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Tuesday, April 02, 2013

The Ditmars - What I've Read

As other people, such as Sean Wright the Blogonaut, are commenting on this year's Ditmars short list, I thought I might talk about those titles I have read. Sean has read a LOT more than I have, even though I bought some, but just didn't get around to reading them.

However, for what it's worth, here's my thoughts on what I have read:

Best Novel:

Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan, published by Allen And Unwin

A wonderful novel about selkies, with powerful characters, where you can sympathise with the anti-heroine, Miskaella. It's also short listed for the Stella Awards for women's writing and an Aurealis.  I have reviewed it here.

Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth, published by Random House Australia.

An amazingly wonderful historical fantasy, centred around the fairy tale Rapunzel, intertwined with the story of the author of the French version, a young woman who lived in the seventeenth century, and the story of the witch who imprisoned the Rapunzel character.  Alas, I never got around to reviewing this one, but trust me, it's a fabulous read. It, too, is on the Aurealis short list.

It's a hard choice between these two and I'm betting that the prize ends up going to one of the small-press publications, which, oddly, more fans might have read.

If you haven't read either of these, by all means get them now, but you may not have the time to give them that they deserve if all you want is to make a decision about the Ditmars. I have read them and even I had a struggle as to which I should vote for!

Best Novella/Novelette:

Um, I have only read Flight 404 by Simon Petrie, published by Peggy Bright Books. And that was because I proofread it (yes! You can blame me if there are any typos left, but there were, as far as I could see, about two minor typos in the entire manuscript.)

It's a good piece of hard science fiction, which is a relief for anyone who has had enough of the sort of fantasy you read in fat fantasy trilogies. At the same time, it's about people, and the transgender heroine has a lot to think about while trying to find out what happened to her sister's spacecraft. As far as I'm concerned, I don't care how great the story is and how good the science is if I don't care about the characters as well.

I hope some of you downloaded it during the short period when it was available free on Amazon? If you didn't, it's still available on the PBB web site in ebook form for about the price of a cup of coffee, or you can get it in paperback.

Best Short Story:

Sorry,again I have only read one of the stories on a fairly short list, and that's Joanne Anderton's "The Bone Chime Song", which was published in Light Touch Paper Stand Clear, Peggy Bright Books, in which I also had a story. A nice, haunting piece of horror fiction with characters you can care about. This is one reason why I can't read horror fiction: if it's well written, nasty things happen to characters you care about. It seems to have been the favourite of most reviewers of the anthology.

Best Collected Work:

Gulp! Again, only one of the short listed books! And that's because I had a story in it.  Sorry! she squeaked. I haven't reviewed the book, as I had a personal interest, but you can find a series of guest posts by most of the authors, the editors and the cover artist on this blog in July 2012, starting with the last day of June (it was June American time).

Personally, I'd go and read the book first. Again, it's something you can download from the Peggy Bright Books web site or buy as a paperback. It's a wonderful anthology, with hand-picked authors  - take a quick look at my guest posts to see who they are - and one of the stories, Joanne Anderton's "The Bone Chime Song", is on the short list, so you can kill two birds with one stone. ;-)

The theme was the title. I interpreted it as "Beginnings" but others came up with other ideas.

I will leave you to choose your own favourite artist and fan writer, though I think both the ASIM 56 cover, with that silly birthday cake on it, and Les Peterson's cover for LTP, both of which collections I own, were great, and I love both Sean Wright's blog and Tansy Rayner Roberts' delightful writing on media SF themes.

Again, pick your own William Atheling critic - I have only read some of the Tansy Rayner Roberts stuff.

Why have I read so little? Well, I tend to spend most of my time reading YA fiction, due to my job as a teacher-librarian and my work as a YA book blogger. And you know what? When the Children's Book Council short list comes out next week, I bet I won't have read too many of those either, because I keep being sent overseas stuff to read and review. I am keeping my fingers crossed that the wonderful picture book In The Beech Forest by Gary Crew and young artist Den Scheer will be on it. She is going to be the next Shaun Tan, I just know it!

But I'll worry about that next week and probably have to go shopping for books I don't have in the library, after the holidays.

What do I think should have been on the short list that wasn't? Plenty, but off the top of my head, I am sorry that there was nothing from Mythic Resonance, the one and only anthology put out by the now-sadly defunct Specusphere web site. I think it's at least as good as Light Touch Paper. Still, Satima Flavell, who edited my story in that, "Brothers", says her story "La Belle Dame" has been short listed for a Tin Duck, the WA awards; by now, the winners of that have been announced, but I don't know yet what they are. Still, it deserved its short listing and personally, I think it deserved a Ditmar listing too.

It would have been nice, too, to have a short listing for ASIM 56 itself, not just for the cover. It was the tenth anniversary issue of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine and all the stories were carefully chosen for quality, and the art was great too. Still - some of those stories are on the Aurealis list and who knows? Perhaps more will be short listed for a Chronos Award. Fingers crossed!

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