Monthly Archives: November 2009

I came second in Karen’s flash comp

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2
November 30, 2009

You may remember a little while ago I asked you to go and read a few flash fictions and vote for mine if you liked it? Here’s the post in question. Well, you’re all crap because I didn’t win.

However, to look at it another way, you’re all brilliant because I came second. Turns out I win an ebook. Thanks everyone. You can see the announcement here. I’m very pleased with that. I’ll post the story here at the end of the week as a Friday Flash entry.

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I will kill George Lucas with a shovel

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12
November 29, 2009

My friend Michael over A Nadder put me on to these and I did enjoy them. I have to say, I am in pretty much total agreement. Firstly, from the You AUGHT To Remember blog (wherein I’m hoping, by the capitalisation, that the spelling mistake is deliberate) we have a Cease & Desist letter addressed to George Lucas for crimes against his own previous brilliance during the last decade.

The letter begins:

Dear Mr. Lucas:

It has come to our attention that your actions over the past decade in the production of the films Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars Episode 3: Return of the Sith (hereafter referred to as “Star Bores”) as well as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (hereafter referred to as “Grandpa Jones”) infringes upon the rights of millions of moviegoers to preserve their childhood memories unscathed. This is a clear violation of your contract with the public to create films worthy of the legacy that you, yourself, began in 1977. Your recent actions have been grossly negligent, displaying a complete lack of regard for taste and artistic merit. Star Bores and Grandpa Jones represent a failure to satisfy the duty of care mandated for a filmmaker of your status.

A partial list of the infringing acts are enumerated herein:

You can read on at the blog in question here.

And, in similar vein, we have this. Which pretty much sums it up for me. Although there’s so much more that also require additional strikes of the shovel (midichlorians, for example), but this is plenty to be going on with.

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Might need to reschedule

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4
November 28, 2009

I was walking from King’s Comics to Galaxy Books this morning before heading back to Freecon and saw this. It gave me a chuckle. Hundreds and hundreds of years of systematic indoctrination, persecution and abuse? They might need more than an hour to fix that.

 Might need to reschedule

Freecon 2009 – you coming?

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4
November 24, 2009

No posts for days, then three in a row. I am the bus poster.

Just wanted to let everyone know about Freecon 2009 this weekend. This is a small and completely free SF convention held in Sydney each year. This year it’s at Bankstown library (a two-minute walk from Bankstown Railway Station, toward Keating Park, the Bankstown Court complex and the Town Hall apparently).

It runs over Friday evening then all weekend. The sessions are Friday November 27th from 6 to 8 pm, Saturday November 28th from 8.30am to 4pm and Sunday November 29th from 1 to 4pm. Wait, 8,30am on Saturday!? Fuck me, that’s an early start from where I live. I’m going to be there a bit late.

There’s a short story competition, a crazy auction thing, lots of panels and general con-related tomfoolery. I’ll be there along with a glistening plethora of other writers, including:

Alan Baxter – RealmShift/MageSign www.alanbaxteronline.com
David Ko Chin – http://davidkochin.com/
Louise Curtis – Daylight (a twittertale) http://twittertales.wordpress.com
David Dale
Terry Dowling – http://www.terrydowling.com/
Dr Van Ikin – The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction
Kate Forsyth – The Puzzle Ring www.kateforsyth.com.au
Pamela Freeman – Full Circle, http://www.pamelafreemanbooks.com/
Richard Harland – Worldshaker www.richardharland.net
Duncan Lay – The Wounded Guardian Blog: www.duncanlay.blogspot.cpm
Lewis Morley & Marilyn Pride – “The Peregrine Besset Omnibus” and “Red World Holiday”
Gillian Polack – Life Through Cellophane www.Trivium.net/gillianpolack
Stella Tarackson

Seriously, for a free convention that’s a pretty stellar line-up. And that’s only the official guests. In alphabetical order, by the way, not some self-congratulatory order where I put myself at the top of the list over names like those. That list is taken from the latest email about the con from the organiser, to which I’ve added a few web addresses where I could find them. Do a little bit of web searching on those names if you don’t know them and be amazed at the incredible spec-fic talent therein. There’ll be loads of other writers and associated folk at the con as well and I’m sure there’ll be a general air of SF partying.

Anyway, I’ll be there on Saturday and Sunday (I can’t make the Friday session) so come along, have fun and don’t forget to say hello.

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Speak of characters and critique shall appear

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November 24, 2009

Funny. I’d just published the previous post about characters, then off I went to check my Google Alerts. I found a review of RealmShift by Karen Lee Field. I know Karen from a great writers messageboard that sadly no longer exists and I usually read her blog. I’m rather honoured to discover that RealmShift was the first ebook Karen ever read, on her new iPod Touch, and it was a pleasant experience for her in terms of ebook reading and enjoyment of my novel. It’s an all round superwin!

Interestingly, among other things, Karen had this to say:

I was pleased to find characters with depth, characters I could relate to. Strangely, I could even understand why the bad characters were bad, which means they were well written and fully developed.

I take that as an enormous compliment. At least I know I can do it. Acheiving the same thing in my short fiction might be harder, but I know I have it in me. You can read the whole review here if you’re interested.

Thanks Karen if you’re reading! I’m glad you liked the book. You going to read MageSign too? People tell me it’s better.

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Cliched characters

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6
November 24, 2009

I saw this via S F Signal blogger John De Nardo’s Facebook feed today and it made me laugh.

The 10 Most Clichéd Character Types in Sci-Fi:

10. The Robot Who Wants To Be Human

9. The May-Or May-Not Be the Devil Guy

8. Pure Energy Beings

7. The Accidental Time-Tourist

6. Genetically Superior Smug Humans

5. The Monocultural Alien

4. The Captain Ahab

3. The Bumbling Robot

2. The Evil Twin

1. The Over-Obsessed Scientist

Click on the title link above to have a breakdown and examples of each of the ten – very amusing. But it also got me thinking. I’ve been working pretty hard on a story recently for a particular market and one of the real issues is making well-rounded, believable characters. And that doesn’t just count for my most recent story, it counts for all stories.

Not only do characters have to seem real, they have avoid being cliches like the examples above and they also have to avoid being Mary Sues. I don’t have so much of a problem in longer fiction when it comes to building characters, but creating solid characters that the reader cares about in short fiction is really, really hard. Definitely planning your characters as much as you plan your story is a good start. I need to apply the same methods in my short fiction that I apply in my novel length work and really get inside the character’s heads. Just because the story is shorter, the characters are no less important.

I think it’s one of the things that really sets apart great short fiction writers from good writers. The other things that set them apart are expert storytelling and excellent writing, naturally. All of which I aspire to. Ever onwards. For the writers out there, what are you methods for building good characters? For the readers, what do you like to learn about your characters?

Anyway, go and read the list of ten cliches linked above. It’s funny.

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I’m genetically obliged to post this

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12
November 21, 2009

Just so you don’t think that I’m being plainly racist here, my British heritage makes me genetically obliged to post this. It’s something I can’t avoid, I was culturally committed from the moment I saw it. Here’s a Chinese taxi driver with a no holds barred approach to his work:

RefusalToCarry Im genetically obliged to post this

refuse to carry frenchmen and dogs

I’d love to know just what his experience was that caused him to have that sign made up. You can only assume that it wasn’t a single incident either. Or if it was a single incident, it must have been a doozy.

I just can’t understand what his problem is with dogs.

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I’m sick

By
13
November 19, 2009

Summer colds really suck. Summer colds especially suck when you also suffer from hayfever. I’m currently moping around the house, coughing my guts up, sneezing, getting through tissues like a man possessed and generally feeling very sorry for myself. I also have a headache.

It pisses me off because I had stuff planned for this weekend, starting tonight, and that might all turn to nought now.

Bastard.

I’m really sick.

That is all.

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Unfriend becomes word of the year

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12
November 17, 2009

My good friend and IT lifeline, James Frost, sent me this. According to The Register, the New Oxford American Dictionary’s 2009 Word of the Year is “unfriend”. As in, “Me and Haley had this huge, like, fight and stuff so I totally unfriended her on Facebook.”

The actual entry is: Unfriend: verb; to remove someone as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site such as Facebook.

Christine Lindberg, Senior Lexicographer for Oxford’s US dictionary, said, “It has both currency and potential longevity”. She also said, “But ‘unfriend’ is different from the norm. It assumes a verb sense of ‘friend’ that is really not used.” Which is complete bollocks. Of course the verb use of friend is used. I’ve had people say to me, “Friend me on Facebook and send me the link” or similar. If they accept unfriend as a verb, friend as a verb is a given. That’s what you get with an American dictionary, I suppose. Perhaps they’re less friendly over there and only recognise unfriending people.

According to the article, other finalists in the 2009 Word Of The Year included:

Hashtag: a # sign added to a word or phrase that enables Twitter users to search for tweets that contain similarly tagged items and view thematic sets.

Netbook: a small, very portable laptop computer with limited memory.

Paywall: a way of blocking access to a part of a website which is only available to paying subscribers.

Freemium: a business model in which some basic services are provided for free, with the aim of enticing users to pay for additional, premium features or content.

Funemployed: taking advantage of one’s newly unemployed status to have fun or pursue other interests.

Tramp Stamp: a tattoo on the lower back, usually on a woman.

Seriously, this dictionary is losing credibility all over the place. First they claim there’s no such verb as friend, after making unfriend the word of the year. Then they claim that “tramp stamp” was a contender for word of the year. That’s two words! How does it even qualify?

Still, at least they avoided drawing attention to the rise in use of medal and podium as verbs. That began to annoy me more and more throughout the last Olympics. Language is an organic and ever growing thing, changes are going to occur and there’s no point railing against it. But let’s at least try to keep some kind of order. At the very least, let’s not include phrases in some arbitrary “Word Of The Year” debacle.

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Outlandish Voices podcast coming soon

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5
November 17, 2009

outlandish voices Outlandish Voices podcast coming soonI had an interesting experience last night. By the very generous invitation of Laura Goodin I went to Wollongong and recorded one of my stories for a podcast. Laura produces the Outlandish Voices podcast where short speculative fiction stories from established and emerging writers in the Illawarra region are read, usually by the writers themselves.

One of my stories, Standoff, has been podcast before, but that was read by someone else for the Wily Writers website. This is the first time I’ve read one of my own stories aloud. For some reason my English accent seemed to come through when I sat down in front of the mic. I’m not sure why, but at least it wasn’t the west country or Scottish aspect of my heritage that came through. So, if any of you are interested in hearing me read you a story, watch this space and I’ll let you know when it’s up. The story in question is Crossfire, originally published in The Oddville Press.

I joked with Laura that from all of my work, she’d avoided the darker stories and chose the one funny, whimsical sort of thing I’d had published. She said, “That’s because dark is not how I roll.” Fair enough. I’ll let you know when the story is up – meanwhile, go and have a listen the other stuff that’s there already.

Here’s the Outlandish Voices site to get the podcasts, via Australian Community Radio Podcasts.

And here’s the Outlandish Voices Facebook page. Become a fan!

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The website of author Alan Baxter

Alan Baxter, Author

Author of horror, dark fantasy & sci-fi. Kung Fu instructor. Personal Trainer. Motorcyclist. Dog lover. Gamer. Heavy metal fan. Britstralian. Zetetic.

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