Wednesday, December 16, 2009


1133 words this morning.

102 735 in total.

Corpse-Rat King is finished.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Just a little bit of genius from the immortal Joe Strummer to get us all through a stinking hot Sunday morning:

Sunday, December 06, 2009


In honour of my wonderful childerbugs' birthdays, their favourite Punk-litery to twitch your 80s bop-memory.

Saturday, December 05, 2009


And just in case you thought this blog was about to fall permanently into mush and emotional blether, I give you this, without a word of explanation.


Erin is 8 today.

It is too easy to lapse into hyperbole when talking about your loved ones. But it is nothing more than unvarnished truth to say that, without Erin, I would not be alive. The story of why belongs in the past, but at the time, she was the rope I clung to in order to climb back to the world. Without her, I would not have met Luscious. Without her, I would not have found a new family. Without her, I would not have seen the life I have seen over these last 8 years. She carries within her the part of me that I lost, and could only regain through her.

She is a child of caring and delight, who thinks Captain Sensible is marginally better than Pink; who sees no problem in growing up to be an artist, dancer, teacher, and nurse all at the same time, as long as she can still play basketball; who will thank a friend for coming to play by making her a set of earrings; who can make horns with her lower lip and turn her tongue upside down; and I cannot look at her without a blinding pride.
Happy birthday, my most beautiful daughter.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


5 years of my wondrous, joyous, wildly brilliant boy.

He can’t decide whether he’s going to be an astronaut or the Stig when he grows up, so he plans to be both. He knows that his secret Santa is Santa, and is the terror of face-painting ladies everywhere with demands to be made up as The Hulk or Four-Arms or (on one memorable occasion), two dragons fighting. When he hugs he does it with his entire body—arms, legs, and head—and he is the inventor and proud copyright owner of the noggin bonk kiss. He will be the first man to set foot on Mars, and while he’s there he’ll probably wee-write his name in the sand for a laugh.

He is unutterably, indisputably, and infinitely precious to me. I would burn the world rather than see him suffer a single moment of pain or misery.

Happy birthday, my beautiful little boy.


Bear with me, folks. It’s been an odd period, these six months since we moved here to Paradise-By-Sea. Somehow, this shift in location has turned into the sea change I’ve been searching for over the last five years or so. It’s prompted changes at every level, from simple matters like the change of phone number through to re-evaluations of the way I conduct my life, my aims, my behaviours…. all in all, it’s keeping me busy.

Several friends have fallen by the wayside, either because of the increase in distance between us or the final stages of the natural atrophy that the relationships have been experiencing lately. Others have become more prominent. We’ve altered our finances. Our work situations have undergone drastic and fundamental change. We’re a family in evolution, and in many ways, I also am evolving into a different beast than the one who started the year.

Much of that evolution is artistic. Nanowrimo has proven to be a bust—I’ve managed 13000 words of the Cirque project, but my heart’s not been in it, and in the end it was too easy to put it down and not pick it up again. Perhaps in the New Year I’ll revisit it—it’s a decent enough idea, and I know where the story goes. But setting aside Corpse-Rat King to do it was a bad idea, especially with the first draft of that novel being so close to completion, and I’ve taken up the cudgels again with an aim to completing it by the end of the year.

I’ve rediscovered my interest in cartooning, and have filled a small bunch of notebooks with thumbnails and sketches that Luscious is currently prodding me to complete properly. I’m still reading for Midnight Echo #4, and looking forward to making some final decisions early in the New Year—if you’ve been meaning to submit, do so before you run out of time-- the sub period finishes January 31st, but if I wasn’t a patient man I could probably be thinking about filling the magazine now. And there are more novel projects planned, but none so close to the Oz SF heartland that I expect to be flogging them off at a Swancon near you.

2009 has been a very quiet year for me, artistically speaking. I’m still popping up here and there—you can read a brand new story, , Rabbit, Run over at Dark Recesses this month (if you really want to drive an editor barmy, start your story's title with a comma....) and The Claws of Native Ghosts has been chosen for the upcoming Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror Volume 4. Last weekend I joined the Queensland Writer’s Centre as a guest for their regular weekly writing race. I’ve also accepted a commission to provide the Centre with an article entitled Plot or Pants? on the differences between tight plotting and my own aimless methods. Compared to my relatively high profile in Australian small press SF circles over the past few years, however, I’ve been almost invisible, and things are likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future. My literary interests are moving further and further away from the things I have produced in the past. Frankly, I like the distance, and I have aims and desires that are not simpatico with the Australian SF small press, so there’s no need to be in quite so severe a proximity.

By this time next year I’ll be 40, and if half the birthday cards at the newsagent are to be believed, I’ll have just started my life. So perhaps it’s just a mid-life crisis, or perhaps I’m just cleaning out my closet, but one phase of my life has most definitely ended, and the one that is beginning has different colours.

So bear with me while all this stuff gets flung about in the washing machine of my life. I’ll undoubtedly emerge one sock short, with a shirt that wasn’t the colour it was when it went in, but I’ll be clean and smelling slightly of lemon, and that won’t be a bad thing.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


11 times 1667 equals 18 337.

Which is rather more than the 13 717 words I've completed so far this month. I've had a couple of days away from the computer here and there, so my targets are down, but I've always been quicker towards the end of a project than I am at the start, so I'm not that worried. Nano is, of course, just a guide as far as I'm concerned. My object is to complete a saleable novel, not to complete 50000 words. But it is a good way of getting your arse applied to the seat, and I'm in dire need of that.

I had 5 goals at the start of the year. Losing weight to 95 kilograms isn't going to happen, but completing Corpse-Rat King and starting a second novel will be achieved, and a month ago I would not have said it was likely. It's likely, in fact, that I'll have completed Corpse-Rat King and completed a second novel.

And for that, you can colour me pleased.


Now, I know I've been rabbiting on about how brilliant life is in Mandurah, about the wonder of the foreshore, and the delights of seeing wild emus and kangaroos from the train on the way home, and the relaxed and happy lifestyle we've created for ourselves and the kids. So it's perhaps only fair that I present an anecdote to prove that all is not perfect in this Paradise by the southern beaches.

Sunday night at the Silver Sands hotel drive through. The Liquorland down the road from us is closed.

No beers on display in the tiny, pokey, bottleshop.

Only a "staff only" sign on the freezer room door to indicate the presence of any beer in the building.

The following conversation ensues:

SALES BLOKE: Yeah, mate?
LEE: I'm after some beer.
SB: Yeah?
LEE: Have you got anything a bit out of the ordinary? I'm in the mood for something a bit different, you know? A bit exotic.

Long pause while shoppie stares off into the distance, no doubt mentally trawling through the miles of freezer rooms shelves weighted down with beers from every corner of the globe, searching his prodigious memory for the perfect bottle of the most exotic brew available to man. After several seconds of contemplation--

SB: Carlton Cold?

One six pack of Heineken later.........


I'm 39 today.

We've kept it low-key this year. Lyn's faith is such that she's uncomfortable with making a fuss about birthdays, and whilst I take up the baton and organise the kid birthdays (My Facebook friends can tell you about how sweary I became recently whilst organising Connor's McDonald's party last week...) for myself, I'm not so fussed. I picked out my own present a month or so ago-- massive gag cartoon collections from Punch and The New Yorker-- and a certain level of skintness has meant that, rather than head out to dinner as is our normal wont, I'm about to be fed a massive plate of home-made butter chicken, crack open a beer (in honour of the way I generally feel these days, we're trying out something called 'Fat Yak' ale), and then trough my way past a bowl of amazing slow-cooked peach & apple cake with custard.

Yum :)

However, one tradition remains untouched, and that's my moment of birthday morbidity. To whit, my annual list of far more famous and talented people who I have outlived. This year's offering involves pirates, porn stars, junkies and suicides, which should tell you the sort of company I'm keeping these days :)

Ta, as they say in the classics, da:

  • Blackbeard
  • Charlotte Bronte
  • Harry Chapin
  • Dimebag Darryl
  • Ted Demme
  • Lolo Ferrari
  • George Gershwin
  • Florence Griffith Joyner
  • John-John Kennedy
  • Sam Kinnison
  • Mario Lanza
  • Sonny Liston
  • Louis XVI
  • Anna Malle
  • Marie Prevost
  • David Rappaport
  • Charles Kingsford Smith
  • Johnny Thunders

Sunday, November 01, 2009


The problem with being part of the internet generation: it makes the whole "You hang up, no you hang up..." part of the conversation look ludicrous!

And they were never seen again: Four children who have never watched Blood Beach wander away to play while we work.

Biffie! Pip! The view is over here, guys!

No, really, I mean it. You hang up!


Day one of Nano completed, and a couple of hours down the foreshore with Lyn, her best friend Terri, and the sort of view out the cafe window that people in ludicrously large sunglasses who call themselves names like 'Pip' and 'Biffie' spend millions trying to find, and.... well, it's a start anyway. After over a year working on Corpse-Rat King, especially when I'm so close to the end, shifting gears to starting a fresh work that's so completely different is a wrench and a half, but I churned out some wordage, and, well, weeeeeeee.

November's a birthday-heavy month and the desire of my workplace to fuck me over at any available opportunity is going to present some challenges, but all things being equal (excepting, of course, odd numbers), I may have 2 completed novels by the end of the year.
Which will be nice.
And so to the word meters--

1754 / 50000


Fine, thanks. How are you?
Corpse-Rat King is lurching towards a conclusion. I've completed 95 000 words and have one longish section towards the end to knit togvether and the first draft will be completed. Say another 2 or 3 thousand words tops, and then I can let it stew until January before I go back and begin carving it up into tiny little pieces and painting them different colours.
Oh, and I've joined Nanowrimo again this year. The project this time round is a novelisation of my TV script Cirque, which garnered some positive comments from last year's WA Film Corporation script competition without managing to win. If you're of a mind to join the program (or already have) and want to buddy up, I'm entered under the name leebattersby, and my page is here.
Elsewhere, domesticity reigns. Mandurah in spring is a groovelicious thing: we pressed the nostalgia buttion big time the other weekend by packing the kids up and catching the ferry over to Penguin Island, prompting me to tell anyone who'd listen about how the last time I'd gone over, back in 1990 when I was still living in Rockingham, I'd walked across on the sandbar; how there were no boardwalks and we could clamber over all the rock faces that are now sealed off for the bird sanctuary; how I'd stayed at the camp buildings that stood where the penguin feeding area stands now; how we'd sat under the caves that are now sealed off beause of the falling risk.... in between my old man stories we spent a gorgeous afternoon beachcombing for shells, sharing lunch with the enormous skinks that invaded the picnic area, and embarking on the glass-bottom boat tour to Seal Island to watch seals play in the surf and a solitary dolphin bully a stingray out of its meal.
Idyllic? Bloody paradise, mate.
Lyn and the kids find the perfect spot to start building a hut, whilst I go looking for coconuts with which to start building a radio.
Hello, laaaaaaaaaaaadies.
The side of human/animal interactions that PETA doesn't tell you about-- a skink with a shoe fetish. Tragic, just tragic.


Question: What do you get if you give the kids the camera to amuse themselves while you’re sitting in the car waiting for their Mum to come out of the house?

Answer: This. Lots and lots of this.


The AHWA and 'Nameless' competition director Stephen Studach are thrilled to announce that the ‘Nameless’ competition will be judged by multi-award winning master of dark fiction Ramsey Campbell.

In honour of Mr. Campbell’s involvement, the competition’s deadline has been extended to the 13th of March, 2010.

Read the story here. Come up with a conclusion and a title! Make your $10 donation and enter the competition here.

Competition prizes include a $500 winner’s cheque, and a prize pool of horror goodies:

• A manuscript version of the story signed by as many of the writers involved as can be tracked down.
• A copy of The Australian Writer’s Marketplace 2009/2010.
• A copy of The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror 19th annual collection (edited by Datlow, Link & Grant.)
• Free 1-year membership, or 12-month renewal, to the Australian Horror Writers Association.
• Books: Signed limited editions – Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge; Wild Things by Douglas Clegg; Prodigal Blues by Gary A. Braunbeck.
• A boost to any personal horror library – Development Hell by Mick Garris; Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill; Infected by Scott Sigler; The Nature of Balance by Tim Lebbon; The Dark Descent edited by David G. Hartwell; a pre-loved copy of The Books of Blood (vols 1-3) from Marty Young’s own collection.
• A first edition of The Last Days of Kali Yuga, Paul Haines’ forthcoming collection of stories; published to impeccable standards by Brimstone Press, and slated for release in December 2009.

The six best endings will be featured at HorrorScope - The Australian Dark Fiction Weblog.

All proceeds from this competition go to award-winning author Paul Haines, to assist Paul and the Haines family, while Paul undergoes treatment for cancer.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


A little bit of blues legend work to get you through the weekend.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


Outside the Bunbury art gallery there's a seating area, covered by a pergola whose roof is slanted at something like 60 degrees. I point at it as we cruise past.

ME: Check it out. Rodin's "Ski-jump"
AIDEN: (Deadly serious) Why would he need a ski jump? He's got wings.

I swear, I had to pull the car over so we didn't crash.

Merde, I have dropped mah beret!

Sunday, October 04, 2009


Ellen Datlow has posted the Table of Contents for her upcoming The Year's Best Horror Volume 1. I'm pleased to cop a couple of mentions in the Honourable Mentions list, and over the moon to see Lyn's name there as well amongst pals like Chris Green, Geoff Maloney and Michael Greenhut. And high fives all round for my buddies Paul Haines, Richard Harland (Told you, Richard!) and Ian McHugh for placing within the book itself-- three reasons why this is likely to be about the only spec fic book I buy next year.

Check out the full list here.


If you've been watching the net over the last week or so, you may be aware of the rather large shitstorm that's sprung up around the wretched and twisted form of one Richard Ridyard, a filthy little plagiarist of the first water. if you haven't, here's a good place to start.

I've had the pleasure of reading no less than three of Mister Ridyard's efforts during my editorship of Midnight Echo #4, and rejected each one of them before knowing of the dirty trick this little weasel was perpetrating, although I had the even greater pleasure of writing to him again once the news of his plagiarism broke and giving him a second, more creatively worded, assessment of his talents (It also means that, basically, I rejected a Stephen King story at first sight. Snurk.)

Anybody so low as to rip wholsesale from other writers is a worthless little turd-- it's not like 98% are getting paid living wages for what we do. Anybody inbreddumbfuckstupid enough to steal from the likes of King deserves to have their gonads squelched to stop them breeding.

And as this little tosspot has so quickly removed himself from consideration of the normal decencies, feel free to email him here and pass on your appreciation. If you'd like to read more on how the writing sphere has taken this carefree little moppet to their hearts, Angel Zapata has come up with a pretty decent list of blog posts. You'll be amazed at how he's gotten around: here's the post.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


In memory of the dear, departed Kings of Rockney:

Friday, September 25, 2009


NASA is offering to send your name to Mars on a microchip.

That way, when the aliens land, they'll know who to enslave.


A disabled pensioner uncovers a stash of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver three times as large as the Sutton Hoo find.

I don't know what's cooler-- that he'll cop a share of the 1M pounds plus reward, or that the British Museum maintains a 'flying squad'.....

Thursday, September 24, 2009



Just when you think paleoscience is a field populated by old guys with their long, receding silver hair tied back into ponytails that weren't even fashionable when they were supposed to be, and whose language and interests are as dry and dusty as the fossilised turds they spend half their lives digging out of some godforsaken desert (Actually, I don't really think that. I've always wanted to be a paleontologist, always always always, and frankly, I'm just bitter and jealous because it never happened), comes this wonderful bit of comedic happenstance to help you realise that these guys just have to be as brilliant and cool as their jobs.

The thagomizer. Use it in conversation today.


For no reason at all, whilst driving in the car with Connor this morning, in the midst of no conversation at all, out he pops with this question:

Daddy, do penguins do popoffs?

Where's the chapter on that, Christopher Green, you bastard?*


Anyone who's been paying attention will know that I've been pimping one Jason Fischer as the next great thing in Australian SF.

He's just won first prize in his quarter of this year's Writers Of The Future.

Prophecy ful-fucking-FILLED, baby!

Boy's gonna be a legend, mark my words.

*Christopher Green refers, of course, to the well-known Australian parenting author, not the uber-cool, long-haired, mad as a cut snake, Gene-Simmons-boots-wearing Melburnian SF author, who is a pal and almost 100% guaranteed not to be a bastard. Although he may be Mafia.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


The reading period for Midnight Echo Issue 4, edited by yours truly, has officially opened, and will be open until January 31st next year. (January 31st being well known to horror buffs as Mostly Hollow's Eve, when all the witches of the world ride forth to get their hair done and have a pedicure).

Sub guidelines can be found here, but the cool bits can be summaried thus: 1c per word to 5000 words for fiction with a maximum payment of $50; we also take poetry, artwork AND serial art; and I get bored with Cthulhuain slavering tentacle monster stories :)

Midnight Echo is the magazine of the Australian Horror Writer's Association, whose annual membership fee covers subscription to the magazine, so as well as getting paid you are guaranteed to be read by the entire membership of the AHWA, which (to the best of my knowledge) is certainly over a couple of hundred and may be as high as 4 or 5 billion, if you include intestinal parasites.

And if you don't think being read by billions of intestinal parasites is cool, well........... you're probably *not* going to write what we're looking for. If, however, the idea makes you wonder where they put the water cooler, it's time to get writing :)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


A massive vote of thanks to that master of all things rocking and obscure, Master Paul Haines, who responded to my whining regards my lack of Painters & Dockers material by sending over a DVD filled with no less than 2 CDs worth of Drinkin’ Jimmy and his pals, along with much in the way of Captain Sensible and other weird and wonderful stuff from the decade that taste forgot (that'd be the 80's to those of you who didn't live through Hypercolour, mumble pants, and The Human League).

Much in the way of odd and enjoyable singalong-type activities have since commenced…


If you’ve not yet done so, you really should check out Midnight Echo, the magazine of h0rror fiction put out by the Australian Horror Writer's Association, for no other reason than it’s put into print some damn fine and froody dark fiction in its two published issues so far.

As of September 1st, the submission period for issue 4 will commence, and said issue will be guest-edited by none other than your humble correspondent. Guidelines can be found here, but in general, I’ll be looking for stories under 5000 words that make me look up from the page and shiver. Keep in mind: I don’t scare easily, and stories of the creeping-tentacles-of-doom-doom-doom variety bore me shitless. If you want to know what really scares me, look in your mirror: see that thing looking back at you from behind your eyes that you’d swear doesn’t belong to you?

Send your submissions to


It’s been a couple of weeks since I last reported, and I wish I had something gosh-wow-amazing to talk about, but we’ve just been getting on with life these last couple of weeks: fitting in bits and bobs of writing around whatever edges we can find; working, cleaning; doing our taxes; catching up with various TV shows and fillums, including the deeply disappointing True Blood; the infinitely more interesting and enjoyable Being Human; the excellent soundtrack with an ordinary movie attached The Boat That Rocked (which, incidentally, features the superb Philip Seymour Hoffman doing the single best impersonation of my bestie, the immortal Seanie, that I’ve ever seen); the suprisingly not as shit as I secretly hoped it’d be The Day The Earth Stood Still remake; and generally just being a smoothly-running family in a seaside suburb.

Sorry 'bout that. I'm sure we'll have an interesting catastrophe soon...

Sunday, August 09, 2009


Connor: When I grow up, I don't want to be a spaceman.
Me: Okay. What do you want to be?
Connor: (accompanied by uber-huggle) A daddy.

You heard it here first-- I rock.


No, not the title of a very unfortunate porn video Bill Gates made when he was young and needed the money, but a list of the 7" singles I dug out of my cupboard this morning. Dedicated to Ben Payne and Sean Williams, who can understand the strange love:

Endless Road- Time Bandits
Sweet & Sour- The Takeaways
Get It On- Power Station
Missing You- John Waite
Antmusic- Adam & the Ants
I Walk Away- Split Enz
Lean On Me- Red Box
Run Runaway- Slade
Don't Believe Anymore- Icehouse
Sun City- Artists Against Apartheid
Out Of Touch- Hall & Oates
One Of The Living- Tina Turner
Good Times- INXS & Jimmy Barnes
Pride- U2
99 Luftballons- Nena
And We Danced- Hooters
Prince Charming- Adam & the Ants
Nights In White Satin- Moody Blues
Stand & Deliver_ Adam & the Ants
Two Tribes- Frankie Goes to Hollywood
The Tide Is High- Blondie
Electric Avenue- Eddy Granty
Let's Dance- Chris Rea
Relax- Frankie Goes to Hollywood
One Night in Bangkok- Murray Head
We Gotta Get Out of This Place- The Angels

I'm willing to defend most of them, but can offer no excuse for this one. And maybe the Chris Rea's a bit naff in retrospect.

As for the following, I offer my enormous crush on the blond saxophonist as mitigation (and the fact that the show was pretty cool), as well as the fact that the song holds up pretty well, even if the film clip doesn't (What's with the girl doing endless flips in the background, and David Reyne's, well, everything?)


And just so you don't go through your whole life under the misapprehension that I'm completely cool, I'd like to point out that I've spent the last week trying to remember the name of this song and the band who sang it (I got as far as "Scandinavian band and something about an open road") before realising this morning that I still own the 7" single I bought when it first came out....

PS: They're Dutch.
PPS: I actually still really like it.
PPPS: You can take the boy out of the 80s...


I defy you not to bop. Dockers cover Get Smart What's not to love? (Sigh. Memories of 1990 at the Shents. maddest fucking concert I've ever been to. Sigh)


Lyn and I went on a bit of a Youtubery nostalgia trip yesterday, watching vids by the likes of Schnell Fenster, Machinations, Daddy Cool and Billy Thorpe while the kids tried their best to ignore us. Let me tells ya, batterspals, I will proclaim Friend for Life for anyone willing to burn me some Painters & Dockers and send me the CD (and, you know, I'll pay for postage).

Love ém love ém love ém.

Saturday, August 01, 2009


And speaking of the magnificent Jasoni, he's developed a glimpse into the general Battfuture in a little piece he's worked up for the Daily Cabal entitled Tucker's Galleria. If you've ever wanted to know what will happen to Lyn and myself many years from now, here's your chance.

While you're there, have a browse. There's a bunch of froody fictional funnings going on, including work by another of the more talented Clarion South '07 gradutates in the boombastic Dan Braum. It's a good way to spend a couple of hours drinking from the fictional font of freeness.


Specifically for the magnificent Jasoni, whose deep hatred of Lily Allen enabled Lyn and I to discover her work (and become fans :) ), another waifish girly-girl I discovered yesterday thanks to the Triple J request show. For your listening pleasure, Lisa Mitchell:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


It's with some sadness that I note the passing of Kris Hembury, a young Brisbane writer with whome I've shared a table of Contents in the past. Like my relationships with almost all of the SF world, I only knew Kris peripherally at a personal level via email and the numerous posts he made through the Visions mailing list, but the enthusiasm, excitement and just plain joy he possessed was always readily apparent in every message, and reading posts by his friends gives an indication of just how special he was to those who knew him. My sadness and condolences go out to his family and friends.

Friday, July 24, 2009


Well you'll have to wait a short time longer: I have things to talk about, but I'm busy.

In the meantime, have the video to a cool song I heard for the first time today:

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Am I the only one who wonders what would have happened if the young Bruce Wayne had fallen down that hole and landed in, say, a badger’s set instead?

Thursday, June 25, 2009


1. I’m sick, Connor is sick, we go to the doctor’s for a checkup. It’s sniffles and running noses all round, so it’s bound to be just a cold, but Connor’s got a chesty cough and I need the sick note for work, so we find our nearest medical centre and make an appointment.

This is our first visit to a doctor in Mandurah, so Connor receives The Talk before we go. Once there we’re called up; enter the doctor’s room, and the doctor, who is the kind that keeps a big plastic tub of his jelly beans on his desk, turns to Connor first. After the usual “What’s your name? And how old are you?” pleasantries, and assurances that no needles will be utilized (Connor’s current doctor fear); he asks Connor what’s wrong with him.

“I have Spine Flu!” is my son’s cheery reply.

He earns three jelly beans for that one.

2. I’ve written the beginning of the novel. I’ve written the end. I’ve written 80 000 words of the middle. It’s just the remaining 20 000 words of holes that I’m having trouble with. Between work, overtime, the house, my family and my own natural inclinations I just can’t get it together to make a concerted effort at finishing it off. It’s enough to prove that I’ll never be successfully serious (or vice versa) as a novelist. I’d be less worried if I was any good at my job. Meanwhile, those whose career arcs roughly parallel my own sail into book deals with Orbit, Harper Collins and the like...

3. My third period of mentorship for the AHWA is drawing to a close, and third time is likely to be the last. Much as I enjoy it, I’m unsatisfied by my efforts this time round—disruptions have been plentiful, and I don’t feel like I’ve given my mentees value for money. I do what I can, but am beginning to think that what I can do isn’t enough any more. It's time to take stock of what I want to do, and what I need to do, and put one before the other.

4. I’d be able to get medication if I could translate all this ennui into full-blown depression, but it seems like too much hard work.

5. Every time I think I should just chuck it all in and become a professional poker player I go online and some bugger beats me with something like a 7-3 off suit.

6. We finally get around to watching the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still. It’s enjoyable, for the most part, although I’m of the opinion that it starts fantastically well and then gets more and more ordinary as it progresses. Late that night, Lyn and I lie in bed together and dissect the movie, and I’m struck by an experience I’ve not had to such an extent since Independence Day—that of thoroughly enjoying a movie whilst watching it but then discussing it afterwards to the point of considering it a failure. It’s a strange experience, to persuade oneself of an opposing viewpoint after the direct experience. We are agreed, however, that Keanu Reeves has found his niche over the last decade or so. As Lyn said, after the Matrix movies, Constantine, and the terminally tedious A Scanner Darkly, she can’t think of another actor as suited to effectively playing characters so utterly removed from even the most basic of human emotions.

7. No such trouble earlier in the day, when we watched Igor with the kids—that one stayed ordinary all the way through…

8. If Captain Beefheart, Captain Sensible, and the Captain from Captain & Tennille were all on the same ship, how would they decide who got to steer?

Sunday, May 31, 2009


This is what we moved down here for.
Yesterday, after Connor returned from his friend's birthday party, we piled into the car and drove out to the Pinjarra Show, where we spent three hours wandering around stalls, listening to horrendously bad country music (by a band named, wait for it, "The Lone Rangers". Yup, the only four blokes in town who haven't seen Airheads....), and fondling antiques while the kids went on camel rides, fondled snakes, and stuffed themselves full of strange-flavoured licorice. (Sour ice-cream flavour? Really?). And, of course, underwent the obligatory face-painting. Battkid-style:
My daughter the skeleton (only because the face painter refused to do a vampire), and her younger brother, Hulk. The girls directly behind them took one look, and asked for butterflies...
Today, after a fish & chip lunch overlooking the canal, we picked up Blakey from the train station and whisked ourselves off to the foreshore, where we piled onto a boat and spent an hour cruising through the canals into the bay, where a pod of dolphins played tag with the prow and we all sat around wondering what the working classes were up to :)
The view less than a foot away from our, well, feet.
On the way back into the foreshore, Erin and Connor were ushered to the front of the cabin. And one after the other, they got to do this:
Because what you want when you're steering a $200 000 boat through narrow canals bounded by houses worth an average of $3M each is a psychotic 4 year old at the wheel. His first words upon grasping the wheel? "We're going to CRASH!" :)
Reason number one for moving here was to give our kids a lifestyle they weren't getting in the Northern Suburbs. So far, good God, it's proving easy.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Things are still mega busy at the new Batthome, so just to keep in contact, a couple of thoughts--


Is the anything funnier than seeing a fat, shirtless, toothless Geordie man crying?


So to bide our time while Mum nipped into the shop, Erin, Connor and I sat in the car and told each other jokes. I was still crying with laughter from this effort when Lyn got back:

ERIN: Connor, why did the chicken cross the road?
CONNOR: (Pauses for well over half a minute while he contemplates possible answers. Finally....) Because he's stupid?

Laugh? I nearly wet myself.

More soon, with added substance!

Friday, May 15, 2009


... and those of you who know me will realise what a big thing it is that I say this:

I loved Star Trek.


Hello my absent friends. I have returned.

It's been a strenuous and stressful time since we last spoke. Moving an entire household of 5 people a hundred-plus kilometres with only the assistance of a teensy tiny wife, my father, and a 3 tonne truck was, to say the least, physically draining.

My Dad, it should be noted, is not only a man of rare brilliance when it comes to packing a truck, there is every possibility that underneath his skin lies the plutonium heart of a Terminator. Seriously, this man could cut his head off, and would simply gaffer tape it back on, finish the job, and go for a beer. To paraphrase Larry Miller, if I go to the bank and the post office in the same day, I need a lie down. Without him, we may still be dragging the last of the pot plants up the driveway.

But we're in, and the last panic over the seller's paperwork is slowly dying down (Oh, the happiness that comes from dealing with an NESB seller who communicates through her 13 year old son and didn't think to apply for probate when her husband died intestate. Oh, how we've laughed.....). And just when we thought we might get to put our feet up and crack a coldie: bad family news struck last night, rather horrible news in fact. Private news that I'm not going to discuss here (although everyone who lives under our roof is okay, for those who might be worried). Lyn and I are heartbroken, and as much as we're there for the person to whom the tragedy has befallen, there is no good that can come from it, and it's cast a pall over our first days in this house.

So I'm back, blogosphere, and I'm sure the whole world has fallen into disrepair while I've been gone-- don't worry, I'll send a man around. As to the rest, give us a short while.

NB: If you're a friend, and unaware of the news, don't be alarmed. If you're worried, just email me, and we'll chat.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


So it's been a while, and sorry to say, my little darlings, but it'll be a little while yet before I'm fully back to my blogging best. We're on the move, y'see: upping sticks and moving the entire Battourage a hundred plus kilometres southwards where we shall set up shop by the sea and spend the rest of our days tormenting stray dolphins and eating crab and fetta pies.

Upshot is, the phone line goes bye byes here some time tomorrow night and won't be up at the new place until early next week. Until then, no internets for busy Batts.

In the meantime, feel free to have yourselves an open thread in the comments section, and a picture I took at the state aquarium some time ago:

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Yeah, it's been a month since I've posted, but to be quite honest I haven't been bothered. There's a lot of Real Life (tm) going on at the moment. Big decisions are being made regards life, career, writing, and general Stuff (pat. pend.)

Frankly, blogging ain't that important.

But to keep you all entertained, and to help explain to my most excellent Bonus Boys why Criss Angel is just a little bit shit, this:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


You know what's funny? Replacing the word 'duckie' wth 'willy'....

Sunday, March 15, 2009


His consistent attention to voice, his narrative muscle and unrelenting delving into a mind denied its presumed right to have what it wants, all conspire to make this story resonate.... The dread inexorable march of bloodshed won me over.

So sayeth judge Sarah Endacott, in awarding The Claws of Native Ghosts this year's Australian Shadows Award.

To say I'm chuffed would be to understate the case. The Australian Shadows is the Australian equivalent of the Stokers-- a technical award, given by the industry peak body, judged by industry professionals. To be shortlisted in a field alongside Sara Douglass, Paul Haines, and rising stars Jason Fischer and Chris Green was cool enough. To beat them was gratifying indeed.

Gary Kemble interviewed me in the wake of the award announcement for the ABC arts blog Articulate, and you can read it here. As is mention in the interview, to be recognised for both the entertainment value and technical merits of my work is extremely rewarding.

I've set aside this weekend for being unbearably smug, and then I'll get back to work on Monday.


So, a lack of content here on the Battersblog recently, as well as a general lack of activity in any way, shape or form on the being-a-writer front.

Of course, I have a fair excuse.

What with getting everything ready for the rounds of appointments and open homes; as well as beautifying gardens; performing all those maintenance jobs that I would have got around to eventually, probably, sooner or later while we were living here but now have to be done NOW, dammit; and starting my AHWA mentorship with Mark and Grant, this year's sacrificial victims; and listening to my kids pretend to be Hercules and Xena after watching that putrid cartoon movie of those two putrid televisual debacles thanks to the Cartoon Network; and running down to Mandurah every weekend to look at houses and put offers in and sit on the balcony at Cicirello's and eat fish and chips while we watch boats come in and out of the harbour; and learn to play Texas Hold-em so we know what the hell's going on when we watch the Professional Poker Tour late on a Saturday night; and occasionally sleep; and balance papers with the bank as we go back and forth organising finance and altering loan details and negotiating interest rates and all the crap you have to do with banks even though you've been a customer for something like twenty five years and you think they'd know you by now......... well, it's been a bit hectic lately.

Still, we'll undoubtedly get the offer we want this afternoon, and have the finance sorted out by the middle of the week, and then all we'll have to do is pack up and move to our beautiful new beachside suburb and spend the rest of our lives lying on beach blankets being fed grapes by oil-smeared underwear models, right?


The Nameless project continues: another anonymous chapter here before Brett McBean breaks the chain of silence and attaches his name to the 17th chapter.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I came, I read, I snorted with laughter.

Real content soon, I promise. Probably Friday. Yeah, probably then...

Thursday, March 05, 2009


  • We've seen another house, so back to bloomin' Mandurah again today!
  • Have put an offer on a house and had it accepted. All that remains is to start shitting ourselves while waiting for bank approval.
  • Have chosen my AHWA mentees. Let the senseless torture of innocent aspiring writers begin!
  • Should be in bed- to work early tomorrow. But I'm too awake, slightly scared by the finances to come. Wish I knew how best to proceed
  • A day of shattered tiredness thanks to non-sleepy squirmin' child. Please let tonight be better.
  • @eugiefoster Zombies. Zombies go up like dry tinder.
  • Head to the left, galley to the right, weird shit off the port bow.

Saturday, February 28, 2009


Nameless part 15 by not-Rosaleen Love.

And before that, Nameless part 14 by not-Margo Lanagan.

The Nameless Saga is beginning to really live up to its name...


One of the funninest sites to hop on to the Twitter bandwagon is a little thing called Thaumatrope, that publishes short stories of less than 140 characters in length. I've sold them a couple of stories-- it's funny how the possibility of money can turn what used to be random thoughts into a paying story idea-- here's my story they published for Valentine's Day, for example:

They loved each other, and so gave freely of themselves. For her, his heart, in a velvet-lined box. In return, her face, tied with a bow.

If you have a twitter account, follow them: the likes of Mary Robinette Kowal, Alathea Kontis and Greg van Eekhout have contributed, and it's a nice feeling to get some fiction in amongst the notices that Bill Bloggs has woken up and is about to go to the toilet.

Anyway, the reason I mention all this is that they're closed to submissions, and I can't be bothered waiting until they re-open to loose yesterday's random idea onto the world. So have 140 words of free Battfiction, on me:

The drowned child returned. In her embrace he found an absolution missing for thirty years. When she returned to the lake, she was not alone

As you were.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Some brief but good news, writing-wise:

Final edits on Smuggler's Moon have been delivered to New Ceres Nights tonight. The book itself is due in April.

And I've just been told that Sydney University Press will be publishing an anthology of Remix My Lit stories, due out on 4th May. I've been asked for, and have delivered, a bio, so I'm assuming Alchymical Romance will be amongst them. More details as they come to light.


Dear Parent/Carer,

A Year 4 student at (our kids') Primary School reported an intruder in the boys toilet before lunchtime today. He reported a man about 40 years old with long dark hair, dressed in dark clothing and wearing a mask. The man ordered the bout out of the toilets.

There's more, but that's the important bit.

After last week's murder experience, we decided to move by the end of next year. Now, we're moving as soon as we can get everything sorted out.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Keen-eyed readers will be aware that my family and I live in Clarkson, a northern suburb of Perth (or southern suburb of Geraldton, according to several friends).

Keen-eyed watchers of the news will have heard that a murder occurred in Clarkson a couple of nights ago. You can read about it here and here.

Here's the newsie round up: two groups men got into an argument over a girl whilst hanging out at a local primary school. One man stabbed another. His mates got him to hospital, then went to the stabber's house and, unable to break into the locked house to gain their revenge, chased a friend into his shed and stabbed him 20 times, killing him.

Here's our round-up: we live across the road from our son and daughter's primary school. Directly opposite our house are a number of parallel-parking spaces. Beyond them, a path leads from the footpath into the school. From our front door to the basketball courts is a distance of maybe fifty feet. Our children walk that path twice a day, every day.

On Wednesday night, whilst Lyn was pulling the car out to take Aiden to guitar practice, several men ran from the school grounds, up the path, openly bearing weapons (Lyn mentioned at least one golf club) and screaming death threats at people behind them. They jumped into a car in the parallel parking spots, and screamed away, almost side-swiping our car in the process. By the time Lyn had dropped Aiden off, picked me up at the train station and returned home—maybe twenty minutes—the area was roped off and several police were in attendance. Twenty feet from our front door was a crime scene. These men had been in a knife fight. In our children's school. On the pathway that our children walk down from the road to the basketball courts on their way to school. Twenty feet from our front door. These men then went and murdered someone in a house in our suburb. Murdered an innocent bystander because they were angry and seeking revenge over an argument about a girl.

I'm not stupid and I'm not naïve. I know about crime: I've seen it, been its victim, known perpetrators and criminals of various stripes over the years. I know it happens in suburbs and in homes. I'm not blind. I don't even bat an eyelid at the notion of murder- I live in a city that's played host to two of the worst serial murderers in Australian history, a city where people get thrown from traffic bridges and if the bouncers don't get you in our nightspots, the gangs will. I've met suicides, prostitutes, and convicted drug felons. They don't make rose coloured glasses in my prescription. But:

If Lyn had been half a second slower on the brakes, she and my children would have been part of this crime. They would have been innocent bystanders in the way of a gang of angry, armed men who had already (and would go on to) exhibit extreme, fatal, violence. I have no shred of doubt that they would have been seriously harmed. My children's school is a crime scene. The path they walk every day of the school week is, quite literally, a blood-soaked crime scene. One of the two places my children should feel safest in the world has been used as a backdrop to gang violence and attempted murder.

I will not tolerate my family being in such an environment.

Aiden finishes his high school career at the end of next year. We will take that time to get the house ready, and then we will sell it, and move. Mandurah appeals: we have friends there, it is close to the town where I grew up, and it has everything I consider necessary for a good family environment. It is time to get ready, and leave.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


And so we come, at last, to the end: the final week of Clarion South '07, the final guest blog. And for a variety of reasons, there's nobody better to look back at endings and partings than my own darling wife, Lyn Battersby.

Lyn's gone from strength to strength since Clarion, although you'd be hard-pressed to convince her of that. Humility is a core aspect of her personality. Appearances in just about every Australian market, including highly regarded pieces in places such as Canterbury 2100, Daikaiju II: Revenge of The Giant Monsters, ASIM, and Borderlands, have consolidated her reputation as one of the most unique female voices in Australian speculative fiction. Horrorscope have anointed her as an Australian writer to watch and Alexandra Pierce, reviewing her story The Hanging Tree for ASiF, called Lyn's writing 'weird and interesting'-- "you don’t want to look," Pierce writes, "but you’re fascinated all the same." Those who are familair with Lyn's work would consider it an apt description- her stories horrify and mesmerise in equal measure, and those who read Battblush, her intensely personal Livejournal, will agree that is not just her fiction that has that effect.

Here then, to round off our look back at Clarion South 2007, is Lyn Battersby.

Clarion Week Six

Once upon a time there was a girl called Lyn. Lyn was a writer married to a writer. Lyn loved writing and with this in mind applied to join Clarion South, the six week ‘boot camp/Big Brother’ for writers.

Lyn signed up for Clarion South for one reason and one reason only. To get away from the family pressures for six weeks and write. (Okay, that sounds like two reasons, but it’s not. Take my word for it.)

She had a busy household that changed in number from week to week. Clarion South offered her the opportunity to go away for six weeks and be by herself. She could shut herself away from the world, forget it existed and immerse herself in the pleasures of the written word. Sure, there would be critting and being critted, but that wasn’t the real point of the exercise and she was fairly convinced the morning workshops would be a breeze.

If I could turn back time…

If I could turn back time I’d march up to Lyn and slap her on the upside of her head.

“Fool,” I’d say. “You think you got it made? You’re nothing but a one hit wonder, full of yourself because one little story got a bit of notice. You think the crits don’t matter, my friend? The crits do matter. They matter plenty, both to you and to the people around you. Go in there, concentrate, take it all in AND LEARN.”

In a way that did happen. Not by her - time travel is impossible - but by another class member and it came in the sixth week of her stay.

Yes, she was up herself when she started Clarion. She had been published in the small press. She’d even been nominated for several awards. She was going to Clarion for the peace and quiet and maybe to hand out a few words of wisdom gained from her experience as an author and editor.

What Lyn didn’t know at that stage was that she lacked agency. She let things happen to her and as a result the flash fame had petered out. What had happened to her star? Where had the brilliance gone?

It was during Week 6 of Clarion South that she learnt the most valuable lesson of all. My classmates had more to offer her than she could ever hope to return. They taught her that brilliance doesn’t lie in finding the perfect word, or having the perfect idea. Brilliance as a writer isn’t about talent or skill or being ambitious.

They taught her that brilliance is the child of two things: determination and humility.

Determination to believe in yourself and your product and to go after the best markets possible coupled with the humility to listen to others and accept that they are probably right when they insist that your character doesn’t have agency, or the POV is wrong or the plot mimics one used by another, more experienced author.

At the time it seemed silly to quibble over little problems during the first draft stage. It was only later, when the stories came out again and the next lot of drafting began, that those silly nothings took on a whole lot of importance and she realised what her classmates had been saying.
Then she could look at her work and say “They were right. This one word disrupts the flow of the whole paragraph.” Crits that had made her cry over the six weeks suddenly made sense. She made the changes accordingly and began to sell her work. And she thanked each and every 07 Clarionite for their contribution to her sales.

Two years on I look back at the Lyn who got off the plane at Perth airport, swearing she’d make it despite the six weeks of hell she’d just endured. I look back at her and I simultaneously want to slap her and hug her. “Yes,” I would say to her pale, sleep-deprived and homesick face. “It was hard. But believe it or not you’re now a better writer, editor and thinker than you were six weeks ago. In fact, you’re on the road to being a better person.”

She’d probably humph at me and send me on my way, but deep down she’d know it was true. She had grown within herself, thanks to the love and support of her sixteen classmates and seven tutors.

Six weeks of Clarion South were hard. By the time she finished she felt beaten and bruised and totally over writing. But she didn’t stop. And nor did they.

For her and her classmates Clarion South will never end. She has the emails to sustain her as well as the gauntlets and the phone calls. She’ll share in a wedding, a baby and a separation. She’ll share her acceptances and rejections with her friends and she’ll rejoice and commiserate with their news.

This story, unlike Lyn’s own writings, has a happy ending. Today Lyn does realise just how important Clarion South was to her. It helped her to become grounded within her craft, to look more critically at each word and to listen to all sixteen voices when they shout ‘ditto’ and ‘anti-ditto’.

And, to use an already clichéd addition to modern vernacular, that’s made of win.
Crits to note about this entry:

The 3rd person POV should be first person. 2 dittoes. Several anti-dittoes.

It’s too long. Anti-dittoes all around. Indicates length can stay.

The ‘Lyn’ character lacks agency. Well, I did establish that. Look at again.

The ‘Lyn’ character is well written and we see why she behaves the way she does. Good growth outcome. The ‘I’ character doesn’t have a background. What’s their motive? Resounding dittoes. Ummm, I don’t know.

The ending is clichéd. Everyone dittoed. But I state that in the text. I’m relying on the cliché. Remove it and find another ending that fits.

“I got the feeling that there should have been a third character mentioned. Maybe the week six tutor or something.” Tick Tick Tick. Add Simon into the next draft. Poor poor Simon Brown. He walked into a week where tempers were frayed. Thank goodness we ended on a high.

“I ditto the mention of another character but wanted to know more about the person who set Lyn straight in week six.” Total anti-dittoes.

“I anti-ditto that because I think the implication of the secret character works better than an actuality.” Only one anti-ditto. Everyone else dittoed.

“I think this plot was used before.” Check facts.

And that, my little darlings, was that. As the current crop of Clarion students head home to South Beach diets, AA meetings, and therapy, I hope you've enjoyed this insight into why the students from two years ago know where all their local clock towers are, and exactly when the President's cavalcade will be passing.


You're four years old, you want to help your big brother put clothes on the line, but you're just too short to reach. Whatever is a boy to do?

How about this?

The things I see when I step out my back door...


I'm rather chuffed to be told that Claws of Native Ghosts has been shortlisted for this year's Australian Shadows Award.

This award has been very good to me: In the four years the award has been running I've been nominated four times, winning the inaugural award, and it's a real rush to make the list-- Australian horror is an active, vibrant field, and the quality of the other nominees this year is astonishing. And I'm especially pleased to see two of my Clarion South acolytes on the list: Jason Fischer and Chris Green rank very highly on the NextBigThingometer, and you're seeing the start of that right now, careful readers.

The winner will be announced on March 13, so stay tooned.


Our little boy has started kindy. And he does love it with an all-encompassing four year old's love.

And he's too damn cute to boot :)

This photo taken two hours before first day of school actually due to start.

Off at last, off at last, God Almighty, off at last!

If you're not going to eat them, 'tag and release' is really the most humane option

Let the laaaaaaaaaaaaaarnin' BEGIN!


Aiden had his 16th birthday party last night. He actually turned 16 a fortnight ago, but curses of curses, it happened on the first day of school, so apart from taking him out to dinner and giving him his presents, he had to wait until he could actually invite his friends over before he had a bash.

So last night, Lyn and I came home from the SwanAid picnic to a house full of teenagers, pizza boxes piled to the ceiling, zombie-rampage-killing games on the TV, and enough noise and general chaos that we took our dinner guest (the always lovely Sonia Helbig) and ran out to the patio in disorganised retreat.

Our soiree broke up some time after eleven. The 'kids' (two of whom are taller than me, mind...) were still going. They were still going when I got out of bed to tell them to turn the noise down. They were still going when I fell asleep.

Aiden's cooking bacon, eggs and hash browns for breakfast, and the house is full of muzzy-headed teenagers talking in variations of "whuuummmuuh?". It's great :)

Happy birthday, Aidey-baby!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Just a reminder that applications for the 2009 AHWA mentorship program are now open: apply before the 28th of February and you could find yourself with the undivided attention of the likes of Stephen Dedman, Martin Livings, Kaaron Warren, the luscious Lyn, or my own humble self.

Should that thought tickle your fancy you can find out all you need to know about the program and the application process here

And while we're on the subject of horror and horrible things that make you squirm with discomfort: Rick Kennett.

Has written the 13th episode of the Nameless Saga over at Horrorscope :)

Go. Read. Feel the need for a shower.


Dan Braum seems to have gone mad since Clarion: stories in Dark Recesses, Full Unit Hookup, and Pseudopod, amongst others; a list of upcoming stories as long as a very long thing; an appearance at the famed KGB readings and regular fictional contributions to the Daily Cabal all point to a massive outpouring of imagination that can only lead him to an early burnout, alcoholism, and climbing a clocktower in Texas with a rifle and a whole bunch of cheerleadres in his scope... added to which, of course, are not one, but two blogs. Clearly, the man has something to say, and anyone who's been fortunate enough to read his work knows that what he says is never less than erudite, literate, and bloody entertaining.

So, with no further ado, here speaketh one Braum, Dan, for the use of:

Clarion Week Five

This blog is titled:

Naked in the Magic Chocolate River


Clarion 2007, Week Five


Into the Heart of Darkness with Margo Lanagan.

Prior to my journey to Australia I’d met plenty of Australians, but only in small groups and mostly in Central American beach bars. Thanks to Clarion conveners, Kate Eltham and Rob Hoge, this all changed. Soon after arriving in Brisbane I joined Kate and Rob on a bus filled to the gills with Australians, which then dropped us off at a stadium where Australians flowed in by the thousands to watch a 20 / 20 Cricket match. I most certainly was not in East Lansing anymore. Kate warned me that watching a game with modified rules as my introduction to the world of cricket might cause me some confusion. But nothing could be more confusing to me than the fact that I was not handed an official copy of the Blood of Heroes, aka “Salute to the Jugger” upon deplaning. As the weeks of my trip rolled by I wondered how could it be that so few Australians I encountered knew of this movie. I found myself in a strange twilight zone. Me on Australian soil trying to explain the movie to Australians, and most of them speculative fiction writers! Peter Ball valiantly tried to aid me in remedying this. After searching several of Brisbane’s record and video stores we found a lone clerk who knew of the movie, but she was unsure she’d be able to get it at all and certainly not in time before the workshop ended. This might have been in week five, I don’t remember. I do remember getting off that plane though and Heather Gammage was there to greet me and whisk me away to a much needed meal where I realized that the amazing ginger beer I had onboard was not a freak occurrence and that many kinds of great ginger beer flowed plentifully in Brisbane.

Anything I could write about Clarion South would be woefully lacking without expressing my gratitude for the conveners, Kate Eltham, Robert Hoge, Robert Dobson and Heather Gammage. Particular gratitude to Heather for leading by example by running in the opposite direction when we encountering a brown snake in the zoo. She wisely informed me that standing there and taking pictures like a stupid tourist, as is my inclination, is not a good idea. Even when said brown snake is in a zoo and supposed to be in a cage, but is not. ( Now that I have my pictures next time I think I will just follow that advice.) Collectively the conveners chauffeured us around, searched for random computer parts, handled catastrophic computer failures, handled catastrophic human failures, chaperoned trips to restaurants and zoos, interpreted road signs, offered quick wit and quick advice and that doesn’t even cover the workshop part ! They were role models of professionalism and our cool, calm and collected guides through the Clarion process, as we followed our own individual and collective writers journey down what came to be known as the magic chocolate river.

In the first moments of the actual workshop each student said a little something about why they were here. Riffing off another student’s response, I answered, “to drink from the magic chocolate river.” ( later I decided a better answer, and the answer I gave Kelly Link when she asked, was to learn to write like Jeff Ford ) It was an unusually sparkly thing for me to say. I must have been scarred a bit by the goanna versus turkey death match Chris Green and I had recently witnessed in the campus brush. And much like those aggressive territorial birds and giant black tree climbing clawed lizards, ( that is if they could read) I prefer my fiction non-sparkly. I like stories that engage the dark heart of things. So at first I thought this blog was going to be a treatise on why the Magic Chocolate River (along with the Easter Bunny) is not real. Then I thought I’d have some kind of awesome “Heart of Darkness” / “Apocalypse Now” analogy thing going. All the elements seemed right there, the magic chocolate river, a sleep-deprived heat-addled crew, Margo “Singing my Sister Down” Lanagan at the helm. I couldn’t figure out who’d be Colonel Kurtz. Maybe we all were. We certainly were all on our own quests, all of us forging our own creation myths, main characters in our own hero/ writer journeys in that Joseph Campbell sense. A clarion workshop offers the opportunity to dig into the heart of things, to face challenges. And most certainly by week five, which I’ve been enlisted by Lee to blog about, whether we knew it or not and whether we liked it or not we were all naked and hip deep in the dark heart of the magic chocolate river.

I volunteered to have my story for the week critiqued first so our week with Margo started out something like this…

“It seems that your playing with a tinderbox full of fireworks here and this time you have been burned.”


“Your hero is more weirdo than hero”


“There were a few elements in the story that made it not laughable.”

Okay, I’m focusing on the body blows for a reason. Once upon a time I had a karate teacher I often sparred with. Every time I would drop the hand guarding my face he would rap me on the nose just hard enough for it to hurt and sometimes bleed. After so many times with a sore face and bloody nose you bet I learned to keep my guard up when sparring. You get the point.

Perhaps inspired by Margo, I noticed more little “tough-love” jabs finding their way into our critiques. Such as this one…

“… <> freight trains from hell. They just ran me over and I staggered into the darkness and heard the sound of another freight train coming…”

No matter what kind of sting they were offered with the critiques were always very incisive and got to the heart of things. The stories and discussions they inspired impressed me to no end. And with each story, with each comment, we learned. I’m tempted to offer up even more details of my first-draft wreckage but that’s just being a little more naked than I’m comfortable with. Suffice to say, clarion is a place to take chances. It is the place where flying failures, such as that draft of my story, become springboards of discussion on life and craft and learning experiences for one and all. Clarion is a place to push one’s comfort level and that’s why I was there. After an awe-inspiring week with Kelly Link and a Zen-masterful session with Gardner Dozois I was pumped and primed to do so and found I had reached a new place in my writing.

Margo’s advice to our class was rock solid. Her lessons admonishing against words like skitter and scurry and akimbo was not only humorous but unique and effective. Her critique of my story served also a lesson about “sentimental” aspects and how to more effectively use them in a story.

One of my week five highlights was the Clarion reading series at Avid Reader bookstore featuring our weekly tutors. The conveners arranged for students to read for a few minutes before each tutor. I was excited to be one of the “opening acts” before Margo’s reading. So rock and roll. I loved Kate’s introduction for me. She said something like, “I’m not sure our next reader is destined to be a great sci-fi author, a benevolent dictator of a small pacific island, or a New York crime boss, or maybe all of the above.” Yes we all had “mafia” on our minds. The readings are just another great thing a clarion workshop offers and having this and other readings under my belt I felt more confident when I read at Ellen Datlow and Gavin Grant’s Fantastic Fiction reading series a year later.

Thursdays were most certainly my favorite because it meant attending these readings held at the little outside area with giant fruit bats winging it high in the dusky sky. I loved the street the store was on. The store. The bats. The sense of community. And most of all our tables for twenty at Punjabi Palace complete with Bollywood videos cranking as we feasted on palek paner and an assortment of curries.

In the dark heart of week five we were receiving messages from Planet Pitchforth on a regular basis and found we needed no ambassador to decipher them. I went on car rides with Peter Ball with old Cure, Regina Spektor, and Goldfrapp as the soundtrack. Tasks like checking a post office box and running through the supermarket were a delight and an adventure. Dumping the water pail from the Dalek-like robotic apparatus they called an air-conditioner became a nightly ritual. The clarion owl and creatures of the night that lurked round the garbage dumpster had become so accustomed to us they no longer paid us any mind. Our games of mafia heated up and we thought that we might actually find the pattern to the patternless man after all. On the first floor, politics and fiction, tales of worlds real and imagined, stories of our pasts and futures, all swirled together into one great everlasting late night blur. I noticed that the B-movies that we watched began incorporating elements of and messages about our workshop stories. To this day I swear it was not us reading into them. Lunchtime curry with the gang and the crows and kookaburra that liked to hang around was a daily delight. As was morning eggs and discussion with Chris Green. But at some point during week five a hint of something bittersweet and mournful entered the mix for me. And it was not just that I was planning my clarion “week seven” writing binge and trip to the Red Center and Great Ocean Road after that. I worried how I would ever survive back home without a supply of ginger beer.

But the real source of the feeling was that since I’d been down this river akin to this before I knew the emotional punch that waited at the end. We all wanted it to last forever, this sense of common purpose, the sense of expansion, the working daily and all day long towards common dreams and artistic pursuits. This feeling of dread slowly took over our last night. After the wrap party. After the after party. And during the after-after party, huddled in the corner of the first floor we thought maybe if we didn’t sleep then tomorrow and the end would never come. One by one people dropped off until the most drunk of us, or in my case the most sorrowful of us, greeted the end of night and the new day. I’m filled with so many potent images of this end time. Right now I am there seeing the expression on Simon Brown’s face as he watched Chris Lynch and I load Chris’s infamous treasure chest of words into his car. The image has perfect symmetry with how my time in the beloved residence hall began; the one of Chris Green and I unloading Melania’s car which was full of so many things that seemed random at the time, among them a giant paper-mache love heart and load of fresh rich soil and seeds to grow.

I wanted this blog to be all about the fact that when it comes to writing that there is no magic bullet, no magic workshop, no magic river; that there is only hard work and blood sweat and tears and more hard work and facing fears; that writing is a lonely pursuit with only you and your ass in your chair writing away, but these words did not come. Two years on I remain convinced that the magic chocolate river is indeed real. My “pre-clarion-south self” wanted this river, my imagined Australia, to be filled with Blood of Heroes like images, the kind of stuff that would make Jasoni scream out “Gold dust! Absolute gold dust !” and break into a knee-bloodying November Rain air guitar solo like he did in a particularly infamous week five critique; but what I got was much more surreal and much more potent. Enduring. Beautiful. And so, so dear to me. What I got was real Australia. What I got was six weeks with these people and their words, their worlds, their stories, their lives and their dreams. I could blog forever about them. I promised myself I’d say just one awesome thing about each of them but I couldn’t contain myself. So instead I give you their names. Christopher Green, Richard Pitchforth, Melaina Ferranda, Michele Cashmore, Helen Venn, Ben Francisco Maulbeck, Jason “Jasoni” Fischer, Laura Goodin, Jessica Vivien, Chris Lynch, Lyn Battersby, Jason Stokes, Alessio Brescani, Michael Greenhut, Jess Irwin, and Peter Ball. My friends. My community.

The magic chocolate river flows on.

We finish our journey down memory therapy with my very own luscious wife, Lyn Battersby, on Sunday, when she wraps up or Clarionarama with a look back at the final week, week 6, and the parting of the ways

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


A couple of months ago, inspired by his friend Kaneda’s Wall-o-fish and with the prospect of inheriting a free tank from a mate, Aiden very politely enquired as to whether he’d be able to keep a couple of fish. We said yes. So he duly brought home said free aquarium, filled it with water and filters and things that made bubbles, and plopped a couple of fish from the local pet store into their spacious new abode.

They died.

We felt pretty bad for the poor kid, so Lyn took him down to the pet store to see if we could get him some less exotic, easier-to-care-for fish. Something a little hardier, more suitable for a beginner, something in the order of goldfish, that he could use to learn about fish care while still experiencing the joy of having brightly coloured fish floating about. Apparently, these fish are called ‘mice’.

I fucking hate mice. But Aiden was thrilled with his purchase, so now we had two mice. We emptied the water out of the tank, replaced the things that made bubbles with things that could be run upon, and bought mouse food. And all was well in the land, at least until the mouse realised that loosely-fitting lids that don’t clip on like they’re supposed to might be all right for fish but are really no match for creatures that can stand on their back legs and run away into the night, giggling (Well, making squeek squeek noises and saying “What shall we do tonight, Brain?”). At which point I gently intimated that perhaps he might like to consider a cage that was not quite so unutterably non-mouse proof. A mouse cage, perhaps.

Enter the inimitable Grant Watson, who had just such a cage going spare, and would we care for it, as he was just going to elbow it otherwise? We certainly would, and took possession with thanks. And a damn spanky one it is too: two spacious cages connected by a series of interlocking tubes, with all sorts of cool mousey entertainment devices for running up and down on, drinking from, and generally lazing about like the mouse equivalent of a supermodel being asked to get out of bed for less than 10 000 blocks of cheese a day. Aiden was at his dad’s for the latter part of the school holidays, so in his absence Blakey put it all together, we transferred the mice into it, and *then* discovered that it was too big to fit on any horizontal surface in the house. (except the dinner table, but there are some centrepieces I do not consider suitable…). Aiden was due home in a few days so we put it on the patio table, with the idea that we would all work out a solution when Aiden got home.

Apparently, a plastic and wire cage is really not that much of an impediment to a hungry cat.

Now, we felt really bad about the loss of the mice: they’d been in our care, and we’d rather cocked it up, despite our best intentions. We let Aiden know what had happened, expressed our regrets, and promised him that, when he returned, we’d take him out and get a couple of replacements. Aiden was cool with it: he understood, and all was well in the land. Yesterday, I returned home from work, and his mum greeted me with the words “Aiden, show lee what you bought at the pet shop today.”

Rats. Two rats.

Aiden is thrilled. Erin and Connor are thrilled. The rats are thrilled. Why wouldn’t they be? They’re currently in a whopping great mouse cage on the desk in Aiden’s nice, warm bedroom. Everybody’s thrilled.

FISH! I said he could have FISH! Since when are rats a form of fucking FISH?

*Incidentally, said rats are named 'Plague' and 'Famine'. Nice...