The Writer and the Critic: Episode 39

The latest episode of our podcast is now available for direct download and streaming from the website or via subscription from iTunes. Feedback is most welcome!

On this episode of The Writer and the Critic, your hosts, Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond, begin by addressing listener feedback about high fantasy and narratives of power which followed on from the discussion at the end of the last episode recorded at Continuum 10. They would also like to draw your attention to some Links of Relevant Interest:

Ian then provides a brief but thoughtful (and spoiler-free) review of War Stories: Modern Military Science Fiction, a crowd-funded anthology edited by Jaym Gates and Andrew Liptak, which he highly recommends.

The two books up for critique on this episode are We See a Different Frontier: A Postcolonial Speculative Fiction Anthology edited by Fabio Fernandes and Djibril al-Ayad (beginning around 22:05) and Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older (1:01:35).

The reviews and articles mentioned during the discussion can be found via the following links:

If you’ve skipped ahead to avoid spoilers, please come back at 1:53:05 for final remarks.

For the next episode, Kirstyn has chosen We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler while Ian is recommending Dust Devil on a Quiet Street by Richard Bowes. Read ahead and join in the spoilerific fun!

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2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction

snaphotlogo20142I’ve been busy this last week finishing a PhD story which decided it wanted to be a novella, but meanwhile the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction has bee running since 28 July and will continue for the rest of this week. The wonderful Alex from Galactic Suburbia has interviewed yours truly right here.

To read all the interviews hot off the press, check these blogs daily from July 28 to August 10, 2014, or look for the round up on SF Signal when it’s all done.:

This year’s interviewers:

You can also find archives of past Snapshots at the following links: 2005, 2007,  2010 and 2012.

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(im)Perfections Launch and a Ditmar!

Well, if it was going to happen, it was going to happen with this book. We picked up the copies of Perfections for the launch late on the Friday afternoon before Continuum — the nick of time, thinks we — only to find that the second-to-last page was blank. BLANK. That’s right, my novel literally had no ending. Devious little book. Being too late to fix and reprint anything in time for the launch on Sunday morning, there was no small amount of panic and anxiety, let me tell you. But when life gives you lemons …*

(im)Perfections Launch

(photo by Cat Sparks)

After some truly motivated brainstorming and a couple of trips to a stationary store, a solution was determined: for the Continuum launch only, my novel would be known and sold as (im)Perfections. I amended the title on cover and spine with a pretty new silver Sharpie, folded over the actual last page — which contained half a dozen lines — and secured it with a “Spoilers” sticker, then hand-wrote a personalised vignette on the blank page for everyone who bought a copy. It may have been a slightly mad idea. Certainly, I don’t look entirely sane in the midst of it all. But it was lots of fun and lots of lovely people bought lots of imperfect books. There were also, as promised, lollipops!

Everyone who bought a copy on the day will receive a complimentary ebook once they are ready — very soon, I’m told — and will also have the option of a replacement paperback if they want one. Many people seemed happy to just get an ebook rather than have a second physical book crowding their shelves which makes perfect sense to me! (Ha. See what I did there?) I believe the wonderful Alisa at Twelfth Planet Press is in the process of emailing everyone about this now, as well as sending them the missing page so they can finish to book without needing to wait too long for a complete copy. :-) We’re fairly sure we have everyone’s details but if you did purchase a copy of (im)Perfections and don’t hear anything, please get in touch with with either Alisa or myself and we’ll sort you out.

A massive THANK YOU to everyone who came to the launch, offered congratulations and/or commiserations, bought a book, sucked on a lollipop and generally helped make what could have been a miserable situation into a glorious one-of-a-kind event!

If you couldn’t come along, you can of course still grab yourself a copy of Perfections in its perfect form from Twelfth Planet Press.

Ditmar Award 2014The other delightful news to come out of the weekend was that “The Home for Broken Dolls” won a Ditmar Award for Best Novellette or Novella! I was a little shocked — it’s a horrible, horrible story — but very happy. As I said in my acceptance speech, I really have Alisa Krasnostein to thank for this. Without knowing in advance that the novella had a predetermined home in my Twelve Planets collection, I’m not sure I would have finished it. The research was difficult and, at times, the writing even more so, and it would have been near impossible to place a 20K piece like this on spec. So many thanks to Alisa, to Twelfth Planet Press, and to the small press community at large. Work like this deserves a home and it finds one because of publishers like you.

And that’s about it for now. Back to the word mines!

* But you know, to make lemonade palatable, quite a bit of sugar is needed. Somehow I doubt that a universe insistent upon the forced provision of sour citrus fruit would also happily furnish the requisite sweetener to make said fruit into a delicious beverage. Proverbs, hey?

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The Writer and the Critic: Episode 38

The latest episode of our podcast is now available for direct download and streaming from the website or via subscription from iTunes. Feedback is most welcome!

This very special episode of The Writer and the Critic was recorded live at Continuum 10 — the Melbourne speculative fiction and pop culture convention — which this year doubled as the 53rd National Science Fiction Convention. In keeping with tradition, your hosts Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond have invited the convention’s fabulous Guests of Honour, Jim C. Hines and Ambelin Kwaymullina, to come along and recommend a favourite book each for everyone to talk about.

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Minimum Safe Distance (photograph by Terry Frost)

After chatting with Ambelin and Jim about their current work, why they write the stories they do, matters of censorship and the problems which arise from writing within a culture which may or may not be your own, the discussion moves on to the novels at hand. Jim has picked The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu (beginning around 22:15) while Ambelin has chosen The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold (50:40).

tao_chalion.jpg

If you’ve skipped ahead to avoid spoilers, please listen in again from 1:15:15 mark for some energetic questions from the audience as well as final remarks.

Due to the new bimonthly schedule, the next episode of The Writer and the Critic will not air until August — but it will be well worth the wait! Kirstyn and Ian have chosen to look at two recent speculative fiction anthologies which have sparked some discussion of late: We See a Different Frontier: A Postcolonial Speculative Fiction Anthology edited by Fabio Fernandes and Djibril al-Ayad, and Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older.

Read ahead and join in the spoilerific fun!

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It’s Surprise Gift Day!

Haighs Chocolate FrogI love surprises and today was apparently the day for them. I received in the mail a Haigh’s Giant Chocolate Frog and a gorgeous card from a lovely new academic friend in Adelaide by way of thanks for what I consider to be a very minor favour indeed. Certainly not worthy of Haigh’s Giant Chocolate Frog! But I will devour it anyway. Just not in one sitting … you don’t make that mistake twice, let me tell you! Although I’m assured that it is the exact same chocolate, I swear that the frogs you buy at the Melbourne Haigh’s store are just not quite a good as their brethren from Adelaide. And, of course, a chocolate frog that someone gives you is even tastier still. :-)

Original Bavarian FolktalesI also received a brand spanking new copy of Original Bavarian Folktales: A Schönwerth Selection that Past Kirstyn pre-ordered a while ago and I’d completely forgotten was due around now. Thank you, Past Kirstyn! Franz Xaver von Schönwerth collected folklore, legends and fairytales from his native Bavaria and published them in the 1850’s but they fell into obscurity until recently, eclipsed by the ongoing success of the Brothers Grimm. I’ve been dying for an English translation since I first heard about them a few years ago and this book, containing 150 fables, will finally see that wish at least partially fulfilled. I am salivating.

dead blackbirdAnd to top off this Day of Plenty, what do you think my wonderful husband decided to bring me back from his stroll to the post office? Only a ratty dead blackbird that he picked up from the side of the road with his own two hands! Or, more likely, pinched gingerly between index finger and thumb. (Don’t click on the photo if you don’t want to see a close-up of our dearly departed Senor Blackbird.)

Now, can you guess which surprise gift is my favourite?

Ha ha, trick question: I LOVE ALL OF THEM EQUALLY.

(I should probably note at this point, before someone sends the men in white coats, that I have a modest skull and skeleton collection and am hoping to salvage the skull from the blackbird. I’m not so weird that I keep random dead animals around the place for decoration. Well, not ones with the flesh still on, anyway.)

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A New Interview Concerning Perfections

One of the lovely things about having wonderful supportive writerly friends is that you can inflict your manuscripts upon them for beta reading and then, not only are they still your friend, but they are happy to interview you for their blog when said manuscript becomes an actual book.

So here is my dear friend and writing buddy, Ellen Gregory — whom, after all those sessions in the pub, I honestly thought would have had more than enough of me talking about Perfections asking me some very thoughtful questions. I try to answer in kind.

Perfections by Kirstyn McDermott

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Perfections Finally in Print … and a Launch!

Perfections by Kirstyn McDermottMy second novel, Perfections, was originally published in the dying days of 2012 by a fledging digital publisher and was made available only as an ebook. Surprisingly for me — as books published in the dying days of years are easily overlooked for awards — it still managed to pick up a couple of significant honours: the Aurealis Award for Best Horror Novel and the Australian Shadows Award for Best Novel. It also received some wonderful reviews at the time, for which I remain exceedingly grateful. But for various reasons — catch me in a bar sometime and ply me with gin and tonics — it seemed to slide beneath the notice of most readers and earlier this year the rights quietly reverted to me and it was withdrawn from sale by the publisher. I was, also quietly, very sad.

Look, I’ll be honest: I hated this book for a long time. During the bulk of the writing process, which is not entirely unusual for me, but afterwards as well. I joke with friends that it’s the book that tried to kill me, but it’s only half a joke and, to be fair, I tried to kill it just as ruthlessly. For a long time, it felt like Perfections was refusing to be the book I wanted to write. Willfully refusing. I wanted to write a dark, nightmarish tale full of blood and murder and magical mayhem and Perfections wanted to be this girlie story about sisters and relationships and love and sacrifice. Which, of course, couldn’t be real horror. Because girlie stuff.

Want to experience a severe sense of self-dislocation? Try being a feminist and having all that crap running through your head on a daily basis. It makes you finally sit down and interrogate yourself about matters of gender and genre and skewed cultural values, about how you love and will defend to the death unapologetically female horror fiction, and about exactly why it is you seem unable to apply these same principles to your own work. It makes you grow the hell up. I’m a better feminist because of Perfections.

(Want to experience an even more severe sense of self-dislocation? Try writing the last 18,000 words of your novel in one nightmarish week, taking off only three nights to sleep during that time, and then have beta readers tell you that they cannot tell the difference between those words and the rest of the book. It makes you reconsider all the things you think about yourself as a writer and your stupid, slow, careful process. It makes you grow the hell up. I’m a better writer because of Perfections.)

In any case, Perfections IS a dark, nightmarish tale full of blood and murder and magical mayhem and it is ALSO an unashamedly female story, about sisters and mothers and the strange, powerful, twisted relationships that can sometimes be wrought within families. AND it is a damned good horror novel, if I do say so myself. :-)

So we’ve come to terms at last, the novel and myself, and I can finally say that I truly am proud of it. Which is why I’m so excited that Twelfth Planet Press will be republishing Perfections and bringing it into print for the very first time. You don’t know how many people I’ve had over the past 18 months beg to know when a “real” version of the book was going to be available. Or maybe you do. Maybe you’re even one of them! If so, you’ll be delighted to hear that it is available for pre-order right now via the Twelfth Planet Press website — the new ebook will be available soon as well.

We are also launching Perfections this weekend at Continuum X in Melbourne, along with the latest installment in the Twelve Planets series, The Secret Lives of Books by Rosaleen Love. If you’ll be at the convention, we’d love you to come along:

Date: Sunday, 9 June 2014

Time: 11.00am – 11.30am

Venue: Continuum X : Carnival of Lost Souls
InterContinental Melbourne The Rialto
495 Collins St, Melbourne

Finally, I’d like to thank Alisa Krasnostein and all the team at Twelfth Planet from the bottom of my heart for their genuinely amazing efforts in getting Perfections to print so quickly. Seriously, I approached Alisa on 19 April about the possibility of publishing Perfections and here we are, less than two months later, the book all set to go out into the world with a gorgeous new cover by Amanda Rainey. Astonishing speed — Alisa has some dark magical abilities of her own when it comes to squeezing every last drop of time out of the day.

And now for some requisite blurbage:

PERFECTIONS

Two sisters. One wish. Unimaginable consequences.

Not all fairy tales are for children.

Antoinette and Jacqueline have little in common beyond a mutual antipathy for their paranoid, domineering mother, a bond which has united them since childhood. In the aftermath of a savage betrayal, Antoinette lands on her sister’s doorstep bearing a suitcase and a broken heart.

But Jacqueline, the ambitious would-be manager of a trendy Melbourne art gallery, has her own problems – chasing down a delinquent painter in the sweltering heat of a Brisbane summer. Abandoned, armed with a bottle of vodka and her own grief-spun desires, Antoinette weaves a dark and desperate magic that can never, ever be undone.

Their lives swiftly unravelling, the two sisters find themselves drawn into a tangle of lies, manipulations and the most terrible of family secrets.

Perfections sings from the page.
It is dark, compelling and monstrously beautiful.’.
Alison Goodman, New York Times bestselling author of Eon and Eona

‘Kirstyn McDermott’s prose is darkly magical, insidious and insistent. Once her words get under your skin, they are there to stay.’.
Angela Slatter, British Fantasy Award-winning author of Sourdough and Other Stories

‘Perfections is a sharp, creepy and deeply discomfiting novel full of awkward truths and raw emotions.’
Tansy Rayner Roberts, author of the Creature Court Trilogy and Love and Romanpunk.

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