Monthly Archives: November 2010

Give books generously this Xmas

November 30, 2010

Any regular readers here will know how I feel about Xmas and pretty much any other religious festival. Or any religion for that matter. But I do try to enter into the spirit of a small part of Xmas, that being the whole hanging out with family and sharing gifts thing. Of course, that’s actually nothing to do with the Christ Mass that the holiday is based upon, but the Christians only stole the Roman Sol Invictus festival anyway, so it’s all bollocks. My point is, at this time of year we try to get together with loved ones and share gifts and food. That’s a good thing.

I don’t have much in the way of family these days, but I have my in-laws, who are all very nice people to be around, and I have friends that are as close, if not closer, than family. Catching up with these people and having a big feed, spending time together, sharing gifts, it’s all very important and enjoyable stuff. I always hope that during this time some of the stuff I get will be books. And it usually is. As far as I’m concerned, there are few better gifts than a book. I’m sure I could think of some things I’d rather have than a book, but this is not the place to explore my fantasties – you can read my novels for that.

I also plan to give away a lot of books this year. I dig giving people a book as a gift that I know, or at least suspect very strongly, that they’ll really like. Perhaps one of the biggest drawbacks of the current ebook revolution is that we won’t have so many solid books to wrap up in silly paper and hand over as presents. Regardless, in the meantime, I’ll still be giving a lot of books as gifts this Xmas.

Which brings me to another point. I’ve decided to start giving books away all the time. I’m basically starting a new policy as from this Xmas. If anyone asks me if they can borrow any particular book from now on, I’m not going to lend it to them. I’m going to give it to them. If it’s a special book, a rare or limited edition, or a signed copy or something like that, then I’ll say no, they can’t borrow it. If it’s just a book that anyone can still buy off the shelf, I’ll give it to them. If I really like it, I’ll get myself another one, or look out for it in secondhand bookstores.

Now, don’t immediately think to abuse my new found book philanthropy and start asking me for books left, right and centre. This is something that will happen naturally. Someone sees a book in my house, expresses an interest, asks if they can borrow it and I’ll say, “Here, have it.” I think that’ll make everyone involved feel good and the book goes on to do its thing for more people instead of just sitting on a shelf.

Try it. You might like it.


How many of the Top 100 have you read?

November 29, 2010

There’s this meme going around Facebook at the moment, so I thought I’d drag it out of the social network and onto my blog. It’s pretty flawed, as these things always are, but interesting nonetheless. (Although I am confused by 14 and 98 – bit of a cock up there). Anyway, it goes like this:

Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here.

Instructions: Copy this into your NOTES. Bold those books you’ve read in their entirety, italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish or read an excerpt. Tag other book nerds. Tag me as well so I can see your responses!

So yeah, the usual chain letter nature of these things applies here. I’ll bold and italicise as instructed. If you’re reading this, consider yourself tagged.

1) Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen (Does And Zombies count?)

2) The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien

3) Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

4) Harry Potter series – JK Rowling

5) To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

6) The Bible

7) Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

8 ) Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

9) His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman

10) Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

11) Little Women – Louisa M Alcott

12) Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

13) Catch 22 – Joseph Heller

14 ) Complete Works of Shakespeare – This could be a bold one, but I’m not sure I’ve read everything.

15) Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier – not sure if I finished it ornot, was quite young

16) The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

17) Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks

18) Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

19) The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

20) Middlemarch – George Eliot

21) Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell

22) The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

23) Bleak House – Charles Dickens

24) War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

25) The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

26) Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh

27) Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28) Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

29) Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

30) The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

31) Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

32) David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

33) Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis – I don’t think I’ve read all seven, or whatever it is.

34) Emma – Jane Austen

35) Persuasion – Jane Austen

36) The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis – Isn’t this part of the Chronicles of Narnia? It’s the 14/98 situation all over again. This really isn’t a very well thought out list…

37) The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

38) Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Berniere

39) Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

40) Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne

41) Animal Farm – George Orwell

42) The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown

43) One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44) A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving

45) The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

46) Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery

47) Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

48) The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

49) Lord of the Flies – William Golding

50) Atonement – Ian McEwan

51) Life of Pi – Yann Martel

52) Dune – Frank Herbert

53) Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

54) Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

55) A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth

56) The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57) A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

58) Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

59) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon

60) Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61) Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

62) Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

63) The Secret History – Donna Tartt

64) The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold

65) Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

66) On The Road – Jack Kerouac

67) Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy

68) Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding

69) Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

70) Moby Dick – Herman Melville – Yep, I’m one of those people that’s actually read this whole book. I now know far too much about whales.

71) Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens

72) Dracula – Bram Stoker

73) The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

74) Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson

75) Ulysses – James Joyce

76) The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

77) Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome

78) Germinal – Emile Zola

79) Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackera

80) Possession – AS Byatt

81) A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

82) Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

83) The Color Purple – Alice Walker

84) The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

85) Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

86) A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

87) Charlotte’s Web – EB White

88) The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom

89) Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle I’ve read a lot of Sherlock Holmes, so I assume this is one of them. Is this an omnibus edition or something?

90) The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton

91) Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

92) The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93) The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

94) Watership Down – Richard Adams

95) A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

96) A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute

97) The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

98) Hamlet – William Shakespeare

99) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

100) Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

That’s not a bad result, I suppose. Certainly more than six. But I do question the list. Including “complete works” or series, then adding another item which is a book from that series is a bit redundant and shows quite a lack of thought and planning in the list. But there you go. The list did at least make me notice a couple of things that I’ve been meaning to read but still haven’t, so it wasn’t a complete waste of time.


EDIT: Thanks to Trudi Canavan in the comments for pointing out that the list from Facebook is not, in fact, the same as the original list from the BBC, which you can read here. Which is also out of date, having been last updated in August 2004. Ah, the internet is a minefield of “almost”.


Don’t say Face!

November 28, 2010

In a quick bit of nonsense news from teh intertubes, my mate Graham pointed out to me that Facebook are trying to trademark the word “Face”. According to the news article:

The Facebook empire has just had a trademark application accepted for any use of the word “Face” in any product or service that could remotely be seen as offering any kind of competition to the all-conquering social network.

Specifically, the trademark covers “telecommunication services, namely, providing online chat rooms and electronic bulletin boards for transmission of messages among computer users in the field of general interest and concerning social and entertainment subject matter, none primarily featuring or relating to motoring or to cars”.

None relating to cars, mind you. Oh no, car social networks can use “Face” as much as they like. For some reason.

Facebook now has to provide the US Patent & Trademark Office with a statement of use within three months. Presumably their statement of use will be something along the lines of, “We use it as half of our name.”

Of course, it seems to me, as the original article points out, that this is a direct attack on Steve Jobs and Apple, targetting their whole Facetime thing. After Google and Facebook came to blows last week over Google refusing Facebook users direct connection to their Contacts list, and now this, I’m sitting back and popping me some corn. Seriously, when Google, Apple and Facebook finally get together to settle this thing, it’ll make Godzilla versus King Kong versus King Ghidorah seem like a schoolyard noogiefest.

Interesting times ahead.


Independent Inkwell: Australian Small Publishing, a half hour documentary

November 24, 2010

Independent Inkwell: Australian Small Publishing is a half hour documentary delving into the motivations and stories of small and independent publishers. It’s a fascinating bit of television, not least because I’m in it. Wearing my small press publisher hat rather than my writer hat I was asked to participate on behalf of Blade Red Press. Several Australian small and independent presses are involved, including Keith Stevenson of coeur de lion publishing, another spec fic specialist that I’ve talked about here a lot in the past.

The documentary is made by Max Rowan and was originally shown on TVS. It’s now been uploaded to YouTube in three parts, each around 8 minutes (the half hour includes commercials, obviously, that aren’t in the YouTube version.) While it’s focussed on Australian small press, everything said applies to indie publishing worldwide. There’s also some talk about the crossover with small press, indie press and self-publishing. It’s really interesting viewing and above everything else left me feeling very positive for the future of small press and very proud of the small press community, here and overseas. Viva la revolution!

I’ve embedded all three parts below.


A few funny words

November 23, 2010

I’m often entertained by notices in public places, from street signs to restaurant menus and everything in between. Sometimes it’s a case of English as a second language creating the funnies. Other times it’s people trying too hard to say the right thing. After Freecon this Saturday a bunch of us went out for dinner and I found some comments on a menu that seem to be the result of both these things.

The photo hasn’t come out all that well unfortunately. It’s the red bits that made me laugh. The one at the bottom under Spaghetti Vongole says:

WARNING: Please allow on rare occasion clams may have an insignificant minor sand content.

Well, it’s either insignificant or minor. And if you can notice it while eating the clams, it’s really neither.

The one above that is even better:

WARNING: Please allow on extremely rare occasions, Neonata Fritters may contain Sea Matter. While extreme caution & preparation go into preparing this dish Sea Matter may appear in the final dish.

There is so much wrong with this sentence. First and foremost, what the fuck is Sea Matter? That could mean anything from a shark to a turd. Also, notice that extreme preparation goes into preparing that dish. Is that preparation while bungee jumping or something?

And it was a night for weird wordage. While at the restaurant I was sending an email from my iPhone about the board game High Frontier. I made a slight typo in the word “boardgame” and look what the old Autocorrect suggested:

That’s right Apple. You won’t show boobs in any of your applications, but you’ll jump at the chance to suggest “bisexuals” when I’ve typed “biardgame”.

It’s a funny old world.


Cheap books or surviving business?

November 22, 2010

I recently posted about how Aussies can get great prices on books right now because the Aussie dollar and the US dollar are at around 1:1 for the first time. Chuck McKenzie, recently wrote about how cheap online stores are a real threat to bookshops. He cited my post in his own. Chuck’s a good friend of mine, a writer and makes his career as a bookseller, so there’s a good case to be made from his perspective and I certainly don’t take any offence that he would use my post to help back up his own position. He makes many good points that are worth considering.

Chuck’s points about the comparisons between online bookstores and the paralell importation issues are valid. Follow the links in Chuck’s post to learn more. Chuck says:

I’m not pissed off that people are buying online – I’m pissed off at the lack of balance, in that so many people – and, it must be said, so many of the same people who vigorously defended the rights of authors and publishers during the PI debacle – are now singing the praises of the online booksellers without apparently taking stock of what effect this shift in consumer behaviour will mean for traditional booksellers.

I’m rather torn on this subject. I want there to be traditional booksellers. I love bookshsops. I love the people that run bookshops. I’ve always dreamed of owning a bookshop, though I know it’s a pipe dream. But I also love cheap books, because that means I can afford to buy more. I love shopping online because I live in the country and the internet is like a massive mall right on my desk. I’m also a big fan of ebooks, Print-On-Demand as an alternate publishing model and so on. The face of publishing and book selling is changing. We’re moving into the future every day.

The problem is that these things are market driven. While I would love to support Australian stores by buying from them, if I can get two books for the price of one by going online, I probably will. I guess bookshops need to rise to the challenge and offer something the online stores can’t. If they can’t compete with pricing, they need something else to keep them viable. What that something else might be is anyone’s guess. But market forces will ensure that bookshops survive or die based on the services they offer. It would be great if it were different, but we can’t hold back progress, even if it kills things. Which is regularly does.

In my own case, my novels are published in the US. There’s no domestic Australian distribution. So the only way to get them is online. I have some copies here and am always happy to send out a signed copy to anyone that buys one, but it’ll cost them more than if they bought it from Amazon or Book Depository. Maybe having a signed copy is enough to warrant the extra expense on their part. I also sell them at cons and have books in a variety of bookstores that are generous enough to stock them for me. Chuck’s store is one of those and I’m extremely grateful to Chuck for helping me to shift books by making them available on Australian shelves.

You may remember the instore signing I did recently. That was at Chuck’s shop and it was excellent fun, we all sold some books and had a great time. I don’t want to see things like that stop. I don’t want Chuck’s career to get eaten by progress.

Perhaps it’s worth all of us stopping periodically to check before we buy a book. Maybe we should think about local business over price and try to help bookstores survive. But it’s not really our job to do that. We’re the consumers and we’ll be guided by the market and the prices. As a writer, I want as many bookstores as possible, because that should mean more sales for me. I can’t see bookstores ever disappearing completely. But while we wait for the shops to come up with ways to keep themselves going, maybe we should do all within our means to support them in the meantime.


Freecon this weekend in Sydney

November 19, 2010

I’ve been remiss in mentioning this, so apologies for the incredibly short notice. Freecon is on in Sydney this weekend and it’d be great to see people there. It’s a science fiction and fantasy convention and, as the name suggests, it’s free. It’s also a very small and intimate affair, so it makes for a good opportunity to get a bit closer to some writers and get to know some local fans.

When I said it was short notice, I wasn’t lying. It starts tonight. The official con sessions are tonight from 5.30 to 9.00pm, Saturday from 9.00 am to 4.00 pm and Sunday from 1.00 to 4.00 pm. I won’t be there tonight, but I’ll be there all day tomorrow and Sunday afternoon. Writers taking part in various con panels and activities are (alphabetically) Joanne Anderton, Alan Baxter, Jenny Blackford, Russell Blackford, Matt Chrulew, Bill Congreve, David Dale, Thoraiya Dyer, Pamela Freeman, Laura Goodin, Richard Harland, Van Ikin, Crisetta MacLeod, Nicole Murphy, Gillian Polack, Emmett Spain and John Walker.

That’s a damned interesting cross-section of Australian spec fic talent, so worth your effort if you can get along. The thing is being held at Bankstown Library, 62 The Mall, Bankstown.

Come along and say hello, and please tell any friends or colleagues that might be interested.


Site upgrade

November 19, 2010

Apologies if you spot any weirdness on this site over the next few days. We’re upgrading from the Basic theme to the Premium theme, which gives us a lot more options. The front end (this bit you’re looking at) shouldn’t change much at all, you may not even notice. But if we fuck something up and it all goes pear shaped, please bear with us.

Also, if you spot any links or pages that are broken or corrupted in any way, please let me know via email (look under the typewriter in the right hand sidebar.) Many thanks.


Christmas shopping solved by SpecFaction NSW

November 17, 2010

SpecFaction NSWThanks to the amazing generosity of many people within our local speculative fiction community – SpecFaction NSW are hosting a fundraising Ebay auction.

You can bid on an original print from Scott Westerfield’s Leviathan or a bundle of autographed fantasy, science fiction or horror novels from a huge list of Aussie authors including: Sara Douglass, Ian Irvine, Sean Williams and Shane Dix, Traci Harding, Karen Miller, Stephen Irwin, Nathan Burrage, Richard Harland, Marianne De Pierres, Angela Slatter, Kate Forsyth, Isabel Merlin, Sophie Masson, Jack Dann, Kaaron Warren, Shane Jiraiya Cummings and Kirstyn McDermott.

The autographed books are being auctioned off in five book-bundles. For a complete description of the contents of each bundle or to bid on one of these great items refer to the list of Ebay item numbers below and make sure you place our bid between 16 and 25 November, 2010.

You can view all the items on auction at the SpecFaction eBay auction page or click on the item number links below to go to specific items.

Signed short story collections including an unpublished story by Sean Williams (Item Number: 200542551759)
New and signed fantasy novels (Item Number: 200542236233)
New and signed fantasy novels for all ages (Item Number: 200542554272)
New and signed science fiction novels (Item Number: 200542552834)
New and signed dark fantasy, horror, and historical novels (Item Number: 200542556121)
Print from Scott Westerfeld’s novel Leviathan, signed by the artist (Item Number: 200542561373)

The auction is being held by SpecFaction NSW Inc., hosts of the 2010 Aurealis Awards. Funds raised will go towards holding the awards night and helping create a range of NSW based events and activities for readers and writers of speculative fiction. SpecFaction NSW is a not for profit group.

For more information on the 2010 Aurealis Awards go to


Phantoms of Suburbia – an exhibition

November 16, 2010

Today I’m using my blog for some nepotism. And there’s nothing wrong with that. My wife, Halinka Orszulok, is an artist and has a show coming up, so I wanted to talk a bit about it. Her artwork is not unlike my writing – dark and suggestive, subverting commonly held perceptions. She’s been kind enough to supply the artwork for two of the books published my small press venture, Blade Red Press. Here are the books in question:

Souls Along The Meridian

Dark Pages

These are both excellent collections of dark speculative fiction, by the way, so be sure to go here and buy copies. You won’t regret it.

Halinka now has a solo exhibition coming up at Flinders Street Gallery in Sydney, so I’d like to officially invite you all along. The show runs from the 18th November to the 11th December and the official opening night is Tuesday 23rd November from 6 to 8pm. That’s when the big crowds, free booze and Halinka herself will be there. Yes, you read that right. Free booze.

Halinka has written all about her work on her website, and it’s well worth a read. You can find that here. You can also see a gallery of her work, including all the new pieces for this forthcoming show, at her gallery page here.

Below is the official invite for the show, click it for a larger version.

Hope to see a lot of you there. Please do spread the word to anyone that you think might be interested.



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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