Farewell to Prizm Books

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Whilst there is no official notice on a Torquere blog or website, Torquere have announced to their authors that they are winding up trading, including their imprint Prizm. I’m saddened to see Torquere closing. The earlier version of the press gave me my first publishing break, in 2006, and I have been happily publishing with them for the decade since then.

I’ve received back all of the rights to my work that Torquere Press and Prizm Books had published, and I’m looking at my options for moving forward with self publishing my back catalogue.
I’ll update here as soon as I have more news!

Visualising Gender Fluidity Presentation Slides

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At Swancon 2016, Will Knox and I gave a presentation on a tool we built as part of the work we do together at Murdoch University, facilitating the Ally program to support students and staff of diverse sexualities and genders. Will and I developed a set of animated powerpoint slides to explain the dynamic, fluid experience of gender, sexuality and emotional relationships. We built this tool, not because we wanted to, but because we couldn’t find another pre-prepared tool that met our needs for the Ally program. We wanted something that actually moved, that wasn’t compartmentalised, and that de-emphasised the importance of assigned-at-birth-sex.

If you’d like to see the slides, they’re available to download: Visualising Gender Fluidity – 5 Slides. They have a Creative Commons licence on them and I’ve also provided abstract for the presentation Will and I gave:

The Murdoch University ALLY Program aims to educate students and staff on issues related to sexuality and gender identity. In 2014, the ALLY training materials were updated to incorporate, amongst other things, a more contemporary understanding of an evolving range of gender identities. We found existing visual models of gender were static, focussing on rigid categories, and didn’t capture the fluidity of the lived experience of identity. Through research into the current models used within the gender variant communities, we designed an animated model of gender performance and identity for use in the ALLY Program. Introduction of the new model into the ALLY professional development program has generated strongly positive feedback from program participants. Jack Bridges and Will Knox, co-facilitators of the ALLY program at Murdoch, will demonstrate the animated gender fluidity model, and talk about their development process.

Aurealis Awards for 2016 have been announced!

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The Aurealis Awards have been announced. The Best SF Novella category was awarded to “By Frogsled and Lizardback to the Outcast Venusian Lepers” by Garth Nix. Congratulations to Garth Nix!

I felt so honoured for “Blood and Ink” just to be short-listed alongside stories by Sean Monaghan and Garth Nix.

Thank you, to the Aurealis Awards committee and judges, for all the work that makes the awards happen. And to Joanna and Kristi, at Prizm Books [now closed], for publishing “Blood and Ink”. when it was outside of their usual genre range.

Attending Swancon for Easter

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I’m going to be at Swancon over Easter, and am on several panels, as well as giving an academic presentation. You can see my schedule below:

 

Friday 7.30pm – Fans and substance (ab)use:
Where’s the line between our right to hack our bodies to meet our needs, and everyone else’s right to not have a messed up person to deal with? How much can we optimise our body chemistry, with the available tech? These, and other exciting questions will be tackled. Ask us about hangover management, too.

Friday 8.30pm – Romance Panel: It’s Going to Get Weird Edition:
John, Lulu and I get stuck into the odder end of erotica. Are you sure that’s anatomically possible?

Saturday noon – Visualising Gender Fluidity:
Will Knox and I demonstrate the visual tool we built for our work on the Murdoch Uni Ally program, and talk about how we built it.

Monday noon: Is Spy-fic Speculative fic?:
In which I reveal I know a lot about Modesty Blaise.

Monday 2pm: Big Weather:
Predicting a Future Climate: How do SF authors write about climate change?

“Blood and Ink” short-listed for the Aurealis Awards!

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“Blood and Ink”, my YA story published by Prizm Books [now closed], has been short-listed for an Aurealis Award for Best Science Fiction Novella.

The Aurealis Awards are judged by a panel, and it is wonderful to think that the panel have chosen “Blood and Ink” for the short list, alongside  Sean Monaghan’s “The Molenstraat Music Festival” and Garth Nix’s “By Frogsled and Lizardback to Outcast Venusian Lepers”. Such excellent company! I’m so pleased!

This is my first Aurealis nomination as well. “Blood and Ink” started off as a short, short story, written standing up at the bookstore counter during work hours, and has grown up into a novella in a world of its own.

“Blood and Ink” is clearly Young Adult, with a teenage girl as protagonist, and still holds its own as a science fiction story, which says good things about the genre too.

 

Different kinds of research behind Blood and Ink

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Lone TreeWhen writing “Blood and Ink”, I went down two paths for research. The first path, involved more expected research tools, like memoirs and historical records. The second resource I used, much less removed and scholarly, was my mother’s memories of her own childhood of poverty and displacement.

Stories of displacement and itinerant populations are already part of the post-settlement history of Western Australia. I read some of the transcribed oral histories of women affected by social upheaval and loss recorded in Nothing to Spare, all contributed by women who were born from 1890 onwards (Carter ix). Their stories of hardship and endurance, of the children they raised and then lost in the Great War, are personal stories, fragments of a larger past. The Stockrider’s Daughter in Nothing to Spare describes being forcibly moved from Carrolup settlement to Moore River settlement. She says, “They had kerosene buckets with tea in it and they’d brought boxes of bread” (cited in Carter 1981, 25).

My mother was born in the Great Depression and lived through World War Two in England. Her childhood was one of poverty and upheaval. Her stories of ingenuity and compromise influenced how I wrote Annie and her family in “Blood and Ink”. My mother was always very fond of mashed banana sandwiches (a British delicacy that possibly no other country has adapted). When she was a child, there were no bananas, due to food rationing, so “mashed banana” sandwiches were made by boiling and finely mashing parsnips, then adding sugar and yellow colouring. My mother assured me the sandwiches were delicious, particularly at birthday parties. This story from her gave me a window into Annie’s world.

The Stockrider’s Daughter’s story of forced migration is is generations old now. My mother’s story is not. Writing Annie and her family, and the world of “Blood and Ink”, was based in part on these stories, of making do and being hungry.

Reference:

Carter, Jan. 1981. Nothing to Spare: Recollections of Australian Pioneering Women. Ringwood: Penguin Books Australia Ltd.

The type of fiction we read, and write, matters

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When I wrote “Blood and Ink”, I wanted to write a small story, about how one small person navigated a reasonably realistic forward projection of the impact of human-induced climate change.

Hollinger and Gordon argue that it is science fiction’s role to consider all aspects of both our present and our future (2002, 3). And, Hamilton says that we missed the last point at which human-induced climate change could have been effectively mitigated, in 2009 (2010, ix). So, I think it’s important that we read, and write, science fiction (and speculative fiction) that addresses responding to and living with climate change.

The kind of fiction we read and write about climate change matters, too, because imagining a future makes it at least practicable for us to reach for it. Fiction is a way of testing out options, playing through scenarios, and becoming accustomed to the changes we need to make in our lives. We use fiction to practise.

I wanted to write a story where one character’s actions mattered. Annie, the main character in “Blood and Ink”, makes decisions about her own and her family’s future. She chooses a path, she uses the resources she has, and takes responsibility for the outcomes. Annie and her family are doing the best they can to get through the domestic, personal impacts of environmental disaster. This is not an epic story, told on a sweeping landscape, of nations looking for a technological or heroic resolution. Those kinds of stories allow us as readers to escape from practicing accepting responsibility for our own actions and the changes we need to make. No technological-hero-god is coming to save us from climate disaster, and I don’t want to write stories where that happens.

“Blood and Ink” is about personal action and responsibility. It’s about family. It’s about living on the edge of the desert of the future.

References:

Hamilton, Clive. 2010. Requiem for a Species: Why We resist the Truth About Climate Change. Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin.

Hollinger, Veronica and Joan Gordon. 2002. “Introduction: Edging into the Future.” Edging Into the Future: Science Fiction and Contemporary Cultural Transformation. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Inspiration behind Blood and Ink

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In the first chapter of “Blood and Ink”, Annie and Grandma make a pilgrimage to a secret place that Grandma remembers from before drought came to their city.
The idea for the story came to me after wandering around a park near Kalamunda town centre, where rocks overlook the valley. I think the park used to be a golf course, though how anyone played golf on that rough ground, I have no idea. I wrote the first chapter of “Blood and Ink” almost immediately, and the rest of the story later.
 Kalamunda, Rocks and the Valley (3) Kalamunda, Rocks and the Valley (2) Kalamunda, Rocks and the Valley (1)