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Wednesday, July 03, 2024

In Which I Win Books And get A Fan Letter!

 I’d like to share with you a happy-making thing I received this week. A few weeks ago, I entered the competition for the celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the Ranger’s Apprentice series. I’ve written about this a number of times on this blog - here is a link to one of my posts.

The series is written by Aussie children’s author John Flanagan. 

Anyway, I clicked the link, entered and forgot about it - how often do I win anything? 

Readers, I won. A few days ago I got an email informing me I had won! Today, my lovely nephew Mark picked up the big, heavy box of books from the post office and left it at my door. I’m going to curl up with the first book tonight. I’ve read several, but not all, and it was a while ago, so a reread is in order. 

Here is the box, just after I opened it.

And I had another happy-making thing. I received fan mail about my novel! The young man wanted to know if there was a sequel, and had some ideas for what I could write in future books in the series. He is, by the way, a primary school student and  Wolfborn is YA, so I assume he is a very mature lad! Good on him! 

His first suggestion was not bad, so if I do get a chance to write it, he will get an acknowledgment. Meanwhile, I’m working on something else. And I have 60,000 words of a prequel where I froze with writer’s block. The main problem is the lack of a villain. You have to have a villain in fantasy! 

Anyway, thought I’d share with you. I have not had some good days recently, with family in hospital, so these two events were much needed.

Wednesday, June 05, 2024

Food And Fiction!


My friend Gillian Polack, who enjoys writing food into her fiction, has told me I really need to do the same. In my fiction, I admit, characters only eat when they need to, and then there isn’t much description of the food or the eating. In my novel Wolfborn, there is a bit of food, in the form of a rabbit stew in one scene, when the hero comes in out of a storm, cold and soggy and really needing a hot meal. The characters get food supplies and do some hunting when needed. 

I thought it might be fun to talk about food in other people’s fiction. 

Gillian Polack is definitely the food enthusiast. Characters are at the table regularly in her novels. In my favourite, The Time Of The Ghosts, we meet three older women who live in Canberra and have a monthly banquet, to teach the homeless teenager they have taken in. One of the women is actually the mediaeval French fairy Melusine, who has allowed herself to age for obvious reasons. One of the stories she tells is how she civilised a wolf child, gradually, through food. 

The Harry Potter novels are full of characters eating and drinking, whether at breakfast or dinner in the Great Hall or having midnight feasts in their dorms. The choice of food at mealtimes is such that the reader does wonder how they don’t leave Hogwarts the size of barn doors. As well as regular foods, there are those cultural to the wizarding world. Honeyduke’s sweetshop in the wizarding village of Hogsmeade is full of sweets you can only get if you are a member of the wizarding community. There are cauldron cakes - we’re never told if they are shaped like cauldrons or made in cauldrons. There is butterbeer, which is not high alcohol, except to House Elves. 

Speaking of putting on weight, there is Kerry Greenwood’s 1920s detective Phryne Fisher, who somehow doesn’t. Phryne enjoys a good meal, and has a wonderful cook, Mrs Butler, who takes pride in creating art works in the form of meals. Our heroine is small and slender. She doesn’t have much for breakfast - coffee and croissants, or toast - but lunch and dinner are both three course delights. She often eats out. Each meal in a Phryne Fisher book is described in great detail. 

She has another mystery series, set in the present day. Corinna Chapman is a baker, so we hear about her work in the bakery in much detail. Corinna also enjoys cooking. Most of her books have recipes at the end and, unlike other cosies, they are recipes you can actually use successfully. I enjoy making her French Onion soup and her muffins. All the Corinna Chapman novels end with the characters gathering for a feast.

Enid Blyton’s characters have picnics(the Famous Five), with “lashings” of ginger beer. Kerry Greenwood wrote a short story in which the Famous Five have to investigate the theft of all the village’s ginger beer supplies before they can have their picnic. 

In the Faraway Tree books there are magical foods, such as Pop Biscuits(filled with honey) and Google Buns(with sherbet filled currants). Fans online have actually come up with recipes for both! Here is a link to a recipe for Google Buns.

The author admits that currants seem to be rather too small to fill, so uses dried apricots. The sherbet is made from scratch.

Barbara Hambly’s Benjamin January series includes lots of food. As the novels are set in 19th century New Orleans, the food is culturally appropriate. Benjamin often stops in the street to buy delicious local pastries from street sellers and have them with coffee while discussing the current case with one of his friends, Irish musician Hannibal Sefton or police officer Abishag Shaw. Ben has a nephew who is training to be a chef and cooks at home as well. His sister Olympe, a herbalist, also cooks good stuff. 

There was even a novel in which the murder victim is killed by a  peanut allergy.

I have to admit, my mouth waters at the description of food in the Benjamin January books.

YA novelist Will Kostakis has Greek food in his fiction. He isn’t as much of a food person as the others I have described, but food does play a role. In my favourite of his novels, The First Third, there is a yiayia, a Greek grandmother, who cooks. At the beginning of the novel, the family visiting her in hospital bring huge amounts of food. Later in the novel, a girl who has just lost her grandmother regrets that she never learned from her how to make moussaka. The hero, Billy, buys the ingredients and takes her to his own grandmother to learn how. 

There are so many great books with food in them! These are just a few. Do you have any favourites? 

Sunday, May 26, 2024

The Hugo Awards 2024


2023 Hugo Award. Fair Use

I’ve been a member of the World Science Fiction Convention every year since ConZealand in 2020. I was hoping to travel to Wellington for a few days to attend, since New Zealand is only about three hours’ plane flight away. Alas, you all know what happened that year. But the con committee refused to let COVID close them down altogether, and made it a virtual convention, which meant we could attend online. And I’ve been attending virtually every year since, when other cons created a virtual option. Family commitments have prevented me from going personally, but I can still see preferred panels. 

Better still, I get to vote in the Hugo Awards, which allow fans to vote on their favourite works. They let me download the books and sometimes videos as well.

This year, I’ve only read one book on the list, Aussie Garth Nix’s The Sinister Booksellers Of Bath. It’s a sequel to The Left-Handed  Booksellers Of London which I’ve reviewed on this site. Both books are great fun. This one is on the children’s/YA list. 

I’ve started this year’s list with the Best Series books, with a book by another Aussie writer, Freya Marske. The first novel in her series is A Marvellous Light, a sort of steampunk story - well, it’s historical fantasy set in the Edwardian era, but in it, magic is taken for granted, though you have to be born with the gift. I’m enjoying it very much so far. 

I’m not sure I’ll get through everything on every list, but I do get to read everything from Best Novel to Best Short Story. As it happens, I’ve seen two of the films on the list - Poor Things and Spider-Man: Across The Spiderverse, and three of the short-form stories, the two Doctor Who specials and Loki finale Glorious Purpose

Here is the 2024 short list in case you’re interested. Hopefully I’ll be able to review some of the stories below.

The 2024 Hugo Award Shortlist



  • Life Does Not Allow Us to Meet, He Xi, translated by Alex Woodend (Adventures in Space: New Short stories by Chinese & English Science Fiction Writers)
  • Mammoths at the Gates, Nghi Vo (Tordotcom)
  • The Mimicking of Known Successes, Malka Older (Tordotcom)
  • Rose/House, Arkady Martine (Subterranean)
  • “Seeds of Mercury”, Wang Jinkang (Adventures in Space: New Short stories by Chinese & English Science Fiction Writers)
  • Thornhedge, T. Kingfisher (Tor; Titan UK)


  • I AM AI, Ai Jiang (Shortwave)
  • “Introduction to 2181 Overture, Second Edition”, Gu Shi, translated by Emily Jen (Clarkesworld Feb 2023)
  • “Ivy, Angelica, Bay”, C. L. Polk ( 8 Dec 2023)
  • “On the Fox Roads”, Nghi Vo ( 31 Oct 2023)
  • “One Man's Treasure”, Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny Jan/Feb 2023)
  • “The Year Without Sunshine”, Naomi Kritzer (Uncanny Nov/Dec 2023)

Short Story

  • “Answerless Journey”, Han Song, translated by Alex Woodend (Adventures in Space: New Short Stories by Chinese & English Science Fiction Writers)
  • “Better Living Through Algorithms”, Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld May 2023)
  • “How to Raise a Kraken in Your Bathtub”, P. Djèlí Clark (Uncanny Jan/Feb 2023)
  • “The Mausoleum's Children”, Aliette de Bodard (Uncanny May/Jun 2023)
  • “The Sound of Children Screaming”, Rachael K. Jones (Nightmare Oct 2023)
  • “Tasting the Future Delicacy Three Times”, Baoshu (Galaxy's Edge Vol. 13: Secret Room in the Black Domain)

Related Work

Graphic Story Or Comic

Dramatic Presentation: Long Form

  • Barbie (screenplay by Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, directed by Greta Gerwig (Warner Bros. Studios))
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (screenplay by John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein and Michael Gilio, directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (Paramount Pictures))
  • Nimona (screenplay by Robert L. Baird and Lloyd Taylor, directed by Nick Bruno and Troy Quane (Annapurna Animations))
  • Poor Things (screenplay by Tony McNamara, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos (Element Pictures))
  • Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (screenplay by Phil Lord, Christopher Miller and Dave Callaham, directed by Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers and Justin K. Thompson (Columbia Pictures / Marvel Entertainment / Avi Arad Productions / Lord Miller / Pascal Pictures / Sony Pictures Animation))
  • The Wandering Earth II (based on the novel by Liu Cixin, screenplay by Yang Zhixue, Frant Gwo, Gong Geer, and Ye Ruchang, script consultant Wang Hongwei, directed by Frant Gwo (CFC Pictures Ltd, G!Film (Beijing) Studio Co. Ltd, Beijing Dengfeng International Culture Communication Co, Ltd, China Film Co. Ltd))

Dramatic Presentation: Short Form

  • Doctor Who: “Wild Blue Yonder” (written by Russell T. Davies, directed by Tom Kingsley (Bad Wolf with BBC Studios for The BBC and Disney Branded Television))
  • Doctor Who: “The Giggle” (written by Russell T. Davies, directed by Chanya Button (Bad Wolf with BBC Studios for The BBC and Disney Branded Television))
  • The Last of Us: “Long, Long Time” (written by Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann, directed by Peter Hoar (Naughty Dog / Sony Pictures))
  • Loki: “Glorious Purpose” (screenplay by Eric Martin, Michael Waldron and Katharyn Blair, directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (Marvel / Disney+))
  • Star Trek: Strange New Worlds: “Those Old Scientists” (written by Kathryn Lyn and Bill Wolkoff, directed by Jonathan Frakes (CBS / Paramount+))
  • Star Trek: Strange New Worlds: “Subspace Rhapsody” (written by Dana Horgan and Bill Wolkoff, directed by Dermott Downs (CBS / Paramount+))

Editor, Short Form

Editor, Long Form

Professional Artist



Fan Writer

Fan Artist



Game Or Interactive Work

  • Alan Wake 2 (developed by Remedy Entertainment, published by Epic Games)
  • Baldur's Gate 3 (produced by Larian Studios)
  • Chants of Sennaar (developed by Rundisc, published by Focus Entertainment)
  • DREDGE (developed by Black Salt Games, published by Team17)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom (produced by Nintendo)
  • Star Wars Jedi: Survivor (developed by Respawn Entertainment, published by Electronic Arts and Lucasfilm Games)

Associated Awards

Astounding Award for Best New Writer.


Lodestar Award