23 June 2011

An Interview With Laura Solomon

Laura Solomon has an honours degree in English Literature (Victoria University, 1997) and a Masters degree in Computer Science (University of London, 2003). Her books include ‘Black Light’, ‘Nothing Lasting’, ‘Alternative Medicine’, ‘An Imitation of Life’, ‘Instant Messages’, ‘The Theory of Networks’, ‘Operating Systems’, ‘Hilary and David’, In Vitro and ‘The Shingle Bar Taniwha and Other Stories’. She has won prizes in the Bridport, Edwin Morgan, Ware Poets, Willesden Herald, Proverse Hong Kong and Essex Poetry Festival competitions.

Laura's poem Janet Frame’s Adversaries Have Their Way. Janet is Lobotomised and Spends Her Life Selling Hats in Oamaru. was my Tuesday Poem this week.

Laura, you are best known as a writer of fiction, and in vitro is your first collection of poetry. Have you been accumulating the poems in this collection for a while, or have they all been written recently?

I wrote the poems between 2006 and 2009.

For those who don't know your work, how would you describe your poetry – does it follow a particular style or poetic tradition?

Fairly experimental, but also quite lyrical.

While I was reading in vitro, I noted down descriptions like 'clinical', 'forensic', and 'disenchanted' – though, lest this make the book appear too gloomy, many of the poems are also very entertaining! But do you think these adjectives can fairly be applied to these poems?

Some of the poems are quite bleak or severe in subject matter, but lightened up with comedy.

I see that you have published several novels as e-books in Hong Kong. Was it a difficult decision to have them published in e-book format, and are you happy with the result?

Happy with e-book for Hilary and David, not sure yet whether the sequels to Instant Messages are going to be ebook or normal printed book yet.

I have the impression – forgive me if I'm wrong – that you, like I, write fiction that doesn't fit neatly into the categories that New Zealand publishers, and perhaps other international publishers, are comfortable with. Do you ever think "Oh, if only I'd written good old realism", or, "time to get cracking on that paranormal romance"?

No, I just write what I feel like and hope for the best.

How do you think the publishing scene overseas compares to the New Zealand scene, particularly in its hospitality to work that doesn't fit neat category definitions?

Just the same, difficult to break into UK market, none of the agents or publishers seem interested, so I just keep entering UK competitions from NZ. Seem to do better in comps, than just straight submitting to agents and publishers, not sure why.

Which (if any) poets would you describe as influences on your work?

Atwood, Rich, Plath.

How about writers of fiction?

Atwood, Angela Carter, Jeanette Winterson.

If you have the opportunity, what direction(s) do you see your writing heading in next?

That’s a secret!! ☺

Book availability

Laura's collection in vitro is available from HeadworX, and there are more publication details of Laura's other books on Beattie's Book Blog - check the first comment.

21 June 2011

Tuesday Poem: Janet Frame’s Adversaries Have Their Way. Janet is Lobotomised and Spends Her Life Selling Hats in Oamaru., by Laura Solomon


What good would she have been anyway,
left the way she was, full of dotty ideas, half-crippled by madness?
There’re enough raving lunatics in the world,
we don’t need one more curly-haired crazy,
lolloping about the streets, spilling prophecy.

What good would she have been anyway,
claiming to be from her Kingdom by the Sea,
perching on gravestones in the Otago Cemetery,
staring into the far distance,
like somebody who could see something we couldn’t?

And see her there, so happy, all her pain chopped out, eradicated,
along with all her brilliance. Smiling, always smiling – so what if the eyes look dead?

It’s not visionaries the world needs, but hat sellers.

She was something that could not blend in,
too many sharp angles, too many gaudy colours,
and gawd that hair,
but anything, you’ll find, can be reduced to black and white,
anything can be shoved into a box,
it’s just a question of how much has to be chopped off
in order to get it to fit.

After all, anybody can write a book. It’s retail work that’s tricky,
all those numbers to add up and subtract,
when you tally up at the end of the day (that’s if they choose to grant you such power),
all those hats to keep in those tidy little piles,
same colours, same shapes, all together, all neat,
a place for everything. Everything in its place.

All those people to so faithfully serve.

Don’t ask me who made the mould – somebody else, a long, long time ago.
Who cares now, when that thing was created, or how?
we all managed to squeeze ourselves into it,
so why shouldn’t she be forced to do the same?

Who cares what she could’ve or would’ve achieved,
left to her own devices?

The important thing is that we maimed her while we had the chance,
before she grew too big for the boots we wanted her in.

O please now, children, don’t make a fuss,
She could’ve been one of the greats, they said,
now she’s one of us.

Note: This poem is published in Laura Solomon's collection in vitro (HeadworX, 2011). Look out for my interview with Laura later this week.

You can read all the Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem blog - the featured poem is on the centre of the page, and the week's other poems are linked from the right-hand column.

16 June 2011

Good Things Happen Too

When I'm not doing my day job, I spend a lot of my time dealing with and thinking about things that aren't good - plans to fuck up the climate or fuck up our communities (and the climate) in the name of profit and an outdated, Father Knows Best view of this country's future.

Bad things happen in the writing side of my life too - rejections, bright ideas that don't work out - but lots of good things happen too, and it's always great to come back to them and see how different projects are progressing.

So, here are some good waves that are on the crest of breaking.

Slightly Peculiar Love Stories

Penelope Todd of Rosa Mira Books has pulled together a remarkable range of authors to contribute to this anthology, which does what it says on the tin: love stories, with a twist. I'm delighted that my story "Said Sheree" - a love story, with literary funding - is included in that number.

Slightly Peculiar Love Stories will be available as an ebook very soon. In the runup to its release, Penelope has been running a series of guest posts by the anthology's contributors on the Rosa Mira Books blog. They make entertaining reading, and great tasters for the book!

Tales For Canterbury

I've blogged about fundraising anthology Tales for Canterbury, which includes my story "Sign of the Tui", before. It's now out in the world and doing very well. There are a couple of excellent reasons to buy it: one is the continuing need for donations to Christchurch earthquake relief, which is where the book's proceeds will be going; and one is the excellence of the stories.

I've banged on about this topic long enough, so instead of paying attention to me, I suggest you check out this reader review of the anthology from LibraryThing or listen to this recent Radio NZ Arts on Sunday interview about the anthology with two of the authors represented, Amanda Fitzwater and Matt Cowens.

Then I suggest you head straight over to the publisher's website and get yourself a copy.

15 June 2011

Today Is Deadline Day

A quick reminder, folks: today is the final day to submit poems to "Eye to the Telescope 2", the online anthology of speculative poetry from New Zealand and Australian poets that I'm editing. Submissions close at midnight today, New Zealand time.

I'm looking forward to reading all the submissions once the deadline has passed - if you want to make sure yours is among them, check out the first issue of Eye to the Telescope and the submission guidelines.

13 June 2011

Tuesday Poem: 256 Words For Snow, by Mary Cresswell

I’m inclined to tow the line, you opined, dismantling
            the spyglass and putting it into the icebox we
            kept for that season.

I stormed out.

This was not what I had in mind as, armed only with
            a memory stick, I considered possible forays
            into the outside world. The blizzard clattered
            frozen water and blazed around the windows.

Exercising demons is not one of my skills, but I
            excepted this. Perhaps the hexagonal flakes
            will cease their incessant fall upon the
            coruscating rink.

Perhaps none of this is true.

I put my ear to the wall of the cabin and ascertained
            that what I heard was sound. The shape is
            troped in the shaven ice, you cried, and we
            will all be quashed.

Nonsense, I snapped, cutting your fine Italian
            hand off at the wrist and tossing it across
            the estuary. We must swing through the
            slush fund, take what we can, and proceed
            according to precedent. There is no other way.

The ship rocked, as if in answer.

You began to nibble my ear lobe, and I leaped
            back. Outside outside, I cried and cried. You
            collected the tears as they rattled down like
            crystal beads into the bilges. We dragged up a
            try-pot and commenced fire.

A full moon shone as the storm moved north-
            northwest, seeking a kinder sunset. As we
            sank our starveling selves into the pleasures of
            the boil, I elucidated the stars: The Dog and
            the Bear. The Dipper. The Dongle, the Bilge

We dined on fried snow and were glad.

Credit note: "256 Words For Snow" is published in Mary Cresswell's new collection Trace Fossils.

Tim says: After I interviewed Mary about her new book recently, I've had the pleasure of reading it - in fact, I just finished it tonight, and I enjoyed it very much. There are a lot of tremendous poems in there, but this one really popped out for me. Of all the many things I like about it, the thing I like about it most is that it mentions memory sticks and dongles - but then, I'm known to be easily amused.

You can read all the Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem blog - the featured poem is on the centre of the page, and the week's other poems are linked from the right-hand column.

09 June 2011

Sir Julius Vogel Awards 2011: Congratulations To The Winners!

The 2011 Sir Julius Vogel Awards - New Zealand's annual awards for science fiction, fantasy and horror - were awarded at Queen's Birthday Weekend at ConText, New Zealand's 2011 national Science Fiction Convention.

I didn't attend the Con, and didn't have anything on the ballot, but I am glad to see some friends and familiar names among the winners. Congratulations, one and all! Here's the official press release announcing the results, with some links I've added.

Sir Julius Vogel Awards for New Zealand Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror

2011 Results Announced

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand (SFFANZ) is pleased to announce the winners of this year’s Sir Julius Vogel Awards. Categories and winners in each category are listed.

Professional Awards Section

Best Novel - Adult

Joint Winners:

The Heir of Night by Helen Lowe (Orbit)

The Questing Road by Lyn McConchie (Tor Books)

Best Novel - Young Adult

Winner : Summer of Dreaming by Lyn McConchie (Cyberwizard Publications)

Best Short Story

Winner: High Tide At Hot Water Beach by Paul Haines
(A Foreign Country: New Zealand Speculative Fiction), Random Static

Best Novella/Novelette

Winner: A Tale Of The Interferers – Hunger For Forbidden Flesh by Paul Haines
(Sprawl Anthology)

Best Collected Work

Winner : A Foreign Country: New Zealand Speculative Fiction
Edited by Anna Caro and Juliet Buchanan, Random Static

Best Professional Artwork

Winner: Frank VictoriaTymon’s Flight cover
(HarperCollins Publishers Australia)

Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form

Joint Winners:

This Is Not My Life – Pilot Episode

Directors: Rob Sarkies & Pete Salmon
Executive Producers: Gavin Strawhan, Rachel Lang, Steven O’Meagher & Tim White
Producer: Tim Sanders
Associate Producer: Polly Fryer

Kaitangata Twitch – Pilot Episode

Production Shed TV
Producer: Chris Hampson
Director/Executive Producer: Yvonne Mackay
Executive Producer: Dorothee Pinfold, Jan Haynes
Associate Producer: Margaret Mahy
Writer: Gavin Strawhan, Michael Bennett and Briar Grace-Smith
Actors: Te Waimarie Kessell, George Henare

Best Professional Publication

Winner: White Cloud Worlds Anthology
Edited by Paul Tobin

Best New Talent

Winner: Karen Healey

Fan Awards Section

Best Fan Production

Winner: Doctor Who Podcast
Paul Mannering
Broken Sea Productions

Best Fan Writing

Winner: Jacqui Smith
Musings From Under The Mountain and Novazine Contributions

Best Publication

Winner: Novazine
Edited by Jacqui Smith

Special Awards

Services to Fandom

Winner: Ross Temple

Services to Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror

Winner: Simon Litten

07 June 2011

Tuesday Poem: The Stars, Natasha

Natasha, fundamentals are strong,
key indicators steady.
Leave your books, Natasha,
let your computer
draw patterns on its screen.

Walk with me through the heavens.
Along cold orbits
the spendthrift stars
squander their assets on light.
The World Bank

is unamused; the IMF
is noting down their names.
So take my hand
let's drift away
into the cosmic background.

Credit note: This poem, included in my first poetry collection Boat People, was republished in Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand, edited by Mark Pirie and Tim Jones (Interactive Press, 2009).

Tim says: With eight days to go until submissions close for my latest venture in speculative poetry, I thought I'd post a speculative poem of my own. It was written when World Bank- and IMF-inspired economic "reforms" were devastating the post-Soviet Russian economy, and laying the groundwork for the kleptocracy that runs Russia today.

Nevertheless, it's more of a love poem than anything else...

You can read all the Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem blog - the featured poem is on the centre of the page, and the week's other poems are linked from the right-hand column.

01 June 2011

An Interview With Tracie McBride


Tracie McBride lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and three children. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in over 50 print and electronic publications, including Horror Library Vol 4, Dead Red Heart, Abyss and Apex, JAAM 26, and Electric Velocipede. She won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best New Talent for 2007. She is an associate editor for horror magazine Dark Moon Digest and vice president of the writer's co-operative Dark Continents Publishing. Her first short story and poetry collection Ghosts Can Bleed was released in April 2011.

Tracie's poem "Contact" was my Tuesday Poem this week.

Tracie, I was about to say you're the first Australian writer I've interviewed for this blog, but I wonder whether that's accurate. As a New Zealander who now lives in Melbourne, do you now consider yourself to be an Australian writer now?

I moved to Melbourne in 2008, so I don’t know if I’ve been here long enough to claim to be Australian. I like to think of myself as a hybrid, an Aussie-Kiwi, or as my son calls it, a Kozzie. Being an Australian resident certainly opens up market opportunities that would have been unavailable to me in New Zealand.

It's clear from looking at your blog that you are well connected to the Australian speculative fiction writing community. Other than their size, do you notice major differences between the Australian and the New Zealand writing communities?

I think that the two communities approach the business of writing in much the same way. Both congregate online, in writing crit groups and at conventions, and both are aware of being small players on a large international stage. Any differences can be traced directly back to the differences in size. Australia has several small press publishers and magazines dedicated to speculative fiction. Consequently, Australian writers can better afford to specialize in their chosen genre or subgenre, and are confident to give their stories distinctly Australian settings. You’re more likely to find New Zealand speculative fiction writers submitting to US publications, or tailoring their work for the School Journal or for literary publications.

Let's turn to your first collection, Ghosts Can Bleed, published by Dark Continents Publishing. It's an unusual collection, in my experience, in that it contains a mixture of fiction and poetry. Has it been your plan all along to integrate the two in this way?

Short answer – no.

Long answer – I never even thought of publishing a collection of my work before I joined Dark Continents Publishing. My plan has always to establish something of a track record with my short fiction and poetry, then write a novel. Problem is, I’m not a novelist. When the president of Dark Continents, David Younquist, said, “OK, guys, part of the deal of being a member of the group is that you have to contribute a novel for us to publish in the first year,” I had a small panic attack, and then replied, “Ummm…will a short story collection do?”

I love the short form, and I view a lot of my poems as being short stories in disguise, so it never occurred to me to separate out the poems. They are as much representative of my work as my short stories.

I was very pleased to see that your story "Last Chance To See", which was one of the highlights for me in the issue of JAAM I edited, is included in the collection. I recall that story as having a very effective mixture of horror and pathos. Would you describe that story as typical of your style?

I’m still trying to figure out what my style is…

“Last Chance To See” is the first story in the collection, because it is the one of which I am most proud. It was also reprinted in a recent Australian horror anthology, Devil Dolls and Duplicates. The story was inspired by true life events, so it has emotional resonances for me that I hope I will carry through to the reader.

I rarely write “straight” horror. My stories are usually tempered with something else – they’re often a blend of genres, or are laced with black humour, or else they feature a level of emotional detachment. So in that respect, “Last Chance To See” is both typical and atypical of my style.

As well as being a writer, you're also a vice-president of Dark Continents Publishing, a new publisher which was launched at the World Horror Convention in Austin, Texas a few weeks ago. I see that your first submission period opens on 1 June 2011. For the writers who read this interview, what sort of work is Dark Continents looking for?

We call ourselves publishers of dark speculative fiction, but that definition is broad, which is evident in the titles we launched in Austin. Will we consider the traditional horror staples such as zombies, werewolves, vampires and ghosts? You bet. Horror poetry? We’ll take a look. Short story collections? We can be persuaded. Paranormal romance? Maybe. YA and children’s stories? Probably not just yet, but we hope to spread our net even wider for subsequent submission periods. Something well written that a major publishing house would turn down due to excessive quirkiness? Ooh, I’d LOVE to see something like that land in the slush pile. Just give us a chance to turn it into the Next Big Thing…

Your poetry has already appeared in one collection from Dark Continents Publishing, The Spectrum Collection, which was designed to showcase your authors. How has that collection done so far?

So far it has been well-received. The idea behind the Spectrum Collection was to give prospective readers a sampler of our different writing styles. Because our styles are so diverse, we haven’t been able to please all of the people all of the time. The feedback from reviewers so far has been interesting, with most of the reviewers choosing different pieces as stand-outs. But they all agree on one thing – we have some very talented writers in our stable.

Every publisher I know of, large or small, is grappling with the issues of production, distribution and marketing that have arisen from the growth of the Internet in general and e-publishing in particular. What is Dark Continents' approach?

With the exception of a couple of titles that have a lot of illustrations, most of our books are available as e-books in multiple formats, and those illustrated volumes will probably also be e-published as soon as e-book reader technology catches up. Our e-books are priced to reflect customer expectations. The bulk of our marketing is online, as are our ordering systems. Our printer is Lightning Source, which has printing plants in the US, UK, and as of June 2011, Australia, thus making it feasible to sell and ship our books to anywhere in the world.

Lightning Source uses Print On Demand technology, so there is no need for us to carry stock; we only print what we sell. Current technology, the Internet and e-publishing is our friend – we don’t grapple, we embrace.

What if any writers do you regard as your main influences?

To be honest, the writers who have the most direct influence on my work are the members of my crit groups. They don’t just influence the finished product, they give me an incentive to knuckle down and write something in the first place.

But if you want to know whose work I admire and aspire to, which is a different question, that list is long and varied. For short stories, my current literary crush is Joe Hill. I’m reading his collection 20th Century Ghosts. He takes cheesy B grade premises and turns them into something resonant and meaningful. And I am quite taken with the work of one of the Dark Continents crew, British writer Simon Kurt Unsworth. His 2010-published stories earned a pile of Honourable Mentions from Ellen Datlow, and after proofreading his forthcoming collection “Uneasy Tales”, I can see why.

What are your writing ambitions, and what projects are you planning, or currently working on?

Still haven’t entirely given up the notion of writing a novel, just waiting for the right Big Idea to enter my head. I always have some little project on the go, be it a short story anthology I’m aiming for here or a new poetry magazine there. I’m working on a collaborative poetry project with New Zealander and fellow Dark Continents member John Irvine.

One of my passions is fostering a love of writing and storytelling from an early age; I work as a teacher aide at a local primary school, and my three children are aspiring writers. So David Youngquist and I hope to carve out some time in the near future to work on an anthology of stories written for children, by children. And come June 1, I expect to be neck deep in the Dark Continents slush pile.

How to buy "Ghosts Can Bleed"

For Kindle - http://www.amazon.com/Ghosts-Can-Bleed-ebook/dp/B004XTX056/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&m=A24IB90LPZJ0BS&s=digital-text&qid=1305899075&sr=1-1

For Nook - http://productsearch.barnesandnoble.com/search/results.aspx?store=EBOOK&WRD=ghosts+can+bleed&page=index&prod=univ&choice=ebook&query=Ghosts+Can+Bleed&flag=False&pos=-1&box=Ghosts+Can+Bleed&ugrp=2

Paperback - http://darkcontinents.com/2011/04/28/ghosts-can-bleed/

How to buy books from Dark Continents Publishing

The paperbacks for all the Dark Continents Publishing books can be ordered directly from the Dark Continents website. With the exception of Anomalous Appetites and Blood Curry, they are all available as e-books from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.