My Bridge Authors

In the November 2012 episode of the ‘First Tuesday Book Club’ Jennifer Byrne and her guests discussed the ‘The Chrysalids’ by John Wyndham.

Author Monica McInerney had this to say about it:

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham was what I call my bridge book. It was my first book to read that wasn't Enid Blyton, Trixie Belden, you know, like children's books. And it was the book that introduced me to a whole world of adult fiction. So it was the one that I walked across into a big, wider world of books. [Read the full transcript on the ABC website]

To a certain extent ‘The Chrysalids’ was my bridge book, too.

However I took my first steps into the world of adult fiction with the help of a number of authors, including (in no particular order):

My proper love of adult fantasy fiction didn’t kick in till later. Not till I’d read things like the ‘Duncton Wood’ series by William Horwood and, of course, the J.R.R. Tolkien canon.

What These Authors Did For Me

Of all those books, I think the ones that really opened my mind were Wyndham’s ‘The Day of the Triffids’ and ‘The Chrysalids’. I suspect that’s because they were among the first adult-level first person narratives I’d read. And, as someone who has a younger sister, David and Petra’s relationship in ‘The Chrysalids’ was something I related very strongly to. 

The stories that inspired me the most were probably the Clarke and Asimov short stories. I both wanted to be and had a huge crush on Susan Calvin and was generally looking forward a world in which Multivac existed.

Finally, the books that got me thinking the most about people, society, and politics were the ones by McCaffrey, Christie, and MacLean. Also, I think the first few books I ever read in which people simply lived and worked in space – as opposed to went exploring in space – were McCaffrey’s.

Newer Bridges to Cross

In more recent years (the last fifteen or so) the latest literary “bridge” I’ve crossed has been into Young Adult (YA) fiction. And the authors that have led the charge in that crossing have (so far) been J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, and Philip Pullman.

What were your bridge books and who were your bridge authors?

A System for Editing Documents

Doyle on Gender & Science Fiction

Sady Doyle has written three awesome pieces of text (stories?) as part of the online artistic collaboration series called ‘The Smartest Thing She’s Ever Said’ (more about that here).

I highly recommend you read them; particularly the third one because Ellen Ripley is my favourite action hero.

The Fantasy of Girl World: Lady Nerds and Utopias

When we see the word “nerd,” we don't think of women. We almost can't. All of that geeky energy, that willingness to dive totally into your own anti-social obsessions, is diametrically opposed to our idea of what girls are for. There's science involved, for one thing. And for another, girls aren't sorted into cool or uncool; they're sorted into likable and unlikable.

Read the whole thing here: ‘The Fantasy of Girl World: Lady Nerds and Utopias

Lady Robots: The Shape of Things to Come On

She's perfect. She's perfect because we made her perfect; because everything about her is entirely within our control. She's your long-lost love, your new and improved wife; she's the girl you never got over, or the girl you could never have. And now, she loves you. She has no choice; loving you is what she's for. Until, one day, she gets too smart. She starts thinking in ways she's not allowed to think. She gets political. And that's the point at which she decides to kill you with her giant metal fists.

Read the whole thing here: ‘Lady Robots: The Shape of Things to Come On

Ellen Ripley Saved My Life

At a certain point, you have to ask yourself why certain stories are so important to you. Why they become, not just entertainment, but myth: Something you use to explain yourself to yourself, or to explain the world.

But for me, it's always been about the girls. Specifically, the Strong Woman Action Heroines: Scully and Buffy, Starbuck in the "Battlestar Galactica" reboot, Ripley and Vasquez and, hell, even Tasha Yar. I love this; I need this; I eat it up. And yet, my relationship with the Strong Woman Action Heroine is… complicated? Let's say complicated. And let me take a minute, or several, to explain how.

Read the whole thing here: ‘Ellen Ripley Saved My Life


Going off-topic for a minute: The awesome Doyle who, last year, wrote a great article in The Guardian called ‘Unforgivable Roman Polanski’ is currently calling out people who are happier to blindly support Julian Assange than the two women he is accused of raping.

Specifically, she is calling out filmmaker Michael Moore:

A man has been accused of rape by two separate women. He fled the country in which he was accused. He is fighting extradition, so that he won’t have to go back to that country and face charges — even though there are spectacularly low rates of conviction for accused rapists, he just doesn’t think that he should have to go through the system, for whatever reason. And you know who’s posting bail for him?

Fucking progressives. That’s who. Including one man who has, for some years now, served as one of the most prominent and recognizable faces of the American left, filmmaker/rabble-rouser/all-around champion of the Truth and the Little Guy, Michael Moore. He’s put $20,000 hard, cashy dollars on the line, so that Julian Assange, white male left-wing darling, will be able to get out on bail despite posing a substantial and acknowledged flight risk, and despite the fact that he evidently is working to avoid facing the charges of his accusers.

You can read more about this here: ‘#MooreandMe: On Progressives, Rape Apologism, and the Little Guy’; follow the rest on Tiger Beatdown; and lend your support on Twitter.

Aussiecon 4: Day 5

aussiecon4_logo_web Today was the fifth and final day of Aussiecon 4, the 68th World Science Fiction Convention.

I am tired, brain-stuffed, geeked-out, hugely inspired, and incredibly happy.

This despite the fact that there was so much more I wanted to do but simply wasn’t able to get to. Oh well…next  time :)


It is now one of my life’s goals to attend every single Worldcon and win at least one Hugo award.

Sessions Attended on Day 5

Today’s program changed quite a bit – I think the Hugo winners were doing interviews while the Hugo nominees were sleeping in! – so I attended the following sessions:

High stakes: the television world of Joss Whedon

  • There are lots of good things about Joss Whedon’s shows: great writing; smart dialogue; excellent humour (i.e. the show doesn’t take itself too seriously); a sense of family; good, strong characters (particularly women); complex characters; damaged characters are fabulous; great character growth (e.g. Wesley, Fred/Illyria, Drusilla, Topher, etc.); a consistent and well developed world; great stories (some of which may make you uncomfortable); brilliant story arcs; letting the actors inform their characters; and the show doesn’t fall apart when a character’s love interest is realized (and later falls apart catastrophically!)
  • There are plenty of bad things, too: some of the fight scenes (particularly early Buffy ones) could have been better; the cast is too racially white; and some issues are handled naively (e.g. Inara as a Companion and the implications of her profession and position in society)

Losing the plot: plotting in advance vs writing as you go

  • When approaching the plot for a story, writers range from gardeners (they see how things grow as they write their story) to architects (they plan everything in advance)
  • Television writing is very architect-oriented while book writing appears to be more gardener-oriented
  • Most authors seem to have a general beginning, middle, and end in mind when they start to write their story
  • The ‘middle’ often consists of milestones or tent pole events in the plot
  • Plot outlines can be useful, particularly in complicated stories
  • Plot outlines can help you write faster and more efficiently

Reading: Charles Stross

This was a great reading. Stross read from his upcoming book, ‘Rule 34’, that’s due out in July 2011.

Hand-waving, rule-breaking and other dirty tricks of hard sf

  • Unless they belong to the mundane SF movement, most hard SF authors are okay with bending the rules if the science gets in the way of their story (e.g. faster-than-light travel)
  • They will, however, take pains to be internally consistent with the changes that they have made – even if they don’t actually address how the new science/knowledge works (e.g. they won’t explain the workings of an FTL engine in a space ship in the same way you wouldn’t explain the workings of an internal combustion engine every time you talked about a car)
  • Remember Clarke’s Three Laws 
  • Hard SF stories that use current knowledge that is later found to be incorrect do get dated but this doesn’t mean those stories will no longer be read (take, for example, H.G. Wells and all his stories that were based on the science knowledge and theories of his time)

Fantasy fiction and the Bechdel Test

  • The ‘Whores and virgins: finding roles for women in fantasy fiction’ session was cancelled so I went to this session, instead
  • As it happened, because of all the schedule changes that took place today, the panelists for this session didn’t turn up (they’d either left or didn’t know they were on this panel)
  • Fortunately, the thirty of us who did turn up made a circle of chairs and did the session ourselves :)
  • The Bechdel Test, which was created for movies & television, can also be applied to fantasy fiction books, comics, anime, and video games
  • Most early books don’t pass this test while many newer ones do
  • The test is, of course, an awareness-raising tool so it has its limitations and can’t be applied universally
  • It is useful in pointing out blind spots to authors, though

Closing Ceremony

  • Aussiecon 4 was awesome – thanks to everyone (organizers, guests, and attendees alike) for making it so much fun

What Next?

renovation-banner-follow-greenWhen one Worldcon ends, another one begins. Aussiecon 4 is dead. Long live Renovation!

The 69th World Science Fiction Convention, called Renovation, will be held in Reno, Nevada, USA from 17-21 August 2011.

I will do my best to be there.

Concluding Thoughts

John Scalzi, Charles Stross, Gail Carriger & Melinda Snodgrass are awesome.

I have craploads of books to read. I have lots of stuff to write. I have many magazines to subscribe to. I have a bunch of fan clubs to join.

I have autographs from Gail Carriger & Charles Stross. I also have photos of them (from their readings) and with them.

Here’s Carriger:

Gail Carriger at her reading at Aussiecon 4

Here’s Stross:

Charles Stross at his reading at Aussiecon 4

And here’s me with Stross (somebody asked if I was his stunt double!):

Me and Charles Stross

All in all, it’s been a fabulous five days.

Now back to the real world…

Aussiecon 4: Day 4

aussiecon4_logo_web Four down, one last day to go at Aussiecon 4.

Sessions Attended on Day 4

I made a few changes to the sessions I attended today, which ended up being:

Novellas: the perfect format

  • I attended only half this sessions because Gail Carriger’s reading started on the half hour
  • Novellas (a manuscript that’s 17,500-40,000 words in length) used to be harder to sell: you can’t sell them as standalone books and, though they’re featured in some SF magazines, there’s only one per issue
  • They’re becoming easier to sell thanks to the rise of e-books and publishers that are publishing two-for-one novella books or novella anthologies
  • Authors generally know, when a story comes to them, what its length is going to be; i.e. whether the idea will work best as a short story, novella, novelette, or book

Reading: Gail Carriger

  • This was a really fun reading from Carriger’s third book, ‘Blameless’, followed by a quick Q&A session
  • Fun tweet: @gailcarriger: Heard at #worldcon #aussiecon4 "I love Gail's fans all the men are quiet and gentlemanly and all the women are bold and obstreperous." 

How to review

  • There is a difference between ‘reviewing’ (with answers the basic question of “should I spend my hard earned money on this book?”) and ‘critiquing’ (which is a more in-depth, in-context analysis of a piece of work)

The short half-life of strange television

According to the panel and audience members, the following good TV shows were cancelled before their time:

Science fiction and the television industry

  • SF in the TV industry is complicated
  • For more about the entertainment industry listen to the podcast, The Business

The future of gender and sexuality

  • There are lots of speculative science fiction works in which authors have talked about possible gender and sexuality futures (including post-gender, post-human, post-sex-for-reproduction types of futures)
  • Some of these authors explicitly talk about the impact of such futures (including, for example, reactions and counter sexual revolutions) while, for others, the future gender and sexuality situation is part of the backdrop of the world they’re describing (so future earth is described much like an alien culture)
  • Unfortunately, this session ended up being more of a topic-raising discussion as opposed to a good topic-analysing discussion so I left halfway through
  • And, while author Cristina Lasaitis did have some really great things to say, sadly the level of conversation was too basic for her to have a good discussion about it

Taking it on the chin: authors and reviewers

  • There are three kinds of reviews – overly positive ones, overly negative ones, and properly considered ones – and authors should ignore all but the last kind
  • Negative reviews shouldn’t make you feed bad: you can’t (and shouldn’t try to) please everyone all of the time
  • Ignore reviews in which the reviewer is only using you or your work to promote their own agendas
  • There’s a difference between a bad review and a negative review
  • Never respond to a review

The Hugo Awards

  • The Hugo Award ceremony was really fun.
  • I’m really glad that Charles Stross won for ‘Palimpsest’ in the Best Novella category. That novella really blew my mind, as have all the other works of his that I’ve read.
  • The only other author that blows my mind as much as Stross does is Vernor Vinge

Sessions for Day 5

Here are the sessions I plan to attend tomorrow, which is the last day of the convention:

  • High stakes: the television world of Joss Whedon
  • The Grandfather paradox
  • Book signing with Charles Stross
  • Hand-waving, rule-breaking and other dirty tricks of hard sf
  • Whores and virgins: finding roles for women in fantasy ficition
  • Closing Ceremony

This con has been a blast so far and tomorrow shouldn’t be any different.

Aussiecon 4: Day 3

aussiecon4_logo_web I have now had three fantastic days at Aussiecon 4.

The best part is that, even after three whole days of awesomeness, there are still two more days to go!

Gail Carriger: Book Signing & Photo

Today was particularly fantastic because I went to Gail Carriger’s book signing at which she signed my copy of her third book, ‘Blameless’ :)

I also got my photo taken with her:

Photo with Gail Carriger


All three of her books – ‘Soulless’, ‘Changeless’, and ‘Blameless’ (collectively known as the Parasol Protectorate series) – are really good, by the way. They’re fun, funny, and creative and they feature Alexia Tarabotti who has quickly become one of my favourite science fiction characters.

These books, if I could describe how they feel, are like chocolate cake without the calories: they’re delicious, decadent, lots of fun, and you don’t feel guilty about gorging on them.

Maybe at the next Worldcon, instead of wearing my ‘What would Ripley do?’ t-shirt (as I am in the photo above), I might have to make and wear a ‘What would Alexia do?’ t-shirt, instead.

Sessions Attended on Day 3

I attended the following sessions today:

Copyright in the 21st Century

  • Copyright is complicated
  • At a very basic level, you have to ask yourself: “What is the purpose of copyright”? and
    • How much of it has to do with protecting and/or recognizing intellectual property?
    • How much of it has to do with the economic benefits of creative work flowing to authors?

The best SF novel you have never read

As if I didn’t already have a huge list of books to read, I now have more; including:

I also have a book that was published as a podcast series to listen to:

The James Bond enigma

  • James Bond is the only spy movie franchise to have survived the decades (for a number of reasons; one of which is that it keeps adapting to the needs of that particular decade)
  • It is being threatened by the Bourne series of movies
  • The reboot is great because it’s now gone back to its old, darker, more character driven, and less gadget focused style

Melinda Snodgrass: writing for television

Kim Stanley Robinson's guest of honour speech

  • Robinson interviewed himself; it was a really good speech

Cyberpunk and the city

  • Cyberpunk as a political movement is dead but it remains alive as a stylistic movement through fashion and iconography
  • It has evolved to what is sometimes called ‘post-cyberpunk’ (until someone comes up with a better name for it) in which the protagonist is often trying to fix a dystopian work by building instead of by tearing down
  • It has a sub-genres, such as biopunk

Just a Minute

  • This was a fun SF-oriented quiz show based on the famous and long running BBC Radio show of the same name
  • It featured Paul Cornell (as host), Jennifer Fallon, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Chine Mieville, John Scalzi, and Catherynne Valente
  • It started late and ran over time so I missed the end but I’m pretty sure Scalzi won hands down :)

Academic Panel: Fantastic females: reworking feminism in women’s fantasy


  • The masquerade was fun; some people make awesome costumes

Sessions for Day 4

Tomorrow I’m planning to attend these sessions:

  • The problems with first contact or Film Program: International Animated Shorts
  • Do you want to be in our club? or Far future: where fantasy meets SF or Anachronistic fiction: successors to steampunk
  • Readings: Jason Nahrung, Gail Carriger or 3D cinema: revolution or novelty? or Editing the novel or The case for a female Doctor or Novellas: the perfect format (this is going to be a difficult choice!)
  • Great women of science fiction or, if I can make it, a kaffeeklatsch with Charles Stross
  • The short half-life of strange television
  • Science fiction and the television industry or The limits of science
  • The future of gender and sexuality or Norman Cates’ WETA digital presentation
  • Mary Poppins: from the Outback to Cherry Tree Lane or Build a LEGO Dalek (for adults) or Boxcutters present: writing Doctor Who
  • The Hugo Awards

It should, again, be an awesome day – by the end of which we’ll find out who’s won this year’s Hugos :)

Aussiecon 4: Day 2

aussiecon4_logo_web Thus endeth another fantastic day at Aussiecon 4. Well, at least for me. Others will party late into the night, I’m sure.

Today I:

  • bought a book: Singularity Sky by Charles Stross (which I will ask him to sign tomorrow)
  • ordered three t-shirts: one for Nadia, two for me (including the official con t-shirt)
  • attended a number great sessions

Sessions Attended on Day 2

These are the sessions I attended:

The Last Airbender: race and Hollywood cinema

  • We talked about a lot of stuff, most of which is covered on

Making a living: Professional writing for speculative fiction authors

  • Great session and I got to hear both John Scalzi (Wikipedia) and Cory Doctorow (Wikipedia) talk! :)
  • Most writers of speculative fiction (or fiction of any kind, really) need to think, work, and act like freelancers, entrepreneurs, and sole traders
  • Important things to do/remember:
    • have multiple income streams (including fallback streams)
    • day jobs can be very useful to have
    • save all the money you can
    • be good at scheduling your time
    • write every day (this is important)

The future of privacy

  • This was another great session and, in this, I got to hear Charles Stross (Wikipedia) talk! :)
  • Privacy is complicated and our concepts of privacy are changing very quickly
  • Technology is moving much faster than the cultural shifts needed to use it well

Eowyn and Sam: underappreciated heroes in The Lord of the Rings

  • This is my favourite session of the con so far
  • Everyone in the room loved Tolkien, knew a lot about him and his books, and spoke very intelligently about the books and the Peter Jackson movie trilogy
  • We talked mostly about Eowyn, Sam, and Faramir

To the stars: the never-ending history of Star Trek

  • This was an excellent session as well, especially since it included Melinda Snodgrass (Wikipedia) on the panel :)
  • The new Star Trek film was shot using the script’s first draft because it was shot during the Hollywood writer’s strike

Academic Panel: These are not the people you are looking for: race in SFF

  • This was a good panel with some brilliant panelists, including China Miéville
  • I can’t write all the awesome stuff that was discussed so, instead, I suggest you read the article that this session was inspired by: ‘Racism and Science Fiction’ by Samuel R. Delany in the The New York Review of Science Fiction

Sessions for Day 3

Tomorrow I’m planning to attend these sessions:

  • Copyright in the 21st Century
  • The best SF novel you have never read or Capes and skirts: the plight of female superheroes or QF (the SF version of Stephen Fry’s quiz show QI) – I’m having a hard time making up my mind!
  • The James Bond enigma
  • Book signing with Gail Carriger followed by Did the future just arrive? The e-book and the publishing industry
  • Cyberpunk and the city or Vote #1 The Thing for President: how cult films are born
  • Thinking in trilogies or Micro-audience and the online critic
  • Academic Panel: Fantastic females: reworking feminism in women’s fantasy
  • The Masquerade Ball

It should be awesome :)

Aussiecon 4: Day 1

aussiecon4_logo_webI’m attending the 68th World Science Fiction – Aussiecon 4 – that’s being held in Melbourne, Australia from 2-6 September. 

Today was the first day and, so far, it’s been awesome.

Choices, Choices…

The biggest problem with conventions like these are that there are multiple sessions running concurrently (in multiple rooms, of course) so you have to choose which one of those you want to attend.

The organizers do, however, try to make your life a little easier by dividing sessions into topic streams – such as kids, young adults, academic panels, academic papers, writers workshops, film programs, signings, talks from guests, and so on. That way, if you have any special overarching interest in one streams, it makes it a little easier for your to make your choices.

Sessions Attended on Day 1

Aussiecon 4 opening ceremonyToday, aside from the opening ceremony, I attended the following sessions during which I learnt the following things (though, of course, this is just a small sample of what was discussed there):

Breaking the fourth wall: Supernatural and its audience

  • There are two kinds of ‘fourth walls’:
    • one in which the show’s authors are influenced by the fans (e.g. the killing off of Bela in Supernatural season 3) and
    • the other in which the show’s characters interact with the audience during/through the show (e.g. the bit after the credits in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off).
  • Fan influence can be both to the show’s benefit and detriment. In the case of Supernatural the consensus seems to be that the latter occurred.
  • It can sometimes be hard for a show’s authors to figure out whether the feedback they’re getting from their fans is:
    • just the loudest people trying to get them to write the show they really want to see (e.g. this must happen in the next season because I think that would be awesome!) or
    • a genuine fan pointing out a flaw or blind spot in their story or show choices (e.g. all the show’s characters happen to be Caucasian…wtf?).
  • American TV networks seem to be shifting the way in which they source and plan for serialized shows. The original model was, for example, a show that had a 5-year storyline with defined milestones for each season. The newer model seems to be the British one of shows being sold with 1-year plans and, if they do well in that first year, being picked up for subsequent seasons.

Perfectly packaged: designing and marketing science fiction

  • A book’s cover image should tell you what it feels like to be reading that book
  • Some manuscripts are really easy to pick covers for while for others (such as cross-genre one) it’s a much harder exercise
  • ‘Less is more’ in book covers and one of the most effective covers is one with big lettering for both the author’s name and book’s title and with only a small image/illustration
  • Publishers try to avoid people’s faces on book covers because it leaves more to the imagination
  • Black book covers with a single, coloured high-contrast image in the centre (i.e. the Twilight style) is very last year

Things to do in Melbourne when you’re geek

Sessions for Day 2

Tomorrow I’m planning to attend the following sessions:

  • When history becomes fantasy: artistic license and historical cinema
  • The Last Airbender: race and Hollywood cinema
  • Rethinking SETI: 50 years on – though this has been rescheduled so I’ll have to change my plans accordingly
  • The future of privacy or, if I’m one of the first ten to sign up, a kaffeeklatsch (i.e. small group discussion) with Gail Carriger
  • Shaun Tan Guest of Honour Speech
  • Eowyn and Sam: underappreciated heroes in The Lord of the Rings
  • To the stars: the never-ending history of Star Trek
  • Academic Panel: These are not the people you are looking for: race in SFF

I’ll also go check out the dealer’s room and go to the Friday Night Filking session (which should be lots of fun).