Sunday, August 29, 2010

Kids and lizards

It's interesting what the kids get up to while I'm having a little rest. They thoughtfully documented it for me with my camera!

(The lizards survived the encounter)


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Thursday, August 26, 2010

WorldCon research: 'dirty feed'


One of the panels I'm on at WorldCon - 'Dirty Feed' - will discuss 'whether attempts to censor the web are an assault on our freedom or a necessary precaution'.

I'm on the panel with Cory Doctorow, Talie Helene and Shane Jiraiya Cummings.

The angle I'm taking is the response by online citizens (particularly in social media) to the Government's plans, and the Government's decision to hold the line despite this opposition.

You can check out the links I'm using as reference material here:

If you see any other online polls, or other interesting links, please leave a comment or tweet me.

The panel will be held at midday on Monday, September 6, in room 210 of the Melbourne Convention Centre.

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'Feast or Famine' reading at WorldCon!

I found out today that I'll be doing a short reading from 'Feast or Famine' at the Macabre launch at WorldCon!

This is very exciting, and a bit nerve-wracking.

The launch will be held on Friday, September 3, at 4.00pm in room 203.

You can read more about Macabre at Brimstone Press.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Shared experiences

Baby boomers...

Gen X...

Gen Y...

Okay, I'm generalising a bit. I guess my point was more that the double rainbow guy video, which has provided the world with such joy, would have most likely ended up in a bottom drawer somewhere, if not for the internet. And that the internet has totally turned on its head the concept of 'shared experiences'.

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

My WorldCon schedule

Okay, so after much biting of fingernails (and that's just me - I'm sure it was much worse for the organisers) the draft AussieCon 4 schedule is out.

Here's where I'm at...

Book launch: Macabre - A Journey Through Australia's Darkest Fears
Explore Australia's dark literature past, present, and future all in one landmark anthology! From the very earliest colonial ghost stories through to grim tales of modern life, Macabre will take you on a journey through the dark heart of Australian horror. With classic stories from Australia's masters of horror alongside the best of the new era, Macabre is set to be the finest dark fiction anthology ever produced in Australia.
Friday, Sept 3, 1600 Room 203

But this is real!
Why are we attracted to fictional horrors when real life can be so much worse?
Paul Haines, Narrelle M. Harris, Gary Kemble, Chris Lawson, Carrie Vaughn
Sunday, Sept 5, 1400 Room 204

Dirty feed
Are attempts to censor the web an assault on our freedom or a necessary precaution? As in Australia, so to the world.
Talie Helene, Shane Jiraiya Cummings, Gary Kemble, Cory Doctorow
Monday, Sept 6, 1200 Room 210

I'm also going to be working on some features for various publications. Writing Queensland, ABC News Online, HorrorScope and my own blog. I've made a start on research for the panels and features, which I'm hoping to develop a bit more now that the election is (kinda) over.

If you've got any links you'd like to share, please do so via delicious, comments, or Twitter.

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Have zombies jumped the shark?

Over at Jonathan Maberry's blog, I argue that zombies will always be in fashion. :)

It’s true, lately there have been zombies everywhere – games, films, books. But I think that’s more that zombies are currently part of the mainstream. Once they drop out of the mainstream, they will still be popular with the people they were popular with before they were ‘cool’.

But don't take my opinion for it! Head on over and get the dope on zombies from a 'roundtable' of zombanistas.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Books based on video games

I was out at Mary Ryan's in Milton today when I saw the book version of Assassin's Creed II.

Initially, I thought, that's cool, thinking that it's a good way of attracting people who aren't into books (video games must be a massive 'time sink', particularly for kids).

But then I thought, what's the attraction of a book, when you've already got access to a world where you're in control?

Maybe the appeal is that books based on video games take the story in different directions, or reveal elements of back story that are only hinted at in the games themselves.

Is it the same as the Star Wars books, which have a life of their own, independent of the success or otherwise of the films?

OR, is it just a cynical ploy to get money out of people who MUST own EVERY item associated with a particular franchise. :)

I don't know. What do you think?

Leave a comment or tweet me.

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Gruen, Greens and CC

Chances are, you've already seen the Republic of Everyone's 'If you think, vote Greens' ad, which caused quite a stir last week.
The Greens were keen to use the ad, but it wasn't possible because the ABC asks all ad agencies who participate in The Pitch to sign over copyright for the ads they produce.
Greens spokeswoman Ebony Bennett confirmed The Greens contacted the ABC and Republic of Everyone over the possibility of using the ad, but the ABC would not allow the clip to be used during the election.

The ABC says it cannot be seen to pick sides in the campaign.
It got me thinking, I wonder if the situation would have been different if the ABC licensed content featured on the Gruen Nation under a Creative Commons licence?
If licensed under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence, wouldn't it have meant that other people could have made use of the ad without it seeming like the ABC was endorsing the Greens? And wouldn't it also mean that, in general terms, people would be able to remix content from The Pitch. (You often hear suggestions about what the ad-makers could have done differently -- this would give fans the opportunity to demonstrate what could have been done differently).
This is a genuine question. I could be wrong. So I'm genuinely interested in hearing your thoughts on this.
Of course, the ad has been seen by heaps of people regardless -- over a million people tuned in to watch Gruen Nation last week, and the ad has been shared a lot on social media.
Leave a comment or tweet me.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Trent Jamieson: Death Most Definite

Download now or listen on posterous
TrentJamieson.mp4 (312 KB)

Quick interview after the book launch at Avid Reader.

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Movie Minutiae: Green Zone (2010)

Green Zone tells the fictional story of chief warrant officer Roy Miller, whose hunt for WMD in Iraq in 2003 becomes a quest for the truth, leading him to mix it up with shady US government officials, a high-profile journalist, a disgruntled CIA agent and gung-ho special forces dudes.

Read on at The Buzz...

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UPDATE on ebooks/DRM

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Kickstarter... and the value of networks

This ties in with some stuff I've been thinking about ebooks.

An amazing story -- in 30 days, Craig Mod raised $24,000 to republish Art Space Tokyo.

How did he do it? The short version -- he used crowdfunding website Kickstarter. Clearly, there's more to it, and there's an excellent guide to exactly what went down here.

The other thing I think about a lot is Canadian sf writer Cory Doctorow's technique of giving his books away for free.

"My intuition was two-fold. First of all, that it was likely that giving away books would sell books, giving away electronic books would sell print books, that just seemed really clear to me that for most people ebooks were not a substitute, they were a complementary good."

I love the idea. I love the idea of being unencumbered by the process that we're told we need to go through to publish and sell books. Theoretically, you could use Kickstarter to build enough seed capital to start your own publishing house, and then use Doctorow's strategy to ensure a lively market for those books.

My enthusiasm is tempered by the knowledge that many agents and publishers think that most manuscripts submitted to them just aren't ready for publication. This is the key flaw with self-publishing. Yeah, you can get your book out there. But should it be out there yet?

The second thing is that famous quote from Tim O'Reilly that for most writers, obscurity is a bigger problem than piracy.

Without a 'name', you can post stuff for free on the internet every day, but are your chances of breaking through any greater than jumping through the hoops of traditional publishing?

I'm sure there are many great books that haven't been published, but even if those books had been published for free on the internet, would any of them have been 'discovered'?

What do you think? Leave a comment, or tweet me.


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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Knowing when to hold 'em, when to fold 'em

I retweeted this link to an article by Max Barry (Jennifer Government, Machine Man) today and, as you can see above, I declared it 'excellent'.

The premise is that if you're finding it hard to write it's not your fault, it's the book's fault.

"When your scene won’t quite come together, your novel idea won’t stay interesting, your main character refuses to fill out: it’s not because you lack talent. It’s because your idea is stupid. You’re trying to push shit uphill. And you may be a good shit-pusher, with a range of clever and effective shit-pushing techniques, but still: it’s going to be hard, frustrating, and ultimately you’ll discover you still don’t have your shit together."

It was like a revelation to me, because pretty much every day lately has felt like pushing shit uphill.

But, on reflection, while this may be true for Max Barry, maybe I'm just trying to give myself an easy out. Because I have a lot of ideas swimming around in my head, I'm constantly plagued by the thought that whatever project I'm not working on is better than the one I am working on.

And Barry describes this exact process. He worked through writer's block by giving these ideas a chance to emerge.

"The way I got out of it was to write a page of something new every day. The first week, I flushed out a lot of ideas that had been humming around the back of my brain, promising me they were brilliant. They weren’t. I captured them one page at a time and set them aside. The second week I wrote two things that were kind of interesting. Not very interesting. But not abominations, either. It was possible to imagine that in some alternate universe of very low standards, they could become novels. Not popular novels. But still.

"The third week, I wrote something interesting. And I discovered I could write. That the reason I’d been stuck wasn’t because I’d forgotten where the keys were. It was because the story I was trying to make work sucked."

I fear that if I tried the Max Barry strategy, I'd end up with lots of one-pagers, and not much else.

So what do you think? When is it time to cut your losses? And when is it worth pushing the shit uphill?

Leave a comment or tweet me.

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Sunday, August 08, 2010

Ebooks: who's leading the way?

Linus with the Cybook OPUS ebook reader

(Image: Eirik Newth, Flickr)

One thing I'm hoping to talk to publishers and writers about at WorldCon is what they're doing/planning to do about ebooks.

I've heard a range of theories on ebooks: some people believe they're going to save the industry; others believe they will spell disaster for mid-level authors.

The other thing I'd like to get a handle on is the state of play with DRM. Is there a format war in progress? Which are the dominant formats? How many publishers are ditching DRM altogether with a view to staking a larger claim on the market.

I'm looking on this with avid interest. I can definitely see the value in ebook readers. I like to read authors such as Birmingham and Stephen King, who don't bother putting out books unless they're over 500 pages. :) And, no offence to either writer, but in many cases I could live without having a dead-tree edition. I like the idea of being able to search text.

What I don't want to happen is 'buy' a book, only to find I can't do with it what I want to do with it. What I don't want to happen is buy an ebook reader only to find I can't get the titles I want due to some DRM format war.

Authors such as Cory Doctorow have repeatedly raised concerns over DRM and the control it gives to distributors over publishers and writers.

"Any time someone puts a lock on something you own, against your wishes, and doesn't give you the key, it's not being done to your benefit."

What I'm hoping to learn while I'm at WorldCon is whether or not speculative fiction publishers are leading the way here. And if not, why not.

So, please, let me pick your brains! Send me your links to interesting ebook articles. Who's leading the way with this stuff? Who do I need to talk to at WorldCon? And what should I ask them! Leave a comment or contact me on Twitter.

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Wanted: military, police sources

Soldiers Lay Down Mortar Fire in Afghanistan

(Image: DVIDSHUB, Flickr)

Because of the nature of the stuff I write, I often find myself asking questions such as: 'How far away would you need to be to survive the collateral damage of a Stinger missile hitting an Agusta A109E chopper as it comes in to land'.

Writers who I admire, such as John Birmingham and David Rollins gather around them a posse of peeps who know all about this stuff, and this is what I aspire to do.

I realise that you can look stuff up on Google and read books about military life -- I do both of these -- but at the end of the day there's nothing better than firing off an email and asking the question.

I'm willing to trade my insider knowledge on how journalism works! (May not seem like much, but you'd be surprised how often writers get it wrong).

So, if you have experience in the military or law enforcement, I'd love to hear from you. Leave a comment, or get in touch on Twitter.

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Thursday, August 05, 2010

100 days of action: get on board!

Die Hard

(Image: Olly Moss, Flickr)

A friend of mine, Chris Paine, is going to watch 100 action movies in 100 days.

Find out more at the 100 Days of Action site.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Vale Articulate 2005-2010

After five years, ABC News Online has bid farewell to its arts blog, Articulate. I'm crossposting this here because, for the time being, our web developers don't have time to archive all the old Articulate posts. (Some of the links to newer posts won't work, for this same reason)

I know I speak for all the contributors when I say it's been a wild and crazy ride, so I thought I'd have a look at some of the highlights. (And by all means, you can have your say by leaving a comment below)

David O'Sullivan interviewed DBC Pierre, hot on the heels of the author's Booker Prize win:

It [the prize] was a licence to go out and become a real writer and so I felt a duty not to capitalise on what I knew worked in the first one and not to write shit that I knew would go down well but really explore the art and take a punt and so I came out of my comfort zone of the first person voice... but I had all my fun in the dialogue and there's plenty of dialogue in this.

Sean Rubinsztein-Dunlop regaled us with tales from the Berlin Film Festival:

I’m walking down Potsdamer Platz, the modernised square that was once on the border between East and West, when I notice a red carpet surrounded by rose-toting onlookers.

A very over-it young guy with a huge list of names tells me it’s a doo for “celebrities and no-names” held by Germany’s second-biggest TV channel, Pro 7.

“Do you want to go in?” he asks me.

I tell him I’m not on the list but he gives me a wink, ticks an imaginary name and in I go. I kiss the press card hanging around my neck.

As well as schmoozing, Sean fired off questions at the likes of Sigorney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Robert Altman and Hugo Weaving.

Later in the year Sean sparked controversy when he admitted he couldn't see what all the fuss was about when it came to Rolf de Heer's Ten Canoes. Articulate readers came out for and against the film, which went on to become one of the highest grossing Australian films of 2006.

Meanwhile, I found out at the 45th National Science Fiction Convention that Spock ears are an optional extra, and also got to interview sf dignitary Bruce Sterling and author and activist Cory Doctorow.

"When Marxists and the Christian right and pornographers and anti-porn activists all agree that DRM is bad news, then you know that this is a cause that we're going to win out on in the end."

I also got to probe the dark underbelly of the arts world, interviewing horror writers, editors and film-makers from Australia and abroad, and taking the pulse of Australian speculative fiction. I even got to see Stephen King do a rare reading in London.

Emma Rodgers lifted the tone, immersing herself in the world of literature at the 2006 Adelaide Writers Festival, where she says one of the highlights was hearing Michael Cunningham (The Hours) talk about his writing.

Refuse to be talked out of the books you want to write.

More recently, Rosie Ryan probed public opinion on public art, gender bias in the Hottest 100 and, ah, Andre Rieu, as well as MP Graham Perrett's controversial The 12th Fish.

"The din from the party mocked me as Karen attacked my surly worm with gusto. It was as if she was professionally slighted by my medical predicament." (page 168)

"I started to worry about Cylla's jaw muscles cramping … orgasm threw my sense of perspective." (page 155)

We also had lots of fun with our long-running film trivia spot, Movie Minutiae, less long-running but nonetheless enjoyable Endnotes and lots and lots and lots of Eye Candy.

On behalf of Articulate, I'd like to thank everyone who has contributed, either by writing blog posts, being interviewed, or sending up tip-offs and leaving comments.

I'd like to leave you with the timeless words of Kurt Vonnegut: Things die. All things die.

(And so on...)

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Monday, August 02, 2010

The web filter and impact on horror writers/fans

I've started preparing for a panel I'm going to be part of at WorldCon.

It's all about the Federal Government's plans for a ISP-level web filter, and potential impact on horror writers/fans.

What I can immediately bring to the discussion is the reaction to the plans on social media, particularly Twitter. There has been a resoundingly negative response to the plan on Twitter, as has there been on any polls run on news websites (not surprisingly, given that the people who will be most affected are the people who are engaging online the most).

But what I haven't looked into is the potential impact on horror fans/writers.

Potentially, anything that's Refused Classification would be banned, right?

How much of an impact would this have on horror fans?

A quick discussion on Twitter raises a few interesting questions.

1. Has this slipped under the radar for horror fans?
2. What about things such as online role-playing games, fan fiction, webzines? (Thanks Tansy!)
3. What will be the process for deciding which horror content is and isn't okay?
4. How much potentially banned content are people accessing online, particulary via websites?

To date, the debate has focussed largely on child exploitation content (which those against the filter will tell you is irrelevant, given this content isn't shared via 'websites') and sex. But, as a horror fan, I can see the 'general public' being even more anti-horror than they are anti-sex, especially if you're talking about something like non-violent erotica.

If you're a horror writer or fan, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Leave a comment or tweet me!

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Sunday, August 01, 2010