Tag Archives: richard harland

Oysters, Sand and Worldbuilding as Plot

There’s a trick, well-honed over the last eleven years, to finding a good ROR retreat. Ideally, we need some kind of shared accommodation to fit 5-8 writers, a working kitchen so Mr Flinthart can do his thing, a decent-sized space to all sit in for critiquing sessions, some inspiring scenery and some nice walking areas nearby.

Steeles Island, a mostly-private peninsula out near Carlton Beach (on the eastern shore of the Derwent River), turned out to have all these things in spades. It was a lucky find, as it turned out to have so many benefits we hadn’t even hoped for.

This particular ROR (wRiters on the Road/Rise/Riesling) had a family theme to it. We’d only included family members once before, when little Raeli was too young for me to bear leaving her behind for a whole four days, and so she and my honey came along to a North West Coast Tasmanian ROR, staying nights with us at the Hawley Beach house we rented, and disappearing during the days to visit relatives. This time around, we planned to do something similar only with Jem along – and then Margo and Rowena decided to bring family members too!

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More Launch Pictures!

Thanks to Tehani, I have some more pics from the Reign of Beasts/Sea Hearts launch! She has made them available through Creative Commons, so feel free to grab them, but do credit the photographer!

Reign of Beasts and Sea Hearts look so pretty together!

Richard Harland, Rowena Cory Daniells, Tansy Rayner Roberts and Margo Lanagan

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Apex Magazine #30

I was sure I had already blogged this, but possibly I just tweeted and podcasted and then fell over. Lynne Thomas (of Chicks Dig Time Lords and the SF Squeecast) has just had her first edited issue of Apex Magazine go live, and it includes an article by me!

The article is about why Australian spec fic writers seem to skew so hard towards writing about icky sinister things instead of, you know, sunshine and beer and prawns. I talked to a bunch of writers (Margo Lanagan, Deborah Biancotti, Kaaron Warren, Peter M Ball, Trent Jamieson, Kirstyn McDermott, Jason Nahrung, Cat Sparks, Rob Hood and Richard Harland) who are well known for their dark, weird short fiction, and they came up all sorts of brilliant answers to my sometimes-silly questions.

You can purchase individual copies or subscriptions of Apex here, and the content of the issue is also available (temporarily) for free on their home page.

Night of Necklaces, Day of Ferries

I felt like such a jet-setter, getting on a plane yesterday morning for a single night in Sydney for the Aurealis Awards. I arrived in the early afternoon and met up with Tehani, Helen and baby Max at the airport so we could taxi in to the hotel together. It felt so decadent to hang out and chat with friends I normally don’t get to see more than once every few years – twice within a month!

We went down to the hotel restaurant for a (very) early dinner, correctly guessing it would be our last chance to eat for the night. Some familiar faces were already down there, with the same idea, and we added a table on the end of theirs – and as more and more people arrived, kept doing so, until we had at least 20 people there, and the table had turned into a long L-shape!

Then of course we all had to disappear to frock up, as the new arrivals were looking increasingly glamorous.

The Aurealis Awards were held at the Independent Theatre, a lovely venue only a few minute’s stagger (a bit longer in high heels, but I was wearing flats, hehehe) from the hotel. We met and mingled at the cocktail party (sponsored by HarperCollins), many of us marvelling at how utterly weird it was to be together again so soon after Swancon – when we’re used to an 18 month separation! Of course there were people there who hadn’t been at Swancon, too, so it was a general crowd of happy reunions, gossip and hugging. With champagne. I had lots of lovely conversations with lots of adorable people, though the highlight for me was getting to meet IN PERSON the amazing Nicola, who has edited all three of the Creature Court books with me, one way or another. To get to talk to her in person about the choices we made and how much we love each other’s work was very, very cool.

And oh, the fashions! We are a gorgeously dressed bunch. Tehani referred to it as the ‘night of necklaces,’ and there was certainly some spectacular jewellery on display. Kirstyn wins the prize, of course, for her bird skull necklace that made people go ooh, and then, erkhhhh when they looked more closely…

The theatre itself was the perfect size for an event like this – grand but cozy at the same time, if that makes sense? Tehani and I decided to start a trend by sitting in the front row, since we knew I had to go on stage at some point to present (and we knew Helen would be going up too, but more on that later!). Spec Faction deserve a huge amount of kudos for the event – it ran smoothly, with any dramas rendered pretty much invisible to the rest of us. Cat had put together a hilarious and touching montage of Aurealis Awards photographs (the overall theme was people we knew looking overheated, a bit drunk and terribly happy) which broke the ice marvellously, and there was a really good vibe in the theatre, all that community spirit stuff.

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Girls in Spaceships, with a side order of robots please

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about YA science fiction – and the lack thereof. As YA fantasy took the noughties by storm, a regular refrain I heard was, but what about the science fiction?

It turned up from time to time, of course, and there have been some wildly successful examples: Scott Westerfeld’s dystopian Uglies series, Suzanne Collins’ the Hunger Games trilogy, and zombie thriller Feed by Mira Grant. Then there have been the steampunls stylings of Westerfeld (again), Richard Harland and Cassandra Clare. Cory Doctorow and John Scalzi have both written books for teens.

But… there just haven’t been enough spaceships. To be precise, not enough girls on spaceships. With robots.

Science fiction as a whole has been in a bit of a slump. More specifically, science fiction written by women has been shrinking at a rate of knots – it’s still around, but whenever publishers put out less of something, diversity is usually the first thing to suffer. A wave of spaceships and robots in YA could be just what the doctor ordered, sparking off a renaissance in the larger genre similar to what has happened with the development of urban fantasy and paranormal romance.

There’s a myth that girls aren’t interested in science fiction. It’s far more likely that this idea has come about because, in fact, science fiction has not always been that interested in girls. This post about “hard SF now with girl cooties” was very nicely timed, and those books have gone straight on to my To Read list.

Science fiction has been around a really long time. It needs new ideas, new blood and new waves in order to revitalise itself on a regular basis. The thing that still hasn’t been done to death, in fact has hardly really got started (yet) is the science fiction for and about teenage girls.

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Is Steampunk so Yesterday?

Catherynne Valente stirred up the internet a little with her ranty (and it has to be said, a touch curmudgeonly) post about the rage-inducing failings of steampunk as a literary genre. It’s worth sifting through the comments on that one because they are respectful for the most part, and consist of some very interesting defences as well as criticisms of steampunk.

One question which seems to emerge from the post and the comments is: Does it count as a legitimate literary movement if there isn’t a great work (a Neuromancer) to spark it off? I’m not sure that it doesn’t. While a single iconic work is a great way to market a subgenre and give it that kickstart to inspire a bunch of writers around it, the idea of one book representing a whole subgenre also doesn’t sit well with me. Our methods of academic and criticical literary discourse are moulded by patriarchal methods, and there is something that feels very “male dominated academia” about singling out one book and holding it up as the flagbearer of a subgenre. Even if that book is Bridget Jones’ Diary…

As a canon-buster and someone who prefers inclusionism to reductionism, I’m actually much more interested in the idea of a literary movement that isn’t led by one book.

The most interesting thing to me about steampunk (though I’m not really an enthusiast, more of a vaguely interested observer) is that it isn’t a literary movement at all. It’s very much a mixed media movement with a huge emphasis on artwork, craftsmanship and costuming. That’s where the greater passions of steampunk seem to lie, with the literary aspect desperately trying to catch up. There’s a flashmob sensibility to it, rather than a single line of influence. Many people in the comments of Catherynne’s post preferred to define steampunk as an aesthetic, rather than a literary movement or sub-genre. I also agree heartily with the many people in the comments who suggested that the most interesting literary steampunk was happening in short fiction rather than novels, though some novels like Boneshaker by Cherie Priest and Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld have certainly caught the imagination of readers.

For my own part, I find steampunk (or gaslamp fantasy, its magical twin) far more intriguing when there is an artistic aspect to the story – like Girl Genius, or the Miyazaki film Howl’s Moving Castle, or any cartoon appearance of TikTok of Oz… Also, while I really enjoyed Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan, I can’t help feeling that the illustrations from that book and particularly the “grand map” by Keith Thompson are the steampunk masterpiece of 2009 more than any single piece of fiction.

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