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

June 10, 2013

AWWC 2013 Review – Asymmetry by Thoraiya Dyer

This is a review for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013. It’s apparently only my fourth review, which is a bit slack, since I know I’ve read more than four books that meet the criteria. But nearly all of my writing time lately has gone into novel writing, so I’ve allowed a bit of a backlog to emerge. I’m going to try to deal with that by writing a few – gasp – shorter reviews. That’s the plan, anyway.

By now it should be obvious to anyone who reads my reviews that I have complete faith in the Twelve Planets Series from Twelfth Planet Press. This volume – Asymmetry – presents four new stories from Thoraiya Dyer, whose short story ‘The Wisdom of Ants’ (first published by Clarkesworld Magazine) was the winner for Best Short Story at the 2013 Ditmar Awards for Australian science fiction and fantasy. I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of the stories in this collection in the running next year.

Asymmetry is excellent. If there’s a unifying theme, I’m not up to the job of identifying it, though Nancy Kress takes a good stab at it in her introduction. Then again, I’m quite content with no theme at all, if the stories are this good. I’m going to do my best not to spoil any of them.

‘After Hours’ is the story of a veterinarian assigned to treat security dogs on a military airbase. She struggles to cope with the military mindset of her patients’ handlers, only to discover that their belligerent, obstructive attitudes have an uncanny explanation. ‘Zadie, Scythe of the West’ is a military fantasy about a character trying to escape the rigid expectations of her family, society and religion – and the costs of taking shortcuts. In ‘Wish Me Luck’, a man begs and borrows luck from sympathetic passers-by so that he can be reunited with his lost love. (It may not sound like hard science fiction, but it is). Finally, in ‘Seven Days in Paris’ a woman is subjected to what seems like a pointless and grotesque social experiment, but her impatient handlers have a desperate purpose.

‘After Hours’ is probably my favourite story ever of its kind, though I won’t say what kind that is (even if the back cover blurb does kind of give it away). However all four stories are excellent (and the sample chapters from Dyer’s novella ‘The Company Articles of Edward Teach’ are an intriguing bonus).

Like the rest of the Twelve Planets books, Asymmetry does a fantastic job of showcasing the talents of a remarkable Australian speculative fiction writer. I am comfortable adding Thoraiya Dyer’s name to my list of must-read authors on the basis of this collection.

May 2, 2013

Conflux Roundup – Bookswag

“Come for the chat, leave with an excessive stack of new reading materials,” said absolutely nobody at Conflux 9 over the weekend. But they should have, because dammit there were a lot of book launches happening. I think I was present for at least four, and I’m pretty sure there were a couple that I missed as well. And on top of that, abundant intriguing material was available in the dealer’s room and at a special one-day marketplace. *SO MUCH STUFF*!

Of course love of books – reading them, touching them, completely failing to control the impulse to own them – seems to be what gets most people into writing in the first place. (At least, I don’t think the converse is more common: “Wow, this whole thing where you make meaningful shapes with a crayon is *so cool*. I wonder if anyone else has ever made protracted sequences of meaningful shapes, preferably in third-person past tense?”)

So here’s what I ended up with:


A tiny fraction of what I wanted to buy

A Trifle Dead by Livia Day – Livia Day is the not-particularly-secret crime writing pen-name of Tansy Rayner Roberts. I’ve been waiting to see what Twelve Planets Press would put out under a crime imprint for a while. This seems like it will be a fun romp with cakes and capers and bloodthirsty Hobart-based killings. I will, of course, report back once I’ve finished it.

Siren Beat by Tansy Rayner Roberts/Roadkill by Robert Shearman – Back to back novellas by the aforementioned Tansy and Robert Shearman, who wrote (amongst other things) ‘Dalek’, one of the best episodes from Chris Ecclestone season of Doctor Who. I know absolutely nothing whatsoever about either story, but Twelve Planets head honcho Alisa Krasnostein pointed out that it was cheap with any other purchase SO THERE YOU GO. (Also I have a collection of Shearman’s short stories in the to-be-read folder on my Kindle, so what’s one more story for the stack? Even if it doesn’t have *any* Daleks in it, I might very well still like it).

One Small Step is a short story anthology edited by Tehani Wessely of Fablecroft Press (great name!) Funny story: the theme for One Small Step is along the line of ‘journeys of discovery’, a theme that (arguably) fits my short story Imported Goods – Aisle Nine’. I almost submitted that story to this anthology instead of Next. As it turns out One Small Step became an all-women volume, so I’m glad I changed my mind. But it looked like an enticing project then and I’m keen to see what it’s turned into.

Next – is an anthology or something. I will probably blog about it soon.

Leviathan – My buddy Evan attended the Clarion South intensive writing workshop some years ago and he often mentions Scott Westerfeld as one of the tutors who made the biggest impression on him (along with Mrgo Lanagan, Sean Williams, etc etc bastard). As steampunk was one of the big themes of Conflux, and an area in which I am deeply unschooled, I finally gave into temptation to pick up the first volume in his alternate WWI YA steampunk series. Didn’t get a chance to get him to sign it though, which in retrospect is a bit of a pity. Did enjoy hearing Evan recount the story of how Westerfeld has decided not to continue beyond the third book in the series because his decision to fund the luscious illustrations by Keith Thompson proved to be prohibitively expensive. A shame, because from the first paragraph alone – which mentions Australian cavalry, diesel-powerted walking machines and armoured zeppelins – I *know* I am going to enoy this book.

The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories by Joanne Anderton was launched at the con along with One Small Step and the Thoraiya Dyer volume of the Twelve Planets Series, entitled Asymmetry. (I didn’t pick that one up, since I already have the ebook and read it with great relish on my holidays. Review coming soon). The titular ‘The Bone Chime Song’ was among my favourite stories from 2012 (and probably the best entry in the excellent Light Touch Paper Stand Clear anthology, which I reviewed here). It was deservedly up for a Ditmar Award for Best Short Story, although as it turned out it lost to one of Thoraiya Dyer’s, ‘The Wisdom of Ants’. I listened to it read on a podcast a couple of weeks ag. It’s pretty good too.

This is all getting a bit tangled and interwoven, isn’t it? Anyway, those were just the books I picked up. There were others launched and/or available at the con which I would love to have added to that stack, if finances constraints and the threat of spinal damage had not prevailed upon me to see sense. These are a few of them:

In Fabula-Divino – This was an anthology project that Nicole Murphy put together, at the same time that she was being one of the co-chairs of Conflux 9! The goal was to foster new writers, working with one a month for a year to get their first work into print. The project was unfortunately interrupted during the year, but happily various other members of the spec fic community stepped in to help Nicole flesh the book out and get it into print. I already had my e-copy for supporting the project through crowdfunding, but I am still tempted to get a physical copy for the pretty cover…

Dark Rite – A supernatural thriller by Alan Baxter and his podcasting and writing partner David Wood. I meant to get this and just completely forgot at the end of the weekend, when energy levels were low and I was slightly overcaffeinated.

 Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead by Robert Hood – Don’t know much about it, but (a) I’ve read a couple of Hood’s stories recently and they are suitably creepy and action-packed, and (b) I like the Lovecraftian monster on the cover. This was another book that was launched at the con. I missed the launch and they were all gone by the time I arrived – but screw it, I just checked and it’s available on Amazon, so I’ve bought and downloaded it since I started typing this sentence.

(Did I mention that one of the panels I was on was about instant gratification through digital books?)

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?

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