasy.
The reviewer, John DeNardo, confesses to be still trying to find 'which ingredients make a fantasy story that suits my palate', being basically a classic science fiction fan. So the collection only gets three stars, as you might expect from a book with bugger-all science fiction in it.

He reckons, 'There was one standout story ("A Good Heart") and a few that never made it past the mediocre range.' This seems to be quite a common reaction, but the standout story is always a different one; the 'just bizarre' story is always a different one; the one that is 'trying to shock' is always a different one; the 'one that put me to sleep' is always a different one. I tell you, you'd go mad trying to please everyone.

Hardback books

Two luscious productions have arrived in the last week or so: the bound Click and the hardback Red Spikes from Knopf. Both too pretty and tactile to put away on the shelf yet. Schlurrp.

13 September, 2007

Second ed. letter for Tender Morsels

The Knopf editorial letter is in for the novel, stuffed with interesting ideas and responses. Many of them, I'm happy to say, fit in with what Rosalind and I had agreed on, arising from the UK letter, but there are other new possibilities for cutting and adding and balancing and clarifying. No big disturbances necessary, though; I was right in thinking that all the pieces were in place, even if they weren't necessarily arranged perfectly.

I've got the ms. here in Brisbane with me but I don't know that I'll do anything on it while I'm here. I've got plenty to chew on when I'm not swanning around the West End and the South Bank, though. Always with the thinking.


I'm up in Brisbane, for Lynne and John's housewarming and the Brisbane Writers' Festival—pure indulgence-and-professional-development-of-course. We've had two summery days but today is grey and cool looking, perfect for festivalling.

Wednesday night we went to the Premier's Awards announcement, Peter Beattie's last public engagement before handing over to Anna Bligh. I knew I wasn't going to win the Steele Rudd Award, but there's no shame in losing it to David Malouf, is there! Particularly when he says nice things about his peers on the shortlist. And you're thinking, 'Peers! Grovelling fangirls, maybe.' It was a nice event. The State Library of Queensland is a fabulous building; I'll do more wandering around it and marvelling today.

Yesterday Harry and I ferried up and down the river and walked for hours through gardens and city streets. We saw Peter Beattie again, announced well ahead of time by media vans and scrums. And we got a touch sunburnt—the novelty! Then last night I went with Lynne to her yoga class and gave my walked-out legs some more grief, poor wobbly ol' things.

Today I'm going to at least two sessions, The Passion of the Pen: Why Writers Write, with David Malouf, Patrick Gale, Damon Galgut, Elizabeth Stead and Jenny Pattrick (chaired by David Carter) and Stories from History: Authors and Historians Dig Up Stories, with Jenny Pattrick and Chris Turney.

Plus being a lady who lunches. This is the life.

Ellen's anthology

Over here you can see the table of contents for Ellen Datlow's unthemed SF/F/H anthology from Del Rey. She's got the copy edits for it at the moment, which means that it'll probably be out before Christmas? Anyway, earlier than I thought. It looks mouthwatering. My story, 'The Goosle', is a horrible-Hansel-and-Gretel story with added Black Plague, kinky murder and homosexual slavery. I know, I'm getting a bit jolly-hockey-sticks in my middle age...

Off for a wholesome Botany Ramble now. *dons tweeds and brogues*

10 September, 2007

Finished drafting the short story


It's pretty grim (surprise, surprise). But it has fairies. Here is the fairy prince:
I saw him now The others were stepping aside rustling to let him through the ones at the front bowing He was glamorous but very thin and suffering The fine craft of that staff was all very well but he needed it to walk with I could see Some injury had weakened his thigh Creatures like small Golden flies buzzed and attended it circling his leg there as if weaving a sort of Bandage around with their flights [... The Folk] were emphatic and undeniable around my knees His Fierceness glaring up at me and for all his being so thin and ill and low to the ground he had a real and Expectant power about him
This is written by a not-madly-literate station hand, which accounts for the odd capitalisation and the lack of punctuation. That will annoy the crap out of some readers, I know, but truly, he's doing the best he can.

Click is clicking with people

Scholastic just sent me a swag of nice reviews for the Click 10-author novel.

Kirkus Reviews:
Each chapter is distinct enough to reveal a bit about its author while effectively contributing to the overall portrait of a complex, committed, elusive man. While some readers may find the narrative jumps too challenging, those who follow the multi-strand plot will be rewarded with a thought-provoking and thoroughly engaging read.
Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)—I've linked to this one before:
The connection of 10 authors adapting one story is unique. While they read each other's work at completion, they never ventured into a true collaboration to smooth out the edges of each story to fit into the next. What results is a glimpse or quick flash of Maggie and Grandfather Gee along with other interesting characters. It's a pleasing story with a variety of voices and tones. It's probably more about what life really is: a series of clicks as one moves forward with optimism and change.
Shelf Awareness:
All of the stories play with the idea of perspective; Gee begins as the beholder, but every character gets a chance to share his or her perspective--on Gee, and on the world. Cumulatively the authors suggest that any one event can be viewed from any number of angles, and that matters may be far more complex than first meets the eye.
While moving back and forth in time and place, the contributions come together in a surprisingly satisfying whole, as clues in each successive chapter gradually bring the man and the mystery surrounding him into sharp focus.
Each story, even though different than the one before, blends into each other almost seamlessly. Read by itself it might just be a bunch of nice short stories, but when all the stories are put together like so in this book it makes you realize that many relationships are circular in nature. Connections people make with random people they meet can have far-reaching effects.

07 September, 2007


Okay, I've sorted the (UK, it was) editorial letter—went through it with my Allen & Unwin editor and worked out what was negotiable and what not (e.g. the buggery :) ). There's some work to be done, but I'm enthusiastic about it—I can see how much neater and better the book will be afterwards. So all's happy on that front.

I've been trying to move myself to finish a short story that was due (loosely) at the end of July, and finding this quite difficult. I wrote 16 pages of it, then decided to change the point of view character, then yesterday wrote 5 pages of the new version, and I think it will fly. But when I think of going back to it, I just feel like sleeping. And once that one's done, I've got to get another one (re)written by the end of September.

On the exercise front, I've been cranking into gear, and perhaps that will help. I did Pilates on Monday and ran with Jack on Monday night, and today went for the first bike ride since the end of July, and managed 33km without dying, although I needed a coffee infusion and some toast halfway.

I took on some tech. writing, foolish me. But I can do it from home, and it doesn't involve any brainsucking of Subject Matter Experts, so I should be able to manage that...

...on top of a completely frivolous trip to Brisbane Writers' Festival, which I'm going to just because I can, to be an audience member rather than a panellist or speaker. Oh, and a swigger of champagne with Mr Beattie—my goodness, my life is just wall-to-wall premiers, at the moment—and A&U authors and others! Oh, and a housewarmer for Lynne and John. Oh, and a wild applauder for Marianne and Agnes.

I'm also doing a stint at the Education Queensland Online Literature Festival; surveying the writing programs at my son's high school; being torn between doing a Jan-workshop on 22-23 September or going to the Writing History Festival at the NSW Writers' Centre on the Saturday and just doing a half-Jan-workshop on the Sunday; and waving Harry off to Laos and Cambodia on the 29th.

Quite a month.

05 September, 2007

First editorial letter for Tender Morsels

Damn, what do you mean, it's not perfect? And what the heck is wrong with cloth-golem buggery? I don't know, what is it with readers nowadays...

Outraged, of Lewisham

03 September, 2007

The 'Life Matters' interview...

...will air on ABC Radio National tomorrow morning at 9:15 or so. It's been edited down to about 12 minutes, so they must have taken out a few ums, aahs and nervous giggles.

Updated: You can hear it here.

A short rant against the CBCA Awards

Over here:
...because the judges are RETARDED and MENTALLY UNSTABLE and the judging criteria bizarrely enough is not story quality or character development, but writing style, the winners are always the least deserving.

This year, Margo Lanagan's 'Red Spikes' took older readers book of the year. Two years ago, Lanagan's Black Juice was nominated. Both books are equally revolting compilations of short stories. Every one aims to horrify, to shock, to numb with some twisted alterative sense of reality, eg. A family who have a picnic while watching their oldest daughter/sister drown in a pit of tar.
Judging by the blogger profile, though, I'm not sure this is a real rant - maybe a sugar rush to the brain.*snrch*

Hey, look! Hi, Ellen!

My story 'Under Hell, Over Heaven' in Red Spikes was joint thirteenth in line for a short-story Hugo. And Ellen I-taught-her-all-she-knows-at-Clarion-South-2005-not Klages' 'In the House of the Seven Librarians' was joint thirteenth for a novelette Hugo.

Nice to know we were in there.