Thursday, October 30, 2014

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY GETS THE V-GER KICKED OUT OF IT


"Oh, honey. It'll be perfect for the baby's room!"


Part of the fun of science fiction is wondering what's out there: what strange, alien life waits for us out beyond the stars, with weird alien motivations and bizarre physical and emotional manifestations. It's part of the sensawunda that drove Golden Age SF and which you can still find in the pulpier fringes of the genre today. Let's be honest: aliens are fun.

The quickest way to a gag cartoon is to take a situation, and flip it: take the ordinary and make it bizarre, take the incredible and make it mundane. Of course there will be giant, alien space squid. But they'll smoke pipes and have a 1950's home life, and they'll use space shuttles as mobiles.

Of course they will.











Wednesday, October 29, 2014

WRITE, YOU DOGS!

So, remember when I said that I'll be appearing at a couple of Write Along the Highway events in November this year?

Here's the first of them: I'll be conducting a free writing marathon at the Mundijong Library on the 18th of November.

 
 
 
I'll also be taking part in Nanowrimo again this year: if you want to buddy me up, you'll find me here.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Review: Lost


Lost
Lost by Michael Robotham

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Strong, muscular crime story that begins with intertwined mysteries-- who shot the narrator and left him to die in the Thames, and what has happened to his memory?-- and weaves them throughout a narrative of a cop at the end of his time, slowly coming to terms with the knowledge that his methods and obsessions are being sent irrevocably into obsolescence.

Robotham's tight, controlled style never gives the reader time to draw back and see the greater narrative, and his masterful control of details and verisimilitude paint detailed vignettes that give spice to the constant action. Threats abound, tension is high, and the book rockets along at a frantic pace as time runs out for the protagonist, DI Ruiz, on a number of fronts.

Top notch storytelling.



View all my reviews

Friday, October 24, 2014

HELPING TO PERPETUATE THE HIDDEN SISTERHOOD OF POWERFUL WOMEN

Or, to put it another way, I've received news that Paradox Books have accepted my story The Daughters of John Anglicus-- featuring Trota of Salerno and the descendants of Pope Joan-- for inclusion in their anthology Crusader Kings, which will be coming out in December which means you'll be able to get me to sign it for you for Christmas. If you haven't already bought it, you can pick up Europa Universalis IV: What If?, which contains my alternative history Napoleon Bonaparte story The Emperor of Moscow, while you're there.

More details on the how and where of buying it as I get them, but for now, here's a little snippet to get you keen:

     Trota edges past the end of the bed. Once round to the other side she sees the woman more clearly. She is tall, taller perhaps than even Nicholas, and older than Trota expected, being perhaps in her mid-thirties. Long black hair is splayed across a bank of pillows, and her olive face is pale and drawn close in pain. A nightgown is bunched up above her knees and stretches tightly across the rounded bulk of her stomach. A white-shifted old woman dabs ineffectually at her forehead with a damp cloth. She scurries out of the way as Trota approaches, and shuffled from the room, crossing herself and murmuring respectful words as she passed Nicholas. He waves her on her way, and directs Trota to sit on the vacant stool.
     “This is your charge,” he says. “She is close to birth, but for the last month there have been... problems. Increasingly so.”
     “Why...” She sits, takes the woman’s long hand in her own, and gives it a soft squeeze. The woman turns pain-squinted eyes towards her. She clenches Trota’s hand hard enough to hurt, and hisses as her gut spasms. “Why is there no doctor here?”
     “She summoned you.”
     “I’m two weeks away!”
     “You are the only chirurgeon to whom Her Holiness has granted admittance.”
     “You let her lie here for two weeks in this sort of pain. What the hell--?”
     “Watch your mouth!” Nicholas’ sudden rage rocks Trota back on her stool. “You are in the presence of holiness. You will not use those words.”

Thursday, October 23, 2014

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY IMITATES CHRISTOPHER PYNE

A short while ago, when the writing was going nowhere so fast I decided to give it up and go back to giving cartooning a proper go, I inked and coloured a series of gags to see whether I could sell them.

I've gone back to being a writer since then. That's all you need to know.

Anyway, here's one of those cartoons. Any similarity to any current Government, living, dead or otherwise, is entirely coincidental.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

DOING THE CRIME

Last weekend, Luscious and I divested ourselves of all encumbrances and headed into Perth to spend the weekend at the annual convention of crime writing and investigative sciences, CrimeScene WA.

CrimeScene is a wonderful convention, not least because it has an incredibly strong science stream, presented by top notch industry professionals with a set of presentation skills that makes the traditional writing convention "three talking heads and a table" scenario seem decidedly second rate. For the first time in a long time I had agreed to be a part of more than one panel at a convention: apart from a solo presentation on writing settings, I agreed to assist Lyn with her presentation on Women Characters in Crime and take part in a panel discussion on what to do once you have been published. I was keen to see whether the change in convention genre would result in a change in approach to panel structure, so I packed our little Powerpoint shows and book-buying money, and away we went.

The convention was held at Rydges Perth, in the heart of the City: a hotel with a funky 70s retro-future vibe going on in the foyer, but with an obscene parking rate (valet only parking at something like $70 a day) and the traditional convention hotel quota of working lifts-- in this case, one of four. It was a delight to meet up with writing Guest of Honour Tansy Rayner Roberts, who I've known for years but seldom see in the flesh due to living on opposite sides of the country, and one of the nicer things about attending a convention outside of my own genre backyard was the opportunity to bump into authors with whom I interact in my day job but rarely on an equal literary footing: sharing the registration queue with Sarah Evans, a writer of my day job acquaintance from Bridgetown, was a lovely moment, as was a breakfast shared with Michael Murphy, up from Capel for the weekend. And Linda, Jay, and Todd-- the convention committee-- are good pals who treat their authors and experts wonderfully, so apart from the joy of their company they always make me feel like I want to do my best for them.

Thanks to the interwebbernet we found some cheaper (not cheap, cheaper) parking nearby. The walk to and from the hotel, coupled with a wander into the main shopping mall at Sunday lunchtime when we needed a break to visit the Nespresso store served one purpose, at least. Living so far away from Perth means we visit it rarely, and so had failed to observe a small but subtle change that has overtaken the CBD-- it's become a complete shit hole: filthy; filled with empty shopfronts; and generally more run-down than I have seen it in a long time.

One particularly unpleasant reminder of the inhumane and uncaring social policies of our State and Federal Governments was quickly apparent, too: I've never seen so many homeless people tucked into doorways and crannies as I saw this weekend. I'm not naive enough to believe Perth is any sort of utopia, or that homelessness does not exist here, but the two blocks between the car-park and hotel were occupied by no less than 8 homeless people trying to find shelter or ask for assistance, and that's a critical mass that's hard to ignore. There's rot in the heart of the apple in Perth, and it's beginning to show. One wheelchair-bound old lady, in particular, seemed to represent the failure of our social systems: passing her on the way to my nice middle-class hotel room to play at my middle-class pastime added some uncomfortable self-awareness of the advantages I take for granted:


This the kind of heritage you were talking about, City of Perth?

Still, on to the convention itself, and it was clearly apparent that this is a convention in two parts.

The science stream was utterly fascinating, with strong presentations on a wide range of topics. Highlights for me included a discussion on psychopath and offender profiles by Associate Professor Guy Hall, with an emphasis on the Claremont Serial Killer; a dissection of the murder scene of Don Hancock and Lou Lewis by Sergeant Clayton Bennie, the bomb squad Sergeant who was CSO at the scene; palynologist Doctor Lynne Milne discussing the study of pollen within crime scenes; and a history of bog bodies by Doctor John Watling. Each of these presentations was highly interactive, with a strong public speaker in confident control of both their subject matter and the audience, and excellent visual presentation aids that stopped the audience feeling like they were simply privy to a private conversation. More importantly, each presentation was focused, and delivered great value for money. I came away fascinated, educated, and with a feeling that I had been exposed to the best this particular industry had to offer.

The writing stream, I enjoyed not quite so much, for a variety of reasons, chief amongst them being my own involvement: in the end, CrimeScene felt like not much of a writing experience, and more often than not I wanted to be in the other room where the interesting crime stuff was happening. Clearly, most of the attendees agreed with me: apart from the ongoing procession of "three heads and a table" panels, the rooms were, quite simply, verging on empty whenever I attended a writing stream session, as the majority of con-goers were in the far more exciting science stream rooms. My own presentation, on creating settings, for example, attracted three attendees, and the experienced amongst you will quickly work out that one of those is Stephen Dedman, an author to whom I reckon I can teach just about the square root of fuck all:






Other writing panels I attended fared little better, but in all honesty, the majority got what they deserved as far as offering entertainment goes: there's only so far a crime convention can go when the majority of the writing stream consists of writers outside of the central genre, and particularly when many of the sessions are programmed against proven entertainment winners: Professor Simon Lewis and Hadyn Green are long-term CrimeScene alumni, for example, and deservedly popular, and the aforementioned discrepancy in presentation skill was overwhelmingly apparent. While I enjoyed assisting Lyn with her Women in Crime panel, I once again came away feeling that being a panellist at small scale conventions is something I no longer enjoy.

Lyn had been battling illness all convention-- and, indeed, spent the following week bed-ridden with a chronic chest infection-- so we finally gave in to the inevitable and left before the closing ceremony, so we missed the announcement that the convention is going on hiatus. It's a pity, because as a small scale industry exhibition it's the most enjoyable one I've ever attended. My hope is that it returns, with a strong focus on the elements that make the crime and suspense genre such a compelling one to read, watch and enjoy, and perhaps, with a writing stream that goes out into the community outside of the convention time frame so that it doesn't suffer in comparison to the far more professional presenters who populate the science and crime streams.

 










Thursday, October 16, 2014

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY GETS A SIGN

Road signs. They're easy pickings. Sex. Easy pickings. Road signs about sex. Don't judge me.

"Last chance to pull over and have an unseen quickie for 40 miles"

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

YEAR'S BEST AUSTRALIAN FANTASY AND HORROR 2013

Lee Battersby; Disciple of the Torrent; Satalyte Publishing;


I'm mightily pleased to announce that my story Disciple of the Torrent, which was published in Satalyte Publishing's Tales of Australia: Great Southern Land-- and which I blogged about here and here during the writing process-- has been selected for the upcoming Year's Best Australian Fantasy & Horror 2013, alongside stories by the likes of Kaaron Warren, Deborah Biancotti, Terry Dowling and Juliet Marillier. The full Table of Contents contains enough in the way of quality Australian author name-dropping to drown a squirrel in drool:


  • Lee Battersby, “Disciple of the Torrent”, Tales of Australia: Great Southern Land
  • Deborah Biancotti, “All the Lost Ones”, Exotic Gothic 5 Vol I
  • Trudi Canavan, “Camp Follower”, Fearsome Journeys
  • Robert G. Cook, “Glasskin”, Review of Australian Fiction Vol 5 #6
  • Rowena Cory Daniells, “The Ways of the Wyrding Women”, One Small Step
  • Terry Dowling, “The Sleepover”, Exotic Gothic 5 Vol II
  • Thoraiya Dyer, “After Hours”, Asymmetry
  • Marion Halligan, “A Castle in Toorak”, Griffith Review #42
  • Dmetri Kakmi, “The Boy by the Gate”, The New Gothic
  • David Kernot, “Harry's Dead Poodle”, Cover of Darkness Magazine
  • Margo Lanagan, “Black Swan Event”, Griffith Review #42
  • S.G. Larner, “Poppies”, Aurealis #65
  • Martin Livings, “La Mort d'un Roturer”, This is How You Die
  • Kirstyn McDermott, “Caution: Contains Small Parts”, Caution: Contains Small Parts
  • Claire McKenna, “The Ninety Two”, Next
  • C.S. McMullen, “The Nest”, Nightmare Magazine
  • Juliet Marillier, “By Bone-Light “, Prickle Moon
  • David Thomas Moore, “Old Souls”, The Book of the Dead
  • Faith Mudge, “The Oblivion Box”, Dreaming of Djinn
  • Ryan O'Neill, “Sticks and Stones”, The Great Unknown
  • Angela Rega, “Almost Beautiful”, Next
  • Tansy Rayner Roberts, “The Raven and Her Victory”, Where Thy Dark Eye Glances: Queering Edgar Allan Poe
  • Nicky Rowlands, “On the Wall”, Next
  • Carol Ryles, “The Silence of Clockwork”, Conflux 9 Convention Programme
  • Angela Slatter, “Flight”, Once Upon a Time: New Fairy Tales
  • Anna Tambour, “Bowfin Island”, Caledonia Dreamin'
  • Kaaron Warren, “Born and Bread”, Once Upon a Time: New Fairy Tales
  • Janeen Webb, “Hell is Where the Heart is”, Next

More information is available at the Ticonderoga Publications website, and the volume can be pre-ordered at Indie Books Online.



Thursday, October 09, 2014

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY CAN'T DO THE TIME

In honour of this weekend's CrimeScene WA convention, Thumbnail Thursday goes a little crimey-wimey.

"We're taking 'Daddy Daughter day' too far."

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

LET THE CRIMES BEGIN!

I don't know what you'll be doing this weekend, but I will be enjoying myself strangling, poisoning, murderlising and generally getting up to no good with an absolute plethora of like-minded ne'er-do-wells at the annual CrimeScene WA crime writing convention, held at the Rydges Hotel in sunny Perff.

Apart from presentations by myself and Luscious, guest speakers include the likes of Stephen Dedman, Simon Lewis, Tony Cavanaugh, Hadyn Green and this year's guests of honour, Michael Robotham and Tansy Rayner Roberts, dressed up in her why-does-she-even-bother-when-we-all-know-it's-Tansy-anyaway-and-love-her-for-who-she-is,-pet alter ego pants, Livia Day.

If you haven't got yourself a ticket already then you're a fool of a Took, so get your arse into gear and buy one at the website. If you're mad keen to hear what I have to say on any given subject, I'll be up front being famous at the following sessions:


Saturday, 11am-12pm
Supporting Luscious as she presents her panel Women in Crime

Saturday 2.30-3.30pm
All on my todd for a writing workshop, On Writing Settings

Sunday, 9-10am
In company with Stephen Dedman, as we discuss The Writing Process and What You Should be Doing Once You are Published



You can view the full programme here. Get it up ya!

Sunday, October 05, 2014

THE BEST POSSIBLE TASTE ISN'T HERE RIGHT NOW. LEAVE A MESSAGE.

The Horror Writers Association is dedicated to the promotion of horror writing and horror authors. It's a damn fine organisation filled with the loveliest people and not at all creeping with the kind of denatured freaks that make you lock your windows at night and fit a chastity belt to your budgie.

Their latest fun escapade is the Horror Selfies campaign, a viral campaign whereby horror industry creative types take a selfie with a message encouraging you to put down the latest pile of Colleen McCullough slop you're bravely believing fulfills you and pick up something with a little meat on its bones.... raw, dripping, tasty meat.

You can see a fabulously funny gallery over at the Horror Selfies site, but just in case you can't summon the strength to click anywhere up to twice in a row, here's my little effort for your edification:




Thursday, October 02, 2014

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY TAKES ON THE EASY SUBJECTS

Ah, yes, greeting card jokes. Like hitting the bullseye from inside the target. They don't come any easier.

I was young. Don't judge me.


"Do you have a card that says "I'm going back to my wife"?"

Sunday, September 28, 2014

WHAT IT IS, IS BEAUTIFUL

If you're a fan of Lego it's been impossible in recent days to avoid the charges of sexism that have been levelled at the company since, well, pretty much since the first days that the Friends line hit the shelves. Arguments against the aggressively-girly line have largely centred around the genderisation of creative play: why does a toy that relies on a child's imagination to repurpose homogeneous elements need to undergo a gender split? There's merit to the argument: after all, there was a time when Lego itself marketed just such a question to parents to get them to consider buying the toy for their daughters--




Both my children have a Lego collection, and they've both been given open slather when it comes to collecting sets: we don't direct them, and the only limit we impose is one of price-- no matter who the sets are aimed at, they're fucking expensive. Even so, Master 9's collection is dominated by Star Wars, dinosaurs and a black/grey/dark blue palette, while Miss 12's Friends-heavy collection is a rainbow of pastel shades.

Which got me wondering, because as an AFOL, I love the Friends colour scheme and stock up on individual pieces whenever I visit Bricklink, but I've never bought myself a set, largely because I don't like the minifigs. So I decide to run a little experiment, to see whether something in the marketing was affecting my children's choices, or if it was, indeed, the range of parts and colours that was the deterrent. I asked the kids 3 questions, and these were their responses:

1. Your collection is very strongly dominated by (Miss 12: Friends, Master 9: Star Wars/ Dinosaurs) sets. Is there a reason why that is the case?
Miss 12: I like the story line in Friends, and the colours.
Master 9: I like the adventurousness of the stories.

2. Is there something in the colours and shapes of the parts that you prefer to other sets?
Miss 12: Yes. I like the Friends colours.
Master 9: No. I like the Friends colours, too. I like the Star Wars minifigs.

3. If I gave you $50 and sent you to the shops to buy a set, and you already had everything in your favourite range that was on the shelves, would you prefer to buy a set in the (Miss 12: Star Wars, Master 9: Friends) range, or would you prefer to buy a duplicate of a (Friends/Star Wars) set you already own? 
Miss 12: I'd buy a duplicate.
Master 9: I'd buy a Friends set.

So, conclusions drawn from this exhaustive survey: Miss 12 responds to the Friends sets aesthetically, and chooses them over other sets based on an enjoyment of the palette and the non-aggressive narrative possibilities; Master 9 likes the combat/adventure narratives implied by the "boy" sets (not surprising, given his love of the Star Wars universe), but likes the Friends colour palette enough that he would buy a set and incorporate it into his building. 

All very well and good, and easy to say. But would it hold true if, say, I instructed them to take 150 random elements from their collections and swap them? Could they happily build outside of their own preferred colour and set choices? Without telling them why, I did just that. The kids randomly picked 150 pieces from their collections, and then built with each other's selection. These are the results:


Miss 12 created three works: two different spaceships and a tuning fork.




The space scooper has a scoop at the back to collect debris. The scoop rotates through a 360 degree angle to make pick up and delivery easier.


The Junker is made from pieces of space junk discovered by the Space Scooper.


The tuning fork. A great use of leftover parts.




Master 9 took a different approach, and created a series of smaller works:



Girl colours for a boy concept? A ballista, at any rate.


A beach scene, incorporating a shark net, diving board, and lifeguard tower.


The entrance to a cafe.


A catwalk.


An armchair.


A couch.


An abandoned tree at the end of a garden path.


And to finish, the classic tablescrapper's use for that
pile of random pieces you can't do anything with: some ruins!


So, in a complete lack of surprise, two different genders of children quite happily extended their creative building techniques when confronted with a random assortment of bricks, although I did note with interest that the general theme of their builds did conform to the kind of bricks they thought they were using: girly-girl Miss 12 completing a space-themed build, and rocket-powered-boy-attack Master 9 focusing on situational and domestic concepts. 

What this shows, at least to me, is that the promotion of Lego does have an effect on how the demographic-- that is, the kids who receive the sets-- perceive the purpose of the bricks themselves, despite the fact that, as stand-alone items, the bricks are met with approval and enjoyment by both children. Miss 12, in particular, perceives a definite difference between 'boys' and 'girls' Lego, at an age when advertising and gender-based marketing are concepts she pays attention to. Just as clearly, their ability to create and enjoy the act of creation with any random group of elements that is placed before them, shows that gender-splitting Lego is not only limiting the potential market penetration for Lego themes, it's downright unnecessary

And as Lego themselves once understood, it always has been.





Oh, and for the record, I don't ask my troops to do anything I wouldn't do myself. Here's what I came up with, using the 150 Friends pieces I asked Miss 12 to give me:

The lost ruins of the Temple of Ice-Cream, the Pastel Battlestar, and, you know, some ruins...
















Thursday, September 25, 2014

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY WILL EX-CA-VATE! EX-CA-VATE! EX-CA-VAAAAATE!

Sometimes, an idea simply falls into your lap: I'm an archaeology nut, and when the following image started appearing around the news and geeky mailing lists I was on, well, one and one met at a party, had sex in the taxi on the way home, and somehow nevee found themselves spending any time apart anymore....


 
 
There's a nice explanation of the image here, at Sci Fi Scoop, if you're interested, but for me, and my little archaeology brain, this is what came out:


"We've yet to establish the reason for this long, quite flimsy, horn
but we assume it was important for display during mating season."
 
 
 
Sometimes, this stuff just writes itself.