30 November, 2007

Red Spikes is on the Horn Book Fanfare!

"Chosen annually by our editors, Fanfare is The Horn Book Magazine’s selection of the best children’s and young adult books of the year." And they say of Red Spikes:
Ten short stories from an award-winning fantasy writer 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. Lanagan’s powerfully visceral speculative fiction is written in penetrating language and with the intensity of folktale.
And of course, Shaun Tan's The Arrival is on the list too.


29 November, 2007

Update: reviews (Red Spikes)

1. Andrew Wheeler read all the stories at once; I think it's probably this rather than my 'sparse, lean prose' that:
make[s] them run together [...] all of the stories took place nowhere; there are no place names here, of any kind. There's little to place these stories in time, either—a few are apparently in the modern day, but many of the others co[u]ld be set in a medieval European village, or a mud hut in prehistoric Africa, or some random secondary world [Hmm, random?]. Again, that is generally a strength in any particular story, but, after ten stories in a row, it becomes something less, a lack where a background might be. (There is one story clearly set in Purgatory...without ever using that word.) The one thing that did place this collection in time and space to me is that many of the characters speak in a rough, grating dialect, with particular grammatical errors and word choices. It's not a speech pattern I'm familiar with, though I can guess with some [misplaced] confidence that it's Australian (and with less confidence that it's lower class), and it fell unpleasantly on my ears. I felt as if all of the people speaking that way were uncouth louts who I wanted to get as far away from as quickly as possible -- perhaps that was Lanagan's intention, but I'm not sure.
He is so onto me. Of course, I aim to create characters so unendearing people want to leave the collection on a train, to ensure a wider readership—or flee-ership. Smart man.

2. Anthropologist/author/panel-buddy Elizabeth Bunce had a better time:
Margo Lanagan's muse is insane. Or possibly an alien. Or both. Because there is no way that the premises of the stories in this collection came from the world you and I are living in. [...] But Margo herself is some kind of genius. She takes these utterly bizarre ideas sent by the lunatic muse, and spins them into pure magic. Somehow, she just makes them work. [...] she translates completely alien concepts into stories that grip and terrify and delight, but never never never leave the reader behind, wondering WTF? My editor called her work "brutal," and I guess that's true, too... but there's a level of clarity and perfection to the prose that transcends the disturbing.

So here's the thing. If you think there's nothing new in fantasy--if you think there are only a dozen stories in the world, constantly being told and retold--well. Margo Lanagan is out there, begging to differ.

3. Then, the chap who had such trouble with 'A Pig's Whisper' had a look:
We’re back to worldbuilding again, but this time most of the world that is built is also hidden, with only a few slivers to be glimpsed here and there. With both “Hero Vale” and “Baby Jane” I got the sense almost of eavesdropping on the characters’ experiences, of being invited to step inside their world for a brief period and piggy-back through the story with them until it was time to step back again and leave them to their affairs. It’s not that Lanagan creates a complete world on the page, it’s that she creates a complete world off it, most of which remains unseen but the presence of which can still be felt, in between the bits that are glimpsed.

21 November, 2007

Touching Earth Lightly disembowelled

Cor blimey. Here is a long essay about my 1996 YA novel Touching Earth Lightly. It makes me marvel at how little you know about what you're saying while you write a novel; it's kind of like being publicly psychoanalysed—and the diagnosis is not exactly one I'm proud of...I don't think. I'll have to read it again, and closer, to be sure. Here's a taste:
In order to explore these ideas in more detail, I wish to focus on Margo Lanagan's Touching Earth Lightly (1996), a text which not only represents death as a significant event influencing the development of the adolescent female subject, but which also frames mortality through themes of sexuality. The text makes an interesting study—firstly, because it has the potential to interrogate a number of familiar masculinist representations of women within Western discourses; secondly, because it engages so closely with woman/death, that twin 'enigma' which Western culture posits as what is 'radically other to the norm, the living or surviving masculine subject' (Bronfen & Goodwin 1993, p.13); and, thirdly, because, although it offers open resistance to orthodox ideas about what constitutes acceptable sexual behaviour and practices, at the same time it is evident that conflict surfaces between what the text represents in the narrative and the processes of representing it.
I mean, you just don't think about the novel you're writing in these terms, while you're blurting it out—well, I don't, anyway.

Nice review of Click here.

Blah review of Red Spikes here.

Enough of this—I should be working.

14 November, 2007


of Tender Morsels are happening. Fixed a significant conversation today, and thought of a new action scene to make up for all that talky-talk. Every time I let Muddy Annie on stage, though, she starts stealing the show, the naughty drudge.

Yes, I know this makes no sense. It will, in a year's time, I promise.

Elizabeth's WFC report...

...includes an account of the panel we were on.

And here at Bookshelves of Doom Leila talks about Red Spikes:
Along with the dark atmosphere, you can tick the box next to pretty much every single entry on your handy list of Things People Find Offensive in YA fiction. In Red Spikes, you'll find sex, violence, witchcraft, and, as at least two of the stories deal with the afterlife, well, those are bound to offend someone out there. I don't remember profanity, but that doesn't mean there isn't any.
Despite this, Leila liked it. And of course, you will too!

12 November, 2007


Katie Haegele of the Philadelphia Inquirer reviews Red Spikes and finds the stories 'literary, highly imaginative, and, honestly, not a little horrifying':
"Under Hell, Over Heaven" depicts the gray apathy of an afterlife that's stuck somewhere in between the two, making us wonder if nothingness might be as tragic as suffering the pains of hell. "Hero Vale" shows us a forest near a boys' school and the grotesque, yet somehow inspiring, monster the boys find there. "Daughter of the Clay" is about a girl from a fairyland who's made of clay but somehow got stuck in the wrong world; you know, this one. "Winkie" is a truly nasty take on the tale of Wee Willie Winkie from the point of view of a small child. Think of the "Tapping at the window, crying at the lock" part of that rhyme and you'll get the idea. Yeesh, Ms. Lanagan, isn't it always sunny in Australia?
She also says: 'A couple of the shorter stories felt a bit stunted, like false starts, but the language and setting of the others opened like a flower, satisfying to discover.'

I thought this was a good, attentive, intelligent review. Now I must hurry off and work on my stuntedness.

For the next three weeks I'll be finishing the Tender Morsels revisions. I'm also going to try and keep myself healthy, sober-ish and sane, so that I have more than, say, two clear-headed hours each day to work in. That would be sensible, wouldn't it? That would be adult of me. I've started off well by using the two pin-sharp awake hours of jetlag insomnia from 5 to 7 this morning to get started on a missing morsel of Morsels. Well done me.

Ellen Datlow's photos from World Fantasy are over here, and Cat Sparks' are here. Sigh, that was fun.

10 November, 2007

Medieval marvels

I also forgot to blog about the arty bits, the half-day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which we meant to follow up with a second visit but didn't (another reason to come back next year) and the trip to The Cloisters. As well as the carvings, paintings and tapestries, there is a fascinating medieval garden, full of plants to cook, cure, scent and make magic with. I don't think I've ever gone to a museum/gallery and loved every single thing in it before. We had to buy the (heavy! hardback!) book to make it bearable to walk away from it all.

We caught the bus up to the Cloisters, so that we could see something of the northern and western bits of Manhattan (and to rest our sore feet and leave some energy for museum walking). It was a beautiful fine autumn day. And we saw a black squirrel; I didn't know there was such a thing.

More fotos and fun

I forgot to mention the cheese party I accidentally instigated at World Fantasy! Jay Lake, never a man to do things by halves, had only to hear that I'd never had a proper truffle experience to go hunting truffle cheese for me to try. In the end he came up with six cheeses: a local guerrilla cheese, Colton-Basset Stilton, Truffle Tremor, Drunken Goat, Urgela and Pierre Robert. My favourites were the Stilton and the Drunken Goat; I'm afraid the truffles still didn't get through to me, but Jay couldn't locate the absolute perfect truffle cheese, so there's still hope.

Thanks, Jay! I was deeply honoured to be the cheesy Guest of Honour!

09 November, 2007

Ellen Datlow's WFC photos

This proves that I was there at the World Fantasy Awards banquet on Sunday, half a world away and nearly a whole week ago. I'm still waiting for parts of me to come back down to earth, like the sleeping-at-the-right-time part.

Sorry about the big chunk of missing detail about the trip. Round about last entry I came down with the cold Steven's been carrying around for the last 2 months, and it was a little hard to think through the snot and the coughing; instead, I floated around New York on a cloud of Sudafed, Echinacea/vitamin C, multi-vitamins (although I didn't go as crazy as Trevor with the vitamins) and throat lozenges. Oh, and anti-jetlag coffee.

Let me see how much I remember. We went on the Staten Island ferry. We also did the around-Manhattan-Island boat trip, the full three hours, which was wonderful. We went to Fred's at Barney's one afternoon. We weakened and bought books, so many that when I carried my suitcase down the three flights from the apartment on the last day, I stretched all the muscles in my right arm and had to add painkillers to my cocktail of drugs and supplements!

Then we went to Saratoga Springs and bought more books - I mean, had a very productive time at the World Fantasy Convention. The train trip up there was great - our carriage and half of another one was almost all Australian WFC attendees, the view of the autumnal Hudson was fantastic, and every now and again we stopped at another station with a name straight out of a short story. We learned that you say Per-KIP-sy for Poughkeepsie, and Ske-NECK-t'dy for Schenectady, neither of which I'd dared to even try to pronounce before. (The train trip back was even better, because the leaves had changed colour even more dramatically.)

At the Con, I gave a (fabulously well-attended - thanks, Ellen K!) reading with my by-then-very-husky voice on the Friday, and was on a panel about archetypes on the Saturday that went surprisingly well, considering the vague noises we'd made about the topic when we conferred beforehand. Tim Powers moderated us - masterfully - and all of us (Sarah Beth Durst, Elizabeth Bunce, Mark Ferrari and me) turned out to suddenly have all sorts of pithy, fascinating things to say about archetypes! And it was a good big crowd there, too.

I went to hear Greer Gilman and Ellen Klages read, and heard some of the panel on Australian speculative fiction, and went to the banquet, of course, and made sure, with the rest of the Australian table, that appropriate amounts of noise were made when Shaun Tan won for The Arrival. And the rest of the time was a combination of walking about admiring Saratoga Springs (oh, all right, there was a spot of shopping involved) and sitting at breakfasts and lunches and dinners and bars, and lounging in lounges and lobbies, with old friends and new, listening to outlandish stories and laughing my head off. I believe this is called networking, and that all associated costs are tax-deductible.

I didn't socialise quite as much as I'd thought I might, because my voice was going and the noise levels at the party places were generally pretty hard to shout over, but that was probably a good thing, healthwise and liver-wise, although I have as long a list of glimpsed-but-not-properly-met people as I have of properly-met-at-last ones. I'll just have to go back some time, won't I?

We had a great time. I think Jack and Harry grew another inch while we were away, with Steven's mum Merle's cooking. It's good to be back in rainy Sydney, but rainy New York City and chilly Saratoga Springs were a whole lot of fun, too. Thanks to everyone who made them so.

07 November, 2007

Red Spikes is a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2007!

See? (Scroll down to the Children's list.)
So what did we read this year that kept us up at night, broke our hearts, opened our minds, made us fall in love? Three thousand books are published daily in the U.S., and PW reviewed more than 6,000 of them in 2007, in print and online. From that astounding number, we've culled a best books list covering our favorites in fiction, poetry, nonfiction, comics, religion, lifestyle and children's—150 in all.
And they say, of Red Spikes: 'Rarely do YA readers find such uniformly strong short fiction as in Lanagan's dark and provocative fantasy collection of 10 stories, striking for their beautiful, quirky language and deep psychological insight.'

The Arrival by Shaun Tan is also on the list, under Children's Comics.

03 November, 2007

Here's a review-and-a-half...

...of Red Spikes, by John Clute.