20 February, 2008

Publishers Weekly like 'The Goosle'

Among other things in Ellen Datlow's The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy:
Declaring that short stories are the “heart and soul of fantastical fiction,” prolific and venerable editor Datlow collects 16 impressive original stories in this unthemed anthology. Standout selections include Margo Lanagan's deeply disturbing “The Goosle,” which eloquently corrupts the Hansel and Gretel fable with bubonic plague, sexual slavery and mass murder; Jason Stoddard's “The Elephant Ironclads,” which describes an emergent 20th-century Navajo nation struggling to become a world power while staying true to its culture; Elizabeth Bear's “Sonny Liston Takes the Fall,” a poignant tale about the life, death and sad legacy of the troubled heavyweight fighter; and Pat Cadigan's “Jimmy,” a strange and supernatural coming-of-age story set in the moments just after John F. Kennedy's assassination. The thematic diversity and consistently high quality of narrative throughout make for a solid and enjoyable anthology.
I can't wait to read the other stories in this anthology.

15 February, 2008

Dreaming Again, ed. Jack Dann: contents

Here we all are. You'll see us in June.

1.    “Old Friends,” Garth Nix
2.    “A Guided Tour In the Kingdom of the Dead,” Richard Harland
3.    “This Is My Blood,” Ben Francisco and Chris Lynch
4.    “Nightship,” Kim Westwood
5.    “The Fooly,” Terry Dowling
6.    “Neverland Blues,” Adam Brown
7.    “The Jacaranda Wife,” A. G. Slatter
8.    “The Constant Past,” Sean McMullen
9.    “The Forest,” Kim Wilkins
10.    “Robots & Zombies, Inc.,” Lucy Sussex
11.    “This Way to the Exit,” Sara Douglass
12.    “Grimes and the Gaijin Daimyo,” A. Bertram Chandler
13.    “Lure,” Paul Collins
14.    “The Empire,” Simon Brown
15.    “Lakeside,” Christopher Green
16.    “Trolls’ Night Out,” Jenny Blackford
17.    “The Rest Is Silence,” Aaron Sterns
18.    “Smoking, Waiting For the Dawn,” Jason Nahrung
19.    “The Lanes Of Camberwell,” Cecilia Dart-Thornton
20.    “Lost Arts,” Stephen Dedman
21.    “Undead Camels Ate Their Flesh,” Jason Fischer
22.    “Europa,” Cecily Scutt
23.    “Riding On the Q-ball,” Rosaleen Love
24.    “In From the Snow,” Lee Battersby
25.    “The Lost Property Room,” Trudi Canavan
26.    “Heere Be Monsters,” John Birmingham
27.    “Purgatory,” Rowena Cory Daniells
28.    “Manannan’s Children,” Russell Blackford
29.    “The Fifth Star In the Southern Cross,” Margo Lanagan
30.    “Twilight In Caeli-Amur,” Rjurik Davidson
31.    “Paradise Design’d,” Janeen Webb
32.    “The New Deal,” Trent Jamieson
33.    “The Last Great House of Isla Tortuga,” Peter M. Ball
34.    “Conquist,” Dirk Strasser
35.    “Perchance To Dream,” Isobelle Carmody

"Fifth Star" is a nasty story. :)

"Undead Camels", on the other hand, is a wholesome, jolly romp through Australia's future Outback, and worth the price of admission on its own.

14 February, 2008


No story yesterday, and none today. Too busy doing accounting-related things, and updating my tech writing CV to send off in preparation for heading back to the coalface on Monday.

Nice review of Red Spikes over here.

12 February, 2008

People are seriously underwhelmed...

...by my story 'She-Creatures' in Jonathan Strahan's SF and F anthology Eclipse One. Dave Truesdale says:
A perfect example of the style over substance story, which featured a seductive and well rendered scenario but then petered out and failed to deliver as a story, was Margo Lanagan's short "She-Creatures." A tale of (alien? sorcerous? "[t]he women, the bitches, the witches"?) abduction rife with erotic overtones goes nowhere, explains nothing, and ends with the village-farmer-cum-nighttime-smuggler-of-kegs frustrated when his wife won't believe what he saw. We are given one well rendered scene to tickle our fancy, but that's it. Literarily put, big whoop.
And Andrew Wheeler reckons:
In Lanagan's typical vaguely-like-Australia-but-not-anywhere-in-particular, three men are doing some kind of smuggling by night, when a group of five witches find them and perform a weird sexualized ritual on one of the men. It's all very life-changing and frightening.

The scene where the witches do...whatever...to the guy is genuinely powerful. But Lanagan refuses to explain it or have it lead anywhere, so it just floats above the story. We don't know who these guys were before, or what they were doing. We don't know who the witches are, or what they did, or what they have to do with anything. So it's one strong scene embedded in a few thousand words of not enough scene-setting, like a fan dancer whose thin, wispy fans don't actually cover anything.
It isn't hard to work out from the story that the men are smuggling kegs of Spanish wine, therefore that this story takes place somewhere in Devon or Cornwall. That's all I'll say. *zips lips*

11 February, 2008

Today's story—'A Brush with Nevermore'

Yes, it's inspired by Holly Black's novel Valiant. 5100 words. Here are some of them:
However. However. Early hours of next morning. I had this dream, right? It was very simple—she says, embarrassed, not looking you in the eye. Darkness. City street. Cold weather, almost a bite in the air, which is rare for Sydney. I am wearing my coat and scarf, and tights. My knees are cold, that’s how convincing the dream-weather is. Leaves are blowing—

Yes, yes, Len. You said it was simple? Right. Me. Raff. Passing opposite sides of the pavement. Our eyes meet. We change course. We walk towards each other in a kind of dazzlement, in a kind of knowledge. I’ve never seen you, but I know you, and you know me, and— He puts out his arms, and my hands come out of my coat pockets and slide up on his coat-sleeves (black, nice cut) to around his neck (nice scarf, Stewart tartan), and we pull each other close, and we kiss.

10 February, 2008

Friday's story—'Renters' Ivory'

Back to the writing room for this one. 3500 words. (Yesterday's count was 1700; yes, writing in the shopping mall is distracting.)
Well, it wasn’t ‘Amazing Cases’ size, but it was pretty damn big. It had adhesions all over it, so it took a lot of careful work to extract, so that not a gram would be lost to the scalpel. I’d be surprised if Sam blinked the whole time, she sat so still there the other side of Evenda, and attended so fiercely.

‘It’s like…it’s like a whole baby seal,’ Vic hissed when most of the upper surface was cleaned.

Which it was, but an eyeless, rigid, hairless seal. Flipperless. Lifeless.

They did the underneath work, then used the hydraulics to lift it out of him. A little bit at first, so that the technicians could cut away the last adhesions, and then it lifted away in the two slings and Dad was left behind, just Dad-weight now, just dead-weight, just dead-human-body weight. After showing us his face at the beginning, they’d covered him again, and now, with his face green-sheeted and everyone’s eyes on the lift’s readout, he looked like the discarded casing of something, a seed pod or a cicada case, a broken-out-of egg or a stolen wallet, rifled through and emptied and thrown aside. It was what he wanted, I reminded myself. He did it quite deliberately and when he was ‘of sound mind and body’; it was there in writing.

07 February, 2008

Today's story—'Eyelids of the Dawn'

Written at Burwood Westfield, on the balcony shown here, until it started raining:
Itchy. That was the thought that woke me. Woke me to the knowledge of words, woke me to the knowledge of sensations. Threw a strong light, constant as if electric powered, back down my memory.

The lice had been at me all day. For many days and evenings beforehand, certainly, but this day was freshest to me. All my terrazzo and my faux-parquetry was tapped and scuffed by their shoes, streaked with their food dropped and tracked, rolled on by their children tantruming or being strollered. This is what happens when the doors of your face are opened. The lice crowd in. When the day ends, their business is finished, and they crowd out again, leaving you…itchy.

David Itzkoff exhibits his dimness

In the New York Times:
I sometimes wonder how any self-respecting author of speculative fiction can find fulfillment in writing novels for young readers. I suppose J. K. Rowling could give me 1.12 billion reasons in favor of it: get your formula just right and you can enjoy worldwide sales, film and television options, vibrating-toy-broom licensing fees, Chinese-language bootlegs of your work, a kind of limited immortality (L. Frank Baum who?) and — finally — genuine grown-up readers. But where’s the artistic satisfaction? Where’s the dignity?
I told myself not to blog about this because it's just too astoundingly irritating. But then I saw this on Neil Gaiman's blog and thought the two should be blogged together—as, indeed, they are, linkwise, by Neil himself:
I think that rule number one for book reviewers should probably be Don't Spend The First Paragraph Slagging Off The Genre. Just don't. Don't start a review of romance books by saying that all romance books are rubbish but these are good (or just as bad as the rest). Don't start a review of SF by saying that you hate all off-planet tales or things set in the future and you don't like way SF writers do characters. Don't start a review of a University Adultery novel by explaining that mostly books about English professors having panicky academic sex bore you to tears but. Just don't. Any more than a restaurant reviewer would spend a paragraph explaining that she didn't normally like or eat—or understand why other people would like or eat—Chinese food, or French, or barbeque. It just makes people think you're not a very good reviewer.
I don't think he goes quite far enough, though. It's not Itzkoff's insult to the creators of the genre I mind, so much—I'm pretty used to people showing their ignorance of the nature, the effort involved in producing, or even the existence, of YA books. It's the insult to young readers. I object to the implication that a young reader isn't a 'genuine' reader, that it's undignified for anyone to consider her or to produce novels specifically for her.

Itzkoff reckons that people who do so are only in it for the money, just hoping hit the right formula so that they can make a Rowling-sized fortune, or for 'a kind of limited immortality'. When I think of the uncritical love I still carry for the favourite stories of my childhood and young adulthood, when I think that there's a chance that I might, without even knowing I'm doing it, give a young reader the experience of being seen, and spoken to, and respected, and companioned and transported the way the best books transported me, it's abundantly clear to me that David Itzkoff is talking through his arse.

I hope he lives long enough to squirm with embarrassment about what he's just shown about himself and his assumptions. I hope he has some children and they call him on it. Then again, I wouldn't mind if people went along and gave him a good pounding with YA books on the steps of the Times building. Readers of New York, take up your copies of The Book Thief, This Is All: The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn, the omnibus edition of His Dark Materials—any big hardcover—and head down there right away.

06 February, 2008

Today's story—'Babble Fish'

3800 words. Written mostly in the Sydney City Library Reading Room, in the Customs House at Circular Quay. Recommended as a writing place when your head will go off pop if you sit at your own desk another day.
I could feel the fireworks coming, rolling towards me as the eye rolled away. A storm of them, in bleachy colours, the greens and blues the brightest. Fountains and birdcages, lattice-spirals and wedding-cakes and leaf-jewelleries of light spumed and jetted and melted and reformed and grew, and grew, and took over until there was only enough Big Dark to show off all this brightness, only enough Big Empty to allow you to feel the fullness.

‘I have to get off this floor!’ I determined. I scrabbled shaking up the ladder, watching my feet, my hands, making sure they remembered to grip. The gravmats lost their power on me and I felt myself lifting, all of me being drawn up the tube, my wet hair lifting, my balls light in their sacks, my cheeks, all my cheeks, afloat. I uncoded the dome hatch and floated through, and it was all there around me, brilliant peach and gold, turquoise and emerald emissions of space-jizz, spurting, spreading, sparkling, never ending.
Oh my, poor Chas! What I've put this poor young space-courier through today.

05 February, 2008

Today's story—'A Dark Red Love-Knot'

5700 words. It's pretty much all I did, writing it then typing it. *cross-eyed icon here*
‘Yes, whoever he is,’ Cook says weightily over her shoulder towards me.

I spooned up the last of my stew and consoled myself by thinking of him, that fine creature. If I could not have that soldier back, I would settle for such a man as the highwayman, sheathed in leather and velvet, and trimmed with lace and spurs and a spray of dark feathers in that debonair hat of his. Or unsheathed, untrimmed, kissing or abusing me in the forest, sighing soft or growling filth into my ear.

Well, she should not have him, at least. Miserably, I pushed my bowl away and sat composing myself to leave. She will be lucky to have him so much as touch a tip of her hair again.
And yes, that is Tom the Ostler speaking.

Yesterday's story—'Night of the Firstlings'

It's about the Passover. I've had it in my head for ages. I've had a bunch of short stories up there for ages, and I've decided to let 'em all out this February, now that I'm started on all the stories I owe people.
Everything shook a little, that was the first thing.

‘Oh, God.’ Dad looked at the ceiling. ‘Please do not harm my family, please—’ But I ran around and put my hand to his mouth. I climbed up into his lap as Dawn had climbed into mine, because it is comforting to have a child to look after, and even when he dropped his prayer-gabble to a whispering I stopped him with my fingertips.

‘Shush, Dad,’ I said. ‘Just listen.’

Which he did. How can we sleep, other nights, with that enormous darkness all about, going on and on all the way to the million stars, with all that room in it for winds and clouds, dangers and visitations?

03 February, 2008

A hip librarian likes Black Juice

Jessica West says:
The beauty of this book is that each story opens the reader up to a different sense of what reality can be. Each story makes the reader question how they would act in the situation being presented. The stories are technically simple, yet very morally complex, making them an excellent choice for any teen who wants to think a little bit. Readers of fantasy and horror, as well as regular fiction, will appreciate these stories, as they offer something completely different than most teen books in these genres. Each of the tales stays with you for much longer than expected, as your imagination continues to work on the situation presented by the story. In this way, you are never finished with Black Juice.