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Monday, August 31, 2020

Jane Routley: A Guest Post


Today’s guest is Jane Routley, Aussie author of some great fantasy novels, including two winners of the fantasy section of the Aurealis Award.  Jane was a guest on this blog a while back. She has recently released a new novel, Shadow In The Empire Of Light, which looks amazing! 

Here is the blurb: 

Shine’s life is usually dull: an orphan without magic in a family of powerful mages, she’s left to run the family estate with only an eccentric aunt and telepathic cat for company.

But when the family descend on the house for the annual Fertility Festival, Shine is plunged into dark intrigue; stolen letters, a fugitive spy, and family drama mix with murder, sex and secrets, and Shine is forced to decide both her loyalties and future...

Intrigued? I’ll let Jane tell you all about it! 


I wrote Shadow in the Empire of Light because lately, I’ve got a bit fed up with how miserable most of fantasy worlds are for women. The forced marriages, the enslavement, the working in brothels, the dangerous childbirth and -most of all - the endless, endless sexual violence. (Yes I’m looking at you Game of Thrones)  I mean pleeease, that’s not fantasy.  That’s my reality if I walk through the wrong park late at night. 

It seems crazy to me that fantasy should be sexist just because most of human history is. 

Maybe I’m reinventing the wheel. There are historical-style fantasies that are female friendly.  Elizabeth Moon’s The Deed of Paksenarrion is one of these.  I’m hoping readers of this post will suggest others.

You write what you want to read so I thought I’d make the kind of fantasy world I might like to go adventuring in. That’s why I created the Empire of Light. 

Some of the principles I followed in my world building:

  1. Estates and names are passed down along the female line.  After all, everyone knows who their mother is.  Fathers not so much. (Something which has been a trial for women in our own world since time immemorial)  Sure you can and should make provision for your sons, but the farm goes to the daughters.

2. Since the daughters are heirs they also get more power in the marriage game, which is a nice change.  Also, since they own the farm, they can have a family without marrying at all.  No one minds if they have a husband or not.  In a matrilocal society it’s often the woman’s brothers who act as the male parent anyway.  

3. Reliable contraception.  Women in my Empire of Light only get pregnant if they eat meat.  . Vegetarians don’t get pregnant.  It’s an idea I got from the animal kingdom

You still have to work out how to protect and provide for your family but since you inherit the property you’re much less likely to fall into the single mum poverty trap.  

4. You don’t have to be a tough fighter.  I’ve given men and women fairly equal strength so   you don’t have to be exceptional to beat the guys in a fight, just as skilled as they are.  Anyway, in the Empire of Light, magic -which is gender neutral - is the real source of power. 

5. I’m tired of slut shaming too.  Women can be as chaste or as promiscuous as they want to be and no one is going to call them names.  It’s amazing how often women still get shamed in fantasy books (or in real life for that matter) for even mild sexual misbehaviour.  Just be respectful to people, folks.  

6. I’m tired of insults being feminine.  In the Empire of Light there are no bitches or cows or any insults called after female body parts. There are pigs, rats and, if you’re feeling really annoyed, roosters.  

Of course, a truly equal society would not favour either sex in terms of inheritance or in any other way.   In Shadow in the Empire of Light, however, mothers do prefer to have daughters and I know that’s sexist.  But it was so nice to make adventures in world where I was the winner, rather than the second-place-getter, that I went with it.  

You can contact me at or on, and find the ebook and the audiobook at:


Jane’s other books are also available on Amazon, if you look her up there under her name, or you can get them in ebook on Apple Books. 

Monday, August 24, 2020

The Last Of NASFIC!

 My second night of watching NASFIC 2020 was as enjoyable as the first. Again, I had to set the alarm so I could watch from my bed, but no matter. 

There had, unfortunately, been some technical problems, so my first choice, a discussion of filk music between Juanita Coulson and Tom Smith, both big names in filk music, didn’t happen. Juanita is also a fantasy novelist who wrote her first book in 1967, when I was in Year 8 at school. You can find some of their work, both of them, on YouTube.

Filk music, in case you aren’t familiar with the term, is basically science fiction themed songs, usually sung to existing tunes so that anyone can sing them as long as they get the words. Traditionally they are sung late at night at room parties. Some of the big names in SF writing have been filk singers and composers. I’ve even written a few filk songs myself, many years ago. Here is a link to a post I wrote about this on this blog.

Although I missed out on the Coulson/Smith panel, I did get to hear some filking later. 

Meanwhile, after a lit of fiddling around, I arrived in the middle of a discussion of “Worldbuilding: Rituals And Symbols”. This was not quite what I had expected as it was less about the subject of Worldbuilding than about “my favourite rituals in books and rituals that happen in my books”. That would have been good, and some of it still was, but we were not really told why these rituals were interesting and, in one case, not even what the rituals were!

That was 1.00 am and I hovered between wake and sleep for ten minutes till the next panel, which featured my friend Gillian Polack and two others, discussing the matter of older women in SF and fantasy. I should say that Gillian’s heroines are mostly older women and she waved around her recent book Year Of The Fruitcake, in which an alien observer is part of a group of older women in Canberra, where she lives, who are likely to be discussing chocolate. (This book is available on Amazon if you are interested, including on Kindle)

There was a fair amount of discussion of “What is old?” for women. As I recall, Lois McMaster Bujold’s heroine Cordelia Naismith, mother of Miles Vorkosigan, said in one of the books that middle age was about ten years older than whatever age you were. There was some discussion of Cordelia, in fact, but what I found particularly interesting was the panellist whose day job is in the theatre. She said bluntly that in acting a woman is considered old at thirty! The roles tend to fall off after that. Not for men - for women. 

“Researching The Golden Age” was a chat between two Hugo shortlisted non fiction authors who have written about the Golden Age of SF, Alec Nevala-Lee and Farah Mendlesohn. Farah was on this year’s Related Work shortlist for her book The Pleasant Profession Of Robert A Heinlein. I have a copy of that from the Hugo packet we got before the convention. I was also lucky enough to hear her speak to my SF club, the Nova Mob, just after the con. The book was more or less academic, a study of the author’s work rather than a biography. Although it has only sold about 1500 copies, it was published by an academic publisher and she said that was about three times more than the average academic text! She urged us to read Heinlein’s final book, the one everybody hates, because his portrayal of women is at its best. 

I don’t have anything by Alec, but a look at some titles onApple Books made my mouth water...

The hours were strange on this side of the world, so the midnight open filk session on Sunday was at lunchtime here. I turned off my video and just listened. The first several songs were not to my taste, being just bawdy stuff left over from the previous session, without recognisable tunes or SF themes. I was considering leaving the Zoom session when the songs began to improve, with SF themes related to stories by Anne McCaffrey and even Lois McMaster Bujold, though not her space opera, which I prefer, but to her fantasy. Still, these were sung passionately and, in some cases, beautifully. I hung around till it was clear this session was going far longer than I could give to it. I did consider joining in, but I’ve forgotten most of the lyrics of my favourite songs. Instead, I burned a CD of a file on my laptop, filk songs sung by my pen pal the late Linda Short, a British fan who died far too early. Linda recorded it especially for me on audiotape for a Christmas gift because “I didn’t know what you had”! Hah! Much more precious to me than bath oil or a knick knack!  I saved it to my computer, because audiotape wears out, and then burned a few copies for friends of mine and of Linda, to remember her by. 

My final panel was Sunday night my time, on the theme of  Jewish fantasy, and may be my favourite of the con. A group of Jewish writers, including Gillian, talked about their own work and the work of others, including some classics from the Golden Age. There was a discussion of “What is Jewish fantasy?” and everyone had a different idea of what it is. For some, it’s not enough for the author to be Jewish, but one panellist mentioned Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are. It’s not Jewish-themed, but it is based on his relatives pinching his cheeks when he was small and saying “I could just eat you up!” (As someone with an Eastern  European Jewish background I winced in sympathy). 

It was also pointed out that being Jewish is not monocultural. It’s diverse, with Jews all over the world, with their own cultures. Jews are often automatically considered white, but aren’t necessarily - and the word Gillian used for Australian Jews was “off white.” She said there are very few Jewish fantasy writers here, writing on Jewish themes, anyway. 

Gillian’s fantasy novel The Wizardry Of Jewish Women was about  being a Jewish woman in Australia. Here is an interview I did with Gillian about this novel a while back. I liked it very much. 

Her novel The Time Of Ghosts featured three older women in Canberra, one of whom was Melusine, the mediaeval French water fay, who long ago converted to Judaism! I liked this one possibly even better than Wizardry Of Jewish Women, but I loved both of them.  You should be able to find them in ebook, either on Apple Books or Bookview Cafe.

I suddenly realised that another panellist, Valerie Estelle Franklin, was the author of many entertaining books on Dr Who, Harry Potter, Lord Of The Rings, Star Wars and others. You can get most of them cheap or free on Apple Books and on Kindle if interested.

This was my final panel. I couldn’t stay awake for others and by the time I got up this morning, the con was over. 

But it was an enjoyable event. Next on my schedule is the World Fantasy Convention in October - I can’t wait! 

Friday, August 21, 2020

Of NASFIC And Other Virtual Conventions!

 A few weeks ago I was talking about ConZealand, the World Science Fiction Convention 2020. It was online, the first Worldcon to be completely digital. I enjoyed it very much, bought far too many books and saw four catch-up panels just before they were taken down. They were on subjects that interested me - 

Urban fantasy in the 21st century, Writing Alternative Universe, Golden Age of SF Movies and TV In Space. It’s probably a bit late to be writing about them now, but they were all enjoyable. 

I wrote a post with the shortlist for the New Zealand awards, the Sir Julius Vogels, and mentioned that we had not received them in time to vote. However, since then we have been sent a SJV packet just so we could have them. So, another pile of goodies to read! I did buy three books before I knew we were being sent these, but still plenty of freebies, and hopefully I will have time and energy to review some.

Since then, other conventions have moved on line. I have joined the World Fantasy Convention, which I believe is more of a professional development for authors than just another con, but that’s fine - I’m a writer, and it’s always good to learn something new. This one will be about 16 hours behind Australia, possibly 17 hours behind, as we will be on Daylight Saving Time by then, the end of October. I paid by PayPal, where I had nearly half the fee already, due to having been paid for my story in Oz Is Burning. Nice! 

If you are interested in joining this convention, here is the link. - do check it out, even if you aren’t a writer. Anyone can join.

This weekend I am “attending” another con, NASFIC, which is being held in Columbus, Ohio, but run online. The organisers have very generously decided to make it free, due to having to do it all online, though you can still make a donation. I might just do that before it’s over, but there is no requirement to donate. Here is a link for you

Columbus, Ohio, is 14 hours behind Melbourne, so last night I set my alarm for 2.00 a.m and “attended”(curled up in bed) a panel on the subject of using history in fiction. It was good fun and featured my friend historian and novelist Gillian Polack. 

There was very little, if any, talk about historical fantasy or SF, just historical fiction, but it was well worth waking up in the middle of the night to watch. There were some very good points made in the discussion. For example, Regency romance writer Georgette Heyer vs Jane Austen. One of the panellists described Heyer’s work as basically Jane Austen fanfic, which is true, but suggested that Jane Austen would not be happy with it(the actual word used was “horrified”), because she never portrayed aristocrats sympathetically, whereas Heyer - and, for that matter, other authors of Regency romance - did. Think about that for a moment. Okay, Darcy of Pride And Prejudice is related to the aristocracy, in the form of Lady Catherine DeBurgh, but until late in the book he is very snobbish, though never truly awful. Think about his first proposal to Elizabeth! 

In Regency romance, the hero is usually a Duke of this or a Lady Whoever. Austen’s heroines might be rich, like Emma, but are not usually Duchesses. 

There were discussions of missing cultures in Regency fiction - as Gillian commented, there were no Jews in Heyer , except as moneylenders. There was a mention of Moors/Muslims in Robin Hood stories - yes, there was a Saracen Merrie in Robin Of Sherwood and another in  Robin Hood, Prince Of Thieves, plus a Saracen female Merrie in the BBC Robin Hood. That’s true. And all of them were there for a reason. The Assassin Nasir(Robin Of Sherwood) had come to England with a returning Crusader. The one in Prince Of Thieves had returned with Robin, when both had escaped from a prison in Jerusalem. Djaq, the Saracen woman, had been brought to England as a slave, with a bunch of others, and joined the band, warning them she was “rubbish at cooking”, so Much the Miller’s Son kept having to do it. 

That was all fine, but when someone on the panel said that they had been in the original stories, as opposed to film and TV, I said, “Huh?”  I read a whole collection of mediaeval Robin Hood ballads and can’t recall any. It was a long time ago, of course, I may have forgotten. There were, yes,  Muslim knights in the Arthurian legends(they end up converting to Christianity if they are the good guys, and they never get the girl! Not if there is a good Christian knight available, anyway.). But that is not Robin Hood.

There was a mention of Zen Cho, who has written some delightful Regency romance fantasy with Malaysian characters. I read the first one and enjoyed it, some months ago.

After this panel, I slept a few hours lest I find myself watching panels all night when I had to be up early to make breakfast and warm the kitchen. 

Waking up, I managed to see a panel on urban fantasy and  COVID, and that was also very interesting. Much of it was, should we be writing COVID stuff right now, while people are still affected by it, and really don’t want to have to deal with it in fiction as well? Someone gave as an example the post-9/11 US. Fiction written at the time was often set ten years later. 

But a lot of the panel was fun speculation on how, say, werewolves and vampires were going to deal with it. Werewolves have bodies that can heal, so would a werewolf have to keep changing to deal with the nasty side effects of COVID? What about vampires? How do you bite your victim while social distancing? Would it affect you anyway? Someone reminded us that, in Love At First Bite, Dracula got drunk from biting a homeless drunk! Would vampires have to get jobs delivering pizza, with everyone locked down? But they would also have to deal with being invited in. 

There are so many ideas floating in my head from this discussion, though my only urban fantasy so far is an as-yet unpublished novella with a couple of werewolves doing detective work to catch up with vampires who have been sneaking into Australia via teenagers using paranormal romance web sites. It’s hard to sell a novella these days, but I could use the same characters again...

Anyway, I will enjoy the con again from bed late tonight! 

If you’re interested in doing the same, check the web site. It’s very simple to join, so check it out. 

Friday, August 07, 2020

Two More ConZealand Panels!

Between last night and today I have seen another two panels. I mean to catch up with at least two more before ConZealand switches them off. 

Actually, I watched only half of “What’s In A Name?”, the panel on choosing names for fiction. It was quite interesting,but not what I had expected from the blurb. As there were several more I had wanted to see at the time, I dropped out after all the panellists had had their say. The intro was, of course, about  Charles Dickens and how apt his names were, and how it was done in general in the Victorian era. Okay, we all knew that if we were attending the panel. 

The panellists - none of whom I’d heard of, but all writers with a distinguished career, one with a very distinguished career, from what we were told - were asked, among other things, whether they had to come up with names before writing a story. One of them said yes, but she advised people to check with someone of the appropriate background before using a name from another language. (She was researching a Chinese name). Sometimes the name might mean something over the top, sometimes they might not even be names in that language. Wise advice! (She was the one with the very distinguished career)

The one to whom I could relate most was the gentleman who said he just couldn’t think of names immediately, so found first person was handy.

I totally get that! I, too, do a lot of first person and am likely to change names later. If I had to think of names immediately my stories would never be written. 

At the same time, I do think about names for secondary characters. For example, an irritatingly soppy character in my novel Wolfborn was named for Chaucer’s Prioress. It became appropriate for other reasons late in the book. 

I moved on to a panel I had wanted very much to see, on “The Second Golden Age of science fiction”. I loved it! 

One of the panellists was a German lady, Cora Buhlert, on the shortlist for Best Fan Writer(she didn’t win, but if I’d been familiar with her work before I would have voted for her) and Best Fanzine, Galactic Journey. I voted for The Book Smugglers, a very useful review zine, but I could see why Cora was eligible for that panel. Galactic Journey pretends it is being published in the 1960s and reviews books, magazines and stories of the time. I think I will have to check it out again! I only caught a brief part of it when researching my fanzines. 

The panel was moderated by Dr Bradford Lyau, a University academic who studies this stuff. Kathryn Sullivan is a children’s and YA author, though I haven’t read any of her work as yet. The other two panellists were those two veterans Jack Dann and Robert Silverberg. Jack is younger than Robert, though he has white hair and has had it since I’ve known him(He moved to Australia in the early 1990s, because, he said, his partner needed to be here to do her job, while he could work anywhere). Jack has edited quite a few anthologies, mostly themed ones, with the late Gardner Dozois, but he has also written novels and short stories. I have a few. One is The Memory Cathedral, about an alternative universe in which Leonardo Da Vinci actually built some of those things we know he invented. The Rebel is about James Dean, only he survives that crash. There are more, but after hearing another panel he was on, I bought his latest book, Shadows In The Stone, another Renaissance Italy fantasy. Argh, still buying books from the con! 

Robert Silverberg says he is the last of his era alive, except for a very old James Gunn(he wrote The Listeners, which I read years ago). He has been to 67 World SF cons. I’ve read some of his work, but the one I recall the most is Gilgamesh The King, which I liked very much. That novel was based on the ancient Epic Of Gilgamesh, which I got as a 14th birthday present from a friend. It’s the story of a king who goes in search of immortality after losing his best friend, Enkidu, and seeing him in the unpleasant afterlife. Gilgamesh goes to visit Utnapishtim, the last survivor, with his wife, of the Flood on which the  Biblical Flood story was based. Utnapishtim and his wife were granted immortality. He gives Gilgamesh a herb, but while he is asleep a snake goes past, eats the herb and sheds its skin, as snakes do. So poor Gilgamesh stays mortal.  

What I liked about Silverberg’s version was that he gives Gilgamesh another reason for his quest. As a young child he is at his father’s funeral, based on the royal burial found in Ur. He sees many courtiers going into the grave with their king. The Queen doesn’t go, but her lady in waiting does, as does a slave child representing Gilgamesh. Leonard Woolley, the archaeologist, said it was a voluntary thing - they would have believed that they were getting a higher quality afterlife. But young Gilgamesh decides it isn’t going to happen to him - ever! 

It was fun to hear those two old war horses reminiscing about their mutual friends of the old days by first name. 

Robert said that he didn’t consider the 1960s as the second Golden Age; for him, that was the 1950s, when he was first writing and being published. He said that pretty much anyone with a typewriter could make it as a professional in those days; with 39 US science fiction magazines, there was a lot of demand. Then the company distributing all those magazines went belly up in 1958, and so did a lot of magazines. Later, yes, in the late 1960s, there was another surge of SF publication.

Jack was published later than Robert. He said that he was first being published at the same time as George RR Martin. As they were friends, he at first celebrated when George won awards, then realised it meant he wasn’t winning! He smiled as he said that, of course, Jack is a lovely person. Anyway, he said that he has won a lot of awards himself, except for the Hugo. Maybe next year,  Jack? I hope so! He remembered quite a few authors first published in the 60s, especially female authors, such as Kate Wilhelm and Joanna Russ. Also, Alice Sheldon, better known as Janes Tiptree Jr; she was middle aged by the time she was first published in 1968, and decided to use a male pen name. No one found out till 1977! There is an award named after her(the Tiptree, not the Sheldon!)

A question about favourite universes of the 60s got the panel reminiscing about theirs, but I thought Cora made the best comment. Her favourite universe of that time was Frank Herbert’s novel Dune. That world was, I agree, very well plotted out. It’s a planet where water is so scarce that if you spit at someone it’s a compliment, because you are sharing your body’s water. But it’s also the only source of the Spice, which is needed by navigators to get spaceships through space. 

Cora pointed out that whatever planets turn up in later films, eg Tatooine, the planet  Dune is there. It certainly was an influence.

There was also discussion of 1960s SF shows and films. 2001: A Space Odyssey came out in 1968. Planet Of The Apes, of course. Plenty more, including The Time Machine, but they mentioned what was in the top of their heads.  

Here is a link to a Wikipedia list of US science fiction films of the time, though not only the US was doing science fiction.

The shows mentioned included Star Trek, The Twilight Zone(around in the 60s, but I’d swear it started in the 50s) and The Outer Limits. All of them had SF writers involved, either writing for them or whose stories were adapted. A young David Gerrold - only 22 years old at the time - wrote “The Trouble With Tribbles” for Star Trek. His first sale, but a classic, and he has gone on to do very well since then. 

A panel I enjoyed very much. I have read a lot of those authors mentioned and I, personally, think it was a golden age, sorry, Bob!

Here is a link to the Galactic Journey web site. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Sir Julius Vogel Awards for SF And Fantasy, 2020

One thing we all seem to have missed during the ConZealand convention was the awarding of the annual New Zealand awards for science fiction. I believe that as members we should have received copies of the nominees and voted, just for this year. Not sure what happened or who ended up voting, but here are the winners, with some links to where you can get them. There are some wonderful Kiwi authors out there, well worth checking out!

2020 Sir Julius Vogel Awards Winners

Winners for the 2020 Sir Julius Vogel Awards have been announced by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand (SFFANZ).

Best Novel

Best Youth Novel

Best Novella/Novelette

  • WINNER: From a Shadow Grave, Andi C. Buchanan (Paper Road)
  • “Hunger’s Truth”, A.J. Fitzwater (Gigantosaurus 4/19)
  • We All Fall, Helen Vivienne Fletcher (HVF)
  • Would She Be Gone, Melanie Harding-Shaw (self-published)
  • “Ventiforms”, Sean Monaghan (Asimov’s 1-2/19)

Best Short Story

  • WINNER: “A Shriek Across the Sky”, Casey Lucas (Sponge 5/5/19)
  • “Work and Income Gothic”, Jack Remiel Cottrell (Flash Frontier 12/19)
  • “The Fisher”, Melanie Harding-Shaw (Newsroom 10/5/19)
  • “Chasing Oumuamua”, Sean Monaghan (Asimov’s 5/19)
  • “Losing Face”, Lee Murray (Tales of the Lost, Volume 1: We All Lose Something!)
  • “Proof of Concept”, James Rowland (New Myths 12/19)

Best Collected Work

Best Professional Artwork

Best Professional Production/Publication

Best Dramatic Presentation

Best New Talent

  • WINNER: Sascha Stronach
  • Melanie Harding-Shaw
  • A.J. Lancaster
  • Denika Mead
  • Stephen Mulholland

Best Fan Production/Publication

  • WINNER: Plant Life
  • Consequence LARP
  • GeyserCon con book
  • Phoenixine

Best Fan Writing

  • WINNER: SITREP, Alex Lindsay (Phoenixine)
  • “Welcome to the Con”, Grace Bridges (GeyserCon con book)

Best Fan Artwork

  • WINNER: “Deet”, Laya Rose
  • “Wandering Wild”, Michelle Kan
  • “Aliens vs Geysers”, Kat Oliver
  • “Wilder Girls”, Laya Rose

Services to Fandom

  • WINNER: Grace Bridges

Services to Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror

  • WINNER: Melanie Harding-Shaw

Winners were selected by members of SFFANZ and CoNZealand, the 78th Worldcon (the first ever “virtual Worldcon”) and were announced on July 30, 2020.

For more information, see the SFFANZ website.

Monday, August 03, 2020

Oz Is Burning On Kindle!

For those who read yesterday’s post and are interested, this brand new anthology, with stories by some of Oz’s top SF/F writers is already up on Kindle. Check your local Amazon site. 

Catching Up On Two ConZealand Panels: Aussie SF And A Radio Play!

“Australian SF and Fantasy”, with Sean McMullen, Helen Stubbs, Angela Meyer and Jack Dann is a very enjoyable panel I missed on the first day because it started so late I had no idea what was going on and wandered off to another panel. There were some glitches and at first only Helen and Sean. Then Jack joined them and finally Angela. There was a missing moderator somewhere and they ended up having Jack do the moderation. Goodness knows, he has a lot of experience. Jack was the only American on the panel, but he has lived here so long, and contributed so much to Aussie SF/F, he is one of us.

I have met Jack - and his partner, writer and academic Janeen Webb - at many conventions and I know Sean personally from well before he had sold his first story. He set up a writers’ group  which I joined and we were in the Society for Creative Anachronism together, where he taught me some sword moves(I wasn’t much good). I confess I couldn’t really get into his adult books, but he has become a very good children’s and YA writer. 

I only know Helen and Angela by name, from online. 

All of them had a background in either publishing or being published here or both.

When the panel finally got started, it was fascinating stuff. Sean had prepared a brief  PowerPoint presentation about the history of Australian SF and fantasy. I already knew about the fact that during World War II there was a ban of anything from outside the Empire, due to paper shortages, so that was when local SF and fantasy finally got a chance. Some of it, as Sean said, was wonderful, some dreadful, but that was, after all, the pulp fiction era, so the same could be said of American speculative fiction. 

I had assumed the panel would be mentioning titles but mostly the panellists talked about publication in Australia, which was fine with me. Jack said that when he had first come to Australia, he had been amazed at the amount of talent here, so had published an anthology with Janeen, Dreaming Down Under(I have a copy). The thing is, the market is smaller here than overseas and when he first arrived there wasn’t as much chance to sell as there is now, when there are several hundred stories and books published every yearw. 

In fact, during the course of the panel there was a lot of discussion about small press(a subject dear to my heart, as I have had far more support from small press publishers than the big ones), which really publishes more SF here than the big ones. It takes more chances, for a start - and this is me speaking, not the panellists. Paul Collins and Ford Street have published some stuff that bigger presses wouldn’t dare, such as a novel by Dianne Bates on the subject of self harm, and very good it was too. I think it may have published Australia’s first YA novel with a transgender protagonist, F2M: The Boy Within, by Hazel Edwards and Ryan Kennedy, a young trans man. I’ve reviewed it on this site if you are interested.

Helen had a list of Aussie small presses on her web site. Angela said there were some literary magazines that considered spec fic. 

There was also discussion of the advantages of meeting editors, fellow writers, etc, in person rather then on line, although Angela said she had started off blogging, in a small town, and people who read her blog had become her friends when she came to Melbourne.

I watched this panel on my balcony, as I ate my lunch. 

Afterwards, I listened with great delight to a performance by the Atlanta Radio Theatre of some SF stories, mostly a play version of H. Beam Piper’s story Omnilingual, which is available free on Project Gutenberg. They have a web site, so I signed up for the newsletter. 

Hopefully I can catch one more panel tonight before bedtime. 

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Oz Is Burning: A Cover Reveal!

ConZealand is over, though I will be catching up with panels I missed and wanted to see, but now I have had some good news to follow on. The anthology Oz Is Burning, in which I have a story, is about to emerge from its cocoon as a full-fledged butterfly. It was meant to be published on time for ConZealand, but it just couldn’t happen, for obvious reasons. 

At this stage, all I can offer you is the cover reveal. Here it is - great, isn’t it? And there are some amazing authors in it - who knew I’d be included among them? I am starting to understand the term “Imposter Syndrome”! 

There will be more later, and I’m going to promote it as much as I can. Although we are being paid, the further proceeds are going to a chosen charity. 

Here is how it happened. In January, when the major issue was the bushfires around Australia, when we were buying masks to protect ourselves from the smoke, instead of protect others from the virus, my friend Gillian Polack, historian and fantasy novelist, was visiting from Canberra, staying with her mother. She had left Canberra to escape the smoke, which was much worse than in Melbourne, and she has some physical issues that meant even in Melbourne she barely left the house while the air was not safe.

I went to visit her at her mother’s home, was treated to afternoon tea and told about this special anthology, which was in the US, but taking submissions only from writers in Australia and New Zealand. Gillian printed out the details for me. 

On my way home I thought about how I could write something and what it might be about. It had to be speculative fiction, of course, but I was not interested in making the bushfires about fire sprites or whatever. It was our fault that they happened, and nobody else’s. (And we had a Prime Minister who was on holiday in Hawaii, drinking cocktails on the beach while Oz burned and only returned when shamed into it, whining all the way. Worse than Nero, who rushed back to Rome from his holiday when he heard about the fire. No, he didn’t start it)

Thinking about my story, I was caught in a storm which began just before I reached my favourite restaurant on the route. I went in and ordered dinner and chatted with the young lady at the next table, who showed me photos of the small coastal town where her mother lived. It had escaped the fire, but the roads were blocked and there were no tourists, their regular income source. 

And there was a sky of red on New Year’s Eve.

“Looks like Mars, doesn’t it?” the lady said. 

It did. I wrote the story. There was a small town with a red sky on New Year’s Eve, and a lot of journalists covering the bushfires. 

Some of them were aliens. 


Because YA is what I do, I wrote it as a YA story, with a teenage heroine. And they bought it! 

It took about four drafts before I got it right. I removed the heroine’s two best friends, who had nothing to add to the story, though I did mention that she missed them, as they were both stuck in Melbourne. All three kids had the names of my former students and book club members. I chopped it down to 2000 words, figuring I had a better chance of selling it if it was shorter. 

There will be more information for you when I get it.