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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Book Blogger Hop: Me And My Favourite Characters

This week’s starter is a question about whether we ever act like our favourite book characters. That has to be a one-word answer: no.

But as it’s a post starter, I will instead talk about characters with whom I identify or whom I admire.

As a child, it was Jo March from Little Women. I was a girl who didn’t see why boys should have all the fun, and I wrote. In my case, it was on the beach rather than in the attic(we didn’t have one! We lived in a flat, though one not far from the beach).

And because I was reading Enid Blyton as well as American classics and Greek mythology, I identified also with George, the tomboyish girl in the Famous Five stories. I thought her cool! And she was the one with the dog, Timmy - what was not to like?

In Greek mythology, I liked Atalanta, the huntress and only female member of the Argo crew. I would have loved to go on that adventure.

The years went by. I found other characters to charm me. Young Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird was a passionate reader like me. And that wonderful scene where she starts school and the teacher is annoyed because she can read already - my favourite scene! In fact, I read it in the Banned Books Week virtual readout on YouTube one year. Here’s the link! Sorry, no American accent, but hopefully you’ll enjoy it anyway. I remember in my first year of teaching doing that scene with my Year 9 English class. I started off the lesson with, “Who remembers their first day of school?” I wasn’t expecting the response I got. The first student to put up her hand said, “Yes, I ran away because my teacher was black.” That in its turn led to a babble of racist comments. I stopped it quick smart by turning on the worst offenders, all from the British Isles, getting indignant “Heys!”.

 “Whingeing Poms!” to the English boy. “Stupid Irish!” to the Irish-born offender. Another child, Welsh in background, said, “Well, at least nobody ever said anything about the Welsh...” I grinned. “Do you want to know what the English said about the Welsh?” She didn’t. So, that little scene from Mockingbird ended up with quite an interesting discussion about racism, after the racist sneers were over, though unrelated to the passage; a teacher has to grab any opportunity for a lesson, even if it doesn’t relate to the original lesson plan. I should add that they never did that again and we got on fine.

Lord Of The Rings has a number of characters I would love to know in person. Sam the gardener and cook takes ordinary, simple activities and makes them special. Who can forget his offering to make fish and chips for Gollum? Turning a newly-caught rabbit into a gourmet feast with a few simple herbs? Healing the Shire with his planting after the War of the Ring?

I think if I had read the book as a child I would have wanted to be Éowyn. In some ways, I still do, though if I had been Éowyn as an adult, I probably would have dropped the crush on Aragorn a lot earlier. I might have been disappointed, as a child, by her giving up the warrior thing to become a healer, but nowadays I think, “Hey, she killed the Witch King of Angmar! What could she do to top that? And when the war is over, what better way is there than to heal?” Even her husband, Faramir, never really wanted to fight, he did it because it was the only way to protect his people. He was a historian by preference. (And also a favourite character of mine!)

In Harry Potter, I do admire Hermione, without whom, let’s face it, the wizarding world would probably have lost its Chosen One very early!

But I relate to Ron. He is the truly Non Chosen one who  represents - Us! He is the Xander of the HP series. He does get his moment of glory in the first book, playing the deadly chess game in the underground chamber leading to the Philosopher’s Stone. Mostly, though, he is just there while Harry and Hermione get on with things, being, mostly, the comic relief. That would be me if I was in that world. He is very much an Everyman.

There are plenty more, but I’ll finish with a more recent character I’m fond of, Cath from Rainbow Rowell’s YA novel Fangirl. I don’t read a lot of contemporary fiction and what little I do read is children’s or YA. This is one of them. Cath is a media fan writer, as I used to be. She is writing under a pen name on line, as most fan writers do these days, and, unlike in my day, is read by thousands of people. Cath is working on a novel she must finish before it becomes just “alternative universe” when last book of the original series comes out. At the same time, she has all the problems of a kid starting university and worries about her father who seriously needs looking after! And Cath can write, not just fan fiction. I liked the fact that the author never sent her up for writing this sort of stuff. In fact,
I believe that people are already writing Fangirl fan fiction and Rainbow Rowell is delighted. And I am very fond of Cath!

Do you have any characters you relate to? 

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Aurealis Awards Shortlist 2017!

So, here are this year’s shortlisted books for the Aurealis Awards! For my non-Australian readers, this is the annual Australian spec fic award. They are judged, not voted - I was a judge a few years ago, a fascinating experience. Our equivalent of the Hugos are the Ditmar Awards and a couple of states have their own awards, the Tin Ducks in Western Australia and the Chronos Awards here in Victoria.  

Congratulations to all those on the list. I admit that I’ve only read the short stories from the LoveOzYA anthology, but I see that Allen and Unwin has republished “Singing My Sister Down” as part of a collection of stories by Margo Lanagan. That one is a classic, but I have to say it’s not a story I could bring myself to read again, not because it’s a bad story - it’s amazing! That’s the whole problem. Too sad for me. It’s the same reason why I am not sure I can read Dan Simmons horror fiction again. He makes you care about his characters and then kills them off! 

But Margo Lanagan is a wonderful writer, so don’t let me put you off. 

I seem there are two short stories from my old stamping ground, Andromeda Spaceways. Best of luck! 

I’ve finally downloaded Gap Year In Ghost Town, which the author has been promoting non stop on Twitter. I just didn’t get around to it till now - anything Michael Pryor writes is likely to be great fun!
Anyway, check out this list and let me know if you’ve read any of them and what you thought. 


BEST CHILDREN’S FICTION
How to Bee, Bren MacDibble (Allen & Unwin)
The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone, Jaclyn Moriarty (Allen & Unwin)
The Shop at Hoopers Bend, Emily Rodda (HarperCollins Australia)
The Exile, Jo Sandhu (Penguin Random House Australia)
Accidental Heroes, Lian Tanner (Allen & Unwin)
Nevermoor, Jessica Townsend (Hachette Australia)

BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL / ILLUSTRATED WORK
Action Tank, Mike Barry (Mike Barry Was Here)
Changing Ways book 3, Justin Randall (Gestalt)
Dungzilla, James Foley (Fremantle Press)
Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts, Craig Phillips (Allen & Unwin)
Home Time, Campbell Whyte (Penguin Random House Australia)
Tintinnabula, Margo Lanagan & Rovina Cai (ill.) (Little Hare)

BEST YOUNG ADULT SHORT STORY
“One Small Step”, Amie Kaufman (Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology, HarperCollins Australia)
“I Can See the Ending”, Will Kostakis (Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology, HarperCollins Australia)
“Competition Entry #349”, Jaclyn Moriarty (Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology, HarperCollins Australia)
“First Casualty” Michael Pryor (Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology, HarperCollins Australia)
Girl Reporter, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Book Smugglers)
“Oona Underground”, Lili Wilkinson (Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology, HarperCollins Australia)

BEST HORROR SHORT STORY
“Reef”, Kat Clay (SQ Mag 31, IFWG Publishing Australia)
“Outside, a Drifter”, Lisa L Hannett (Looming Low, Dim Shores)
“Angel Hair”, Deborah Sheldon (Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories, IFWG Publishing Australia)
“The Endless Below”, Alfie Simpson (Breach Issue #02)
“Old Growth”, J Ashley Smith (SQ Mag 31, IFWG Publishing Australia)
“On the Line”, J Ashley Smith (Midnight Echo 12, Australasian Horror Writers Association)
BEST HORROR NOVELLA
The Mailman, Jeremy Bates (Ghillinnein Books)
Hope and Walker, Andrew Cull (Vermillion Press)
“Grind”, Michael Grey (Pacific Monsters, Fox Spirit Books)
“The Stairwell”, Chris Mason (Below The Stairs – Tales from the Cellar, Things In The Well)
“No Good Deed”, Angela Slatter (New Fears 1, Titan Books)
“Furtherest”, Kaaron Warren (Dark Screams Volume 7, Cemetery Dance)
BEST FANTASY SHORT STORY
“Hamelin’s Graves”, Freya Marske (Andromeda Spaceways Magazine #69)
“The Curse is Come Upon Me, Cried”, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Please Look After This Angel & Other Winged Stories, self-published)
“The Little Mermaid, in Passing”, Angela Slatter (Review of Australian Fiction Vol 22 Issue 1)
“Duplicity”, J Ashley Smith (Dimension6 #11)
“The Rainmaker Goddess, Hallowed Shaz”, Marlee Jane Ward (Feminartsy)
“Oona Underground”, Lili Wilkinson (Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology, HarperCollins Australia).
BEST FANTASY NOVELLA
The Book Club, Alan Baxter (PS Publishing)
“Remnants”, Nathan Burrage (Dimension6 #11, Coer de Lion)
“The Cunning Woman’s Daughter”, Kate Forsyth & Kim Wilkins (The Silver Well, Ticonderoga Publications)
In Shadows We Fall, Devin Madson (self-published)
“Braid”, Kirstyn McDermott (Review of Australian Fiction Vol 24 Issue 1)
Humanity for Beginners, Faith Mudge (Less Than Three Press)
BEST SCIENCE FICTION SHORT STORY
“The Missing Years”, Lyn Battersby (Andromeda Spaceways Magazine #66)
“A Little Faith”, Aiki Flinthart (Like a Woman, Mirren Hogan)
“Cards and Steel Hearts”, Pamela Jeffs (Lawless Lands: Tales from the Weird Frontier, Falstaff Books)
“One Small Step”, Amie Kaufman (Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology, HarperCollins Australia)
“Conversations with an Armoury” Garth Nix (Infinity Wars, Solaris)
“Hurk + Dav”, Alfie Simpson (Breach Issue #01)

BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVELLA
“This Silent Sea”, Stephanie Gunn (Review of Australian Fiction Vol 24 Issue 6)
“I Can See the Ending”, Will Kostakis (Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology, HarperCollins Australia)
“The Wandering Library”, DK Mok (Ecopunk!, Ticonderoga Publications)
“Island Green”, Shauna O’Meara (Ecopunk!, Ticonderoga Publications)
Matters Arising from the Identification of the Body, Simon Petrie (Peggy Bright Books)
Girl Reporter, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Book Smugglers)
BEST COLLECTION
The Birdcage Heart & Other Strange Tales, Peter M Ball (Brain Jar Press)
The Silver Well, Kate Forsyth & Kim Wilkins (Ticonderoga Publications)
Beneath the Floating City, Donna Maree Hanson (self-published)
Singing My Sister Down and Other Stories, Margo Lanagan (Allen & Unwin)
Please Look After This Angel & Other Winged Stories, Tansy Rayner Roberts (self-published)
Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories, Deborah Sheldon (IFWG Publishing Australia)
BEST ANTHOLOGY
Midnight Echo #12, Shane Jiraiya Cummings & Anthony Ferguson (eds.) (Australasian Horror Writers Association)
The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2015, Liz Grzyb & Talie Helene (eds.) (Ticonderoga Publications)
Dimension6: Annual Collection 2017, Keith Stevenson (ed.) (coeur de lion publishing)
Infinity Wars, Jonathan Strahan (ed.) (Rebellion/Solaris)
The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume 11, Jonathan Strahan (ed.) (Rebellion/Solaris)

BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL
In The Dark Spaces, Cally Black (Hardie Grant Egmont)
Ida, Alison Evans (Echo, Bonnier Publishing Australia)
Frogkisser!, Garth Nix (Allen & Unwin)
This Mortal Coil, Emily Suvada (Puffin UK)
Psynode, Marlee Jane Ward (Seizure)
The Undercurrent, Paula Weston (Text Publishing)

BEST HORROR NOVEL
Aletheia, J S Breukelaar (Crystal Lake Publishing)
Who’s Afraid Too?, Maria Lewis (Hachette Australia)
Soon, Lois Murphy (Transit Lounge)

BEST FANTASY NOVEL
Crossroads of Canopy, Thoraiya Dyer (Tor Books)
Gwen, Goldie Goldbloom (Fremantle Press)
Cassandra, Kathryn Gossow (Odyssey Books)
Godsgrave, Jay Kristoff (HarperCollins Publishers)
Gap Year In Ghost Town, Michael Pryor (Allen & Unwin)
Wellside, Robin Shortt (Candlemark & Gleam)

BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL
Closing Down, Sally Abbott (Hachette Australia)
Terra Nullius, Claire G Coleman (Hachette Australia)
Year of the Orphan, Daniel Findlay (Penguin Random House Australia)
An Uncertain Grace, Krissy Kneen (Text Publishing)
From the Wreck, Jane Rawson (Transit Lounge)
Lotus Blue, Cat Sparks (Skyhorse)

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Treasures Found While Cleaning Up...

Okay, my home looks like a hurricane hit it! It has for a very long time. I no longer have - or need - my day job, due to the fact that I can claim my superannuation and go right on living the way I want, so I have begun a massive clean-up, so that I can finally invite family and friends to visit again.

I've been sorting stuff I want from stuff I should never have hung on to. I've sorted rubbish from recycling stuff.

And while doing all that, I've unearthed stuff I had forgotten I had. Treasure! Books I had long mislaid, such as Simon Schama's history of the French Revolution, and Jack Dann's alternative universe novel The Rebel, set in a world in which James Dean survived that car crash. I'm reading both now. My five copies of Mythic Resonance. I asked for five copies instead of payment, which was not very much.

And photos. Family ones, in which my nephews and niece and my great-nieces appear as babies and toddlers. My nephew Max's first birthday party(he's turning twenty the week after next.). Max as a toddler, smiling at the camera, being allowed to hold someone's fishing rod in Portsea. Amelia, his sister, playing on the sand or sitting on her Dad's shoulder. Mum and me in Sydney, walking across the Harbour Bridge, gazing at the Opera House and the ferry from our height, Mum with the Three Sisters behind her in the Blue Mountains.

I can't share those with you, due to privacy reasons, but I also found another treasure - a CD full of photos from the one and only time I was ever a guest of honour at a con. It was the MSFC minicon in 2011, and I was invited when the person they asked first couldn't make it. But hey, they did think of me.

Have a look at this.



I didn't even remember getting this CD -ROM, but someone must have sent it to me. Nice, eh?

This is what you get for doing a tidy-up. And there's plenty more I hope to share with you. I promised my Mum I would bring along the album into which I put those photos when I go there today. The family will be there to share and enjoy.

Have you ever found something you thought was gone for good? Or forgotten you had?

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Compulsory Valentines Day Post - Adapted Romances

A couple of years ago, I did a Valentine’s Day post. Time for another.

Right now, on Goodreads, people are talking about their favourite romantic reads. It has got away a bit from the original theme, which was about fiddling with beloved romances. But hey, who cares? It’s fun!

I’ll be writing about how people fiddle with famous romances, though. Just a few!

I have a confession to make: I have an unfinished version of my YA version of  Much Ado About Nothing on my computer - time to get back to it...

Shakespeare certainly gets played with - and why not? He played with other people’s stories himself. Plus his stories are so very good! I haven’t seen Gnomeo And Juliet, but imagine Romeo And Juliet with garden gnomes! And don’t forget West Side Story, that amazing dance musical with the lovers being from opposing street gangs! I’ve always liked that cheeky young man Mercutio better than Romeo anyway, and in the film version he was played by dancer Russ Tamblyn. I remember reading a short story, wish I could remember who wrote it or where I read it, told from the viewpoint of Rosaline, the girl Romeo gatecrashed the Capulet party to see. She thinks Romeo is a puppy, but does fall for Mercutio. And she manages to arrange a happy ending with a bit of magic, bringing back the lovers and Mercutio - Tybalt’s bronzed head ends up on Rosaline and Mercutio’s mantelpiece...

These days Shakespeare and other classic writers end up in YA fiction and film. Ten Things I Hate About You brings The Taming Of The Shrew to an American high school. In it, Kate has a very good reason for hating boys - in particular a certain boy. This being modern times, she isn’t “tamed” as such. It is a good idea for a romantic comedy in some respects, ie the younger sister can’t date till the older one is dating, so get her a boyfriend.

She’s The Man is one I used to show my Year 8 students when I was doing an intro to Shakespeare. It takes Twelfth Night to a boarding school soccer team. Viola disguises as a boy when her twin brother goes overseas and joins the soccer team at Illyria high school because her own girls’ team has been scrapped. A very funny film! I made the kids research Twelfth Night so they would get the jokes.

And what about Pride And Prejudice? Apart from all the adaptations, it became Bride And Prejudice, a Bollywood musical. That was delightful. The Bennets become the Bakshis. Mr Darcy is an American who has come to India with his Anglo-Indian friend, whose name isn’t Bingley, though I can’t recall the character’s name. Darcy is investigating the possibility of opening a chain of hotels in India. I liked that they managed to rescue the Lydia character before she got into any real trouble - and she punched Wickham! (Johnny Wickham in this film). Lady Catherine De Burgh was Darcy’s mother, not his aunt, and was the head of their firm.

Another Austen romance was also translated for teens - Emma became Clueless, set in America among wealthy families in California. And very funny it was! That film has becone a classic in its own right, don’t you agree?

Over to you - do you have a favourite book or film adaptation of a classic?

Monday, February 12, 2018

Book Blogger Hop - Who Have You Met?

Okay, this week’s question for book bloggers is ... which writer s have you met? And where did you meet them? 

You’re kidding, right? Mind you, the web site where I found this question had an impressively long list. It’s just that I can’t remember them all. I’ve been at so many conventions and children’s lit events and library conferences that they blur together. And the writer community in Australia is not big. Chances are that sooner or later you’ll run into most of them, especially if you’re in children’s or SF fandom. 

But I’ll just mention a few off the top of my head. They are all people I’ve actually spoken to, or had speak to me personally, not just those I’ve heard. It narrows it down a bit and even so, there are plenty more I won’t have mentioned.

Off The Top Of My Head

Robert Bloch - at Cinecon in Melbourne. Very pleasant! And funny. I remember him sitting with us one evening and chatting. As he was leaving, he turned to the most silent member of our group and said, “You talk too much!”

Jack Dann - various conventions over the years. Delightful man! Very friendly, calls everybody his pals.

Juliet Marillier - I attended her fairy tale workshop at Swancon. A very knowledgeable lady! She really know her fairy tales and uses them in her writing.We’ve been in occasional email contact since then and she has been interviewed on this site. 

Justine Larbalestier - at SF conventions. 

Susan Cooper - at a library conference in Hobart. But I couldn’t speak, too overwhelmed with fan girlishness.

Jan Needle - same conference. A very funny man who looks a bit like Harlan Ellison and writes depressing YA fiction! 

Melina Marchetta - at a YA event at the State Library. I got a hug for giving her such a good review - well deserved! 

Margo Lanagan - various conventions. Stops for a chat. Nice lady! 

George R R Martin - at a tiny convention in a motel in Melbourne many years ago, just before he finished Fevre Dream. That was before anyone except SF fans had heard of him and he sat chatting with us all in the motel foyer. We couldn’t afford him now! 

Queenie Chan - graphic novel writer and illustrator who lives in Sydney these days. We did a panel together at Continuum. Lovely lady! 

David Gerrold - at two conventions, Con Amore in Queensland and one at a small convention in a suburban motel in Melbourne. Very enjoyable company; a couple of us took him out to dinner and interviewed him for a fanzine. 

Terry Pratchett - was kind enough to speak to the children at Aussiecon 3. I was running the children’s program. I also met him briefly at a Discworld convention in Melbourne. 

Some children’s writers

Morris Gleitzman- the new Aussie Children’s Laureate, whom I once chatted to at a Penguin Books evening, when I had to admit my students had chosen to hear Andy Griffiths instead at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival. That was rectified last year when we went to hear him. Different kids. 

Andy Griffiths, Felice Arena - two true gentlemen! I met them both at the YABBA Awards. 

Gabrielle Wang - at various book launches and SCBWI events.  Lovely, gentle lady, the author of beautiful fantasy for kids.

Anna Ciddor - various children’s literature events. Most recently at the Jewish Writers Festival. Author of The Family With Two Doors and a lot of Viking-themed children’s fantasy novels. A funny, delightful lady - and I went to school with her husband! 

Ellie Marney - Reading Matters and Continuum. She writes about a teenage Holmes and (female)Watson in modern Melbourne. A fellow schoolmarm. 

Michael Pryor - various conventions. My favourite of his fiction was a YA steampunk series called The Laws of Magic. 


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Roll Of Drums... The New Children’s Laureate Is...

 ...Morris Gleitzman!

A wonderful choice! I have been reading his beautiful, gentle books for a long time. They range from funny to deeply sad, sometimes both at once. He creates characters we readers can care about. My favourite, of course, is Felix from the Once series, but there are plenty more. I have yet to encounter a Gleitzman hero or heroine I didn’t find worth loving. Which makes it sadder when a character dies. When they do, though, it happens for a reason. He doesn’t just say, “I think I’ll kill someone off to make it more exciting.”

Last year, I took some students to the Melbourne Writers’ Festival to hear him speak. It was a delightful morning and several of them bought copies of his books to get signed. One young man hadn’t read his work, but was intrigued enough to start reading Once the next day in his literacy class - and became a fan.

And, see, this is the thing - I’ve known kids ranging from reluctant readers to passionate ones to love his work. In recent years, at my library, the Once series has been the most borrowed, but I remember a very reluctant reader who loved Boy Overboard, Gleitzman’s tale of a refugee boy and his family on their way to Australia by boat. I give kids who love that one the sequel, Girl Underground, in which a girl doing a school assignment works to help the hero of Boy Overboard escape from a detention centre.

We used to have Two Weeks With The Queen as a Year 7 text. A boy sent to England to stay with relatives because his little brother is dying tries to get the Queen’s doctor, who must be the world’s best, to come home to Australia for his brother. While he is there, he helps a gay couple, one of whom is dying of AIDS, to spend time together, with a “borrowed” wheelchair. (That one made a rather nice play which I saw at Melbourne’s Midsumma Festival with a gay friend.)

Anyway, I’m thrilled to hear of this choice and I wish Mr Gleitzman a terrific two years in his job. 

Friday, February 09, 2018

Rereading... We Haven’t Got There Yet by Harry Turtledove

I have actually had this ebook for some time and read it ages ago, but was in the mood for a bit of Turtledove over breakfast. It’s a short story originally published by Tor.com. Actually, I subscribed to Tor.com because they were advertising free ebooks... and discovered that you could only get those if you lived in the U.S. Sigh! Some sort of copyright issue I don’t understand, though kudos to the U.S for protecting creators’ rights. Pity this doesn’t apply in Australia, where the powers that be keep trying to introduce new laws to take away authors’ rights and get “cheap” books imported here. I still subscribe to Tor for the articles and comments.

Anyway, this must be one of those stories Tor-subscribing Americans got free and it’s now available quite cheaply on iBooks - I think I paid about 99c, always worth it for a Turtledove tale.

William Shakespeare hears that someone has been pirating Hamlet yet again and the performance is on at the Rose next day. Furious, he invites his mates at the pub to come with him next day and let the bastards know what they think of them. Nobody turns up at the theatre, of course and, by himself, he actually has to spend a penny just to get in. At which point there is an amusing double entendre on the slang meaning of “spend a penny.”

The play is Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard - and he loves it! What he discovers when he gets into the dressing room afterwards to congratulate the author(Stoppard isn’t there) I will leave you to find out, but that last line will definitely make you grin. Buy it!