Saturday, February 23, 2008

Antipodean SF

It's the tenth anniversary of this e-zine which specialises in short short speculative fiction. This month's bumper anniversary edition features twenty intriguing little stories. I enjoyed among others Brendan D. Carson's Spawnotrim and Peter M. Ball's Avenue D: Prayer to name only a few. It's worth a visit.

Friday, February 22, 2008

HorrorScope, Bill Congreve and Clarion South

I was pleased to see my mate Carol Ryles listed among the writers Bill Congreve (MirrorDanse Books) sees as those to watch over the next 1-2 years in an interview on HorrorScope.

Among other things he mentions Clarion South's impact on Australian genre writing so it's probably appropriate to mention that applications are now open for Clarion South 2009. I've just looked at the list of tutors. It's a great line up including Kelly Link, Gavin J. Grant and Margo Lanagan who tutored at Clarion South 2007 as well as Sean Williams, Marianne de Pierres and Jack Dann .

The interview is here and he has some interesting things to say. It's worth a visit.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sandgropers and Climate Change

It's been a strange summer. After last year's mild weather we're back to 40 degree C plus days as well as steamy humidity unusual here on the west coast. Whatever the cause it's had effects on more than just the human population.
Some of you may know the nickname for Western Australians is Sandgropers but it's not just because of our large scale mining operations as you might think. There are some sixteen species of sandgropers of which six are unique to Western Australia, two specific to the Perth region. The sandgroper is a burrowing insect with the local ones around 6-7 cms - 2 1/2 inches - long. It has a streamlined segmented cylindrical abdomen and a hard cased head and thorax with no wings and its front legs modified into short digging tools with which it burrows through the sand. Its middle and rear legs fit neatly into its sides unless it is walking. Out of the ground it waddles surprisingly fast.
The reason I can give this description is that after living in Perth all my life this summer I have seen actual sandgropers for the first time. The cat found the first one in the family room obviously having come in when a door had opened. Two nights later the dog found another - on the veranda outside the family room. A few evenings later two appeared on the veranda and the same again a couple of nights later. Three days later one of the last pair fell from ... a hanging basket? A rafter? I don't know but it landed on my head leaving the dog bemused as to why I yelled when it was perfectly clear this was an interesting toy. As I rescued it another scuttled across in front of me and was also returned to the safety of the garden bed.
Since then we have been sandgroper free but I know they are at work industriously digging their tunnels and making their homes in the garden - and I rather like that idea.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Dreaming Again

The contents list for Dreaming Again edited by Jack Dann has been put up on Jonathan Strahan's blog and several others. I am delighted to see among the writers no less than five of my Clarion South mates - Ben Francisco Maulbeck, Chris Lynch, Christopher Green, Jason Fischer and Peter M. Ball - and three of our tutors - Simon Brown, Margo Lanagan and Lee Battersby. They are in good company. This is a truly impressive list with many other fine writers on it too. The anthology comes out in June and I'll be one of the first in line. I was fortunate enough to read some of these stories at Clarion South. Believe me, you don't want to miss them.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sorry Day

If Kevin Rudd does nothing else of importance as Prime Minister than he has today he will deserve to be remembered for making this long overdue apology.

I have long been concerned with the effects on Aboriginal people of the laws which were imposed on them by successive governments. I've worked, taught, and lived close to indigenous Australians as have others of my family and I can still remember when the full magnitude of these policies was brought home to me. A man I greatly respected told me how he had been removed from his family as a young boy and sent to a children's home. During his time there, the house parents ranged from caring and compassionate to downright brutal. The resulting social legacy of shattered families is something we all have to live with and I sincerely hope that this apology will go some way to improving our society and that we can work together as one people for the benefit of all.

At the same time I think we must remember that Aboriginal people were not the only ones to suffer under misguided policies of the last centuries that separated families without valid reasons. The generations of child migrants sent overseas, often led to believe their parents had abandoned them or had died, some of whom had their names changed, also suffered deep traumas as did other groups. While none of this can be put right, in the interests of fairness they too deserve acknowledgment of the wrongs done them.

Times have changed and often for the better but we must remember that those who made these laws were not intrinsically evil, setting out to destroy lives. Their intention was to do what was right. That we can see they made enormous errors of judgment does not mean they should be vilified. We are all influenced by our culture and it may be that some of what we are doing today will be harshly judged in the future.

But at least we have made a start. Thank you, Prime Minister.

Note: I was appalled that when the Leader of the Opposition rose to speak some people in the Great Hall turned their backs on him and he was slow-clapped and jeered at by others outside. This is shameful. He may have come late to a recognition of the necessity for an apology but he did come to it, he was endorsing it, however clumsily, and those who behaved in this way demeaned themselves and those they claim to represent.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Frozen People

Okay, this just has to be shared. Go here . I only wish I'd thought of it. So clever and how anyone could have organised it on such a scale...

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Rain, Glorious Rain

After a very prolonged hot spell at last we have rain. Rather a lot in fact. We have received our entire summer average in one day. Probably not as impressive as it sounds given how little rain we usually get in summer but I'm not complaining. Any rain is A Good Thing and rain that can fill the wheelbarrow - we had been promised rain every day since last Saturday and we'd given up hope so didn't put it away - is A Very Good Thing.

I'm very glad I finished weeding and mulching and planting. About a week ago I filled the flowerbed outside the family room with petunias, divided and replanted the gerberas, society garlic and a frilly mauve dianthus in the beds next to it and fertilised everything. From looking sad everything is suddenly vividly green and crisp instead of pale and limply gasping for water.

I also installed the solar powered garden lamps Pisces got me before Christmas - and there will be no questions asked about why this took so long or why the terracotta wall clock is still languishing in its box. If anyone is foolhardy enough to ignore me ... the answer is 35 degrees Celsius plus for days. To my surprise the solar lamps have already lit up after a grimly grey day. They cast an eerie bluish light, something like I imagine the light from a blue moon should be.

Outside it is so wonderfully cool. All you can hear is the plop, plop of water dripping. Even the frogs are quiet. Tomorrow night Mr Frog will go a-courting again no doubt but tonight he's home tucked up in bed - which in the case of one adventurous but none too bright fellow is in the top of a tier of hanging baskets among the strawberry plants. How he got there I have no idea and how he thinks he will attract a mate to his eyrie is beyond me.

We are promised more rain for tomorrow. Oh joyous day!

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Great Cockroach Hunt

I hate cockroaches.
At this time of the year in Western Australia we have an influx of flying cockroaches. These are more like long slender beetles (5-6 cms - that's 2-2 1/2 inches - long) than the normal nasty indoor roaches. They prefer to live outside among the potted plants or under the barbecue or behind the dog kennel or ... Well you get the picture. Sometimes though they get nosy and pop in for a midnight scuttle around the inside of the house. This is undesirable for a number of reasons that are self evident and because they can fly they are apt to settle in places your standard roach can't.
So picture this. It's 1:00 am. You are lying in bed sleeping peacefully when something highly undesirable lands on the bed and scuttles across it - and you. This is bad enough but the cat, who sleeps on your bed and likes a good nocturnal chase, decides to join in. As you start to leap up shrieking from the touch of very long questing antennae followed by tiny clawed feet, the cat races across your stomach, leaving you gasping for breath while he continues the hunt on the floor. You know he's not going to give up - and nor is the dog who has now joined in the fun - so you get up and decide that it is hiding under the bed because that is where the animals are focused. You hurriedly pad off to the laundry for the long handled dustpan and brush. When you get back, cat and dog are still sniffing around the bed so you pull out the bedside cabinets and move the bench at the end of the bed, then make sure all the bedding is picked up off the floor where it ended up after you jumped up screaming.
The roach makes a run for it as you move the bed, followed by your black furry and white furry helpers. It darts into the bathroom and the furry ones collide with each other giving the roach the chance to race back to the bedroom where it ends up in among the books on the shelf under the bedside cabinet. The black and white ones "help" as you pull out all the books. In panic, the roach flees straight up the side of the cabinet. Got it, you think. No such luck. Just as you line up with the brush, it backflips onto the floor and then into the dog's basket in the corner of the room.
Half an hour later you and the roach are getting tired but the furry ones seem as sprightly as ever. They're now operating as a tag team. You'd swear the roach didn't stand a chance. By now all the furniture has been pulled out and replaced several times and you are feeling the strain. At least your back is. This is mainly because while all this has been going on your husband, who doesn't see the need for the upheaval, has decamped to another room where he is snoring happily while you play hunt the roach.
Finally, the roach makes a mistake. Having lost one leg in a previous near miss with the cat, it is a little disabled. It freezes on the top of the skirting board under the window. You've got it. One flick of the broom and it's in the dustpan and can't climb up the slippery sides to escape. The urge to dump it down the toilet is strong but good will prevails and you dump it outside.
It's 2:30 am, your back is aching and sciatic pain is burning down your left leg but at least you can get a bit of sleep before you have to get up again. You slide into sleep.
Then ... tiny claws scrabble on your chest. You shriek. Puss pounces, misses. A slender shape scuttles across the floor and it's on again. At least this one is more stupid and just as well because your back has seized up. Finally it falls into the pan with a swish of the broom and out it goes. By now it's 3:15 am and your back makes any hope of sleep for the rest of the night impossible and, as it happens, puts paid to sitting , standing or lying for more than a few minutes for the next week.
Did I mention that I hate cockroaches?