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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Footy Dreaming by Michael Hyde. Melbourne: Ford Street Publishing, 2015

In the small, footy-crazed Victorian town of Marshall, two boys play football and dream of one day playing professional football at the 'G(the MCG, Melbourne Cricket Ground for those of you outside Victoria). Noah is a Koori, Ben is white. They play for different teams, but become friends during their running sessions. And there's a scout coming to look for talent for the Bushrangers football club Development Squad. Will one of them - or both of them - make this first step towards their dream of playing at the 'G?  

This is a lovely, gentle story about following your dream, football, friendship, first crush(on Millie, one of Noah's classmates). There is a bit of racism in the town, though mostly the baddies on the Kookaburras team for which Ben plays. It never reaches the proportions of, say, the racism in Deadly, Unna? (Phillip Gwynne). But when Ben asks Noah why he became so angry at a racist taunt in the course of a game, because he sees taunts as just a regular part of the game, Noah is able to explain.

"Okay, then. It's like this. You aren't a green Martian. But I am black. When someone says what he said, he's insulting my people and...and our families..and our culture. Trouble is, guys like Elliot think that if you're black, you're a piece of crap." 

This is, in any case, a later era than Deadly, Unna? There are enough immigrant families in town that you can get Vietnamese food and Greek food and the Mayor stands up at a local event and acknowledges the traditional owners. Even Noah's father tells him racism isn't as great as when his mother, Noah's grandmother, was growing up. 

The single-parent family is Ben's. But his father, who smokes and drinks and is just a bit racist, loves his two children and makes a sacrifice for his son's happiness. Noah lives with two loving parents and a brother who is terribly proud of him. It would be interesting to see what relationship the nasty Mark Elliot has with his family, but you never learn that. Actually, all the adults in this book apart from Mark Elliot's Dad, coach of the Kookaburras, are so nice!  Everybody - Noah's Dad Paul, the teachers, Noah's coach, even Ben's Dad Joe. 

There are a number of things that make me feel this is a novel for middle-grade rather than YA. The characters are in their teens, but they feel younger to me. Their issues and concerns are younger. The closest there is to a romantic interest, Millie(who plays very good netball and joins the boys in their morning run)doesn't play much of a role in the story except to cheer on the two heroes when they play. Noah likes her but is too shy to say anything. While there are teenage boys like that it's really the sort of thing that belongs to a younger age group. I'd recommend this novel to children who enjoyed Specky Magee(Felice Arena, Garry Lyon) rather than Deadly, Unna? And the language makes it very suitable for reluctant readers. It's not a long read and there are few difficult words.

It is such a very Australian book- the landscape, the characters, the passion for Australian football -  but I don't think people outside Australia would have too much trouble with it. I don't even like football and I thoroughly enjoyed it! 

Highly recommended.  

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Some of my Favourite Novel Adaptations of Fairytales

Over the last year or so I have discovered a number of delightful blogs dedicated to fairytales. While I don't intend to turn this into such a blog, it made me think of how many novels people are writing which are based on fairytales - and how many I've read and loved. I won't list all of them as I would be here all day, but just mention a few that come to mind.


Moonlight And Ashes by Sophie Masson. This one is inspired by Ashputtel, the Brothers Grimm version, rather than Perrault's Cendrillon. This means that the heroine, Selena, is a lot stronger and less passive than in the other version. It's also only the starting point for a full scale adventure.

The same author also wrote Cold Iron, which was based on Tattercoats, the British version of Cinderella. That one was great fun, set in Elizabethan England and mixing in elements of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. 

While I'm writing about Cinderella, I'll slip in one play, The Other Cinderella by Maxwell Anderson. That one is also fun. Cinderella - Ellen - has been lying about her stepmother and sisters, who are all sweethearts. She resents suddenly being the youngest member of the household when she was running it before her father remarried. The only reason she isn't going to the ball is because she had a fit of the sulks - she thought her white dress too plain and refused to go. There are also the pantomime characters, the fairy and the demon, who participate in the usual pantomime storyline. The fairy is disappointed when everyone is nice to her in her old woman disguise!  

Beauty And The Beast

Beauty by Robin McKinley. A gently humorous novel. Beauty is actually Honor, but has been nicknamed Beauty since she scoffed,"Huh! I'd rather be Beauty!" Her sisters are sweet, gentle and not very practical; it's up to Beauty to do the sensible things to keep the family going. The Beast eventually explains that he is under a family curse, because his ancestors were so disgustingly good and holier-than-thou, that a local enchanter said that the first family member to put a foot wrong would really get it. And that was him. The scholarly Beauty simply adores his library, which contains a lot of books that haven't been written yet(she loves Sherlock Holmes, but other books are confusing - what on earth is an aeroplane, for example?). It says something about her that when she finds herself confronting an "alarmingly handsome" young man, she yells, "What have you done with my Beast?"

Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier. This is set in early mediaeval Ireland. The heroine has escaped her dreadful stepfamily and taken a job for the summer at a local castle whose lord is under a family curse - but his facial deformities are due to a childhood illness, not to the curse. She is a scribe like her late father, and has a job researching and working on the family history. Please note that women in early Ireland had a lot more rights than women elsewhere, so this is not too hard to swallow.

The Wild Swans

Juliet Marillier's first Sevenwaters book, Daughter Of The Forest, is set in Ireland too, eleventh century. The heroine is a lord's daughter whose stepmother turns her brothers into swans. The "king" who finds her is an aristocrat from England. The story is pretty much as we know it, but has history woven in and the girl is even stronger than the original. And it is the start of a series, with the family's descendants taking on roles. 

The Seventh Swan by Nicholas Stuart Gray is out of print, alas. It is actually a sequel to The Wild Swans, set in sixteenth century Scotland. Recommended if you can get it from your library or find it secondhand. I don't have a copy, I borrowed mine from a friend.


Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth. The story of Rapunzel is told from the viewpoints of three women - Charlotte-Rose De La Force, the composer of the fairytale in seventeenth century France, Selena, the witch, an Italian courtesan who was a model for Titian, and the girl herself. You know, the fairytale never does tell you just why the witch wanted to lock up her victim. This novel does give you a reason. And it's wonderful! 


Red As Blood,Tanith Lee's collection of fairytale-based short stories, has everything from a vampire Snow White to a futuristic Beauty And The Beast - and you'll never look at a frog the same way again after reading her horror story version of The Frog Prince!

Tam Lin by Pamela Dean, sets the story of the ballad in a small 1970s university campus in America. Janet is an English student who becomes caught up in the truly scary things likely to happen to a boy she cares about because the Queen of Faerie, the head of the Classics Department, has to pay the rent to hell on Halloween. There are two students who arrived in the twentieth century with the Faerie court and were members of Shakespeare's company. They laugh their heads off at modern productions.

In the same series of books is The Nightingale by Kara Dalkey, based on the Hans Christian Andersen tale. The nightingale is a young woman, a flautist whose music is magical, and it's set in Japan instead of China.

Jim C Hines wrote a series of books about fairytale characters Cinderella and her friends the Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. The Beauty character is an assassin, having awoken to rape. The Snow White character is a sorceress whose choker made of bits of mirror forms the basis for her magic. In The Stepsister Scheme, they have to rescue Cinderella's Prince, who has been kidnapped by the fairies at the instigation of her wicked stepsisters. In The Mermaid's Madness they must save Cinderella's wonderful mother-In-law, who has been attacked by the grief stricken Little Mermaid who had stabbed the prince who rejected her and gone mad. Highly recommended and I believe there's another one about an assassin known as the Lady of the Red Hood. 

There are plenty more, but these are the ones that came to mind. Do you have any favourites?

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Anyone But Ivy Pocket by Caleb Krisp. Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2015

Ivy Pocket is a twelve-year-old maid of no importance, with a very lofty opinion of herself. Dumped in Paris by the Countess Carbunkle, who would rather run away to South America than continue in Ivy's companionship, our young heroine (of sorts) finds herself with no money and no home to go to ... until she is summoned to the bedside of the dying Duchess of Trinity. 

For the princely sum of £500 (enough to buy a carriage, and possibly a monkey), Ivy agrees to courier the Duchess's most precious possession – the Clock Diamond – to England, and to put it around the neck of the revolting Matilda Butterfield on her twelfth birthday. It's not long before Ivy finds herself at the heart of a conspiracy involving mischief, mayhem and murder.

There is a lot of Victorian era fiction for children nowadays, since the Lemony Snicket books became so popular. This is the latest. I have heard it compared to both Lemony Snicket and Neil Gaiman. I haven't read the former and mostly only the adult books of Neil Gaiman, apart from a recent burst of children's books and, of course, the wonderful Graveyard Book. Not really Neil Gaiman, from the ones I have read. Myself, I would compare it to Judith Rossell's Withering-By-Sea, which I read for the Aurealis Awards and which is now on the CBCA shortlist. If you, or your children, liked that one, you should enjoy this. It had the same quirkiness and the art was delightful.

Ivy is irritatingly self confident, but means well and as the novel progresses you learn more about her background and she becomes a sympathetic character. I liked Ivy's bizarre, over-the-top adventures and the equally over-the-top characters, from the bloated, frightening Duchess to the dreadful Matilda and the dwarf monks. 

Children from about nine upwards are likely to enjoy it. I can't comment on the drawings, which didn't come with the proof copy I received, but I suspect they will be very good. The artist is John Kelly, a British book illustrator who has won some major awards.

Available from May 1. Check it out here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The CBCA Shortlist for 2015!

This year's theme. Used under fair usage

It's that time of year again. While I've been fussing about over the Hugos and the Ditrmars and the Aurealis Awards a bunch of judges across Australia have been reading hundreds of books and discussing them before making up their minds which should be shortlisted. 

 I pinched this list from the Reading's Website. You can check it out yourself, along with the Notables. As the author of two CBCA Notable Books(Potions To Pulsars: Women Doing Science - which also scored a place on the Clayton's shortlist and Wolfborn) I do urge you to check out the Notables too; sometimes there's a little as one vote between something that makes it to the shortlist and something that gets a Notable. And I was delighted to see how many of our Aurealis shortlisted books and nearly-shortlisted books made it to the Notables and one, Withering-By-Sea, made it to the shortlist itself. Great minds think alike, it seems.
Unfortunately, I've read very few of this year's shortlist and only two are in our library just now. Time to call Sun Bookshop and see if they can get us the rest before they run out!

Older Readers
Younger Readers
Early Childhood
Picture Book of the Year
Eve Pownall Award for Information Books
Crichton Award for New Illustrators
  • Rivertime by Trace Balla
  • Kick with My Left Foot illustrated by Karen Briggs with text by Paul Seden
  • One Minute’s Silence illustrated by Michael Camilleri with text by David Metzenthen
  • Little Dog and the Christmas Wish illustrated by Robin Cowcher with text by Corinne Fenton
  • Meet Douglas Mawson illustrated by Snip Green with text by Mike Dumbleton
  • The Lost Girl illustrated by Leanne Tobin with text by Ambelin Kwaymullina

Saturday, April 11, 2015

And The Award Goes To... The AAs 2015

AA logo, used under fair usage

So here are the winners of the AAs for 2014! I confess I've read the children's books, obviously, nothing else, but I do have some of the others either on my TBR pile or on my ibooks shelf, shortlist and winners alike. 

And this week, there will be another shortlist announced, for this year's CBCA shortlist and I probably haven't read most of those either, but will have to, and buy anything not already on the shelves. Stand by for another shortlist! 

I earned this list below, by the way - it wasn't up on the AA web site this morning so 
I had to wade through the tweets made last night. 

Now, get reading, not only the winners, but the others! If it's on a short list, it was potentially good enough to win and believe me, as a judge, it was HARD to make up our minds. I'd like to thank the other members of my team, Sarah Fletcher, Jordi Kerr and Sarah Mayor Cox. They are all true ladies, very easy and pleasant to work with. Thanks also to the convenors for letting me be in this. Do let me do it again next year! 


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)


“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)


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)


“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)


Book of the Dead, Greig Beck (Momentum)

Razorhurst, Justine Larbalestier (Allen & Unwin)

Obsidian, Alan Baxter (HarperVoyager)


“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)


The Astrologer’s Daughter, Rebecca Lim (Text Publishing)

Afterworld, Lynnette Lounsbury (Allen & Unwin)

The Cracks in the Kingdom, Jaclyn Moriarty (Pan Macmillan Australia) (Should have read this as I got it for reviewing, but never finished due to other commitments)

Clariel, Garth Nix (Allen & Unwin)

The Haunting of Lily Frost, Nova Weetman (UQP)

Afterworlds, Scott Westerfeld (Penguin Books Australia)


“In Hades”, Goldie Alexander (Celapene Press)

“Falling Leaves”, Liz Argall (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)


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) 


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)


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)


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 W Smith (Deeper Meanings Publishing)

The Convenors' Award for Excellence, according to the AA web site, is "awarded at the discretion of the convenors for a particular achievement in speculative fiction or related areas in the year that cannot otherwise be judged for the Aurealis Awards." I assume this means it's for something that doesn't quite fit into the AAs otherwise. We have a list and a winner this year. Here it is:

“It Grows!”, a film by Ryan Cauchi and Nick Stathopoulos

“Night Terrace”, a serial podcast story, produced by John Richards, Ben McKenzie, David Ashton, Petra Elliott and Lee Zachariah 

“The Australian Women Writers Challenge”, an online reviewing initiative

“Useless Questions”, a radio play by Laura Goodin, performed by fans at Conflux.

Stand By For AA Winners!

I am still waiting to see if I'm allowed to post the list of winners from last night's Aurealis Awards ceremony before the official one is up. It will probably be okay, since it was all over Twitter last night, not as if nobody knows yet, but I will give it an hour or two.

I seem to have missed this year's Supanova events. I could still go today, I guess, but tomorrow back to work and there are things to do. I'll probably regret it later. I missed the very last visit to Australia of comedian Anna Russell because I was starting a new job next day. :-(

Anyway, stand by, hover around and you'll find out who got the awards!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Vale Rosemary Hawley Jarman!


Oh, no! Yet another wonderful writer is gone from the world. 

I was re-reading The Daughter Of Time on my iPad in the dark and trying to remember Henry VII's relationship with Owen Tudor(grandson, so not that long before) and, as you do, I googled him. I found him easily in the entry about Katherine De Valois with the help of my friend Dr Wikipedia and you know how you follow links, so when I got to the bit about "historical fiction" I couldn't resist following the link to Rosemary Hawley Jarman, thinking, well, at least she's alive! She has a Goodreads profile and a website, for goodness sake! 

Wrong. In fact, she died on March 17th, three weeks ago, and it wasn't in the newspapers and it's not all over social media that I know of. SF fans make a huge noise when one of their own dies, but  not so much historical fiction buffs, though I follow some blogs I would have thought would mention it.

So, for those of you wondering who I'm talking about, she was the author of a number of historical novels, of which I've read four. Three of them are about Richard III - well, one of them more or less, anyway. The Courts Of Illusion is about Perkin Warbeck, but it's in the same universe, because one of the viewpoint characters is the son of a fictional character who died in We Speak No Treason, executed by that horrible man Henry VII for fighting for his anointed king. So, I've read We Speak No Treason, The Courts Of Illusion, Crown In Candlelight(Henry V) and her Elizabeth Woodville novel, The King's Grey Mare. 

When I read We Speak No Treason, I was in the middle of a Richard III binge, reading everything I could lay my hands on. I was enchanted by the visuals. And the tactileness. You could see it happening, feel the rich fabrics described. You could almost hear the music, the trumpets blowing, feel the chill of a winter morning and the warmth of May Day. I have read a lot of Richard III stuff since then and there's some great books around, but none affected me like that one. IMO, it's her masterpiece and would gave been a classic even if she never wrote another thing - but she did. 

The King's Grey Mare was the next one I read - believe it or not, I discovered it serialised in a women's magazine! I faithfully collected them, with their illustrations and all, and may still have them somewhere on my bookshelves. I was glad, though, when I could read it properly in book form. It was still beautifully written, though not, I think, quite as good as We Speak No Treason. I can't put my finger on it, I just didn't enjoy it quite as much. It was interesting, though. Like the first book, it was told from different viewpoints, Elizabeth herself, Edward IV, his bastard daughter Grace Plantagenet, even Henry Skinflint VII. Unlike the first, it isn't in first person, making it a bit more flexible. And despite the thing being a sort-of romance, serialised in women's magazines, this isn't sympathetic to Elizabeth Woodville. Not once she starts going after her second husband, anyway. There is a touch of fantasy here, with Melusine the fairy ancestress being very real and able to help Elizabeth get what she wants, whether it's a royal husband or revenge on an enemy. Interesting to note that in her later years RHJ wrote some fantasy novels, though set in a world more like the Austro-Hungarian Empire than the Middle Ages. I haven't read them yet.

You can't ignore Elizabeth Woodville, by the way. Through her first marriage, she is the ancestress of a large chunk of the current British royal family. Go check it out. 

In The Courts Of Illusion, the family of The Man Of Keen Sight(never named in the first novel, except jokingly as "Mark Eye", but called Mark in this one) follow Perkin Warbeck. I haven't read it in years, alas! 

Crown In Candelight went back to the reign of Henry V and was seen from the viewpoint of his Queen, Katherine De Valois. The trouble is, I haven't read that one for some time either, and tend to get it mixed up with Martha Rofheart's Cry God For Harry. I can see I will have to do some hunting up of those books - I bought the first two in ebook, so have re-read them recently. 

I see that she also wrote a couple of non-fiction books, but if they're available in ebook, I can't find them, so may have to see if I can get my local bookshop to order them in.

There has been a spate of historical fiction in recent years, including Richard III novels. I haven't read much of it, though I'm currently reading and quite enjoying the Cromwell novel, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel; I got it for $4.99 when it was on special in iBooks. I just can't bring myself to read the more soap opera ones of the last few years, I don't care how many of them land on the box. 

And now, no more Rosemary Hawley Jarman! All I can say is that she lived longer than Terry Pratchett and was writing all the way. Vale!

Thursday, April 09, 2015

April 10 : On This Day

Things that happened: 

837: Halley's Comet makes its closest approach to Earth. No doubt there were a lot of people seeing it as an omen, but we're still here, so that's okay. Wish I could time travel to one of the years when it was nice and bright; the only time it appeared in my lifetime, it was a disappointment. You had to know where to look and you needed help - I found it with a strong pair of binoculars. 

1912: The Titanic leaves port on its maiden voyage. Oh, dear... 

1925: Publication of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby. Nuff said!

1970: Paul McCartney announces he's leaving the Beatles. Sniff!

1972: American bombers start bombing North Vietnam. Not connected with things on this blog, but you can't leave out the Vietnam war.

1972: In Shandong Province, China, discovery of tombs and guess what? Some had books in them! One was a copy of Sun Tzu's Art Of War. I have to cheer for people who wanted to take their libraries to the afterlife. I know how they feel.


1778: William Hazlitt, artist and writer of essays and criticism. He's still quoted quite a lot.

1827: Lew Wallace: Author of Ben-Hur. I've actually read this one. If you're a Christian, it's a Sunday school lesson, but I'm not, so I got to enjoy the adventure. If you ever read this, get past the first chapter, a rambling description of a place and a bunch of shepherds - it starts with the journey of the Three Kings. Once you get to Ben-Hur himself, it improves. Lew Wallace lived long enough to see his novel become a huge hit and a Broadway play. The first version of the film, which I've seen, was ten minutes long, with a cast of dozens, ending with the chariot race. It was interesting in that it was made without permission and ended up leading to some of the copyright laws we writers enjoy today(for whatever good it does in these days of free illegal downloads!). Thank you, Lew!  

1880: Montague Summers, author of a classic book on the history of witchcraft that has had a lot of influence on how people have seen witches. Probably just as well he wasn't around in the days when you could burn or hang witches! Still, he also edited a lot of Restoration plays, including those of Aphra Behn, and got them performed for the first time in ages, so we owe him.  

1934: Richard Peck, YA novelist. I think I may have read some of his fiction, but it has been a long time. We do have some of his books in my library. Happy 80th birthday, Richard! 

1957: John M. Ford - dead, alas! - author of one of my favourite novels, The Dragon Waiting, an alternative universe version of the story of Richard III. Also, he did two Star Trek novels, one of which established a version of Klingon culture that was enthusiastically embraced by many Trek fans, including a lot of my friends, who used it in their costuming, role play and fan fiction and drove me nuts! But the book was good. 

Holy Days/Feast Days

I simply must mention that today is the Feast Day of William of Ockham(1287-1347), creator of Occam's Razor, which boils down to, when there are two explanations for something, go for the simpler one. 

Finally, sadly, it's the anniversary of the passing of Peter Jones, who was the Voice of The Book in Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy(2000), and of Sue Townsend(2014), author of the delightful Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole. I never read any of the sequels and the original is a bit dated now, but worth reading.

Have I missed anyone or any event you want mentioned? There are plenty out there, but only so many I can put on a blog post and easy to miss.

Monday, April 06, 2015

A Guest Post From Sophie Masson On A New Project!

Original book cover

As you'll know from some of my Christmas Press reviews,  veteran YA writer Sophie Masson's small press has been publishing some gorgeous titles, (including an anthology with a story by yours truly. ;-D )

Now, Christmas Press is going back to its beginnings with a new crowdfunding activity, which will allow us to read a book that hasn't been translated into English for a century. I hope you'll check it out. It's rather more expensive to get a copy of this than last time, but worth it, if previous publications have been any indication.'

Sophie has kindly agreed to tell us about it. Take it away, Sophie!

A thrilling new project: launching a ‘new’ classic from the great Jules Verne!
Most readers know the name of Jules Verne. Most English-speaking readers have read or seen a film of  some of his most famous works: Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Around the World in Eighty Days. But Verne also wrote dozens of adventure stories, set in all sorts of exotic locales, such as Australia and the Pacific (Captain Grant’s Children, Mistress Branican) Alaska, China, South America … And, in the 1876 novel, which is reckoned in France to be the very best of all his works, he’s focussed on the biggest country in the world, Russia.
That novel’s simply called, in French (in which language I read it) by the name of its central character, Michel Strogoff . It was my favourite book, aged about eleven or twelve, and it had a huge impact on me, not only in a love of reading—and writing!—exciting stories set in colourful locations, but also set me on a life-long fascination with Russia. 
Basically, the story is that Michel (or Mikhail, in Russian) Strogoff, a young Siberian-born soldier in the service of Tsar Alexander II, is sent by the monarch to take a vital, urgent message to the Tsar’s brother, who commands the army in Siberia. He has to take the message by hand because a rebel Tartar army under Khan Feofar has cut all telegraph communications with Siberia, prior to taking over towns in the far east. And they’re being helped by a Russian traitor called Colonel Ivan Ogareff.  Colonel Ogareff, a master of espionage and subterfuge,  is in disguise and on the run, and no-one knows where he is,  though they suspect he’s going to try and get to the Archduke. So Michel sets off, by road and river, on a mission which becomes increasingly dangerous as his enemies come to hear of his presence. Meanwhile, a young Latvian woman named Nadia is on her way to rejoin her political prisoner father in Siberian exile; and soon enough they meet. Then there’s Englishman Harry Blount and Frenchman Alcide Jolivet, rival war correspondents reporting on the upheaval in the empire, who are ready to brave any dangers to get first scoop! 
I read the novel I don’t know how many times, swept away by the grandeur of the story, the fantastic adventure, with its wolves, bears, mountain storms, bandits, iced-up rivers, cruel torturers and traitors. I thoroughly enjoyed  the funny  rivalry and repartee between Alcide Jolivet and Harry Blount,  I thrilled to the love I could see developing between Nadia and Michel, both equally tough and brave. And I was swept away too by the description of the journey, which starts in Moscow and ends in Siberia — a journey over water, through forest and mountain and cities and villages: you get a real sense of the vastness and amazing diversity, both human and environmental, of Russia.  Basically, it’s a chase novel, and it has the breakneck pace of that, and lots of twists and turns, culminating in an especially unexpected and satisfyingly resolved one. But it is also beautifully written, as tight and clever and witty as Around the World in Eighty Days, and much more passionate and exciting. 
 Equally to be relished by kids and by adults,  it’s no wonder that despite historical anachronisms(the real Tartars not being a threat at all in the 19th cent) French critics reckon it’s Verne’s best novel, and it has also influenced many French writers and film-makers. It’s never been out of print in France and is still a huge favourite with readers, as well as having been transformed into many films and TV series. 
But what has always frustrated me is that this great novel was practically unknown to my English-speaking friends. The trouble is that the original English translation(also published in 1876) is stodgy and dated and does not at all capture the lively, crisp, witty and pacey quality of the original work. 
And so it’s a dream come true for me to be part of the publishing team bringing back this wonderful novel to English-speaking readers, in a fabulous new translation that will be the first in over a hundred years!  To be the launch title for Eagle Books, the new imprint of Christmas Press, Jules Verne’s Mikhail Strogoff, as we’ve titled it, will be translated by Stephanie Smee, whose   translations of the Countess de Segur’s classic French novels for kids have been bestsellers. Right now, we’re running a crowdfunding campaign to fund production of a gorgeous  illustrated limited edition, and working towards the book’s publication in early 2016. I’m editing Stephanie’s translation as well as writing a foreword—and it feels so magical to be re-introducing to readers worldwide one of the big books of my life! 
Readers can contribute to the campaign to get their own collectible copy of this pre-commercial-release exclusive edition, which will be a gorgeous hardcover book, illustrated internally in black and white and with many special features:  We invite you to check it out and join us in this wonderful adventure!
The campaign runs till mid-May.  You can find out more about the book, and our team, including Stephanie, at the campaign site, which features videos, short extracts from the new translation, and more. You can also visit our Eagle Books website,
Note that the campaign is built around flexible funding, which means that we get to keep the funds raised, even if we don’t reach our target(though of course we hope we will!) This means that no contributor will be disappointed!
Sophie Masson is the award-winning author of over 60 books for children, young adults and adults. She is also one of the founding partners in Christmas Press and Eagle Books.

Ditmar Award Winners 2015

Life has to go on and the dreadful fuss over the Hugos can't take up everything online so, here it is! 

This is pinched from Tsana Dolichva's excellent review blog,, which you should  definitely check out. Tsana was actually there when the awards were presented and I gather that Glenda Larke, who ended up winning both a Ditmar and a Tin Duck, was thrilled, as it was her first. I must say I'm also pleased for Merv Binns, a veteran Melbourne fan with a history going back to the fifties, I think, if not earlier, who ran the amazing Space Age Bookshop, where I used to do my SF shopping years ago. It's about time! I hope he and his wife Helena were able to get there. If they did go, I'm sure Helena will show us a lot of photos! 

Congratulations, also, to Donna Maree Hanson for the A. Bertram Chandler Award, also thoroughly deserved.

And thank you to the Snapshot team, who invited me, twice, to have my say as a writer! It makes me feel as if I, too, have a part in this year's awards.

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 

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.
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. 

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

WA Fan Artwork 

2014 Tin Ducks, by John Parker(Tsana says he had to make his own award. I vaguely recall this happening with Dick "Ditmar" Jenssen, after whom the awards were named!)