Earthsea revisited and visited anew

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.)

EarthseaI 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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Bound – This is the really real world!

Bound-proofSo HarperVoyager AU tweeted a blurry image today of the proof copies of Bound, Book 1 of The Alex Caine Series. The proofs have just arrived in the office there. It’s really real. Look! It’s an actual freaking book right there in the picture in the really real world. To say I’m a bit excited about this is like saying the Catholic Church has a couple of bucks stashed away for a rainy day. In other words, it’s a celestially massive understatement. It’s really actually happening, you guys. This also constitutes a sneaky little cover reveal for the first book.

I’m glad it’s a bit blurry because, as far as I know, there are going to be a couple of small artistic tweaks to the cover yet before the final version that will officially go to print. Plus it maintains a little but of mystery. It’s quite normal for advanced copies like these to have a few small last minute changes, as I understand it.

But I can tell you that the next two books will have covers like this one, obviously with a 2 and a 3 in the background respectively, with variations in the distance background and in the character poses, but all three make a kind of connected triptych design. Honestly, how cool is that? For anyone wondering, the title, Bound, is big and clear on the spine. I should be getting a copy of this proof myself this week, so I’ll post another picture of it then. Probably with my maniacally grinning face right next to it. Now scuse me while go Snoopy dancing.

EDIT: HarperVoyager posted a better picture, so I’m sharing that too.

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The little anthology that could – Suspended in Dusk

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-logoI 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

AA-logoAfter 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

EarthseaI’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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