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Thursday, March 27, 2014



This morning I received the email below from Edwina Harvey, my colleague on the Andromeda Spaceways Publishing Association. I've known Edwina for years, long before she persuaded me to join.

I wasn't in the first wave, but the second - at this stage, there are only a few of the original members left. Most found that Real Life got in the way or started their own small presses, like Tehani Wessely, who has been interviewed on this site and who says she served her apprenticeship as a publisher with us. Most of them are still slushing for us, even if they're not actively involved.

But as people come and go, we find we need fresh blood, new enthusiasm. Right now, we have a newer member happily editing an issue of ASIM and doing very well.

You do have to pay to be a member - that's how we pay our contributors, not to mention the printing and posting costs - but membership includes a subscription. A print subscription! Which reminds me, we're the last print spec fic magazine in Australia, though we also offer PDF, mobi and ePub versions.

"Gee, I'd like to join," you may be thinking,"but I live in the US/UK/Treasure Island."

Fear not! Since we went from co-op to association, you don't even have to live in Australia any more. Also, we do everything, including meetings, online.

So read the email below and if you decide that you'd like to have a go at publishing instead of complaining that publishers just don't understand your brilliant work, make contact. (And for those out there who are thinking of self publishing, what better way to learn the ropes?)

The ASIM crew - this could be YOU!

Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine is regularly published by the Andromeda Spaceways Publishing Association.
Members of the Association contribute an annual fee of $100 (part of which converts to a 12 month paper subscription to the magazine) , and their time and skills to produce the magazine.

For close to 12 years, ASIM has provided a paying semi-pro market to established and budding authors from around the world. We're rather proud of the number of first sales we've given new authors over that time, but we need more enthusiastic people to get involved to keep the magazine going.

If you're interested in  learning what goes on behind-the-scenes in producing a paper and e-format magazine; if you want to get experience as a proof reader, sub-editor or editor;  if you've  got web or marketing skills, if you're willing to go to conventions and popculture events to promote and sell the magazine, AND ESPECIALLY  if you have or are looking to get experience in IN DESIGN for magazine layout, WE NEED YOU!

As the ASIM Association works on line, membership is open to anyone anywhere.  Contact me offline ( if you want to discuss joining ASIM.

POSITION VACANT: If you are a LAY OUT ARTIST with experience in IN DESIGN who would be willing to be one of our layout artists on a voluntary (no financial remuneration, but you wouldn't be expected to pay an annual fee either) basis, please contact us (email address as above). ASIM is produced quarterly, and like the rotating editorship, it's hoped that the position of layout artist could be shared.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

On Googling Lewis Carroll


So, I'm rereading a Kerry Greenwood novel and one of the chapters opens with a quote from Isaac Watts's How Doth The Little Busy Bee. And I remembered that it was one of the poems Lewis Carroll sent up in Alice In Wonderland. Alice, a very proper middle class Victorian child who has a nurse and a governess, has been taught a bunch of poems she gets completely wrong in the crazy world of Wonderland. This particular one came out as How Doth The Little Crocodile. Trying to remember the words, I Googled it and stumbled  across this article. Written in 1903, it is still very useful if you want to get the jokes Carroll was making. At the time the novel was written, every member of his child audience would have read the original poems he was sending up and rolled around laughing (and believe me, those poems fully deserved to be sent up!) - and the originals are quoted along with the Carroll parodies. 

When I reread the two Alice books some time ago, I thought, how very Victorian! Kids today would miss most of the in-jokes, though there was plenty of fun there even if you didn't get the references -well, I read them when I was six or seven(Alice is seven, she mentions this to Humpty Dumpty, I think, or was it the Caterpillar?). I enjoyed them enough to name my first doll Alice. And that was without getting any of the in-jokes at all. 

But it's worth it, if you're curious, to check out that web page. I think I already knew some of the references, but not all. 

I still love the absurd world of Carroll. Who would have thought a mathematician could be so good at this sort of thing?

Friday, March 21, 2014

This Week's Random Read...An Abundance Of Katherines by John Green

I picked this one up from my new book display at work. I think - might be wrong - that it's the author's first novel, or at least an early one. He was working on The Fault In Our Stars when it was published.  I got it because one of our students had asked for more John Green. Actually, she wanted Will Grayson, Will Grayson, but our copy was out till May and I wasn't going to buy another copy when we had one which was coming back in the next few weeks. She said she had read this one and I said in that case, she's pretty much read all of the works of John Green to date, except Will Grayson, but I'd lend her my personal copy if she couldn't wait. She ended up buying her own copy. And no one yet to read this book, so I thought I might as well.

I'm up to page 69, not bad as I took it only yesterday and it's a book that needs the reader to focus. But the chapters are short, so you can put it down.

The novel is a road story, with the nerdy Colin Singleton and his best friend Hassan(actually, his only friend) travelling around after Colin's graduation(Hassan is a year older)with no special aim except for Colin to get over being dumped by his girlfriend Katherine, the nineteenth girl of that name to dump him. He only dates girls called Katherine. Colin is also unhappy because he is no longer a child prodigy and can't yet call himself a genius because he hasn't done anything world-shaking.

At this point in the book, they've arrived at Gutshot in Tennessee, seen the grave of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and accepted a job with a local woman whose daughter is the tour guide.

Very strange book, sort of a cross between The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Nighttime and Libba Bray's Going Bovine. But I feel the need to continue reading, like scratching an itch.

I may even get around to reading The Fault In Our Stars

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Me, Enid Blyton and Lashings of Ginger Ale

 As a child, I read lots of Enid Blyton. Nowhere near all of her books, of course - I think she wrote about 600! I didn't even read all her series - I never read any Secret Seven, for example. Some of the Five Findouters and Dog books, of which I have fond memories, as they were funnier than the better-known Famous Five and I liked Fatty, the young Sherlock Holmes who led the group, unlike Julian, who irritated me even then. I even liked the dog better. Timmy, George's dog, didn't do much beyond woof enthusiastically, while Fatty's dog, Buster, a small terrier, was always nipping at the heels of Mr Goon, the local policeman. And that's another thing - for a woman writing such classist, sexist, racist stuff, she seemed to have little respect for the police; Mr Goon(notice the name?) is a buffoon and even in the Noddy stories, Mr Policeman had better get out of the way when Noddy is driving! 

All the same, as a child I loved them, even while I was wishing Anne would thump Julian one day. They were my introduction to crime fiction, which I read to this day, as a Sister In Crime.

And there was the food. Slabs of chocolate. Delicious sandwiches. Hard boiled eggs. An apple. Lashings of ginger ale! 

So when I am spending a day in the outdoors, as today, when my school is having its annual athletics carnival, I simply have to have at least some of Enid Blyton's picnic items in my lunch. No ginger ale, I forgot to buy any. But there is always, always, a hard boiled egg and an apple and a "slab" of chocolate though today's is just an Aero Bar. There's a bit of Mum's birthday cake. My sandwich is a fresh roll with smoked trout and olive flavoured hummus, something none of Blyton's heroes would even have heard of. But hey, you have to have something adult to celebrate the day!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Just Downloaded - Mary Stewart's Arthuriad!

I found on iBooks a four volume set of all of her Arthurian - okay, Merlin - books. Well, three of them were about Merlin, the fourth about Medraut, but it's the same universe. Anyway, the four volumes are under one cover, The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, The Last Enchantment and The Wicked Day. Very good value for $7.99, eh? And a light two megabyte download.

I have always loved the first two best, but the last two are quite readable and I like what she does with the story. She has used Geoffrey of Monmouth as a source, while T.H White used Malory. So it's not quite Rosemary Sutcliff, but it does have a sort-of-fifth-century/sort-of-mediaeval flavour. You just have to read it, I can't quite explain. There's just a touch of fantasy in it, otherwise it could almost be historical fiction. I like that - a minimum of fantasy. Parke Godwin is another writer who did that, which is why I enjoyed his books.

The last book presents a rather sympathetic Medraut, who doesn't want to harm his father, but things just don't work out the way either of them wants. The author's note written at the time said that the source she had used spoke of a battle in which Arthur and Medraut died, but could have meant that they fought side by side. She was kicking herself, but had already established that there would be a tragic ending to what young Arthur had done in all innocence, so had to proceed that way.

I've sold a bit of short Arthurian fiction myself, including a story you'll find in my ebook of ASIM stories(please feel free to download it from this website!) and I have to confess that Mary Stewart was my inspiration - not plagiarism, I just liked her theories. My story Choices is seen from the viewpoint of my own version of Nimue.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to getting stuck into it!

Any other Stewart fans reading this?

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Now Reading... Lots!

I have a pile of TBR a mile high, including two of Paul Collins' Maximus Black tales(and two TB reviewed picture books from Ford Street, which I'll do as soon as I find them in my messy lounge room.)

Right now, I'm reading several - among others, including several downloads, a review copy of Tank Boys by Stephen Dando Collins, a boys' novel of World War I, The Cracks In The Kingdom by Jaclyn Moriarty - quite readable, though it's Volume 2 of a series and I haven't read Volume 1 and when I put it in the library, the kids will ask for 1, another one which is the second in a series which is quite impossible to read without the first - I did ask for the first and promise to review it, but no response so far - and this week's more-or-less random read, Sonya Hartnett's Children Of The King.

 I never got around to reading it when it was on the CBCA shortlist. See, I'm not a great Hartnett fan, I hate the way her books end depressingly and even when they don't, like The Silver Donkey, the only one I liked, she imagines them ending depressingly! (The book is donkey stories told to some children in France during WW1 by a downed British pilot and she told children who asked about him in her school visits that the pilot would be shot for desertion! Thanks, Sonya, for spoiling for me the only book of yours I liked, not to mention spoiling it for your young fans. Kids generally enjoy depressing, but this was a book for younger readers and the pilot would be a character they cared about). So no, I don't care greatly for this author's work, no matter how many awards she gets for her depressing fiction. And I am a Richard III fan, as you might have noticed if you've been following this blog, even if he never wrote any children's books. And this one has a link to the story of the Princes in the Tower. But my friend and fellow Ricardian Anne Devrell recommended it, so I picked it off the shelves and took it home. So far, so good.

I'll get back to you with my report!

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. London: Macmillan, 2014

Cath Avery has just started university, living on campus. Her twin sister, Wren, has decided that after a lifetime of doing everything together, they will not be sharing a room; she's keen to meet new people and have new experiences.

One thing they have always done together is write fan fiction(or fanfiction, as it's called in this novel). Not just fanfiction, but slash fiction, the kind that has gay relationships between the two leading male characters. Cath is working on her magnum opus, Carry On Simon, a novel set in the World of Mages, a world not entirely unlike that of a certain boy wizard in our own universe(and actually, Harry Potter exists in the Fangirl universe too). It has to be finished before the final novel comes out in a few months, or it will be forever AU(alternative universe to all you mundanes out there). Cath has signed up for a unit in Fiction Writing, though, and has a ten thousand word major project to write as well, and the ideas just aren't coming. And meanwhile, there's all this stuff going on in Real Life. Nick the gorgeous guy in her writing class who writes everything in second person present tense and won't let go of his notebook, even when they're writing together. Reagan, her roommate, who smokes and goes out a lot, but who drags Cath out of her hiding place to take part in campus life. Levi, her boyfriend(or is he?) who has a sunny nature and suffers reading issues. Cath and Wren's father, a loopy advertising man who eats frozen meals when he's eating at all and needs to be checked up on. Stuff, you know?

First, a confession: I asked for this review copy because I know about fan fiction. I even know about slash fiction, though I don't read it. But I did write fan fiction for many years, at least 150 stories, set in the universes of Star Trek, Blake's 7, Robin Of Sherwood, Dr Who(one or two).  I stopped writing it when I ran out of ideas and then people started paying me to write. I won the Mary Grant Bruce Award for children's fiction, using a story based on an idea I'd originally had for a fan story, though I ended up writing the non-fan version first. 

But like Cath, I found that when you're writing in someone else's universe, it's very hard to think of anything else, or to get ideas for anything else. I don't regret it - it taught me a lot of writing skills, including characterisation, development, short story writing, even how to write book reviews. There wasn't an entire Internet fandom in thse days, but there was plenty of feedback of a kind you don't get in other kinds of writing. You could start a writers' group, but that can be ineffective. But eventually, I had to focus on other writing, that might actually pay. I still read fan fic, though, and am amazed at how big it has become since the Internet came along.

So I can relate to Cath and her fannish life. And it's nice that the author doesn't say, "Ha ha, this nerd needs to get a life and leave fandom!" Cath eventually finds that she can do both, and have a life with friends and a boyfriend and all. The author even mentions in the FAQ at the end that people are already writing Fangirl fan fiction and she is absolutely delighted about it - and that she started writing this when she was reading stacks of Harry Potter fiction online. I liked the regular quotes both from the Simon Snow novels and Cath's fan fiction, between the chapters.  The whole book was gentle,charming, funny and sad, all at the same time.

I did think that there would be a campus fan club for such a popular book series - actually, Cath's university seems strangely lacking in clubs and societies, but it's a real place, so maybe it doesn't have them. 

I enjoyed it and I think I can persuade some of my fan writing students to read it too. 

... I seem to have published this post before embargo day. Fangirl will be out in Australia on April 1. Make a note in your diary!

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Cranky Ladies Of History Anthology


Dear readers,

Yesterday I received the following email from Tehani Wessely, the publisher of Fablecroft Publishing, former colleague at Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, teacher-librarian, judge of several book awards, etc, etc, etc.... If you want to know more about er, she has been interviewed on The Great Raven here

But meanwhile, here's her latest project and I do urge you all to support it.

Hi everyone

It's been a very busy few weeks on the Cranky Ladies front! We are VERY excited to have been approved for the Arts Tasmania Crowbar grant, that means if our Pozible campaign is successful, we will receive an extra $2,000 for the project! 

We fire up the campaign on Saturday, and as part of that, I'm emailing to invite you to be part of the Cranky Ladies of History blog tour. 

Participating is easy! Simply blog about your favourite cranky lady of history and let me know the link -- we will add it to the Blog Tour page at FableCroft, and retweet and Facebook all posts we receive. If you are willing to link directly to the Pozible campaign and/or discuss the anthology, that would be really appreciated, but please don't feel obligated to do so -- the links are below, if you would like to. You are also welcome to use our wonderful Cranky Ladies of History logo, designed by the marvellous Amanda Rainey. 

If you would prefer, we're also delighted to host guest posts on the FableCroft site, or submit a guest post of our own to you -- just let us know and we happy to oblige :)

Our blog tour is running from March 1 to 31 March (or a little later, to allow for the rest of the world to catch up!), so please make your post/s during the month -- if you've got multiple favourite ladies, multiple posts are encouraged! 

If you'd like to check out this campaign, the details are below.

As the author of a book about women in science, my main problem is who to choose from a large list! 

I'm currently working on my submission for this anthology, though I hear the competition is fierce, so I may not make it, fingers crossed for me! If I don't make it, I have no idea where else to sell a historical short story; I may have to add fantasy elements so I can submit it to a spec fic market. ;-)

The woman I chose for my story is Dr "James Barry", real name Margaret Bulkley, a woman who only got a paragraph or two in my "Did You Knows?" I had considered Rosalind Franklin, the real discoverer of the double helix, who was beaten to publication by Watson, Crick and Wilkins(only Wilkins mentioned her when thy went to pick up their Nobel Prize) who, at one stage, were working on the idea of a triple helix! She certainly qualified as cranky. 

In the end, I dropped it, as the whole story makes me too angry to write well, and began my research on a woman who was much more colourful and definitely cranky! One man, Josias Cloete, who told the disguised woman that "he" rode "like a girl" was challenged to a duel(nobody was hurt seriously and the two became lifelong friends). He wasn't the only man to face a duel with the cranky, diminutive doctor.

Margaret Bulkley, Dr Barry, has been claimed by the gay community and the transgender community, and who knows? One of them might be right; we're unlikely ever to find out. 

I haven't used either idea; when her body was laid out for burial, the maid, Sophia, said that not only was the deceased a woman, but one who had given birth, sneering at the notion that she might have been a hermaphrodite. So there would have been at least one man in her life, who knew what she was. And given that she had a (Jamaican-born) valet, Dantzen, for over forty years, I would be very surprised if he didn't know. I don't think he was the father of her child(and what happened to it?) but I have had an idea about him, strictly fictional, and the story is told from his viewpoint.

We don't know exactly how old Margaret Bulkley was when she started studying medicine at Edinburgh university. She was probably older than the fourteen year old boy she was posing as, but had to pretend, because she had no face hair, after all. In fact, for some time she had trouble being taken seriously precisely because everyone thought James Barry was so young. 

It is likely that her family supported her; her mother travelled with Margaret, saying "he" was her nephew; the daughter was declared dead.

I'm not going into a huge amount of detail here, but the fact is, she got away with her disguise till the end of her life. And she was only found out then because her request to be buried in the clothes she had died in was ignored. She was buried under her male name and the whole story hushed up by the army for a century, as too embarrassing.  With no Internet in those days, I would imagine that not many people had access to the newspapers in which the story was revealed anyway.

She was short, cranky and brilliant. As an army surgeon, she travelled around a lot and, among other things, performed the first caesarean in South Africa - possibly the first ever - in which mother and baby both survived; the child was named James Barry after the doctor who delivered him. Her hospitals were clean; one reason why "Dr Barry" didn't get a knighthood on retirement may have been "his" public embarrassment of that saint, Florence Nightingale, for keeping a filthy hospital. 

When reading about her, I couldn't help thinking of Agnodike, an Athenian girl who disguised as a man to study medicine. Agnodike was so successful with female patients, in a society enclosed for women(many were dying rather than let a male doctor see them), that jealous husbands claimed "he" was seducing their wives and she had to confess who she was to avoid conviction on that score. Due to the support of her female patients, she was allowed to live and continue her practice, though only women. James Barry flirted a lot with women and faced similar anger, though at one stage, she and the Capetown Governor, Lord Charles Somerset, were accused of having a homosexual affair, which would have meant a death sentence if they were convicted. Fortunately, she didn't have to give away her gender to survive that charge! 

Anyway, I mean to finish the story and re-check my research before submitting. The trouble with writing historical fiction is that you have to get right not only the historical facts, but the social ones and my area of knowledge is the Middle Ages, not the nineteenth century. 

Fingers crossed for me, everyone, and do support the campaign; small press in Australia is doing a wonderful job of producing materials large presses won't risk. Science fiction, for example - any SF published here is likely to be small press because the big ones stick to fat fantasy trilogies. Short historical fiction? Not much.

Wishing Fablecroft all the best!