Sunday, February 26, 2017

PRECIOUS THINGS: PAT CATTIGAN

It's Sunday morning: time for a new Precious Things post, and time for a new experience for me-- because, for once, I'm going to introduce someone about whom I know almost nothing. 
Pat Cattigan and I have been Facebook friends for 2 years, brought together by a shared sense of humour, usually expressed on posts about football. Pat lives in the original Perth, and follows Celtic Football Club. And that's all I know. Even when I asked if he wanted to provide a bio and photo for this post, he replied with the following:
O Grade in Woodwork. Failed footballer still dreaming of becoming a travelling Hobo.
And, to me, that's the great thing about the internet: under normal circumstances, Pat and I would never meet, or know anything about each other, but here we are, and we all get to know something about his tastes, and something near and dear to me. So, ladies and gentlemen, my pal Pat:

Precious Things: Pat Cattigan

Well. What an interesting question. Firstly I no longer have my most precious literary possession, sadly, I lost it some time ago during some move or other. It was an original Jaws paper back which I bought from a local second hand book shop in Perth (Scotland).

jaws-1st-edition-benchley-1975

Reason I bought it was because I was obsessed with Jaws the movie. And this was at least a year before I got the chance to see it in the summer of 76 at our local cinema. It also infected me with a lifelong passion for reading and movies, the latter has faded a little.
The bookshop I visited during this time as a 10 + youth was an Alladin's cave of books that is too rare these days and the old man who owned would decide whether I could "have"certain books or not. He didn't let me buy One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest for years coz it was too adult.
I couldn't afford new books as we were poor white Irish immigrant trash. And even years later when I could afford them I still bought books there. At some point I stopped going and one day I went looking for it and it wasn't there. A bit like my Jaws paperback which I still hope to find, even though I know it's gone.

Friday, February 24, 2017

DOGGED DOGGEREL FOR A DOG OF A DOUCHE

I've spent most of the early weeks of 2017 working on a picture book, so I've been playing with rhyme and metre a lot, and think in rhyme and metre a lot. So when one of my favourite Facebook feeds, Grandiloquent Word of the Day, threw this little beauty at me today, it got me playing with rhyme.
humgruffin
Like many of us, the Cheetoh Hitler, Donnie Drumpf, swirls around the empty sewer of my thoughts from time to time, these days. That he is a dangerous, xenophobic, bigot is beyond question. That he couldn't be trusted to sit the right way round on a toilet seat is becoming increasingly apparent, even to those who would struggle to win a battle of wits with a puddle: under which category the vast majority of his voters clearly fit. So when a bout of Google link salad threw this delightful image up...

trumpbird

...I had the makings of the following piece of doggerel. Enjoy.

A very strange beast is the Orange Humgruffin
With mind of a fruit and the squawk of a puffin.
Sets fire to its nest and stands proud in the flame
Points randomly round finding someone to blame.

Speaks only in spirals and a low, droning buzz
Threatens walls round his nest but then never quite does.
If there’s one fact we know about the Orange Humgruffin
It’s quite awful to swallow but perfect for stuffing.

Monday, February 20, 2017

EAT ME, I'M A BRIDESMAID

Good news, today, with the release of the 2016 Aurealis Awards finalistsMagrit has been shortlisted in the Best Children's Fiction category: a new category for me, and my 7th nomination since 2004. With six previous nominations and one win, it's time to see if my bridesmaid dress still fits......
aurealis-awards-finalist-high-res
It's always nice to be nominated, and it's always great to see the names of friends like James FoleyKaaron WarrenJuliet MarillierDeborah Biancotti, Claire McKenna, Kirstyn McDermott and Alan Baxter make the list. But it's always a special joy to see names new and unfamiliar listed: the field of speculative fiction constantly renews, and it's a challenge for those of us with older heads and harder veins to adapt to the new ways of thinking and expression that fresher, lighter word-dancers bring.
So congratulations to all the nominees, and here's to a damn good knees-up on the night.
And on the subject of damn good knees-up (See what I did there? I am available to segue at children's parties), you can now reserve a place to watch me eat at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writer's Centre Christmas in July literary dinner! I'll be performing for my supper, with readings, book signings, possible kitten juggling and even a special guest appearance by a tap-dancing Satan on roller blades*

literary-dinner-flyer

There are plenty of other dining options throughout the year, so come along for some good food, great company, and the chance to hear some fine literary treats. Or come to mine, it's all good.


(*May not actually happen. Sats is a busy guy, and to be honest, we don't talk much these days. It's complicated, but he met this girl, she doesn't like any of his old housemates... you know how it goes...)

Sunday, February 19, 2017

PRECIOUS THINGS: STEPHEN DEDMAN

After a little hiatus thanks to shutuptou'renotmyMum, we're back with another Precious Things post. This time out, it's friend, mentor, Australian SF veteran and furniture, and all-round frood of the froods, Doctor Stephen Dedman!
Stephen is the author of (watch this space for regular updates) novels, 120+ short stories and a non-fiction book on the historic relationship between American SF and the US military. His history is littered with service to writerdom, and he is currently available as a manuscript mentor through the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre. He plans to update his website any day now. 
armed-forces
Cool, innit?
My first experience of Stephen was meeting him at a long-distant Perth Writers Festival, when it was still held at the Fremantle Arts Centre and had just about enough budget to pay to open the gates. (We knew it before it went electric...) After a long, and at times, exhausting panel on an uncovered stage in the centre of the courtyard, in the mid-day February sun (It should be noted: Stephen's wardrobe come in any colour you like, as long as you like black), he still took the time to accept being buttonholed by a naive git looming out of the crowd as he departed, asking him for advice, patronage, and general feelings of bonhomie. The fact that he took the time to chat, give me his contact details, and provide one of the single most useful piece of writing advice I've ever received, tells you a lot about the man. 
Later, he invited me to join him at my first science fiction convention, and shared my first ever panel. He purchased some of my earliest stories. He was best man at my wedding to Luscious. It's been a friendship of going on 15 years and counting.
Stephen is one of the coolest people I know. So there.
Precious Things: Stephen Dedman
Most precious literary possession? Only one? Jesus, Battersby, do I ask you to name your favourite child and put that up on the web?
The oldest book in my collection, maybe? That would be the Lafcadio Hearn first edition, a gift from Grant Stone, WA’s patron saint of the fantastic. The book that’s been in my family the longest? That would be the leatherbound Complete Works of William Shakespeare given to my maternal grandfather as a prize for Latin in 1926. (My sister has the family Bible; I think I won that round.) The book I’ve owned the longest? That would be Hans Meacham’s Vanished Giants of Australia, which I’ve had since I was twelve. While I now own many better books on the subject, this one is precious to me not only because it introduced me to Thylacoleo and Megalania and Kronosaurus, but because I managed to save it from joining so many of the other books I’d previously owned, in the library of the private school where my mother taught. (Hi, Mum!)
Other contenders? Books signed by Theodore Sturgeon, Frank Herbert, Ray Bradbury, Terry Pratchett, Richard Matheson, Douglas Adams, Richard Adams, Harry Harrison, Anne McCaffrey, George Alec Effinger, Bob Shaw, Nigel Kneale, and many other writers who are still with us… A Doctor Who Programme Guide signed by Tom Baker, Peter Davison and Katy Manning… A lovely leather-bound The Hobbit that rendered me speechless at my 21st birthday party, the paperbacks of The Lord of the Rings and Childhood’s End that I’ve had since my teens and read more than any other volumes I own… the letter from Roald Dahl to my mother’s students, the original of the introduction Jack Horner wrote for GURPS Dinosaurs, my first acceptance letter from Ellen Datlow…
But the winner is (may I have the envelope, please?), my copy of The Dirty Little Unicorn, the book I wrote which Keira McKenzie illustrated - and coloured by hand. There are other copies around (this was #2 of 200), but that one is unique. Thanks, Keira!
unicorn

Sunday, February 05, 2017

PRECIOUS THINGS: BEVAN MCGUINESS



Welcome, my friends, to the mind of Western Australian fantasy author Bevan McGuiness. Bevan is a veteran of novels (including his Eleven Kingdoms and Triumvirate series'), short stories, reviews, and textbook works on science, a subject he suffers through daily in the name of educating the teens of this world. 
Keep your arms and legs within the carriage, and please, ignore the man behind the curtain...

mcguiness_bevan

Precious Things: Bevan McGuinness

My most precious literary ‘thing’ is a memory.
I grew up loving Science, firmly believing I was going to be a scientist, in fact I recall saying when I was 11 that I would be a Theoretical Physicist. I actually read encyclopedias (encyclopedia?) for fun and watched Doctor Who (and Star Trek of course, with my Dad on those occasions when Mum went to bed early). It was all sorted – Physics for me.
Something that every scientist should do is read Science Fiction, which I did. I read Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury and Hugh Walters among others. I watched documentaries on TV and went to the museum, all the time looking forward to my life in Science.
All the time this was going on, there was a little three-shelf bookcase in the passage at the back of our house. It faced the big linen cupboards and had a picture of something I do not recall on the wall above it. The passage led from the bathroom to my parents’ bedroom with the dining room beyond the right hand wall and the bedroom I shared with my brother beyond the left hand wall. It was fairly narrow and I could sit with my back leaning on the linen cupboard door and my feet resting against the base of the book case, with my knees bent just enough to rest a book on them.
It was in that corridor, sitting just like that, that I discovered my parents’ book collection – the grown-up books. I would love to be able to list off a dozen or so of the titles to impress with my amazing recall, but I can remember very few – The Third Eye, The Horsemen, The Treasure of San Michel, The Good Earth and The Fountainhead are some of them. When I was done reading a sci-fi novel, I would often sneak out and read a ‘grown-up’ book.

good-earth

Sitting there, under the somewhat yellowed light of a 40 watt bulb, I discovered that characters in stories could be nuanced, could be noble but flawed, could be so good it hurt and so bad I could actively hate a made up person. I learned that stories could tell about bad people doing good things and good people suffering for doing good things. In short I learned everything children’s books of the sixties did not tell me. 

the-fountainhead

I grew a love of the written word in that passage, with my back to the wall, squinting in the dim light. It did not occur to me then, or for many years, how much impact reading those grown-up books had on me but the memory of those complex, far away lands and those subtle real people never left me. I owe a lot to that little book case. 

Saturday, February 04, 2017



Another upcoming appearance for your diaries: March 2nd, I'll be appearing on stage with a fantastic lineup of childrens' authors as part of the Children's Book Council of Australia-- WA's A Night With Our Stars event. 
Alongside the likes of James Foldy, Kylie Howarth, Norman Jorgensen, Teena Raffa-Mulligan and Meg Caddy, I'll be talking about Magrit, writing, and all things froody and writerly. Here's a poster, even, saying exactly that:
mar17-talk

I've been amused to note that promotion for the event has referred to me as a "new talent" (although at least they say 'talent'). It's a risk you take when you hop genres: not every reader will come with you, and not everybody in the new field will know your track history. Still, after 16 years, it raises a smile, particularly as I've just been interviewed by a fellow speculative fiction author for a paper she's writing on the subject of writing time.
So, for those of you who may be meeting me for the first time due to Magrit, or came in late, or just have some sort of vague slightly-less-than-indifferent interest in how I came to this place, here' the potted history I provided to my academic friend:

16 YEARS A KNAVE

I started writing as a way of concentrated creativity (as opposed to writing purely for self) in my last years of High School-- I was starting to stand out as an English student at the creative end of the spectrum, rather than the critical, and it was a way to accelerate that sense of achievement. My year 12 teacher recognised something in me that I, perhaps, hadn't-- that there may be a germ of genuine talent in what I wrote, rather than a glib facility for getting easy marks-- and encouraged me to think of a literary carer as something achievable.
At the end of Year 12 I applied for, and received, entry into the Australian Defence Force Academy-- I was off to become a Lieutenant in the Army. Two days before I was due to fly out I suffered a catastrophic crisis of confidence: I cancelled my flight, cancelled my appointment, and went to University for the next 3 years to study writing, instead-- I quite literally ran away from the Army to become a poet!
Once at Uni, I found myself feeling very much an outsider-- I was the product of a working class, manual trades, English background, with all the prejudices and assumptions inherent to that upbringing, surrounded by people who were embracing their artistic natures and freedom of thought to what I thought was the point of absurdity (there are only so many Sylvia Plath references a working class boy can take per tutorial before he becomes a mite snappy). I saw myself as marginalised, both within my family (University was not the sort of place 'the likes of us' went to-- we got proper jobs, we did) and within my so-called peers.

My solution was to fight back through my writing-- not enough to accept the words of my tutors: I went to the marketplace. I wrote furiously, sent out everywhere, received hard-nosed, professional advice that almost exclusively contradicted the more academic training I was receiving, and picked my side: I was an aspiring professional writer surrounded by rainbow-waving dilettantes.

I was a kid, and a git. 

I graduated University in 1991, took a Dip Ed in 1992, and drifted away from story writing for 11 years: I took in stand-up comedy, writing legislation, reviews, stage writing, single panel cartoons..... a lot of creation, and without realising it, a lot of experience in different forms of what I eventually drifted back to: writing, pure and uncut.

I started writing again in 1999: my wife was a fan of some bloody awful television. The Gilmore Girls stands out, but every night there was an hour where I was faced with a choice between writing in solitude, or sitting next to her trying to keep the bile down. I was immature, and selfish: I chose to write. (My current marriage, I'm a much less stupid husband: I write less, but I know what happens in Bones, and I'm used to the taste of bile.)

After a year of writing and not submitting, I became the typical overnight success story: In February of 2001, I sold the first three stories I submitted, within an hour of each other. For the record:
  1. Through Soft Air, to Orb Magazine
  2. Carrying the God, to Writers of the Future, and
  3. The Habit of Dying, to Alien Q. (No link, because they stiffed me on payment, and I had to threaten legal action to get them to take the story off the page, so screw them.)
And that was me, off into what is now a 16 year literary career, of sorts.

Review: The Incredibly Strange Film Book

The Incredibly Strange Film Book The Incredibly Strange Film Book by Jonathan Ross
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Up until now, I've only been aware of Jonathan Ross from his work on TV, where he comes across as an overwhelmingly obsequious, arse-kissing lickspittle. So it was a surprise to read that some of his early work was in presenting a show about the sort of obscure cult films that I love to watch. This book is the accompanying text to that show, and while it might present new information to anyone approaching cult movies for the first time, it does little to dispel my previous impression of Ross. The text rarely searches for depth, instead presenting simple narratives that read like the result of the most cursory skimming of other works on the subject; the humour, such as it is, is glib and only pointed towards the easiest of targets (a chapter pretending to outline the stunted career of 'forgotten' actor Jack Nicholson is particularly wearisome); and while some of the objects of Ross' adulation seem designed to establish some sort of alternative film cred, they are presented in exactly the smarmy, grovelling tones that make his talk shows, for example, such an odious chore.

View all my reviews