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A new website

Sorry I've been away for so long but I've been working on a new project at www.roberthoge.com
I'll be posting there from now on and regularly updating that site. Come on over and say hi.


Tell him he's Dreaming - Again

I've just finished Jack Dann's anthology Dreaming Again, and what a wonderful ride through the Aussie speculative fiction landscape it was. Following on from the 1998 Dreaming Down Under edited by Dann and Janeen Webb, the anthology collects 35 stories from some of Australia's best genre writers.  

Jack had tempted me with a copy of the MS earlier this year. But other than reading a couple of stories because I'd read earlier iterations and was keen to see how they turned out, I wanted to consume the book in one go and had to put it aside until I finished my World Fantasy Award judging duties. 

Standouts for me included stories by Angela Slatter, Simon Brown, Trent Jamieson, Peter M. Ball  and Dirk Strasser. It was great to see such a good representation from Clarion South graduates - seven in all. And it was newer authors - Clarion South graduates or not - who made some of the biggest impressions on me. Whether it's the eery stillness of Christopher Green's Lakeside or This is My Blood by Chris Lynch and Ben Francisco with its mix of Speaker for the Dead and The Sparrow with some schlock thrown in for good measure ,or the sheer audacity of Jason Fischer's Undead Camels Ate Their Flesh - a number of new authors hit the ground running.

The 1999 Melbourne Worldcon was seen by many as ushering in a new era in genre fiction in Australia but I think the 1998 publication of Dreaming Down Under had just as much to do with it as Aussiecon 3. Together the two kicked off a decade long resurgence that revitalised the local scene. I doubt it's possible for any one or two things to create that much of an impact now but Dann's Dreaming Again gives it a jolly good try. But put that aside - the book's worth reading because it's full of great stories, well told. 

Go read it now.


Melbourne has won the bid to host Australia's fourth Worldcon in 2010. Guests of Honor are Kim Stanley Robinson, Robin Johnson and Shaun Tan. Find out more here.

The 1999 Melbourne Worldcon was a lifechanging event for me both personally and professionally. Having it back in Australia is marvellous.

World Fantasy Award nominees

I'm pleased to post the nominees and (two life achievement winners) for the World Fantasy Awards. Some really great works this year. Looking forward to the announcement of the winners at the World Fantasy Convention in Oct/Nov.

Leo & Diane Dillon
Patricia McKillip

Fangland, John Marks (Penguin)
The Gospel of the Knife, Will Shetterly (Tor)
The Servants, Michael Marshall Smith (Earthling Publications)
Territory, Emma Bull (Tor)
Ysabel, Guy Gavriel Kay (Viking Canada; Roc)

"Cold Snap", Kim Newman (The Secret Files of the Diogenes Club)
Illyria, Elizabeth Hand (PS Publishing)
"The Master Miller's Tale", Ian R. MacLeod (F&SF May 2007)
The Mermaids, Robert Edric (PS Publishing)
"Stars Seen through Stone", Lucius Shepard (F&SF Jul 2007)

"The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics", Daniel Abraham (Logorrhea)
"The Church on the Island", Simon Kurt Unsworth (At Ease with the Dead, Ash-Tree Press)
"Damned If You Don't", Robert Shearman (Tiny Deaths)
"The Evolution of Trickster Stories Among the Dogs of North Park After the Change", Kij Johnson (The Coyote Road)
"Singing of Mount Abora", Theodora Goss (Logorrhea)

The Coyote Road, Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling, eds. (Viking)
Five Strokes to Midnight, Gary A. Braunbeck & Hank Schwaeble, eds. (Haunted Pelican Press)
Inferno, Ellen Datlow, ed. (Tor)
Logorrhea, John Klima, ed. (Bantam Spectra)
Wizards, Jack Dann & Gardner Dozois, eds. (Berkley)

Dagger Key and Other Stories, Lucius Shepard (PS Publishing)
Hart & Boot & Other Stories, Tim Pratt (Night Shade Books)
Plots and Misadventures, Stephen Gallagher (Subterranean Press)
Portable Childhoods, Ellen Klages (Tachyon Publications)
The Secret Files of the Diogenes Club, Kim Newman (MonkeyBrain Books)
Tiny Deaths, Robert Shearman (Comma Press)

Ruan Jia
Mikko Kinnunen
Stephan Martiniere
Edward Miller
John Picacio 

Allison Baker & Chris Roberson (for MonkeyBrain Books)
Alan Beatts & Jude Feldman (for Borderlands Books)
Peter Crowther (for PS Publishing)
Jeremy Lassen & Jason Williams (for Night Shade Books)
Shawna McCarthy (for Realms of Fantasy)
Gordon Van Gelder (for F&SF)

G. S. Evans & Alice Whittenburg (for Cafe Irreal),   
John Klima (for Electric Velocipede)
Rosalie Parker & Raymond Russell (for Tartarus Press)
Midori Snyder & Terri Windling (for Endicott Studios Website)
Stephen Jones (for Travellers in Darkness: The Souvenir Book of the World Horror Convention 2007)

Help out Paul Haines

You've probably already seen the crappy news that Melbourne writer paulhaines has copped another major whack in his battle against cancer and needs our help.

Paul attended Clarion South in 2004 and is responsible for one of my favourite stories from the inaugural workshop, which I'm sure he won't mind me sharing. 

We host Clarion South over summer - not as some believe because we want to torturte students and tutors with a hot and humid six weeks in the sub-tropics - but because that's the only time we can get accommodation at a university campus, which is our best option to keep rates for participants even remotely reasonable.

This means it's hot, as Paul quickly found out when he arrived for the workshop. One of Paul's first decisions was that the heat could best be battled with a cool beer in hand. So he took himself off to the bottleshop to secure some supplies and came back with a version of the local XXXX beer called XXXX Gold. Paul's reasoning went that if XXXX was good (and it's an okay beer) XXXX Gold must be even better. And hey, why buy one carton of beer when you can buy two? 

What Paul didn't realise was that the "Gold" moniker is for the XXXX mid-strength beer. So when I turned up to visit on the Monday night of the first week Paul offered me a beer and told me how terrible he thought XXXX Gold was. And it was no wonder Queenslanders were so crazy if they spent their whole time drinking this sort of beer. It then clicked with me that Paul hadn't bought the mid-strength XXXX Gold on purpose so I took a can over to him and showed him the alcohol content and he figured out the problem pretty quick. And while I spent the rest of the night mercilessly making fun of him, Haines got the last laugh. He went out and bought some full strength beer and saved the XXXX Gold to give visitors - most notably me - when they arrived to say hello.

Anyway, he needs our help and if you can spare some money, visit catsparx for bank account details or girliejones to use Paypal. We're almost a third of the way there.
Next week sees the close of applications for the 2009 Clarion South workshop. The six week speculative fiction workshop will see Sean Williams, Marianne de Pierres, Margo Lanagan, Jack Dann, Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant tutor 17 lucky participants. If you want to know more about the workshop go here.

I must admit I was a bit nervous when we opened for applications this year because I had it in my head we'd have trouble getting a decent number of applications. But I'm happy to say numbers are pretty healthy and for the first time we've got some applications in from Asia. Should be another fun workshop.

2008 Locus Award Winners

The winners of the 2008 Locus Awards have been announced. Congrats to the Aussies - Jonathan Strahan and Shaun Tan, and the assorted Clarion South crew - Michael Swanwick, Gardner Dozois and Ellen Datlow. Some good works in there.

An interesting choice of The Arrival by Shaun Tan for best Art Book, which illustrates the difficulties awards can have capturing works within neat categories. The Arrival is an illustrated book that tells a lovely story. It also won the 2006 Best Young Adult Short and the Golden Aurealis for short story, which wasn't a perfect fit either. There was some criticism of the choice at the time and the AAs have added a new category - Best Illustrated Book/Graphic Novel to cater for broader ways of telling stories.

But I'm wondering whether awards should have a generic 'other' category that catches different types of story-telling as they emerge. Two years ago it might have been an illustrated book that told the most engaging story of the year but it could have just as easily been a ten part SMS short story or a fake science-fictional blog. I can understand why award administrators don't want to create a new category for each type of story-telling that comes along. And while I think something as good as The Arrival should be awarded even if it has to be in a category that isn't a perfect fit, maybe a broader catch-all category is worth considering.

The full list of Locus Award winners is:

SF NOVEL: The Yiddish Policemen's Union, Michael Chabon (HarperCollins)

FANTASY NOVEL: Making Money, Terry Pratchett (Doubleday UK; HarperCollins)

YOUNG ADULT BOOK: Un Lun Dun, China Miéville (Ballantine Del Rey; Macmillan UK)

FIRST NOVEL: Heart-Shaped Box, Joe Hill (Morrow; Gollancz)

NOVELLA: "After the Siege", Cory Doctorow (The Infinite Matrix Jan 2007)

NOVELETTE: "The Witch's Headstone", Neil Gaiman (Wizards)

SHORT STORY: "A Small Room in Koboldtown", Michael Swanwick (Asimov's Apr/May 2007)

COLLECTION: The Winds of Marble Arch and Other Stories, Connie Willis (Subterranean)

ANTHOLOGY: The New Space Opera, Gardner Dozois & Jonathan Strahan, eds. (Eos)

NON-FICTION: Breakfast in the Ruins, Barry N. Malzberg (Baen)

ART BOOK: The Arrival, Shaun Tan (Lothian 2006; Scholastic)

EDITOR: Ellen Datlow



ARTIST: Charles Vess

The demographic splits

There's been an interesting discussion going on here  and here and here in the past few days following the announcement of the all-but-final table of contents for Jonathan Strahan's anthology Eclipse 2. 

The discussion concerns an imbalance between male and female authors, and what if anything that says about the editor and the anthology. There was a smaller blow-up about the first Eclipse after the cover for the antho, which included a 50/50 gender split of authors, promoted five of the male writers and none of the female writers. 

I guess the thing I'm finding uncomfortable about much of the discussion is people making vague innuendos about it all, as if Jonathan has a case to answer and that his choices are based on something other than story merit. 

And if we're going to do the demographic splits, why does it always seem to start - and stop - at gender? In the US and Australia between 20% and 30% of the population are disabled. I'm one of them. Should it matter whether a quarter of Jonathan's authors are disabled? By the look of it, 7% of the authors in Eclipse 2 are Australian. But Australians only represent around 0.2% of worldwide English speakers (or 5% where English is the first language). Is this an over-representation?

Where do you draw the line


Retail book market changes

A&R Whitcoulis just bought all the Borders bookstores in Australia, NZ and Singapore. 

You might know A&R Whitcoulis better as Angus and Robertson, which makes this an interesting development for authors, publishers and readers. This has been on the cards for a while so shouldn't come as much of a surprise but the sale to A&R of the 20-odd Australian stores is likely to shake things up substantially.


On the library needing a clean out

Even before my World Fantasy Award duties began our three bedroom townhouse was hardly coping with the number of books we were buying. Now, we've reached the tipping point and the random piles are just too... random. 

The first answer was to stack books against a wall but now I've started a cull some of our books. The first cut wasn't too hard because I began with old non fiction books that I was keeping out of habit - random works from the 1970s and '80s. That hardly made a dent though and now I have to get a bit meaner.

Of course, it was all made a bit more special when on the weekend my daughter looked at one of the random piles of books and announced: "You and Katie live in a library."