Women on Book Covers: Counterpoint

Because it’s not enough to criticise when Wrong Things Are Wrong; we also need to offer kudos when they are indeed due. As for example, this excellent cover for Ann Aguirre’s new novel, Endgame:


What a magnificent pose. An action-oriented female character who immediately presents as being strong, confident, physically capable and physically aware. An unquestionably female character who, yes, possesses both butt and breasts, but is not concerned with making them the centre of your attention. Because she is, after all, much more than the sum of her parts. A female character who snares you with a sharp, intelligent gaze and challenges you to read her story. Or not, because she actually has more important things going on in her world than caring about whether or not you are watching her.

I could go on about how much I love this cover, and why, but come on … just look at it!

I will point out that I’ve never read any of the Sirantha Jax novels but, hot damn, I really, really want to get my hands on them now. Which, you know, is exactly what a good book cover is meant to inspire in a reader. Well done, that illustrator there!



Ditmar Award Ballot Announced: Voting Now Open!

Ditmar Award 2011

The ballot for the 2012 Ditmar Awards has just been announced and what an impressive list it is! I’m particularly excited because this year I’ve actually read/heard/seen more than half of the nominees across the ballot, so I feel particularly informed. Not that I believe in the whole, “You have to have read/heard/seen everything in order to vote responsibly” argument, but it’s really nice to be in a position where I’ll have several hard choices ahead of me when I sit down to fill out that ballot. Hmm, I wonder how many of those gaps I can fill before before the voting closes …

The Ditmar Awards will be announced at Continuum 8, which serves as the NatCon for 2012. Hearty congratulations to all the nominees:

Best Novel

  • The Shattered City (Creature Court 2), Tansy Rayner Roberts (HarperCollins)
  • Burn Bright, Marianne de Pierres (Random House Australia)
  • Mistification, Kaaron Warren (Angry Robot Books)
  • The Courier’s New Bicycle, Kim Westwood (HarperCollins)
  • Debris (The Veiled Worlds 1), Jo Anderton (Angry Robot Books)

Best Novella or Novelette

  • “The Sleeping and the Dead”, Cat Sparks, in Ishtar (Gilgamesh Press)
  • “Above”, Stephanie Campisi, in Above/Below (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • “The Past is a Bridge Best Left Burnt”, Paul Haines, in The Last Days of Kali Yuga (Brimstone Press)
  • “And the Dead Shall Outnumber the Living”, Deborah Biancotti, in Ishtar (Gilgamesh Press)
  • “Julia Agrippina’s Secret Family Bestiary”, Tansy Rayner Roberts, in Love and Romanpunk (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • “Below”, Ben Peek, in Above/Below (Twelfth Planet Press)

Best Short Story

  • “Breaking the Ice”, Thoraiya Dyer, in Cosmos 37
  • “Alchemy”, Lucy Sussex, in Thief of Lives (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • “The Last Gig of Jimmy Rucker”, Martin Livings and Talie Helene, in More Scary Kisses (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • “All You Can Do Is Breathe”, Kaaron Warren, in Blood and Other Cravings (Tor)
  • “Bad Power”, Deborah Biancotti, in Bad Power (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • “The Patrician”, Tansy Rayner Roberts, in Love and Romanpunk (Twelfth Planet Press)

Best Collected Work

  • The Last Days of Kali Yuga by Paul Haines, edited by Angela Challis (Brimstone Press)
  • Nightsiders by Sue Isle, edited by Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • Bad Power by Deborah Biancotti, edited by Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • Love and Romanpunk by Tansy Rayner Roberts, edited by Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • Ishtar, edited by Amanda Pillar and K. V. Taylor (Gilgamesh Press)

Best Artwork

  • “Finishing School”, Kathleen Jennings, in Steampunk!: An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories (Candlewick Press)
  • Cover art, Kathleen Jennings, for The Freedom Maze (Small Beer Press)

Best Fan Writer

  • Tansy Rayner Roberts, for body of work including reviews in Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus! and Not If You Were The Last Short Story On Earth
  • Alexandra Pierce, for body of work including reviews in Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus!, Not If You Were The Last Short Story On Earth, and Randomly Yours, Alex
  • Robin Pen, for “The Ballad of the Unrequited Ditmar”
  • Sean Wright, for body of work including “Authors and Social Media” series in Adventures of a Bookonaut
  • Bruce Gillespie, for body of work including “The Golden Age of Fanzines is Now”, and SF Commentary 81 & 82

Best Fan Artist

  • Rebecca Ing, for work in Scape
  • Lisa Rye, for “Steampunk Portal” series
  • Dick Jenssen, for body of work including work in IRS, Steam Engine Time, SF Commentary and Scratchpad
  • Kathleen Jennings, for work in Errantry (tanaudel.wordpress.com) including “The Dalek Game”
  • Rhianna Williams, for work in Nullas Anxietas Convention Programme Book

Best Fan Publication in Any Medium

  • SF Commentary, edited by Bruce Gillespie
  • The Writer and the Critic, Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond
  • The Coode Street Podcast, Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
  • Galactic Chat, Alisa Krasnostein, Tansy Rayner Roberts and Sean Wright
  • Galactic Suburbia, Alisa Krasnostein, Tansy Rayner Roberts, and Alex Pierce

Best New Talent

  • Steve Cameron
  • Alan Baxter
  • Joanne Anderton

William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review

  • Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene, for “2010: The Year in Review”, in The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2010 (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • Damien Broderick and Van Ikin, for editing Warriors of the Tao: The Best of Science Fiction: A Review of Speculative Literature (Borgo Press)
  • David McDonald, Tansy Rayner Roberts and Tehani Wessely for “Reviewing New Who” series, in A Conversational Life
  • Alexandra Pierce and Tehani Croft Wessely, for reviews of Vorkosigan Saga, in Randomly Yours, Alex
  • Russell Blackford, for “Currently reading: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke”, in Metamagician and the Hellfire Club

You might have noticed that The Writer and the Critic, the podcast I do with my dear friend Ian Mond, has been nominated in the Best Fan Publication category. This is a great honour considering the high calibre of the field we’re up against — three other fantastic podcasts as well as the venerable Steam Engine Time which sees Bruce Gillespie holding the line for print publications — and I can say with all sincerity that I absolutely do not care who carries away this particular Ditmar. It’s going to be such a great night!

The 2012 Australian SF (“Ditmar”) Awards recognise excellence in Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror by Australians in 2011. Voting for the Ditmar Awards is open to all members of Continuum 8 (including supporting members) and to members of Swancon 36 who were eligible to vote in the 2011 Awards. You can vote online here or else download a PDF of the ballot to mail in.

All votes must be received by 11.59pm on 27th May, 2012.


False Equivalence: An Amusing Illustration by Jim C. Hines

Back in January, when I wasn’t blogging, one of my perpetually open tabs was this post by Jim C. Hines in which he attempted to reproduce the ways in which females are often posed on genre book covers. His conclusion was that:

My sense is that most of these covers are supposed to convey strong, sexy heroines, but these are not poses that suggest strength. You can’t fight from these stances. I could barely even walk.

Bouncing off a recent Tor.com article about that pose — Tits AND Ass, Let Me Shown You Them — and how there really is is no male equivalent, Jim has now reproduced some book cover poses where (it was suggested, mainly in the Tor.com comments) males are sexually objectified. His conclusions this time around?

  1. Men on book covers are indeed posed shirtless in ways that show off their musculature. However…
  2. Male poses do not generally emphasize sexuality at the expense of all other considerations.
  3. Male poses do emphasize the character’s power and strength in a way many (most?) female cover poses don’t.
  4. When posed with a woman, the man will usually be in the dominant, more powerful posture.
  5. Male poses do not generally require a visit to the chiropractor afterward

Posing Like A Man

He also suggests checking out this post by LJ user genrereviews wherein she recreates side by side comparisons of male and female poses, with detailed and enlightening commentary.

These are both fantastic resources and ones I want to shove in the face of point out to everyone who’s ever said to me, “Stop bitching about how women are represented in covers/movies/comics/art/advertising because men are also sexually objectified, dontcha know? It’s just the culture! We’re all obsessed with sex!” If you’re one of those people, you need to have a good look at what Jim Hines and genreviews have done and take special note of what they say about how recreating those poses made them feel.

You might also want to brush up on the definition of false equivalence, most effectively explained here in the Shortpacked webcomic by David Willis. Just don’t read the comments. Or do. Just don’t blame me for your blood pressure. Or the resulting head-shaped indentation in your wall.


Shirley Jackson Award Nominees Announced!

Shirley Jackson AwardsThe nominees for this year’s Shirley Jackson Awards has been announced and it’s so wonderful see Australian author Deborah Biancotti make the list for her novella, “And the Dead Shall Outnumber the Living”, published in Ishar  by Gilgamesh Press. Ishtar is a superb anthology featuring not only Deb’s piece but also two other interwoven novellas by Kaaron Warren and Cat Sparks, and it’s been nominated for an Aurealis Award. I highly recommend the book for anyone interested in seeing the truly top-notch work that Australian spec fic writers are producing right now.

The Awards will be announced on 15 July 2012 and the full list of nominees can be found here. Hmm, looks like a mighty fine reading list to me …

The Shirley Jackson Awards recognise outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic. They are voted upon by a jury of professional writers, editors, critics, and academics, with input from a Board of Advisors. The awards are given for the best work published in the preceding calendar year in the following categories: Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Single-Author Collection, and Edited Anthology.


The Writer and the Critic: Episode 18

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!

Here are the show notes:

On this episode of The Writer and the Critic, Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond spend a little time talking about gender and reading in response to feedback received from one of their lovely listeners. Be warned, there may be some unqualified generalisations scattered about and there is definitely some drawing of disturbing stick figures. Kirstyn apologies for her barely suppressed laughter and also for the fact that listeners cannot see the horrified expressions on Ian’s face — or the disturbing stick figure — that inspired said laughter. She trusts that listeners can use their imagination.

Around the 19:20 mark, the pair turn their attention to Kirstyn’s recommended book for the podcast, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. This review by Abigail Nussbaum is mentioned, as are the usual spoilers. Discussion of When Gravity Fails by George Alec Effinger begins at 56:25. Again, spoilers. Skip ahead at will.

The Night Circus and When Gracity Falls

But don’t forget to check back in around 1:34:50 for some (very brief) final remarks.

Next month, Ian has picked Bad Power by Deborah Biancotti, while Kirstyn has chosen Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan. Read ahead and join in the fun!


Williamstown Literary Festival: Books by the Bay

Just a quick heads-up, kittens and cats!

I’ll be at the Williamstown Literary Festival at 2pm on Saturday 5 May, 2012, as part of the “Pathways to Publication” panel:

What comes first? How do you get an agent? Are publishers still open to unsolicited work? This session looks at ways you can get published and how to take those first steps along the path. With Sherryl Clarke, Jacinta di Mase, Kirstyn McDermott and Demet Divaroren.

There’s a whole bunch of other interesting stuff happening over the weekend as well — including some great workshops I really wish I had time to do — so have a look at the program (PDF available here) and come along for an enjoyable day (or two!) by the bay.

Williamstown Literary Festival

Williamstown Literary Festival is the West’s oldest and biggest writers festival, proudly supported by Victoria University and Hobsons Bay City Council. Located in the stately surrounds of Williamstown Town Hall, the program features some of Australia’s top writers and artists and covers everything from historical walks, footy talks, debates  as well as WLF’s famous workshops.


I Love the Smell of New Books in the Morning

Oh! Oh! Oh! Look what lovely, lovely things arrived in the mail today:

Bitter Greens, Poet's Cottage, To Spin a Darker Stair

That’s Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth AND Poet’s Cottage by Josephine Pennicott AND To Spin a Darker Stair edited by Tehani Wessley which contains stories by Catherynne M Valente and Faith Mudge, as well as beautiful illustrations by Kathleen Jennings.

I am soooooo tempted to take myself off to a hotel room this weekend and do nothing but read and order room service. Forget funding grants and so on for writers … I want a Reading Residency, dammit!