Thursday, April 27, 2017

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY SAYS SHHHHH!

I make this my solid vow: if I ever get back to University, I will sneak in to the library and do this. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

DON'T PACK AWAY THE BRIDESMAID DRESS JUST YET

magrit_cvr_hr
Fresh of the back of not winning the Aurealis and CBCA Book of the Year Awards for Magrit comes news of one more Award shortlisting, and this time it's a beauty: the little book that almost could has been shortlisted for the Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children's Literature as part of the 2017 NSW Premier's Literary Awards.
The Prize, which attracts an award for (wait for it) THIRTY THOUSAND FREAKING DOLLARS, will be announced on 22 May, when I'll be lying in bed exhausted after running myself to death for the Asian Festival of Children's Content, so, you know, it might be pretty flipping good weekend, as weekends go......
For the full skinny, including the list of all shortlisted works across 11 categories, you can head over to the NSW Premier's Literary Awards page

Sunday, April 23, 2017

PRECIOUS THINGS: LEE MURRAY

Lee Murray is a six-time winner of New Zealand’s Sir Julius Vogel Award for science fiction, fantasy and horror writing. She's the author of monster thriller Into the Mist (Cohesion Press), and co-author (with Dan Rabarts) of the speculative crime-noir series The Path of Ra, releasing in 2017 from Raw Dog Screaming Press. She lives online at her website, and you can also catch up with her on Facebook and Twitter
Precious Things: Lee Murray
lee cover
Precious things… precious things. How to choose? I’m lucky enough to have lots of literary treasures, although most of them are still boxed away after our house move two years ago. This one, though, is still on the bookshelf and has been since 1970 when I was just five years old. Invitation to the Dance is a 1969 Fantasia picture book based on the romantic piano waltz by composer Carl Maria von Weber, the story of the music adapted by Keisuke Tsutsui and translated by Ann King Herring.



A gift from my uncle, I remember reading Invitation to the Dance for the first time, the book open on the carpet, me turning the pages and discovering the story. Already a voracious little reader – my parents taught me to read before I went to school – this book, with its gorgeous water colour images by Japanese illustrator Chihiro Iwasaki, enthralled and inspired me. The back-cover blurb declares the publisher’s intent to “help young readers expand their musical imaginations, and encourage children fond of music to find new enjoyment in books”. They certainly achieved that: I could positively hear the music of the dance, see the children pirouette around the ballroom, which they, in their wonder, would transform into the garden, the lake, and the sea. If you haven’t already heard the music Invitation to the Dance you can listen to it performed here.
Although I couldn’t articulate it back then, I loved the idea of freedom and abandon expressed in the story. I could imagine myself dancing on a lake, where “the surface of the water feels like fresh, cool silk” – not so far-fetched for folk in some countries, but for a little Kiwi girl living on the shores of Lake Taupō, an impossible dream.








I took the book to school on several occasions. In my second year, I showed it to my class teacher who thought it was so beautiful that she read it to the class at story time. Maybe that was what I really liked: the attention from the teacher.
My favourite image in the book is also the darkest: the page where the children are confronted by the scowling gatekeeper, whose interruption causes them to sink, the waves lashing high. It seems my predilection for dark speculative elements was already manifest, even at five.
Invitation interior
I’m putting the book back on the shelf and… look another treasure! Bernard Werber’s science fiction blockbuster Les Fourmis (The Empire of the Ants). The important thing to note about this one is the date on the inside cover. 1991. It was the year the book was first released, and the year my husband and I moved to France. I purchased it – yes, I paid French francs for it ‒ at the end of that first year of immersion and it was the first title (that wasn’t a children’s book) that I read in French from cover to cover, and barely having to look up any words. You have no idea how immensely proud I was of myself. I was five and rediscovering the joy of reading again. The freedom of it was indescribable, because up until that point every bookstore or library I’d entered, I’d have to ask myself: “What am I capable of reading?” For a bibliophile, passing that milestone in a second language, that moment when I knew I could choose any book was inexplicably freeing. It was as if, until then, my life in France hadn’t really begun. And Les Fourmis is exactly the kind of book I love, a genre that has stayed with me: dark science fiction and fantasy with its basis deeply rooted in fact. I went on to read the entire trilogy, and any other book I wanted. Actually, now that this book is out of the bookshelf and on my desk, I think it is time for me to read it again...




Books offer freedom in other ways, as more than just imaginary places to visit, places to hone our philosophical views, to test our intellectual progress, or as historical records of times past: they are so much more than just their content. I remember my daughter making book forts out of hers, volumes stacked up like playing cards to create her own secret reading room. One year, our little family built a book Christmas tree and decorated it with lights. My dad, for many years a member of Rotary, helped run an annual second-hand Book Fair in our community, the funds raised used to help less fortunate folk both at home and abroad. And in another more sombre tale, in my mother’s family, there is a book: a banal grey covered book with aging rice paper leaves, where every other page is connected to the next at its outer edge. In the secret spaces between the pages, my grandfather slipped bank notes, using the book to hide his money when he fled China for Taiwan in the 1930s. I have no idea what literary content the book held ‒ I can’t read Chinese ‒ I only remember thinking it was neat to slip my hand between the pages, but for my grandfather and his family, the book must surely have represented safety and freedom.

Friday, April 21, 2017

FIVE for FRIDAY: HAPPY BOOK CROSSING DAY!

Happy International Book Crossing Day, everyone!
What's Book Crossing day, I hear you ask? Well, sit your jimmy-jammied little bot-bots down, and I'll tell you. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I'll begin.
Book Crossing is a fun little website wherein you can release books into the wild, tagged with a barcode, and watch them as they are shared across the known world by people who are prepared to let them go once they've finished reading and go onto the website to log the wheres and the whens of the controlled release program. Think of it like tagging sharks for scientific purposes, without the wet and the cold and the seasickness and the risk of getting your bollocks gnawed off. Assuming you don't try to release the book in Mirrabooka, anyway. There's a whole lot to learn at the Book Crossing website, including the fact that they have a Day, and it's today!
So to celebrate, I'm releasing five books into the wild today, and these are they, along with the links to their Book Crossing records so you can watch them disappear into obscurity along with the rest of us.
Five for Friday: Books Away!
1. The Marching Dead by Lee Battersby
Marching Dead
Released: Baldivis Shopping Centre food court.
Well, why not? I've got some extra copies kicking about. Let's see how far we can get one copy to run.

2. Storm Front by Jim Butcher.
Storm Front
Released: Rockingham Shopping Centre food court.
The first of Butcher's Harry Dresden novels, it's a wonder that any more of them were picked up. back in 2012, I called it "choppy, badly balanced, written with the kind of breezy lack of depth I'd normally associate with a Star Trek or Star Wars tie-in," in a 2-out-of-5 review on Goodreads. Maybe 5 years later is the right time to give it its freedom......

3. A Father's Story by Lionel Dahmer
dahmerbook
Released: Baldivis Plaza public seating.
One of the most awful books I've ever read, I probably should feel a little guilty at inflicting it upon some unsuspecting passerby whose only crime is to be attracted to the idea of a free book. I gave it a withering one-star review on Goodreads, and it'll be a relief to get it out of my house. If you're the person who picked it up, and you've made your way here, I'm sorry. I'm so, so, sorry.

4. The Chosen Queen by Joanna Courtney
courtney
Released: City of Rockingham tea room.
A donation by Luscious, whose comment was simply "Not as good as Philippa Gregory." That's still a pretty high bar, so let's hope someone enjoys it.

5. The Teacher's Secret by Suzanne Leal
leal.jpg
Released: Rockingham Arts Centre forecourt.
Another donation from Luscious, she tells me that it was a good read, but a once-only affair: read it, finished it, don;t need to read it again.
So there we are: 5 books out in the wild, ready to travel the world and open their pages to the riffling fingers of strangers. Let's wish them well and see where they go.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY LOOKS UP AS THEY FLY BY

Sometimes, a simple case of metaphor works wonders. Superheroes fly, birds fly. The humour is simple, but in this case, I think it works.

0074
Every year, crime runs rampant in Northern cities,
as superheroes fly South for the winter. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

I'M A POET, AND I WAS NOT AWARE OF THE FACT

There are all sorts of ways authors deal with a block, or a fallow period. One of these days, I'll post a 5 for Friday listing some of the ways I kickstart my writing efforts. 
But something I do on a somewhat-irregular basis is to dive into my archives, and re-examine some completed works with an eye to getting them onto the treadmill. After completing a poem recently, I found them time tonight to do just that, unearthing eight poems completed over the last 12 months that had been waiting for a night like tonight.
I am an occasional poet, but it means a lot to me: my first sales were poems, way back in the late 80s and early 90s, before Real Life (tm) got in the way and took me away from serious writing for too many wasted years.
So, as of tonight, the following titles are completed and out in the world, and if the Universe is a just and giving endless saddled-shaped veil of beige nothingness (seriously, look it up), then I'll celebrate the success of:
  • Hart Crane, Treading Water
  • Transubstantiation
  • Like a Leaf Falling
  • Wish Fulfillment
  • I Can Smile
  • What Good is the Day?
  • Seer Like a Stonemason
  • There is No Owner's Manual

Monday, April 17, 2017

HE SHOOTS, HE SCORES, HE READS!



Who doesn't love a good book sale score?
Hitler didn't, that's who. Yeah. 
books

Nine bucks, people. Niiiiiiiiiine bucks. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

PRECIOUS THINGS: TABETHA ROGERS BEGG

Tabetha Rogers Beggs is Chair of the Katherine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre, where her boundless enthusiasm and personality goes a long way to giving the Centre the drive such places need to do more than simply hang on and survive. A writer herself, she's wandered over a range of genres and forms, and details her journey at her website, Put It In Writing.
Here she takes us on a personal journey, and reveals her precious literary possession as having more dimensions than just literary ones.
Precious Things: Tabetha Rogers Beggs
Head shot

When Lee invited me to contribute a piece to his ‘Literary Treasures’ feature, I didn’t need to think twice about which precious item it is I love about all others in my collection.
 While it’s not in my nature to start on a depressing note, I feel this part of the story is integral to knowing, 100% this book and the man who wrote it, has influenced me more than any other in my pursuit of writing. The author is nobody you will have heard of, although his namesake is synonymous with many timeless classics, but his words hold the utmost sentimental value to me, because they are wise, witty and familiar.
 When the Black Saturday fires hit Victoria in 2009, I was devastated by the black scar natures fury left on the Shire of Murrindindi. Only two years earlier, I’d visited those charming, historical areas, on some a sort of ‘find myself mission’. Etched on my memory from that trip, is Bruno Torf’s art and sculpture garden in the heart of Marysville. I hadn’t planned to go there, but on a whim I pulled into the car park. I met Bruno and his wife, who were so incredibly hospitable, by the time I left his gallery, I was compelled to hug him and thank him for bringing such beauty into the world.
 So as I watched the news roll out in February 2009, my only thought was for Bruno and the art he had created, and I prayed at least some of it had survived the fire.
Signature

 With that thought heavy on my heart, I wrote a list, of what I would save from the burning wreckage of my own home, should I ever be faced with such a disaster.
 Of course my list assumed my children and husband were evacuated and out of harms way. But if I had only one chance to run back into the flames, what would I save?
 At the top of my list was my laptop, since I never bother to back anything up and in the event that it melted down in the heat, I would most likely give up on writing, as I would never be able to write all those words again.
 But, the next item on my list was Victor Hugo Brayne’s hand-written diary; my literary treasure.  Victor Hugo begins his journal in 1978 and chronicles his life over a twenty-year period. Victor Hugo Brayne is my grandfather, my Pop and I am the custodian of his book.
 Perhaps it was gifted to me because out of all the grandchildren, I was the one who would ensure it was treasured, read and the stories passed on.
 Heaven forbid any of my cousins ever read this article, as we all know we are not supposed to have favourites when it comes to family, but secretly knew I was his. Maybe it had something to do with spending more time with him and my Nanna than the others in our formative years, or because I was a wide-eyed child who believed everything he told me.
 He could tell any story like it was a fairytale, whether it was about a battle on the front during WWII, or some funny thing that happened to him at the Senior Citizens Club.
 Like the one he told me about the troll-like monsters living in a place called the Porongurups. It was only twenty years later, when driving east out of Albany, I was struck with revelation ‘Fuck me! The Porongurups are a real place.’ I often wonder how many other things were real that I thought he’d made up?
 What is special about his journal, is while he wrote about the days events, something about that day would trigger a memory of the past.
Book page
 Between the pages are stories of Great Uncle Shadrach, the last man hanged in Nuneaton, and an almost boastful sense of pride in the rogues and villains who colour our ancestry. Then he follows it all up with something so ordinary like my Aunty visiting that day and how proud he is to see his grandchildren doing well at sport or at school. There is no rhyme or reason to his formula. He just wrote how his brain played it out.
 Through his words, I’ve discovered he was a feminist, with great respect and regard for women and their rights to be equally heard. Even as his illness overcame him in his late seventies, he always remembered that I worked for the City of Perth and would greet me with the question ‘Are you Lord Mayor yet?’ and I know he truly believed that one day I’d walk in and say ‘Yes. Pop I am.’
 On some pages he includes footnotes, like the weather of the day or a short historical fact about a place or a person he’d written about.
 It fits no textbook formula, or publishing guidelines, but to me it isn’t about that. It’s his handwriting, the backward slant of his longhand, his words that fell from his head to his hand, just as he thought them. No self-editing, or consideration for genre or narrative. Just a man and his memories. His thoughts of the day.
 As Parkinson’s disease claimed his body, his daily words became paragraphs rather than chapters, his writing shaky, as the disease took hold. Eventually, no longer able to keep his pen steady enough for the page he stopped writing.
 He left us on a warm February day in 2008 in a hospital room that overlooked the port of Fremantle, the very port that had welcomed the English immigrant and his Austrian wife to the land of opportunity fifty years earlier. A man with an adventurous soul and a heart not big enough for all the love within it.
 But I have his book, twenty years of his words, and if my house were on fire, I would risk everything to save this most precious treasure.


Friday, April 14, 2017

PRETTY BOY IS PRETTY

Off to the Aurealis Awards tonight, where Magrit has been shortlisted in the Best Children's Novel category. 

Thanks to Lyn and her nailpimp Stephanie, I'm suitably attired for the occasion......


FIVE for FRIDAY: FEMALE AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!

Here's a not so secret ambition: I want to write comic books. Specifically, I want to write the sort of off-the-wall bizarro superhero comic that hit me right in the cerebral cortex when I came back to comics in my University years: comics that were written by guys like Grant Morrison, Jamie Delano, Frank Miller and Alan Moore during the early, oddball Vertigo days, before they all went mainstream and electric and started doing Unplugged albums.
Here's what else I want to do: take an established property and push it away from the same stable of core characters that we're about to shove in a movie, so could you please re-draw them to look like the actors portraying them (Yeah, I'm looking at you, Bendis-MOR, post-Abnett Guardians of the Galaxy). And while I'm playing in the sandbox, I want to get my teeth into some of the supplementary characters: too cool to be disposed of, but never really given enough oomph to escape the cookie cutter.
So, while I'm expounding my Christmas list, let's pretend I've been given free reign to choose my own Avengers team. And let's pretend that, in the interest of satisfying all of the above, I've persuaded Marvel to let me write an all-female team (because, quite honestly, pretty much my favourite ever run of X-Men was back in the 250s or so, when the entire team was female, and they had to be smart instead of just punching and slashing everything that came along).
So, here's this week Five for Friday: my female Avengers line-up. In order to do this, I've picked out 5 archetypes that I think a good team needs for balance.
1. The Tank. 
The beef. The muscle. The super-archetype. When things get big and ugly, sometimes you just need someone around to go boom. This is the heavy-hitter: the Hulk, Thor, Colossus. You know what I mean.
In this position, I'm putting a character I've wanted to write for a very long time. Sif is based on a Norse Goddess. She's a warrior; a lover of Thor who can match him, uh, stroke for stroke; the only non-Valkyrie to lead the Valkyrior in battle. She's been possessed by Loki, trapped in the body of a dying human, and generally treated like the pining girl-on-the-dock for Thor's adventures. In truth, she should be a major Marvel character: a hard-ass genuine warrior princess who calls nobody below a thunder God her equal. She needs a spotlight, and I'd love to give her one.
Sif daniel Acuna
Sif, by Daniel Acuna

2. The General
Somebody's got to lead. Every team has someone to direct the plays, to provide the focus, to act as the spokesperson and move all the pawns across the board. Captain America. Professor X. Cyclops. Night Thrasher. Often a team stands or falls on the quality of its leadership. 
Another character who has been written overwhelmingly as a love interest/sexpot, despite theoretically being a superb tactician, soldier (in this case, yet another in Marvel's interminable series of super-soldier experiments gone rogue) and rakish outlaw, Domino has been chronically underused by a franchise desperately trying to shoe-horn Black Widow into everything since they have a hot actor to sell comic books in the role.
Yet there's so much to like about this character: a genuinely fun power set, some intriguing backstory wrinkles, and enough baggage to set up a lengthy series of edgy interactions right across the Marvel Universe. She's begging to be a central characters in something, and placing one of the Marvel Universe's great outsiders at the heart of its great institution could be a lot of fun. 
Domino Greg Horn
Domino, by Greg Horn

3. The Conscience.
Every team, and every hero these days, needs a Jiminy Cricket: somebody who acts as that final sounding board, who gets in between the demi-God and the sure and certain knowledge that they could break all the rules if they really wanted, and frankly, there are very few people around who could stop them if they choose to do so. Luke Cage, The Wasp, Hawkeye: there's always someone around to say "Then what makes us any better than them?"
Meggan is an elemental, an empath with the ability to assume any form, and take on any superpower, at will. If she wanted to, she could destroy the world, remake it, and destroy it all over again. Yet she is tethered to the emotions of every creature she comes into contact with: not just human, but animal, plant, and alien. And it is this overwhelming moral compass, towards all things, that makes her such a fascinating character. I've never seen her brilliantly used: she's often tied to Captain Britain, and her only real extended run in comics was during the eXcalibur years. As a character with the capacity to draw out shades and intonations across any number of scenarios, she's one I'd love to give depth to.
Meggan
Meggan, artist unknown

4. The Street Warrior.
You ain't seen what they've seen. And what they do isn't very pretty. You know who I mean. They're usually your favourites. The anti-heroes. The down and dirty types. The period 1987-1999. If you were lucky, Rob Liefeld didn't get hold of them. Wolverine. The Punisher. Ghost Rider. Moon Knight. The guys who go where the bad guys are, and do worse. The shadows who come to life.
For me the most intriguing character of this type in all of Marvel comics is the once-and-former Queen of the Morlocks, Callisto. Scarred internally and externally, her life before she entered the tunnels under New York is completely unknown: she is a tabula rasa, born hurt and bitter. Her powers were stripped by M-Day, then returned to such an extent by the Terrigen Mists that even normal sensations are deeply painful. She is a ticking time-bomb, a creature made of sandpaper and edges. I'd love to write her.
Callistox
Callisto and the Morlocks, by Jim Cheung.

5. The Wildcard.
The jester. The odd one out, The guy who presses the big red button just because it's so big and shiny. The mouth. The edgy one that circles around the rest of the group like a shark around nervous swimmers. The dangerous one. The one that even the staunchest allies aren't totally sure about. Go one way and you have Spiderman, Deadpool, Rocket Raccoon. Go the other, you get The Hulk, Sentry, Loki.
Just because my team isn't unbalanced enough, what with a PTSD God, a psychologically scarred super-soldier, and a potentially psychotic cellar dweller of dubious history, I'm going to open door B and usher in another of my all-time favourite underused weirdoes.
Illyana Rasputina, otherwise known as Magik, is the poster child for storylines that realised they shouldn't go there and skipped across the ice at the last minute. Younger sister of Peter 'Colossus' Rasputin of the X-Men, her nominal power is the ability to teleport. So, yeah. Then there's the other stuff....
Abducted at the age of six, transported to a Limbo dimension and alternatively corrupted and tortured by a demon for over a decade, occupied and then abandoned by the Phoenix Force, she's a sorcerer supreme who manifests her own soul into the shape of a sword and who once forced a schoolmate to experience a lifetime in Hell in the space of six seconds because she didn't like the way he looked at her. There is so much don't-go-there-don't-go-there about her sexual bride-of-the-demon backstory that writers only ever go so far as making her, essentially, the angriest, bitchiest hero they can manage. To say she's got issues is like saying the Antarctic is a bit chilly this time of year.
She could cause, quite literally, a world of hurt to anyone and everyone she meets. God, how I'd love to peel her apart and explore every aspect of her character. She's the one that could make or destroy the team, and probably simultaneously. She's in.
Magik Bacchalo
Magik, by Chris Bacchalo

So there we go: Sif, Domino, Meggan, Callisto and Magik. My five Avengers. 

Yes, there are others I'd love to include -- I'd love to write Hellcat, Lila Cheney and Hepzibah, for example -- and other archetypes I'd love to cover -- a jester, an innocent, an outsider -- but these are the five that fit my Five for template. So what about you? Who would you include, using the rules I've laid out above?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY ATE YOUR CHOCOLATES

Easter 001

They've run down the Easter Bunny. 
Yeah.
I have no excuse. It's just bad.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY ENCOURAGES EQUAL ACCESS FOR ALL

One of these days, I'm going to sneak down to my local shopping centre with a can of spray paint and do this.
One of these days.
0110

Sunday, April 02, 2017

FIVE for FRIDAY: AN INKY ADDENDUM

Keen-eyed readers will remember that recently, I posted about the weird, sudden new addiction I have to getting tattooed, and the 5 tattoo designs I really want
Then our wedding anniversary happened.
One down......

PRECIOUS THINGS: CHUCK MCKENZIE

Chuck McKenzie was one of the very first friends I made in SF. We met at a Convention in 2002, and basically, have been pretty much taking the piss out of each other ever since. He's also the author of a novel and a number of finely crafted short stories, may of which were assembled in his collection Confessions of a Pod Person
Chuck has  worked as a reviewer, editor, judge for both the Aurealis and Australian Shadows Awards, and owner of an SF/comic bookshop. He claims he was born in 1970, and still spends much of his time there. He's a fan of the Goodies, so he's not all bad, and enjoys a nice Merlot, so he's not all sane. 
He also understands greatness, as will become more than apparent as he reveals his precious literary treasure.
Precious Things: Chuck McKenzie
The book that had the greatest impact upon me as a writer – and possibly as a person – is one that, oddly, I no longer own. In fact, it’s not even a book I’m particularly keen to own, or re-read. And yet…
November 1977: My mother took me to see Star Wars in the city. The movie had been screening in Australia for over a month, and everyone was talking about it. And the endless array of merchandise in the shops had been building my expectations to a point where I felt I was going to die if I didn’t see it. So we saw it. And while I’ve not remained a die-hard fan of Star Wars as an adult, that movie was The Most Amazing Thing I’d Ever Seen.
My mother, on the other hand – utterly exhausted from the effort of organising the outing, and probably from wrangling an overly-hyped junior SF fan – fell asleep before Luke and Obi-Wan even hit the Mos Eisley Cantina.
Afterwards, possibly guilted by my highly vocal incredulity that she could have fallen asleep during The Greatest Movie in the History of Forever, my mum took me to a book shop. At that stage, I was already what my teachers termed ‘an advanced reader’, enjoying authors such as H. G. Wells, Jules Verne and Nicholas Fisk, where my schoolmates were reading the inanely childish readers provided by school. Indeed, I had already stated my desire to be A Writer when I grew up, despite being warned by many grown-ups that writing wasn’t a Real Job. Thus, I gravitated immediately towards the SF display rather than the kids’ section…and that’s where I saw it:
Doctor Who And the Abominable Snowmen. By Terrence Dicks.

Doctor_Who_and_the_Abominable_Snowmen
It’s no exaggeration to say that, in that moment, Star Wars was completely forgotten.
Like many kids of the 1970s, I’d been raised on a heady mix of ABC programming that consisted of The Goodies at 6pm, followed by a music video or short cartoon, then Doctor Who at 6.30, four nights a week. My parents were mistrustful of science fiction in general, but figured Doctor Who must be fine, because surely the ABC wouldn’t screen anything that wasn’t artistic and laudable.
I stared at the book. The words DOCTOR WHO looked exactly like they did on the opening credits on TV, and I knew that Terrence Dicks was one of the principal writers for the show. But the person depicted on the cover, whom I surmised was supposed to be the Doctor, was not either of the actors I associated with the role (that is, Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker), although I did recall seeing him in a story called The Three Doctors, where he was playing a sort of alternate version of the Doctor. I looked at the back of the cover, and saw that the book was something called a ‘novelisation’, based upon a story that had screened on TV. IN 1967!!!!
At that moment, a couple of epiphanies smacked me over the back of the head.
One: that my favourite TV show had indeed been around a great deal longer than I had, which, in my mind, immediately raised it from being merely cool to being awesome, mysterious, and worth deeper investigation. And the man on the cover of The Abominable Snowman was an actor who had played the Doctor before Pertwee and Baker!
Two: That science-fiction was something Other People were interested in, too! In direct contrast to my mum’s assertion that I must one day ‘grow up’ and stop living in my ‘own little fantasy world’, science fiction was obviously a popular thing with grown-ups too – otherwise, why would they produce movies like Star Wars, or books based upon Doctor Who?
Three: if people like Terrence Dicks had the job of writing scripts for Doctor Who on TV, then writing DW books must also be a job – which meant that I could so be a writer as a job! IN YOUR FACE, GROWN UPS!!
To make a long story longer, I went home and read all of Doctor Who and the Abominable Snowmen in one sitting, by torchlight, under my doona. And it was brilliant. And the epiphanies of that day, plus the simple but successful structuring of the many Target Doctor Who novelisations I would read over the next decade or so, left me with lessons in theme, plotting and prose that I would not fully appreciate until I began selling my own speculative fiction some 22 years later.
So: A Long Time Ago, In A Bookshop Reasonably Far Away, that’s how it all kicked off for me.

Friday, March 31, 2017

5 for FRIDAY: LEGO SETS

Every growing boy needs a hobby. For me, it's Lego. I loved the toy as a child, before undergoing what Lego fandom refers to as 'The Dark Ages' when I was thirteen or fourteen-- that period between discovering Lego and rediscovering it. 
I rediscovered it a few years ago thanks to my kids: Luscious and I had bought Ms 15 some Duplo when she was a little sausage person, and passed it on to Master 12 when he became a little sausage person. Neither of them had really taken to it, until one day, when searching for a way to create a maze for the remote control T-Rex they were playing with, they brought it out. 
"I wonder what they'd do with some real Lego?" I said to Luscious.
"You should nip down the ships and pick some up," she replied. (He says, passing-the-blamingly).
Today, I have a collection that lies just short of 200 sets, and just north of 55,000 pieces. The children, meanwhile, have iPads and iPods, and laptops. I have displayed at the last 2 Bricktober exhibitions, and am currently working on my display for a third consecutive year, and have travelled to Melbourne to exhibit at their giant Brickvention exhibition. I am a member of several online Lego groups, have a Flickr account, and spend hundreds of dollars a year at the Bricklink second-hand site, buying individual pieces for my MOCs (My Own Creations: what adults call this thing wot I built all by myself to make it sound more adult).
In short, I'm an AFOL: an Adult Fan of Lego. And I loves it with great lovingness. 
In many ways, I've passed beyond buying sets: I'm more interested in MOCs, as it expands my creative skills, and it's the act of artistic creation that fires my juices. But, like many of my colleagues, sets were where I started before I slid over to the more self-expressive, artistic end of the spectrum. So here are five sets that fuelled my love of the brick, and which will be the last to leave my cold, dead hands.

5 for Friday: Lego sets
918 Space Transport and 928 Galaxy Explorer
The set that started it all, and the set I lusted after my whole life.
918-1
The 918-- all 81 pieces of it-- was the centrepiece of my collection when I was a child. I received for my birthday it in the year of its issue, 1979, and it kick-started an obsessive love that lasted another 4 years, and multiple purchases of smaller, less expensive sets, all firmly placed within the Space theme. It's a love that has never left me-- even coming back to Lego thirty-plus years later, it's spaceships and bases that I lean towards building, and which I display almost exclusively. 
I gave away my collection to a work colleague in my early twenties, and have regretted it ever since. When my collection was approaching 100 sets, I determined to make this one my hundredth, and did so, at a price that would have made my childhood eyes water. 
928-1
The 928 was the flagship of that series, and so far out of my parents' price range that I was warned repeatedly not to even ask for it. As a consequence, I've lusted after it my entire life, even when I no longer had any interest in Lego. That's just how my brain works. Like every set from that era, it's now eye-wateringly expensive, but dammit, I'm an adult with my own income and I'll get one if I want one, so there. I have one, my eyes watered, and it's absolutely everything I expected it would be when I was a kid. I loves it.

5984 Lunar Limo.
5984
The first 'family' set that we bought when deciding to introduce the kids to Lego. It's a mad build, as you can see from the box, and kicked off the obsession: having built it, I immediately went in search for more sets from the theme it belongs to: Space Police III. And they were mad as all get out, too, and had weird pieces I'd never seen, and super-cool alien minifigures, and so I needed to get another one, and another one... and that was me hooked, lined, and sinkered.
But look at it. LOOK AT IT! I mean, come on....

79003: An Unexpected Gathering
Look, we can all agree that the Hobbit movies were bad. Bad, bad, bad. So bad. So very, very bad. Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad
79003
But this set almost makes up for it. This set and that bit where Smaug goes over the top of the bridge and rains coins. But mainly this set. Put simply, after almost 200 sets, this is still the most enjoyable, satisfying, and fun set I've ever built. It's a joy in every way, from new techniques, to new parts, to surprising connections. It's a builder's delight. It's still the only set I've demolished the moment I finished building, purely so I can immediately build it all over again.

10228: Haunted House.
10228
All jokes aside: this set is a monster. Clocking in at over 2000 pieces, it's the largest set I own by nearly a factor of two, and is packed full of little surprises and tricks that add joy to the building experience. The fact that it's a freaking haunted house, the cool minifigs, the metric fucktonne of sand green (a pretty damn rare colour) pieces... all just gravy.

70709: Galactic Enforcer.
70709
It's a tank, and a jet plane, and a tankjetplane, and there's aliens, and it comes apart, and then there's two toys, and aliens, and it does this, and if you pull this bit then that happens..... I would have killed you all for this when I was a kid. Luckily, I have a job, and my own income, so I didn't have to kill you all for this when it came out. But honestly, look at it: if this isn't every space-kids wet dream come to life, you tell me what is. Even now, several years after first building it, it makes my inner 9 year old weep with joy.



Thursday, March 30, 2017

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY PIMPS ITS RIDE. AND THEN IT ALL GOES HORRIBLY WRONG.

Back in the day when the TV show Pimp My Ride was a thing, I sketched this piece. Titled Pimp My Dalek, I intended the finished piece to be a painted artwork for entry into a Swancon fan art show. I don't do Swancon any more, and I never got around to painting the work, so this plan is as close as I've ever come.