Dec 21, 2014

Book Review – The Canary Press - The Genre Issue (Issue 6)

Issue-6-cover Long time readers of the blog may remember that I gave The Canary Press “a bit of stick” for the way they went about announcing they were going to do a Genre issue. Their approach ruffled a few feathers and they gave an apology to the community (read it here). The best thing they have done though, is produce a good issue.

Issue 6 is the Genre issue.  Leaving aside discussions on genre versus literary divisions and whether they do or should exist.  It’s quite an ask to produce something that covers all genre. An impossible task really, before you even get to various arbitrary subgenre breakdowns (sadly there’s no Werewolf romance, nor Austen/Cthulu mash-ups).

So the Canaries didn’t do that, instead, as outlined in a rather creative editorial that had me laughing ( a good sign), they realised their limitations and just went for some quality genre fiction, providing some oxygen to writing that perhaps goes unnoticed. 

Now you may say unnoticed by whom, and that’s a fair question.  I see this issue as bridging a gap between genre camps (where Literature is a genre) or at least between loosely defined communities.  Most of the folks in the speculative fiction community will for instance recognise the writers outlined below, living or dead, international or local.  So I see this issue as a good way of drawing readers from genre camps into The Canary Press readership while also expanding the reading experience of those who might favour the Lit. scene and already be on board.

What we do get though, is probably slanted more to the speculative fiction reader.  There’s a couple of classics; Stanislaw Lem’s, The Fifth Sally (A) or Trurl’s Prescription and JG Ballard’s (this holds up very well) The Intensive Care Unit. Kaaron Warren produces some science fiction social commentary in the form of Witnessing and some creepy crime flash surfaces from Lee Battersby in, A Suitable Level of Reward. 

Kij Johnson’s 26 Monkey’s Also the Abyss might even introduce some Australian speculative fiction readers to one of America’s best current short story writers. There’s some gangster infused, Australian flavoured, modern hardboiled with All the Ropes Had Blood on Them from Paul Mitchell and a rather surreal story of Unicorn surgery in Unicorn Surgeon from Issac Mitchell-Frey.

I did find that most of the fiction was tending toward the cerebral. I feel that we are presented with writing that goes beyond just telling an entertaining story.  We are presented with ideas and narrative structure that are a little out of the ordinary and consequently we have an opportunity to engage in the fiction in a different way.  Kaaron Warren’s story certainly feels like she’s experimented stylistically (successfully I might add) and the Kij Johnson is broken up into 24 numbered paragraphs that jump around the narrative to good effect. Lem’s work feels very 70’s beat poetry in the way it mixes rhyming prose and a dig at the awful power of bureaucracy and Ballard’s work with some subtle technological changes could still be relevant as a criticism of online culture and the disconnect networked devices bring us.

Presentation  though, is where a paper product can push some advantage and having had my ereader die on me this week I can really appreciate something I can hold in my hand, that doesn’t need powering up or recharging.  The Canary Press prints on a sepia toned matt paper (for this issue at least) and it has the feel and look of quality recycled paper.  There’s a mix of colour and black & white interior art and overall I get the feeling some care has been taken in producing a unique product for the genre issue.

The Canary Press has sourced some diverse and international work to grace the pages and their choices give the journal a distinct feel, my only complaint here is, where’s Kathleen Jennings! Seriously though, there’s some distinctive artwork (that can be purchased through their store) that marks the magazine as a little bit arty and special.  Think more Shaun Tan than Borris Vallejo.

At $40 a year for a subscription( 4 issues per year) I think it’s good value.  As a single issue I think it’s worth picking up for the variety of Speculative Fiction alone.

 

Issue 6 was provided free by The Canary Press


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Dec 17, 2014

Galactic Chat 61 with Kameron Hurley

So yes, a definite slow down in posting in December, what with reading for Aurealis and intermittent internet issues caused by goodness knows what. Still I am hoping to  conduct one last Galactic Chat interview for the year this evening and have it out for you prior to Christmas.  In the meantime here’s out latest Galactic Chat conducted by the wonderful David McDonald.

You can download the mp3 file from our Podbean site or play direct below.

This week David chats with award winning author and blogger Kameron Hurley. Kameron has been nominated for the Nebula, Clarke and the BSFA, selected for the Tiptree honour list and this year won the Hugo for Best Fan Writer.  Additionally, her essay "'We Have Always Fought': Challenging the 'Women, Cattle and Slaves' Narrative" also won the Hugo for Best Related Work.

Please enjoy their chat where they talk about the influences on her most famous trilogy( including a dodgy rental apartment with bugs), when authors should speak out on issues of poor or disadvantageous contracts and what's next on Hurley's agenda.

You can find Kameron at her website

Dec 9, 2014

eBook Review – Stillways by Steve Bisley

stillways

I happened upon Stillways while lending support at a local gallery and craft shop. Steve Bisley is one of those iconic Australian actors, never perhaps appearing on the big screen internationally (except in Mad Max), but almost always there in supporting roles.  He’s much like Bryan Brown in that respect.  I have a fondness for the roles he’s played and his presence on air has been part of my cultural experience growing up.

Stillways  captured my attention and dragged me away from other more pressing reading work.  I am not a hug fan of memoirs, I have read about 3 in my lifetime, but I couldn’t stop reading.  There’s an honesty and earthiness in this book, humour and dark secrets.  And love, love that hits you square in the eyes in the final pages. I didn’t have cash with me to buy the book but was able to pick it up online.

The opening chapters read like prose poetry and had me wondering where Bisley had been hiding this talent.  There’s a palpable love of the physically environment of Stillways and Bisley’s descriptions bring the place alive in words. 

The soaking wind curves around the channel that empties Lake Macquarie into the Pacific Ocean. It blows across Pulbah Island and reaches to the sodden south. There is no rain, but a thin wetness. There is no whisper through the casuarinas brought by other winds; they are bowed and heavy now and all things feel sunk and riven.

This is the only way to see my home. This is the only true way to see my home.

 

The later chapters are perhaps less poetic, but I think the content is suited by the change of tone. Particularly around tales of school boy masturbation:

 

I masturbate a lot. We’ve got a masturbation club going at school. Chris Dodds is the current champion. The rules of the club are a bit loose and ill-defined, but it basically comes down to who cums first, wins. Doddsie’s got his dick in his hand more often than a biro, whenever and wherever the mood takes him, and it takes him a lot, and he doesn’t much care who’s around at the time. He has no shame. None of us do.

 

or indeed the troubled relation ship with his father:

 

Our sticks of choice are in our hands.

We have chosen carefully.

Too thin means they’ll break too early and the fury will continue with a belt or worse.

Too thick and the welts will be raw and deep.

There is a crunch outside and then another, measured and quickening.

My eyes go to my sister; her legs are buckling in preparation for the blows, her stout stick is quivering in her hand.

Then he is at the door.

Then inside with us.

His face is ruddy, white spittle blisters his lips and he is shaking and furious. He wrenches the stick from my sister’s hand and cuts a great whistling arc with it. Again and again the stick flails against her till she is screaming and pleading. ‘I’ll be good, Dad!’ she cries, and, ‘No, Dad, no! Please, no!’

 

It only covers Bisley’s life to age 15 ( I suspect another volume) but there’s more than enough of a life revealed in those pages to feel as though you’ve got value as a reader. Bisley comes across almost as a stereotypical larrikin. I think this book reveals that side of him that we see surface in many of his roles but there is also greater depth here.  If he appears a stereotypical rough talking, straight shooting Aussie, it’s because that’s his background.

Grab a copy while we are waiting for the next fabricated celebrity star to fall and fade.  Bisley’s life is  interesting and colourful, perhaps more so than many of the roles we have come to love him for.


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