Monthly Archives: November 2011

End of Movember 2011 – still time to donate

November 30, 2011

I’ve reached the end of Movember, where my upper lip has spent 30 days donated to charity. It’s over, but you can still donate here:

If you can spare a few bucks, please do, as it’s for a very good cause. All the details are on the link. And here’s the final product. Thirty days of growth:


Great offer from Murky Depths

November 27, 2011

You may remember that I was recently lamenting the demise of Murky Depths magazine. That’s still a very sad thing, but there is some good that’s come of it. It was always hard to get Murky Depths outside the UK, as shipping costs were so high. Now there’s a special offer going on, directly from the publisher. Any non-European country can get any issue of Murky Depths for US$12.50, including all postage and fees. So US$12.50 is all you’ll pay for any issue. It’s a pretty sweet deal. If you only buy one, might I recommend issue #16, which contains my story, Mirrorwalk? But seriously, they’re all great.

You can also get a boxed set of issues 1 to 8, which would make a great Xmas present, for yourself or someone else.

Hop to it!


Interview at the Tara Sharp site

November 25, 2011

The wonderful Kylie Fox interviewed me recently for the Tara Sharp site. We talked about what I’m working on, my future publications and how a lot of my stuff has crime or mystery tropes at its core.

Check it out here:


RIP Anne McCaffrey, Vale Dragonlady

November 23, 2011

anne-mccaffreyWhen I got up this morning I was checking through the social networks over breakfast and saw from Trent Zelazny’s Facebook page that Anne McCaffrey had died of a stroke yesterday. It hit me like a speeding a truck and a small part of my childhood died too. To say that Anne McCaffrey was instrumental in the person and writer I have grown up to be would be an understatement. I immediately put my condolences out through Twitter only to realise that the news hadn’t spread yet. I’m usually a bit behind on this stuff, but suddenly I found myself being the first person people had heard the news from. It was an unusual experience for me, but a profoundly touching one as I saw the massive heartache that Anne’s passing caused, saw so many other people as deeply affected as I was.

I discovered McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern books when I was a child, maybe ten or eleven years old. Already a voracious reader, I was always on the lookout for the next great story. McCaffrey’s books transported me. When I realised there were several of them, I couldn’t believe my luck. I felt like a prospector striking gold. Always a fan of dragons, here were books that made dragons into something nobler and more beautiful than I could have imagined. Here was a world so rich in detail and populated with such wonderful characters that I truly wished I could slip between and go there. If someone had offered me a one way ticket to Pern, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it.

dragonflightAt about 12 years of age, I wrote my first ever fan letter to an author. I needed to tell this lady how much her books meant to me, how wonderful they were. In the back of one book I saw a note, with an address for any correspondence. I found it hard to believe that such a thing was possible, but I sat down and wrote my letter and asked my mum to post it off. Weeks passed. Weeks are a long time for a twelve-year-old and I thought, Oh well, it was worth a try. It was no surprise that someone as magical as Anne McCaffrey wouldn’t have time to write to some precocious kid in England.

Then a postcard arrived. It had dragons on the front. On the back was a handwritten response from Anne McCaffrey, telling me how pleased she was that I’d enjoyed her books, and how much she appreciated my letter. I was stunned. In my letter I’d told her how I wanted to be a writer one day too, and that I hoped I could maybe write books as good as hers. In her reply she said, “Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t.” That still resonates with me to this day. I do write books now, and maybe one day they’ll be as good as Anne McCaffrey’s.

I wish I could find that postcard. I kept it safe, but it was close to thirty years ago and I’ve moved many times since then, to the other side of the planet. If I ever find it, I’ll scan it and post it here. Regardless, it lives on in my memory as one of the most important things I’ve ever owned. It shaped me as much as her stories did.

Anne McCaffrey was a class act. An absolute legend who touched the lives of millions. It’s a world worse off without her in it, but we’ll have her stories forever. When I read the news over breakfast this morning, it was raining heavily. I sat at the table, staring out the window at the lancing rain and thought about the thread. I imagined riding a dragon out to burn the thread before it could harm the people below. I remembered just how magical those stories of dragons and guilds were. And all her other stories too, the Crystal universe and Ireta, Talents and Freedom, and so many more. Vale, Anne McCaffrey. If you listen really hard, you can hear the dragons keening.


Thrillercast episode 32 – Sorting Out The Civil War in Publishing

November 22, 2011

ThrillercastThe latest episode of Thrillercast is out – Sorting Out The Civil War In Publishing. In this latest podcast, David Wood and I talk about the rise of evangelism on both sides of publishing – those advocating self-publishing as the only viable route, and those who think traditional publishing is the only acceptable path. And we discuss how we’re thoroughly sick and tired of both forms of extremism.

Listen, enjoy and share – Episode 32 – Sorting Out The Civil War in Publishing


Writers as bitches and the investment of readers

November 16, 2011

Back in May 2009 a reader asked Neil Gaiman, via his blog, whether it was reasonable to feel let down that George R R Martin was not giving any clues about the release of the next A Song Of Fire & Ice installment. Gaiman famously told that reader, “George R R Martin is not your bitch”.

Game Of ThronesGRRM is one of the best and most popular fantasy writers, but his A Song Of Ice & Fire series, which started in 1996, has been a long time to completion, and isn’t finished yet. At the end of book 4 it said to expect book 5 in a year. It took six years to see publication. There are still two more books to come, with no release date even hinted at. So people are getting concerned that the whole story may never be told, and the query posted to Neil Gaiman is still valid. As, potentially, is Gaiman’s answer.

Gaiman’s point is that GRRM doesn’t have to live up to our (readers) expectations. As a writer, I can kind of agree with that to an extent. Gaiman posits that the reader, by buying the first book, assumed some kind of contract with Martin. Gaiman says, “No such contract existed. You were paying your ten dollars for the book you were reading, and I assume that you enjoyed it because you want to know what happens next.”

Art is not something you can force, and Martin is well within his rights to do whatever he wants with his story. Even quit now and never finish. He’s not our bitch and that’s his prerogative. However, if he does do that, I think he is also letting his readers down. And not just GRRM – this applies to all of us as writers. If we’ve said we’ll do one thing and we do something else, that’s either our choice or a situation forced upon us. But we are letting people down when we do it. It’s not an either/or proposition.

Night AngelRecently, Brent Weeks, author of the Night Angel Trilogy and The Black Prism, posted an opinion piece at SciFiNow in which he says that Gaiman is wrong. In the article, Weeks says:

“Part of what entices us to buy a book is the promise conveyed in the title. “Gragnar’s Epic Magical Dragon Quest Trilogy: Book 1” promises there will be two more books. Whether through the title, or interviews, or through a note to readers at the end of a book that says the next book will be out in a year, when an author makes that kind of commitment, maybe technically there’s no contract, but there is an obligation.”

He also says, “…writers make mistakes about how fast they’re going to finish books All The Time. GRRM’s situation is merely illustrative.” This is well worth bearing in mind, as I’m not out to bash GRRM here, or anyone else in particular. I’m simply addressing the issue as a whole.

But I think Weeks is right – there is an obligation there. When a writer says they’ll write X number of books, readers start to invest their time and money into that series. It’s quite reasonable to feel cheated when the author doesn’t come through on that promise. For this reason a lot of people are now loathe to buy into a series until they know it’s finished. After all, they don’t want to spend time and money getting into a story without an end. Which is fairly reasonable. I’m tempted to make a sexual metaphor here, about encounters without happy endings, but I’ll be a grown-up and rise above that temptation.

I wrote a piece a while back called While you wait for book three, authors die! in which I point out that this method can be damaging. If an author’s first book doesn’t sell well, their publisher may decide to cut their losses and not publish the rest of the series. Bad for readers and writers. I always advise buying the first book, but not reading it yet. Collect the whole series as it comes out and read it all once it’s finished. Of course, this could turn out to be a waste of your hard-earned if the author doesn’t finish the series. But life without risk is like an untoasted tea cake. There’s no crunch.

Readers and authors are entering into unwritten contracts with each other. The author says, “I’ll write this series.” The reader says, “Cool, I’ll buy it and read it. I might even like it and give you a positive review and tell my friends about it.” It’s a symbiotic relationship.

The author doesn’t have to finish that series. There’s no legally binding contract, no demon’s blood on the page to force the magic out. But, should they not see through that originally stated obligation, they are letting the readers down. We all fuck up sometimes, we all get distracted by life and things that happen which are beyond our control. We all let people down sometimes, however much we may wish and try not to. But we should also own up to that let down. “Sorry, folks, I let you down” is lot more conducive to an ongoing relationship than, “Fuck you, I’m not your bitch!”

I really want GRRM to finish A Song Of Ice & Fire. I’ve invested a lot of time and money into it and I really want to know how it all works out. But Martin isn’t my bitch and I can’t force him to do something that he may not have the ability (due to other things in his life) or inclination to do. But, should the series not be wrapped up, I will feel let down.

How do you feel about it?


The Courier’s New Bicycle by Kim Westwood – review

November 14, 2011

courierKim Westwood is a writer with a rare, light touch. The Courier’s New Bicycle is her second novel. I haven’t read her first, The Daughters of Moab, so this is my first foray into Westwood’s long fiction, though I have enjoyed her short stories in the past.

This book is the story of gender transgressive, Salibury Forth, and his/her life as a courier of contraband hormones in a dystopian near-future Melbourne. A pandemic has cause widespread decay among society due to its effect of making a large proportion of the population sterile. The governing authorities are religious zealots and the world is not a very pleasant place any more.

I won’t go into any more detail about the story here, as it’s easily learned elsewhere. However, it’s fundamentally a noir-ish whodunnit, with people double-crossing other people, trouble on the streets, and Salisbury trying to sort it all out. Salisbury is also an activist, working with a clandestine group to free animals from the cruelty of factory hormone farming. So Westwood tackles big issues here – gender, religious oppression, cruel farming practices, activism. It would be easy for the book to become a diatribe, a lecture, but it doesn’t.

I have to admit that at first I thought the book wasn’t going to work for me. But I soon locked into Westwood’s light, lyrical style and it all started to gel. She deals with very heavy subjects with a nuanced touch and lets characters speak for themselves. The mystery is convoluted and, at times, a bit opaque, but gripping nonetheless. The world she creates is very well realised, and not a place I would ever want to live. This story turned out to be transportive.

One of things I enjoyed the most is Salisbury’s connection with her bicycle in a world where petrol engines are virtually extinct, and the freedom that bicycle gives to Salisbury, who is otherwise very trapped by her world, her sexuality, her relationships and everything else (I’m saying “her” for ease of writing – you can read the book and decide for yourself!) I’m a keen motorcyclist and I understand the freedom of the open road. Westwood’s descriptions of Salisbury’s body and bike working as one are brilliant.

The story is tightly plotted and the world immersive. I read this book over a weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s not action-packed and in your face science fiction. In fact, in the Acknowledgments, Westwood says:

This story pays homage the many groups that work against the cruelty of the bile and factory farming industries, including those tireless champions of the animals, the Voiceless team, and Animals Asia. This story is also for gender explorers everywhere: not fantasy. Not science fiction.

The Courier’s New Bicycle is a tremendous achievement.


Movember 2011

November 13, 2011

I’m a bit late getting around to posting an update about this, but things have been hectic. Anyway, it’s only halfway through, so I figure it’s all good. I’m growing a moustache for Movember.

It’s a very good cause:

During November each year, Movember is responsible for the sprouting of moustaches on thousands of men’s faces in Australia and around the world. The aim of which is to raise vital funds and awareness for men’s health, specifically prostate cancer and depression in men.

If you’d like to donate, and I urge you to do so if you can spare a few bucks, you can do so here:

For the purposes of transparency, I’ll post my photos so far below. Starting photo, clean shaven on November 1, then the one week and two week progress photos.

Ridiculous, really, but ridiculous fun for a good cause.

Week 0

Week 1

Week 2


John Joseph Adams Buys Lightspeed and Fantasy

November 8, 2011

I read this at Locus Online today:

John Joseph Adams, editor of Fantasy and Lightspeed, has purchased both magazines from Prime books. Adams will become the official publisher in January 2012. He took over as editor for Fantasy magazine earlier this year, and has edited Lightspeed since its June 2010 debut. Fantasy magazine was established in 2005, and has been nominated for the Hugo Award; stories from both Fantasy and Lightspeed have been nominated for the Hugo, the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the Theodore Sturgeon Award, among others.

These are great online zines, with excellent pay rates for authors. Definitely the future of fiction magazines, it’s great to see these two in such good hands. Long may they reign. Full press release via S F Signal here.


Midnight Echo 6 interview and excerpt

November 6, 2011

ME6I’m very proud that my short story, Trawling The Void, is going to be published in Midnight Echo, #6. For one thing, Midnight Echo is one of Australia’s premier fiction magazines, and the official magazine of the Australian Horror Writers’ Association. Issue 6 is a sci-fi horror special, and while I usually write dark fiction and dark contemporary fantasy stuff, every once in a while I foray into straight fantasy or sci-fi. Trawling The Void is one of my infrequent sci-fi outings.

It’s going to be a great issue, with a solid collection of stories. You can get it in print or electronic format when it’s released soon. All the details here.

In the meantime, David Conyers, one of the co-editors of this issue, asked me a few questions about the story recently and you can find that short interview and an excerpt from Trawling The Void here on David’s blog.



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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