Monday, 20 April 2015

The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings by Angela Slatter

The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings by Angela Slatter can be taken as a collection of short stories or as a mosaic novel. I requested the fancy limited edition hard cover version of this book for Christmas before finding out that I was to be an Aurealis Awards judge for the category, which is why this review is going up a few months after I read the book. Of course, the views expressed in this review are my own and do not reflect the views of the judging panel. Indeed, this review is based on notes I made before consulting with the other judges.

The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings returns to the world of Sourdough and Other Stories (Tartarus, 2010), introducing readers to the tales that came before. Stories where coffin-makers work hard to keep the dead beneath; where a plague maiden steals away the children of an ungrateful village; where poison girls are schooled in the art of assassination; where pirates disappear from the seas; where families and the ties that bind them can both ruin and resurrect and where books carry forth fairy tales, forbidden knowledge and dangerous secrets.

So what is a mosaic novel? In this case, it's a collection of short stories that are all set in the same world with a few overlapping characters. The book grew on me as I read on and actually the first story was my least favourite. That said, it connected really nicely with the last story and to me that really pulled the whole book together. The middle stories were all more obviously tied together. I suspect the first and last stories might have the strongest connection to Slatter's other collection/mosaic novel in the same universe, Sourdough and Other Stories. Either way, I went and bought the ebook of Sourdough pretty much as soon as I finished The Bitterwood Bible.

Slatter's writing is beautiful and her stories are poignant. This was my first exposure to her writing and it has not been the last (OK, that statement might have had more weight if I hadn't also read two other collections of hers for Aurealis judging... but I am going to read more of her work). As always, I've made notes on every story below. I find it really hard to pick a favourite. I loved most of them as I was reading them and there are many scenes that have really stuck with me.

I would highly recommend The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings to all fans of short stories and of fantasy. If you haven't read any of Slatter's work before, do yourself a favour and get on it.

~

The Coffin-Maker’s Daughter — A stranger story than I was expecting, with a few (intentionally) unpleasant elements. But not a bad one. Not sure I would have opened with it. Except that it makes sense to open with once you've read the whole collection.

The Maiden in the Ice — As longer story, spanning more time and events. Told mostly from the point of view of a girl who finds the maiden in the ice then later shows sympathy towards her when the town doesn't. I like it.

The Badger Bride — A really nice story about a girl who copies books (in the monkish sense), a strange commission and a badger who wanders in out of the cold. I enjoyed it.

The Burnt Moon — Another good story. I am enjoying the vengeance against rapists. In this one a town is plagued by rats as punishment for what happened to the mother of the previous story's protagonist.

By My Voice I Shall Be Known — A young woman slighted by her suitor who scorns her for someone else after she helped him become successful. Then he tries to have her killed, succeeding in only having her tongue cut out and setting her on a path to revenge. Also there are rusalky.

The Undone and the Divine — A daughter comes back to the town her mother played a downfall in (in "The Burnt Moon") and deals with the residue, but physical and spiritual. The father of the badger bride also makes an appearance. I'm really starting to appreciate how gorgeously linked these stories are.

The Night Stair — A girl becomes a substitute daughter for the vampire couple that rule the town. But she is cleverer than they expected as she seeks vengeance for her dead sisters.

Now, All Pirates are Gone — The other woman from "By My Voice I Shall Be Known" is abandoned by her husband and left to lure all the Pirates to their deaths. The main character survives, possibly thanks to an encounter with the earlier story's protagonist.

St Dymphna’s School for Poison Girls — The sister of an earlier protagonist is sent to a deadly finishing school. Her goal not primarily to learn assassination but to secretly copy a book of poisons. Much is rent asunder in her wake.

The Bitterwood Bible — Both the genesis of the titular book and the tale of a girl sent to find magical answers who ends up finding a safe place in the world.

Terrible as an Army with Banners — and epistemological chronicle of the fall of the nunnery that was mentioned several times in several stories.

By the Weeping Gate — a family of prostitutes, the sister too plain to be one and the shady man who has appeared in earlier stories. This time, he is a viceroy and seems, at first, to be ok.

Spells for Coming Forth by Daylight — the final story which gives the very first story due context. Neo of the previous story has gone forth to confront the shady man and comes across other women (and indeed the man) who have played parts in earlier stories.

5 / 5 stars

First published: 2014, Tartarus Press
Series: Sort of a prequel to Sourdough and Other Stories but stands alone.
Format read: Fancy-pants hardcover
Source: Christmas present
Disclaimer: Tsana was a judge for the Aurealis Awards, on the panel which judged this book. This review is the personal opinion of the writer, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of any judging panel, the judging coordinator or the Aurealis Awards management team.
Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Ms Marvel Volume One "No Normal" by G Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona

Ms Marvel Volume One, "No Normal" written by G Willow Wilson and illustrated by Adrian Alphona is, as the name suggests, the first volume of collected issues of the new Ms Marvel (2014) ongoing comic series. It includes issues #1–5 and material from All-New Marvel Now! Point One #1 (whatever that is... I'm not entirely sure).

Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl from Jersey City — until she's suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts. But who truly is the new Ms. Marvel? Teenager? Muslim? Inhuman? Find out as she takes the Marvel Universe by storm! When Kamala discovers the dangers of her newfound powers, she unlocks a secret behind them, as well. Is Kamala ready to wield these immense new gifts? Or will the weight of the legacy before her be too much to bear? Kamala has no idea, either. But she's comin' for you, New York!

No Normal is basically the origin story of the new Ms Marvel. Kamala is an ordinary muslim girl until one night when, leaving a party she'd snuck out to, she's caught in magic/mutagenic fog which gives her a hallucination of Captain Marvel and also magic/superpowers. Equipped with the sudden power to change her body into whatever (humanoid?) size/shape she wants, Kamala semi-accidentally rescues the mean girl from drowning while disguised as Carol Danvers' version of Ms Marvel. And then she runs away in shock/confusion.

Most of the volume is Kamala dealing with her new powers and trying to come to therms with what they mean for her. She's a teenager still in high school and her parents are quite over-protective. She's technically grounded for most of the volume and, unsurprisingly, her parents are concerned at her sneaking out, not knowing that she's become a superhero (although I imagine that piece of news would also be concerning to them).

In the end, Kamala chooses a costume (with a little help from her friend to make it happen) and works out who she wants to be as a person. I liked that she ended up confiding in one of her friends, but I'd actually really like to see her other, female, friend's reaction to the news. Hopefully that will be in Volume Two, which I've already picked up and will read some time in the next few days.

I also really loved the art and the background jokes/references in a lot of the panels. If you pick this one up, I highly recommend stopping to have a closer look at what's happening in the background. There was a lot that made me snicker.

This is my first comic book exposure to a traditional (as far as that word applies) Marvel superhero. I really enjoyed how the cultural background brought somethign new to the story, instead of having it be just another anglo white girl with stereotypical teenage girl problems. Not that Kamala's problems are completely out there, but at least there's a bit of variety.

I would recommend this comic to pretty much anyone with even a passing interest. It's funny and sincere and I enjoyed reading it a lot. I'm definitely intending to keep up with the story for the time being (as it comes out in trades).

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: 2014, Marvel
Series: Yes, Ms Marvel ongoing, Volume 1, containing issues #1–5
Format read: Trade paperback
Source: Purchased from a real life comic book store

Thursday, 16 April 2015

The Female Factory by Lisa Hannet and Angela Slatter

The Female Factory by Lisa Hannet and Angela Slatter is the eleventh volume in Twelfth Planet Press's collection of Twelve Planets. I read it as part of Aurealis Awards judging back in January (and refrained from reviewing until after the awards were announced) but I would have read it anyway, since I have a subscription to the Twelve Planets series. Also, although I was on the judging panel that awarded this book the Aurealis for Best Collection, this review represents my own opinions only and, in fact, is based on notes I made before even discussing the books with the other judges.

In The Female Factory, procreation is big business. Children are a commodity few women can afford.

Hopeful mothers-to-be try everything. Fertility clinics. Pills. Wombs for hire. Babies are no longer made in bedrooms, but engineered in boardrooms. A quirk of genetics allows lucky surrogates to carry multiple eggs, to control when they are fertilised, and by whom—but corporations market and sell the offspring. The souls of lost embryos are never wasted; captured in software, they give electronics their voice. Spirits born into the wrong bodies can brave the charged waters of a hidden billabong, and change their fate. Industrious orphans learn to manipulate scientific advances, creating mothers of their own choosing.

From Australia’s near-future all the way back in time to its convict past, these stories spin and sever the ties between parents and children.

The Female Factory mainly deals with different ideas of reproduction. There are stories about the meaning of motherhood, if you can or can't reproduce, and stories about what it means to be a woman. I really loved the first two stories, enjoyed the second two but not as much. The last story, which is a novella, was very interesting. My comments on each story are at the end, as per usual.

The Female Factory was my first Slatter + Hannet read and it certainly made me want to read more (which I haven't had the chance to do yet). If you've enjoyed one of both of these author's work in the past, then I would definitely recommend picking up this collection. (And you get that cool iUterus and Frankenstein stitching cover, what's not to like?) Overall, a thought-provoking read.

~

Vox — A couple struggling to conceive in a world where the souls of aborted foetuses are recycled as voices (and souls) inhabiting electronic devices. Haunting. Moving.

Baggage — A surrogate mother who has no difficulty getting pregnant works for an agency that arranges babies for rich people. Having to sleep with a billionaire is the last straw.

All the Other Revivals — A very different story to the first two. A magic gender-bending billabong and a teen that doesn't fit in anywhere.

The Female Factory — A novella with a Victorian feel set in an Australian prison. Featuring orphans, the prison matron and strong Frankensteinian overtones. (There really was a place called The Female Factory, by the way.)

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: 2014, Twelfth Planet Press
Series: Sort of. Twelve Planets, volume 11 (but they are all 100% standalone) 
Format read: e-judging copy
Source: Aurealis judging originally, but I have a subscription and now also have the paperback.
Disclaimer: Tsana was a judge for the Aurealis Awards, on the panel which judged this book. This review is the personal opinion of the writer, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of any judging panel, the judging coordinator or the Aurealis Awards management team.
Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge, Australian Science Fiction Reading Challenge

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Tsana's April Status

My status is exhausted.

I was very busy at work in March, but I won't bore you with that. Instead, have a couple of guest posts, one from Rowena Cory Daniells on Choices, and one from Kim Curran on the top ten things that inspire her to write. And here's what I've been up to since the end of March:

I landed in Melbourne, had less than a couple of days with our family/to recover from jet-lag before setting off to Perth at the crack of dawn (yay, more jet-lag) for Swancon. The day before Swancon started we launched the Defying Doomsday Pozible campaign (back us, we're awesome, it's going to be awesome). I was pretty asleep for the first two days of Swancon, especially on the Friday when I was on three-ish panels. I'm afraid I could have been more cogent/awake/further from the brink of involuntary unconsciousness. But I think they went OK? At least, I don't think I made a complete fool out of myself. My last panel was on the Sunday about science in fiction (a pet topic of mine, as many of you will know) and I think that went particularly well. It was a large panel, but it was well moderated and I think we had some good back and forth going. (By the way, if you were at that panel or are just interested, one of our Pozible rewards is a science check, by me, of your story.) Oh, and the Ditmar Awards were announced, as were the Tiptree Award and the Hugo shortlist (the latter to much angst).

That was Swancon. We had an extra day in Perth, theoretically to sightsee, but the weather was terrible so no beach for us. Then back to Melbourne, a quick catch up with some friends and I was off to Canberra for the Aurealis Awards. Circumstances converged such that I was the one running the official Twitter account, which was kind of fun. You can read the results here.

And now it's halfway through April and things have almost slowed down. Almost. I've been writing a lot of guest blog posts to promote Defying Doomsday, which you can scroll through on the Defying Doomsday blog (with links to the external sites, of course).

What Have I Read?



Some books, mostly.

Currently Reading


I'm part way through Cranky Ladies of History, an anthology edited by Tehani Wessely and Tansy Rayner Roberts, and Winning the King, a sci-fi romance by Nicole Murphy.

New Booksies


  • Insert Title Here edited by Tehani Wessely, for review from FableCroft Press
  • Prudence by Gail Carriger, already reviewed, purchased.
  • Glorious Angels by Justina Robson, purchased because it was on sale. Although stupid Google Play isn't letting me download it despite lodging complaints. Grumble.
  • Masquerade by Kylie Fornasier, free from Dymocks with the pre-order of the next book...
  • The Ruby Circle by Richelle Mead, the last Bloodlines book.
  • Magic Dirt by Sean Williams, freebie at Swancon
  • Troy by Simon Brown, freebie at Swancon
  • The Workers' Paradise edited by Russell B. Farr, freebie at Swancon
  • 2012 edited by Alisa Krasnostein from Swancon and now I accidentally have two copies of it...
  • Glitter Rose by Marianne De Pierres from Swancon
  • The Courier's New Bicycle by Kim Westwood, from Swancon
  • Year's Best YA Speculative Fiction 2013 edited by Julia Rios and Alisa Krasnostein, from Swancon
  • Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson, purchased in Perth
  • Ms. Marvel Volume 2: Generation Why by G. Willow Wilson, purchased in Perth
  • Sex Criminals Volume 2 by Matt Fraction, purchased in Perth, already reviewed
  • Rat Queens Volume 1 by Kurtis J. Wiebe, purchased in Perth
  • The Year's Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2013 edited by Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene
  • Veronica Mars: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas, purchased in Melbourne
  • Drachengott: Wind by K J Taylor, for review from Harper Collins
No images today because I don't have time.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Sex Criminals Volume 2 by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky

Sex Criminals Volume Two, written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Chip Zdarsky, is, as the title would suggest, the second collected volume of Sex Criminals comics in the ongoing series. It contains issues #6–10 and the subtitle is "Two Worlds, One Cop" which is terrible if you get the reference (and I have to wonder how broad the generation that does get it is). You can read my review of Volume One ("One Weird Trick") here.
The second storyline from the Eisner-award winning SEX CRIMINALS finds the honeymoon to be over for Jon and Suzie. Once the thrill of new lust fades, where do you go? Come along and laff and love with Matt and Chip as they brimp back ceaselessly against the past

Volume Two is actually quite different in tone to Volume One, although thinking back, Volume One was already shifting in that direction. Where the story of the two main characters started with them meeting and having a lot of sex and fun together, Volume Two now deals with issues that arise for them after the honeymoon period is over. To be fair, the honeymoon was already fading in Volume One when the threat from the Sex Police became apparent and dangerous.

The opening really focusses on Jon and his mental health issues, which were being masked in the glow of a new crazy relationship before. He spirals, tries to cope alone, has some conversations with shrinks and so forth. I thought it dealt with the issues it raised very well, including the fact that he was worrying that he and Suzi weren't having "enough" sex any more. Of course, when the narrative cuts to Suzi's point of view, we quickly learn that Jon had barely been paying enough attention to realise what Suzi's problems were.

As well as a nuanced take on what happens after the beginning of a relationship, the superhero aspect of the plot also moves forwards significantly. The Sex Police are still after them but as well as focussing on Jon and Suzi, we also learn some backstories of a couple of other characters. Quite how one of them will fit into the overarching plot, I'm not sure but the other character's role was a bit more obvious (lack of details because spoilers).

If you enjoyed the first volume/five issues of Sex Criminals, then I definitely recommend picking up the second volume/next five issues. It's less "fun" than the opening, but I think the seriousness was needed for the story to progress in anything other than a flippant way. If you haven't picked up any Sex Criminals yet, then I do recommend giving it a go. But start at the beginning or it won't make a huge amount of sense.

4 / 5 stars

First published: January 2015, Image Comics
Series: Sex Criminals Volume 2 of ongoing series (containing issues #6–10)
Format read: Trade
Source: Purchased from physical comic book store

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Aurealis Awards Winners

The Aurealis Awards were given out last night. If you want to relive the experience, you can have a look through the tweets from the night, or have a look back over the official Twitter account (which was being run by yours truly). And I'm sure the results will be on the official website soon.

In the meantime, the winners are bolded below.

BEST FANTASY NOVEL

Fireborn, Keri Arthur (Hachette Australia)
This Shattered World, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Allen & Unwin)
The Lascar’s Dagger, Glenda Larke (Hachette Australia)
Dreamer’s Pool, Juliet Marillier (Pan Macmillan Australia)
Afterworlds, Scott Westerfeld (Penguin Books Australia)
Daughters of the Storm, Kim Wilkins (Harlequin Enterprises Australia)
 

BEST FANTASY SHORT STORY

“The Oud”, Thoraiya Dyer (Long Hidden, Crossed Genres Publications)
“Teratogen”, Deborah Kalin (Cemetery Dance, #71, May 2014)
“The Ghost of Hephaestus”, Charlotte Nash (Phantazein, FableCroft Publications)
“St Dymphna’s School for Poison Girls”, Angela Slatter (The Review of Australian Fiction, Volume 9, Issue 3)
“The Badger Bride”, Angela Slatter (Strange Tales IV, Tartarus Press)


BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL

Aurora: Meridian, Amanda Bridgeman (Momentum)
Nil By Mouth, LynC (Satalyte)
The White List, Nina D’Aleo (Momentum)
Peacemaker, Marianne de Pierres (Angry Robot)
This Shattered World, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Allen & Unwin)
Foresight, Graham Storrs (Momentum)

BEST SCIENCE FICTION SHORT STORY

“The Executioner Goes Home”, Deborah Biancotti (Review of Australian Fiction, Vol 11 Issue 6)
“Wine, Women and Stars”, Thoraiya Dyer (Analog Vol CXXXIV nos 1&2 Jan/Feb)
“The Glorious Aerybeth”, Jason Fischer (OnSpec, 11 Sep 2014)
“Dellinger”, Charlotte Nash (Use Only As Directed, Peggy Bright Books)
“Happy Go Lucky”, Garth Nix (Kaleidoscope, Twelfth Planet Press)

BEST HORROR NOVEL

Book of the Dead, Greig Beck (Momentum)
Razorhurst, Justine Larbalestier (Allen & Unwin)
Obsidian, Alan Baxter (HarperVoyager)

BEST HORROR SHORT STORY

“The Executioner Goes Home”, Deborah Biancotti (Review of Australian Fiction, Vol 11 Issue 6)
“Skinsuit”, James Bradley (Island Magazine 137)
“By the Moon’s Good Grace”, Kirstyn McDermott (Review of Australian Fiction, Vol 12, Issue 3)
“Shay Corsham Worsted”, Garth Nix (Fearful Symmetries, Chizine)
“Home and Hearth”, Angela Slatter (Spectral Press)

BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL

The Astrologer’s Daughter, Rebecca Lim (Text Publishing)
Afterworld, Lynnette Lounsbury (Allen & Unwin)
The Cracks in the Kingdom, Jaclyn Moriarty (Pan Macmillan Australia)
Clariel, Garth Nix (Allen & Unwin)
The Haunting of Lily Frost, Nova Weetman (UQP)
Afterworlds, Scott Westerfeld (Penguin Books Australia)

BEST YOUNG ADULT SHORT STORY

“In Hades”, Goldie Alexander (Celapene Press)
“Falling Leaves”, Liz Argyll (Apex Magazine)
“The Fuller and the Bogle”, David Cornish (Tales from the Half-Continent, Omnibus Books)
“Vanilla”, Dirk Flinthart (Kaleidoscope, Twelfth Planet Press)
“Signature”, Faith Mudge (Kaleidoscope, Twelfth Planet Press)

BEST CHILDREN’S FICTION

Slaves of Socorro: Brotherband #4, John Flanagan (Random House Australia)
Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy, Karen Foxlee (Hot Key Books)
The Last Viking Returns, Norman Jorgensen and James Foley (ILL.) (Fremantle Press)
Withering-by-Sea, Judith Rossell (ABC Books)
Sunker’s Deep: The Hidden #2, Lian Tanner (Allen & Unwin)
Shadow Sister: Dragon Keeper #5, Carole Wilkinson (Black Dog Books)


BEST COLLECTION

The Female Factory, Lisa L Hannett and Angela Slatter (Twelfth Planet Press)
Secret Lives, Rosaleen Love (Twelfth Planet Press)
Angel Dust, Ian McHugh (Ticonderoga Publications)
Difficult Second Album: more stories of Xenobiology, Space Elevators, and Bats Out Of Hell, Simon Petrie (Peggy Bright Books)
The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings, Angela Slatter (Tartarus Press)
Black-Winged Angels, Angela Slatter (Ticonderoga Publications)

(Note that I was on the judging panel for Collection above and Anthology below. The links are to my reviews from before I knew I'd be on the panel and reflect only my own views and not necessarily the views of the entire panel.)


BEST ANTHOLOGY

Kisses by Clockwork, Liz Grzyb (Ed) (Ticonderoga Publications)
Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories, Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios (Eds), (Twelfth Planet Press)
Amok: An Anthology of Asia-Pacific Speculative Fiction, Dominica Malcolm (Ed) (Solarwyrm Press)
Reach for Infinity, Jonathan Strahan (Ed) (Solaris Books)
Fearsome Magics, Jonathan Strahan (Ed) (Solaris Books)
Phantazein, Tehani Wessely (Ed) (FableCroft Publishing)

BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL/ILLUSTRATED WORK

Left Hand Path #1, Jason Franks & Paul Abstruse (Winter City Productions)
Awkwood, Jase Harper (Milk Shadow Books)
“A Small Wild Magic”, Kathleen Jennings (Monstrous Affections, Candlewick Press)
Mr Unpronounceable and the Sect of the Bleeding Eye, Tim Molloy (Milk Shadow Books)
The Game, Shane Smith (Deeper Meanings Publishing)

Congratulations to all the winners!

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Prudence by Gail Carriger

Prudence by Gail Carriger is the first in her new series, the Custard Protocol. It is about the daughter (and friends) of the main characters (and friends) in the Parasol Protectorate series. I had thought it was going to be YA, but it was not. With three out of four main character about 20 years old, I suppose you could call it New Adult if you were so inclined.

When Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama (Rue to her friends) is given an unexpected dirigible, she does what any sensible female would under similar circumstances - names it the Spotted Custard and floats to India in pursuit of the perfect cup of tea. But India has more than just tea on offer. Rue stumbles upon a plot involving local dissidents, a kidnapped brigadier's wife, and some awfully familiar Scottish werewolves. Faced with a dire crisis and an embarrassing lack of bloomers, what else is a young lady of good breeding to do but turn metanatural and find out everyone's secrets, even thousand-year-old fuzzy ones?

I should say up front that I read this book entirely while jet-lagged. I started it on a second long-haul flight I had in a row, and finished it two cities later while still suffering from barely-awake-itis. This has almost certainly affected my enjoyment of it. I did enjoy it, to be clear, but I didn't find it as funny as Carriger's other books and I can't be sure how much of that is jet-lag-induced.

But anyway. Prudence is set about twenty years after the end of Timeless and is more or less about the children of the main characters in that series. There's Rue, Alexia's daughter, Prim, Ivy's daughter, and her twin brother Percy, and Quesnel Lefoux who was in the earlier books as a child. Rue is very much the most central character, with Prim coming in second and it's all told (in third person) from Rue's point of view.

It was particularly strange and interesting to see how Rue related to the older characters from previous books. From reading the Parasol Protectorate series, I feel quite familiar with Rue's parents (all three of them) but her attitudes towards them are very different from my own. I hadn't thought about it before I started reading, but the way she sees her mother is very different to how we as readers have seen her. And then there's the weirdness of her calling Lord Akeldama "Dama" and Biffy "Uncle Rabiffano". Not to mention her complete lack of angst at what happened to Biffy twenty years earlier, which Biffy, at least, is clearly not entirely over. So it was weird, but in the good author-has-thought-this-through way.

I've talked about how my reading of the earlier books has influenced my reading of Prudence, but I should emphasise that you absolutely do not need to have read any other Gail Carriger books before picking this one up. I think you'll get more out of it if you have, but it's certainly not necessary for making sense of continuity. There are just some hints to past events which, where relevant, will obviously come to the fore in the fullness of time and sequels and in the meantime there's a lot to guess at for both new and returning readers.

If you're not familiar with Gail Carriger's work, Prudence is a reasonable place to start, being the first book of a series. If you have read and enjoyed any of Carriger's books in the past, then what are you waiting for? Definitely pick up Prudence for a new take on the same world, later in time.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: March 2015, Orbit
Series: The Custard Protocol book 1 of ?
Format read: ePub
Source: purchased from Google Play

Monday, 6 April 2015

Ditmar Award Winners

The Ditmar awards were announced last night right after the Tin Ducks. I was at the ceremony and live-tweeted it but then was too wiped to remember to blog it. So here it is a little late. First Ditmars, then Tin Ducks.

The Ditmar Awards


The winners in each category are in bold.

Best Novel
  • The Lascar's Dagger, Glenda Larke (Hachette)
  • Bound (Alex Caine 1), Alan Baxter (Voyager)
  • Clariel, Garth Nix (HarperCollins)
  • Thief's Magic (Millennium's Rule 1), Trudi Canavan (Hachette Australia)
  • The Godless (Children 1), Ben Peek (Tor UK)
  • No Award 
(The way John Scalzi announced this was masterful. He announced Trudi's award perfectly straight-faced and then, when everyone thought it was over, said "But wait, there's MORE!" All because he knew Glenda hadn't won an award before that evening.)

Best Novella or Novelette
  • "The Ghost of Hephaestus", Charlotte Nash, in Phantazein (FableCroft Publishing)
  • "The Legend Trap", Sean Williams, in Kaleidoscope (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • "The Darkness in Clara", Alan Baxter, in SQ Mag 14 (IFWG Publishing Australia)
  • "St Dymphna's School for Poison Girls", Angela Slatter, in Review of Australian Fiction, Volume 9, Issue 3 (Review of Australian Fiction)
  • "The Female Factory", Lisa L. Hannett and Angela Slatter, in The Female Factory (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • "Escapement", Stephanie Gunn, in Kisses by Clockwork (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • No Award 

Best Short Story
  • "Bahamut", Thoraiya Dyer, in Phantazein (FableCroft Publishing)
  • "Vanilla", Dirk Flinthart, in Kaleidoscope (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • "Cookie Cutter Superhero", Tansy Rayner Roberts, in Kaleidoscope (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • "The Seventh Relic", Cat Sparks, in Phantazein (FableCroft Publishing)
  • "Signature", Faith Mudge, in Kaleidoscope (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • No Award 

Best Collected Work
  • Kaleidoscope, edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • The Year's Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2013, edited by Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • Phantazein, edited by Tehani Wessely (FableCroft Publishing)
  • No Award 

Best Artwork
  • Illustrations, Kathleen Jennings, in Black-Winged Angels (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • Cover art, Kathleen Jennings, of Phantazein (FableCroft Publishing)
  • Illustrations, Kathleen Jennings, in The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings (Tartarus Press)
  • No Award 

Best Fan Writer
  • Tansy Rayner Roberts, for body of work
  • Tsana Dolichva, for body of work
  • Bruce Gillespie, for body of work
  • Katharine Stubbs, for body of work
  • Alexandra Pierce for body of work
  • Grant Watson, for body of work
  • Sean Wright, for body of work
  • No Award 

Best Fan Artist
  • Nalini Haynes, for body of work, including "Interstellar Park Ranger Bond, Jaime Bond", "Gabba and Slave Lay-off: Star Wars explains Australian politics", "The Driver", and "Unmasked" in Dark Matter Zine
  • Kathleen Jennings, for body of work, including Fakecon art and Illustration Friday series
  • Nick Stathopoulos, for movie poster of It Grows!
  • No Award 

Best Fan Publication in Any Medium

  • Snapshot 2014, Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely, and Sean Wright
  • It Grows!, Nick Stathopoulos
  • Galactic Suburbia, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, and Andrew Finch
  • The Writer and the Critic, Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond
  • Galactic Chat, Sean Wright, Helen Stubbs, David McDonald, Alexandra Pierce, Sarah Parker, and Mark Webb
  • No Award

Best New Talent
  • Helen Stubbs
  • Shauna O'Meara
  • Michelle Goldsmith
  • No Award 

William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review
  • Reviews in The Angriest, Grant Watson
  • The Eddings Reread series, Tehani Wessely, Jo Anderton, and Alexandra Pierce, in A Conversational Life
  • Reviews in Adventures of a Bookonaut, Sean Wright
  • "Does Sex Make Science Fiction Soft?", in Uncanny Magazine 1, Tansy Rayner Roberts
  • Reviews in FictionMachine, Grant Watson
  • The Reviewing New Who series, David McDonald, Tansy Rayner Roberts, and Tehani Wessely
  • No Award 

The Peter McNamara Achievement award goes to Merv Binns

The Norma K Hemming award goes to Paddy O'Reilly for The Wonders.
With runners up Lisa Hannet and Angela Slatter for The Female Factory.

The A. Bertram Chandler Award goes to Donna Maree Hanson!

The Tin Duck Awards


The Tin Ducks are the awards for Western Australian SF achievement awards, given out at Swancon every year. I don't have a pre-made nominations list for these ones, so I'm just going to list the winners in reverse order of announcement.

The Marge Hughes award goes to Damien McGee.

Best WA Professional Long Written Work
The Lascar's Dagger, Glenda Larke (Hachette)

Best Professional Short Written Work
"Siri and the Chaos Maker" by Carol Ryles, in Kisses by Clockwork (Ticonderoga Publications)

Best WA Pro Production or Artwork
Kaleidoscope, edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios (Twelfth Planet Press)

Best Fan Written Work
The 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction interview series
(Yay, go team Snapshot!)

WA Fan Artwork
2014 Tin Ducks, by John Parker
(Who had to make his own award, lol)

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Guest Post: Kim Curran on the top ten things that inspire her to write

Today I have a guest post from Kim Curran, author of the Shifter trilogy. You can read my reviews of the books: Shift, Control and Delete. It's a YA sci-fi action series and the final book has just come out. I also interviewed Kim a couple of years ago, around when Control was released. By the way, be sure to read to the very end of the post where there's a giveaway.

Top ten things that help inspire me to write


1) Burning ideas I can’t get out of my head and that wake me up at night
This is the best bit of being a writer: when an idea blindsides you and you just have to, HAVE TO, write it. You feel like your head is a balloon about to take flight. Nothing beats that feeling. Not book deals or publication days. It’s the best.

2) My office
I’m lucky enough to have a room at home that’s dedicated to writing. Which mostly means it’s packed full of books, free-range post-it notes (that won’t stay stuck to my walls) and a handful of toys. It’s a mess, but it’s a space that’s all mine.

3)  Busy trains / buses
There’s no better way to block out annoying commuters than to lose yourself in a world of your own creation. I wrote most of Shift and Control long hand while on my commute to and from work on the 243 bus from Waterloo to Shoreditch.

4) A new notebook
When I have one of those shiny exciting ideas I have to start scribbling it down before it floats away. And so a beautiful, clean and unspoiled notebook becomes a must. My brand of choice is Leuchtturm1917. Although don’t ask me to pronounce it.


5) Other authors
When I read a truly great book, one that makes me sigh over its brilliance, it pushes me to want to be a better writer.

6) My friends and family
More often than not, I have very little faith in myself as a writer. Which is when having people around me who believe in me, and will me to go on, is so important.

7) My tattoos
I got them after going through a phase where I seriously considered giving up writing. Now they’re a reminder that I can’t give up no matter what.

8) Boredom
Nothing inspires me to sit down and make up new world more than having nothing to do. It’s my mother’s fault. If ever I whinged, “I’m bored!” she would counter with, “Well you can do the washing up, that will keep you amused.” And suddenly I’d come up with something to entertain myself. 

9) My dinosaur onesie
When I’m having a low day, I pull on my dinosaur onesie, wag my tail and feel suddenly better about everything.

10) My readers
Knowing there are people out there who enjoy reading what I’ve written and who might like to read what I write next, well, it’s the most humbling form of inspiration there is.

Dublin-born Kim Curran is the award-nominated author of books for young adults, including Shift, Control and Delete.

She studied Philosophy & Literature at university with the plan of being paid big bucks to think deep thoughts. While that never quite worked out, she did land a job as a junior copywriter with an ad agency a week after graduating. She’s worked in advertising ever since and is obsessed with the power of the media on young minds.
She is a mentor at the Ministry of Stories and for the WoMentoring Project. And lives in London with her husband and too many books.

To find out more visit www.kimcurran.co.uk, or follow Kim on Twitter or Goodreads.

Giveaway!

To win all three books in the Shifter trilogy enter in the Rafflecopter widget below!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tiptree and Hugo Awards

You know it's awards season when three awards are (going to be) announced in the space of twenty-four hours. The Ditmars, coming this evening Perth time, will get their own post, but for now let's have a look at the Tiptree and then Hugo awards.

The Tiptree Award


I think this is the first year I've actually read one of the winning books before the award was announced, so that's kind of exciting. I'm going to copy the entire announcement from the Tiptree page below, including comments and honour list and long list because I think they all deserve to be noted. I'll also put links to my reviews where they exist in brackets since there are also links in the original announcement.

The 2014 Tiptree Award winners, honor list, and long list have been selected. Our congratulations to Monica Byrne and Jo Walton, this year’s winners!

Monica Byrne’s The Girl in the Road is a painful, challenging, glorious novel about murder, quests, self-delusion, and a stunning science-fictional big idea: What would it be like to walk the length of a few-meter-wide wave generator stretching across the open sea from India to Africa, with only what you can carry on your back? With profound compassion and insight, the novel tackles relationships between gender and culture and between gender and violence. It provides a nuanced portrait of violence against women, in a variety of forms, and violence perpetrated by women. Through the eyes of two narrators linked by a single act of violence, the reader is brought to confront shifting ideas of gender, class, and human agency and dignity. [my review]

Jo Walton’s My Real Children is a richly textured examination of two lives lived by the same woman. This moving, thought-provoking novel deals with how differing global and personal circumstances change our view of sexuality and gender. The person herself changes, along with her society. Those changes influence and are influenced by her opportunities in life and how she is treated by intimate partners, family members, and society at large. The alternate universe trope allows Walton to demonstrate that changes in perceptions regarding gender and sexuality aren’t inevitable or determined by a gradual enlightenment of the species, but must be struggled for. My Real Children is important for the way it demonstrates how things could have been otherwise — and might still be.

Honor List
In addition to selecting the winner, each jury chooses a Tiptree Award Honor List. The Honor List is a strong part of the award’s identity and is used by many readers as a recommended reading list. This year’s Honor List (in alphabetical order by the author’s last name) is:
  • Jennifer Marie Brissett. Elysium (Aqueduct Press 2014) — A masterfully layered tale of star-crossed lovers, ambiguously situated before, during, and after a devastating alien invasion. Adrian/Adrianne and Antoine/Antoinette move through a liminal, re-creative space that tells spooling variations of an original story we might never see, but can reconstruct. Variously lovers, siblings, and parent and child, these relationships change in subtle and overt ways that are tied to the gender of the characters in each looping iteration.
  • Seth Chambers, “In Her Eyes” (Fantasy & Science Fiction, January/February 2014) — This excellently written and evocative story is about a woman who is a polymorph, capable of drastically altering her body.  It’s told from the point of view of the man who loves her.  Each week she becomes a different woman for him, until she changes her gender, then her very self.
  • Kim Curran, “A Woman Out of Time” (Irregularity, edited by Jared Shurin, Jurassic London 2014) A fictionalized version of Joanna Russ’s classic How to Suppress Women’s Writing, based on a true history (with very mild adjustments). Time travel paradoxes, complexity theory, and alien intervention are beautifully interwoven in this lyrical exploration of the gendering of scientific discovery. The story’s epigraph will tempt readers to explore what is known of the life and work of Emile Du Chatelet, a contemporary of Voltaire and the translator and commentator of Newton’s work, and to undo the disservice she has been done by history.
  • Emmi Itäranta, Memory of Water (Harper Voyager 2014) (published in Finnish as Teemestarin kirja, Teos 2012) — This beautifully crafted novel, written simultaneously in English and Finnish, uses a delicately-told coming-of-age tale to examine a future replete with water crises, a totalitarian police state, and suffocating gender roles.
  • Jacqueline Koyanagi, Ascension (Masque Books 2013) — A fun, fast-paced space opera with surprising heft. Its beautifully diverse cast of characters explores intersections of gender and race, class, disability, and polyamory, all while racing to save the universe from certain destruction.
  • Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios, editors, Kaleidoscope (Twelfth Planet Press 2014) — An anthology of young-adult stories about diversity, many featuring queer or trans characters or gender issues. This is a book that should be in every middle and high-school library! [my review]
  • Pat MacEwen, “The Lightness of the Movement” (Fantasy & Science Fiction, April/May 2014) — A solid, well-told alien-contact story about a xeno-anthropologist studying an alien species.  The alien’s gender roles are well described and very alien.  Though the story never enters the aliens’ minds, MacEwen does a fabulous job of making it clear how the aliens think.
  • Nnedi Okorafor, Lagoon (Hodder & Stoughton, 2014) — This gloriously chaotic look at the day after aliens land in the lagoon off of Lagos, Nigeria’s coast approaches gender with a diversity that intersects with many aspects of modern Nigerian life: age, religion, social class and politics, among others. The character Ayodele, an alien who takes the form of a human woman to make first contact, is particularly noteworthy in how her chosen gender exposes fault lines across the panoply of characters that drive the narrative.
  • Nghi Vo, “Neither Witch nor Fairy” (Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older, Crossed Genres, 2014) — Two orphaned brothers try to get by in 1895 Belfast. The story focuses on the younger brother, who thinks he’s a changeling. He asks the fairies to tell him what he truly is. (Saying anything more would be telling.)
  • Aliya Whiteley, The Beauty (Unsung Stories 2014) — A piece of disturbing, thought-provoking horror that explores what happens to a small community of men when sentient mushrooms spring from the graves of women who died years before from a deadly fungus infection. These mushrooms, called “Beauties” by the storytelling narrator, gradually and inexorably shift their roles over the course of the narrative, starting as supposedly mindless providers of comfort and ending with roles more traditionally masculine: inseminating, caring for the male mothers, and engaging in violent battles to protect their progeny. Allegorically explores a variety of aspects of the human experience, including gender and sexuality.

It was a particularly good year for gender exploration in science fiction and fantasy. In addition to the honor list, this year’s jury also compiled the following long list of other works they found worthy of attention:

The Hugo Awards


You may have heard there is some controversy around the Hugo awards. If you haven't, I'll leave you to google it yourself. Good luck.

But what it means is I'm only going to reproduce the less depressing categories here. Apologies to the cool people where were shortlisted in the categories I'm not showing here. For the full list you can go to the Hugos website.

Best Novel (1827 nominating ballots)
  • Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit US/Orbit UK)
  • The Dark Between the Stars, Kevin J. Anderson (Tor Books)
  • The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette) (Tor Books)
  • Lines of Departure, Marko Kloos (47North)
  • Skin Game, Jim Butcher (Roc Books)
Best Graphic Story (785 nominating ballots)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form (1285 nominating ballots)
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier, screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, concept and story by Ed Brubaker, directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo (Marvel Entertainment, Perception, Sony Pictures Imageworks)
  • Edge of Tomorrow, screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, and John-Henry Butterworth, directed by Doug Liman (Village Roadshow, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, 3 Arts Entertainment; Viz Productions)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy, written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, directed by James Gunn (Marvel Studios, Moving Picture Company)
  • Interstellar, screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, directed by Christopher Nolan (Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Legendary Pictures, Lynda Obst Productions, Syncopy)
  • The Lego Movie, written by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, story by Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, directed by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller (Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, LEGO System A/S, Vertigo Entertainment, Lin Pictures, Warner Bros. Animation (as Warner Animation Group))
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form (938 nominating ballots)
  • Doctor Who: “Listen”, written by Steven Moffat, directed by Douglas Mackinnon (BBC Television)
  • The Flash: “Pilot”, teleplay by Andrew Kreisberg & Geoff Johns, story by Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg & Geoff Johns, directed by David Nutter (The CW) (Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television)
  • Game of Thrones: “The Mountain and the Viper”, written by David Benioff & D. B. Weiss, directed by Alex Graves ((HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions)
  • Grimm: “Once We Were Gods”, written by Alan DiFiore, directed by Steven DePaul (NBC) (GK Productions, Hazy Mills Productions, Universal TV)
  • Orphan Black: “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried”, ” written by Graham Manson, directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions, Space/BBC America)
Best Professional Artist (753 nominating ballots)
  • Julie Dillon
  • Jon Eno
  • Nick Greenwood
  • Alan Pollack
  • Carter Reid
Best Semiprozine (660 nominating ballots)
  • Abyss & Apex, Wendy Delmater editor and publisher
  • Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine, Andromeda Spaceways Publishing Association Incorporated, 2014 editors David Kernot and Sue Bursztynski
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies, edited by Scott H. Andrews
  • Lightspeed Magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams, Stefan Rudnicki, Rich Horton, Wendy N. Wagner, and Christie Yant
  • Strange Horizons, Niall Harrison, editor-in-chief
Best Fancast (668 nominating ballots)
  • Adventures in SF Publishing, Brent Bower (Executive Producer), Kristi Charish, Timothy C. Ward & Moses Siregar III (Co-Hosts, Interviewers and Producers)
  • Dungeon Crawlers Radio, Daniel Swenson (Producer/Host), Travis Alexander & Scott Tomlin (Hosts), Dale Newton (Host/Tech), Damien Swenson (Audio/Video Tech)
  • Galactic Suburbia Podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Presenters) and Andrew Finch (Producer)
  • The Sci Phi Show, Jason Rennie
  • Tea and Jeopardy, Emma Newman and Peter Newman
Best Fan Writer (777 nominating ballots)
  • Dave Freer
  • Amanda S. Green
  • Jeffro Johnson
  • Laura J. Mixon
  • Cedar Sanderson
Best Fan Artist (296 nominating ballots)
  • Ninni Aalto
  • Brad W. Foster
  • Elizabeth Leggett
  • Spring Schoenhuth
  • Steve Stiles
The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (851 nominating ballots)
Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2013 or 2014, sponsored by Dell Magazines. (Not a Hugo Award, but administered along with the Hugo Awards.)

  • Wesley Chu*
  • Jason Cordova
  • Kary English*
  • Rolf Nelson
  • Eric S. Raymond
*Finalists in their 2nd year of eligibility.