The Writer and the Critic: Episode 8

Writer and Critic at Podbean

The latest episode of our podcast is now available for direct download and streaming from our brand new Podbean website or via subscription from iTunes.

Due to ongoing technical problems at Posterous, we decided to move over to Podbean which is designed for exactly the sort of thing we do. We will leave the old Posterous site online for archiving purposes — especially as we haven’t as yet been able to import our lovely listener comments into the Podbean site — but if you’ve subscribed to our RSS feed there, it will no longer be updated. All iTunes subscriptions should continue without interruption, although you might find duplicate listings of Episodes 1-7 on your subscription. No need to download them again — the audio files haven’t changed.

Feedback on the new site or the podcast itself is most welcome!

And now, without further ado, here are the show notes for Episode 8:

This month The Writer and the Critic comes to you as a LIVE record from Continuum 7 — Melbourne’s own speculative fiction and pop culture convention — with the incomparable Catherynne M. Valente as special guest podcaster. Ian, Kirstyn and Cat discuss the problems and politics involved when writers review the work of friends and the need for honesty in online opinion. Cat talks about the popular and critical response to her own work, why sad pandas make everyone else sad as well, and why she is currently taking a break from writing negative reviews on her blog. Rose Fox’s recent article about the necessity for candour in reviews is also briefly mentioned.


(photo: Art Bébé Promotions)

The first two books up for discussion are Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King (recommended by Kirstyn) and Among Others by Jo Walton (Ian’s pick). This review of Among Others is pointed as being one Jo Walton herself particularly likes, whereas these two became the subject of reader vitriol over at her LiveJournal — an incident which Cat, Ian and Kirstyn talk about at length in regards to the writing of memoir and authorial responses to critics. For those wishing to avoid spoilers and skip ahead, discussion of Full Dark, No Stars begins at 19:00, while Among Others starts around 40:50.


The trio then turn their attention to the newly released Embassytown by China Mieville — selected by Cat — which Ian and Kirstyn possibly manage to make sound a little more boring than it actually is. You don’t need a degree in linguistic theory, honest! (China himself has provided a far better summary of the book.) The discussion of Embassytown, including a rather heated debate between Ian and Kirstyn about post-colonialism, begins at 1:07:40.


Check back in at the 1:35:00 mark for some (very brief) final remarks.

Next month The Writer and the Critic will feature Melbourne author Cameron Rogers, who has chosen World War Z by Max Brooks for Ian and Kirstyn to read.

Ian’s recommended book will be a short story collection, Eclipse 4 edited by Jonathan Strahan, while Kirstyn’s pick is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Read ahead and join in the spoilerific fun!


Continuum, Quilts and Chronos Awards

I had a fantastic and satisfyingly exhausting time at Continuum 7 over the long weekend. The panels I saw were entertaining and engaging and Catherynne M. Valente was one of the most gracious and erudite and downright fun-to-be-around Guests of Honour a convention could hope to have. She was also a special guest on The Writer and the Critic podcast that Ian Mond and myself recorded live at the con — it will be available very soon; I just need to get some more sleep before finishing post-production — and one of my team-mates on the Great Debate. Which we won. Immortality for everyone! I also loved the enthusiastic, intelligent and impassioned discussions that took place during almost all of the panels I participated in — among panelists and audiences alike. It’s invigorating and inspiring to be in a room full of people so keen to discuss and debate and contribute. Possibly the highlight of the convention for me was the Dark Delights panel which explored the links between beauty and horror. Kyla Ward performed one of her poems with her usual aplomb and Talie Helene knocked everyone’s socks off with a stunning a cappella rendition of an old ghost ballad. (Talie’s working on an exciting new multi-media project … more details soon.)

Chronos Award 2011

Oh, and I won a very pretty Chronos Award for Madigan Mine! Karen Healey‘s Aurealis Award-winning novel, The Guardian of the Dead, was nominated in the same category and I was fortunate enough to meet and have dinner with Karen on the Sunday night. She’s witty and delightful and I’m looking forward to reading her new novel, The Shattering, which is due for release in July. (I was so very good and only purchased that one book at the convention — my To Be Read pile is already structurally unsound!)

The full list of 2011 Chronos Award winners are:

  • Best Long Fiction: Madigan Mine, Kirstyn McDermott (Pan MacMillan Australia)
  • Best Short Fiction: “Her Gallant Needs”, Paul Haines (Sprawl, Twelfth Planet Press)
  • Best Artwork: Australis Imaginarium cover, Shaun Tan (FableCroft Publishing)
  • Best Fan Writer: Alexandra Pierce
  • Best Fan Written Work: “Review: The Secret Feminist Cabal by Helen Merrick”, Alexandra Pierce
  • Best Fan Artwork: Continuum 6 Props, Rachel Holkner
  • Best Fan Publication: Live Boxcutters Doctor Who at AussieCon IV, Josh Kinal and John Richards
  • Best Achievement: Programming: AussieCon IV, Sue Ann Barber and Grant Watson

I should also remind you that the Conquilt fundraising auction is now up and running on eBay with some impressive early bidding. It’s an amazingly gorgeous quilt — after seeing it on display at Continuum, I’m half-tempted to bid on it myself. Honestly, the photos really don’t do it any justice at all.

I’m already very excited about attending Continuum 8 next year. Not only is the NatCon but it has Kelly Link and Alison Goodman as Guests of Honour. Huzzah!

Finally, on matters unrelated to Continuum, I was interviewed by the Adventures of a Bookonaut blog as part of an ongoing series featuring Australian spec fic authors. The questions were about authors and social media, and I had a lot of fun answering them. Next time you have a few minutes to spare, wander across and have a read. Sean’s blog is a treasure trove of news and reviews and other SF tidbits — well worth following!

In Melbourne this Weekend: Continuum 7

I’m spending the long weekend at Continuum 7, Melbourne’s own Speculative Fiction and Pop Culture Convention. If you haven’t yet purchased your membership, you’re most welcome to come along on the Friday night — it’s free! You’ll have a great time and you might even want to purchase a full or day membership for the weekend.

Here’s what I’ll be getting up to:

  • 9.00pm — Friday 10 June –Earth/Fire Room
    Great Debate: Immortality – There’s No Future In It
    Who wants to live forever! No, really, who does? Is eternal life all it’s cracked up to be? Which is worse, death and the great unknown or hanging around for all eternity as a head in a jar? Our two teams of crack debaters will tackle this topic – but who will triumph? Hosted by Jack Dann, Debated by Catherynne M. Valente, Dave Freer, Narrelle Harris, Richard Harland, Kirstyn McDermott, Heath Miller
  • 11.00pm — Friday 10 June — Sun Room
    Dark Delights
    Take your place, on the chaise lounge, pop a chocolate and enjoy the recitals, readings and discussion. Just how can something horrific be depicted as beautiful? Talie Helene, Kirstyn McDermott, Kyla Ward
  • 6.00pm — Saturday 11 June — Fire Room
    What’s Happening to the Bookselling Industry?
    Borders and Angus & Robertson, gone! Is it the end times? Why are booksellers collapsing & what is replacing them in popularity? Justin Ackroyd, Crisetta MacLeod, Kirstyn McDermott, Julia Svaganovic
  • 2.00pm — Sunday 12 June — Sun Room
    Vampire Circus
    Where the vampires go, other monsters seem sure to follow. Werewolves, ghouls, fairies and all manner of supernatural creatures populate the vampire circus, but do we we really need them? Can — should — monsters take centre ring without inviting all their friends? Jason Nahrung, Narrelle Harris, Kirsytn McDermott, Heath Miller, Julia Svaganovic
  • 5.00pm — Sunday 12 June — Harmony Room
    Author Reading (20 minutes)
  • 8.00pm — Sunday 12 June — Fire Room
    Writer and the Critic
    The Writer and The Critic presents its first ever live-in-front-of-real-people podcast. Kirstyn McDermott (most definitely the Writer) and Ian Mond (not much of a critic, but we’ll make do) discuss books they have recommended to each other. Things might get fiery, offensive and painful, but it will also be an eloquent and erudite deconstruction of genre. Or something. Special guest podcaster: Catherynne M. Valente.  Kirstyn selected “Full Dark, No Stars” by Stephen King, Ian has chosen “Among Others” by Jo Walton, and Cat’s pick is “EmbassyTown” by China Meiville. Warning: There will be spoilers! Come and listen and throw things at Ian. You know you want to.
  • 12.00pm — Monday 13 June — Earth Room
    Crones, Witches and Marginalised Power in Fairytales
    Witches dominate as fairytale villains; how did older women get such a bad rap? Why is age and power in women something to fear and is that notion being changed in modern retellings? Let’s talk about fear, death, and post-menopausal sexual agency–and some good old fashioned crones. Catherynne M. Valente, Kirstyn McDermott, Emily De Rango, Kirsty Sculler, Julia Svaganovic

The full program is available here at the Continuum website. See you there!

Conquilt Fundraising Auction for Continuum!


Conquilt is a record of nearly one hundred of the attending authors, editors, publishers and illustrators to Aussiecon 4, the 68th World Science Fiction Convention held in Melbourne Australia in September 2010. Signatures (and the odd sketch) were collected throughout the convention and assembled into this colourful quilt by Rachel Holkner and award-winning quilter Jeanette Holkner, based on the pattern ‘Tribble Trouble’ by Martha Thompson. It measures 152 cm x 192 cm with a 5cm diameter rod pocket on the back for easy display..

Conquilt will be on display throughout Continuum 7. There will be an auction launch at 8.45pm on Friday 10 June in the Earth Room, so if you’re in Melbourne, you can come in and see it for yourself! The quilt will be auctioned on eBay beginning at 9pm on Friday 10 June 2011 and ending on 20 June. The exact URL will be posted on the official Conquilt page, or you can search simply eBay for “conquilt”.

All funds raised by this auction will benefit Continuum, Melbourne’s own annual Speculative Fiction and Pop Culture Convention.

I was lucky enough to be asked to sign one of the panels and feel very honoured to be included among such speculative fiction luminaries. Just look at all these amazingly talented folks who’ve put pen to fabric:

Alan Baxter    Alastair Reynolds    Alisa Krasnostein    Alison Croggon    Amanda Pillar   Andrew J. McKiernan    Angie Rega    Bill Congreve    Bob Eggleton   Carrie Vaughn    Cat Sparks    Catherynne M. Valente    Charles Stross   China Mieville    Chris Miles (an associate of H. I. Larry)    Chuck McKenzie   Cory Doctorow    Deborah Biancotti    Delia Sherman    Dirk Flinthart    Duncan Lay    Fiona McIntosh    Foz Meadows    Gail Carriger   Garth Nix    George Ivanoff    George R. R. Martin    Gillian Polack   Glenda Larke    Grace Duggan    Howard Tayler    Ian Irvine    Ian Nichols   Jane Routley    Jason Nahrung    Jay Lake    Jean Johnson    Jenner   Jennifer Fallon    Jetse de Vries    John Scalzi    Jonathan Strahan    Juliet Marillier    K. A. Bedford    K. J. Taylor    Kaaron Warren    Kaja Foglio    Karen Haber    Karen Healey     Kate Elliot    Kate Paulk    Kathleen Jennings    Keith Stevenson    Kim Stanley Robinson    Kirstyn McDermott    Kyla Ward    Lara Morgan    Leanne Hall    Lisa L. Hannett    Lucy Sussex    Marianne de Pierres    Mary Victoria    Matthew Hughes    Michael Pryor    Michelle Marquardt    Narrelle M. Harris    Nick Stathopoulos    Nicole R. Murphy    Paul Collins    Paul Cornell    Paul Haines    Peter M. Ball    Peter V. Brett    Phil Foglio   Richard Harland    Rjurik Davidson    Rob Shearman    Robert Hood    Robert Silverberg   Russell B. Farr    Russell Blackford    Russell Kirkpatrick    Seanan McGuire    Shane Jiraya Cummings    Shaun Tan    Sue Bursztynski    Tansy Rayner Roberts    Tehani Wessely    Tracey O’Hara    Trent Jamieson    Trudi Canavan

Just quietly, I think that’s going to be one hotly contested auction!