Monday, July 05, 2010


Some stories sing. Some howl at the moon like the love child of Boo Radley and a Gong Show contestant. Others, well, others sing, but really, it’s only in the shower, once the wife and kids have gone out, and nobody is around to take the piss because the story happens to know all the words to Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go and insists on doing all of George Michael’s dance moves in the wet, slippery nude.

After the number of rejections the following story has received, I’ve worked out which song it’s singing, and it’s short enough that those of you who care can experience a free read of a story that never quite made it.

So, for your reading pleasure, or otherwise, a freebie:


Meanwhile, in a cubicle some way distant from the main story, a man sat back from his computer’s strobing screen, loosened his tie, and experienced the type of epiphany the rest of us have to watch the right movie to believe in.

Orders died part-way up the throats of generals. Massed ranks of slavering Orc-demons checked their watches, shuffled from foot to foot to keep the circulation going, and glanced about, calculating the chances of maybe, just for a minute, dropping their battle shields and lighting a quick fag without anyone in command catching them at it. Far above, in a sky so distant it was more velvet than blue, the intercontinental bombers of the US Air Force circled in mile-wide loops like so many hungry seagulls on autopilot. Cards were dealt. Bets were placed. Coins changed hands in silent camaraderie. All except for one lonely aircraft at the periphery of the armada, where a role-playing game called ‘Mafia’ entered its third round.

It could all resume at any moment. The war for truth. Or freedom. Justice. You know. That one.
Any moment at all.


No longer defined by his cubicle, so insignificant to the scheme of things that I don’t even know his name to tell you, not even really our hero, the man closed his boss’ door for the last time, took a moment to drain the last cold swish of coffee from his cup, and dropped his security pass at the front desk. A puff of air-conditioned cold pushed him from the building forever. He inhaled the smells of the street, looked left, then right, and strode away, the cardboard box in his grasp holding the few reminders he wished to retain.

In an unnamed pass, high in a mountain range at the edge of the world, turbaned teenagers passed around spliffs and tuned a radio to catch the latest scores. Men in balaclavas clung to ropes above them, calling out “There, no there, there!” in strange accents as the static receded. Deep within the most important building in the world, a silver-haired man in a suit more expensive then your life threw a red telephone against the wall and sat with his arms crossed, glowering at the world he imagined lay outside.

Queens trumped Jacks. Shields were lowered. A tail gunner looked at his crewmates, smiled convincingly, and said “I am not Mafia” as they voted.

Nothing was over, of course. Not without some sort of resolution. It would never cease, no matter what happened at this moment. But just for this moment, this one, small moment...


After dinner, with a newly-purchased bouquet fanned out above the lip of a vase, and a half-bottle of red between them on the carpet, the man with no cubicle shared his epiphany with his wife, and held his breath.

Orc-demons stared at one another. Pilots looked up from their cards. The most important building in the world grew silent. As far as a galaxy far, far away, even as far as that, weapons were lowered. Everyone stopped, and waited, and watched.

The man’s wife reached out and ran a single fingernail down the side of his jaw.
“I love you so much,” she said, and brought his smile down to her lips.


A soccer ball struck the mud midway between two lines of trenches. Slowly at first, then with greater assurance, men of both sides emerged to shake hands, to hug, to swap chocolate and whiskey and photographs from home.

By the time the man and his wife turned off the lights and drew each other down onto the bed, a new game was well underway.



As part of the literary focus of my job here with the City of Rockingham, I’m in the process of creating a register of local writers, in order to build a database of writers in the Rockingham region. The City already keeps a roster of Artists, enabling us to communicate news of competitions, opportunities, events and the like. Now I want to do the same for writers.

If it’s of interest to you, and you’re in the area (or, at least, close enough to the area: remember, I once joined the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild by persuading them that Perth was a Western suburb of Canberra......) you might want to contact me.

It is to be noted: a) all details are private and won’t be released to anyone outside City of Rockingham employees; it’s purely an internal database, and b) the intent is not to create a nuisance list or telemarketing list, rather, it’s a list of people to whom I can send such writing related info as comes my way, should I think it appropriate, so my intention is not to bombard you with a million emails a day. However, if there is a City of Rockingham event that might fit your expertise profile, you may get contacted by someone not-me asking if you’re interested. That I cannot control......

If that’s fine, get in touch. Put “Writer’s Register” in the subject line of your email, and include the following in the text: Name; Address; Phone Number; Mobile; Email address; Website; “Interests”. And I'll add you to the list.


That’s right, after all the chatter and begging you to be patient, the vulture has landed!

12 stories, 3 poems, artwork by 8 talented artists, an interview with Charlaine Harris (author of the Sookie Stackhouse novels), and featuring the creepiest cover known to mankind courtesy of the outstandingly talented Perth artist Justin Randall.

Costing only $3.50 for a shiny pdf and only $10 if you want us to murder some flora on your behalf. It is, in my humble and entirely non-biased opinion, the single greatest collection of dark fiction in the history of mankind.

Look at those names: Jenny Blackford, Geoff Maloney, LL Hannett, Jason Crowe, Clarion South alumni and rising stars Dan Braum & Christopher Green…. Don’t you just feel your nipples hardening? Don’t you just want to reach for your mother’s credit card and sneak off to the AHWA shop while she lies comatose in front of Wife Swap clutching a half-empty bottle of cooking sherry?

You’ve really got no excuse have you?

There’s an interview with Horrorscope here if you'd like to know more about the hand inside the puppet behind the mind behind the issue, and I’ll even give you a taste of my editorial if it’ll help persuade you. Here, look:

As I reach the halfway point of my life I have seen monks immolate themselves to protest foreign wars; passenger aircraft driven into buildings; subway air-conditioning used as a tool of religious terrorism. My mother lived through the euphemistically named “Irish Troubles”: even after a decade of living in Australia she was afraid of being in a crowded cafe with a discarded backpack. She was born during The War. Which War? The one big enough and wide-ranging enough that we simply call it “The War”. Atomic science followed. It didn’t give us Godzilla, but Russian orphans with missing limbs and swollen jaws, acromegalic and cancer-shriven. Serial killers are celebrities: we watch movies about Gacy, Bundy, Zodiac, see Jack Unterweger live on television. Serial killers as legend—Hannibal the hero, jaded Jigsaw, delightfully ditzy Dexter. It puts the cream on its hands. It pays to watch vicariously.
What was once feared is risible.


I’m still alive.

I realise things have been deader then Dannii Minogue’s career around here lately, but things have changed significantly since last I jotted something down in this space. Reality has eaten my life. My new job— Cultural Development Officer at the City of Rockingham — takes up every ounce of my day: it’s been 17 years since I’ve been anything but a Commonwealth Government employee in my day job world, not discounting a couple of years in the middle where I was afforded the luxury of being a stay-at-home Dad. It’s not just that things are done differently in my new environment, it’s that people think differently, even when confronted by situations that are inherently the same. Whilst it’s been an education to learn just how many attitudes and processes I’ve internalised over the years, breaking out of those modes of thought and adapting to a totally new way of doing business, amongst a completely different set of personalities (people’s personalities are defined by their workspace— another adaptation I’m having to learn) is taking time.

To add to the hilarity, we currently have more than a full house—Darth Barbie has been back with us for the last three months, after having left a relationship which went bad in the way that knife fights go bad when you don’t realise the other guy is packing an M-60, and working through the scars of it has been, well, shall we say, hard for all concerned (Not for him, as far as I can tell. Just hard for those of us who give a damn.) And Aiden, whilst still in year 12, has found a steady girlfriend, who is now his fiancĂ©, and is 15, and is pregnant, but not to him…. Oh yes, it’s a simple life we lead.

Somewhere in the haze of get up-go to work-come home-have dinner-take part in the latest crisis-watch the World Cup-snatch a couple of hours sleep-get up that my days have become, there has been writerly stuff. Not actual writing, you understand, that’s just crazy talk, but associated writerly stuff that at least keeps my fingers in the pie. My withdrawal from the writing world, forced and voluntary though various elements of it may be, seems almost complete: I managed to bump into a few old writing colleagues at the WA Museum’s breathtaking A Day in Pompeii exhibit yesterday, and it was pleasant, but hardly the fiery, passionate mental affair of days past. Perhaps I’m just growing up—it’s impossible for me to be interested in writing if I have writers and my family in the same place.

Still, writer-coolness abounds:

­ I’ve just attended my second Writing Race at the AWM Online, a fun online forum where an invited writer hangs out with attendees, swapping tips and anecdotes and writing like a mad thing for an hour, which is always a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

­ I’ve stepped up to the plate and agreed to act as a judge for this year’s Aurealis Awards , in the Graphic Novel category, comics being a long-held love that’s been shunted into the background while the SF thing became established but which is rearing its wonderful head again.

­ The ever-lovely Tehani Wessely has accepted a reprint of Claws of Native Ghosts for the upcoming Australis Imaginarium anthology she’ll be publishing through her bright and shiny new publishing venture, Fablecroft Publishing.

­ I’m involved in developing and pitching an online course in Science Fiction Writing (of which more details when it’s a going concern).

­ And I’ve just received through the mail the podcasting materials for an upcoming episode of Keith Stevenson’s Terra Incognita podcast.

All good, clean fun.

Added to which, there’s some interactive Battcool which you can be a part of: Lyn’s brilliant story of family and loss, The Mikarr Way, has been posted as a free web story over at Electric Velocipede. Go, read, enjoy, marvel at my darling wife’s talent.

Lyn and I will also be appearing at the A Toe in the Ocean Writing Festival, two weeks from now, where we’ll be giving a science fiction writing workshop. If you’re in the area it’ll be well worth coming down and having a look.

And, of course, the biggest writing news item of my day........ which is the subject of my next post :)