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

November 5, 2013

TMoRP Day 12 – The short stories of March

None of the stories I read in March seem to have made a lasting impression on me. Still, looking over my list I see that there are quite a few that struck me as high quality yarns without being life-changing events, so I hereby dedicate this TMoRP entry to a handful of stories I thought were well worth a read.

The reliable Beneath Ceaseless Skies magazine website gave us the extravagantly-entitled “The Traitor Baru Cormorant, Her Field-General, and Their Wounds” by Seth Dickinson. It’s a tense, uncomfortable story about the final test of loyalty of a bureaucrat who led and betrayed a rebel uprising against an oppressive Throne. The titular character’s battle-inflicted left-side brain damage has left her oblivious to the right side of her world, an injury she employs to great effect to ignore the inconvenient parts of her difficult situation. Re-reading it this morning has bumped it up in my estimation. It’s a fine examination of the two sides of leadership qualities – strength and moral character versus selfishness and cruelty – and the necessity for both.

In March I read the previous CSfG anthology, Winds of Change, edited by Elizabeth Fitzgerald and available now in ebook format (sorry – as a new CSfG council member, I feel a small obligation to plug the wares). I consumed the anthology across the month, and while it’s a strong collection in general, I recommend it for a few stories in particular: ‘Wraiths’, by Jason Nahrung, set in a spirit-blighted post-apocalyptic Australia; ‘The Tether of Time’, Leife Shallcross’ mythic variant of the Flying Dutchman legend; and the late James Goodrum’s haunted-child story ‘By Watcher’s Pool’. Those are just the ones that stood out in my mind, though – WoC, like Next, is a fat volume that represents an excellent cross-section of Australia’s speculative fiction scene.

Finally I have to give a shout-out to Lisa Hannett’s ‘Sweet Subtleties’, which is probably the only piece of confectionery-based erotic speculative fiction you are ever likely to encounter. It’s beautiful, grotesque, absurd and difficult to describe in terms of plot: Una is a sentient or possibly haunted sculpture crafted by the confectioner Javier over and over again, for the amusement and consumption of decadent and sometimes depraced clients. It’s one of those stories that is not outright horror, but still finds several different ways to be upsetting, but fascinating and memorable with it. I listened to a reading by Kate Baker on the Clarkesworld Podcast, but it’s also there to read on the website.

May 6, 2013

Conflux Roundup – The Next Launch

Conflux is beginning to recede further into the dust-swept depths of my notoriously terrible memory. But one thing that will stay with me for life was Friday night’s launch of the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild’s 2013 anthology, Next.

Shauna O'Meara's cover has a robot dog and a monkey in a topper. All criticism is invalid.

Check it out!

Every year the CSfG puts together a themed anthology intended to showcase the strength of the Australian (and in particular Canberran) speculative fiction scene. It also gives a few lucky individuals a rare opportunity to put themselves through the grinding ordeal of editing a themed short fiction anthology. We honour our fearless editors for their noble if inexplicable sacrifices.

Obviously I would like to add a personal note of thanks in particular to the editors of this specific volume, Simon Petrie and Rob Porteous, who demonstrated laudable (if again inexplicable) judgment in including my story ‘Imported Goods – Aisle Nine’ in the anthology. As it was my first ever short story sale, I was doubly excited to be able to attend the launch in person.

I think I may now have formed unreasonable expectations about the glamour and excitement of a standard book launch, because this was a doozy. The epic scale of the launch party might just have taken the venue slightly by surprise, because there was a bit of a crush going. I guesstimated the crowd to be somewhere between 150 and 200 people, crammed into a reception area next to the Rydges hotel lobby. Perhaps that not surprising – with 30 contributing authors (of whom about 20 were present) there’s plenty of scope to swell the usual crowds with friends and family. I certainly had a decent entourage there wishing me well [1].

Noted steampunk author and enthusiast Richard Harland MC’ed the affair, looking dapper in his fine, sensible hat. He reflected on the fine tradition, now over a decade old if I am not mistaken, of CSfG anthologies. They do seem to have become rather an institution, and more to the point have been a launching point for a number of emerging writers. This year, for example there were six authors whose first sales were in Next (myself included)

In related news, my phone's camera has baffling night-time settings which I have clearly yet to master

This man’s hat reflects the gravity of the occasion

Then it was time for the editors, who embraced not only the love of the Australian spec-fic scene but also the con’s steampunk theme. I don’t know that my photography does justice to the magnificent insanity of their costumes:

Yes, I believe that is a propellor on his head. Why do you ask?

Simon is resplendent with decadent savoir-faire.

The robot parrot is watching you

Rob’s militaristic colonial attire is let down only by a complete lack of peripheral vision.

Simon, who has quite a few editing credits up his sleeve, gave an eloquent speech praising the contributors and everyone that worked on the volume. Rob accepted the heavy burden of discharging tawdry promotional duties, and gave one of the finest works of crass hucksterism this side of a wild west snake oil salesman. At this point, you might begin to have some idea of why I was so excited to be part of this particular anthology. Yes, it’s because the editors are both bonkers. But charming and brilliant with it, so we forgive them their mild eccentricities…

Rik Lagarto and Leife Shallcross bravely gave readings from their respective stories (better them than me). They were great! I think it’s likely that between the two of them sales were subsequently driven through the roof.  And finally Janeen Webb, who has sold the odd story or so over the years, and has another in Next, launched the book with a virtual bottle of bubbly across its hypothetical prow.

There followed a frenzy of buying and author signing. There were so many authors present that the three tables set aside for signing were not enough to seat us all. There were a few of us standing at the back, passing books back and forth all over the place. The chaos settled into a rhythm pretty quickly though. Since I have nothing to compare the experience to [2] I will just note that I could get used to the whole fame and adulation thing. Especially if it is followed by drinks and revelry, as happened on this occasion.

I would put in a link for anyone who might have been overcome with intrigue and want to read the book, but I don’t think the virtual shop has been updated yet. I’ll attach a link to that when it goes live so if you somehow survived the disaster of not being able to attend the launch in person, you can still belatedly obtain your own personal memento of the occasion.[3]

I’ll even sign it for you if you like. No, really, it’d be no trouble at all…

 

[1] Hi guys, thanks for coming! I hope the booze was to your satisfaction. (Fi, Jaks, Evan, Simon, Sarah, Gavin, Emma. I love youse all).

[2] Well, the standing in one place for an hour or so part was quite familiar, but the rest of it was dazzling and new.

[3] And I believe the ebook version will also be released in the next few weeks. I’ll keep you posted.

Powered by WordPress