Fantastic Fiction

2013 Aurealis Award winners announced

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April 8, 2014

Saturday was a big day. I drove down to Canberra, took part in the Conflux Writer’s Day minicon, where I did a highspeed “Social Media for Authors” presentation, then went for a quick change of clothes in order to attend the Aurealis Awards ceremony. Nicole Murphy, who organised everything that day, did a truly amazing job. The writers day and awards ceremony were both superb. We caroused and drank and laughed, and fantastic Australian fiction scored very well-deserved awards.

Here are all the fantastic nominees and winners. If you want a sampler of excellent recent Aussie spec fic, here’s your huckleberry:

(The winners are separated at the top of each list of nominees.)

Best Science Fiction Novel

  • Lexicon, Max Barry (Hachette)


  • Trucksong, Andrew Macrae (Twelfth Planet)
  • A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists, Jane Rawson (Transit Lounge)
  • True Path, Graham Storrs (Momentum)
  • Rupetta, Nike Sulway (Tartarus)

Best Science Fiction Short Story

  • “Air, Water and the Grove”, Kaaron Warren (The Lowest Heaven)


  • “The Last Tiger”, Joanne Anderton (Daily Science Fiction 5/17/13)
  • “Mah Song”, Joanne Anderton (The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories)
  • “Seven Days in Paris”, Thoraiya Dyer (Asymmetry)
  • “Version 4.3.0.1”, Lucy Stone (Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #57)

Best Fantasy Novel

  • A Crucible of Souls, Mitchell Hogan (self-published)


  • Lexicon, Max Barry (Hachette Australia)
  • These Broken Stars, Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner (Allen & Unwin)
  • Newt’s Emerald, Garth Nix (Jill Grinberg Literary Management)
  • Ink Black Magic, Tansy Rayner Roberts (FableCroft)

Best Fantasy Short Story

  • The Last Stormdancer, Jay Kristoff (Thomas Dunne)


  • “The Touch of the Taniwha”, Tracie McBride (Fish)
  • “Cold, Cold War”, Ian McHugh (Beneath Ceaseless Skies 6/13/13)
  • “Short Circuit”, Kirstie Olley (Oomph: A Little Super Goes a Long Way)
  • “The Year of Ancient Ghosts”, Kim Wilkins (The Year of Ancient Ghosts)

Best Horror Novel

  • Fairytales for Wilde Girls, Allyse Near (Random House Australia)


  • The Marching Dead, Lee Battersby (Angry Robot)
  • The First Bird, Greig Beck (Momentum)
  • Path of Night, Dirk Flinthart (FableCroft)

Best Horror Short Story

  • “The Year of Ancient Ghosts”, Kim Wilkins (The Year of Ancient Ghosts)


  • “Fencelines”, Joanne Anderton (The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories)
  • “The Sleepover”, Terry Dowling (Exotic Gothic 5)
  • “The Home for Broken Dolls”, Kirstyn McDermott (Caution: Contains Small Parts)
  • “The Human Moth”, Kaaron Warren (The Grimscribe’s Puppets)

Best Young Adult Novel (Tie)

  • These Broken Stars, Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner (Allen & Unwin)
  • Fairytales for Wilde Girls, Allyse Near (Random House Australia)


  • The Big Dry, Tony Davies (Harper Collins)
  • Hunting, Andrea Host (self-published)
  • The Sky So Heavy, Claire Zorn (University of Queensland Press)

Young Adult Short Story

  • “By Bone-Light”, Juliet Marillier (Prickle Moon)


  • “Mah Song”, Joanne Anderton (The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories)
  • “Morning Star”, D.K. Mok (One Small Step)
  • “The Year of Ancient Ghosts”, Kim Wilkins (The Year of Ancient Ghosts)

Best Collection

  • The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories, Joanne Anderton (FableCroft)


  • Asymmetry, Thoraiya Dyer (Twelfth Planet)
  • Caution: Contains Small Parts, Kirstyn McDermott (Twelfth Planet)
  • The Bride Price, Cat Sparks (Ticonderoga)
  • The Year of Ancient Ghosts, Kim Wilkins (Ticonderoga)

Best Anthology (Tie)

  • The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2012, Liz Grzyb & Talie Helene, eds. (Ticonderoga)
  • One Small Step: An Anthology of Discoveries, Tehani Wessely, ed. (FableCroft)


  • Dreaming of Djinn, Liz Grzyb, ed. (Ticonderoga)
  • The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Of The Year: Volume Seven, Jonathan Strahan, ed. (Night Shade)
  • Focus 2012: Highlights of Australian Short Fiction, Tehani Wessely, ed. (FableCroft)

Best Children’s Fiction

  • The Four Seasons of Lucy McKenzie, Kirsty Murray (Allen & Unwin)


  • Kingdom of the Lost, Book 2: Cloud Road, Isobelle Carmody (Penguin Group Australia)
  • Refuge, Jackie French (Harper Collins)
  • Song for a Scarlet Runner, Julie Hunt (Allen & Unwin)
  • Rules of Summer, Shaun Tan (Hachette Australia)
  • Ice Breaker: The Hidden 1, Lian Tanner (Allen & Unwin)

Best Illustrated Book/Graphic Novel (Tie)

  • Burger Force, Jackie Ryan (self-published)
  • The Deep Vol. 2: The Vanishing Island, Tom Taylor & James Brouwer (Gestalt)


  • Savage Bitch, Steve Carter & Antoinette Rydyr (Scar Studios)
  • Mr Unpronounceable Adventures, Tim Molloy (Milk Shadow)
  • Peaceful Tomorrows Volume Two, Shane W Smith (Zetabella)

The annual Aurealis Awards ceremony took place at the Great Hall, University House, Australian National University, Canberra. All the details of the awards can be found at the Aurealis Awards website.

Congratulations to all the winners and nominees!

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Far Voyager Postscripts #32/33 ToC announced

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April 7, 2014
Troop Inspection Pete Von Sholly 300x193 Far Voyager Postscripts #32/33 ToC announced

Pete Von Sholly’s “Troop Inspection” for Far Voyager.

This has been far and away the longest gap between a story sale and story publication, for many reasons mostly out of everyone’s control, but I’m very happy to say that Far Voyager Postscripts #32/33 from P S Publishing is finally coming out and it will include my story, Thirty Three Tears to a Teaspoon, along with a plethora of amazing writers. I’m really thrilled to be a part of this one. See the solid list of names below. And also check out that amazing cover artwork. It’s Pete Von Sholly’s “Troop Inspection”. You can click on that image for a larger version.

What’s also very exciting, apart from being in this publication myself, is that quite a few other great Aussies are in there too. As it’s a very well-respected UK publisher, it’s always great to see Australian voices represented. Along with myself are Angela Slatter, Lisa Hannett, Angie Rega, and Suze Willis.

The full ToC is shown below. I’ll be sure to post again when you can pre-order/buy the release.

Far Voyager — Ian Sales
3 A.M. in the Mesozoic Bar — Michael Swanwick
Dear Miss Monroe — Andrew Jury
The Case of the Barking Man — Mel Waldman
One Hundred Thousand Demons and the Cherub of Desire — Andrew Drummond
An American Story — Darrell Schweitzer
Irezumi — John Langan
Sister Free — Rio Youers
A Little Off the Top — Tom Alexander
Sweetheart, I Love You — Mel Waldman
Winter Children — Angela Slatter
A Girl of Feather and Music — Lisa L. Hannett
Thirty Three Tears to a Teaspoon — Alan Baxter
The Rusalka Salon for Girls Who Like to Get Their Hair Wet — Angie Rega
The Psychometrist — Suzanne J. Willis
Sea Angels — Quentin S. Crisp
Plink — Kurt Dinan
Xaro — Darren Speegle
We Are Not Alone — Richard Calder
The Curtain — Thana Niveau
Playground — Gio Clairval
What Once Was Bone — Gary A. Braunbeck
Darkscapes: Three Journeys to the Night Side — Mel Waldman
Services Rendered — Bruce Golden
GW in the Afterlife — Robert Reed
Eskimo — Andrew Hook
With Friends Like These — Gary Fry
An Inspector Calls — Ian Watson
Confessions — Mel Waldman
A Legion of Echoes — Alison Littlewood
Talk in Riddles — Mark Reece
The Mermaid and the Fisherman — Paul Park

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Dimension6 Issue 1 available now and it’s free

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April 4, 2014

D6badge 300x256 Dimension6 Issue 1 available now and its freeCoeur De Lion Publishing is one of Australia’s best small press outfits and they always produce fantastic work. You may remember a while ago I was going on about the Anywhere But Earth anthology, which is about the best science fiction short story anthology I’ve seen in years (and not only because I have a story in it!) Keith Stevenson, editor and owner of Coeur De Lion also produced the amazing X6 novella anthology, worth it for Paul Haines’ story Wives, apart from the other five sterling pieces of work therein.

Well, now Keith is weaving his magic again with a new project. Dimension6 is an ebook magazine, featuring three spec fic stories, three times a year and it’s both DRM-free and cashmoney free. That’s right – free to read on any device. Issue 1 is out now and you can get mobi or epub versions here. While you’re there, sign up for the D6 newsletter so you always know when a new issue comes out.

Issue #1 features:

‘Ryder’ by Richard Harland
Sent from bustling Sydney to boring country NSW during World War I, life is undeniably dull for Sally. Until she meets Ryder.

‘The Message’ by Charlotte Nash
On a future Earth ravaged by the Event, a soldier with a terrifying secret must travel behind enemy lines.

‘The Preservation Society’ by Jason Nahrung
For the undead, blood is more than sustenance. It’s a connection to the memory of life.

Issue 2 will feature three more great Australian authors including yours truly. My story, Upon a Distant Shore, will be in Dimension6 issue 2 in July. In the meantime, get your reading teeth (eye teeth?) into issue 1.

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Earthsea revisited and visited anew

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April 1, 2014

I mentioned a while back that I was embarking on a reread of Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea novels. It was, in fact, only a part reread. There are six Earthsea books, that Le Guin likes to refer to as either the Earthsea Cycle, or the two Earthsea trilogies. Until now I’d only read the first trilogy. (There are also two short stories in the collection The Wind’s Twelve Quarters, but I’m not including those. I’ve got that collection and will get around to it at some point.)

Earthsea 300x174 Earthsea revisited and visited anewI came across the first trilogy – A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan and The Farthest Shore – when I was 10 or 11 years old. I devoured them and absolutely adored them. They bent my tiny mind and I read them over and over again. I had no idea there were more books in the series (back then, there weren’t). The next trilogy – Tehanu, Tales of Earthsea and The Other Wind – came out much later. The first trilogy was published in 1968, 1971 and 1972. The second in 1990, 2001 and 2001, respectively. Having loved the first trilogy so much, it’s amazing it took me this long to get around to the second, but there you go. So I recently reread the first three and then went on to the “new” three.

Even though I’d read them so many times, it’s been a long time since I last read the original trilogy. I was desperately hoping it wouldn’t turn out to be a disappointment. Within a few pages, my fears were quashed and I was back in Earthsea and remembering just why I loved it so much. The writing is beautiful, so poetic and lyrical, evoking such a fantastic sense of place and character. Yet it’s also tight and spare, no flowering dissertations on every aspect of the story. These are 200 or 300 page novels that could easily be 500 page novels if Le Guin was prone to the “big fat fantasy” style so common today. But she’s not and it’s one of the things I like so much about these books. They’re perfectly sized stories, perfectly written. And the tales themselves are just as enchanting now I’m in my 40s as they were before I hit my teens. I can’t wait until my son is old enough to read them.

So then I was set to embark on the second trilogy for the first time. Would these disappoint? Could I be as charmed by a revisit to those classic novels? Well, yes, I could. In all honestly, I think I enjoyed the first of the new three, Tehanu, more than the others. But the set of six as a whole does a wonderful job of telling a huge story. Especially as Tales From Earthsea is a collection of short stories and novellas, all designed to fill in history and backstory of the bigger arc, yet all wonderful stories in their own right.

One of the most interesting things for me was an afterword by Le Guin in the last book, where she talks about the time spent writing these six novels and how she thinks it’s finished now, but never say never. Perhaps the most interesting part of that for me was that she didn’t really recognise the theme of the whole series until she was writing the last book. She realised what she was fundamentally writing about when she’d finished, not when she started. She began telling stories she was compelled to tell and let the underlying theme of her work worry about itself. I think that’s a great lesson for writers – don’t stress about what you’re trying to do or trying to say, as then you might focus too much on the message and lose the magic. Just tell your stories, and trust that whatever thematic form is squirming in your subconscious will find its way out over time.

Either way, I loved my return to Earthsea and it still stands as one of my favourite series of all time. Six wonderful books that I’m sure I’ll visit again and again.

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True Detective – true storytelling

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March 20, 2014

true detective 236x300 True Detective   true storytellingI’ve just finished watching the eight episode HBO drama, True Detective, and feel compelled to write about it. I mainlined eight episodes in about three days, which is some going given I have a 5 month old son and very little time. It’s an absolutely amazing achievement in storytelling. This post is mostly spoiler-free, but if you haven’t seen the series I’d recommend going in without reading this or anything else and having as unprepared a mind as you can. I’m glad I avoided all spoilers before watching, especially as I kept thinking I’d got part of it figured out only to realise I was wrong. There was one thing I thought of that turned out not to be the case that I was particularly disappointed about. It would have been really cool, but hey, I didn’t write the thing and I’m no Nic Pizzolatto, so there you go. Anyway, go watch it, then come back to read this.

True Detective follows the story of two detectives – Marty Hart, played by Woody Harrelson, and Rust Cohle, played by Matthew McConaughey – and their hunt for a serial killer over the course of something close to twenty years. But, of course, it’s actually so much more than that. It’s written by novelist Nic Pizzolatto and the writing is first class. It’s multi-layered storytelling in so many ways. First and foremost, the serial killer hunt is something bigger than a single man. It’s a whole complicated mess of people, it has devil worshipping, there’s ritual sacrifice and all kinds of associated paraphernalia adding a sense of deep horror to what would otherwise be standard police procedural stuff. It’s set in Louisiana and that combination makes this excellent Southern Gothic fare.

There’s a distinct resurgence of Southern Gothic lately and I love it. True Blood and American Horror Story: Coven are two other recent shows I’ve really enjoyed which play on the theme, but nothing I’ve seen evokes it so well as True Detective. That’s primarily due to three things – the acting, especially Harrelson and McConaughey, is fantastic; the soundtrack is absolutely bang on (in fact, when I’ve written this I plan to go and look for the soundtrack album. I hope there is one!); and the direction by Cary Fukunaga. In fact, it’s Fukunaga’s direction that really stands out – the cinematography, the locations, the lighting are all sublime. There’s so much space in this production, so many slow pans and high aerial shots of the Bayou and cane fields. The best stories always evoke and develop a strong sense of place and this one does it brilliantly.

True Detective dead body Rust Cohle  300x221 True Detective   true storytelling

This is not a spoiler image – it’s the opening scene of the series.

Outside of the Southern Gothic trappings, the reason this series is so good is because the story has as much room to breathe as the visuals and the drawling soundtrack. We get to see two cops who are partners but this is no buddy movie. They are both deeply flawed and they don’t like each other. Hell, Cohle doesn’t like anyone. We watch the development and breakdowns between these two and their various partners and work colleagues all the way through the series and it’s all handled really well. The secondary characters are no less fleshed out and real, and they play as excellent foils for the two leads.

There are some small flaws for me. I felt a bit of a disconnect with the amount of time Cohle spent away in the middle of the story and I would have loved a bit more development of the history of the “cult” and the Tuttle connections. I feel like we missed out on some juicy details somewhere along the line, but I guess that’s because the focus was on the main characters. There was certainly enough of the case that I didn’t feel cheated of some resolution. I would just have liked a little more resolution in terms of the activities and complexities of the criminals. Of course, there are no real resolutions in real life and that’s partly what this whole series is playing with. I had one other issue that I’ll address below after the spoiler warning.

But that aside, there’s philosophy and reflection throughout that never overshadows the narrative and that’s the beauty of well-written character-driven stories. This is dark, mesmerising, stylised, beautiful and horrible. It’s compelling drama and creeping horror. It’s absolutely human. I honestly can’t recommend this highly enough.

SPOILER! Beyond the image below is a question that is also a massive SPOILER! Also, be advised that there may be spoilers in the comments if anyone chooses to answer my question.

true Detective 300x186 True Detective   true storytelling

So, at the start of the series there’s the ritual killing in the cane field, with the woman kneeling before the tree with the antlers and all that. It’s what kicks off the whole investigation. But why the fuck was she there like that? The whole thing turns out to be a complicated cult with ritual child sacrifice and all that stuff in the deep woods and it’s been going on for years and Hart and Cohle finally track down the man with the scars and expose the whole thing, even if loads of connected people will never be caught. But what the hell was with that first killing? Why was she there and not at the place they discover at the end? Was it the scarred man trying to get caught? The cult showing off? It’s one big unanswered question that I can’t figure out – I can see no reason for them to have killed her there like that. Did I miss something? Please comment if you have any theories! (And please start your comment with a spoiler warning if you do.)

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The little anthology that could – Suspended in Dusk

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March 5, 2014

I’m glad we can finally announce this one officially. Editor, Simon Dewar, approached me a while ago asking if I’d be interested in submitting to an anthology he was putting together called Suspended in Dusk. The theme was exactly what the title suggests and loosely based at that. He wanted a collection of horror and dark fantasy stories and the publisher was already lined up.

botd logo 150x150 The little anthology that could   Suspended in DuskI sent him a story which he liked and everything was going ahead when he ran into some problems and the publisher had to put the book on indefinite hold. No one’s fault, just one of those industry things that happens from time to time. Rather than hold on to everyone’s stories indefinitely, Simon said he would try to find another publisher or let our stories back to us if he couldn’t. Another publisher cropped up but didn’t eventuate. Simon was prepared to give it all up as an unfortunate series of events, but like a good terrier, he gave the whole project one last solid shake and landed the anthology with Books of the Dead Press and it’s all going ahead after all. Simon’s official announcement is here.

As Simon says:

Over the last few months I’ve collected 19 short stories which I feel are a broad representation of some of the established and new talent within the horror/dark/weird genres. I am also very pleased that over one-third (42% unless I screwed the maths) of the table of contents are women who, frankly, scare the crap out of me every bit as much as their male counterparts (probably more!).

The anthology has a great lineup of names including Ramsey Campbell (Bram Stoker and British Fantasy award winner), Angela Slatter (British Fantasy Award Winner and Aurealis Award winner) and John Everson (Bram Stoker Award winner) along with myself and a bunch of other emerging and established names. The full Table of Contents will be announced in due course. I’m very pleased to be in such august company. My story is called Shadows of the Lonely Dead and I’m very proud of it and glad it’s found such a good home.

Watch this space for further announcements.

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2013 Aurealis Awards finalists announced

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February 16, 2014

AA logo 2013 Aurealis Awards finalists announcedAfter a record number of entries, the finalists for the 2013 Aurealis Awards have been announced.

The Aurealis Awards are Australia’s premier speculative fiction awards. The ceremony will take place April 5, 2014 in Canberra. The venue is the Great Hall, University House, Australian National University.

Doors open 7pm for drinks, ceremony begins at 8pm. Details here: http://www.aurealisawards.com/

Congratulations to all the very worthy nominees!

The 2013 Aurealis Awards Finalists are:

BEST ILLUSTRATED BOOK OR GRAPHIC NOVEL

Savage Bitch by Steve Carter and Antoinette Rydyr (Scar Studios)

Mr Unpronounceable Adventures by Tim Molloy (Milk Shadow Books)

Burger Force by Jackie Ryan (self-­‐published)

Peaceful Tomorrows Volume Two by Shane W Smith (Zetabella Publishing)

The Deep Vol. 2: The Vanishing Island by Tom Taylor and James Brouwer (Gestalt Publishing)

BEST CHILDREN’S BOOK

Kingdom of the Lost, book 2: Cloud Road by Isobelle Carmody (Penguin Group Australia)

Refuge by Jackie French (Harper Collins)

Song for a scarlet runner by Julie Hunt (Allen & Unwin)

The four seasons of Lucy McKenzie by Kirsty Murray (Allen & Unwin)

Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan (Hachette Australia)

Ice Breaker: The Hidden 1 by Lian Tanner (Allen & Unwin)

BEST YOUNG ADULT SHORTFICTION

“Mah Song” by Joanne Anderton (The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories, FableCroft Publishing)

“By Bone-­‐light” by Juliet Marillier (Prickle Moon, Ticonderoga Publications)

“Morning Star” by D.K. Mok (One  Small Step, an anthology of discoveries, FableCroft Publishing)

“The Year of Ancient Ghosts”  by Kim Wilkins (The Year of Ancient  Ghosts, Ticonderoga Publications)

BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL

The Big Dry by Tony Davies (Harper Collins)

Hunting by Andrea Host (self-­‐published)

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan  Spooner (Allen & Unwin)

Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse  Near (Random House  Australia)

The Sky So Heavy  by Claire Zorn (University of Queensland Press)

BEST HORROR SHORT FICTION

“Fencelines” by Joanne Anderton (The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories, FableCroft Publishing)

“The Sleepover” by Terry Dowling (Exotic  Gothic 5, PS Publishing)

“The Home for Broken Dolls” by Kirstyn McDermott (Caution: Contains Small Parts, Twelfth Planet Press)

“The Human  Moth” by Kaaron Warren (The Grimscribe’s Puppets, Miskatonic Press)

“The Year of Ancient Ghosts” by Kim Wilkins (The Year of Ancient Ghosts, Ticonderoga Publications)

BEST HORROR  NOVEL

The Marching Dead by  Lee Battersby (Angry Robot Books)

The First Bird by  Greig Beck (Momentum)

Path of Night by Dirk Flinthart (FableCroft Publishing)

Fairytales for  Wilde Girls by Allyse Near (Random House Australia)

BEST FANTASY SHORT FICTION

“The Last Stormdancer” by  Jay Kristoff (Thomas Dunne Books)

“The  Touch of the  Taniwha” by Tracie McBride (Fish, Dagan  Books)

“Cold, Cold War” by Ian McHugh  (Beneath Ceaseless Skies,  Scott H  Andrews)

“ShortCircuit” by Kirstie Olley (Oomph: a little  super goes a long  way, Crossed Genres)

“The Year of Ancient Ghosts” by Kim Wilkins (The Year of Ancient Ghosts,  Ticonderoga Publications)

BEST FANTASY NOVEL

Lexicon by Max Barry  (Hachette Australia)

A Crucible of Souls by Mitchell Hogan (self-­‐published)

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan  Spooner (Allen & Unwin)

Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix (Jill Grinberg Literary Management)

Ink Black Magic by Tansy Rayner  Roberts (FableCroft Publishing)

BEST SCIENCE FICTION SHORT FICTION

“The Last Tiger” by Joanne Anderton (Daily Science Fiction)

“Mah Song” by Joanne Anderton (The Bone Chime Song and  Other Stories, FableCroft Publishing)

“Seven Days in Paris” by  Thoraiya Dyer (Asymmetry, Twelfth Planet Press)

“Version 4.3.0.1” by Lucy Stone (Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #57)

“Air, Water and  the Grove” by Kaaron Warren  (The Lowest Heaven, Pandemonium Press)

BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL

Lexicon by Max Barry (Hachette)

Trucksong  by Andrew Macrae (Twelfth Planet Press)

A Wrong  Turn At The Office  Of Unmade Lists by Jane Rawson (Transit Lounge)

True Path by Graham Storrs (Momentum)

Rupetta by Nike Sulway (Tartarus Press)

BEST ANTHOLOGY

The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2012  by Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene (Eds), (Ticonderoga Publications)

One  Small Step, An Anthology  Of Discoveries by Tehani Wessely (Ed) (FableCroft Publishing)

Dreaming Of Djinn by Liz Grzyb (Ed) (Ticonderoga Publications)

The Best Science Fiction  And Fantasy Of The  Year: Volume Seven by Jonathan Strahan (Ed) (NightShade Books)

Focus 2012: Highlights Of Australian Short Fiction by Tehani Wessely (Ed) (FableCroft Publishing)

BEST COLLECTION

The Bone Chime Song and  Other Stories by Joanne Anderton (FableCroft Publishing)

Asymmetry by Thoraiya Dyer (Twelfth Planet Press)

Caution: Contains Small Parts by Kirstyn McDermott (Twelfth Planet Press)

The Bride Price by Cat Sparks (Ticonderoga Publications)

The Year  of Ancient Ghosts by Kim  Wilkins (Ticonderoga Publications)

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The great Le Guin re-read

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February 15, 2014

Earthsea 300x174 The great Le Guin re readI’ve decided to re-read all the Earthsea books by Ursula K Le Guin. Well, I say re-read,  but I’ve not read them all for the first time yet. I can’t remember how old I was when I read the first one, A Wizard of Earthsea, but I do remember that it blew my tiny mind. At a guess, I’d say I was probably 10 or 11 years old. After that I consumed the next two – The Tombs of Atuan and The Farthest Shore. I didn’t know there was any more to Earthsea than that. At the time, there wasn’t. But there is now, as the pic at the top left there shows.

The books in the pic are in order and include all the Earthsea novels and short stories, but I’ve only ever read those first three. Those beloved, well-thumbed Penguin editions. According to Wikipedia, the books were published thus:

A Wizard of Earthsea is a fantasy novel by the American author Ursula K. Le Guin, first published by the small press Parnassus in 1968. Set in the fictional archipelago of Earthsea, the story relates the education of a young mage named Ged under the tutelage of his aunt (a village witch), as an apprentice to a wizard, at a school of wizardry, and finally through a quest of self-discovery. The tale of Ged’s growth and development continues in four subsequent novels, which are set a few years later and towards the end of his long life.

Le Guin’s so-called Earthsea cycle came to include the novels The Tombs of Atuan (1971), The Farthest Shore (1972), Tehanu (1990), and The Other Wind (2001). The author has also written seven short stories set in Earthsea, two of which preceded the novels.

So that’s what I have there, waiting to be read. I’m very excited to be starting on this journey again. I rarely re-read anything, as there’s so much out there and I want to read new things. But old favourite books are like old favourite places, magical to revisit. Especially books read when you’re young. They’re like the best summer holiday you ever had and whenever you go to that part of the world again it means so much more, layered with nostalgia. Of course, sometimes it’s a problem. Sometimes the book turns out to be awful and just happened to be perfect for your young mind at that time (*cough*Magician*cough*). Or the great holiday location turns out to be a tiny, dirty beach right by an industrial waste site and it’s only so strong in your memory because you got to touch the boob of Lucy from Leicester, who you never saw again, but it painted what was actually an awful two weeks in shades of rose and honey.

However, in this case, it’s not a problem. Le Guin is a master of her craft and these books are so good. I’m about halfway through A Wizard of Earthsea again and the prose, the language, the ideas, the descriptions, they’re all as fantastic as I remember. Whether the other books will hold up and whether the ones I’ve never yet read will be as good or worse or better I’ll find out as I go along.

One thing that’s for sure, I can’t wait to introduce my son to these books. That’s partly why I’m reading again now, to get an idea of how old he might need to be. I’ve got loads of time, he’s only 4 months old now. But one day, I’ll hand him A Wizard of Earthsea and know without a doubt that I’m handing him a piece of magic. Altering magic, that shapes minds and ideals. There are so many other things I can’t wait to show him and my favourite books and movies are high on the list. I really can’t wait. My son, I have such sights to show you. (Although I might save that one until he’s in his teens at least.)

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Midnight Echo 10 in print

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February 4, 2014

ME10 300x300 Midnight Echo 10 in printCheck it out – got my name on the cover and everything. This is Midnight Echo issue 10, which came out in e-copy at the end of December, but is now available in sweet, sweet print as well. All big and glossy and weighty in the hand. It’s got loads of great fiction based around guest editor Craig Bezant’s brief of ghost stories, including my twist on the ghost yarn, Exposure Compensation. It also has the winners of the AHWA Short Story and Flash competition, so that means my winning story, It’s Always the Children Who Suffer, is also in there among those. Plus feature articles, graphic novel stories, interviews and all that jazz.

And a brilliant Vincent Chong cover. What’s not to love? Get yours in ebook or print, or both, from the Midnight Echo site right here.

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Bloody Waters by Jason Franks – review

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January 28, 2014

Here’s my latest review posted at Thirteen O’Clock:

BW cover eBook t 193x300 Bloody Waters by Jason Franks   reviewBloody Waters by Jason Franks

Possible Press, 2012

ISBN: 978-0980813531

Bloody Waters is the debut novel from Jason Franks, maybe better known for his comics work. I reviewed The Sixsmiths here a while ago. This first novel was nominated for an Aurealis Award for Best Horror Novel last year and I can see why. Here’s the blurb:

When guitar virtuoso Clarice Marnier finds herself blacklisted she makes a deal with the devil for a second chance. Soon Clarice and her band, Bloody Waters, are on their way to stardom… but cracking the Top 10 is one thing; gunfights with the Vatican Mafia and magical duels quite another. Clarice is going to have to confront the Devil himself – the only question is whether she’ll be alive or dead when it happens.

I had no expectations going into this book, other than knowing it had an award nomination. I was really surprised. It’s a unique read. The writing style is tight and powerful, the book clips along at a solid pace. We start with young Clarice putting aside Barbie dolls for a guitar and we follow her progress through high school and into her first band and beyond, where nothing else matters but the music. Absolutely nothing. The chapters are short and the description spare but complete.

Clarice herself is an interesting main character. She’s very well-realised by Franks as a balls out, takes no shit hero of rock’n’roll. If I have any complaints about this book it would be that sometimes Clarice is a bit too cold and calculating. I would have liked to see a few more moments of humanity in her, but it’s no surprise they weren’t there. She is a force of heavy metal nature and no one gets away with messing with her. Except, perhaps, the Devil himself…

Read the rest of my review at Thirteen O’Clock.

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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. Misanthrope. Learn more about me and my work by clicking About Alan just below the header.

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