Sunday, October 27, 2013

Writers [on Writing]: Barbara Kingslover

Writers [on Writing]: Barbara Kingslover

In actual word count, if the literary novels in my bookcase accurately represent human experience, it looks as if people spend roughly half their time in intelligent dialogue about the meaning of their lives, and 1 percent of it practicing or contemplating coition.
         Excuse me, but I don't think so.
         Why should literary authors shy away from something so important?

Barbara Kingslover, A Forbidden Territory to All

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Few Years Ago: Reading Alice Munro

A Few Years Ago

A few years ago I despairingly forced myself to read Munro. I couldn't appreciate her style at all: overly descriptive, overly wordy and overly subtle plots. 'Littish wank.'

Yet now I keenly observe everything she does. Her generally subtle plots are wonderful flavours imbuing her work; her significant details enable us to view humanity under a microscope; she evokes relationships with elegant descriptive brushstrokes. Her structure is also unique and effective, almost like biographical or autobiographical snapshots (sometimes a series of snapshots).

I suppose what Munro has taught me is that the more you read and write the more you appreciate different aspects of narrative mastery. The irony is that a few years ago I would have told friends to avoid her, unless they liked wading through a turgid mire.

A few years later and I'm a Munro evangelist: 'Read Munro!'

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Review of Dreaming of Djinn in Locus Magazine, Michael Swanwick's Blog, Current Reads and Latest Publication News

Locus Magazine Review of "Oleander: An Ottoman Tale" from Rich Horton

The end of Rich Horton's Short Fiction Review in Locus Magazine (October) included a nice review of my story "Oleander: an Ottoman Tale" in Dreaming of Djinn.

As short fiction reviewers for speculative fiction's most celebrated review magazine, Rich Horton and Gardner Dozois are two editors that read as much short spec-fic as anyone in the game. They additionally compile and edit 'Best ofs', along with Jonathan Strahan (based here in Perth), Ellen Datlow (Horror) and Paula Guran (Dark Fantasy and Horror) - apologies if I've missed anyone out.

So it's flattering to be mentioned in Locus Magazine at all, let alone by a specialist in the field. In the story, as Horton mentions below, I intended to combine many elements and, while maintaining drama and tension was important, I wanted the ending to be a more pensive, thought provoking one, rather than the overly dramatic kind.


I'd like to thank the editor of Dreaming of Dinn, Liz Gryzb for sending the following through to me with a sweet congratulatory message.

Short Fiction: Rich Horton p. 17

Finally, a brief mention of a nice story from an Australian anthology of fantasies on Middle-Eastern themes, Dreaming of Djinn: ‘‘Oleander: An Ottoman Tale’’, by Anthony Panegyres, about the daughter of a failing merchant who wants her to marry an Arabic man to restore the family fortunes. She is interested in a soldier who sometimes rides by her window. Intertwined with that story is a djinn who seems to visit at night, and also the fate of her brother, taken to be a Janissary, and of a little boy she encounters in the market. A lot of elements combine in a story ultimately quieter, and less dramatic, than one might expect, but quite nicely done.

Michael Swanwick

And the link below is a bit on Michael Swanwick's blog. I don't quite agree with Swanwick on this one but I loved his reply to some haphazard comments I made. His blog 'Flogging Babel' is well worth following as he's a frequent blogger who's personal, witty, humorous and sharp (I hardly blog - Swanwick manages it all). His blog aside, Swanwick's fiction is worthwhile reading and much of it groundbreaking.

I have waxed lyrical in the past about Swanwick on this blog but I've also been mildly critical of some of his work. After reading his post, I'm beginning to wonder whether it was the right thing to do...but then again.

Currently Reading: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. Finishing off Richard Yates' Collected Stories (surely he deserved a Pulitzer for his short fiction alone) and Alice Munro's Selected Stories (went off and bought The Beggar Maid and Progress in Love to read more of her work - the stories from those two titles stood out for me the most).

And ironically, I just finished Dancing with Bears by Michael Swanwick. Although lighter fare than his earlier novels it still abounds with symbolic meaning. It also displays Swanwick's deep understanding of Moscow and Russian history, albeit through a clever, farcical 'steampunk' adventure, starring those two likeable rogues, Darger and Surplus. 

Latest Publication News

Proud to have stories being released soon in two of our leading literary journals, Meanjin and Overland

I've been extremely fortunate since I began submitting a few years ago - it's been a dream run: nine publications since 2011, including literary journals I thought untouchable; an Aurealis Finalist last year for Best Fantasy Short Story; and a story in The Year's Best of Australian Fantasy & Horror. The publications have challenged my previously misguided belief that the big journals just published name authors. I now believe, perhaps wrongly of course, that writing of quality is generally rewarded - this sounds conceited and it's not my intention here, what I essentially mean to convey is that at least in Australian circles, the 'big' journals with limited space and often renown names, appear to be selecting on a merit basis. Fortunately, I live in Perth and have no contact whatsoever with the Eastern States editors before selection, which means it's entirely based on the work itself rather than the personality behind it (an exception to meeting editors  is Perthite, Liz Gryzb, who I'd met at a convention but she'd  read my story "Reading Coffee" for The Year's Best beforehand. Since then we've met up on several occasions). 

The part I've enjoyed the most so far is that there haven't been any boundaries or issues in having both 'realist' and 'spec-fic' published simultaneously. After all, I have a passion for reading and writing in both genre.

My latest story (a homage) is in the deservedly lauded Meanjin and the next story out "Submerging"will be in Overland 214. This is my second story to appear in the pages of that courageous, thought-provoking journal. It's a different fiction editor who's working there now, author Jennifer Mills. Both Mills and the former fiction editor, Jane Gleeson-White write extraordinarily well (fiction and non-fiction respectively).

My two most recent stories are 'realist', although "Submerging" is also a metaphorical work. After the Locus Review, however, I feel encouraged to 'spe-fic-it-up' again soon!

Political Gripe: The mad right wingers having a mad-hatters tea party in Congress.