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Monday, September 29, 2014

On This Day: September 30 Meme

What happened:

Lots of battles! Too many, in my opinion. Never mind

1399: Henry IV, the subject of a lot of literature(Three plays by Shakespeare, if you count Richard II, plenty of novels) is proclaimed King of England.

1791: First performance of Mozart's gorgeous opera, The Magic Flute. There's also a Marion Zimmer Bradley novel inspired by it.  Being MZB, of course, she had to be terribly serious about it. Can't recall the title.

1955: Death of young actor James Dean, at the start of a promising career. Jack Dann's novel, The Rebel, is an alternative universe tale in which he survived.


1913 Screenwriter Bill Walsh. Never heard of him? Well, if you saw Walt Disney movies in your childhood, you've probably seen at least one of his films. The Absent-Minded Professor and its sequel, Son Of Flubber. Mary Poppins. The Love Bug. Bedknobs And Broomsticks. And more.

1924 Truman Capote. I bet you've heard of him, even if you've never read his work. I have just learned that he was not only a childhood friend of Harper Lee, he was the inspiration for the character of Dill in To Kill A Mockingbird and some of his experiences were written into the novel.

There are some writers, including a number of spec fic writers but I haven't heard of them, so I'll add one death, in 1987, Alfred Bester, a big name spec fic writer, who was honoured in Babylon 5, by having a villain named after him, the Psi-Cop Alfred Bester. The telepath situation in the series is similar to that in his fiction.

And today, never mind what the Blogger date says, is International Blasphemy Day, when you are encouraged to go and say something rude about religion! :-)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Vale Eugie Foster! (Reposted from the ASIM blog)

In yesterday's ASIM list, I read the sad news below. I posted it to the official ASIM blog, but thought it might also be worth posting it here. Eugie isn't the first ASIM writer to pass away in the last year. We also lost the delightful Gitte Christensen, who will, I hope, be the subject of another post.

Sad news this time. Sorry to hear that Eugie Foster (an author we published in ASIM) has lost her fight with cancer.


Eugie Foster, author, editor, wife, died on September 27th of respiratory failure at Emory University in Atlanta.
In her forty-two years, Eugie lived three lifetimes. She won the Nebula award, the highest award for science fiction literature, and had over one hundred of her stories published. She was an editor for the Georgia General Assembly. She was the director of the Daily Dragon at Dragon Con, and was a regular speaker at genre conventions. She was a model, dancer, and psychologist. She also made my life worth living.
Memorial service will be announced soon.
We do not need flowers. In lieu of flowers, please buy her books and read them. Buy them for others to read until everyone on the planet knows how amazing she was.
--Matthew M. Foster (husband)
Issues of ASIM in which Eugie appeared:

Issue 14 Body And Soul Art
Issue 18 The Life And Times Of Penguin
Issue 37 The Better To...

The first on the list, from an issue edited by Zara Baxter, is still available on the web, including in ebook, so it must have been a story of which she was proud. The third story is one I got in slush. It's a futuristic version of Little Red Riding Hood, as I recall, though not played for laughs, with a male RRH character.

Condolences to the family - and to the spec fic community, who have lost far too many storytellers in recent years.

Friday, September 26, 2014

On This Day: September 27: A Birthday Meme For Jonah!

Today is my great-nephew Jonah's third birthday. When he was born, I couldn't get the "Jonah-Man Jazz" out of my head and found it on YouTube. 

But today, my dearest Jonah, I will find some famous events and birthdays for you. Not all of them are going to be book-related, since there are so few, but all of them will be interesting - and as colourful as I can find.

On This Day: 

1066 - William of Normandy sets off to conquer England. (They'll teach you all this in Year 8)

1822 - Jean-Francois Champollion announces he's translated the Rosetta Stone. The Rosetta Stone was a stone found in Egypt that had three forms of writing on it - Greek, Egyptian "demotic" script and hieroglyphics. Now, in those days they could read Ancient Greek and demotic script, but not hieroglyphics. It was nothing very exciting, just something about the new king, but the thing is, it was the same decree in both the known scripts, so Champollion figured the hieroglyphs probably said the same thing. Tad da! Code cracked! Ever since then, when someone mentions that "this is the Rosetta Stone of..." whatever, it's about code cracking.

1905 - First publication of a blues song, this one called "Memphis Blues"

1998 - Google is launched! 

Birthdays On This Day

John Marsden, author of the Tomorrow When The War Began series and lots more. How cool is THAT! 

Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting, which was turned into a classic movie. 

And because I couldn't find any other writers I'd heard of, I'm slotting in an actor, Greg Morris, who played the technician Barney in the original Mission Impossible series - his son was in the remake, which was filmed here in Australia, as Barney's son, and his Dad made an guest appearance in the series as Barney.

Today is also World Tourism Day, which is kind of nice, since Jonah's Dad, my nephew Mark, is a travel agent when he isn't performing with his rock band or composing new songs. This year's theme is Tourism And Community Development. 

Happy birthday, Jonah!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

To Kill A Mockingbird Now Digital!

And I have bought it from iBooks!

I was thinking about what I might read for Banned Books Week before it's quite over when I suddenly remembered tat this amazing book is now available in digital form. Wondering if it was out yet, I opened iBooks at a bus stop... And there it was!

This is a book of which I will never tire. The students at my school do ask for it now and then. The only copy we had was a battered old paperback with the same yellow colour as it had when I was in my teens.

I must add it to my shopping list.

I know that some of my favourite students who had to study it didn't like it, which is a pity, but one of them, Ryan, chose it for his Banned Books Week reading - and he read it well and chose a very good bit that said something of what the book is about.

It's about so many things - not only racism, but growing up - and it's not only sad, it's funny and gentle and it also makes a point about prejudice against people who are simply different.

In The Help, one of the maids, who ges to clean at the home of a woman who has been snubbed by the community. By the bedside, she finds a copy of Mockingbird, which was new at te time hen the vl is set.

It also has mentions in various other books, such as another wonderful banned book my students were loving, The Perks Of Bring A Wallflower, in which the hero is reading a bunch of classics as extensions English. Even if I didn't like the book, I'd be pleased at how many classics are discussed in this one.

And there's a cheeky reference to the film in Pleasantville - no, I won't ell you, get yourself a copy from the video library and watch.

Any other Mockingbird fans out there?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

ASIM 60 Is Now Up!

Okay, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #60, the issue I edited, has actually been out since June, when we took it to Continuum 10, the Natcon. But you could only get it at conventions, because the ebook was not yet done and until the ebook version was available, it couldn't go up on the ASIM website, in the shop.  

I am so very pleased. I have already informed my contributors, some of whom wanted to update their websites, some who wanted to let their family and friends buy copies. 

Anyway, it's a gorgeous issue. The cover is inspired by a story in the issue, "Callista's Delight", and shows the planet Mars in the first steps of being terraformed. The artist, Eleanor Clarke, offered me three possible covers, but this was the most breathtakingly beautiful. 

The stories and internal art(by award winner and all round nice guy Lewis Morley) are also amazing. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Marianne De Pierres - Spec Fic Masterclass In Melbourne And Geelong

I have only just heard about this from someone on the Andromeda Spaceways list. If you write speculative fiction or have ambitions in that direction and live in Melbourne, you might like to try Marianne De Pierres's Masterclass this weekend. It will be on in Geelong on Saturday and at Melbourne's Wheeler Centre, which is at the side/ back of the State Library in the city. It's $180 for an all-day workshop, well worth doing.

I first met Marianne at the Aussiecon 3 writers' workshop, where we all had to send in 4500 words of a work in progress, read it and discuss. I missed a lot of that workshop because I had to go off and arrange Terry Pratchett's talk to the children, but I do remember how nice she was. She has since visited my school for free and talked to my book club and popped up stuff about it on her web site.

And is a big name local writer who has created some amazing worlds from cyberpunk to space opera to YA dystopia. Onya, Marianne!

Do go if you can!

Here's the link for you - you can book online.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Vale Notions Unlimited!

Years ago, I used to go regularly to my favourite SF bookshop, Space Age, where I bought some of the books that are among my most prized possessions, and recordings that would probably be worth a mint on eBay these days.

When that closed, we eventually got Slow Glass on the same site. Slow Glass, like Space Age, was a shop where SF fans could congregate before meetings, where writers would sometimes come to do signings. It was brighter and less musty than Space Age.

That too closed when the landlord tripled the rent, as they tend to do when they want to get rid of a tenant and replace them with a fast food joint; the owner, Justin Ackroyd, did open a small shop somewhere in the suburbs, which I never saw and which was open odd hours according to who had to look after the child at the time. Justin is still in business but online and at conventions, where I have to say he always brings my books.

Still, it's not a bookshop. And much as I love my ebooks, there is something about browsing in a shop that downloading just can't match.

For a while, there was Of Science And Swords in the CBD - gone.

But then, out in the suburbs again, was the wonderful Notions Unlimited, run by that very funny man, Chuck McKenzie. I couldn't go regularly, because it was in the outer suburbs. But whenever I went, I'd buy $80 or so worth of books, if not more. It was like having Slow Glass back. It had a lot of classics, some small press books and non fiction which I bought eagerly. There was a Dalek and a comfy chair area around a coffee table where games were played on the weekends.

This is the thing about fans. I don't know about the game players at NU, who were, after all, doing what they had been invited to do and no doubt bought plenty of books, but quite often, when a place becomes a centre for fannish gatherings,  the fans gather and socialise and don't actually buy anything. And it's not that they have no money, more likely that they spent it on something else, somewhere  else.  Games. The latest season of their favourite TV show.  Something on eBay. Or they simply couldn't be bothered waiting for an ordered book to arrive, when they could get it quicker online.

Now this wonderful shop is closed, with no plans to reopen anywhere else, and it's our fault for not supporting a local business. Even friends I urged to go along and try it didn't want to bother travelling to that side of the city, though it was close to the station.

It had been in trouble for a while and I admit I always wondered how long it would last in that
location. In the suburbs, you can't discover a shop you wander past, you have to go there - and this
one was in an arcade. You had to know it was there.

Still, a lot of us did know it was there.  And now it's not and all we have left is Minotaur, which is just too big and commercial for my tastes. It used to be a fannish shop, but no longer.

Maybe that's why it has survived.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

This Weeks Downloads, Especially Freebies!

It's amazing what you can get free, legally, on the Internet's book sites. Would you believe there are items on Project Gutenberg that you would never have thought were out of copyright?

I have been able to download early novellas by the likes of Poul Anderson, Fritz Leiber and Harry Harrison.  Do you like the Stainless Steel Rat, Slippery Jim DiGriz? There's a story called "The Misplaced Battleship" on Gutenberg. I also found his short story "The Repairman".  There are some Fritz Leiber stories I have read and loved before and am pleased to have in ebook form, "The Big Time" and "No Great Magic". I have both of these in a collection somewhere on my shelves, but it's nice to be able to carry them around on my cybershelves. I've also found some I'd never heard of. Can't wait to read them!

There are, of course, the classics. I found an Andrew Lang book I didn't know about - Lang did all those fairy books back in the nineteenth century and I have his edition of Kirk's Secret Commonwealth of Elves(I did have to pay for that one a while back, but it was worth it - you could read it online, but I prefer ebooks). This one is called Helen Of Troy;  I've been back in the mood for  things Trojan since my nephew Mark rang me last week, asking for evidence of the Trojan War, to help with an assignment he was doing for uni. I found him some good web sites and then felt hungry for Trojan War stuff myself.

There's The Scarlet Pimpernel, which I'm having great fun rereading. It has occurred to me that both Percy and Marguerite are blonde, something I've never seen in any film version - the closest was the telemovie with Anthony Andrews, who is blonde, and Jane Seymour, who isn't, but made a lovely Marguerite. Mr Andrews, incidentally, is the only actor who's played Ivanhoe who fits Walter Scott's description of the character. That was a great telemovie, by the way. It was generally well-cast, in my opinion, with Olivia Hussey as a gorgeous Rebecca, Sam Neill as Brian De Bois-Gilbert, James Mason as Isaac of York, Lysette Anthony as a wonderfully whining Rowena and Athelstane played perfectly by the actor who played Arthur's Saxon foster brother Cei in Arthur Of The Britons. And a Robin Hood who could have done his own Robin Hood movie.

I've downloaded John Buchan's The Thirty Nine Steps, which I read years ago. It will make a fun reread. And Andre Norton's All Cats Are Gray, which came with the original SF magazine cover.

It's worth looking in the iBooks store because there's often a first-of-a-series offered free temporarily by publishers. I managed to get hold of Kerry Greenwood's first Corinna Chapman novel, Earthly Delights, which was being offered free that week. I have it, I've read it, but this is a series I read and reread. There was a first of a series Jessica Shirvington novel being offered free this week. This is an  author I haven't read, but our students like her, so time to check her out.

This week I discovered why the University of Adelaide web site is able to offer free ebooks of Joephine Tey's books: they're out of copyright in Australia. The books are not the best; the covers don't show title or author and the text is crude. But they're free if you live here and better than Australian Gutenberg, which doesn't offer mobi or ePub, only HTML which you have to read online, text or zipped versions which you have to unzip and can then read in Pages. There are ways to convert, but too much bother.

The Baen web site is worth checking out. It offers some ebooks by their authors free. These are mostly temporary, so good to go back now and then to see what's up.

I did buy some books this week. I'm enjoying the Agatha Raisin whodunnits, by MC Beaton, who aso wrote Hamish Macbeth, and also bought Keith Roberts' Pavane, through SF Gateway, a project that is digitalising quite a few classics.

A nice haul this week!

Friday, September 19, 2014

On This Day: A September 20 Birthday Meme

For me, in the Southern Hemisphere, it's September 20, though Blogger, a Northern Hemisphere program, will stick September 19 above this post. Ignore it. I'm going to write about September 20, okay? 

There is no real literary-related stuff happening on September 20 in history, so here is the closest I can get: on this day, the Greeks defeated the Persians in the Battle of Salamis, in 480 BCE. A lot of stuff has been written about that, starting with Herodotus, the "Father of History" and one of the veterans of that battle was Aeschylus, one of the big three playwrights of ancient Athens. 

There's plenty more if you like wars, plagues, suicide bombings and such, plus a mention of the creation of the first petrol-fuelled car, leading to the great age of pollution and fights over oil that we all know and love, but I might skip it. I only mentioned Salamis because there was a famous writer fighting in it. 

Let's get on to the birthdays.  

There was Arthur, Prince of Wales, born in 1486, to Elizabeth of York and that nasty man Henry VII. Imagine how much would never have been written if the poor boy had survived to become king instead of his brother Henry VIII! I mean, really. The history of Europe would have been so very different, whether for good or ill. A lot of people writing about the reign of Henry would never have had the chance. For starters, no Wolf Hall and Bringing Up The Bodies. ;-). No Six Wives Of Henry VIII. No Anne Boleyn websites. No opera Anna Bolena. Though, knowing Henry, he would have found his own ways to power, even if he was just the kid brother of King Arthur. And maybe Alison Weir and Hilary Mantel would have found plenty of material about the reign of Arthur to inspire them. Still, we'd have missed a lot of literary enjoyment.

Then there's Steve Gerber, a big man in the world of comic book writing, specifically Marvel comics. He's dead, alas, but did a lot during his lifetime, quite apart from his creation Howard the Duck. He has an entry in Wikipedia if you want to look him up for his long list of works.

Today, September 20, is also the birthday of George R R Martin, author of the great mediaeval epic fantasy soap opera The Game Of Thrones! If you don't know about him, you have been hiding under a rock. Who would have thought when I read the first novel of the series back when it first came out, that t would go on to be so huge? To be honest, while I do like it - it has such a wonderful feel of grubby "real" Middle Ages - there are other books of his I like better. 

One of them, Fevre Dream is unlikely ever to be made into a TV series, unless they want something to follow up GOT once it's finished. There are some hints on the Internet that they might be able to get some interest in a film rather than a series. I'll believe that when I see it.  It's standalone, not too thick, and it has vampires in it, but Martin's vampires are a race, not undead. One of them who is tired of killing, has come up with a formula that will enable vampires to avoid drinking human blood. He orders a magnificent paddle-steamer built so he can travel up the Mississippi river finding other vamps with his attitude to join him. It's set in the pre Civil War era because, as Martin said at a Melbourne con I attended, it was a time when slaves could be killed easily without anyone asking questions. Another Martin book I like better than GOT is the delicious Tuf Voyaging, a series of connected short stories set in a seed ship travelling through space, with the title character and his many cats. A good book for SF reading cat lovers!

It's also the birthday of Keith Roberts, author of the wonderful alternative universe novel Pavane, a classic of AU fiction, which starts with the assassination of Queen Elizabeth I and goes on to speculate on a world in which the Church rules.

Today is the birthday of the totally un-writing-related Sophia Loren, but what the heck! Such a beautiful woman and fine actress!

There are a number of Christian feast days, but it's also the seventh day of the Eleusinian Mysteries, which play a big part in literature. Mary Renault's The King Must Die is in there, among others. That's a wonderful book I first read when I was about twelve. My copy is falling apart. I'm holding out for the ebook which isn't yet on iBooks, though some of her other books are.

So, what do you think of this day in history? 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Crime Time Is Now An Ebook!

This evening I had an email from my publisher, Paul Collins of Ford Street Publishing, to say that you can now buy Crime Time:Australians Behaving Badly from Amazon, both in paperback and for Kindle. Yay! About time! 

Apparently, if you buy it in paperback from Amazon, they'll sell you the ebook much cheaper. 
Not sure how many people would want to buy both but hey, you can always give the paperback 
as a gift to the child in your life and enjoy the ebook yourself. 
If you prefer ePub, iBooks already 
has it in this part of the world and I imagine the US page 
will be  taking pre-orders already and selling in a few days - 
Paul assured me it would be up on iBooks -presumably
 the US iBooks page - soon. 

I'm quite excited. This is one book that I worked my guts out on and for which I had such high hopes 
and it made so few sales it never earned back its advance despite excellent reviews and the fact that 
when kids saw it, they wanted it. Not sure how well it will do in the US, where it's likely to 
get banned for violence(well, it IS a history of crime, what are you expecting, fairies and butterflies?). 

But the thing is, neither bookshops nor the distributor website knew what to do with it or where to put it. The cover, which was designed by Grant Gittus, who did the posters for the Word Science Fiction Convention, is simply gorgeous, but it made the book end up in adult  true crime. I remember asking in Borders for the section on crime and the young salesman saying,"What, in the CHILDREN'S section?" On the distributor's website it was under non fiction. Even my local library put it in the wrong section till I told them it was a children's book. 

So this new thing gives me some hope that there will be a new lot of reviews, including some overseas. And maybe some sales.

There's a sample chapter on this site(check out the side of this page) both in HTML and in ePub, in case you want to see what you're getting - well, you can do that on iBooks anyway, and Amazon gives you a peek inside too. But this is a favourite chapter of mine, about the April Fool's Day blunder by two dimwitted robbers.

I will probably do a Goodreads giveaway to celebrate even though I have had little luck with giveaways in the past. 

I also have some great bookmarks, both Crime Time and Wolfborn, for consolation prizes.

What do you think? Should I do another giveaway? 

Sunday, September 07, 2014

This Week's Book Downloads!

Four this week. I downloaded Anh Do's The Happiest Refugee because my school is considering replacing Deadly Unna, which has been the Year 9 text for some years, with this one. I admit I was offered a copy for reviewing and never got around to it. It didn't seem to be for kids. Let's see how I go with the ebook.

I once read and loved The Three Musketeers and yesterday it was on TV, the old version withGene Kelly   as D'Artagnan, June Allyson as Constance and Lana Turner as Milady.and, I think, Vincent Price being a villain as usual. I confess I prefer the later version with Oliver Reed as Athos and Michael York as D'Artagnan. And Charlton Heston, of all people, as Richelieu! But the book is wonderful.  I got it from Project Gutenberg.

Harry Potter's Bookshelf by John Granger looks promising as a discussion of the great books behind the Potter series. We'll see.

Lastly, I've just downloaded an anthology called Firebirds Rising with some of my favourite fantasy writers including the likes of Charles De Lint, Kara Dalkey, Tanith Lee, Nina Kiriki Hoffman and Pamela Dean and there's even a story in there by Aussie Alison Goodman, whom I've known since we were on the Aussiecon 3 committee together and who first mentioned Harry Potter to me. I've watched her career as she's gone on to become someone who can make a living from her writing, something very few Australian writers can claim - even the fabulous Ambelin Kwaymullina, author fthe  Tribe series, has, like me, a full time day job as a teacher! Alison made her first school visit to talk to my very first book club; she wanted the practice, so I invited her to talk to the four Year 12 students who were coming along to book club meetings. I'll look forward to reading her story in Firebirds Rising.

When I've read some more Aurealis books, anyway. I'm currently reading about the adventures of a child fairy called Daisy. Have to get those finished, then the John Flanagan Brotherband novel.