Monday, January 28, 2008


Here today in the sunny land of OZ it is the long weekend holiday of the Australia Day celebrations. I am, I must confess, a tad underwhelmed by it all. The truth of it is I do not feel particularly Australian as such; I do not get a warming golden glow when ever I think of kangaroos and Sydney Opera house, of broad Australian accents and gum trees. I feel no more affinity for a fellow Aussie than I do with any other person I meet - commonality of language is a great connector for me rather than nationality.

Is it terrible of me to admit this?

Maybe it simply reflects that I have not been out and about enough - too much sitting in darkened rooms inventing words, perhaps...

In fact the whole invention of the Half-Continent was and remains a way for me to collect all that I love about the environments and vibes of this country whilst divorcing it from what is commonly known here as "Australiana" - boomerangs, Eyre's Rock, "Coo-ee cobber!" and all that. There is this idea of Australian Fiction somehow being all about red dust and "out-back" living, yet I have been a city kid all my life and have a kind of European graft in all this waltzing of Matilda. My experience is never-the-less Australian and the Half-Continent is birthed from this, a kind of reconciling of my British heritage with my Australian environment.

So I posit that MBT is Australian Fiction, too, set in a place that in my soul is all about growing up in this broad brown land and as Australian in its depths as Man From Snowy River or Tim Winton.


Going off-topic now, my wife has been doing a short term intensive course in what is called ... at a bible college nearby and, my word! it is challenging stuff. I have learnt - as just one of many examples - that you can solve 70% of health issues in most poverty stricken areas by just ensuring a somewhat abundant source of somewhat clean water. That this sounds easy but that political/cultural issues make helping others far more complex - perhaps even more complex than they need to be. In helping my wife study I become familiar with five basic constants in improving a people's lot: sanitation, immunisation, education, access to water, family planning (also known as child spacing).

How much I take for granted!

I suppose most of all, as a not-quite-by-stander, I have been challenged that my life of middle class self-absorption might not be enough, that the quite introspective way of an author might need to expand beyond just me and mine.

Heavy heavy heavy - why is it that taking other people's pain seriously is so distruptive and troublesome?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Never mind the quality, feel the weight!

I have received an advanced copy of the ANZ edition of Lamplighter and I am bound to say, it is thick, as in chock the back wheel of your car when it is parked on a steep hill thick. Not quite as portable as Book 1 I am afraid. If a work's value is measure by the pound then Lamplighter should be an ok read.

It appears that the galleys (or ARCs) are doing their job - not only is Tara reading it (you show off, you ;) - but there is even a brief review (of sorts) for it online over at Bookshelves of Doom.

Speaking of reviews, I was sent a link to an online review for Foundling by my US publisher recently.

It is positive and encouraging but what is most gratifying to have a reviewer actually understand the Explicarium for a change - it has otherwise been accused of hype, page filling, author's notes other writers have more wit to not include and just plain unnecessary. Well thank you, Olgy Gary, for your insight.

And might I just say how excellent your comments were last post, entertaining and diverting: a most hearty conversation. I agree that labels do bite the big one but I am curious if there is possible a genre title that can be given to MBT - chemo-something... I don't know.

(Oh, and I have to credit the title of this post to my editor Celia Jellet - spake upon receiving the ARC late last year)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Steampunk - to steam or not to punk?

I found - well "found" is a bit of a fib, I was actually Google-alerted to the existence of this post... anyway - I was alerted to this interesting and most excellent article by S.F.Winser upon the humble topic of "steampunk", which included a brief mention of my own work.

Now, previously I would have reacted with a little heat to someone lumping MBT into the steampunk genre because by my own definition of the term, MBT has neither steam nor magic crammed together in that wonderfully uncomfortable manner that is a hallmark of the scene (such as in Mr Mieville's wonderful world). Neither is the Half-Continent and the lands about a Victorian world (as sooooo many keep mistakenly identify it - I defy anyone to show me evidence of the wearing of tri-corner hats in Victorian England, except perhaps by the most rustic) - no it is as, I have conceived it, Georgian, Hanovarian and a wee bit of the Enlightenment too.

Yet if you take Mr Winser's definition: "Steampunk comes from a time when a scientist could make anything in his basement. It might be something clunky-looking, it might be something beautiful - but dammit it would look interesting and it would work..." then, by the precious here and vere! it IS most certainly steampunk, through and through. Some of my earliest writings upon the H-c and beyond were of benighted laboratories where mad dabblers concocted wickedness to let loose on the ignorant world, and people would disappear to end up as parts in a some thrice-wretched experiment.

So steam the punks I say, though maybe go easy on the steam and invite some frock-coated folk along instead.

(I must confess I quoted Mr Winser's article without permission - I hope he does not mind, it is done in the spirit of conversation. If you do mind, sir, I apologise and humbly ask you if I might use this quote...)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A New Year A New Post - or bad, indulgent poetry

Well here we are a new year and all that - already it is a week old and I have not posted anything.

What is up with that?

How are folks liking the Word of the Day and the Match Up? Keep them? Ditch 'em? I thought they give a bit of extra interest - since I do like words and all. I play the Match Up one very often and glow at myself for how many words I know (which is mostly fluke, 'cause once I have sussed those I do actually recall, the half-known words soon match and then there is usually one set left that must fit by default. Easy!)

Well, in moving house I dug up a few weird odds and sods including some bizarre poetry from the very midst of my childhood. If I may, I am going to indulge myself in exposing one of my first poems (which, let's be honest, I cannot think is too bad or I would not be prepared to share it now, would I...) So here is the beginnings of the "great writing career" called Look to the Fly on the Wall.

Look to the fly on the wall,
For there lies your sense of vulgarity.
I stand at the door and knock,
To enter the exit
And come in to go out.
Why is water wet?
Why does a ball come down,
To send ripples of green cascading over
Locks of dying shoelaces.
Twinkle twinkle little star,
How I wonder what Rhinos are.
Mushrooms of cloud
To eat for dinner;
Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall
To chew some gum for breakfast.
Far away, an infant
Dropped his ice cream
Drip drip
Closer to home, I blow my nose
To direct my thoughts to amoebas
swimming in their void of fulfilment.
So -
Look to the fly on the wall,
For there lies your sense of vulgarity.

Deep is it not... Not sure what it all means; clearly a late cold war piece with that "mushrooms of cloud for dinner" line - very high school art project of me.

Ok, self-indulgence now finished.