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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Shaun Tan does it again!

Rejoice! Having won a Best Artist Hugo only last year, our very own Aussie Shaun Tan has now won an Oscar for the short film based on his book The Lost Thing. Not only that, but they're talking about doing a feature-length version of the wonderful The Arrival.

It's terrific to think that a guy who does books for children can do so well in the world and his name can be known to more than just the kids and the librarians and teachers, like me.

I remember when I first saw The Arrival - I can't say I read it, because it had no text, but it told a story it took me some time to absorb, about a man who arrives in a new country, fleeing the old one, to make a place for himself before sending for the family. It said so much about the refugee experience - and the migrant experience in general - without a word, and I then saw a play version, again without words.

Maybe it will get him another well-deserved Oscar when it's filmed?

I'm going to drink a toast to Mr Tan tonight.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Blood Maidens By Barbara Hambly. Severn House Publishers, 2010

It's 1911. Oxford university lecturer and former spy James Asher and his doctor wife Lydia are asked by their vampire friend Don Simon Ysidro to accompany him to Russia. He's worried. He's had a letter from a woman he once knew in England, now settled in Russia's vampire community. Something terrible may be about to happen in Russia that will affect the world.

Well, that's what he wants them to believe, anyway. In fact, it may be more personal than that - and yet, he might be right. Once again, in this third novel in the series that began with a book called Immortal Blood on my side of the world and Those Who Hunt The Night in the US, James and Lydia are caught up in adventure and danger.

The question in this one is - can vampires love? The answer seems to be yes, and not only for Ysidro, who once begged this woman not to turn, but to tell you more here would be a spoiler.

I like the way Barbara Hambly presents her vampires. Unlike many other writers in this time of the mega-selling paranormal romance, she doesn't sentimentalise them. The reader is never allowed to forget how Ysidro and his fellow vampires survive. Even Ysidro admits that you have to be pretty selfish to agree to become a vampire. At the same time, he has enough positive qualities for James and Lydia to try not to think too hard about this.

A nice touch here is the way the Russian aristocracy behave like vampires towards the lower classes. No one actually says it, but you can't help thinking so as you read. And reading it, you know exactly what's going to happen to those aristocrats in only a few years...

Barbara Hambly's books just keep getting better and better.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

From Slushpile to Art

I answer inquiries for Andromeda Spaceways - both general ones and art inquiries. I also arrange with artists for them to illustrate stories and do our covers. I really enjoy this. I get all sorts of inquiries, from oh-so-professional freelancers who inform me that they can spare some time in November to do a cover for our publication to those who have no idea what we do publish because, like some of the writing students, they haven't checked out our web site let alone read our magazine. Mostly, of course, we get fabulous artists whose work I look at and think, "Oh, my god, has she checked out our rates? Does she realise how little we can pay her for a LOT of work?" And mostly, they assure me that yes, they've checked and the small payment is fine. Those are the ones who love spec fic and think this would be a nice thing to do as long as they don't have a commission from someone who can actually help them pay their bills. Occasionally they haven't checked and have to withdraw their submission.

Then there are those who have looked at the web site and still don't seem to get that we publish science fiction and send me a sample that would be fine for an advertising campaign but has no connection with what we publish. I ask them politely if they have something more appropriate and rarely hear from them again.

I don't blame them for trying. You have to check out any market you can when you're trying to make a living. But a quick look at our web site ought to convince most graphic designers who do advertising that this really isn't the market for them and save them a disappointing reply from me.

I will say that one young woman who lived in Melbourne and wasn't actually a science fiction fan, just an artist looking for a market, did take the trouble to go to Collected Works Bookshop, ASIM's Melbourne over-the-counter outlet and buy up the back issues to study her market. She never got back to me, but she at least had a go.

How do I know, apart from samples (they don't always send one with their inquiry) that they haven't checked? Well, there are the ones who send you what's clearly a standard inquiry, e.g. "As a book publisher, you must...", "I've been impressed by your catalogue of books..."

Thank heaven this is a minority! And thank heaven for the first-class artists who do work with us!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

First Writers' Club for the Year

Today we had our first meeting of the campus writers' club. There were some new Year 7 students who had joined us. The usual suspects from last year, after I'd shown them the web site of Express Media and told them that Voiceworks pays young people $100 an item, settled happily down to work on their latest masterpieces. some on Inkpop, some just in Word. The new Year 7 students were keen to start work, then one of them said, "Miss, we don't have our logins yet." The computer teacher does these, but was busy elsewhere, so I had to log in to my account for them, recommending they emailed their stories to themselves. With great enthusiasm, they got started on their own epics. Robert had done a couple of pages from scratch before the bell rang, the others a bit less.

Thando handed me several pages of close print to read. Dylan and Selena were working on editing his piece for Inkpop.

I ran around like a headless chook and lost a vital password to the Conspiracy365 web site (Gabrielle Lord's YA site) while checking out books, taking people's stories and passing on a DVD to a staff member. It was in my email, though, so I checked out the site's email address and after lunch sent off my request.

I think I got in about five minutes to eat my lunch...

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Phryne Fisher goes TV

I just heard, tonight, at a meeting of Sisters In Crime - the wonderful Phryne Fisher novels of Kerry Greenwood are finally making it to TV, as a 13 part series. I Googled, but not much is known yet - the funding has just been approved and the series will be shown on the ABC. The books have just been crying out to be filmed. Historical crime is doing very well on TV, and 1920s Melbourne would be fabulous. I'll look forward to reading more about it as the information comes through.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Whale's Tale review copies

I've had a request from Liz Bright at Peggy Bright Books, asking me to offer, on her behalf, review copies of The Whale's Tale by Edwina Harvey (reviewed on this site and January Magazine some time ago) to bloggers who might be interested. She knows this site does a lot of speculative fiction reviews and is read by those interested in the area.

So how about it? Anyone want a free book to review? All I can tell you, apart from my own review, is that the students at my school have been enjoying it very much. They were lucky enough to meet the author at Book Club when she was in Melbourne last year for Aussiecon and had a great time discussing it with her.

If you're interested, contact Liz at the following email address: