Archive for July, 2010

Baggage Author

Monica Carroll’s short story “Archives, space, shame, love” in Gillian Polack’s ‘Baggage’ anthology is almost a new genre in itself. I call it “Geofiction” because to me it’s a geographical story about Canberra.

It’s about coming to Australia, and much, much more. Carroll is very good at layering her stories, and her depth of observation means the reading experience is varied. In “Archives”, she talks about the way sitting in a public chair can be sometimes disturbing; airplane seats, doctor’s waiting rooms, bus seats. She talks about the contagious magic of such things.

She found writing to a concept easy because she usually starts that way. She starts from a concept, from a solid idea, rather than from an image or a snippet.

We spoke about how ‘place’ is so important when settling in a new home, and how the experiences of the past effect the way we lives our lives.

The Australian Archives are really quite something. I’d been there the weekend before we spoke, and seen my father’s name, and my grandparents’ there, recorded. Strange how this makes you feel. Monica says of the Archives, “There’s so much stuff, so many lives, so many stories.”

East Block 1929, now home of National Archives of Australia

National Archives Image number A8875, 4

She says, “It’s hard to fathom it all. Put all those stories together and it makes Australia.”

Monica is happy our archives are easy to access. “Habits of bureaucracy and record keeping, thanks to the British,” she says.

Geographically, Carroll moves around Canberra in the story. She features Lake Burley Griffin, our man-made, often algae-filled water feature. In an early story, someone told her to take out the Canberran detail but she didn’t do it and “Special Foldings” was a successful sale.

Ever since, she has been determined to have Canberran detail in her fiction. She names a number of other authors who focus on their home area. Stephen King and Maine, for one.

Lake Burley Griffin, 1966

Australian Archives Image number A1500, K14662

The whole stinking floor after floor after shelf after shelf after box after file after page. I yearn for a great flood to rise the waters of Lake Burley Griffin and wash their letters and signatures and passport sized photographs into each other. One big pulpy mess. That’d shut them up.” From “Archives, space, shame, love”

The story also focuses on Mt. Ainslie. This mountain is a special place for most Canberrans.

Panorama from Mt Ainslie towards Civic, 1926

National Archives Image number A3560, 2113

“At Mt Ainslie’s pinnacle, I looked out. Had I vision, there’d be the stars named for my dead family.

So tired. A husk.”

I missed the midnight life. Living on white toast hearing dog whistle shrieks of something that could exist.” From “Archives, space, shame, love”

As Monica says, “You can stand on top of Mount Ainslie and see the city unfold”.

‘Baggage’ will be launched at Worldcon and can be purchased from Galaxy Books in Sydney.

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This is the cover for ‘Never Again’ , Greyfriars Press, an anthology of fiction in response to the murder of Sophie Lancaster

My story “Ghost Jail” is one of the stories included. This story is about censorship and control; about people not being able to speak the truth. The setting was inspired by three blocks of flats now demolished in Suva, Fiji. These flats were so decrepit they were condemned, but people still lived in them.

The thing that struck me every time I passed by was the respect the inhabitants had for their home. It may be falling down, but still the children played happily, the washing hung to dry, the pathways were kept clean. This spoke to me of the triumph of the human spirit, that regardless of surroundings, people don’t have to sink into self-pity.

Of course I’m mostly a horror writer, so “Ghost Jail” fails to capture that sense of a positive future!

Edited by Allyson Bird and Joel Lane, ‘Never Again’ contains one of my all time favourite stories, Joe R. Lansdale’s “The Night They Missed the HorrorShow.” It’s one of those stories which inspires me to  try harder, to write better. To do another draft, and another, to come up with another idea and another.

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Mur Lafferty posted the first of the Angry Robot podcasts, talking to the highly-amusing and somewhat intelligent Marc Gascoigne and Lee Harris. Loved listening to it, but made me wish I could meet them up the pub. Ah, the Tyranny of Distance.

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Angela Slatter’s Drive-by Interviews are a delightful read. Quirky, funny and informative, a bit like Angela herself. You can read mine here.

We are deep in discussion about the Ticonderoga Publications book launch at Worldcon.

Angela has two short story collections out this year. One is Sour Dough and Other Stories, from Tartarus Press, featuring all new stories. The other, The Girl with No Hands, is from Ticonderoga Publications and full of all her published goodness.

I have my new collection from Ticonderoga Publications. Olga Read is the cover artist. I’ve loved her work for some time now and knew she was perfect to create the dead sea fruit. Russ Farr designed the cover.

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