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

February 27, 2013

Protecting your eyeballs

Filed under: administraviata — Tags: , , — lexifab @ 3:10 pm

Moderator note – I was *severely tempted* to allow through the spam comment from the crackpot plugging his self-published handbook on identifying sinister Masonic works.

Now that I have typed that sentence I have no idea why I deleted the message at all.

Let this be a lesson to all would-be spammers: You must be *more awesome* than Mason-hunting whackjobs before I will clear your deranged jibber-jabber into my blog comments. Consider that the entirety of the official Lexifab style guide.

February 25, 2013

My Ditmar nominations

Filed under: books of 2012,wordsmithery — Tags: , , , — lexifab @ 9:05 pm

So the Ditmars – also known as the Australian SF Awards 2013, for works published in 2012 – will be awarded at Conflux 9 this year, and nominations are open to (a) members of the convention and (b) persons active in the Australian speculative fiction community. I don’t really know what it takes to be the latter [1], but I am definitely the former, so I’m putting up nominations for the various eligible things that I read and thought were worth some attention. How this translates into a voting process, I don’t quite know yet, but I like feeling like a participant, so here – without further commentary because I have a novel I need to get back to – is my list:

Best Novel

  • And All the Stars, Andrea K. Höst, Andrea K. Hösth.
  • The Rook, Daniel O’Malley, Little, Brown and Company.

Best Novella or Novelette

  • “HG”, Edwina Harvey, in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine 54.
  • “The Darkest Shade of Grey”, Alan Baxter, in The Darkest Shade of Grey, The Red Penny Papers.
  • “The Subjunctive Case”, Robert Porteous, in Light Touch Paper, Stand Clear, Peggy Bright Books.
  • “Sky”, Kaaron Warren, in Through Splintered Walls, Twelfth Planet Press.

Best Short Story

  • “Creek”, Kaaron Warren, in Through Splintered Walls, Twelfth Planet Press.
  • “Crossroads and Carousels”, Alan Baxter, in The Red Penny Papers, Fall 2012.
  • “First They Came …”, Deborah Kalin, in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine 55.
  • “Head Shot”, Dirk Flinthart, in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine 54.
  • “Isles of the Sun”, Margo Lanagan, in Cracklescape, Twelfth Planet Press.
  • “Roasted”, Robert Porteous, in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine 54.
  • “Significant Dust”, Margo Lanagan, in Cracklescape, Twelfth Planet Press.
  • “Sky”, Kaaron Warren, in Through Splintered Walls, Twelfth Planet Press. (Edit: novella, not a short story)
  • “The Bone Chime Song”, Joanne Anderton, in Light Touch Paper Stand Clear, Peggy Bright Books.
  • “The D____d”, Adam Browne, in Light Touch Paper Stand Clear, Peggy Bright Books.
  • “The Godbreaker and Unggubudh the Mountain”, Ian McHugh, in Light Touch Paper Stand Clear, Peggy Bright Books.
  • “The Goodbye Message”, Alan Baxter, in ticon4, April 2, 2012.
  • “The New House”, Kate Rowe, in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine 55.
  • “Tiny Lives”, Alan Baxter, in Daily Science Fiction, December 25th, 2012.

Best Collected Work

  • Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Andromeda Spaceways Publishing Co-op.
  • Cracklescape by Margo Lanagan, edited by Alisa Krasnostein, Twelfth Planet Press.
  • Light Touch Paper Stand Clear, Edwina Harvey and Simon Petrie, Peggy Bright Books.
  • Through Splintered Walls by Kaaron Warren, edited by Alisa Krasnostein, Twelfth Planet Press.

Best Fan Writer

  • Alan Baxter, for body of work including reviews in Thirteen O’Clock.
  • Ian Mond, for body of work including reviews in Not If You Were The Last Short Story On Earth.
  • Jason Nahrung, for body of work including reviews in Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus.
  • Tansy Rayner Roberts, for body of work including reviews in Not If You Were The Last Short Story On Earth.
  • Grant Watson, for body of work including the Who50 series in The Angriest.
  • Tehani Wessely, for body of work including reviews in Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus.
  • Sean Wright, for body of work including reviews in Adventures of a Bookonaut.

Best Fan Publication

  • Galactic Suburbia, Alisa Krasnostein, Alex Pierce, and Tansy Rayner Roberts.
  • Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus, Alisa Krasnostein et al.
  • Galactic Chat, Tansy Rayner Roberts,Alisa Krasnostein and Sean Wright.
  • Last Short Story podcast (pre-season episodes), Jonathan Strahan and Ian Mond.
  • Snapshot 2012, Alisa Krasnostein, Kathryn Linge, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Ian Mond, Jason Nahrung, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright
  • The Adventures of a Bookonaut Podcast, Sean Wright[4]
  • The Coode Street Podcast, Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan.
  • The Writer and the Critic, Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond.


[1] I have a blog. That’s kind of “active”, right? Even if it’s a community of about eight people?

And boy are my arms tired

Filed under: news of the day,wordsmithery — Tags: — lexifab @ 2:32 pm

Stripping wallpaper. Washing walls. Digging planter trenches for a hedge. Shifting furniture. Vacuuming repeatedly. Washing mould-coated windows. Shifting more furniture. Disassembling blinds. Assembling curtains. Cleaning bathrooms.

Checking proof pages for errors. Reading contracts. Cooking. Critiquing a novel that frequently repeats entire sentences. Writing extensive critiquing notes paying careful attention not to repeat entire sentences. Staying up half the night with sick kids. Trooping around the Canberra Show for three hours. Wife travelling for work.

These are all things that stood in the way of writing my novel this week. I did not let them stop me.

(They did slow me down a bit though.)

February 16, 2013

Review – Cracklescape by Margo Lanagan

As with everything else, I’m already behind on the 2013 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Stupid self-imposed deadlines, why must you constantly mock me? Anyway, I’ve managed to do a bit of reading lately, so let’s get straight into it. This is the second book I’ve read for the AWWC13 and is my second review.

Cracklescape is award-winning fantasist Margo Lanagan‘s contribution to the Twelve Planets series from Twelfth Planet Press. It’s a collection of four short stories. The stories are unconnected, though the introduction rightly points out that they are all essentially ghost stories, albeit unusual and diverse examples of them.

‘The Duchess Dresser’ is a strange tale that seems to be more of a reflection on lifestyle and relationships in inner city apartment dwelling than it is about a piece of haunted antique furniture. The supernatural presence is a puzzle more than a threat, and most of the characters treat it as a mild curiosity when they think of it at all. I found the situation in the story a perfect expression of the routine accommodations that have to be made in living in close proximity with others that – when viewed from the outside – looks inconvenient at best and crazy at worst.

‘The Isles of the Sun’ is wonderful, a dreamy exaltation of  the power of children’s imagination on the one hand and a chilling plumb of the depths of parental fear on the other. Alternating perspectives between Elric, a young boy, and then his mother Jenny, Isles has a sense of dreadful inevitability that never quite lets the reader go, even after the point where it seems like it should.

‘Bajazzle’ is probably my least favourite of the four stories in Cracklescape (‘Isles’ is my favourite, or maybe ‘Significant Dust’). It’s a solidly told tale, but there’s something lurking behind the narrative that I don’t quite grasp. In the first half, a boorish middle-aged train commuter’s encounter with a group of young women staging an odd protest prompts him to reflect – not to his credit – on his marriage and unsatisfying sex life. In the second half he is served a supernatural comeuppance of a sort. It’s an engaging story, but I didn’t grok how the two halves fitted together or why the ending happens. The unpleasant sexist pig of a narrator probably didn’t help.

Finally, ‘Significant Dust’ rounds out the collection with, if not a bang, then a remarkably accomplished piece. It’s the story of a young woman who has fled her terrible reputation in her home town. She finds anonymous refuge among the human flotsam who have accumulated at a highway truck stop. There are ghosts and UFOs in the story – well, there might be – but the centrepiece is the slow, merciless revelation of what Vanessa did, its consequences and what she and others sacrificed in order for her to leave. There’s a cold horror to the way that the story refuses to end with the tragedy but carries the reader through the aftermath as well. ‘Significant Dust’ is powerful and accomplished.

I had been getting used to the Twelve Planets series having a strong sense of interconnectedness between the stories, but Cracklescape‘s stories (like the Kaaron Warren collection) are linked by themes rather than plots. Cracklescape continues the series’ impressive run of showcasing the talents of remarkable writers at the height of their powers. I didn’t care for a couple of the stories, but there was never a moment reading them that I was not certain that Lanagan knew exactly what she was doing and what she wanted to accomplished. Cracklescape is confident storytelling.


February 7, 2013

Short stories made long, junkets and kindy life.

Filed under: family,joey,wordsmithery — Tags: , , , , , , — lexifab @ 4:25 pm

Crit group

I took my short story about British and Russian spies in the Great Game [1] to the CSFG critiquing group last night. Now this was a story that I thought was 90% of the way there, so I had been in two minds as to whether to wait for the monthly crits to resume after the summer break, or just start submitting it for publication.

I’m glad I waited. They were brutal.

In a good way, mind you – everything they said was spot-on (except where various people completely disagreed, but even that was illuminating). My protagonist doesn’t really do anything but shout. The stakes are undefined. Two of the three characters are more or less complete cyphers and their motivations are interesting but murky. Some of the most interesting stuff happens in the flashbacks.

That was the crux of it. Too much of the important stuff in the story happens in flashback or, worse, exposition. It’s a classic example of “show don’t tell”. I need to go back and play out some of those scenes. I need to establish who the characters are so that the story of their final confrontation makes sense.

Unfortunately that means I have to make it about four or five times as long as it currently is. Which on the one hand is great, because I’ve been wondering if I was even capable of writing a long (say 10,000+ words) short story and this is an opportunity to find out. On the other hand, it sucks, because I’ve been procrastinating on my novel throughout January and my enthusiasm for this project is NOT GOING TO HELP.

The solution – or at least the thing I am going to try to see if it will work – will be to write both at once. That is, write one for a while, then when I get bored or stuck switch out to the other.  They’re dissimilar in terms of tone, characters and voice, so it’s unlikely that one will bleed across to infect the other. And I think – though I might be drastically wrong on this – that I should be able to carry the energy and enthusiasm for each across to the other. If not, well maybe I’ll just get fed up and just pick one to finish. A win either way, I hope.


I might have mentioned that I’ll be attending Conflux 9 here in Canberra over the Anzac Day weekend. I’d better be, obviously, because I think they’ll want me to be at the book  launch and I’ve also just signed up to be on a couple of panels.

But looking beyond that to October, I’m also heading off to Brisbane for the 2nd annual GenreCon. It’s a meeting of the minds of writers, agents, publishers and fans from across the spectrum of literary ghettoes – romance, crime, thrillers, historicals and of course speculative. By all accounts last year’s event was a huge success [2].

This year, one of the guests of honour is Chuck Wendig. Yeah. I’ve kinda got a big writer-crush on Der Wendigo these days, as you know, so if they’ve convinced him to leave his compound in the backwoods of Pennsyltucky and get on a plane to Australia, the least I can do is take a leisurely flight north to listen to him talk and buy him a beer. Or worship at his feet, whatever he prefers.

Anybody else thinking about making the jaunt?

School age

Totally unrelated to anything writery, Number One Son (aka the Joey) started “big school” this week, which in the ACT means Kindy/Kinder. He looks pretty smart in his big sun hat and school uniform, lemme tell you.

It’s a bit of a relief too. He was beginning to become…let’s say “restless”…about having to serve time in childcare with babies and toddlers while he waited for the school year to start. Now he’s back together with pretty much all of his pre-school friends, in whose company he will probably spend most of the next seven years. I’m sort of excited to see how they all turn out.

It’s scary to be the parent of a school-ager. But it’s kind of great too.


[1] Yes, of course there’s a speculative element. Though one of the very valid criticisms was that it showed up so late in the story that it derailed the narrative.

[2] In no small part, I understand, because everyone went away with great ideas about community-building and networking after seeing how well-coordinated and supportive the Romance Writers of Australia are.

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