Monthly Archives: May 2011

ThrillerCast Episode 18 – getting noticed as a writer

May 31, 2011

thrillercastEpisode18 of the podcast I host with David Wood is now up. In this episode we talk about what it takes to get noticed as a writer. We discuss short fiction as a means of promotion as well as a means of creativity in itself. We talk about the difference between having a large body of work and a large online presence. Whether one or the other is better and so on. Go and have a listen, share it with your friends and anyone else you think might like it and feel free to comment or email.

All the details here.


Slut is a powerful word

May 28, 2011

Cities across Australia and the world are meeting points today for thousands of people who plan to take part in a SlutWalk. There have been many walks already and many more are planned. The idea was born when one Canadian policeman said women needed to take responsibility in the prevention of sexual assaults by not dressing like sluts. The reaction was, understandably, outrage. The walks are, in essence, women reclaiming the word slut and marching for their rights to dress how they please and never be at risk of sexual assault, abuse and rape.

Gay people have done a great job in reclaiming the word queer. Black people have managed to make nigger a part of their own vocabulary while it’s completely taboo for anyone else to say it. But they’re just words. Words on their own have no power. It’s how they’re used and how they’re directed that make them powerful. I just said nigger above – look, I did it again! – but it’s simply a word, used to convey a point. Using it in description of someone is universally recognised as an abusive, racist act and that’s wrong.

I’ve known girls that will greet each other with, “What’s up, sluts?” and all laugh about it. But if I were to call any one of them a slut they would be justifiably outraged and offended. It’s not the word that’s the problem, it’s the intent. It’s the baggage that comes with the word. It’s the sneakily “disguised” position held by the person using the word that has the power.

That Canadian policeman said to ten college students in April, “I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this – however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised.” The guy is clearly a dickhead. Dressing “like a slut” doesn’t make people sexually assault you, any more than heavy metal makes you suicidal or video games make you a mass murderer. People are already suicidal, homicidal or sexually sociopathic and any excuse will do. Women can dress however they like and should be able to do so without ever feeling at risk. They might attract some appreciative glances, but they should never be told they’re attracting attack.

I don’t know whether reclaiming the word slut is really going to work in the same way as queer or nigger or other reclamations have worked. But I do know this:

No woman should ever be the victim of sexual abuse or assault for any reason. There is never an excuse, whether it be alcohol/drugs made me do it, the way she dressed means she was asking for it, or the little voices in my head told me to. Any victimisation of anyone is wrong and only the fault of the attacker.

So walk with pride, and know that most men I know agree that a women is never a fair target of abuse or assault.


Emerging Writers’ Festival 2011 TwitterFEST

May 25, 2011

The Emerging Writers’ Festival is an independent arts organisation based in Melbourne’s Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas, that exists in order to promote the interests of emerging writers – to improve their opportunities for professional development as well as their engagement with the broader public. Each year the Emerging Writers’ Festival brings writers, editors, publishers and literary performers together with the reading public for a festival that is fast becoming an essential part of Australia’s literary calendar.

This year it’s held from May 26th (that’s tomorrow!) until June 5th, and there’s loads going on. You can learn all about it and find out what’s happening at the website:

But you don’t have to be in Melbourne to get involved. There’s an online component and I’ll be part of that. The EWF this year includes TwitterFEST. From the site:

TwitterFEST is a series of festival discussions featuring… you! It’s social media mixed with literary debate, so get those #ewf11 hashtags happening and get ready to bounce ideas off some of Australia’s best writers and thinkers.

Follow @emergingwriters on Twitter, watch the #ewf11 hashtag and show up at 2pm each day to join in. I’m hosting the TwitterFEST on Wednesday, June 1st. Here are the TwitterFESTs in order:

Mon 30 May, 2pm – 3pm
Do you play? with Paul Callaghan (@paul_callaghan)
How important is experimentation and play to the creative process?

Tues 31 May, 2pm – 3pm
Writing vs Sport with Soph Langley (@sophlangley)
Can physical fitness play a role in our writing lives?

Wed 1 June, 2pm – 3pm
Can Genre Fiction Be Literary? with Alan Baxter (@alanbaxter)
Why is genre fiction so often spoken about separately from literary fiction?

Thursday 2 June, 2pm – 3pm
Writing about Place with PM Newton (@pmnewton)
How do you create a strong sense of place in your work – and do you need to visit somewhere to be
able to write about it?

Friday 3 June, 2pm – 3pm
Are we living in a post-publisher world? with If:Book Australia (@ifbookaus)
How is the role of publisher evolving since the digital revolution, and what does it mean for writers?

So get involved. Tell your friends, spread the word and let’s get some lively debate happening. See you there!


Of readers and gatekeepers – a call to arms

May 23, 2011

Are you reading this? Then I’m talking to you. You’re a reader and you have a new responsibility. I’m including myself in this. I’m a writer, but I’m a reader too. Any writer worth his or her salt should be a voracious reader, and we’ve got a new responsibility as well. We’re all the New Gatekeepers. No, not extras in a Doctor Who episode, don’t get over-excited.

There’s so much talk about the changing face of publishing, and justifiably so. It’s an exciting time and writing and publishing is going through a renaissance brought about by new technologies. That means there are options out there for pretty much everyone to get their writing out into the world, and a lot of people are taking up the opportunity. Some people are doing seriously well out of it, like Amanda Hocking. Others are doing rather less well, like the poor woman that immolated her career with one online review – you know who I mean. But one of the net results of this revolution in publishing is that readers have been saddled with a massive new responsibility.

Gatekeeping is important. In the good old days of the late 90s and early 2000s, and since forever before that, the gatekeepers were the publishers. Writers would approach publishers, either directly or through agents, and publishers would decide what was published and what wasn’t. They essentially filtered what everyone got to read. The upside of this was, largely, the stuff that made it into print was generally well written and worth reading. Generally. We all know publishers are quite capable of turning out reams of utter shite too. But on the whole they ensured a general level of quality control. The downside, apart from the afore-mentioned shite, is that they also ensured that anything risky or unusual, something strangely cross-genre, something not immediately saleable, was unlikely to see the light of day. There were self-publishing and small press success stories, where the unlikely became massive, but those hits were very, very rare.

Now, with the advent of Print On Demand and ebook technology, publishers have found those gatekeeping responsibilities ripped away. Writers are still keen to be published by the big guys – there’s a definite advantage to it, both in terms of credibility and distribution, hence readership. But literally millions of people are circumventing the publishers and self-publishing. Millions more are scoring smaller deals with small press. The volume of stuff out there is staggering. And a lot of it is complete shit.

Remember, the publishers themselves have turned out many stinkers over the years, but the strike rate for quality – in editing, formatting, production and so on, as well as writing ability – has generally been kept high even if the stories were rubbish. Not always, but often. Nowadays people think it’s easy to write and be “published” and there’s loads of stuff out there that really shouldn’t see the light of day. Poorly written, poorly edited, poorly formatted – just poor. And that’s where we as readers come in. This is why we are the New Gatekeepers.

Success in writing has always relied on word of mouth. When a big publisher puts the might of the marketing machine behind a new release that word of mouth gets a massive head start, but it’s still the reviews and recommendations of critics and readers that determine whether a book is truly successful or not. That’s still the case, but the mainstream reviewers can’t keep up with the tsunami of words constantly bearing down on them. Along with all the newly published writers, a whole bunch of new reviewers have cropped up, and many book review blogs are developing considerable power. This is a very good thing, as it helps to strim out the crap and let the quality stuff rise to the top.

But you don’t need a review blog to wield power in this new world. You’re a reader – you have enormous power. If only you’d use it. By the Power of Yourskull! Or, more accruately, the brain within it. If you read something you like, tell people all about it. Recommend it to your friends, buy it and gift it to people. You can gift ebooks now as well as print books. There is no better result for a writer than a reader enjoying the book and recommending it. But don’t stop there – there’s so much more you can do, very easily.

You don’t need to be a talented reviewer to review books.,, Goodreads, Smashwords – all these places and more make it very easy for you to leave a review and rate a book. Or just rate it. Your review doesn’t have to be anything lengthy to have an impact. For example, look at this review of my second novel, MageSign, that a reader called Joefredwheels left on (Yes, I’m going to use my own work as reference. Sue me.):

excellent follow up – great story continuing adventure of first book protaganist. hoping for more stories in this world. Baxter is an excellent writer of a fast past exciting plot. THIS IS WORTH THE MONEY. BUY THE BOOK

He also rated it five stars. Brilliant. It’s very short, it’s not worrying about being good writing in itself, it’s simply conveying the person’s enjoyment of the book. Sure, it’s cool when readers take the time to write a few paragraphs of carefully thought out critique when they review, but the review above is just as valuable.

Here’s another example, this time a review of RealmShift, left on Amazon by Cathy Russell “Ganymeder”:

a well thought out tale – I liked that this story had believable characters and explored faith (or lack of), it’s origins, etc. It had a lot of deep themes. The characters were well thought out. The plot was engaging, and I liked the whole idea of a superhuman who could kick the devil’s ass. While reading this, I kept thinking it would make a great action movie or comic book too. I’d recommend this. 4 stars.

That wouldn’t have taken long to write, but in a single paragraph she recommends the book and gives some basic reasons why. Again, brilliant.

I can’t express how grateful I am when people take the time to do this. And it’s something we can all do, for any publication, anywhere on the web.

I tend to review books I enjoy here on my blog, but I’m a regular blogger anyway. I always rate them on Goodreads. I’m also planning to copy my reviews over onto Amazon and Goodreads – I wish I’d done it as I wrote them, as now it’s going to take a while and a concerted effort. But I’ll do it, because I plan to put my reviews where my mouth is.

So we, as readers, are the new gatekeepers. It’s our responsibility to help spread the word about the good stuff we read, and the bad. You don’t have to leave negative reviews on anything – just don’t review them. But it’s an act of true benevolence to leave good reviews of stuff you enjoy, or drop by websites and leave a star rating. You can write a single line or single paragraph review and copy that to all the sites you visit or shop at. If you do blog, then reviewing a book on your site is fantastic. But whatever you do, do something. Help spread the word. As writers, nothing is more valuable to us than the recommendations of readers. It’s always been that way, and now it’s more true than ever. Readers can make sure the good stuff out there gets noticed and more writers get themselves a well-earned career. Power to the people!


2010 Aurealis Awards results

May 22, 2011

Last night I attended the Aurealis Awards presentation, held for the first time in Sydney. Now I’m very tired and recovering from a hangover, so this won’t be a long post. It was great to catch up with so many friends again and celebrate the strength of speculative fiction in Australia. I’ll post a list of the winners below.

I had an additional honour in that I got to receive an award on behalf of someone that couldn’t be there. The Kris Hembury Encouragement Award this year went to Jodi Cleghorn, writer and publisher. You might recognise the name as I’ve blogged here a fair bit about 100 Stories For Queensland, that Jodi was instrumental in organising and publishing through her eMergent Publishing label. She also has a story of her own in Dead Red Heart, the anthology of Australian vampire stories from Ticonderoga Publications, which I’ve also blogged about as I have a story in there too. So I’ve been crossing paths a fair bit with Jodi over the last couple of years and it was my absolute pleasure to be able to receive the award on her behalf last night. She really deserved it. She didn’t know anything about it, and came back from a camping trip this morning to a flood of congratulations that completely spun her out. That’s what awards should be like!

The full winners list is as follows:

BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL: Transformation Space by Marianne de Pierres
BEST SCIENCE FICTION SHORT STORY: “The Heart of a Mouse” by K.J. Bishop
BEST FANTASY NOVEL: Power and Majesty by Tansy Rayner Roberts
BEST FANTASY SHORT STORY [TIE]: “The February Dragon” by L.L. Hannett & Angela Slatter and “Yowie” by Thoraiya Dyer
BEST HORROR NOVEL: Madigan Mine by Kirstyn McDermott
BEST HORROR SHORT STORY: “The Fear” by Richard Harland
BEST ANTHOLOGY: Wings of Fire, Edited by Jonathan Strahan and Marianne S. Jablon
BEST COLLECTION: The Girl With No Hands by Angela Slatter
BEST ILLUSTRATED BOOK/GRAPHIC NOVEL: Changing Ways: Book 1 by Justin Randall
BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL: Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey
BEST YOUNG ADULT SHORT STORY: “A Thousand Flowers” by Margo Lanagan
BEST CHILDREN’S FICTION(told primarily through pictures): The Boy and the Toy, Sonya Hartnett (writer) & Lucia Masciullo (illustrator)
BEST CHILDREN’S FICTION (told primarily through words): The Keepers, Lian Tanner

You can find out more about the awards and a full list of this year’s nominees at the Aurealis Awards site. Congratulations to all the nominees and winners.


The SF & F Short Story Collection Meme

May 17, 2011

I was watching on Twitter while Charles A Tan (of Bibliophile Stalker fame) chatted with all sorts of people about short story collections. Not anthologies, with multiple authors, but single author collections.

I’m a fan of short stories, I love writing and reading them, but I read most of my short fiction in magazines and anthologies – I have very few single author collections. I am keen to get more and Charles has created a meme to help us along the way. With people like Ellen Datlow, Jonathan Strahan, Kaaron Warren and others helping with their suggestions this is one serious quality list of science fiction and fantasy single author collections of short stories.

As Charles says:

I love the short story format and the problem with a lot of the book memes circulating is that they exclusively focus on novels. I’ve done some crowd sourcing (and some personal recommendations of course–this list isn’t meant to be objective) and I’ve come up with a list of 166 short story collections.

So you can use this list as a fantastic resource of great collections, or you can play along with the meme. In that case, the usual rules apply: bold those that you’ve read and italicise those that you own but haven’t read.

I know that my bolding and italicising would be woefully sparse, for the reasons mentioned above, so I won’t bother, but here’s the list:

1. The Monkey’s Wedding and Other Stories by Joan Aiken
2. Rashomon and Seventeen Other Stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa
3. The Kite of Stars and Other Stories by Dean Francis Alfar
4. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
5. Black Projects, White Knights by Kage Baker
6. The Best of J. G. Ballard by J.G. Ballard
7. Perpetuity Blues and Other Stories by Neal Barrett, Jr.
8. The Imago Sequence and Other Stories by Laird Barron
9. Occultation by Laird Barron
10. Mirror Kingdoms: The Best of Peter S. Beagle
11. The Collected Stories of Greg Bear by Greg Bear
12. The Chains That You Refuse by Elizabeth Bear
13. The Girl With The Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender
14. Lord Stink & Other Stories by Judith Berman
15. Trysts: A Triskaidecollection of Queer and Weird Stories by Steve Berman
16. A Book of Endings by Deborah Biancotti
17. Blooded on Arachne by Michael Bishop
18. One Winter in Eden by Michael Bishop
19. The Poison Eaters & Other Stories by Holly Black
20. Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings by Jorge Luis Borges
21. From the Files of the Time Rangers by Richard Bowes
22. Streetcar Dreams by Richard Bowes
23. The Stories of Ray Bradbury by Ray Bradbury
24. Graveyard People: The Collected Cedar Hill Stories by Gary Braunbeck
25. Home before Dark: The Collected Cedar Hill Stories by Gary Braunbeck
26. Particle Theory by Edward Bryant
27. Tides from the New Worlds by Tobias S. Buckell
28. Bloodchild and Other Stories By Octavia E. Butler
29. Dirty Work: Stories by Pat Cadigan
30. The Night We Buried Road Dog by Jack Cady
31. The Panic Hand by Jonathan Carroll
32. Burning Your Boats: The Collected Short Stories by Angela Carter
33. Fireworks: Nine Stories in Various Disguises by Angela Carter
34. The Bloody Chamber: And Other Stories by Angela Carter
35. The Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang
36. The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke by Arthur C. Clarke
37. The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories by Susanna Clarke
38. Novelties & Souvenirs, Collected Short Fiction by John Crowley
39. The Avram Davidson Treasury by Avram Davidson
40. The Enquiries of Dr. Eszterhazy by Avram Davidson
41. Driftglass: Ten Tales of Speculative Fiction by Samuel R. Delany
42. We Can Remember It for You Wholesale by Philip K. Dick
43. Strange Days: Fabulous Journeys with Gardner Dozois by Gardner Dozois
44. Beluthahatchie by Andy Duncan
45. What Will Come After by Scott Edelman
46. Axiomatic by Greg Egan
47. I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison
48. The Beast that Shouted Love at the Heart of the World by Harlan Ellison
49. Deathbird Stories by Harlan Ellison
50. The Collected Stories of Carol Emshwiller by Carol Emshwiller
51. Dangerous Space by Kelley Eskridge
52. Fugue State by Brian Evenson
53. Harsh Oases by Paul Di Filippo
54. The Fantasy Writer’s Assistant and Other Stories by Jeffrey Ford
55. The Empire of Ice Cream by Jeffrey Ford
56. The Drowned Life by Jeffrey Ford
57. Returning My Sister’s Face and Other Far Eastern Tales of Whimsy and Malice by Eugie Foster
58. Artificial Things by Karen Joy Fowler
59. What I Didn’t See and Other Stories by Karen Joy Fowler
60. Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman
61. Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman
62. Burning Chrome by William Gibson
63. In the Forest of Forgetting by Theodora Goss
64. Take No Prisoners by John Grant
65. The Best of Joe Haldeman by Joe Haldeman
66. Last Summer at Mars Hill by Elizabeth Hand
67. Saffron & Brimstone: Strange Stories by Elizabeth Hand
68. Things That Never Happen by M. John Harrison
69. The Past Through Tomorrow by Robert Heinlein
70. 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill
71. Skin Folk by Nalo Hopkinson
72. The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian by Robert E. Howard
73. The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
74. Unexpected Magics: Collected Stories by Diana Wynne Jones
75. Minor Arcana by Diana Wynne Jones
76. Grazing the Long Acre by Gwyneth Jones
77. The Wreck of the Godspeed and Other Stories by James Patrick Kelly
78. The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Other Stories by John Kessel
79. Night Shift by Stephen King
80. Different Seasons by Stephen King
81. Hearts in Atlantis by Stephen King
82. Portable Childhoods by Ellen Klages
83. Scenting the Dark and Other Stories by Mary Robinette Kowal
84. Nano Comes to Clifford Falls and Other Stories by Nancy Kress
85. Nine Hundred Grandmothers by R.A. Lafferty
86. Objects of Worship by Claude Lalumiere
87. Black Juice by Margo Lanagan
88. Red Spikes by Margo Lanagan
89. Yellowcake by Margo Lanagan
90. Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters by John Langan
91. The Best of Joe R. Lansdale by Joe R. Lansdale
92. The Wind’s Twelve Quarters by Ursula K. Le Guin
93. The Compass Rose by Ursula K. Le Guin
94. The Birthday of the World and Other Stories by Ursula K. Le Guin
95. Red as Blood, or Tales from the Sisters Grimmer by Tanith Lee
96. The First Book of Lankhmar by Fritz Leiber
97. The Second Book of Lankhmar by Fritz Leiber
98. The Nightmare Factory by Thomas Ligotti
99. Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link
100. Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link
101. Engines of Desire: Tales of Love & Other Horrors by Livia Llewellyn
102. H. P. Lovecraft: Tales by H.P. Lovecraft
103. Breathmoss and other Exhalations by Ian R. MacLeod
104. You Might Sleep by Nick Mamatas
105. Dreamsongs: A RRetrospective by George R. R. Martin
106. The Invisible Country by Paul McAuley
107. Harrowing the Dragon by Patricia McKillip
108. The Bone Key by Sarah Monette
109. The Best of Michael Moorcock by Michael Moorcock
110. Black God’s Kiss by C.L. Moore
111. The Cat’s Pajamas and Other Stories by James Morrow
112. Dreams of the Compass Rose by Vera Nazarian
113. Unforgivable Stories by Kim Newman
114. The Secret Files of the Diogenes Club by Kim Newman
115. The Original Dr. Shade and Other Stories by Kim Newman
116. Monstrous Affections by David Nickle
117. The Best of Larry Niven by Larry Niven
118. I Am No One You Know: Stories by Joyce Carol Oates
119. The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor
120. Zoo by Otsuichi
121. Lesser Demons by Norman Partridge
122. Mr. Fox and Other Feral Tales by Norman Partridge
123. Night Moves and Other Stories by Tim Powers
124. Little Gods by Tim Pratt
125. Map of Dreams by M. Rickert
126. Holiday by M. Rickert
127. The Best of Kim Stanley Robinson by Kim Stanley Robinson
128. The Ant King and Other Stories by Benjamin Rosenbaum
129. Unacceptable Behaviour by Penelope Rowe
130. The Adventures of Alyx by Joanna Russ
131. Long Walks, Last Flights, and Other Journeys by Ken Scholes
132. Filter House by Nisi Shawl
133. Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical by Rob Shearman
134. The Jaguar Hunter by Lucius Shepard
135. Trujillo and Other Stories by Lucius Shepard
136. Phases of the Moon: Stories from Six Decades by Robert Silverberg
137. Are You There and Other Stories by Jack Skillingstead
138. The Girl With No Hands and Other Tales by Angela Slatter
139. Crystal Express by Bruce Sterling
140. Ascendancies: The Best of Bruce Sterling
141. Houses Without Doors by Peter Straub
142. Magic Terror: 7 Tales by Peter Straub
143. Absolute Uncertainty by Lucy Sussex
144. The Best of Michael Swanwick by Michael Swanwick
145. Gravity’s Angels: 13 Stories by Michael Swanwick
146. Monterra’s Deliciosa & Other Tales & by Anna Tambour
147. The Ice Downstream by Melanie Tem
148. The Far Side of the Lake by Steve Rasnic Tem
149. Her Smoke Rose Up Forever by James Tiptree, Jr.
150. Ten Thousand Light-Years from Home by James Tiptree, Jr.
151. In the Mean Time by Paul Tremblay
152. My Pathology by Lisa Tuttle
153. Ventriloquism by Catherynne M. Valente
154. The Jack Vance Reader by Jack Vance
155. City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff VanderMeer
156. The Third Bear by Jeff VanderMeer
157. Strange Things in Close-up; the Nearly Complete Howard Waldrop
158. Dead Sea Fruit by Kaaron Warren
159. Everland and Other Stories by Paul Witcover
160. The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories by Gene Wolfe
161. The Very Best of Gene Wolfe by Gene Wolfe
162. Impossible Things by Connie Willis
163. Fire Watch by Connie Willis
164. The Doors of His Face, The Lamps of His Mouth and Other Stories by Roger Zelazny
165. Impossible Stories by Zoran Zivkovic
166. The Writer, The Book, The Reader by Zoran Zivkovic

That really is a tremedous list of authors and I’m going to be seeking out some of those. I was surprised that there are actually a fair number on there that I have read, but still not enough to warrant bolding anything! I would also add one – Charles included The Girl With No Hands & Other Tales by Angela Slatter. I would include Slatter’s Sourdough and Other Stories too, which is one of the best books of any format that I read last year.

So, how many have you read?


100 Stories For Queensland – please buy it tomorrow

May 16, 2011

CHART-RUSH-100-stories-queenslandWhen something drops out of the news cycle it’s easy to forget about it. But just because the purveyors of sensationalised pictures have got bored with an event, it doesn’t mean people aren’t still suffering. The devastating floods in Queensland might seem like a long time ago to most of us, but they’re still very real to lots of people. People that have lost everything and are suffering. eMergent Publishing put the call out to collect 100 stories, donated from writers around the world, and publish them in an anthology to raise money to directly help those people. Jodi Cleghorn, editor and owner of eMergent, has done an incredible job with her team getting this book together and I’m really proud to be one of the 100 authors included. Now it’s time to buy the book.

In order to raise awareness about the book’s existence, therefore sell more copies and therefore get more money to the people in need, the paperback edition is being promoted with a Chart Rush. What is a chart rush? Readers are invited to purchase a book on Amazon, in a nominated 24-hour period, with the intent to capitalise on the volume of sales to move the book up the Amazon best seller list. The higher up the chart it is (we’re aiming for a spot in the top 100) the more visible it becomes to other readers who may go on to purchase it. It’s all about exposure and the more people who come across 100 Stories for Queensland, the more books we sell and the more money we raise. If you can’t buy on the day, you can add it to your wishlist. Every little bit counts.

100 Stories for Queensland is listed at Amazon and Amazon UK.

You can join the Amazon Chart Rush Facebook event or official fan page for updates on our progress up the charts. Also tweets at @100stories4qld and 100 Stories for Queensland is listed at Goodreads.

This is a fantastic book, full of stories from some great authors, that will directly help the survivors of the floods, with all proceeds going to the Queensland Premier’s Flood Appeal. Please buy the book tomorrow, Tuesday 17th May (but late if you’re in Australia to stay tight to the 24 hour window), and do your bit to help. You’ll get a sweet book out of it.


The May Australian Speculative Fiction Blog Carnival now on NecroScope

May 15, 2011

The May edition of the Australian Speculative Fiction Blog Carnival has been posted to NecroScope. Take a peek, and find out what’s been happening in your community this past month.

There’s some good stuff, so make yourself a cuppa and have a browse.


Iain M Banks on why science fiction is not for dabblers

May 14, 2011

Twitter (which gives me so many great links) led me to this article in The Guardian by Iain M Banks. In it he addresses the crossover of literary writers into SF. He uses a great example of a writer coming up with a fantastic new idea – basically, a murder mystery where the crazy twist is that the butler did it! And he equates this to non-genre writers dabbling in SF. And he’s right.

If a person hasn’t read a great deal of SF, then decides to write some, it’s almost certain the person in question will be, to some degree, rehashing old ground. If the sum total of a person’s SF experience is Star Wars and 2001: A Space Odyssey then anything they come up with is likely to have been dealt with before in one way or another.

Banks says:

…science fiction is a dialogue, a process. All writing is, in a sense; a writer will read something – perhaps something quite famous, even a classic – and think “But what if it had been done this way instead . . . ?” And, standing on the shoulders of that particular giant, write something initially similar but developmentally different, so that the field evolves and further twists and turns are added to how stories are told as well as to the expectations and the knowledge of pre-existing literary patterns readers bring to those stories. Science fiction has its own history, its own legacy of what’s been done, what’s been superseded, what’s so much part of the furniture it’s practically part of the fabric now, what’s become no more than a joke . . . and so on. It’s just plain foolish, as well as comically arrogant, to ignore all this, to fail to do the most basic research.

As he says, failure to do this research when trying your hand at SF leads:

…usually to decent and only slightly sniffy reviews (sometimes, to be fair, to quite excitable reviews) while, off-stage, barely heard, howls of laughter and derision issue from the science fiction community.

It’s not elitism, it’s simply respecting the genre you’re writing in. There are some genres where repeating the old tropes in new places with new characters is enough, and the readers enjoy that. But even those old genres still evolve and new ideas permeate well-trodden ground. But with science fiction the development of ideas is so rapid and all-encompassing that not studying the genre is foolish.

If you want to be a good writer, you must read. I don’t know any good writers that don’t read like books are being rounded up and burned the next day. We can’t read enough. I’ll read a page at every opportunity. Apart from experiencing how others writers do it, you’re an integral part of the evolution of fiction by being a reader. Do you know any artists that don’t visit galleries? Do you know any musicians that don’t listen to music?

Reading voraciously is a pre-requisite for being a good writer. And reading within your genre is essential to know what’s happening in the field of writing you want to be involved with. It’s essential also to read outside your genre – everything from novels to short stories to newspapers – to get as broad an experience of writing as you can and to learn from that. But it’s never more important to know your genre than it is with science fiction.

Read all of Banks’ article – it’s essential reading.


The end of an era – typewriters are no more

May 12, 2011

This makes me a bit sad. I’ve always had an affinity for typewriters, since I wrote my first ever stories on my mum’s old Remington when I was about seven years old. I’ve used a typewriter as my website logo for a while now. They’ve always fascinated me as these things that can make your words permanent, that help you get a story out and share it around.

Of course, I would never trade a PC for a typewriter now. Seriously, copy and paste, edit, search and everything else makes a word processer superior to a typewriter in every way. That’s progress. But it is sad to hear from this article in The Guardian that typewriter production is going to cease. Apparently, Godrej and Boyce, a Mumbai-based typewriter company, have just 500 left in stock. Once these have been “sold, or disposed of”, they will switch to making refrigerators instead. People still need cold milk, even though we’ve moved on from ribbons and return carriages. The saddest thing about that is the comment “sold, or disposed of”, as it seems even of those 500 left, lack of demand means some won’t find homes.

Another interesting fact, according to The Guardian, is that Mark Twain became the first author to submit a typed manuscript with Life on the Mississippi in 1883. I wonder who will be (or even already has been) the last?

I searched out a few other interesting typewriter facts, cos I’m a nerd like that. Did you know that:

TYPEWRITER is the longest word that can be made using the letters only on one row of the keyboard. (If you know of a longer one, please let me know in the comments.)

The longest common English word that can be typed using only the left hand is STEWARDESSES.

The longest English word that can be typed with the right hand only is JOHNNY-JUMP-UP (a type of flower).

The qwerty layout was designed for manual typewriters initially by Christopher Sholes all the way back in 1872. He purposely selected a physical layout that was difficult to type, so that typing speeds would be reduced. This was needed to reduce the jamming of “hammers” used to create individual letters on manual typewriters.

Jack Kerouac, a fast typist at 100 words per minute, typed On the Road on a roll of paper so he wouldn’t be interrupted by having to change the paper. Within two weeks of starting to write On the Road, Kerouac had one single-spaced paragraph, 120 feet long. (From wikipedia.)

William S. Burroughs wrote in some of his novels—and possibly believed—that “a machine he called the ‘Soft Typewriter’ was writing our lives, and our books, into existence,” according to a book review in The New Yorker. (From wikipedia.)

In a homage to the great machine that revolutionised our ability to share our words, The Guardian has put together a photo montage of great writers at their typewriters. Here’s Hunter S Thompson working at his ranch circa 1976 near Aspen Colorado:

(Photograph: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

See the full set of images at The Guardian website here.

Farewell, typewriter – you’ll always be my little website icon.



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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