Monday, August 8, 2016

Pecha Kucha and Pop Up Readings at Word Christchurch

Sooooo, word about my Au Contraire speech got around. That makes me feel pleased and weird.

While I was too late to be put into any panel/programming for Word Christchurch, August 24-28, I was asked if I'd like to be involved in the Pecha Kucha event and Pop Up Reading Festival. Sure thing! Sounds like fun!

Pecha Kucha is a modern format of short speeches, like teeny tiny TED talks. Each speaker has 6 minutes 40 seconds and 20 slides to deliver their topic, and gives the audience exposure to a wide variety of topics in one event.

The Word Christchurch Pecha Kucha night is on Thursday 25 August, from 8.20pm at the (newly built!) Piano. Tickets are $16 each. My topic is entitled "Mary Sue vs The Strong Female Character" and will be a version of my feminist SFF speech from this year's natcon.

Earlier in the evening, I'll be taking part in the New Regent Street Pop-Up Reading Festival. A variety of authors will be reading their work, and I'll be part of the SFF contingent doing two readings apiece. This is free to attend, just grab a drink and sit down at one of the cool New Regent streets bars or restaurants to enjoy. It'll be a very intimate atmosphere.

Aside from the events I'm taking part in, I'm really excited for the entire Word festival. There are some authors and events I'm really looking forward to, like storyteller Ivan E. Coyote, and "Herstory" with Barbara Brookes the author of the fabulous "A History of New Zealand Women" that came out this year.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Around and About

A few things going on around the Pickledverse which have come about on the heels of my well received GoH speech at Au Contraire.

First, I was invited to blog at the New Zealand Book Council website Booknotes Unbound. I chose "Ten Fab Modern Feminist Speculative Fiction Books", featuring Tina Makareti, Jim C. Hines, N.K. Jemisin, Catherynne M. Valente, Lethe Press' "Beyond Binary, Nnedi Okorafor, Karen Healey, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Ann Leckie, and AK Press' "Octavia's Brood".

Second, while I was too late to be integrated into any panels at Word Christchurch, I've been invited to do a version of my speech at the fringe Pecha Kucha night on Thursday August 26. Tickets are $16. I'm also looking forward to attending events at Word. It's a superb programme the team have put together for this year.

Third, a segment of the Gender Diversity and Sexuality panel I was part of at Au Contraire has been podcast through Access Radio Wellington. It is available on the second half of the June 19 Writer's Island 'cast.

Thanks to Steph Soper at NZ Book Council, Rachel King at Word Christchurch, and Netta Egoz at Pecha Kucha Christchurch for your support.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Links: Guest of Honour Speech, Read "Atlas" for Free, Podcastle Narration

Some linkages for your brainmeats edification!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Au Contraire 3 Wrap Up: What a Weekend!

Au Contraire 3 Guests of Honour, l-r:
AJ Fitzwater, Juliet Marillier, Marten Wallace
(Photo: Lee Murray)
We may be small, but we are mighty!

The New Zealand natcon this year was Au Contraire 3, held at the Quality Hotel on Cuba Street, Wellington, over Queen's Birthday weekend. New Zealand's fen community is small, but when all things come together well, our natcon can be a really neat time.

And a neat time this year it was indeed. It was a privilege to be invited as a Guest of Honour, and I tried to discharge my duties with diligence and energy. Originally, actor Stephanie Paul was to join us, but was unfortunately unable to make it. Fantasy author Juliet Marillier stepped up in her fine fashion. The other GoH was board game designer Marten Wallace.

The concom looked after me well, and I commend this year's committee for their efforts despite personnel shuffles and GoH changes close to the weekend. Along with allowing me to contribute to the security and harassment policy, I felt this year's concom had very open communication channels.

Lee Murray and Dan Rabarts did an incredible job of putting together the panel programming. There was something interesting going on at every moment of the day for a wide range of interests, from discussions and workshops for young writers, through to Star Wars origami. I didn't get to be an audience member as much as I would have liked, but the panels I did attend were very interesting and I heard good feedback about others. I especially enjoyed an hour of sitting down with young writers Rem Wigmore, Celine Murray, Amelia Sirvid, and Emma Shi. While their panel was planned opposite a really popular world building talk, we made the most of the time and a quiet room to sit around the table and have a damn fine chat about their expectations of future speculative fiction and new writers. Look out for those people - I have much love, pride, and hope for the newest generation of young writers!

Presenting my Guest of Honour Speech
"Mary Sue vs Strong Female Character:
Cage Match!"
(photo: Lee Murray)
I had a busy weekend, participating in three panels, the "At The Edge" book launch, and my GoH speech. It was a good introduction to the GoH gig, not quite being thrown in the deep end, but I was definitely very tired by the end of it all. Lots of mingling and game face!

My favourite panel I participated in was on Gender Diversity and Sexuality in Speculative Fiction, along with Andi Buchanan, Catherine Lundoff, Cass Wanden, and Celine Murray. We had a fantastic bounce of ideas, talking about the forgotten history of women's SFF, the "Deadsbian Death Count", queer tragedy, invisible queer narratives, what's being done right in SFF and where, and our hopes for the future of gender and sexuality in genre. Here is a list of authors and resources I mentioned in the panel.

I also participated in the Live from Au Contraire: Podcasting and Narration panel, and All The Punks, which both went smoothly. I had great panellists to catch me when my tongue tripped due to nervousness or tiredness. Thanks everyone! The "At The Edge" book release was fun too, where I got to read a section from my story "Splintr". It was also weird signing books - I don't think I'll ever get used to it.

My biggest event of the weekend was my Guest of Honour speech. I'd spent a long time contemplating and writing my speech because it was my first evah, and I wanted to make an impact. And that I did. I was a little stunned at the turn out to my speech, with nearly every chair in the room taken, a few quiet cheers at certain points of the speech, and the question time afterwards was enthusiastic. I also read my essay from Twelfth Planet Press'  "Letters to Tiptree", and a selection from "An Atlas in Sgraffito Style" out in Shimmer Magazine May 2016, both of which were very well received. My reading of "Atlas" sparked a conversation about the Christchurch Earthquakes, my experiences therein, and trauma in speculative fiction, so thank you to everyone in the audience for being sensitive and kind about that. Buzz about my speech got round afterwards, and the text of the speech will be available on the SpecFicNZ website very soon.

The "At The Edge" anthology book launch
(photo: Author's own)
Outside of my official capacity, I spent many wonderful hours talking to con guests in the bars and cafes on Cuba Street (damn, I love that area of the city!). I especially want to thank Catherine Lundoff for taking me in hand and pep talking me through a lot of the weekend - we had many wonderful cups of tea and talks about the business. This is the thing I miss the most when I'm stuck behind my keyboard on my lonesome down in Christchurch, so right now my head is overflowing with all the good (and "interesting") things about the biz. Also thanks to Andi Buchanan, Darusha Wehm, Elizabeth Heritage, Marie Hodgkinson, I.K. Paterson-Harkness, Rem Wigmore, Cassie Hart, Celine Murray, Cat Langford, and Mark English for the great conversations and support over the con weekend. And a big shout out to Octavia Cade who won the SJV for their novelette "The Ghost of Matter" and is off to Clarion West this year.

As with any community, there were a few niggles and personality clashes. It's unavoidable. I'm a bit of an idealist - I'd like the speculative fiction fan and creating community to be able to work together, and I always aim to include everyone despite our differences. However, since we had a good security policy in place and communication with the concom, I understand these small niggles were handled carefully and quickly. As within the theme of my speech, I will speak out against injustice and bad behaviour when I see it. Silence only enables the bad behaviour at conventions. I appreciate the people who did take the time to come to me after my speech to say "I never knew about those problems, where can I find out more?" Change can be difficult, but it's worth it.

The future of New Zealand speculative fiction, from the writers, to gaming, to film, television, online media, to the fans, is bright. We have a tight group of people dedicated to moving us forward. I would like to see more inclusivity at our future cons, including more Maori and Polynesian creators and fans, and to keep that enthusiasm up with our young participants.

Thanks Au Contraire. You were fun.

UPDATE 15/6/2016: Added a link to my speech on the SpecFicNZ website

Writers and Resources, Gender Diversity and Sexuality in Speculative Fiction Panel, Au Contraire 3

This is by no means a comprehensive list of authors and resources on this subject, but it is some places to springboard from.

Gender Diverse and Transgender Authors:
Nino Cipri
Bogi Takacs
A. Merc Rustad
Rose Lemberg
Michael Matheson
An Owomoyela
Sunny Moraine
Caitlin R. Kiernan
Charlie Jane Anders
Poppy Z. Brite
Yoon Ha Lee

Authors/Books/Feminist Utopias:
Nicola Griffith - Ammonite
Joanna Russ
James Tiptree Jr
Suzee McKee Charnas
Charlotte Perkins Gilman - Herland
Kate Wilhelm - Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang
Sherri S. Tepper - The Gate To Women's Country
Ann Leckie - Ancillary Justice

Orange is the New Black
The Autostraddle "Deadsbians" Count

Magazines/Venues noted for featuring inclusivity:
Lightspeed's "Queers/Women/PoC Destroy..." Series
Strange Horizons
Uncanny Magazine
Shimmer Magazine
Escape Artists "Artemis Rising" month
Expanded Horizons

Monday, May 30, 2016

How to Spot a GoH in the Wild

[David Attenborough Voice] Here we see the usually solitary Writerus Specficitus preparing to enter the social environment of the year, a ritual called the Au Contraire natcon over Queen's Birthday Weekend in Wellington, interacting with their peers in an intricate dance which involves much hooting, wallering, and imbibing of libations.

This particular example of Writerus, a member of the Feministus Honourabalius, is preparing an even more advanced performance of hollering, and their official schedule will be enacted thus:

  • Saturday 10am, panel: Gender Diversity and Sexuality in Science Fiction and Fantasy:
    Gwendoline Nelson (convenor), Andi Buchanan, Catherine Lundoff, AJ Fitzwater, Celine Murray, Cas Wanden
  • Sunday 9am, panel: Live from Au Contraire 3, Podcasting and Narration
    Peter King, Dan Rabarts, Michael Parry, AJ Fitzwater
  • Sunday 10am, panel: All the Punks
    Dan Rabarts (convenor), Darusha Wehm, Gerry Huntman, AJ Fitzwater
  • Sunday 1pm: Guest of Honour Speech
  • Sunday 2pm: At the Edge Book Launch
    Dan Rabarts, Lee Murray, Marie Hodgkinson. With Paul Mannering and AJ Fitzwater
  • Sunday 8pm: Sir Julius Vogel Awards ceremony
From previous observations of  Writerus in the wild, strangers are advised to approach said species Honourabalius with an open mind and the convention policy at heart. If said Honourabalius cannot be found in any of the mentioned environments, check the hotel bar as this is often a favourite place to retire to for casual hooting.

As always, please do not poke Honourabalius with a sharp stick, they have been known to bite, especially upon waking or if they haven't eaten in quite some time.

Sharpen up your hooting skills, and wade into what is sure to be a grand time amongst Writerus Specficitus this weekend.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Story Release: "Atlas" is out there in the world

Cover art for Shimmer Magazine
Issue 31 May 2016, of two muscular
women engaged in combat
There are moments. A terrible event. The right inspiration. The right encouragement. The perfect story.

"An Atlas in Sgraffito Style" was born from earthquakes and Clarion. After many drafts (6? 8? I've lost count now), and no small amount of blood, sweat, and tears, it found a home at Shimmer Magazine. I wanted to use beautiful language to describe tragedy, the colour and life, and the forgotten people who rose up from the dust to take back what remained of their world, even when it was being eaten bit by bit by the darkness. Yeah, there are a lot of metaphors for the politics, street art, and class war that came out of the earthquakes.

I am such a sucker for great titles (a little bit of Tiptree in me I suppose), and when I came across the concept of sgraffito while researching street art, I knew I HAD to work that word and concept into the story. Sgraffito is a technique mostly used in plaster or ceramic work, building up layers then scratching through the top layer to reveal colour and/or texture beneath. This is the perfect metaphor for the story and Christchurch: a city scratching through the rubble to bring something beautiful up out of the destruction.

This is the best story I've written so far, and I'd really love to see it go a long way. It had the privilege of being beta'd by Catherynne M. Valente, one of my literary heroes, and it definitely flourished under her careful eye. My Clarion class also gave it the tough fisk it required. Thank you so much to Shimmer badgers Elise Tobler and Beth Wodinski for believing in my story and finding a place for it in their magazine.

Shimmer Magazine Issue 31 for May 2016 is now available, including stories from Arkady Martine, Bentley A. Reese, Rich Larson, and Rachel Acks. Each of the stories will be released online during May and June, with Martine's "All the Colours You Thought Were Kings" available now. "Atlas" will be available online from June 14. If you can't wait until then to read it and all the other fabulous stories, the magazine is available in e-formats for just $US2.99.