C6: Report from the Art Dept

http://www.mechanicalcat.net/rachel/log/Conventions/C6__Report_from_the_Art_Dept

Immediately after C5 last year I begged Chair-of-C6 Hespa to let me edit together a video for the opening ceremony for C6. She then asked me to do some decorations for the venue, to give the con an apocalyptic flavour. This was quite probably too much for one person. For the last few months I have neglected everything else going on around me, but I'm pretty sure I pulled it off.

There are photos of the props I made, which got a lot of comments, especially the zombie cat and giant computer, thank you! And photos of the Maskobalo set-up, which I also coordinated (Mikee did all the lighting).

The video, however is my pride and joy. I spent literally hundreds of hours on it. I hope you like it.

I have to publicly thank everyone who responded to my Twitter cry for cardboard boxes - Deb Kalin, Chris Miles, my brother Alex and Amanda. For enabling the video, thanks again to Alex, Chris, Dougal Scott and my local video store. Thank you to my parents for letting me raid their attic, shed and garage for EXPLOSIVES signs, CRT tvs, truck turn signals, lights and the oscilloscope. Everything else came from Reverse Art Truck and the mistint shelf at Bunnings. Thank you also to Fran La Fontaine who schlepped everything to the venue with her cunning skills in truckbed tetris.

But the person who really let me get away with this was Richard. Thank you. I'll clean up the paint and cardboard now.

Continuum 6: Future Tense

http://www.mechanicalcat.net/rachel/log/Conventions/Continuum_6__Future_Tense

I woke up this morning completely drained of adrenaline, which is what I have been operating on for the last couple of months. BUT IT WAS WORTH IT.

C6 was a great con and I will write more about it once I regrow my chewed-out brain.

Let me just leave you with this. DJ Omega and I conspired to bring about the highlight of the Saturday night Maskobalo.


Snapshot 2010: Kirstyn McDermott

http://www.mechanicalcat.net/rachel/log/snapshot2010/Snapshot_2010__Kirstyn_McDermott

Kirstyn McDermott was born on Halloween, an auspicious date which perhaps accounts for her lifelong attraction to all things dark, mysterious and bumpy-in-the-night-ish. She has been published in various magazines and anthologies, including Shadowed Realms, Southerly, GUD, Redsine, Southern Blood and Island. Kirstyn lives in Melbourne and is a member of the SuperNOVA writers group. Her short fiction has won Aurealis, Ditmar and Chronos Awards and her debut novel, Madigan Mine, will be published by Picador in 2010.

1) Congratulations on your contract with Pan MacMillan! I believe we'll be seeing your first novel this year. What can you tell us about it?

I'm right in the middle of the final edits, actually. The novel is called "Madigan Mine" and is scheduled for release in August this year under the Picador imprint. It's a modern gothic tale, set for the most part in contemporary Melbourne, which tells the story of a young man who may or may not be being haunted by his dead ex-lover. It's a book I've been working on, in various incarnations, for quite a while now and it's still a little weird to realise that it will be out of my head and into print in just a few short months!

2) You edited the first issue of the Australian Horror Writers' Association magazine, Midnight Echo, with Ian Mond. What surprised you most about the experience? Is editing something you'd like to do more of?

I've done some work along the same lines in the past (a very short stint fiction editor for "Bloodsongs" magazine back in the 90's) and I'm friends with a few magazine/anthology editors, so I knew roughly what to expect going in. I'm not sure that "surprising" is the right word, but what shocked me what was the number of submissions we received from people who apparently don't even know how to use a spell-checker! When you get a manuscript and there are several obvious spelling errors and typos on the first page, it's really hard to keep reading. It indicates either laziness or incompetence on the part of the writer, and it's kind of insulting as well. If you expect an editor to read through a 4000 word story, you really should -- at the very least -- run a spell-check over the document and do some basic proof-reading.

I will say that I was very pleasantly surprised by how well the issue came together. We received brilliant stories by some amazing writers and sometimes it felt like our work was being done for us in terms of the right balance and scope for the magazine. Realising the significance of the debut issue, both Ian and myself wanted to showcase the breadth and depth of the genre with a particular focus on Australian writers -- and that's exactly what happened. We prodded a few writers whose work we were particularly interested in a couple of those did submit stories, but the majority of the issue basically fell into our laps through the general slush pile.

As to whether I'd like to do more editing ... if I could avoid reading through slush piles and only work with great writers whose writing I find interesting and engaging, then sure! :-)

Really, as much as I do enjoy editing and working with other writers, I enjoy writing my own stories a lot more. (Most of the time, anyway.) Plus, when it comes right down to it, I think I'm a better writer than I am an editor. It's a constant battle when I'm editing someone else's work to recognise genuine problems that need to be fixed as opposed to something that is simply written differently to how I would have done it. Given the time I have -- or lack of it -- I'd much rather devote this energy to words of my own and let someone else wield the flensing blade.

3) What is it about horror writing that attracts you? Do you see yourself continuing in the genre, or is it not something you consciously decide?

It's definitely not something I consciously decide. I write the sorts of stories that come to me, and don't really think a lot about where they fall in the genre (or if they fall in the genre at all). It just so happens that most of what interests me, in writing and in life in general, is on the darker side. I don't think I'll ever be writing bouncy chick-lit or feel-good fiction -- it's just not the sort of stuff I have in my head. Occasionally I've come up with an idea for a story which I think will be a happy one -- or happier, at least -- but when I start writing, things always seem to take a decidedly darker turn.

I'm not sure exactly why this is, or what specifically attracts me to dark fantasy/horror/gothic type writing; it's just always been this way. This hasn't really answered your question, has it? I'm not sure I can articulate it, precisely. What interests me are those people and groups who exist on the fringes of society: the outcasts, the outsiders, the ones who are excluded and the ones who exclude themselves. I'm also fascinated by things that defy definitions and boundaries, by the liminal and the transitive, the trangressive and taboo. The darker aspects of spec fic seem to be able to talk about these ideas on their own terms, rather than the terms imposed upon them by the mainstream. I think it's this that attracts me to the genre, more than the old cliche of it being like a rollercoaster ride -- scary but safe. At its best, the horror/dark fantasy genre is anything but safe.

4) Which Australian writers or work would you like to see on the Hugo shortlists this year?

There are so many! Margo Lanagan, Paul Haines, Cat Sparx, Kaaron Warren, to name but a few. Oh, and I believe that Angela Slatter is eligible for the Campbell Award ... she's a very, very fine writer who most assuredly deserves to be on the ballot.

5) Will you be at Aussiecon in September? If so, what are you most looking forward to about it?

Yes, I'll definitely be there! AussieCon3 was my first experience of spec-fic conventions and I'm really looking forward to attending another con of that magnitude. So many people, so many panels, so many parties! It's always fantastic to catch up with friends outside of Melbourne (and Australia) who I don't get to see that often, and many of them will be at AussieCon4. Plus, Kaaron warren, Cat Sparx and Angela Slatter have all recently announced that they will have story collections published to coincide with the convention, so there should be some fabulous launches to attend -- not to mention three very fine books to add to my collection!


This interview was conducted as part of the 2010 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We'll be blogging interviews from Monday 15 February to Sunday 22 February and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus.

You can read interviews at:
http://random-alex.livejournal.com/
http://girliejones.livejournal.com/
http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/
http://www.mechanicalcat.net/rachel
http://tansyrr.com/
http://editormum.livejournal.com/

If you're involved in the scene and have something to plug, then send us an email at snapshot2010@gmail.com and we'll see what we can do!

Snapshot 2010: Lucy Sussex

http://www.mechanicalcat.net/rachel/log/snapshot2010/Snapshot_2010__Lucy_Sussex

A Tour Guide in Utopia cover

Lucy Sussex was born in New Zealand, and is a Senior Research Fellow at Melbourne University. She has published editions of crime writers Mary Fortune and Ellen Davitt; and edited four anthologies, including She’s Fantastical (1995), shortlisted for the World Fantasy Award. Her award-winning fiction includes five books for younger readers and the Ditmar-winning adult novel, The Scarlet Rider (1996). She has written three short story collections, My Lady Tongue, A Tour Guide in Utopia (Mirrordanse, 2005) and Absolute Uncertainty, from Aqueduct Press (Seattle, USA, 2006). Currently she reviews weekly for the Sunday Age newspaper.

1) Your 2009 story 'Something Better Than Death' was nominated for an Aurealis Award and is appearing in Ellen Datlow's forthcoming Tails of Wonder and Imagination. Congratulations! Do accolades like these affect your creative writing at all? Do you think much on how a work might be recieved before it's fully realised?

Recognition is always nice (grin).
I think if you bothered about reception you'd never get anything done. The writing, that's the fun, what happens after is incidental.

2) You have done a significant amount of literary archaeology in 19th Century Australian Women's Crime Fiction. Are you still haunted by Mary Fortune?

Haunted? Not literally, although I have dreamt about her (which I hear is an occasional hazard of biographical research. Michael Holroyd, though, says his wife Margaret Drabble dreams about his biographical subjects). In some respects I'll never get her out of my hair, as new information keeps emerging, which makes her all the more interesting. Some day her gravesite may be revealed, and if so I'll organise a plaque, as I did with Ellen Davitt.

Is there someone else you would particularly like to exhume?

Not literally again (bodies smell, for one thing). I'd like to do a biography of Catherine Crowe, who published a bestselling murder mystery novel with three female detectives, predating Edgar Allan Poe. She was also a Spiritualist, feminist, and ran away from her husband (as did Fortune).

3) What are you looking forward to working on next? More short stories or a longer work?

At present I've returned to a novel, which began with an accidental conjunction between Victorian crime and quantum physics. Greg Egan told me not to do it...

4) Which Australian writers or work would you like to see on the Hugo shortlists this year?

I'm in several minds about this. Firstly, stacking award ballots never works, because other parties hear about it and stack better... Secondly I'd rather something was on the ballot because it's good, rather than being oz. That said all we oz writers would really love to be on the ballot!

Will you be at Aussiecon in September? If so, what are you most looking forward to about it?

Yes. Causing trouble?


This interview was conducted as part of the 2010 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We'll be blogging interviews from Monday 15 February to Sunday 22 February and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus.

You can read interviews at:
http://random-alex.livejournal.com/
http://girliejones.livejournal.com/
http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/
http://www.mechanicalcat.net/rachel
http://tansyrr.com/
http://editormum.livejournal.com/

If you're involved in the scene and have something to plug, then send us an email at snapshot2010@gmail.com and we'll see what we can do!

Snapshot 2010: Deborah Kalin

http://www.mechanicalcat.net/rachel/log/snapshot2010/Snapshot_2010__Deborah_Kalin

Shadow Queen cover

Deborah Kalin was once addressed by a recruitment agency as "Cheng Soon" no matter how often she corrected them. A resident of Melbourne, she shares a birthday with Pablo Picasso, was born in the year of the Fire Dragon, collects books beyond her ability to read them all, and once worked at an aluminium smelter where a sparrowhawk routinely ripped pigeons to pieces on a lamp post just outside the cafeteria. She mostly ate not the meat at this cafeteria.

1) Shadow Bound, the second book in The Binding is due to be released this year. How have you found the process different from the first book, Shadow Queen? Did you find it easier or harder having people waiting at the other side of your deadlines?

I found writing SB much more difficult to write, for a variety of reasons. Partly it was a consequence of my habit of writing without an outline -- which means basically I write myself and my characters into impossible corners. (Of course I had an idea as to what happened, but no battle plan survives first contact.) Having the first book published and its storyline effectively set in stone meant anything I'd written into that first half of the story couldn't be changed when I found myself in an impossible corner in the second book, so finding elegant solutions got ... tricksome. The other part of what made SB difficult to write was, as you say, having people waiting at the other side of the deadline. I'd worked to deadlines before, so that wasn't a problem, but I was just so conscious that Allen & Unwin had taken a leap of faith and actually paid me money for this story that I convinced myself I could never possibly deliver something worthy. And of course there was also the normal anguish and plot-hate that comes along mid-book, which in the end saved me. If the dreaded middle of a book has taught me anything, it's that my thought processes and perspective about my manuscript's quality are never to be trusted. So I simply ploughed on, writing the best I knew how, and revised it the best I knew how, and somehow, it all ended up not only finished, but cohesive.

2) I know you've been knee deep in edits recently. Can you tell us a bit about how you manage a writing/life balance?

Lately, not so well! It is difficult to find the time to write: I have a full-time job, and my commute to work is neither short nor simple enough that I can get any writing done on the trip, and of course the weekends end up chock-full of the housework and the (scant!) social life I couldn't fit in to the weekdays. My normal routine is to start the dayjob quite early, around 7am (the commute isn't as painful pre-peak-hour traffic), and then after I've clocked off I'll hang back and write at work, or walk to the local library and write there. I find I work more efficiently that way -- there's no internet, or tv, or housework, or mail, or phone messages demanding my attention. It does make for long days, and a lot of lugging the laptop around, but it makes for less procrastinating. In fact, the less time I have available to write, the better I am at churning out words! I also have a regular writing date -- every Saturday I meet up with a couple of my writer friends at the library and we write until we've hit our target. Then we reward ourselves with cake or hot chocolate or a movie. I love the Saturday catch-up, because it makes the writing social but it also makes the writing just part of the routine.

3) What would you like to be working on five years from now? Do you see yourself continuing to write long fiction, or are there some shorter works you'd like to get your teeth into?

I'll always write novels -- there's so many of them jostling for space in my head that I genuinely have ideas for at least the next 7 books lined up, waiting for their turn to be written. That being said, I love the discipline of short fiction, and I like the platform it gives me to explore ideas. I'm currently working on a short story just for a break (between finishing the edits for Shadow Bound and going back to the rough draft of the current novel, which is, in the way of most novel drafts, being recalcitrant). It's set in the same world as a previous short of mine, "The Wages of Salt", and I think I'll probably come back to that world repeatedly, because one story wasn't enough to explore it. So the short answer is: both! Novels usually take precedence, because they take longer to write but actually stand a chance of making me some money, but short stories will always have a place. (How else will I ever get through all my ideas?)

4) Which Australian writers or work would you like to see on the Hugo shortlists this year?

Shadow Queen, of course! :)

Okay, more seriously, this is the part I dread, where I rattle off a list and end up forgetting favourites anyway, and it just never ends well! So with the caveat that I -know- I'll forget so very many somethings, I'm a big fan of Sean Williams, Margo Lanagan, Deb Biancotti, Cat Sparks, Paul Haines, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Justine Larbalestier... Really, I'm a big fan of Aussie writing!

5) Will you be at Aussiecon in September? If so, what are you most looking forward to about it?

Definitely! (Unless fate intervenes and I have to be out of town. Which fate had better not do.) And everything!


This interview was conducted as part of the 2010 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We'll be blogging interviews from Monday 15 February to Sunday 22 February and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus.

You can read interviews at:
http://random-alex.livejournal.com/
http://girliejones.livejournal.com/
http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/
http://www.mechanicalcat.net/rachel
http://tansyrr.com/
http://editormum.livejournal.com/

If you're involved in the scene and have something to plug, then send us an email at snapshot2010@gmail.com and we'll see what we can do!