27 December 2011

The thinking person's tonic

It doesn't take a plant, even one called selfheal.

Note: I originally posted an (unsweetened) ' The thinking person's tonic ' a year ago and removed it shortly after in a fit of reticence.
Just days ago I declared I wasn't going to put anything on my blog again till Crandolin's announcement, but I've been asked to repost the Tonic for people who dread this time of year. Because the original draught was not only plain but possibly bitter, this version is sweetened with Prunella plus.
"I feel as though I should explain fully why I've barely picked up a pen until recently. Only recently have I become interested in writing fiction again - I spent much of the past two years in a longish period of melancholia and self-doubt during which I lost nearly all interest and confidence in myself as a writer."
I must reply immediately to what you say about melancholia, and your feelings of self-doubt. I wish you'd let me know about this, for I had no idea. You struck me from the first time I saw your writing, as an exceptional human being. Part of the unwanted innards that comes with that exceptionalism is, unfortunately, self-doubt even unto self-hating, melancholy (I'm so glad you didn't call it 'depression', the mislabeling that really means in our business-oriented world: prescribe and medicate). I have been almost wanting to write about this sort of thing in public, but haven't for a number of reasons. But the fact is, there is a huge pressure put upon everyone in 'modern' society, to be 'happy'. Indeed, happiness is touted as the goal of life. Studies show that religious people are happiest. Of course they are! Not questioning anything, swallowing dogma, and being told that you are right and all you have to do is follow, is great for making someone free of doubt, especially if doubt is decreed as bad. These people keep doubt-free by going out and shoving dogma down other people's throats, kind of like the way Ponzi-schemes work, or chain letters. Don't ever stop. Don't ever get out of it, and everything'll be sweet. It's soma under a different name.

But the fact that you picked science--questioning, thinking, not accepting any dogma. The fact that you are deeply interested in the world at large, in all its conflicting reality and confusing manifestations of conundrums. These facts don't add up to you being a happy, dull, boring and useless, or—as many religious people are, downright destructive—person.

a case for curiosity

You are creative and questioning in your bones. You deeply feel. You have an ability and wish to get in other people's shoes, even when they hurt. You want to contribute something of yourself that is useful, not only to the world theoretically, but to people in real flesh.

These abilities and characteristics and ways of life that add up to YOU are not going to give you a happy life, but they could give you a very fulfilling life. You will always, if you stay true to who you are, have times that come upon you that are black as the pit below deepest Pitsville. You won't think that there is any way out, but there is, and you will find yourself out of there again, and somehow invigorated and creative again. Sometimes you need to find that others think of you quite differently than you view yourself. Even when you want to hide away, you are being thought of, though you probably don't know it.

We live in an extremely tough time for a person who really thinks, who isn't just just a reactor. You are way too intelligent and creative and thoughtful to find the public sphere electronically speaking, supportive and helpful to you as a person. You could find that it makes you feel insecure, that it makes you feel like a failure. That you think you are irrelevant. That is because the public sphere of talk is peopled overwhelmingly by extroverts who find thoughtfulness a detraction. So if this has anything to do with your feelings, I hope this gives some perspective.

As to [not getting a response from a submission after an inordinate time], damn. One of the worst aspects of life today is the casual rudeness. The only thing to do is to chalk it up to people who are less than you, and move on.

I hope I can give you some confidence that you surely deserve. Remember always that melancholia is a thinking person's tonic. It tastes bad, but it works.

" Thank bling there are more things on earth than your tonic and philosophy.
I like metallic vehicles, though they're not as bright as me."

25 December 2011

If you could only hear me sing …

You'd know my true name has a dulcet ring.
Season's greetings to you humans, anyway.

& on behalf of all us magnificent (if I do say so myself) insignificants,
happy treasure-hunting/finding. Keep your head down and your house uncleaned and your greens unkempt.
This space will remain the same for some time, with me in pride of place
(until the dictator czarina patron of this place announces the appearance of a certain Crandolin, hopefully, tra la la, never).
Prunella Vulgaris

Psst, don't tell PV, but we hope Crandolin, whoever that is, will bump PV off this spot soon, for we fear that PV, now size nothing-to-speak-of, will swell, with attention, to Ego. And we don't know if you've heard Prunella sing, but …
MI's - PV

20 December 2011

If I did SF covers:

Under a mushroom and that port wine birthmark

"Though some suggested that he might have his prominent port wine birthmark surgically removed, Gorbachev opted not to, as once he was publicly known to have the mark, he believed it would be perceived as his being more concerned with his appearance than other more important issues."
- Wikipedia entry for Mikhail Gorbachev

But did everyone get the memo?

Irkutsk 1990

"Patriotically, I refuse to paint a port wine birthmark. Make it vodka, or I'll let them see borscht!"

19 December 2011

Living, naming, shaping, lusting, tasting, telling

Whether intended or not, there's an otherworldly harmony in this month's infinity plus singles releases.

Jurassic and the Great Tree
by Keith Brooke

(See also the new infinity plus edition of Brooke's The Accord, a definition-changing mindtwister of where you could rest your head, and a suspenseful love story.)

The Euonymist
by Neil Williamson

The Sculptor
by Garry Kilworth

Lizard Lust
by Lisa Tuttle

Valley of the Sugars of Salt
by Anna Tambour

Dinner with Strangers and the Old Choko

We dined, that dinner,
on onomatopoeia soup
sweepstakes with gravitas
gamuts of carpathians
sautéed appalachians
fricasseed aspirings
currant fool and sleaze.

The tabletalk — delicious!
heady splenetic methelglyn
barnacle-fed blue comfits
shocklit cake and feacle tart,
apoplectic mead.

A gong, those houri'd hours
of pipes and pans — anon now
as who is you.
The question is:
to me, to you, to meet you,
the plural and the singular —
Friends for a lifetime? once in a lifetime?
Not could we, but should we
break meat at table anniversaring?
Well, I will chance to greet you
dressed for anniversaring,
meet you for the gamuts and onomatopoeia soup,
for tabletalk and catchup.

Let's meet up in the middle of the
corner of the street.
Let's meet on a night like this one,
with darkness as unplumbable
as our deepest friendship,
when black as eye's pupil
the moon drowns
deep as murder in the marshes of the fen.

Let's meet up, my festal friends
deliciously anticipant,
I'll meet you
at half past when.

18 December 2011

Citizen-enhanced signery

The Courier's New Bicycle - Should go far

Just posted on the Amazon Kindle edition site, but this posting has added links.

This highly readable, important though not self-consciously Important, novel, deserves a footnote about the cultural context of zealotry, bigotry, and religion-mandated oppression that Kim Westwood paints so well. The story takes place in an eerily recognisable near future, in the lanes and post-Industrial lots of Australia's other big city, Melbourne; though "No one could have predicted what the flu pandemic ten years ago would bring."

Westwood's protagonist, Salisbury Forth, is self-defined as "Genderbent and happy, that's me."—'happy' being as bravura as singing "I'm a lumberjack and I'm OK" in the face of a monster. It's not easy living within the strictures of the new morality laws; and living outside them takes its toll on the body, on friendships and love. But no matter how secure people seem to be, how well-connected or comfortable, they are constantly being tested, and tempted. Loyalty, trust, 'community', personal ambition and biological needs and wants. The nature of societal and personal hypocrisy is beautifully explored, as violent bible-thumpers literally search the streets, looking for transgressors; and black markets thrive. Animals as factories are another theme here. And just when it seems as if PETA is rearing its head to take a chomp out of what is, after all, a page-turner of a mystery story, another great theme gaffs that beast. Zealotry itself is shown in full light, the breathing patient of it, opened up on the table of Westwood's not insensitive scrutiny.

This is a remarkable novel in many ways. It never panders, never sinks to stereotypes, and doesn't flinch. That this takes place in Australia is entirely believable, but for a different reason than if it were set in some city in the USA. Australia has a history of wowserism imposed by a few zealots on the many. The national psyche of Australians is embarrassment at anyone getting their knickers in a knot about anything, except for sport. And as for going to church on Sunday? Are you joking? This is why we get imposed religiosity, because we can't get off our bums enough to object, though we do object, as is shown by every poll. To American readers, the Christians won't seem odd; and this is largely because this type of zealot is an invasive species from the USA.

So with the different themes, including the zen of cycling, this novel is a symphony. The only notes that clanged were ones that often do in any story brave enough to inhabit the future. In a world where even the stock markets have collapsed, gourmet coffee and custom dérailleurs will be cherished memories. As will mobile phones and fashion, unless it's made of rags. But that's my opinion. In the past month I've read recent futures by leading writers that time-proof CNN (something that would have been seen as product placement if it were in film) and in some dump of an interstellar hotel, its owner worried about nuisance suits. So this quibble of mine about details of society that don't wash is a cheap shot that could be aimed at pretty much any speculative future, and not a complaint as much as an invitation to more of us to speculate.

I've given the novel 5 stars because the important themes it covers well are some of the most important issues that we are getting good at avoiding. Furthermore, I think that this novel should be awarded the Tiptree because it embodies everything the Tiptree Prize should stand for: an insistence against being shoved into any gender box. I also think that this novel should be awarded the inaugural Voiceless Writing Prize, not just because it speaks up for animals, but more importantly, because it shows how people who set out to stop others who not only break the law but are immoral (in ways that hurt the common good, not someone's hungry sense of outrage) can not only hurt their own cause by the strength of their passion, but be pounced on by the law for their actions, even as those who acted against the common good, continue in their well-connected ways.

11 December 2011

Cardoons! - the story behind the story

"Every Milkmaid you eat will bring you one step closer to a soft and smooth complexion."

Some say we won't have any secrets soon, and to that I say, Bahh Blabberbugs. But it would be churlish not to let on that my newest published story — Cardoons! — a horror tale of veg and WARNINGs (announced here the other day because I'm delighted that it's nestled in Issue #1 of Phantasmagorium, "A new quarterly collection of visceral adult fiction", edited by Laird Barron) — well, as I was roundaboutly saying, Cardoons! has some people without whom this tale wouldn't have been a sspht betwixt my synapses. This is one of my favourite stories, and that drooble above is an indulgence I couldn't help blurting out.

First, Cardoons! is dedicated to
Vincent Michael Simbulan, for his brainchild A Time For Dragons, An Anthology of Philippine Draconic Fiction. Specifically, as I wrote in a previous post, "Included in the volume is a wonderfully informative (without pain) essay by Charles Tan, about the great variety of dragons and their relationships with us."

(Oh, there are also many others who inspired my horrors in this story, but their names shall live in unfamy.)

And then you should know about the art of Marc McBride.

Just some of the art of Marc McBride

I greatly admire his art (and although the public doesn't know it yet, his writing also has a unique charm that is completely captivating).

We've worked together before, on this, because we like collaborating. I asked him to lead with the illo, and I would follow with a story.

The Eye of Nostradamus Summit
Painting by Marc McBride
Story by Anna Tambour

We both see Cardoons! as a lavishly illustrated children's book. I wrote Cardoons! for Marc, thinking of his beautiful prismatic, sinuous paintings — and especially his palette, rife with colours butterflies would kidnap him to garb them with.

New story in Virtuous Medlar Circle, new Irresistibles, new Quotes

Keep your tongue firmly in your cheek, lest it be taken for an ingredient on the loose.

"Turcotte took his knife out and started to evaluate the ingredients' ferocity and tactics."
– from the newest story in the Virtuous Medlar Circle,
"Turcotte's Battle" by Laura E. Goodin

Savour it, puzzle over a new portrait of a Magnificent Insignificant in the Season column, dance bonelessly as one model of abandonment does to the brazen brass and elastic beat of Bombay Royale — the first item listed in this month's Irresistibles. See a baby elephant birthed by Erth. Mix danger with childhood. Visit a dinosaur petting zoo. See the wonders of frogs & toads, fact & fiction. Be outwhiskered by the world's greatest nuzzles. And in Quotes, snicker with Dennis Danvers at art infectiousness; and just below that beauty, snigger at what us poor mugs paid for, as art (including 'performance art') as opposed to music, beauty, spectacle, consummate performances, and having a right good rave of a time.

All at the circus of unexpectednesses, the Other in my officialish aufor site.

07 December 2011

"One letter, one life" - and no one is asking you to give

The no-hassle to write, free-to-send cards that really do save lives
Billions of greetings are on the move already, the bulk of them resulting in a lukewarm feeling of 'that's nice' or 'they still want our business'.

Some cards, however, actually make such a difference that the piffling effort taken is astounding, compared to the result.

“I received your letter on Christmas Eve, just as I was having horrible thoughts of cutting this earth trip short. The correctional officer said ‘you got mail,’ and that snapped me back from the edge. As I read the paragraph, 'We received many messages from people who wanted to let you know that you are not forgotten,' my eyes got blurry, full of tears. So it was hard for me to see clearly. And now even as I write this letter there's a tear running down my cheek. I always thought nobody goes through what I go through...the holiday cards saved my life.”
- Alvin
Read his story and others at Just Detention International's
"The Holiday Cards Saved My Life"

I asked Lovisa Stannow, the Executive Director of JDI, for some quotes that I could post here. This is what she said:
Our card campaign presents a rare opportunity to do something that is completely free, takes only a minute, and has the potential to save the life of prisoners who have endured horrific sexual abuse while in the government’s custody. During last year’s holiday card campaign, I was in awe of the outpouring of kindness and compassion from hundreds of people who sent greetings. I was equally amazed by the responses from prisoner rape survivors who received the holiday cards. Some of them had never, ever received a card in the mail before. Most of them had no idea there were so many people out there who cared about them, who were fighting for their right to dignity.

As for the greetings folks submitted last year, here are some nice examples:
“I wish you hope, healing, and support. Please know there are people fighting for you, even if you have never seen us. Know there is love.”

“May you take comfort in knowing that countless people in the free world care deeply about you and will not stop fighting for justice.”

“From one survivor to another, I send you hope for peace of mind and heart. On both sides of the bars, we give one another strength to go on.”
And here’s one from today:

“Dear Friend, I guess this time of year may feel particularly hard. Please let me take a minute to say that I recognize that your humanity and your safety are worth fighting for regardless of your detention. I wish you hope and joy every day. Be well.”
So it's easy and free, and you can do it without worry about your privacy being completely respected. I asked Lovisa to elaborate.
"We never share anyone’s contact information with anyone, ever – prisoner or not. For this campaign, it’s absolutely enough to include a first name. Even if someone does include their full name and contact information, we’ll only include the first name in the holiday card (your message makes me think we should make that clearer on our website!). We are, of course, keen to get people’s full names and e-mail addresses so that we can stay in touch with those who participate in this effort and build JDI’s base of supporters."
— Lovisa Stannow
600 People
So wherever you are in the world, send a card or a few. In fact, it's kind of cool thinking of thousands of us—people from everywhere—sending these life-changing messages to folks in the USA. It's a small world, and we all benefit when someplace begins to clean up its act.

I have the highest respect for the reforms that JDI advocates, and for the people in this small efficient NGO. They are wholly committed to making the world a truly better place, where 'humane' has a meaning, not a cause for a wink and a joke.

In March 2011, JDI reported:
The [US] Department of Justice has released its first-ever estimate of how many people are sexually abused in U.S. detention in a one-year period. In 2008, the Department says, at least 216,600 people were abused in prisons and jails, and in 17,100 of these cases, in juvenile detention

Overall, that's almost 600 people a day.
Last year, the first year of JDI's Holiday Card campaign, 600 cards were sent. That's nothing compared to what we could do this year.

06 December 2011

Two recommended collections

First, a warning: Foul words ahead.
Those shit-spurting dissimulators at Amazon!

Amazon gives new meaning to "It is better to give than to receive".
Now, whenever someone 'gifts' a Kindle book to some unsuspecting person, the Act is an Impertinence. Receiving now, in my case, was like living in a society entirely designed by theorists on Asteroid *. Amazon needs to make sure that when it sends an email directing someone to click and receive, there is a non-graphic link that actually appears in the email, regardless of whether the email is set to accept graphics. And Amazon needs to look at their own Q & A, seeing how circular their nonhelp is. And Amazon needs to also understand that a recipient might not use the same email for Amazon as the gift comes in on. And also, duh, one platform needs to be able to have multiple accounts. In my case, I had to open the mail in the cloud, and eventually learn from some discussion group that to accept the gift that's in a name other than what you use with Amazon, you just log in with Amazon as normal, and put in the code, and you'll receive. If you want to then take that book and read it on your other pc, from my experience, if this was ever discussed in Amazon, the answer was "if our customers (or do they call us 'guests'?) want to do that, they can go fuck themselves."

That said, eventually I was able to download this new collection by Adam Browne, entitled Phantasmagoriana, though, grrr, cutting and pasting some quotes from it is something the Masters don't wish us to be capable of, damn their corporate obtusities!

But what about Phantasmagoriana?
This collection has as many tones as a battle between gamelans and bombards.

At first glance, it can seem like an exercise in impressionism, just for the showiness, but that's a false impression. There's a lot of depth here, especially philosophical, quite beautifully (unshowily!) expressed. The collection deserves another title, an original sit-up-and-notice handle equal to the original quirkiness of the stories.

I do have some favourites, of which "Biology …" is first in terms of the message, and "Bladderwrack …" in sheer, pitching-perfect fun, with the added tot of poignancy. (disclaimer: I have a small addiction to 17th and 18th century journals and tales, especially those with sea-legs.)

"A Retrospective" (a long story new to this collection) is a story that should be anthologised, and would fit well in a Strange Attractor publication. Full of cultural richness, this doesn't read as if it's another story of literary mining in exotic lands, but as if the writer hasn't dug this from a pile of media-shit or even a clean screen and shining writing qualifications. It does read as if at least part of the making of this story could have been a tropical boil.

"Heart of Saturday Night", taking place in modern Thailand is citygritty. "The Sun King" is exceedingly playful. But then there's the mischievous "Space Operetta" with its marvelously cheeky opening and its delicious second to last para. But then dammit, "An Account of an Experiment …" is a perfect blend of spot-on period drollery without the pain but with all the irreverent fun that one could see written in the original.

Browne (and the Browne/John Dixon collaboration in "The Laughing Girl of Bora ...") has an incredible ability to squeeze the gist out of a period of time, and place—even one that he makes up. Out of gist, he makes a story that is so smoothly enticing, it is a thrill to be transported, even to places that have so much reeking atmosphere that if there was a lull in the story, a reader could start sniffing the room for mildew or ... and there is so much ("its forces a confoundment", "the beggars drowning in their own karma") that without something to say, this would be another collection of impressionistic cloudskins.

There's a lot of heart in these stories, but nothing prescriptive. These are the stories of someone who has a life and has observed others, an author who has the confidence to stand back and let the stories tell—an author who has the humility to write about somethings other than himself. An author who has the maturity to try different voices and to collaborate at times with others (I first met a story by Adam Browne when I was backrooming editorwise, and so thoroughly enjoyed that "Laughing Girl" Browne/Dixon collab that I asked for private emails so that I could tell them personally). And then later, I stuck up my three or so thumbs pointing to its worthiness here.

And so I heartily like this collection, so much that I will now stick the boot in. Although this Kindle edition is beautifully set, there is something missing—that acknowledgments page that tells where, if anyplace, the stories were previously published. So here is that information (all the stories except one most excellent long story were previously published, but aren't easy to find).
I never expect every story in a collection or anthology to work for me, and only rarely find a collection in which every story does (both of Laird Barron's collections are magnificent exceptions), so I'll state here that three stories in Adam Browne's Phantasmagoriana would mess up the starcount if I were forced to plaster a book with them, as if this were some child's assignment.

Firstly, "Honeymoon" was fatally wounded by the drafting of a Southern General. The authors, who otherwise make a team as powerful as Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette, should have fought about this hoary draftee. If they both agreed, then they should be sentenced to a pitcher each of warm syrupy mint julep, chugged on empty stomachs in infernal heat; and then a 20 click run through streets overflowing with more poverty-stricken cliches reaching out to them than Slumcur Zillionaire. Any story that has anyone, General or no, from the Deep South saying "Mah Nellie" should be treated with extreme prejudice, whether that General or- has, as he does in this case, tentacles, or not. It isn't that I am against anyone 'doing' the South, or that I don't think the way people express themselves is fascinating. There's been a sight too much presumptuousness about it, just as there is in, say, depicting any man who lives in Appalachian backwoods as a man itching to use his axe to skin you in your sleep. I object to trying to ride a dead horse. Let it rot! Actually, the American South is a fascinating place, with a plethora of styles of communication. And I speak with some knowledge, as someone who endured painful teasing in Alabama from fellow students and teachers alike, for saying theater with only two syllables. But anything that comes outa yur mouth is funny as hell to someone else. I've been the source of beer-spilling mirth for one word uttered in a bar in Maastricht, and words like water or phrases like dew on the grass can bring strong locals anywhere to tears. And that is just 'English'. Chinese people are too polite to laugh in your face when you ask for anything, but foreigners learn to act like children: show a note written by someone who knows.

Highly recommended
The best story I ever read not just about language, but the ways the subtleties place us and cause us to be more judgmental than God having one of his attacks of the vapours — is "Explanations Are Clear" by L. Timmel Duchamp, in Never at Home, her superbly vigorous collection (that hasn't garnered the following it should, possibly because of the timid cover).
Alice thought of how she called Corinne's parents Marian and Joe. Totally different worlds, yes. Not to mention her mother's dropping the esses on her plurals, and pronouncing her ths like ds or ts, which Alice, conscious of Corinne's foreign ear, noticed as she had almost never done in her life.
In fact, throughout this collection, the issues of language and expression run like blood in an artery. One short paragraph in the muscular but spare should-be-prize-winning "Sadness Ineffable, Desire Ineluctable":
Need to know? First religious nuances, and now the language of national security freaks?
Never at Home is an outstanding collection of stories that explore the complexity of relationships in an unusual depth and iridescence. Often very beautiful, but never affected, I hope that this collection gets the prizes it deserves, and I hope that L. Timmel Duchamp is snapped up by another publisher of the highest quality fiction.

But were you itching to get back to the other two stories in Phantasmagoriana that didn't work for me?
The first one and the last—the first, because I think it was going along swimmingly till it briefly literary note-dropped, a wholly unnecessary celebrity appeal—to appeal to the college educated, who know the allusion from the notes (for the allusion is not to something loved, but studied, if ever) and then that dratted airship (not the only gratuitous dirigible in this collection, tut tut!).

And the last story, to me, was too influenced by Borges, who is a bad influence.

And that ends the ramble for today. Usually I proof and rewrite till my brain is reduced to a stub. Today, I'm too bushed. Abject insincere apologies for all my downright mistakes, and garblings.

P.S. Now a few days have passed, enough time that one of those unpleasant how did you miss these jolts just hit me. I wrote above: I never expect every story in a collection or anthology to work for me, and only rarely find a collection in which every story does (both of Laird Barron's collections are magnificent exceptions). But suddenly I want to add two others, both of which hold special places on my shelves. Across Paris, by Marcel Aymé, a collection that astounded me so much that I bought up every title I could by him (all at who-would-want-this-old-thing prices) only to be disappointed. The other consistently astounding and haunting collection, full of believably twisted relationships on all levels, and geographies that can't be GPS'd, is Dagger Key and Other Stories by Lucius Shepard (though the author of the Introduction reminds me of my allergy to plastic watches; every fresh exposure produces greater irritation).

02 December 2011

The gourmet snail

It is never wise to disturb a gourmet who's digging in, though listening to a snail eat is one of life's great and greatly under-celebrated pleasures. As to who is being spied upon, I don't have a clue, nor would I presume to try to find out.

"In order to recognise and describe new snail species, it is not enough to study their shells or what they do look like from the outside. Species of each genus do look very similar, esp. for laymen. The most characteristic feature - a kind of "species fingerprint" - of Australian land snails is the anatomy of their penial wall."
— Martin Pueschel, Australian Museum (see his gorgeous drawings of these sinuosities here)

"I'm not a species. I'm an individual!"
— anon., though often attributed to a man who walked into a bar on Xlugna, 2098

This is the polyporus woody pore-fungus that the snail has been trawling on a long lunch.

Go have your own good time viewing the weird and wondrous offerings of the Fungilicious group's art challenge:
"Woody pore-fungi & Bracket-fungi (Polyporus and allies) Must show the pores clearly!!!!

And now we'll slink off.

"An occasional meal with himself is very good for Mr. Doe. It gives him time to look about him; quiet in which to savour his present mouthful."
– M.F.K. Fisher, "On Dining Alone", from Serve It Forth

01 December 2011

Quotefest - from Steve Aylett's Novahead

First, read this new Aug Stone interview of Aylett in The Quietus. I never seem to have a Lint around to quote from because I keep getting them to give away, so I'll just say that Lint is canonic, and getting the accessories to Lint is part of the fun – see an excerpt from And Your Point is? in the Virtuous Medlar Circle.

Next, do you have your Novahead? Now in both paper and Kindle editions, Novahead should sear Aylett in the brains of those who give out comfits.

And there could be a prize given called the Aylett Award, for a work that can be savoured by random sentence. A sentence that means something, and some.

Random hits from Novahead
The air was criss-crossed with a density of laws that could strip the skin off a man's head for a moment's inattention.

Recoil is like hearing your own accent.

I'd known the town was finished when I put a phone to my ear and found it was a cockroach.

He had no goggles and I realised he detected the Mantarosa only by the hysterico-gravitational behaviour of the vehicles around us.

He shook himself and stood up in a big way. He certainly dominated a room. It would take a lot of work to kill him from beginning to end.

'A few days ago,' he said. 'I shot you point-blank with a Kingmaker.'
'I forgive you. But don't shoot anyone else. It makes them uncomfortable.'

By the time I realised with horror that life was no mere passing fancy, I'd grown attached to its compensatory malices.

28 November 2011

A squabble of bats – In honour of 'Nora Munro's Belfry


A corroboree of witches
squabbles in the trees;
they'd knee each other
but they don't
have knees.

They're not polite and
they never say please.
Their eyes are limpid
but their tactics —

Never trust a fruit bat when
there's something sweet to eat.
If your toes are lickable
she'll leave you
sans feet.

Her loveliness is stunning
her fur a soft delight -
but when the blossoms
blossom, she only speaks
to fight.

Like a beauty on a sale day
just DON'T get in her way.
Between her and her
desire, there's only room to

This line of Nora's is hanging here, begging to be limericked.

So please do (knit it into a limerick, that is)
or, taking the line as is or mincing if you please (and though some might eeew it, you'll earn kudos for adding suet), commit your very own bob and wheel, rhupunt, or sneadhbhairdne;
or Carrollify, Seussate, or Yeats it to your taste.
You can even season with pepper spray.
Whatever, but serve it forth, forthwith!
Poems Poems Poems!

27 November 2011

from and to a writer who gets form-letter rejections

"You want me to go in there? Why don't you sniff, for a change?"

The biggest problem many 'new writers' have is assaying — which piece of invaluable advice is treasure, and which, something better left for experts: a bomb squad or a team in biohazard suits. The following is from a nw who has written some wonderfully crisp and tangy stories, but. My answer follows, but since your advice might be the opposite, perhaps you'd like to toss your advice in for nw's to pick up.
"Most of my rejections are the generic kind with no story-specific comments, so I'm always left scratching my head wondering what the turn off was.

I think every writer has to get the hack stories out of their system.
You know--the God vs. Devil story, the time travel story, the AI story, the robot story, the nanobot story, the dragon, vampire, zombie and werewolf stories ... I have a few stories left that I know are going to be panned (the help line story, the talking sword story) but maybe if I work a little harder to find the offbeat part of each one, they might be salvageable. If not, there's always the bottom drawer. No story is ever dead."
My answer to your hack-story line is, whall, no. There is no reason to be for a hack story that exists because it is derivative, in my opinion. Being a writer isn't like being a potter, which must build on imitation, and for many successful potters, never progresses from there. Writing that is rewarding is the communication of something. It may play with recognisable elements, but that is beside the point. A story worth stealing a reader's time and brain is itself something that has its own life, its own taxonomic category, and one that is worth fierce fights over as to which species the damn thing is—a fight that is ultimately, unresolvable unless it is awarded its own kingdom.

Anyway, that's my opinion. I think that by looking at stories as you are, you are wasting your own capacities and ignoring what has made you what you are today: a thinking person who is highly reflective, but who isn't trusting your own take on the world to be more valid than those who suck their 'works' from the canned goods of others.

What do YOU think?

"Against prevailing dogmas"
Of course, all writers and indeed, all people creating something, even new theories about disease, must learn to constantly assess and assay, as some recent Nobel laureates have learned.

The worst advice can come from the very sources we are supposed to trust the most. Many writers have fretted over their feet not fitting into the footwear of the moment, but shoved them in anyway, just because of a shallow faddish youshouldwrite delivered irresponsibly by a someone in the trade, a someone who's not there when you're ready to dance in those stupid glitsy shoes.

There are sites that bristle with famous rejection notes, but think what would have happened to this soul if he had listened when he should have in those tender formative years, well before he was even a grub of a nw.

"He has the most distorted ideas about wit and humour."
- Arthur Herman Gilkes, headmaster, Dulwich [seriously],
writing to the parents of P. G. Wodehouse

Finds from the Proscriptozoic Era

Bottom drawer -
Blockbuster drafts

Actual form letter -
on recreated desk of the time

(translation: "We're sorry to say that this manuscript is not right for us,
in spite of its evident merit.")

20 November 2011

Fairy penguin observations

This Eudyptula minor commonly known as a Fairy Penguin (but authorities today prefer, if we insist on being common, "Little Blue Penguin") was on the beach south of Ulladulla early this morning, rigor mortis not quite set in. I couldn't find any injury, so won't speculate on why it died.

Its oily feathers smelt remarkably unfishy—and even more surprisingly, as if it had bathed with Sunlight soap. Why a penguin would smell like a sheep beats me, and the comparison makes me cringe to have stated it, so if anyone can shed light on the composition of its fats, I would appreciate learning.

16 November 2011

Tips for ending writer's block

It's the season again! Aye, November, and this year the feral NaNoWriMos have spread to everywhere in Australia. So that they don't invade my tree, I've come out of it to give some advice that always works for me.

Think of limericks with amplexus.

Observation is so rewarding.

13 November 2011

"Picking Blueberries" now an infinity plus single

New ebook singles from infinity plus:
The Life Business — John Grant
The Bone Flute — Lisa Tuttle
The Death of Cassandra Quebec — Eric Brown
Playmate — Kit Reed
Picking Blueberries — Anna Tambour
("Picking Blueberries" is one of the stories in my collection, Monterra's Deliciosa & Other Tales &, reissued by infinity plus earlier this year in a new expanded edition.)

02 November 2011

Oh hah hah! Irresistible "Tales from the Secret Shop" by Marc Laidlaw and Jim Murray

His face! and what curls from his bag! and shllp indeed!

This is everything that a comic should be, and I'd love to plaster the pages in this blog as well as all over my wall. Besides, I'm a sucker for shopkeeper stories, as well as beasts of overburden.

Written by the inimitable Marc Laidlaw. Painted to perfexselection by Jim Murray.

Tales from the Secret Shop
a new serial comic beginning today with
"Are We Heroes Yet?"

Warning: If you die laughing, that's your problem.

28 October 2011

Adventures with your tongue in the bush

Flowers flowers everywhere, to drink from and to eat.

Will you have hollandaise with that?

This Lomandra longifolia has a quiet sense of humour. Both its flowers and the base of its strappy leaves are said to be good tasting. They should be. It is a member of the family Asparagaceae.

Bottlebrushes are tongue-friendly. Some birds such as the Honeyeaters and Rainbow Lorikeets have specially adapted tongues—variations of brush-tips—the soaks.

Melaleuca hypericifolia

Listed as "Red-flowered paperbark" and "commonly known as Hillock Bush", say many quoted sources. Balderdash! Almost every Australian who sees these calls them bottlebrushes, though bottlebrushes belong, maybe, to another genus sent to try us. Botanists are studying them to decide how to best argue classification. In the meantime, Red Bottlebrush describes quite a few native plants that are currently foudroyant.

Utterly delicious — the rain-nectar cocktail, sucked straight from the flowers.

27 October 2011

Feral leprechauns! Read and see "Undine Love" by Kathleen Jennings

Great minds, some might say. Minds, shminds. It's a case of observation.

When Kathleen Jennings and I both wrote about those feral migrants—leprechauns in the paddock—neither knew the other had been spying on them too. We didn't look from the same point of view (or maybe the sun was in her eyes) for as she writes:
"Our two stories touch on almost exactly the same theme in similar settings from opposite standpoints – in some cases, down to sentences which directly contradict the other story."

Nobody's perfect
Get your eyes to "Undine Love", a story not only written by her, but illustrated by her too. As I've said before, her art is a joy even if she's overendowed with talent. She paints with words as fluently as she tells stories with her paintings. So, so what if she contradicts the only correct standpoint? So does every mapmaker brainwashed by the blood-in-the-headedness of those upside-down Northern Hemisphereans.

"Undine Love" appears in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (ASIM) issue #52, just "released from captivity". I've only mentioned one story but the whole issue is a mesmeriser.

Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine Issue 52 edited by David Kernot. Authors: Sean Monaghan, Dominik J Parisien, Nicky Drayden, Kathleen Jennings, Brenda Anderson, Felicity Pulman, Liz Colter, Ray Tabler, Melanie Typaldos, Linda Jenner, Rachel Kolar, GR McLeod, LK Pinaire, Margaret Karmazin, Pam L Wallace, David Conyers and John Goodrich, Peter Cooper, Natalie Nikolovski, and Ken Liu. Poetry: Alexandra Seidel , Jack Horne. Features: Jacob Edwards. Artwork: David Conyers, Kathleen Jennings, and cover by Olivia Kernot.

Trap yours here (available in many formats, including instant-gratification)

26 October 2011


Not only delicious picked straight from the beach, but in my opinion, a great model. If I were a science-fiction magazine designer, this would be a cover shot.

23 October 2011

Recommended standalone short story ebooks

"This month, infinity plus launches the singles series, cheap short stories you can read in a single sitting at lunch or in the evening, an opportunity for readers to discover unfamiliar authors, and maybe a chance to breathe life back into the short fiction market."
"Infinity Plus Singles: a new line of standalone short story ebooks"
The first five releases:
#1 One Step Closer – Iain Rowan

#2 Has Anyone Here Seen Kristie? – John Grant

#3 The Time-Lapsed Man – Eric Brown

#4 Head Shots – Keith Brooke

#5 Old Soldiers – Kit Reed

Full details and purchasing links at infinity plus singles

And my not-so-secret favourite,
Blaft Publications, is at it, too, with "an e chapbook, a very short ebook"
Eating Sugar, Telling Lies by Kuzhali Manickavel, a writer of great power, wickedly accurate satire, and no patience with long-windedness.

Confessions of a dead-tree addict, an addict to smell, touch, and the beauty of text on a page
I do admit that I thought "Who will want to buy a single story to read as an ebook?" But then I also thought, "Who would want to read a novel as an ebook?" Possibly I would have thought once, "Why would anyone want to convert a picture to thousands of symbols that people have to learn to decode to understand?"

I hate reading fiction I can't drop crumbs into, rip a hangnail in tension over, and bleed onto.
I hate the current level of aesthetics in typography.
But they are cheap.
And they're gloriously self-indulgently instantly accessible.
Horrors, but hooray.

As for me, I still don't have an e-reader. They don't work here in the bush. But even if they did, these now are primitive. I'm hanging out for the e-book with illuminated dingbats.