Sunday, July 30, 2006


It's been a bitser of a week week. Wrote that story I mentioned earlier, finished my reading for Clarion South (Eight manuscripts in all, displaying a real range of skill levels. It's good to see such an interest in attending), pitched an idea to a new publisher of short SF novels and had the idea rejected, and did some goal setting for the second half of the year and for the next 5 year arc.

Still, after a bit of a fallow period it's nice to feel a sense of purpose again. Next month marks the 5th anniversary of both Luscious' and mine's first appearance in print, so it feels important to reach that mark with a firm sense of progressing onto a new stage of my career. Getting back to some concerted work practices is part of that.


An interesting discussion (discussion: the respectful and considerate exchange of handfuls of mud, at speed) over at Shane Jiraiya Cummings' blog on the subject of whether or not it lies within an editor's purview to send published stories to the multitudes of awards and Best Of Anthologies that clutter the arteries of our fair genere, and if not, why not? And if so, why not? And if not, why so? And on, and on, and keep taking those pills, Battersby....

Despite my levity, it's a serious subject, and I encourage anybody with an interest to jump on and contribute their 2.2 cents, GST included. For the record, I'm of the opinion that a writer has no right, or expectation of right, to any services not outlined within the submission guidelines and/or contract delivered by any magazine or publisher. If it's not specifically stated that the editor will send your story to an award committee or Best Of editor, it's not safe to assume that they will do so. Checking up is a simple matter: ask. Come the time to be thinking about deadlines, contact the editor and ask them whether they will be sending your work in. I'm considered a prolific short story writer, yet it's still only a matter of a dozen cut and pasted emails, once a year, to ascertain whether my stuff is being sent to any individual outlet.

Over the course of a calendar year, you could expect, as an Australian SF writer, to be in line for a minimum of 2 awards (Ditmars and Aurealis) plus somewhere in the region of 4 or 5 Year's Bests, give or take. It may be, over the course of a year, an investment of time and money to organise copies to go to these places, but then: a) I've met very few editors who don't either send the stories anyway or will do so on request and b) very few committee and editors who won't engage in a dialogue and make it easy to get your work to them. They want to read your work, every single one of them.

And in the end, it comes down to this: it's your career, not anyone else's. Not the editor's, not the publisher's, not the postman's. If you want to win an Aurealis, you can't unless they read your stuff. If you want to get into Datlow & Link's Year's Best, or Strahan's, or Hartwell's, you can't unless they read your work.

The buck can only stop in one place.


My reading tastes have taken a turn in the last week, and I've thrown myself into a series of biographies. I do this every now and again. I have an insatiable urge to know what is behind the creation of a special person, and whilst the famous don't always interest me (I couldn't be persuaded to invest my time in an Angelina Jolie biography, for example), artists do, and I'm fascinated by what it takes for a person to reach the pinnacle of their chosen art.

I'm partway through Capote: A Biography by Gerald Clarke, upon which the recent movie was based. It's heavy going: Clarke has been ruthless with his research, and I've no doubt the book is as accurate as anybody could possibly expect, but he writes with no feel for his subject, portrays none of the excitement, despair, or sense of life that his subject merits. I'm persevering, because I know little about Capote and I feel I should, given his importance to twentieth century literature, but the book should have been entertaining, and it's not. Clarke demonstrates his ability to collect facts, but little artistry in the creation of his man.

Before that, I whizzed through a second reading of Norma Farnes' idiosyncratic and excellent biography of Spike Milligan, Spike: A Memoir. Farnes was Milligan's agent, manager, and friend for almost forty years, and where Clarke writes with knowledge of his subject, she writes with knowledge of her subject matter. The book is by turns witty, heartbreaking, and astonishing, and gives the reader a glimpse into Milligan that other biographies (and I've got my share) don't. It's a book I enjoy, and a fascinating insight into a man I find at once compelling and inspirational. (Also an utter bastard for about 97% of the time, but that's part of my fascination).

What kicked off this period of biographical fascination for me was the first book, Beside Myself, Antony Sher's autobiography. Australians might best know Sher for his portrayal of Benjamin Disraeli in the film Mrs Brown (Her Majesty, Mrs Brown over here), but he's a man of much greater dimensions than a too-brief movie resume. Arguably the finest stage actor of the last fifty years (and yes, I include McKellen, Branagh, Jacobi et al in that statement), he is a painter, novelist, and gay rights activist into the bargain. The book is simply amazing. I've never read an autobiography where the author is so willing to strip himself naked to the glare of the reader's attention. No false humility, no grandiose bandstanding, Sher presents himself with as honest a self-evaluation as I have seen in such a work. What came across to me was a man with whom I felt a massive sense of affinity and affection, and whose story touched me very deeply at a number of points.

Lyn is reading it now, but for the first time in a long time, I want to gift this book to a particular friend, because he's the one person I know (besides my wife) who would not only enjoy the book but would be able to draw something personal and lasting from it.


Don't ask me why, but lately I've had a hankering to get myself some of The Angels work on CD. I've been a fan since I was in my early teens, but as I only had a couple of cassettes, and no longer have a cassette player, I hadn't listened to them for a while. A few weeks back I thought I'd struck it lucky: a new live CD, all the hits, and as I hadn't seen their great double set Liveline in a shop for years, I was a happy boy.

Here's a note for all slavish fans on a CD buying wet moment: Read The Cover Carefully!

Turns out it was a new release by The Angels Band, some of the original members sans Doc Neeson doing a set of acoustic covers of the band's material. And does it stink? I lasted three songs before I flung it into the back seat of the car, where it remains.

So I've been a grumpy Angels fan since then. But on Thursday, there was a new poster in my local CD shop. A new Best Of has finally been released, with 20 songs just waiting to grace my car with their buzzsaw punky goodness. I tra-la-lad my way to the counter with my wallet flapping happily in the airconditioned breeze.

Sold out.

Shit and double shit. They could order one in for me, but now I was too disappointed. I'll just rifle through the racks and see if there's anything to make me feel better, I decided.

Guess what I found? The double CD Liveline set, with 10 extra tracks, for cheaper than the Best Of!

The last three dyas have been loud. Very, very loud :)

Doc Neeson was one of the most magnetic front men I've ever seen in concert, and there was a time when I saw them regularly. At their best, their lyrics are loopy beyond anything their peers were capable of: listen to Take A Long Line, Shadow Boxer, or Mister Damage, and try to work out what the hell is going on. Onstage, they were a visual marvel: Neeson was a whip-thin, hyperactive snake of a man, and counterpointed by Rick Brewster's statue-like lack of animation, it made for a dance of bizarre proportion. And could Brewster play? Jesus, I've seen guitarists bend like India rubber men trying to coax licks out of their instruments half as precise and soaring as the bald, bespectacled lead guitarist could reach with a flickering wrist and a thousand yard stare. And yet, they've never really reached the status that the likes of AC/DC did, never managed to transcend their stage energy and create something lasting (apart, perhaps, from Am I Ever Going To See Your Face Again?, and that is mainly because everybody seems to know the right response...). They are perhaps the greatest example of an Australian pantheon that includes the likes of Weddings Parties Anything, Painters & Dockers, and Spy V Spy: bands who always sounded better live, and who couldn't translate that special vibe to the studio.

When I was a teenager in Rockingham in the mid-80s, every metalhead there was existed within an aural suit of armour composed entirely of AC/DC music. If you liked it heavy, you were allowed no alternative. So those of us who couldnit see the attraction of their interminable thud and blunder epics were automatically on the outer. I remember discussing it once with a fellow Angels fan, and he presented me with an argument that reminded itself to me as I drove home from work on Friday, screaming along with Doc at the top of my voice: AC/DC is the big fat drunk guy at the bar, swinging fists in slow motion and threatening to take everyone on. But it's The Angels who'd slide up to you in the middle of the fight and bottle you in the neck.


Courtesy of Blake. I take no responsibility.....

What did the cannibal do after he dumped his girlfriend?

Wiped his bum.

Exit, stage lefffttt......

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