Fifty Shades of Lit. – guest post from Andrew J McKiernan

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March 17, 2015

ajmckiernan_photo_smallIt has been almost six months since Alan asked me to write him a guest blog post. He knows I’m fairly passionate and opinionated about the “Literary vs. Genre” debate, and that’s what he suggested I write about. That’ll be easy enough, I thought. So I agreed.

Turns out, it wasn’t so easy after all. So, instead of trying to create some kind of logical argument — as I was originally intending to do — I’m just going to wing it. Trust my instincts, follow my heart, and just lay it all on the table.

First, let me paste two comments I recently found accompanying articles re: the Literature vs Genre debate. They demonstrate why I get a bit angry when the topic comes up:

EXHIBIT A: User comment on article on whether Crime Fiction is real Literature [see Note 6 below]

“crime fiction has more in common with the crossword puzzle than with literature”

EXHIBIT B: User comment seen on Facebook:

“To me, literary fiction is just another genre, and today it means ‘realistic fiction written by professors, for professors.'”

[I can’t remember who said this, but I think the position is common enough amongst Genre readers and writers that the specifics aren’t important.]

Now, I’m not a professor and I ain’t had no fancy learnin’, but that sounds like crazy talk to me. Both comments based on a misguided and narrow view of what Literature and Genre might actually mean. And, though there’s been a lot of great work in breaking this ridiculously false barrier down, both sides still maintain a strong core of stubbornness and, to me, it seems a horrible prejudice.

I was always brought up to believe ‘Literary‘ meant ‘well written‘. Both my parents and my school teachers taught me that. It’s a bit like I was taught that good poetry is nothing more than ‘the best words in the best order‘. I saw no reason not to apply the same theory to all fiction.

I grew up reading a lot of Genre Literature (i.e. Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror; a lot of 60s, 70s & 80s paperbacks) and I could tell immediately that there was a gradient of ‘literary’ quality. Some books told great stories, rollicking adventures with characters you could love spending time with, but they weren’t ‘the best words in the best order ‘. The books seemed under-written; the words doing their barest to convey a story, what is often called Pedestrian Prose.

On the other side of the fence, so-called Literary fiction has its own share of problems. Follow the ‘conventions’ of Literary Fiction too closely, and the work becomes over-written; filled with an excess of poetic language (Purple Prose) and rambling internal monologues, non-existent plots in favour of intense character studies and disconnected vignettes. In effect, they told no stories at all. These, also, were not the ‘best words in the best order‘.

But there were some books, regardless of their Genre, which seemed to do more than just tell a story. Certain combinations of words joined to form sentences that amazed me, stirred emotions inside me — sometimes happiness, or sadness or fear or terror, sorrow and love – and those author-invoked emotions created a story that was somehow deeper and more satisfying. To me, those novels were more ‘literary‘ than the novels that just told me a story.

They approached, by varying degrees, ‘the best words in the best order‘.

I have discovered these ‘literary‘ novels in every genre in which I have read, and I read widely. Crime Fiction. Science Fiction. Fantasy. Horror. Romance. Historical. YA. And yes, I have even found them in that genre which marketing departments and academics have decided to (falsely) call ‘Literary Fiction‘.

Well Written books are everywhere!

And then I think back to those two comments I posted at the start.

I hate that both sides seem to want to perpetuate this imaginary divide between ‘Genre Fiction’ and ‘Literary Fiction’.

If a writer wants to write in a particular genre, of course they should do a little research (i.e. reading) before they set out. Get a feel for what’s been done before and what’s happening now. Embarking on an unfamiliar journey without first — at least — checking a map would be foolish. So too with writing any type of fiction. But a writer shouldn’t be discouraged from exploring outside that defined Genre territory, and I think they often are.

LYWWWY_amazoncover_smallQuick personal example. Second short story I ever wrote with a thought to publication — and geez, I was a noob – I submitted to a known and well-established speculative fiction magazine. A week or so later, a rejection came back. This is it, word for word: “We really loved this story’s mythic feel, and the writing was gorgeous, but it was a little too literary for us. Sorry, but we’ll have to pass. All the best of luck…”

WTF!? As I mentioned, I’d always thought ‘literary’ meant ‘well written’. How the hell could a magazine reject a story because it was too well written?

That was my first rejection, and a real blow to my ego. I had no idea what to do. I thought I wrote speculative fiction, but it seemed this was too literary to be that? Confused and disheartened, I put that story away and forgot about it. Eventually (about 4 years later) I gave it away for free to an online spec-fic mag that asked if I had anything I could donate. It was later picked up as a reprint for Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror anthology. For a while before that, I was actually conscious about what I wrote; about not being too experimental, or avoiding certain voices, styles and points-of-view that might be considered too ‘literary’. I confined myself to standard genre conventions, and what I wrote wasn’t me.

I have no doubt the same thing happens frequently when submitting genre themed works to literary magazines, no matter how well written the work may be.

This sort of thinking can corral new writers into taking a side. It can trap them into a mindset of tropes and conventions that they feel they must follow or be declared ‘hacks’ or ‘snobs’. This isn’t a good way to nurture new and exciting writing. It isn’t a good way to encourage writers to be the very best they can be.

The way I see it, literary is a gradient of many different shades. It’s hard to quantify, personal in its definition, and often all too narrow, but that’s where things need to change. We have to see value in the entire spectrum of Literature, regardless of genre. If we restrict ourselves, as writers, to only a small part of that spectrum, then what sort of stories are our words painting in the minds of our readers? Of what limited palette are the images we create?

It wasn’t until I dropped that genre barrier and considered how I might utilise the styles, settings and conventions from all ‘genres’, that I began to find myself again as a writer. I began reading more widely than I ever had before, and I feel that my writing is improving with every story, sentence, and word because of this.

We are all taught to ‘read widely‘, but so often we take that to mean ‘read widely within your genre‘. And that’s not enough.

We have to do better if we’re to become better.

We can begin by ignoring the entire Genre vs Literary debate, both as readers and as writers, because it is a nothing more than a barrier to our growth. We should feel free to leave our comfort zones every now and then. To explore, and consume, and assimilate everything good literature has to offer.

We must learn to read without prejudice and write without fear.

Only then, I feel, will we start to become the best writers we can possibly be.

FURTHER READING AND NOTES

  1. Once Again On Genre, by Rjurik Davidson – http://rjurik.com/once-again-on-genre/
  2. Are They Going to Say This Is Fantasy? by Ursula Le Guin’s post – http://bookviewcafe.com/blog/2015/03/02/are-they-going-to-say-this-is-fantasy/
  3. The Embarrassments of Science Fiction by Thomas M. Disch – http://www.press.umich.edu/pdf/9780472068968-1.pdf
  4. The Further Embarrassments of Science Fiction by Thomas M. Disch – http://www.press.umich.edu/pdf/9780472068968-4.pdf
  5. Literature and literalism by Edward Said – http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/1999/414/cu1.htm
  6. Face it, book snobs, crime fiction is real literature – and Ian Rankin proves it http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/11448255/Face-it-book-snobs-crime-fiction-is-real-literature-and-Ian-Rankin-proves-it.html

Andrew J McKiernan is an author and illustrator living and working on the Central Coast of New South Wales. First published in 2007, his stories have since been short-listed for multiple Aurealis, Ditmar and Australian Shadows awards and reprinted in a number of Year’s Best anthologies. He was Art Director for Aurealis magazine for 8 years and his illustrations have graced the covers and internals of a number of books and magazines. Last Year, When We Were Young a collection of his short stories was released in 2014 by Satalyte Publishing. http://www.andrewmckiernan.com

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“Not the Worst of Sins” to be included in BCS Weird West e-anthology

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March 13, 2015

It’s always great when a story keeps on giving. I’m always ecstatic when an editor likes a story I’ve written enough to buy it and publish it in the first place. It’s better when good feedback from readers confirm that the story is being enjoyed. Usually that’s about all you can get from a story and it’s more than enough. But every once in a while, one gets another run as a reprint. Year’s Best anthologies are the cream of all reprints, of course, and we all strive and dream of those. But when a magazine publisher collects their favourite stories into an anthology of favourites, that’s just as good.

I’ve just heard from Beneath Ceaseless Skies magazine that my weird west ghost story, “Not the Worst of Sins“, is going to be included in their next e-anthology of favourites. This is the story that was nominated for a Best Short Story Ditmar Award last year, so it’s obviously a yarn that resonates well.

BCS released “The Ceaseless Steam“, an e-book theme anthology of the best BCS steampunk stories and as it’s doing well, they’re doing a reprint ebook anthology of Weird Western stories. And they’re including “Not the Worst of Sins”. So I’ll be over here Snoopy dancing!

The anthology will come out in late April from e-book stores like WeightlessBooks.com and Amazon Kindle store and will coincide with a special Weird West issue of the magazine on April 30. I’ll be sure to let you all know again in April when it’s out.

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Obsidian nominated for the Aurealis Award for Best Horror Novel

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March 2, 2015

I honestly couldn’t be more happy about this! I’ve been on a Snoopy cloud since the Aurealis Awards shortlists were announced on Friday night and I discovered that Obsidian: Alex Caine #2 has been nominated for Best Horror Novel. The Aurealis Awards are Australia’s premier SFF awards and it genuinely is an honour to be nominated. I’m up against Greig Beck’s The Book of the Dead and Justine Larbalestier’s Razorhurst. That’s some damn stiff competition. But the nomination really is reward enough – so exciting. And it’s a tremendous list of nominations from top to bottom, with some of my pals getting all kinds of nods, and some people I don’t know, who I’m clearly going to have to read now.

Congratulations to all the nominees!

Here’s the full list of finalists in all categories:

2014 Aurealis Awards – Finalists

BEST FANTASY NOVEL

Fireborn, Keri Arthur (Hachette Australia)

This Shattered World, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Allen & Unwin)

The Lascar’s Dagger, Glenda Larke (Hachette Australia)

Dreamer’s Pool, Juliet Marillier (Pan Macmillan Australia)

Afterworlds, Scott Westerfeld (Penguin Books Australia)

Daughters of the Storm, Kim Wilkins (Harlequin Enterprises Australia)

BEST FANTASY SHORT STORY

“The Oud”, Thoraiya Dyer (Long Hidden, Crossed Genres Publications)

“Teratogen”, Deborah Kalin (Cemetery Dance, #71, May 2014)

“The Ghost of Hephaestus”, Charlotte Nash (Phantazein, FableCroft Publications)

“St Dymphna’s School for Poison Girls”, Angela Slatter (The Review of Australian Fiction, Volume 9, Issue 3)

“The Badger Bride”, Angela Slatter (Strange Tales IV, Tartarus Press)

BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL

Aurora: Meridian, Amanda Bridgeman (Momentum)

Nil By Mouth, LynC (Satalyte)

The White List, Nina D’Aleo (Momentum)

Peacemaker, Marianne de Pierres (Angry Robot)

This Shattered World, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Allen & Unwin)

Foresight, Graham Storrs (Momentum)

BEST SCIENCE FICTION SHORT STORY

“The Executioner Goes Home”, Deborah Biancotti (Review of Australian Fiction, Vol 11 Issue 6)

“Wine, Women and Stars”, Thoraiya Dyer (Analog Vol CXXXIV nos 1&2 Jan/Feb)

“The Glorious Aerybeth”, Jason Fischer (OnSpec, 11 Sep 2014)

“Dellinger”, Charlotte Nash (Use Only As Directed, Peggy Bright Books)

“Happy Go Lucky”, Garth Nix (Kaleidoscope, Twelfth Planet Press)

BEST HORROR NOVEL

Book of the Dead, Greig Beck (Momentum)

Razorhurst, Justine Larbalestier (Allen & Unwin)

Obsidian, Alan Baxter (HarperVoyager)

BEST HORROR SHORT STORY

“The Executioner Goes Home”, Deborah Biancotti (Review of Australian Fiction, Vol 11 Issue 6)

“Skinsuit”, James Bradley (Island Magazine 137)

“By the Moon’s Good Grace”, Kirstyn McDermott (Review of Australian Fiction, Vol 12, Issue 3)

“Shay Corsham Worsted”, Garth Nix (Fearful Symmetries, Chizine)

“Home and Hearth”, Angela Slatter (Spectral Press)

BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL

The Astrologer’s Daughter, Rebecca Lim (Text Publishing)

Afterworld, Lynnette Lounsbury (Allen & Unwin)

The Cracks in the Kingdom, Jaclyn Moriarty (Pan Macmillan Australia)

Clariel, Garth Nix (Allen & Unwin)

The Haunting of Lily Frost, Nova Weetman (UQP)

Afterworlds, Scott Westerfeld (Penguin Books Australia)

BEST YOUNG ADULT SHORT STORY

“In Hades”, Goldie Alexander (Celapene Press)

“Falling Leaves”, Liz Argall (Apex Magazine)

“The Fuller and the Bogle”, David Cornish (Tales from the Half-Continent, Omnibus Books)

“Vanilla”, Dirk Flinthart (Kaleidoscope, Twelfth Planet Press)

“Signature”, Faith Mudge (Kaleidoscope, Twelfth Planet Press)

BEST CHILDREN’S FICTION

Slaves of Socorro: Brotherband #4, John Flanagan (Random House Australia)

Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy, Karen Foxlee (Hot Key Books)

The Last Viking Returns, Norman Jorgensen and James Foley (ILL.) (Fremantle Press)

Withering-by-Sea, Judith Rossell (ABC Books)

Sunker’s Deep: The Hidden #2, Lian Tanner (Allen & Unwin)

Shadow Sister: Dragon Keeper #5, Carole Wilkinson (Black Dog Books)

BEST COLLECTION

The Female Factory, Lisa L Hannett and Angela Slatter (Twelfth Planet Press)

Secret Lives, Rosaleen Love (Twelfth Planet Press)

Angel Dust, Ian McHugh (Ticonderoga Publications)

Difficult Second Album: more stories of Xenobiology, Space Elevators, and Bats Out Of Hell, Simon Petrie (Peggy Bright Books)

The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings, Angela Slatter (Tartarus Press)

Black-Winged Angels, Angela Slatter (Ticonderoga Publications)

BEST ANTHOLOGY

Kisses by Clockwork, Liz Grzyb (Ed) (Ticonderoga Publications)

Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories, Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios (Eds), (Twelfth Planet Press)

Amok: An Anthology of Asia-Pacific Speculative Fiction, Dominica Malcolm (Ed) (Solarwyrm Press)

Reach for Infinity, Jonathan Strahan (Ed) (Solaris Books)

Fearsome Magics, Jonathan Strahan (Ed) (Solaris Books)

Phantazein, Tehani Wessely (Ed) (FableCroft Publishing)

BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL/ILLUSTRATED WORK

Left Hand Path #1, Jason Franks & Paul Abstruse (Winter City Productions)

Awkwood, Jase Harper (Milk Shadow Books)

“A Small Wild Magic”, Kathleen Jennings (Monstrous Affections, Candlewick Press)

Mr Unpronounceable and the Sect of the Bleeding Eye, Tim Molloy (Milk Shadow Books)

The Game, Shane W Smith (Deeper Meanings Publishing)

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Graced by Amanda Pillar – Guest Post

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February 27, 2015

A big thank you to the Warrior Scribe, Alan Baxter, for posting this blog entry on my debut novel, Graced! [Aw, shucks! You’re welcome. – Alan]

Graced by Amanda Pillar

Graced by Amanda Pillar

Graced is an urban fantasy story that follows the journey of four diverse characters; it features vampires, weres, humans and a race called the Graced.

But, rather than another synopsis, I thought I’d share some of the background research that helped me develop the Graced universe!

  • It could take only 10,000 years for evidence of a society of our technological level to disappear and become nothing more than archaeological ruins
  • Blue eyes do not have blue pigmentation to make them blue
  • Speciation is occurring all the time in nature; there are animals even now in our world that are evolving new adaptations (the Australian yellow-bellied three-toed skink is changing from laying eggs to having live young)
  • Gun powder was originally developed in China and used for fireworks
  • The general ranking of the English peerage was King/Queen, Duke/Duchess,  Marquis/Marchioness, Earl/Countess, Viscount/Viscountess, Baron/Baroness
  • The colour of mourning varies from culture to culture in today’s world (red, white and black among other colours are worn)
  • Marriage was often once a political alliance, rather than an exclamation of love
  • Eye colour inheritance isn’t the simple four step process we were taught in school eg a brown (B) eyed parent, and a blue (b) eyed parent equals BB, Bb, Bb, bb. It actually does not.
  • Aside from dire wolves having a dramatic name, it was the largest canis species although it has been extinct for at least 10,000 years. Grey wolf males on average weigh up to 45 kgs.

So while the above points may have had a hand in the development of the Graced world, not all of them are apparent in the book. But that’s the beauty of world-building. All of these things helped shape Dante, Elle, Clay and Anton’s world.

*****

Amanda_small-1Amanda Pillar is an award-winning editor and author who lives in Victoria, Australia, with her husband and two cats, Saxon and Lilith.

Amanda has had numerous short stories published and has co-edited the fiction anthologies Voices (2008), Grants Pass (2009), The Phantom Queen Awakes (2010), Scenes from the Second Storey (2010), Ishtar (2011) and Damnation and Dames (2012). Her first solo anthology, Bloodstones (2012), was published by Ticonderoga Publications. Amanda is currently working on the sequel, Bloodlines, due for publication in 2015.

Amanda’s first novel, Graced, was published by Momentum in 2015.

In her day job, she works as an archaeologist.

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SNAFU: Survival of the Fittest and Blurring the Line

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February 18, 2015

The last couple of months have been a bit quiet on the publishing news front, then I just got two tremendous acceptances in the space of three days. It tends to go like that.

2015_02_10_dean_hiltonSo I’m very excited that I’ll have a story in the next SNAFU anthology from Cohesion Press, this one entitled SNAFU: Survival of the Fittest, edited by GN Braun and AJ Spedding. My story is called “In Vaulted Halls Entombed”. It sounds like an album by a death metal band, and I’m just fine with that. But it’s not. It’s a story of cosmic horror. The full line up for this book is:

Badlands – S.D. Perry
Cold War Gothic II: The Bohemian Grove – Weston Ochse
After the Red Rain Fell – Matt Hilton
Show of Force – Jeremy Robinson & Kane Gilmour
‘Untitled’ – Joseph Nassise
Of Storms and Flame – Tim Marquitz & J. M. Martin
In Vaulted Halls Entombed – Alan Baxter
The Slog – Neal F. Litherland
Sucker of Souls – Kirsten Cross
Fallen Lion – Jack Hanson
They Own the Night – B. Michael Radburn

Now that is some absolutely radical company to be sharing a Table of Contents with. And that cover is bloody superb. The SNAFU series focuses on military horror stories. It might sound like a limited theme, but it’s really not. I had the pleasure of reading the original SNAFU anthology and writing the Foreword for it. The range of story and style in there was mind-blowing. I’m sure this volume will be the same – all kinds of historical periods, all kinds of genre, yet all featuring soldiers, war and horror. How can you go wrong?

IMG_0668The other acceptance also came from Cohesion Press, but a very different book, called Blurring the Line. This one is edited Marty Young, himself a great horror writer. He’s also a great editor, being half of the editing team (with Angela Challis) of the groundbreaking Macabre anthology from a few years ago. That book was special in that it covered Australia’s landscape of horror by reprinting literary greats of the past, then featuring new stories from established horror writers of today, and up and comers recently emerging and making a name for themselves. Marty has also edited Midnight Echo and was the founder of the Australian Horror Writer’s Association and its president for five years. He’s what we call a horror pedigree.

Blurring the Line is described thusly:

Do you know what’s real and what isn’t?
There are many tales and urban myths of monsters that shouldn’t exist, of demons and devil possession, of serial killers wearing human skin, of ghosts terrorizing families…
But these tales also sound like fiction, don’t they?
We hope so.
But…
But what if…

Blurring the Line will take you into the far reaches of your darkness, without letting go of reality. It will make you believe.

You can probably understand why I just had to write a story for that book and I’m ecstatic that my yarn, “How Father Bryant Saw The Light”, has been accepted. The anthology will also feature internal illustrations, non-fiction articles and more. The full Table of Contents hasn’t been released yet, but I think it’s going to be a pretty fucking special book. And again, look at that astounding cover. You can click on both the covers in this post for a bigger version.

These books are due out later in 2015, so I’ll be sure to shout about it when they’re available.

Now please excuse me while I Snoopy dance.

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Bound and Clara nominated for Ditmar Awards

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February 16, 2015

I got a very nice surprise this weekend when the 2015 Ditmar Award ballot was released and I saw my name on there twice. I had to do two Snoopy dances! I’ll list the full ballot below, but a little about the awards first.

The Ditmar Award has been awarded annually since 1969 at the Australian National Science Fiction Convention (the “Natcon”) to recognise achievement in Australian science fiction (including fantasy and horror) and science fiction fandom. The award is similar to the Hugo Award but on a national rather than international scale. They are named for Martin James Ditmar “Dick” Jenssen, an Australian fan and artist, who financially supported the awards at their inception.

So you can imagine how happy I am to be shortlisted for two of them this year. I got nominations for BOUND: Alex Caine #1 in the Best Novel category and “The Darkness in Clara” (originally published in SQ Mag #14) in the Best Novelette or Novella category. You can read “The Darkness in Clara” for free online by clicking above, and Bound is still only around $2 in ebook and available in print in all bookstores. If you’re eligible to vote, and you’ve enjoyed either or both of those, I’d greatly appreciate your vote.

Anyone who is a member of Swancon 40 (including supporting members) and anyone was who a member of Continuum 10 last year (who was eligible to vote in the 2014 Award) can vote in this year’s award. I strongly recommend that anyone who is eligible to vote exercises that right, as the more people voting, the better the views of readers are represented in the winners. You don’t have to vote in every category. Voting has opened, and will remain open until one minute before midnight AWST (ie. 11.59pm GMT+8) on Sunday, 22nd of March, 2015.

If possible, please vote online at:

http://ditmars.sf.org.au/2015

The online voting system provides a passworded facility to adjust your vote at any time before the close of voting.

Alternatively, votes will be accepted via email to:

ditmars@sf.org.au

An official ballot paper, including postal address information, will be made available shortly, and may be downloaded as a PDF format file from:

http://ditmars.sf.org.au/2015/2015_Ditmar_ballot.pdf

The 2015 ballot is as follows:

Best Novel
———————————————————-
* The Lascar’s Dagger, Glenda Larke (Hachette)
* Bound (Alex Caine 1), Alan Baxter (Voyager)
* Clariel, Garth Nix (HarperCollins)
* Thief’s Magic (Millennium’s Rule 1), Trudi Canavan (Hachette Australia)
* The Godless (Children 1), Ben Peek (Tor UK)

Best Novella or Novelette
———————————————————-
* “The Ghost of Hephaestus”, Charlotte Nash, in Phantazein (FableCroft
Publishing)
* “The Legend Trap”, Sean Williams, in Kaleidoscope (Twelfth Planet Press)
* “The Darkness in Clara”, Alan Baxter, in SQ Mag 14 (IFWG Publishing Australia)
* “St Dymphna’s School for Poison Girls”, Angela Slatter, in Review of Australian Fiction, Volume 9, Issue 3 (Review of Australian Fiction)
* “The Female Factory”, Lisa L. Hannett and Angela Slatter, in The Female Factory (Twelfth Planet Press)
* “Escapement”, Stephanie Gunn, in Kisses by Clockwork (Ticonderoga Publications)

Best Short Story
———————————————————-
* “Bahamut”, Thoraiya Dyer, in Phantazein (FableCroft Publishing)
* “Vanilla”, Dirk Flinthart, in Kaleidoscope (Twelfth Planet Press)
* “Cookie Cutter Superhero”, Tansy Rayner Roberts, in Kaleidoscope (Twelfth Planet Press)
* “The Seventh Relic”, Cat Sparks, in Phantazein (FableCroft Publishing)
* “Signature”, Faith Mudge, in Kaleidoscope (Twelfth Planet Press)

Best Collected Work
———————————————————-
* Kaleidoscope, edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios (Twelfth Planet Press)
* The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2013, edited by Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene (Ticonderoga Publications)
* Phantazein, edited by Tehani Wessely (FableCroft Publishing)

Best Artwork
———————————————————-
* Illustrations, Kathleen Jennings, in Black-Winged Angels (Ticonderoga Publications)
* Cover art, Kathleen Jennings, of Phantazein (FableCroft Publishing)
* Illustrations, Kathleen Jennings, in The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings (Tartarus Press)

Best Fan Writer
———————————————————-
* Tansy Rayner Roberts, for body of work
* Tsana Dolichva, for body of work
* Bruce Gillespie, for body of work
* Katharine Stubbs, for body of work
* Alexandra Pierce for body of work
* Grant Watson, for body of work
* Sean Wright, for body of work

Best Fan Artist
———————————————————-
* Nalini Haynes, for body of work, including “Interstellar Park Ranger Bond, Jaime Bond”, “Gabba and Slave Lay-off: Star Wars explains Australian politics”, “The Driver”, and “Unmasked” in Dark Matter Zine
* Kathleen Jennings, for body of work, including Fakecon art and Illustration Friday series
* Nick Stathopoulos, for movie poster of It Grows!

Best Fan Publication in Any Medium
———————————————————-
* Snapshot 2014, Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely, and Sean Wright
* It Grows!, Nick Stathopoulos
* Galactic Suburbia, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, and Andrew Finch
* The Writer and the Critic, Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond
* Galactic Chat, Sean Wright, Helen Stubbs, David McDonald, Alexandra Pierce, Sarah Parker, and Mark Webb

Best New Talent
———————————————————-
* Helen Stubbs
* Shauna O’Meara
* Michelle Goldsmith

William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review
———————————————————-
* Reviews in The Angriest, Grant Watson
* The Eddings Reread series, Tehani Wessely, Jo Anderton, and Alexandra Pierce, in A Conversational Life
* Reviews in Adventures of a Bookonaut, Sean Wright
* “Does Sex Make Science Fiction Soft?”, in Uncanny Magazine 1, Tansy Rayner Roberts
* Reviews in FictionMachine, Grant Watson
* The Reviewing New Who series, David McDonald, Tansy Rayner Roberts, and Tehani Wessely

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Fiction submission advice

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January 28, 2015

Every now and then I take on a guest editing spot. It’s not something I could ever do too much, because I’m a writer and that’s where my focus lies, but I enjoy trawling through a slush pile occasionally to find some gems that deserve publication. I’m currently reading slush as a guest editor for issue 2 of Another Dimension magazine. This is a new magazine that’s subject to a successful Kickstarter to get up and running, but it comes with a strong pedigree. It’s the brainchild of Angel Leigh McCoy, of Wily Writers fame. She knows what she’s doing, let me tell you. You can find the submission guidelines and all you need to know here.

However, while looking for those gems in the slush you do have to dig through a lot of… not gems. My reading recently drove me to Twitter for a little bit of a rant. I thought I might repeat my key points here. These things apply to every kind of submission, so bear them in mind regardless of market.

  • When submitting a story to a magazine, ensure your opening sentence isn’t missing an entire word.
  • When submitting a story to a magazine, don’t use both 1st and 3rd person in your opening paragraph. Pick one.
  • When submitting a story to a magazine, ensure your story contains, you know, a story. Not just a sequence of events.
  • When submitting a story to a magazine, first try reading your dialogue aloud. That’s right, *no-one* speaks like that.
  • When submitting a story to a magazine, READ THE FUCKING GUIDELINES!

I realise that those few points above might seem bloody obvious, but you’d be amazed how many submissions fail to comply to one (or many!) of them. If you get those things covered then believe me, you’ll immediately jump ahead of a lot of your competition. Pay extra special attention to the last one. It’s in all caps for a reason.

Now get writing and submitting and good luck!

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Dream Shadow at Tales To Terrify

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January 20, 2015

I love it when my stories get podcast. It’s so great to hear a reading of something you’ve written and to hear that reader’s interpretation of your words. In this case, those wonderful people at one of my favourite podcasts, Tales To Terrify, have just posted a fantastic reading by Graeme Dunlop of my story “Dream Shadow”. It was originally published in the Winds of Change anthology from CSFG Publishing, edited by Elizabeth Fitzgerald. It’s a bit of very Australian flavoured horror.

This is my second appearance at Tales To Terrifythey podcast my ghost western story, “Not the Worst of Sins”, last year. And this is the second story of mine that the good Mr Dunlop has narrated – he also read my “The Seven Garages of Kevin Simpson” for Pseudopod. You can find that story here.

Here’s the latest Tales To Terrify, episode 155, “Dream Shadow”.

I collate all my podcast stories and a list of my favourite podcast magazines on this page here.

Enjoy!

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Video interview – dark fantasy, martial arts and more

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January 19, 2015

The wonderful Joanna Penn pinned me down for an interview over Skype recently. Of course, I was more than happy to chat about some of my favourite things, like writing dark fantasy and horror, novels and short stories, martial arts, travel and so on. We had a good chat. You can watch the video below. And be sure to check out Jo’s books – she writes kickass supernatural thrillers under the name J F Penn. You can see why we get along, right? Hope you find this one interesting. Feel free to share it far and wide.

EDIT: Jo Penn has posted a full transcript of the interview on her site here.

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On posting award eligibility lists, including mine

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January 12, 2015

It’s that time of year again when all the various awards open for nominations. It’s also that time of year when a bunch of people start bitching and moaning about authors shilling their published work. But fuck those people. Awards are all about talking up the stuff you’ve enjoyed, and that includes your own work. As authors, especially these days, it’s our job to promote our work and try to get as many reading eyes on it as possible. There’s no shame in posting a list of your stuff and saying, “Hey, look what I did last year. I’m damned proud of myself.” And so you should be.

Also, it’s hard to remember everything that was published and the stuff you’ve enjoyed. Sometimes a story or a book just sticks with you, but often it’s not until you see a mention of a story that you think, “Hell yeah, that was awesome!” I really appreciate seeing eligibility lists around this time of year, because I love to nominate stuff that I think is worthy, but I’m also fundamentally lazy. And forgetful. If you make my job easier, I’m happy about that. So if you’re not comfortable making posts like these, just don’t. If you’re okay with it, then great. It’s useful and there’s nothing wrong with it. If you spend the next three months all over social media saying, “Vote for me! Vote for this!” then you’re being a dick. But making a list available and making people aware of that list is fine and dandy. People need to vote for the things they’ve really enjoyed and try to signal boost the good stuff. That’s one of the main functions of awards, in my opinion.

(If you’re an Aussie fan, get started by nominating work for the Ditmar Awards, which are now open. Go here: http://ditmars.sf.org.au/2015/nominations.html (Nominations will be accepted from natural persons active in fandom, and from full or supporting members of the national convention of the year of the award. If you may not be known to the Ditmar subcommittee, please provide a brief explanation of why you are eligible (eg. “Full member of Swancon 40″), or the name of someone known to the subcommittee who can vouch for your eligibility to nominate.))

So, with that in mind, here’s my list. Often, when you’ve had several things published in a year, your votes can be split across several titles, so I’m also going to mention my favourites among my published stuff. Afterwards, I’m going to list some of my favourite books by other people from 2014 and where at least some of my votes will be going. It’s not all about me!

NOVELS

All three of my Alex Caine books were published this year, so they’re all eligible in the novel category of awards. If you’ve really preferred one over another, that’s great and you should vote that way. But if you’ve enjoyed the series in general, I’d really appreciate it if you could direct your vote to Bound, the first in the series.

NOVELLA/NOVELETTE

In the novella/novelette category, I only had one story published in 2014, but I also think it’s one of the best stories I’ve ever written. It’s called “The Darkness in Clara” and was published in SQ Mag #14. It’s free to read online, so head on over and have a look if you haven’t already. I’d love to see this story get some more attention.

SHORT FICTION

In the short fiction category, I had six stories published in 2014:

“Thirty Three Tears To A Teaspoon” – Postscripts 32/33: FAR VOYAGER (PS Publishing, November 2014)

“Autumn of the Greatest” – Superpow! anthology (Red Penny Papers, October 2014)

“Shadows of the Lonely Dead” – Suspended in Dusk anthology (Books of the Dead Press, September 2014)

Upon a Distant Shore” – Dimension6, issue 2 (4th July 2014)

“Mephisto”Daily Science Fiction (23rd June 2014)

“All the Wealth in the World”Lakeside Circus, issue 1 (January 2014)

The ones with links are available to read online. The one I’d really like to see get some more attention is “Shadows of the Lonely Dead” from the Suspended in Dusk anthology. This, I think, is possibly my best short story to date and it’s also an intensely personal story for me. I’m really pleased to see that it’s been getting a lot of positive mentions in reviews of what is a truly brilliant anthology. This story is also the first time I’ve had strangers email me to say how much they enjoyed it. That’s happened with my novels before, but never a short story.

(If you haven’t read it, I really suggest getting Suspended in Dusk. It’s cheap as chips at the moment too. Start looking here for your copy.)

Now, what about other people’s work? I’ve read and enjoyed a lot of great fiction throughout 2014. Some will be Australian and some international, so my nominations will depend on what awards the stuff is eligible for and where I’m allowed to nominate. So far I’ve only started thinking about novels, anthologies and collections. This is not a definitive list, as there will definitely be more added to it, and I haven’t even started looking at short stories yet. As for Aussie stuff, check out the Ditmar Eligibility List here, as that’s a great resource for everything Australian published in 2014. Meanwhile, some of my favourite books from last year include:

The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough (novel)

Fearful Symmetries anthology, ed. Ellen Datlow (anthology)

The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings by Angela Slatter (collection)

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes (novel)

Suspended in Dusk, ed. Simon Dewar (anthology)

Echopraxia by Peter Watts (novel)

Guardian (Veiled Worlds #3) by Jo Anderton (novel)

Last Year, When We Were Young by Andrew McKiernan (collection)

SNAFU: An Anthology of Military Horror, ed. Geoff Brown and AJ Spedding (anthology)

I’ll be adding to this list as I gather my thoughts and get to voting.

Lastly, please nominate and vote on any awards you’re eligible to be a part of. The more people there are involved, the more the awards will reflect the opinions of the reading public rather than the authors who shout loudest or who have the biggest social presence. Awards are very imperfect beasts in any case, but the more people are involved, the less imperfect they become. And if you do vote for me anywhere, thank you! I genuinely appreciate it.

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Welcome

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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