Wednesday, June 15, 2016

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

Some linkages for your brainmeats edification!
Salut!

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

Television:
Orange is the New Black
Sense8
Transparent
The Autostraddle "Deadsbians" Count

Magazines/Venues noted for featuring inclusivity:
Lightspeed's "Queers/Women/PoC Destroy..." Series
Strange Horizons
Clarkesworld
Uncanny Magazine
Shimmer Magazine
Glittership
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.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Story: "Embedded", The Future Fire, 24/4/2016

Artwork by Miranda Jean
A cascade of black and green 1s and 0s
in waves and fractals
Presenting: "Embedded", a cyberpunk noir story, now dropped at The Future Fire, with artwork by Miranda Jean.
"Embedded" was written in my 4th week of Clarion under the watchful eye of N.K. Jemisin. I was challenged that week to write a type of story I wouldn't usually write, so I chose cyberpunk, mainly to take a chunk out of the alleged "masculine" history of the genre. I chose to write a social justice twist to the story because of many of the current issues pertaining to internet privacy, harassment and stalking, and how they affect queer people.

Thanks to all my Clarion classmates for their feedback, to Nora for her help on making this story (and all my writing) better, and Djibril at The Future Fire for believing in the trajectory of this tale.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Insert Snappy Newsline Update Here: Sale, Competition Results, Narration, "At The Edge", Story Releases

The first quarter of 2016 has been moving along at a quiet, steady pace, and I thought it about time I collected together some of the news that's happened recently.

  • I made a sale to Kaleidotrope! Fist pump to ticking a neat indie venue off my "To Be Published In" list. The story is "And We Spake of Them Words Which Make You Goddess", one of my more experimental sci-fi/fantasy mash up pieces, playing with language drift, hallucinations, loneliness, anger, and everyday gods. I don't have a release date yet, but it's something to look forward to in 2017.
  • I did a narration! For Escape Pod's Artemis Rising Month, featuring women and non-binary authors, I read Alanna McFall's "Singing to the Stars". Even got my own fancy bio and photo on the page.
  • I won third place in the Au Contraire 3 Short Story Competition! Convened by Lee Murray and Dan Rabarts, who are the editors of "At The Edge" coming out in July, the final stories were judged by Philip Mann. Congratulations to Robinne Weiss who took first place and Andi Buchanan who took second place, and thank you to everyone in involved. The placing doesn't mean the story gets published, but I'm sure there'll be a home for it somewhere if it got such a good reception from such an esteemed author.
  • The "At The Edge" Kickstarter is fully funded and reached both of its stretch goals! This means the anthology will get its print run (and will look gorgeous on many a bookshelf around the world). I look forward to being able to attend the book release party at Au Contraire 3 in June.
  • Coming up very soon I have story releases! Quiet for the first half of the year, then everything happens at once! My cyperpunk piece "Embedded" will be in the next issue of The Future Fire, "Splintr" will be in "At The Edge" (read an excerpt HERE), and - FANFARE PLEASE - "An Atlas in Sgraffito Style" will be in the next issue of Shimmer Magazine. I believe "Atlas" is my best story yet, and the Shimmer badgers have given it a good frisking to make it even betterer. This is the most nervous and excited I've been about any of my story releases - it's a Clarion story, a story that went through blood, sweat, and tears, a story I want to go a long way, and if one was to quantify my style at this point in my life this story would be it.
I'll be back soon to start throwing jazz hands about the "Atlas" release.