I had the pleasure this weekend of attending the New South Wales Writers Centre one day Spec Fic Festival. This has become a regular bi-annual event, the last two directed by Cat Sparks. This was the best yet, in my opinion. I was fortunate enough to be a guest speaker on two panels – one about superheroes and the other about urban fantasy noir. Those two panels and all the others I attended were top fun and really informative. It’s great when these events leave you feeling invigorated and motivated to get back to writing.
The other guests on the day represented a real who’s who of Australian spec fic talent. I highly recommend you get along to one of these whenever there is one. I guess the next will be in two years.
Cat takes amazing photos and there’s a full photoset of the event here.
I’m back from Supanova in Perth and what a fantastic time was had by all, just like in Sydney the week before. So many great people to hang out with, awesome authors, wonderful fans, and the cosplay! Man, those folks are incredible. Check my Instagram for a bunch of pics of all that stuff. Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with the official Supanova photos of the guests – click the photos for a bigger version. Firstly, here’s an author group shot:
From left to right are Cat Sparks, Brandon Sanderson, James Dashner, me, and Lynette Noni. Missing from the shot are Juliet Marillier, who had to leave early, and Maria Lewis, who was a Sydyey-only guest this time around. And every one of those people, pictured or not, is an absolute legend. Authors are great. Of course, I’m slightly biased in that assessment.
And below are two official Supanova group shots. One with everyone smiling all professional-like, and then one where the photographer, Roy said, “Now a silly one!” My huge thanks to the incredible Supanova crew for a fantastic con, especially to Ineke, Skye and Paige – superheroes without capes all three. Also huge thanks to Jeremy, Hayley and the QBD Bookshop crew, who worked their arses off all weekend. And massive thanks to all the wonderful people who came by to say hi, get books signed, and buy books. I sold out of books at both cons and that just blows my mind. I’m a lucky author.
Three things really quickly and they’re all great!
Firstly, I’ll be at Supanova in Perth this weekend.
Supanova Perth – June 23rd, 24th and 25th.
I will be an author guest, signing and on panels. I’ll be there right across the three days. All the details if you click the link above.
Second thing, if you come to Supanova Perth you can get the entire Alex Caine trilogy, signed and personalised, for $50! Those great people at HarperVoyager and QBD Bookshop are running the 3 for 2 special again. Basically, if you buy Bound and Obsidian, you get Abduction for nothing. Boom!
Lastly, while I’m away, The Book Club giveaway is still happening where you can do some silly photoshopping and maybe score a signed and numbered limited edition hardback of The Book Club. The Grim Reader recently gave it 5 stars and called it “a must-read cosmic thriller”. I couldn’t be happier – reviews like that one make all the hard work worthwhile. All the giveaway details here!
Love and kisses! Back to normal service soon once I stop gallivanting all over the country.
A quick reminder that I’m an author guest of Supanova Sydney this weekend. I’ll be there on author row all afternoon Friday, then all day Saturday and Sunday. I’ll have a very few copies of Crow Shine, The Book Club and Primordial with me, and QBD Books will be right there beside us with heaps of the Alex Caine trilogy for purchase – and in an exclusive Supanova special, you can get all three Alex Caine books for the price of two! And I’ll be very happy to sign them for you. Come along and see me, all the other great author guests, the movie and TV stars, the pop culture extravaganza, the cosplayers… Honestly, Supanova is an absolute blast.
All the details you need are here. Come and say hi!
The Book Club is out now in limited edition hardcover, regular hardcover, and ebook. It’s such a beautiful book, with that amazing cover by Ben Baldwin. The limited edition is signed and numbered and there will only ever be 100 of them. And I’m giving one away.
Here’s the blurb for the book:
Jason Wilkes’s life takes a turn for the worse when his wife fails to come home from her book club. Jason calls Kate’s ‘book buddy’, Dave, who assures him she left hours ago. Contacting the police, Jason finds them equal parts sympathetic and suspicious. He tells them almost everything, except that he’s been hearing Kate’s voice, calling as if from far away. He certainly doesn’t mention that he’s seeing shadows that reach for him. With the police getting nowhere fast, Jason takes matters into his own hands, even as nightmare images and Kate’s distant cries continue to haunt his waking moments and his dreams, and the strange, grasping shadows persist. Jason begins to unravel the mystery, but he’s at odds with the police, he’s being lied to by Kate’s book club friends, and his chances of finding Kate slip ever further away. It seems that everything is going to go as wrong as it possibly can.
Here’s how the giveaway works – you’re going to need to put some effort in to get one of these limited edition beauties.
Click on the cover image for the book above. That’ll open up a hi-res version that you can then Right Click and Save As to download. I want you to photoshop that cover into some crazy picture (like Cthulhu reading it, or it on the desk in the White House, stuff like that.) Use your imagination, make it crazy. I’m not bothered by the quality of your photoshop skills – use MS Paint if you like – but in the creativity of the image. Then post your entry onto my Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/alanbaxterauthor/ If you’d rather send me your entry directly, you can send it in a private message via my Facebook page or email it to me. I’ll collate all the entries into an album on my FB page and that’s where the voting with likes can happen. The photoshopped image with the most likes at the end of July 2017 will win the signed limited edition. Simple, right? Have fun with it! And you can enter as many times as you like, so get all your ideas going.
EDIT: Here’s the album of entries so far. The earlier you get in, the more Likes you might get.
If you can’t wait to maybe win one, you can buy a copy at any of these places:
You can purchase any edition now directly from the PS Publishing site, or follow the links below. Otherwise, order from your local bookstore or library as normal.
It’s funny how social media works. The other day a friend on Facebook posted a thing he’d discovered where Neil Gaiman was talking about imposter syndrome. Gaiman explained his own sense of it through an anecdote. I thought it was a great story and it resonated with me. I don’t know a successful writer who doesn’t struggle with that sense of not really being good enough. Of being found out any minute and their career crashing down. Of course, the opposite is the Dunning-Kruger effect and that’s probably never been as clearly demonstrated as it’s being right now by Donald Trump. But back to the Gaiman thing.
Because my friend on Facebook had shared the anecdote in a post set to Friends-only, I copied the text and pasted it into a little image to make a meme of it. I was just noodling on my phone but wanted to share this thing that had resonated so strongly with me. And it turned out to resonate with many other people. At the time of writing this, only a couple of days after posting it, it’s been retweeted on Twitter more than 25,000 times and Liked there more than 40,000 times. It’s been shared from my author page on Facebook more than 14,000 times and reached nearly one and half million people. That’s some insane viral media, but it just goes to show how total this feeling of not being good enough can be. And I’ve noticed that it’s not just among writers – the shares have shown a huge variety of people, demographics and careers. Pretty much any career type you can mention, and even students still at uni, have admitted to the sensation and said how pleased they were to read Gaiman’s story. After all, if it happens to him and the other Neil in that story, it’s pretty normal for anyone, right?
Subsequently, once the thing had started going viral, I went back to check the veracity of the quote. I didn’t care if it was true or not, given the chord it had struck, but I needed to know. I discovered the original story here on Gaiman’s Tumblr.
So what is this story that resonated so widely? Here’s my original tweet that went so bananas.
Neil Gaiman on imposter syndrome. pic.twitter.com/RgneuZ4Bkt
— AlanBaxter (@AlanBaxter) May 13, 2017
For a clearer read of the anecdote, here’s the image meme I shared in the first instance – click for a larger version.
And even if the story wasn’t true, let’s not forget this other excellent Gaiman quote, from the Sandman books. (Image snurched from Goodreads, and again, click for a larger version.)
So impostor syndrome is real, y’all. But don’t ever let it stop you.
I was recently asked by Lynne Lumsden Green for some writing tips. The Australian Writers Centre runs regular Wednesday night writing races where a Facebook group is set up and people encourage each other for an hour to get some words down. It’s a good way to feel part of a bigger community and get motivated by other people in the same boat as you. And this week, Lynne asked if I’d be a guest writer at the race and throw out some motivational tips to help people along. I was happy to oblige. Lynne put my tips onto some graphic that she posted throughout the horu and I tried to encourage people along too. So I thought I might as well subsequently share those tips on my blog. Here’s what I offered the racers:
In order to be a good writer, you need to read as much and as widely as possible. In your genre and out, fiction and non-fiction.
“Write what you know” is a good idea, but it’s misleading. We can’t know everything, but research is fun! So learn about what you want to write about.
The only rule of writing is this: You must write. When, how much, how often, what about, is all up to you and varies from person to person. Do what works for you.
In the immortal words of Chuck Wendig, “Finish your shit!” And in the immortal words of Angela Slatter, “You can edit shit, but you can’t edit nothing.”*
You can’t write all the time, but you must be a writer all the time. See everything with a writer’s eye. Notice everything.
Don’t write what you think people want to read. Write what you want to read. That’s the stuff you can write best.
Laird Barron said, “The youth I wasted makes me a better writer today.” Remember to live, always. Experience everything you can. It all feeds back into your writing.
*Angela has since informed me that she got that tip from Kevin J Anderson, but I heard it first from Angela, so she gets my credit.
So there you go. Those are things that have helped me along over the years.
Look at this beautiful book! PS Publishing are renowned for making wonderful folio editions and they’ve excelled themselves with this hardcover of my new novella, The Book Club. The artwork is by the insanely talented Ben Baldwin. As you can see, the book is real. That’s a photo of it right there. You can order yours right here. You can also pre-order one of the Limited Editions, which will be signed by me and numbered – only 100 of those will exist, so get in quick. I’m told the ebook should become available any time now, so watch my socials for that news. Meanwhile, I thought I might whet your appetites with a small excerpt. It’s a bit hard to describe The Book Club, but the best I’ve managed so far is to imagine Gone Girl with added weird horror. That’ll get you close.
Here’s the blurb:
Jason Wilkes’s life takes a turn for the worse when his wife fails to come home from her book club. Jason calls Kate’s ‘book buddy’, Dave, who assures him she left hours ago. Contacting the police, Jason finds them equal parts sympathetic and suspicious. He tells them almost everything, except that he’s been hearing Kate’s voice, calling as if from far away. He certainly doesn’t mention that he’s seeing shadows that reach for him.
With the police getting nowhere fast, Jason takes matters into his own hands, even as nightmare images and Kate’s distant cries continue to haunt his waking moments and his dreams, and the strange, grasping shadows persist. Jason begins to unravel the mystery, but he’s at odds with the police, he’s being lied to by Kate’s book club friends, and his chances of finding Kate slip ever further away. It seems that everything is going to go as wrong as it possibly can.
And here’s the opening section:
The Book Club
by Alan Baxter
I did what I suspect everyone does in a situation like this. I waited. Told myself it was all fine, she would be home any minute. Just a little delay. Maybe she had to stop for gas. Sure, at fifteen minutes past midnight on a Wednesday. She was never usually later than eleven forty-five, maybe twelve at the outside.
Perhaps she had a flat. She’d call me any moment, asking for help, and I’d have to wake Molly next door to come in and watch Charlie. We’d laugh about it tomorrow, red-eyed with tiredness over our coffee while our son whooped and cavorted, unaware of bad things that can happen in the world.
By twelve thirty I was getting itchy and rang her mobile a few times. It went repeatedly to voicemail. Off or out of service. So off then, as there wasn’t anywhere around here out of reception range.
As I sat trying to ignore the lead weight of anxiety in my gut I heard her voice call my name so clearly that I stood, relief washing through me, and turned to the door as it swung gently open. But she wasn’t there. Dim hallway and nothing but shadows. She’d sounded almost desperate, far away and close by at the same time, inside my head and out. I must have fallen into a doze while I waited and dreamed it. It had been a long day. But concern soon kindled a deep fear.
At one a.m. I rang Dave, the book club contact. The only number she’d given me. He answered in a voice dense with sleep. “Yeah, hello?”
“I’m really sorry to wake you, Dave. This is Jason Wilkes. Kate’s husband. Kate hasn’t come home. Did she leave the book club okay?”
Dave coughed, cleared a thick throat. “Oh. Kate gave you this number?”
“Yeah, in case of emergencies.” For reasons just like this, you dumb fuck. I bit down on my anger, it wasn’t his fault. “She leave the book club okay?” I asked again.
“Yeah. Yeah, she did. We wrapped up about eleven like normal, usual chit chat. She would have been gone by eleven-thirty.”
“She’s still not home.” I hated the waver I my voice. The little-boy-lost vibration.
“I, er… I don’t know what to tell you. Sorry, dude. Maybe check, you know…”
“Like, hospitals, police?” He sounded apologetic, as though he himself had mislaid her, and I felt bad for making him say aloud what I knew he meant.
“Sure. Thanks, Dave.”
“No problem. Hey, good luck. I’m sure it’s fine, she got a flat or something.”
I laughed a little too loud. “Exactly what I was just thinking! Thanks.”
He hung up and I stared at the phone for a solid minute, my mind spinning in neutral. Then trembling set in as I found the numbers I needed. The local hospitals weren’t entirely helpful, citing various codes of privacy, but I managed to establish no one matching my wife’s description had been admitted in the last three hours.
I rang the police in quite a state and the dispatch said they would send someone around as soon as possible.
I heard the police car arrive, purring into the night silence, and opened the front door as two uniformed officers walked up the path. A man and a woman, faces soft and friendly, but with a business edge. A hint of “don’t fuck with us”. The man was huge, almost broad as a bus with arms bigger than my thighs. His skin was that deep chestnut that looks like polished hardwood on a body like his. His bald head shone in the porch light. The woman was everything he wasn’t: pale, short, skinny, blonde, but she looked pretty hardcore for all that. I’ve always held respect for law enforcement, and a kind of jealousy. I wish I had the balls to step in front of crime like they do, but I’ll stick with processing environmental claims and do my bit for humanity that way.
“Jason Wilkes?” the woman said.
“That’s right. Please, come in.”
“I’m Sergeant Cooke and this is Officer Dale.”
The man’s enormous hand engulfed mine and they followed me inside. Dale shut the door behind him.
“Still no word?” Cooke asked.
“Nothing. I’m a little freaked here.”
“I can imagine. Let’s sit down and get all the information we can. We’ll sort this out.”
I directed them through to the front room and they sat side by side on the couch while I fell into an armchair opposite. They looked ridiculous next to each other, such extremes.
“You want a drink?” I asked. “Coffee, juice, water?”
“We’re fine, thank you.” Cooke produced a notepad and pencil while big old Dale remained motionless beside her. There was a stillness to the man that unnerved me. He’d make a great ally, I was sure, but I would hate to cross him. He looked like he could crush a bowling ball with one hand. “So, start at the beginning,” Cooke said, pencil poised. “Your wife’s full name?”
“Kate Annabel Wilkes. Katherine. With a K.”
“She went out in her car tonight?”
“Yep. Red Toyota Corolla, 2008 model.” I rattled off the licence plate, pleased I could remember it.
“And when did you last see Kate?”
I nodded, hands wringing together. “Well, Wednesday is her night. We have a kid, Charlie, he’s three. She goes out Wednesdays and I go out Thursdays and we often get a sitter Friday and go out together or something.” I stopped, drew a long breath. “Sorry, I’m rambling. I’m scared.”
Cooke smiled gently, nodded. She remained silent.
“Okay, so, like I said, Wednesday is her night. She goes to a Krav Maga class from six til eight, then her book club meets at eight-thirty.”
Cooke raised an eyebrow. “Krav Maga?”
“Martial art,” Dale said, his voice not nearly as deep as I had expected. Almost comically so. “Israeli military fighting method, very brutal. Popular everywhere these days.”
Cooke scribbled in her notebook. “Cool. She’s a fighter, huh?”
I grinned. “Actually, yeah. My wife is badass. She used to do a lot of martial arts since she was a kid, always been in great shape. After Charlie was born she got back to training as soon as she could, found this new club and loved it. She goes every Wednesday and there’s a Saturday morning class she goes to as well if we don’t have plans. I can watch Charlie then.”
“You a fighter too?” Cooke asked. “You look like you’re in good shape.”
“Not really a fighter. I tried it, but not my bag. I go to the gym a lot though, I like lifting weights and I run. We both believe in staying fit and healthy.”
“Right, so Krav Maga and then a book club?”
“Yeah, she loves to read, always got a novel on the go. Again, after Charlie was born, she needed something to get out and be social while he was little. Once he was weaned and I could take over for a night, she got into Krav and then joined this club.”
“And what time is she usually home?”
“Between eleven-thirty and midnight. Never later.”
Cooke checked her watch. It was just shy of two a.m., I didn’t need to look to know that. I’d been clock-watching like a man obsessed until they’d arrived.
“Okay, so where is the Krav Maga class?”
“Just a mo.” I trotted into the kitchen and came back with the flyer from the fridge, handed it to her.
Cooke turned over the glossy slip of paper with its pictures of angry people refusing to take even an ounce of shit. She scribbled down the address. “Can I keep this?”
She smiled, slipped it into the back of her notepad. “And the book club?”
“Yeah, right after her class.”
“Right. Where is it?”
“Oh, sorry. Of course. Er, it’s usually out on the other side of Lamar Park somewhere, only about a ten minute drive. A couple of members near there take turns to host it most of the time, occasionally it’s somewhere else.” A sinking feeling washed through me as I realised I had no idea where it actually was.
“You have any addresses?”
“Errrr… No, I don’t.”
Dale sat forward, forearms like sides of beef on his knees. Cooke raised an eyebrow again. “No idea at all? She been going there long?”
“Over a year, yeah. Maybe eighteen months. I never really thought about it. I really should have asked.”
Both officers nodded but stayed silent.
Has your appetite been whetted? I hope so. You can go and order your copy of The Book Club here!
Given that Alien: Covenant is coming out soon (and yes, my bar is set very low) I thought I might repost this from when I originally saw the execrable Prometheus. The only reason I’m really reposting it is because sadly, June 2012 was one of the archives lost in the recent hack and rebuild, and this was one of my greatest rants.
Originally posted on June 17th, 2012:
Blade Runner is still the greatest movie of all time. Alien is still the benchmark movie by which all space-horror should be measured. It’s hard to believe that the man who brought us these amazing films is also responsible for the execrable mess that is the long-awaited Prometheus. I saw this movie last night and I’m still angry about it. I had to teach a tai chi class this morning and it was hard because underlying my calm, professional exterior was a seething, unavoidable rage at a film that couldn’t have been more shit if it actually tried to be the shittest film ever made. There will be spoilers here, but don’t worry – you should save your money and not see the film anyway. But I’m assuming most people have seen it already.
From a simple film-making point of view, it was a stunning achievement. The design, the effects, the atmosphere were all excellent. But that matters not when the story makes no sense. Seriously, a script written by randomly pulling letter tiles from the Scrabble bag would be more coherent. Now, before anyone thinks I’m totally missing the point, I know it’s a massive allegory for Creationism with an extremely heavy Christian agenda, brutally mixed with various other mythologies. It is written by Damon Lindelof, after all, who brought us the atrociously unacceptable Christian Shepherd ending to Lost. (Talking of scripts that make no fucking sense.) That allegory would annoy me anyway, in this case even more so as it’s rammed down our throats like a face-huggers egg tube. But I might be prepared to forgive the great exogenesis bullshit if it was tied into a credible story. But it’s not. It’s so far from a credible story that the film should be called The Great Incredible Anti-Story.
It should have been awesome. The cast are one solid bunch of capable professionals, but they can’t be expected to save a film when the script is delivered to them as shit stains carefully shaped into letters on used toilet paper. That’s the only way I can imagine that this script was “written”. The character inconsistencies and plot holes in this film are breath-taking. I’ll just look at the first few things we see:
We open with a possible Earth and a huge, white, muscly alien dude drinking some goo that disintegrates him and seeds the planet with his DNA. Okay, I was prepared to buy that – there are surely better ways to mix their DNA with the goo, but if they use this whole sacrifice method, then sure. It’s absurd, but I’ll roll with for now.
Cut to humans investigating cave paintings. They spot a recurring theme – big dudes pointing at six dots. With absolutely no evidence or explanation whatsoever, this is interpreted by a Christian scientist as an invite by Von Daniken’s aliens to come and visit. Why!? What possible reason could there be to immediately assume that’s an invite? Well, we’re told later in the film, “Because that’s what I choose to believe.” Fuuuuuck!
Anyway, this is enough to trigger a trillion dollar expedition to the planet in question. Wait, they found a planet in the vastness of infinite interstellar space using a cave painting of six dots? Yes, they did. Apparently. Because “plot”.
So they fly there and there’s this moon, right, and that’s where they’ve been invited to. So they break orbit, cruise in, see a big mountain and say, “Let’s cruise that valley.” They turn a corner and voila! There’s the alien installation. How do you instantly find the correct valley on a planet the SIZE OF A PLANET!? On top of this, we later learn that this isn’t the homeworld of these big, white, muscly alien sacrificial DNA vendors, but it’s actually a massive production depot for weapons of mass destruction that they intend to use to destroy humanity. Why did the cave paintings “invite” humans to their massive WMD moon? What the fuck possible reason could they have for that? Anyway, back to the timeline. (Bear in mind that I’m only a few minutes into the film at this point.)
The crew immediately decide to explore this installation and send off these 3D mapping drones. Without waiting for the mapping to be finished or for any explanation of why the air is suddenly breathable and not full of pathogens, they take off their helmets and start running around inside, because complete lack of science or any kind of brain.
Suddenly and for no discernible reason, a holographic history lesson starts up and tells them things they need to know, because “plot”. Incidentally, this same inexplicable hologram happens later, giving androidDavid the password flute tune he needs to operate all the things. Yes, you read that right. Aliens with massively advanced technology turn their computer systems on with a quick tootle on a flute. Sure, that could be conceived as a very clever password system, assuming you don’t have a randomly triggered hologram show up and give that password to anyone who happens to come along. Why were there holograms of past events showing up all over the place!?
Anyway, back to the opening twenty minutes of the film. Our intrepid selection of the most unscientific scientists ever assembled discover the fossilised remains of a big alien. The geologist immediately freaks out and says, “I’m only here for money and rocks, fuck this noise” and says he’s going back to the ship. He asks if anyone else is going and the biologist says, “Yep, fuck this noise.” The biologist! The one who is presumably along on the trip because he’s really into biology and that, yet he’s not going to investigate a new, alien species. So off they fuck. And even though the geologist is the one with the mapping drones, and even though those drones are live-feeding a three-dimensional layout of the entire complex to the ship, and even though the ship is in constant contact with everyone and can see on the map exactly where everyone is at all times, the geologist and the biologist get lost and inexplicably left behind.
They end up stuck there as a convenient plotstorm comes out of nowhere and decide to wait it out in a scary room full of inexplicably replicating alien goo. Then a weird alien snake thing appears. The biologist, who was moments ago terrified of a 2,000 year old fossilised humanoid, is suddenly and inexplicably besotted with this up-standing, threatening, hooded, hissing alien snake thing. After all, he’s a biologist, so he’d know you never have to be concerned when a snake thing that pops out its hood stands up and starts hissing at you. That’s completely unthreatening. So he tries to play with it and it kills him. And sprays acid blood on the geologist. All because “plot”, of course. Incidentally, said geologist, who dies facedown in the goo, comes back later as a violent zombie-hulk thing. For no reason at all he travels back to the ship all folded over like some contortion-zombie showing off his crazy, uncanny crab walk, then just stands up and fights everyone like a normal zombie-hulk until he’s burned to a crisp. And just going back to that snake thing – where did it come from anyway? We can only assume it spontaneously evolved from the black goo in a couple of hours because.
Anyway, I’m going to stop now. You’ll have a pretty good idea of just how fucking awful this movie is and I’ve barely scratched the surface of plot holes and character stupidity – people who see worms in their eyes but don’t seek medical help, for example. Or people who die because they can’t turn left or right while running. And so on. Not to mention the complete lack of any consistency in any of the “science” randomly thrown at the film like poo from the monkey cage.
Other people have done excellent work deconstructing this piece of shite from various angles:
And this four minute video covers a lot, but certainly not all, of the plot holes and nonsensical “story”:
I am so fucking angry with Ridley Scott right now. After being so excited about this movie, it couldn’t have been worse if it tried.
I was very excited when PS Publishing posted these photos yesterday. My new novella, The Book Club, is a real thing! PS do wonderful folio hardcovers and this is mine. It’ll also be available in a limited signed edition, restricted to only 100 copies. And the ebook will be released once the hardcover goes live, I’m told. It’s a thing of beauty, the cover art by Ben Baldwin. The story can maybe best be described as Gone Girl with cosmic horror. I really hope people enjoy it – the early pre-orders are apparently being fulfilled right now.
To get your copy, go here: http://www.pspublishing.co.uk/the-book-club-hardcover-by-alan-baxter-4248-p.asp
I’ll be over here happy dancing.