The Writer and the Critic: Episode 42

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 with the enthralling tale of How Mondy Got Pneumonia on New Year’s Eve, followed by a small rant from Kirstyn about Colleen McCullough and the Obituary That Should Hide its Head in Absolute Shame. The two then move on to discuss awards ballots and eligibility posts, the sometimes uncomfortable practice of self-promotion, and sad puppies in general.

The two books up for dissection this episode are The Bitterwood Bible by Angela Slatter (27:40) and How to be Both by Ali Smith (58:40).

slatter_smith.jpg

Highly recommended as a companion read to The Bitterwood Bible is the previous Angela Slatter collection published by Tartarus Press, Sourdough and Other Stories.

If you’ve skipped ahead to avoid spoilers, please come back at 1:32:00 for final remarks.

For the next episode, Kirstyn has chosen The Well by Elizabeth Jolley while Ian is recommending Clade by James Bradley. Read ahead and join in the spoilerific fun!

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The Writer and the Critic: Episode 22

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:

This month’s episode of The Writer and the Critic is the last of those recorded around Continuum 8 back in June, wherein your hosts, Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond, invite themselves back to the hotel room of the highly esteemed Drs Brain, Angela Slatter and Lisa L. Hannett, for literary fun and merriment. The finer points of name pronunciation and resultant avoidance of the wrath of angry grannies is duly noted, followed by some candid behind-the-scenes chat concerning Angela and Lisa’s co-written mosaic novel, Midnight and Moonshine, due for release from Ticonderoga Publications in November 2012 and available for pre-order right now. There might also be significant — but highly esteemed — blushing.

Lisa L Hannett and Angela Slatter

Discussion then moves on to the the two books selected for dissection on the podcast. Angela’s pick was Voice of the Fire by Alan Moore (begins around the 26:00 mark) while Lisa chose Galore by Michael Crummey (59:00). Scalpels are sharpened and edifying evisceration is conducted with much exuberance.

Voice of the Fire and Galore

If you’ve skipped ahead to avoid spoilers, come back around 1:33:00 for some final remarks.

Next month, the podcast is back in real time with Kirstyn choosing Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth for discussion and Ian bringing Osama by Lavie Tidhar to the table. This time, as the novels were picked three months in advance, neither of the pair has actually read their selection … so anything might happen. Read ahead with them and join in the spoilerific fun!

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What Makes Kirstyn Happy

Overall, I’ve been a tad grumpy these past few weeks. Too much stuff on the boil, too many New Shiny Things I’d rather be doing, not enough time in the world to execute even half of my Cunning Plans. General online explosions, general offline crappola. Plus, somewhere in there, I saw The Dark Knight Rises. Ugh. I’m not even going to start, except to say … no, wait. I’m letting it go. Just like with Prometheus, I’m letting it all go, baby.

There have, however, been quite a few things cross my radar recently which have made me smile, and laugh, and generally feel pretty good about life. And I realise I barely ever comment on stuff like that … the good stuff, the happy stuff, the stuff which often feels ephemeral and momentary but, honestly, can be just as tangible and lasting as the sad-angry-depressing stuff upon which I generally find myself dwelling. Not that it isn’t important to engage with things that are problematic, infuriating, troublesome, or simply thought-provoking — unless those things are overblown, over-expensive, over-ego-driven wastes of celluloid not worth your spit — but that sometimes, a lot of the time, it’s equally important to focus on the happy.

So this might become a regular thing. What Makes Kirstyn Happy: A Not-So-Ephemeral Miscellany. (I promise, as much as I love them, teh kittehs will be few and far between; you have the rest of the interwebs for that.) Okay, here we go . . . cranky pants are officially off.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. I’m not a massive Jane Austen fan and I’ve never actually read Pride and Prejudice, although I have somewhat reluctantly watched one or two film/television adaptations over the years. (My favourite Austen novel of those I have read is that fine piece of Gothic snark, Northanger Abbey. Big surprise, I know.) And yet I am absolutely loving The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a modernised adaptation of Pride and Prejudice told via a series of video blogs. I know I’m not getting a lot of the references and Austen in-jokes but I don’t care. I’m still captivated and eagerly await each twice-weekly episode. There might even be the odd internal squee when the YouTube alert lands in my inbox. Okay, there is a very odd internal squee every time the alert lands in my inbox! And, you know, being relatively unfamiliar with the plot means a little light suspense and random surprises for Kirstyn, which makes her very happy indeed. (Yes, I know Lizzie ends up with Darcy, but little else. No spoilers, please!)

Delites Dystopian Vending MachineThe Delite-o-Matic Vending Machine. Part of a promotional competition run by Fantastic Delites here in Australia, which doesn’t make me want their chips or rice crackers or whatever those things are, but which did see me watching the YouTube clip with increasing delight. (Heh. See what I did there?) It was written up by the original Gawker article along oh-so-wry dystopian lines of “What is the world coming to, when people will bow down and worship a machine just to get a packet of free chips?” [insert faux-ironic breast-beating here] but it reminded me first and foremost of how persistently, curiously playful humans can be. Of course they wouldn’t do anything for a free packet of chips, Gawker. In the end, I don’t think it was even about the chips. The prize could have been any useless old piece of crap and some of those people would still have been standing there pressing the damn button. Because it was a curious new thing standing in their shopping mall. Because a gauntlet was thrown down and picked up in the name of fun. Because it was a game, and we humans love love love to explore and challenge and play. Sure, sometimes it comes back to bite us in the arse. But this time, it resulted in free snacks and an hilarious piece of video us snackless folks can enjoy as well. Well played, Fantastic, well played.

midnight and moonshineMidnight and Moonshine by Lisa L. Hannett and Angela Slatter. Books had to come into this at some point, right? Few things make Kirstyn happier than a fabulous and much-anticipated new book by a couple of her favourite short story authors, and I have been awaiting the release of this collection since I first heard rumours of its conception well over a year ago. And check out that magnificent cover by Kathleen Jennings! This book is going to look so fabulous alongside Angela and Lisa’s individual collections from Ticonderoga and, knowing how well these two writers work together, I’m fully expecting it to be one of my top five books of the year. (No pressure, ladies.) The ever-so-slightly unHappy in this news is that Midnight and Moonshine is only available for pre-order right now — in either Trade Paperback or droolworthy Limited Edition Hardcover formats — but, hey, all that means is that Future Kirstyn will be getting a gorgeous gift from Past Kirstyn come mid-November. That makes Future Kirstyn so very, very happy. Or will make her very, very happy. Whatever. The gods are dead, but will not be forgotten. Kirstyn. Can. Not. Wait.

Kim Boekbinder“Planet 216” by Kim Boekbinder. I first came across Kim Boekbinder via Amanda Palmer who was plugging Kim’s Kickstarter campaign to fund the production of her album, The Impossible Girl, back in 2010. It might have been the first Kickstarter campaign I ever backed and it resulted in a brilliant, amazing, eclectic tapestry of music which also makes me exceedingly happy whenever I listen to it. (Which just happens to be right now, in case you were wondering.) Kim is running a different kind of work-in-progress funding campaign for her next album, the space-themed Mission Control. I’m not going to be a part of that because, quite honestly, I would rather be hit with the finished product rather than get the sneak peeks along the way. And based on the “Planet 216” demo which was released, appropriately, on the day that Curiosity touched down on Mars, the album is going to hit hard. I dearly hope she comes to Australia to tour it — I’ve only ever seen her in support of other acts but I think the full Kim Boekbinder stage experience will make for a most memorable night. Anyway, the song made Kirstyn happy this week. You will be fierce, you will be fragile, you will be free. Thoughts for a new tattoo right there . . .

Book Launches and Mugshots. Lastly, my beloved Jason Nahrung launched his new novella, Salvage, up in Brisbane last weekend at Avid Reader bookshop. A splendid time was had, many friends were caught up with, and afterwards much yummy Indian food was consumed. Salvage is a beautiful, melancholy story which has garnered some very deserving reviews, one of which came from Alex Pierce on the Galactic Suburbia podcast. At one point, Alex described Jason as an author who is “compassionate but cold-blooded” … a description which pleased him immensely and which inspired in me A Small But Cunning Plan. Unfortunately, VistaPrint was a little late with the delivery and my “Happy Book Launch” gift became a “Happy Post-Book Launch” gift instead but it was totally worth the wait to see the smile it brought to his face. (Not to be confused with the “smile” in the photo; that’s post-trip exhaustion and a touch of the flu kicking in. Or maybe it’s just what cold-blooded compassion looks like in the flesh.)

jason mugshot

And all that, kittens and cats, is What Makes Kirstyn Happy. Enjoy!

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Oops, My Psychosis is Showing …

Oh, look! I have been interviewed by Angela Slatter and Lisa Hannett over in the Lair of the Evil Drs Brain. With marvellous illustrations by Kathleen Jennings to boot!

Answering their questions was such fun — the perfect mix of the thoughtful and the flippant — and the monthly Drs Brain interview series is definitely worth following. You can nab the feed from either Angela’s or Lisa’s blogs, both of which are great reads in their own right.

Now, anyone fancy a nice cup of hemlock herbal tea?

Lair of Evil Drs Brain

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Her Words and Worlds (with Book Giveaway!)

Madigan Mine by Kirstyn McDermott

The wonderful and always eloquent Stephanie Gunn has embarked upon an ambitious personal project she calls Her Words and Worlds, wherein she chooses a female author and endeavours not only to read her entire published bibliography — in chronological order — but to write a lengthy and considered review of the body of work at the end of it all.  It’s a brilliant idea which I’m sure which lead to some fascinating overviews and I’m looking forward following her along on her journey.

And, of course, I was delighted and honoured when Stephanie chose me to be first cab off the rank.  She provides very insightful commentary about my work over the years, and I have to admit that the some of the questions she asked me in her follow-up interview really kicked my brain into a higher gear. It was a strange — but very rewarding — experience to be asked reflect upon my own work in such a way and make explicit a lot of ideas and intentions which have always enjoyed a fairly nebulous existence inside my head. Hmm, thoughtful writer is thoughtful.

To top it all off, Stephanie is giving away a copy of my debut novel, Madigan Mine, which I’ll be more than happy to personally sign for the lucky winner. For a chance to win, all you need to do is visit the Her Words and Worlds page and leave a comment. Entries close this Sunday, 7th August.

Here’s a quick taste of what Stephanie can do with a scalpel:

McDermott’s work tends towards the dark and the feminine.  Several themes wind their way through her body of work, including that of the seductress, of romantic obsession, of blood and sex and death.  Many pieces also deal with the nature of art and the artist; these pieces are arguably amongst the strongest of McDermott’s body of work and culminate (thus far) in her debut novel, Madigan Mine.

The next author up for dissection is the frightfully talented Angela Slatter. As a massive admirer of Angela’s short fiction, I await the new installment of Her Words and Worlds with a heightened sense of antici . . . pation.

Aurealis Awards 2010

Aurealis Award 2010

The Aurealis Awards were announced in a glittery — and, at times, shoeless — ceremony in North Sydney on Saturday night and I was absolutely thrilled that Madigan Mine won Best Horror Novel. So thrilled that the just-in-case list of names I’d been intermittently rehearsing all day flew out of my head and the first thing I managed to say after been handed the award by the inimitable Kaaron Warren was, “Wow, it’s heavy.” In my defence, it is quite heavy. It’s also very, very pretty. 🙂

But I did manage to thank everyone I needed to thank and surprised myself by becoming just a wee bit emotional up there on the stage. I’m really, really grateful to receive this particular award. Madigan Mine took so long to go from initial spark of inspiration to final publication — a time which spanned some very difficult years in my life, personally and creatively — and to be awarded the Aurealis at the end of all that … well, I am so very happy right now.

It truly was a fantastic night. SpecFaction in Sydney have taken over the running of the Aurealis Award from Fantastic Queensland — who did an extraordinary job of hosting them up in Brisbane for the past six years — and it was wonderful to see the baton passed to such and enthusiastic and hard-working team. Nathan Burrage, Susan Wardle and the rest of the organising committee deserve huge kudos for putting on such a great show. Highlights included Garth Nix‘s dry humour as MC, Rob Hood‘s quirky visual presentation slideshows, the divine Angela Slatter accepting not one but two awards in bare feet, and Tansy Rayner Roberts gracious and moving  — and well-prepared! — acceptance speech upon receiving the award for Best Fantasy novel.

Wine was drunk, carousing was had, old friends were caught up with and new friends were made. It reminded me once again how special, close-knit and supportive the Australian speculative fiction community really is. As I possibly failed to articulate clearly enough in my acceptance speech, I feel proud and honoured and so very grateful to be able to count myself among their number.

As has become customary on such occasions, the multi-talented Cat Sparx was on hand with her trusty camera to provide a superb pictorial chronicle of the evening. The full set lives over on Flickr but I want to include this photo of myself and my beloved, Jason Nahrung, right here. (Thanks, Cat — you always take the best photos of us!)

Kirstyn McDermott and Jason Nahrung at 2010 Aurealis Awards

2010 AUREALIS AWARD WINNERS:

CHILDREN’S FICTION (told primarily through words)
• The Keepers, Lian Tanner, Allen & nwin

CHILDREN’S FICTION (told primarily through pictures)
• The Boy and the Toy, Sonya Hartnett (writer) & Lucia Masciullo (illustrator), Penguin Viking

YOUNG ADULT SHORT STORY
• A Thousand Flowers, Margo Lanagan, Zombies and Unicorns, Allen & Unwin

YOUNG ADULT NOVEL
• Guardian of the Dead, Karen Healey, Allen & Unwin

ILLUSTRATED BOOK/ GRAPHIC NOVEL
• Changing Ways Book 1, Justin Randall, Gestalt Publishing

COLLECTION
• The Girl With No Hands, Angela Slatter, Ticonderoga Publications

ANTHOLOGY
• Wings of Fire, edited by Jonathan Strahan and Marianne S. Jablon, Night Shade Books

HORROR SHORT STORY
• The Fear, Richard Harland, Macabre: A Journey Through Australia’s Darkest Fears, Brimstone Press

HORROR NOVEL
• Madigan Mine, Kirstyn McDermott, Pan Macmillan

FANTASY SHORT STORY (joint winners)
• The February Dragon, LL Hannett & Angela Slatter, Scary Kisses, Ticonderoga Publications
• Yowie, Thoraiya Dyer, Sprawl, Twelfth Planet Press

FANTASY NOVEL
• Power and Majesty, Tansy Rayner Roberts, HarperVoyager (HarperCollins)

SCIENCE FICTION SHORT STORY
• The Heart of a Mouse, K.J. Bishop, Subterranean Online (Winter 2010)

SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL
• Transformation Space, Marianne de Pierres, Orbit (Hachette)

PETER MCNAMARA AWARD
• Helen Merrick

The full list of finalists can be found here. My sincere and heartfelt congratulations to everyone!

Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year – Honourable Mentions

Ellen Datlow has just published the full list of her Honourable Mentions for Best New Horror of the Year and I’m very pleased to see two stories of mine included:

  • “Monsters Among Us” (Macabre, Brimstone Press)
  • “We All Fall Down” (Aurealis #44)

It’s an impressive tally of stories and one that makes for a most daunting reading list. And it’s also great to see so many Australian writers included — including the horrifyingly brilliant Angela Slatter, who has garnered no less than ten HMs, mostly from her gorgeous collection of reloaded fairy tales, Sourdough. (Have you bought this book yet? No? Really? Really?)

The full list lives here (A-K) and here (K-Z).  Ellen Datlow’s Best New Horror of the Year Vol.3 will be published by Nightshade Books in June 2011.