WorldCon – AussieCon4 – Schedule

Here’s what I’ll be doing at WorldCon in September. If you’re going to be there, please drop by and say hello.

Thursday 2 September – 3pm – Room 210
Why Australia is More Horrifying Than Anywhere Else
The weather, the reptiles, what it took to get here today—the tallest
tales and most salacious facts, for the edification of our overseas
Alan Baxter, Will Elliott, Kirstyn McDermott, Chuck McKenzie, Andrew McKiernan

Friday, 3 September – 4pm – Room 203
Book Launch – Macabre:
A Journey through Australia’s Darkest Fears

Saturday, 4 September – 11am – Room 203
Book Launch – Scene
s from the Second Storey

Saturday, 4 September – 4pm – Room 201
Author Signing Session

Sunday, 5 September – 12pm (noon) – Room 212
3D Cinema: Revolution or Novelty?
With Avatar, Alice in Wonderland and Clash of the Titans leading the
box office for the first half of 2010, it would appear that 3D cinema
may be around for a while. Is it a genuine revolution in filmmaking,
or simply a cynical attempt by the studios to part audiences with more
of their money? What – if anything – does 3D offer to filmmakers. Do
we need a new visual language for the next generation of cinema?
K. J. Taylor, Tee Morris, Kirstyn McDermott, Darren Maxwell

Sunday, 5 September – 1pm – Room 213
Has Hollywood Sucked the Vampires Dry?

Adaptations of the Twilight novels are topping the global box office.
TV dramas such as True Blood and The Vampire Diaries are big hits. In
one form or another, the vampire has been a mainstay of film and
television since the days of Nosferatu. After so many decades, and so
many variations on a theme, is there anything left for vampires to do?
An examination of the vampire in film, TV and popular culture: where
it is now and where it could – and should – be going.
Marianne de Pierres, Catherynne M. Valente, Lara Morgan, Kirstyn McDermott

Monday, 6 September – 12pm – Room 219
Australian Gothic

How can there be Australian Gothic stories when the nation is new and
sunburnt rather than dark, old and gloomy?
Robert Hood, Erica Hayes, Terry Dowling, Kirstyn McDermott, Lucy Sussex

Monday, 6 September – 3pm – Room 207
Author Reading


Bret Easton Ellis at the Athenaeum

Bret Easton Ellis

Last friday night — Friday the 13th — my beloved and I went to see Bret Easton Ellis speak at the glorious old Athenaeum Theatre, an appearance organised by the Wheeler Centre in conjuction with the Melbourne Writers Festival. I like Ellis’ books —  Lunar Park in particular is outstanding — although I haven’t had a chance to read his new novel, Imperial Bedrooms, which this tour is supporting. I had minor reservations about seeing him in person — “I hope he’s not a dick,” is what I said to Jason on the way in — as I didn’t want the personality of the author to override my future reading of his work. This is a real danger. There are authors whose work I used to like a great deal before I met them in person, or saw interviews with them, or something else, and they turned out to be dicks. If they turn out to be big enough dicks, that colours my view of their work and I find it hard to enjoy it anymore. But Ellis wasn’t a dick.  He was cool. And funny. And had lots of interesting things to say about himself, and writing, and pop culture, and much else.

It was a meta-interview of sorts: Bret Easton Ellis dissecting the interview process, the publication process, the writing process, the process of being Bret Easton Ellis, and his fans were happy to play along. The Q&A section at the end, while stupid and somewhat embarrassing, actually felt like a continuation of the whole performance of Bret Easton Ellis as Bret Easton Ellis. Very clever-clever questions, very well-rehearsed, often straddling the border between insult and come-on, often tumbling clumsily to one side or the other. Apart from the last awful train-wreck of an exchange between a self-important, self-avowed “inner-city hipster” and the obviously bemused and perplexed author, the most obnoxious one was probably: “Do you ever wish that maybe someone killed you at the peak of your career?” Because, yeah, not only does Ellis wish he was dead but he’s quite happy to acknowledge that his best days are behind him!

It was a strange night. I’m not sure I know that much more about Ellis than I did before I went — although I am sure I know no more than he wants me to know — but I enjoyed myself, and I enjoyed the show. And now the Wheeler Centre has uploaded a video of the entire night for the viewing pleasure of those who didn’t make it along. It runs for over an hour, so grab yourself a tasty beverage then sit back and enjoy the ride. Even if you haven’t read any of his work, Ellis as performance makes for compelling viewing.

Books, book launches and zombie goodness

Some exciting bits of news have come across my virtual desk this week and it’s only Tuesday evening!

Firstly, Ticonderoga Publications has announced a forthcoming collection of stories by A Bertram Chandler Award-winning, internationally respected writer and researcher Lucy Sussex. The collection has a working title of Matilda Told Such Dreadful Lies and is scheduled for publication in mid-2011. Read more.

Saltwater in the Ink

click to enlarge

For those in Melbourne who can’t wait that long, Lucy Sussex will be launching her non-fiction book, Saltwater in the Ink, a collection of 19th century diaries as a free event at the Melbourne Writers’ festival. There’ll be performances from the Rogues Choir as well as dramatised readings, and I have it on good authority that those coming along in Victorian garb will be made more than welcome!

When:  11.30am, 29 August 2010

Where: Feddish, Federation Square, Melbourne.

In other news from Ticonderoga Publication, there is also a collection of stories by Ditmar and Chronos Award-winner and new sensation Felicity Dowker to which we can look forward to reading . . . albeit a long way forward. The collection is tentatively titled Bread and Circuses and scheduled for publication in 2012. It’s certainly a book I’m keen to have on my shelf! Read more.

And finally, Necroscope,  the official zombie fiction review blog, is having a subscription drive. For the chance to win a whole swag of tasty undead goodness, simply visit the site and become a “Shambler” (click on the follow button). A winner will be drawn at random on 16 September 2010, so get clicking!

The Problematic First Person

I’m off to Phillip Island for an impromptu writing retreat this weekend, hoping to kick some serious Novel the Second butt. Things are stagnating a little right now (mainly because I’ve been insanely busy with non-writing life stuff) and it will be wonderful to have an entire, internet-free, intensive weekend away to focus on nothing but my novel.

But first, I wanted to jot down a few thoughts regarding first person narratives which have been knocking about in my head this past week. These were sparked off by a blog post from one of my favourite writers, Caitlin R Kiernan. Both the post and the discussion in the comments which follows it are well worth a read. The pertinent section begins:

When you’re reading a first-person narration, you’re reading a story that’s being told by a fictional author, and that fictional author— or interauthor —is, essentially, the central character. Their motivations are extremely important to the story. The simple fact that they are telling the story, in some fictional universe, raises questions that I believe have to be addressed by first-person narratives. Why is the interauthor writing all this down? How long is it taking her or him? Do they intend it to be read by others? Is it a confessional? Reflection? A warning? Also (and this is a BIG one), what happens to the interauthor while the story is being written, especially if it’s a novel-length work of fiction?

At the centre of Kiernan’s discussion about first person narratives, and the role of their interauthor, is the presumption that the narrative is actually being written down. That the interauthor has, consciously, written the book that you are reading. “A first-person narrative is, by definition, an artifact,” Kiernan notes, “and should be treated as such.”  If this is the case, then all sorts of problems regarding motivation and the passage of time do come into play and need to be considered — by both the writer and the reader.

But for myself — as both writer and reader — I never assume that a first person narrative is an actual artifact, any more than I assume this for third person narratives. Unless the narrator tells me that, yes, they are writing this story down, or it is apparent from the style (a journal, a series of letters, a collection of documents), then I don’t consider to be a “told story” as such. Although, I am necessarily aware that I am reading (or writing) an actual book — a fictional narrative created by a real world author — I put this knowledge aside when I embark on the journey. It’s part of my contract, as reader (or writer), with the story. I don’t think about the interauthor as an author unless it is clear that this is the case, and therefore I do not consider why they maybe writing the narrative down, how much time the process takes, what purpose it is meant to serve, and so on — because, for me, it is not being written down.

(This is why I have no problem, in principle, with a first person narration that ends with the death of the protagonist. It just better be written well!)

So what is the first person narrative then, if it is not a story written down by the interauthor? Where does it exist, and how? For me, it exists in the same place, and in the way, as third person narratives. When I read a story in the third person, I don’t consciously think, for example, “Caitlin Kiernan is telling me this”. The author disappears as much in third person as she does in first person, and the story becomes a thing which exists in its own right, somewhere between the page and my mind. It needs to be well written, it needs to follow its own internal logic, it needs have something — characters, plot, an idea — that I care enough about to interest me for the duration, but it does not necessarily need to ask/answer the question, “Why/how/when was this written?”

I’m thinking about this kind of stuff because, while mired in the middle of Novel the Second, I am already looking ahead to Novel the Third. My first novel, Madigan Mine, was written in the first person, but I don’t consider it to be an artifact The narrator/protagonist is not writing the story down in any way — that is, in the world of the story, the novel does not exist. My second novel is being told in third person, albeit third person limited, which brings its own set of problems and advantages. But my third novel will be a first person narrative once again — a narrative that, this time, is being self-consciously created by the interauthor.

I’m looking forward to working like that very much, as most of my fiction is written without this sort of self-consciousness, with an attempt to keep the “author” invisible and non-existent. The idea of writing a book that unashamedly proclaims itself to be a book, where the narrator — the interauthor — is explicitly acknowledging that they have created the story you are reading, feels both liberating and terrifying. There’s a whole swag of author tricks I won’t have to use for this story, but at the same time, there’s a whole swag of author tricks I won’t be able to use for this story. It will be a challenge. It’s very early days, but I’m already feeling my way into the story and the characters, and I can’t wait until I’m ready to begin.

First things first, though. Novel the Second, how about you and me run away to an island and make some sweet words together?

Midnight Echo Interview

Scott Wilson interviewed me recently for Midnight Echo #5 which is due out towards the end of the year. I really enjoyed answering the questions for this one and I’m looking forward to seeing it in print. Midnight Echo is the official magazine of the Australian Horror Writers Association (AHWA) and well worth a look if the dark side of speculative fiction is your cup of warm blood.

I’ve just been informed that the AHWA has posted my Midnight Echo interview on their website in advance of print publication, so toddle over and have a gander. There is also a whole swag of interviews with some pretty amazing spec fic authors, including Trent Jamieson, Trudi Canavan, and Foz Meadows. There, that should take care of your afternoon. 🙂

Madigan Mine: the book launch that was

The book launch for Madigan Mine on Monday night when exceedingly well. Lots of lovely people came along to the Carlton library and ate yummy food and drank yummy wine (or orange juice) and had a wonderful time. The brilliant and erudite Lucy Sussex gave a introduction which included a neat timeline of the Gothic in Australian literature, as well as some very nice things about yours truly:

Kirstyn has easily and gracefully moved from short story to novel form with Madigan Mine. It’s a very Melbourne story, and also a very Gothic story — being about Goths, but also about a truism of human nature, that being drawn to the dark side can lead us to some very banal evils. A love story, which turns into a hate story. Strongly characterised, intensely and skillfully narrated, and lastly beautifully written. Here’s my favourite line from the novel: “The past is a poisonous place and I’m not going to live in it any longer.”

Thanks so much, Lucy. Thanks also go to Theary and the staff at Carlton Library for having us, as well as the delightful crew from PanMacmillan (Debra, Meagan, Corey and Kate) who came to fly the flag on the night, Justin Ackroyd of Slow Glass Books for purveying of books, Tiger Lily cafe for catering, and of course, to everyone who came along to help me celebrate, as well as those who sent their regrets but very best wishes.

I talked to a lot of people, but didn’t get to meet everyone who came, for which I do apologise. Thank you, thank you all for coming. I also signed a lot of books . . . and for my appalling handwriting and wildly differing signatures, I also must apologise. 🙂 My beloved, Jason Nahrung, wandered around with a camera:

Lucy Sussex

Lucy Sussex waxing lyrical

Justin Ackroyd

Justin Ackroyd ... bookseller extraordinaire


The lovely people from PanMacmillan ... Debra, Meagan, Corey (who designed Madigan Mine's amazing cover) and Kate.

Kirstyn McDermott


Kirstyn McDermott

My favourite purple pen!

Madigan Mine Book Launch

Rowena ... all the way from Brisbane!

Madigan Mine Book Launch

Ori and Ian, two of my oldest friends

Madigan Mine Book Launch

Ian, Ori and . . . iPad!!

Madigan Mine Book Launch

Myself and Julia

Madigan Mine Book Launch

An ebullient Rachel

Madigan Mine Book Launch

Blurry Elizabeth, sharper Steve 🙂

Madigan Mine Book Launch

Sarah and Talie

Madigan Mine Book Launch

Paul Collins and Jane Routley

Madigan Mine Book Launch

Ellen and Tracie

Madigan Mine Book Launch

Tracie, Paul and Miranda

Madigan Mine Book Launch

Listening attentively ...

Madigan Mine Book Launch

... and general milling about

Kirstyn McDermott

Tired but exceedingly happy!

2010 Ditmar Awards Final Ballot

The final ballot for the 2010 Ditmar Awards has been announced and it’s an incredibly impressive list indeed. Any members of the 2010 (Dudcon) or 2009 (Conjecture) National conventions can cast a vote in the final ballot. So if you’re eligible, don’t forget to make your voice heard by Wednesday, 1st September 2010.

Best Novel

* Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld (Penguin)
* Liar, Justine Larbalestier (Bloomsbury)
* World Shaker, Richard Harland (Allen& Unwin)
* Slights, Kaaron Warren (Angry Robot Books)
* Life Through Cellophane, Gillian Polack (Eneit Press)

Best Novella or Novelette

* “Siren Beat”, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Twelfth Planet Press)
* “Black Water”, David Conyers (Jupiter Magazine)
* “After the World: Gravesend”, Jason Fischer (Black House Comics)
* “Horn”, Peter M. Ball (Twelfth Planet Press)
* “Wives”, Paul Haines (X6/Couer de Lion)

Best Short Story

* “The Piece of Ice in Ms Windermere’s Heart”, Angela Slatter (New Ceres
Nights, Twelfth Planet Press)
* “Six Suicides”, Deborah Biancotti (A Book of Endings, Twelfth Planet
* “Black Peter”, Marty Young (Festive Fear, Tasmaniac Publications)
* “Seventeen”, Cat Sparks (Masques, CSFG)
* “Tontine Mary”, Kaaron Warren (New Ceres Nights, Twelfth Planet Press)
* “Prosperine When it Sizzles”, Tansy Rayner Roberts (New Ceres Nights,
Twelfth Planet Press)

Best Collected Work

* The New Space Opera 2, edited by Jonathan Strahan and Gardner Dozois
* New Ceres Nights, edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Tehani Wessely
(Twelfth Planet Press)
* Slice Of Life, Paul Haines, edited by Geoffrey Maloney (The Mayne Press)
* A Book of Endings, edited by Deborah Biancotti, Alisa Krasnostein and
Ben Payne (Twelfth Planet Press)
* Eclipse Three, edited by Jonathan Strahan (Night Shade Books)

Best Artwork

* Cover art, New Ceres Nights (Twelfth Planet Press), Dion Hamill
* Cover art, The Whale’s Tale (Peggy Bright Books), Eleanor Clarke
* Cover art and illustrations, Shards: Short Sharp Tales (Brimstone
Press), Andrew J. McKiernan
* Cover art, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #42, Lewis Morley
* Cover art, “Horn” (Twelfth Planet Press), Dion Hamill
* Cover art, Masques (CSFG), Mik Bennett

Best Fan Writer

* Tansy Rayner Roberts, for body of work
* Chuck McKenzie, for work in Horrorscope
* Robert Hood, for Undead Backbrain (
* Tehani Wessely, for body of work
* Bruce Gillespie, for work in Steam Engine Time

Best Fan Artist

* Dave Schembri, for work in Midnight Echo
* Kathleen Jennings, for body of work
* Dick Jenssen, for body of work

Best Fan Publication in Any Medium

* Interstellar Ramjet Scoop , edited by Bill Wright
* A Writer Goes on a Journey (, edited by
Nyssa Pascoe et al
* ASif! (, edited by Alisa Krasnostein, Gene
Melzack et al
* Australian Science Fiction Bullsheet (, edited by
Edwina Harvey and Ted Scribner
* Steam Engine Time , edited by Bruce Gillespie and Janine Stinson

Best Achievement

* Alisa Krasnostein, Liz Grzyb, Tehani Wessely, Cat Sparks and Kate
Williams, for the New Ceres Nights booklaunch
* H. Gibbens, for the Gamers’ Quest CGI-animated book trailer
* Ruth Jenkins and Cathy Jenkins-Rutherford, for the children’s program
at Conjecture
* Amanda Rainey, for the cover design of Siren Beat/Roadkill (Twelfth
Planet Press)
* Gillian Polack et al, for the Southern Gothic banquet at Conflux

Best New Talent

* Pete Kempshall
* Kathleen Jennings
* Thoraiya Dyer
* Jason Fischer
* Simon Petrie
* Christopher Green
* Peter M. Ball

William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review

* Chuck McKenzie, for “The Dead Walk! … Into a Bookstore Near You” (Eye
of Fire #1, Brimstone Press)
* Ian Mond, for reviews on his blog (
* Grant Watson, for reviews and articles for Eiga: Asian Cinema
* Helen Merrick, for The Secret Feminist Cabal: a cultural history of
science fiction feminisms (Aqueduct Press)