Sunday, March 24, 2013

Australian Shadows Awards Finalists 2012

The complete list of finalists in the Australian Shadows Awards 2012 is here and - being parochial again - I'm delighted to see a number of Western Australians on the list as well as my Clarion South mate, Jason Fischer, and two of our tutors at Clarion South, Lee Battersby and Robert Hood.

Congratulations to all on the list.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Aurealis Awards Shortlist 2012

The shortlist for the 2012 Aurealis Awards has been released and the complete shortlist is available here.

The winners will be announced at the Awards ceremony in Sydney on May 18. I've read a number of the books and stories on the list and I have to say I do not envy the judges their task in having to choose  only one from some very fine work. Selecting a best from any section will not have been easy.

On a purely parochial basis, I'm delighted to see so many Western Australian residents figuring on it. Among them are Jonathan Strahan (three listings), Juliet Marillier, Liz Grzyb and Martin Livings as well as publishers Ticonderoga Publications and Twelfth Planet Press, both with multiple listings. I'm also delighted to see two of my Clarion South tutors, Margo Lanagan and Robert Hood.

Congratulations to all who have made it this far and good luck for the final selection.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Review: Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait by K A Bedford.

I originally reviewed Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait  for The Specusphere, a website devoted to speculative fiction, where I was an occasional reviewer. Unfortunately The Specusphere is now gone so I'm now posting an edited version here.

Since that original review there have been some changes. Originally published by Canadian publisher, Edge, in 2008 Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait  has also since been released by Australian publisher, Fremantle Press and it is available through both as a paperback and an e-book.

Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait by K.A. Bedford

Edge 2008 ISBN-13: 978-1-894063-42-5

In Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait , Perth based author, K. A. Bedford, has moved away from the space world of his previous novels but don’t let that put you off. Bedford still has plenty to make you think in this novel set in Perth, Western Australia, in the near future where time travel is commonplace to the point that used time machines can be purchased through the classifieds and people go back to visit family members who have passed away.

Having blown the whistle on corrupt fellow officers travelling through time to commit crimes, and forced out of the police as a result, ex-cop, Aloysius “Spider” Webb, now works for Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait as a time machine repair man. Spider is good at his job but has no love of time travel himself. He spends his days dealing with difficult customers who have little concept of time machine capability and even less of morality or ethics and the laws governing the use of time machines enacted to protect the public.  As far as possible avoiding his irritatingly loony and manipulative boss, the aptly named Dickhead McMahon, he keeps his head down and gets on with his job.  

Outside work things are not much better. Life in the future is not as idyllic as might be expected. The wonderful new devices that should make for a comfortable existence frequently fail. The coffee droid breaks down with infuriating frequency and it’s not the only appliance that creates problems. “Toilet’s stopped talking to me,” wails his estranged artist wife, Molly. "This time it’s something different. It won’t recognize me, won’t open. Nothing but bloody error messages.” and Spider finds himself yet again doing household maintenance for her before returning to his cramped sleeping capsule in the worst motel in town. 

Then things get messy. A brutally murdered woman turns up hidden inside a time machine inside another time machine and DOTAS – the Department of Time and Space – represented by Spider’s friend, James Rutherford, takes over. Their report, which effectively closes down the investigation, only raises more questions in Spider’s mind and intrigued, he can’t resist the urge to investigate as the questions increase. Add in a former lover, ambitious police inspector, Iris Street, and Malaria, the receptionist at Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait, who is being harassed by Dickhead, and Spider has a lot to cope with. This is nothing, though, compared with what happens when Spider keeps meeting up with different versions of his future self.   

The complexities of time travel interweave with relationships, past, present and future, possible and actual, leaving Spider to make stark choices affecting his own and others’ futures. There is a feeling of reality about him as he responds to situations escalating out of control and affecting not only those he cares about but many more. He begins as one of those decent but world weary people whose daily struggles are the stuff of many lives and grows in stature as the full impact of what faces him is revealed. We empathise with him throughout as his relationships tangle and his life spins out of control.

The writer has created a fascinating array of characters and all are well rounded and believable making us care about what happens to them. Even the bad guys, however misguided their actions, have another side to them and remain convincingly human.

Bedford has a light touch with his writing. He obviously enjoys playing with names as Spider, Dickhead and Malaria show and a combination of understated humour and tense drama keeps the reader’s interest in what is an exciting, suspenseful read. While the science is not explained this is definitely science fiction and some of the potential complications of time travel are explored in the context of an entertaining tale. 

If I have a quibble about this story it’s the focus on coffee making in the early part of the book. It seemed to have little to do with the story line and although, I savour fine coffee and sympathised with Spider’s almost obsessive attempts at getting a drinkable cup, I did find it a little distracting.

Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait was the worthy winner of the 2008 Aurealis Award for Best Science Fiction Novel in a very strong field of finalists and shortlisted for the Philip K. Dick Award 2009. It will appeal to those who enjoy fast moving, suspenseful science fiction more than lovers of hard science fiction and many readers will be delighted that the sequel Paradox Resolution is now available. I'll post a review once i've finished it.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Thoughts on Song of Ice and Fire by GRR Martin

I have friends who rave over G R R Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire books and the television series based on it, Game of Thrones. While I can't speak about the television series, I did read the first book in the series. Having forced myself to finish it I haven't tried any others. It's been quite a while since I read it so some of the details are hazy but I distinctly remember the overwhelming feeling I left the book with was too much rape. It seems I wasn't the only one.

This post from Sophia McDougall came up on my Facebook newsfeed today via several friends - it obviously struck a chord. Sophia McDougall describes the use of rape in A Song of Ice and Fire as rape used as wallpaper and goes on to explain why she finds it disturbing. Like me, she is not objecting to rape being described in a novel but to it being used as a lazy way to advance plot or explain a character's behaviour in the name of realism. Quite rightly she asks why women being raped is gritty and realistic and the rape of men is rarely addressed. We all know men also face rape (albeit not as frequently as women) but it's a form of violence we rarely see in fiction. Why isn't it gritty and realistic too? She raises some very interesting points that certainly made me think.

This post is a thought provoking insight into how we need to consider why and how we use violence, sexual or otherwise, in writing fiction. I found it fascinating reading and would be interested to hear your thoughts on the subject too.

Friday, March 08, 2013

AWWC 2013: Unnatural Habits by Kerry Greenwood

In Unnatural Habits, her latest Phryne Fisher mystery, (published by Allen & Unwin in 2012) author Kerry Greenwood has elegant, beautiful, unconventional (and extremely wealthy) private detective, the Honourable Phryne Fisher, again drawn into the underworld of 1920s Melbourne. Pretty, young, blonde girls are disappearing and so are unmarried mothers from the Catholic Magdalen laundries. Margaret 'Polly' Kettle, an ambitious young woman journalist, sniffs a story - then vanishes herself.

Phryne, her adopted daughters, Jane and Ruth, 'apprentice' detective, fourteen year old Tinker and various others familiar to readers of previous Phryne mysteries like her companion, Dot, her lover, Lin Chung, Dr Mac, Cec and Bert and the Butlers (who somehow maintain a calm, organised home for her at the same time) set out to use Phryne's often unconventional contacts to try to find out what is happening. At the same time, Detective Inspector John 'Jack' Robinson and Detective Constable Hugh Collins are using more conventional policing methods. Between them they bring all three mysteries to satisfying and unexpected conclusions.

While some might find Phryne somewhat over the top, for me, she is, if sometimes outrageous, enjoyable for what she is - an intelligent eccentric who has position, wealth and contacts as well as a well developed if unconventional morality allowing her unusual freedom of action. Her companion, Dot describes her as a force of nature. I think that probably sums her up neatly.

Unnatural Habits is well researched and, unusually in fiction, includes a bibliography. It sheds light on some less well known aspects of Australian history with respectable society not always coming out well. You won't find harrowing descriptions of blood soaked victims but you will be left in no doubt of the appalling conditions experienced by many.

As to who would enjoy Unnatural Habits, although some of the subject matter is dark, it should appeal  to those who like their crime with a light touch.

Phryne has her own website at

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

The Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013

I signed up for this challenge last year and real life got seriously in the way so although I read widely I  did not actually write any reviews. I'm hoping this year will be more successful - way more successful.

Part of the problem is that I read an enormous amount and that means I'm apt to move on to the next book before I review the one I've just finished. This has not proved a good strategy. So I'm changing the focus of this blog a little in that along with the chit chat about what interests me and is happening in my life I'm going to do some reviews. Those reviews of books by Australian women writers will also be posted on the AWW 2013 website. I'm not nominating how many books I intend to read or how many of them I will review - way too much pressure - but I will be endeavouring to review a reasonable percentage.

Well that's the plan. I've already read several eligible books and I'll get some, at least, reviewed soon, I hope.