Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

December 20, 2011

Reading women writers

Filed under: reviewage,women writers challenge 2012 — lexifab @ 4:00 pm

Apropos of that discussion we were having a couple of weeks ago about the writers that have influenced us, in which it was quite rightly observed that very few of my big influences were women (Dame Agatha aside), the Australian Women Writers blog has come along with a very timely challenge: read and review more books written by Australian women. More, in this case, would really mean ‘any’. With the exception of a personal friend (Andrea K Host) and a close relative (my mum), I don’t recall the last time I read anything by a female Australian author.

As far as I can tell, this has not been by deliberate act of exclusion, mind. I just…haven’t. Clearly there’s some kind of blind-spot bias going on there that warrants examination. So to that end I am accepting the challenge above. In 2012 I will read and – to some lesser extent to be determined at the time – review a number of books by Australian women numbering not less than six. This lofty goal corresponds with the “Miles” Challenge Level (read six, review at least three). To place a further constraint on myself, I won’t count anything by either Mum or Andrea in my count. I would have read whatever they put out anyway, so it seems like a cheat to bolster my figures thus. I’m also reserving the right to not review anything that doesn’t really appeal to me. I don’t have the energy to write recommendations for things I think are mediocre. If I love, like or really hate a book, I’ll review it, but if you don’t hear details on a particular title then it’s safe to assume that I didn’t especially care about it.

So, to get things started, Australian writer (and woman) Tansy Rayner Roberts has helpfully posted a list of recent award-winning works  in the SF&F genres that meet the basic criteria herein. (Note that Tansy Rayner Robert’s ‘Power and Majesty’ beat out  Andrea’s ‘The Silence of Medair’ for Best Fantasy Novel at the 2010 Aurealis Awards, so I’m thinking I will include it on my list for purposes of comparison. It will have to have been bloody good to be better than TSoM, in my opinion). There’s clearly plenty of action in this part of the publishing industry, and that’s before we even widen the net to include non-speculative fiction genres.

Who would like to recommend something – what is it, who’s it by and why do you think I might be interested? (Outside the speculative genre is fine – I like crime and mysteries too, and am very partial to good comedic fiction, but I will consider all recommendations).

(Thanks to Patrick O’Duffy for tweet-alerting me to the AWW 2012 challenge).

December 19, 2011

State of the blog: Lex in Decs

Filed under: administraviata,joey,property magnatism,wordsmithery — lexifab @ 12:14 pm

I have no idea what that title means. Let’s pretend that never happened.

The past couple of weeks have been quiet, at least from the external point of view. From where I’m sitting it’s been a bit more frenetic than that. The Joey turned four last weekend, for which there was a party to prepare, on top of the usual routine. That was exhausting, but it went well. The rain paused long enough for us to wrangle eight or so kids through some games, a sausage sizzle and some cake, and then we all got out of there before the drenching could begin. We counted it as a success that the only kid to fall off something and hurt themselves was the Joey himself (he was fine).

I’ve taken a week off from writing the novel in the evenings – and I think I’ll take another this week. It’s going to blow my chances of finishing it before the end of the year out of the water, but there’s a couple of good reasons why it’s necessary. First of all, Xmas. It’s kind of a time hog. Doubly so, I suspect, on whatever evening this week I decide to gird my loins and teach myself the ancient parental duty of assembling a bike. But this week there will also be wrapping, cooking and packing for a whirlwind post-Xmas road trip to do.

Second – and this one is the real time hog – I am five months behind on my property investment monthly accounts. On average, it takes me about one whole day per month to reconcile the accounts against income and expenditure statements, classify bank transactions as property-related for tax purposes, and update various records and spreadsheets. It’s laborious and very easy to neglect. Having decided that I really can’t afford to neglect it any more than I already have, something else has had to give.

Third, there’s the novel itself. It’s not quite working. The characters are not quite gelling with the situation, so I am in the annoying position of not knowing what should happen next. The outline I prepared earlier is no help, since I’ve discovered that it either no longer makes sense, having not survived contact with the rigours of expansion, or it was simply illogical gibberish to start with. Most likely it’s both. I know that the only viable solution is to write through the roadblocks to hammer out something quick and dirty. It won’t hang together. It probably won’t actually make any sense at all. But I hope that it will give me all the pieces I need to build the (for want of a better world) ‘right’ version of the story in the next draft. But a couple of weeks away from fretting about it probably won’t hurt the eventual product. Well, no more so than its premise, at any rate…

December 3, 2011

Patrons of the arts

Filed under: geekery,the interweb she provides — lexifab @ 11:14 pm

It seems like this year has seen a massive rise in enthusiasm for the patronage model of supporting the arts. Sites like Kickstarter.com and IndieGoGo.com have enabled artists – across a breathtaking range of fields ranging from small handmade crafts to feature-length films and more or less everything you can think of in between – to directly gauge whether their ideas will find an audience. How it works in a nutshell: the artist comes up with an idea for a project/product and solicits pledges, usually with the help of a short video showing off a prototype or early concept art or what have you. The artist sets a financial goal that will let them make the product and (if they know what they are about) provide a return to them commensurate with the effort involved. The potential audience for the product pledges some amount of money towards the goal. If the goal is reached within the pledging period, then the patrons are charged and the product is released. If not enough money is raised, nobody is charged and the artist goes back to the drawing board. The artist may encourage patrons to make bigger pledges by offering a range of related products or higher-quality versions which can only be obtained with a more generous pledge.

As I said, I’ve become a fan of the model. It connects the audience with the artist in a direct and meaningful way by saying in effect “I like what you do and I am prepared to give you my money to keep doing it” in a way that more traditional product distribution models don’t. From the artist’s point of view, it’s a much more direct conduit of audience appreciation than sending out a manuscript or releasing an album, and then fretting in misery on the eventual reviews.

As an audience member, in particular for the stuff I like including small press roleplaying games, humorous nerd-music and genre fiction, I get a lot more out of being able to show my appreciation for an artist by giving them my money (and perhaps an encouraging comment or two) than by merely buying a product from some third party. If there’s some doubt as to whether a product has a wide enough appeal to reach an audience large enough to support the artist’s efforts, because I’m sure they like to eat and pay rent) then  the patronage model is kind of ideal.

So that was an overlong introduction to the following list of very cool pledge drives going on at the moment that I want to draw some attention to. Some of these I have supported and some I am thinking about supporting – my discretionary bucks are limited, like anyone else’s – but I commend them all to your attention:

Matt Forbeck’s 12-for-12 Kickstarter: I’ve tweeted about this one a couple of times because it tickles my imagination and I want to see it happen. Author Matt Forbeck has committed to writing one 50,000-word novel a month during 2012. That’s one NaNoWriMo-equivalent a month [1]! This Kickstarter is soliciting for the first novel of a trilogy, with the second and third thrown in as additional pledge-bait (the second is unlocked at the time of writing and there’s a slim chance that the target for the third might get hit as well). It’s such mad ambition that I can’t help but be interested. The Kickstarter is in its last two days, so chances are by the time you’ve read this it will have finished.

The other thing that appeals to me is that Forbeck is opening with a trilogy set in his Brave New World roleplaying setting, which was one of those paranoid superhero dystopias from before they were popular. I never actually played that game, but it’s a genre that I’m fond of. As an aside on the topic of Forbeck’s work, I am ridiculously excited about the high concept for his forthcoming (traditionally-published) novel Carpathia – which is that the Titanic survivors, rescued by a ship called the Carpathia, find themselves trapped with, one presumes, that particular mountain region’s most famous resident. I can’t wait for that one.

Next up is a local fundraising effort. Good friends and gaming buddies Emma and Gavin are comic illustrators who have come together with a small army of fellow Canberra comics luminaries (plus a few ring-ins from about the globe) to produce Beginnings: A Comic Anthology. 100 pages of full colour illustrated stories (around a ‘beginnings’ theme, whatever that may mean to the various writers and artists). This one hit its target today with a few weeks still to go, so I wish them well in taking that one even further. They’ve offered some rather spectacular incentives for fellow artists, including portfolio reviews by people who’ve already made names for themselves in the industry.

This next one is another Kickstarter, and another roleplaying game: Will Hindmarch’s Always/Never/Now. Another gaming Kickstarter that underestimated its appeal and made its target in less than 24 hours. This one appeals to me because of its pedigree – it’s an adaptation of John Harper’s sublime Lady Blackbird – and its subject matter. I’ve been looking for a good game of cybered-up mercenaries to scratch my Shadowrun itch for years (ever since I realised I could never go back to the original game itself, having parted company with its design philosophy years ago). The promotional film is worth a look – good narrative intro to the game, excellent use of stock imagery and a personalised appearance from the designer himself. It’s an excellent example of how to sell a concept to potential patrons. And it has some killer writing: “We imagined superspies and corporate wars, injected memories, and a clandestine network of half-metal freelance action heroes who made the world a better place by fighting bastards and driving fast.”

And the last one I want to point to is a fundraiser, hosted at a blog but using a similar concept to the patronage model. Ryan Macklin has committed to releasing Mythender, the god-killing game he’s been developing for several years, in return for donations to support a friend diagnosed with cancer. Several other small-press game designers have thrown their lot in for the cause. As a result the Random Kindness Encounter Bundle contains several extremely interesting and (if you go for that sort of thing) cutting-edge RPGs. You’ll note that the campaign has already blown way past the original target. That’s the other thing that’s good about this model – when it fails, nothing happens. But when it works, it really seems to go to town.

Edit: No sooner did I finish writing this up than Gareth-Michael Skarka, principle author of a rather successful Kickstarter campaign himself, posted a very informative essay explaining the benefits of the patronage model to creative types. Well worth a look.

[1] Except, you know, hopefully edited and readable 🙂

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