Sunday, October 31, 2010

2010 Washington Science Fiction Association Small Press Award

Tasmanian writer Tansy Rayner Roberts has won the 2010 Washington Science Fiction Association Small Press Award for Siren Beat, a novella published by Western Australian small press Twelfth Planet Press and edited by Alisa Krasnostein.

Twelfth Planet Press has shown it is willing to push some boundaries lately. As an independent small press it is able to tackle the kind of fiction that is not so appealing to the larger publishers. Recent publications include anthologies, collections and novellas. Siren Beat is one of the novellas in the Doubles series where it was partnered by Roadkill by Robert Shearman). Books from this press are sometimes controversial but they are always quality. There is a pile of them sitting on my bookshelf now among my Aussiecon 4 buys.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On Politics, Writing and Uppity Women

The Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, has been describing a statement by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, as 'shrill and aggressive'. Putting aside the hypocrisy of someone who is anything but gentle in his political attacks describing as aggressive any comment by anyone, would any politician use these words when describing a male politician? If they would not, why is it being applied to Julia Gillard? My suspicion is it is to put an uppity woman in her place.

Another equally obnoxious remark was made about Ms Gillard during the lead up when she was described as barren because she is childless. Then there were the denigrations because she doesn't have a family. What has that to do with her capacity to carry out her job? There are men in Parliament who have no children or who are not married. No-one thinks they can't perform their job. Uppity woman again perhaps.

It's not just the Prime Minister who cops this treatment. When he became Opposition Leader, Mr Abbott referred to his newly elected deputy as 'a good girl'. What? This is our alternative Deputy Prime Minister he's talking about.

In case anyone wonders this is not meant as a comment on the political beliefs of either party. I'm just feeling very incensed that comments like these are still being made by anyone. Sadly it's not only in political arenas that this happens. These tactics are used everywhere.

Whether we realise it at the time or not, I see it and you see it every day. The recent announcement that Jane Austen's 'perfect' prose was assisted by a male editor is just such a case. A writer with an editor? Outrageous. Obviously she couldn't write herself. Chip, chip, chip. Another woman is perceived to be less than she was.

Isn't it time it stopped?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Chilean Miners Rescued

I often despair of humanity. We seem to be unable to shake off our dark side and so often we are selfish and thoughtless. Today though I'm cheering for what is best in us. The Chilean miners, trapped underground for sixty nine days, are being brought to the surface one by one. They appear amazingly healthy, given their ordeal. Their rescue has been a remarkable achievement both in engineering terms and in the way it has been handled by all those who have worked so tirelessly together to save them. Everyone involved in the rescue deserves praise for their work - and for restoring our faith in humanity.

I can't imagine the mental stresses that they have been under and I doubt anyone, who has not been in a similar situation, could. Let us hope that they continue to be cared for in the same way as they have been so far and rejoice that sometimes we get it right. We're not as bad as we often believe we are.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Spring is Sprung

One of the signs of Spring in Perth is the emergence of the bob tail lizard (goannas as they are more usually known). They are sometimes called shingle backs because of their rough scales. They are making their way out of their winter hibernation to soak up the sun, feed and mate. I saw the first sad road kill casualties last weekend. Sometimes they sunbake on the roads and they don't move fast if they are crossing. It's easy to not see them until it's too late but ignorance plays a part too and some folk run them down deliberately. It is a sad indictment on our society that we can't live and let live, I think.

We have had a colony breeding in our garden for as long as we have lived here and it's always a pleasure when the first one trundles past. They are shy creatures, preferring to keep out of sight for the most part, but if you frighten one it will open its mouth to expose a pink throat and dark blue tongue in a startling display which is no doubt very effective in discouraging an aggressor. Unfortunately not everyone appreciates these useful creatures and, while it's true they do have a liking for strawberries and the occasional other soft vegetable or fruit, for the most part they do more good than harm. Snails are a favourite snack. At least once a year one of my neighbours comes across one in the garden and has no idea how to deal with it. They are easy enough to handle. Just grasp firmly behind the neck and move to where they will be safe. I usually wear gloves when doing this - not because they will bite (they have no teeth but very powerful jaws but I haven't had one bite me yet in many years of handling them) but because they can carry ticks.

You can find photos of this fascinating creature here.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Of Dentists

I had to go to the dentist yesterday to have an old crown removed and the prep for its replacement done. I've got so many crowns now this didn't faze me at all. With my mouth suitably numbed the dentist proceeded to section the crown and remove it. The first part came away easily but the second wouldn't move and he had to use some force to dislodge it. When it came free the remaining section came with it and shot deep into the back of my throat. Scared to speak in case it slid into my trachea I sat up coughing furiously while the dentist, assuming I was just having a coughing fit - we'd been talking about our mutual suffering with hay fever before - tried to get me to have a drink of water. I could feel the edge grazing my throat and epiglottis - and this was not reassuring. I tried rinsing but the fluid didn't reach that far back. Leaning forward I kept coughing and at last the piece of crown dislodged and landed in my hand. I still have a scratched throat but otherwise all is well.

The reason I tell you this is not because I want to share my fright, unpleasant though it was. It was that the experience brought home to me something which I think we all need to think about. We are all at risk of a freak accident at any time but we go on as if we will live forever. A gust of wind could shove us on to the road. A car tyre could blow. A branch could fall from a tree. It's not that I spend all my time worrying about these unlikely events anymore than anyone else but last year when there were so many deaths happening around me I decided to try live my life in a way that I wouldn't put off until tomorrow anything I could do now. It started well enough then illness (mine, then Pisces and other family members) drained my energy and enthusiasm and it just got too hard.

Yesterday's incident wasn't serious as it happened but it had the potential to be. It reminded me of my resolution. I may not be going bungee jumping or sky diving but I intend to put a reminder up on my notice board and try every day to extend my boundaries. There's a lot to experience and enjoy out there. I'm going to do just that.