Archive for September, 2011

Sparks: Nicola Abnett

I first came across Nicola Abnett when I read the first chapters of her novel ‘Naming Names’. I was struck by the intensity of her words, and by how far she was willing to go to tell the story. She doesn’t hold back; there’s no letting go for the reader. She wants you to know exactly what horrors occur, and she describes them from a point of view of acceptance, which makes the horror all the more extreme. She’s very, very good.

“Myra Hindley made me a cup of tea today.”

I was a teenager when my father told me that the most notorious female sex offender and child killer in British history had made him a cup of tea. He worked for the Home Office in the penal system, and this sort of thing happened to him, from time to time. He didn’t talk about it much, or often.

I wonder if my interest in gross criminal psychology came from the very fact that the Official Secrets Act, which he took very seriously, meant that my father didn’t talk about his work. I had to get my information from other sources: magazine articles, books, television documentaries, but the research was always based in fact. This was not the stuff of novels.

When I decided to write fiction for real, this was what I wanted to write about. In the end, I wrote something else first, and this was my second novel; I call it “Naming Names”. It is about a young woman who suffers maternal sexual abuse, abuse that has been institutionalised in a family over generations. When she eventually ends up in the system, it is up to her and Trevor to work out who she is, her name and her age. She records events from her life in long monologues, and Trevor recounts the classical tales, myths and historical events informed by the various names given to her during her childhood.

For most of my almost-thirty-year relationship with novelist and comic-book writer Dan Abnett I have been Nik Vincent: occasional co-writer, editor, first-reader, sometime muse. Now that I am a respectable married woman, it only remains for me to wonder who will publish the other Abnett.

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Conflux 7

Conflux, the Canberra SF Convention, begins on Friday. Here’s my programme:

Friday September 30 5.30-6.30
Launceston Room
Angry Robot Hour
Featuring books, robots, robot food and drink.

Saturday October 1 10-11
Writer in Residence
Convention Centre Creative Corner

Sunday October 2 2.30 – 3.30
In the Garden
Reading: The History Thief, a novella, from the upcoming “Visions Fading Fast”.

Sunday October 2 3.30 – 4.30
Launceston Room
The Craft of Short Story Writing
Panellists: Jack Dann, Cat Sparks (moderator), Helen Stubbs, Kim Westwood, and Kaaron Warren.

Monday October 3 12.30-1.30
Launceston Room
Paradox of Darkness Panel
Welcome to another decadence-inducing soiree.  How is it that we are able to enjoy horrific literature?
Is this pleasure good, moral or even real? Andrew McKiernan, Kyla Ward, Kaaron Warren

And of course there are dozens of other readings, panels, discussions, bar meetings and signings to attend. Can’t wait.

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Sparks: Anne Ostby

I’m thrilled to present a Spark from my dear friend, Norwegian writer Anne Ostby. Anne is an award-winning, best selling author and I’m hoping before very long her work will be translated into English and available.

I heard Anne read part of ‘Town of Love’ when we presented a literary evening together in Suva, Fiji. Here’s a pic of us afterwards; you can tell what fun we had. The reading was wonderful; so beautifully written, such a deeply upsetting subject presented with such respect and passion.

“The idea for Town of Love was sparked in a garden in Tehran in 2007. I was talking with my friend Ruchira Gupta, the anti-trafficking activist, Emmy-award winner, recipient of the Clinton Global Citizen Award, and so much more, about her NGO in India when she suddenly suggested: ”Why don’t you come visit me and see what we do? Then you can write a book about it!” I thought ”Why not?”, and the seed for the opening chapter had been planted.

That conversation became the start of a long journey for me. Not just a geographical one, to a small town in northern India on the Nepali border, but also one of understanding and acknowledging responsibility. Understanding what the buying and selling of human beings really entails, and recognizing that I couldn’t simply turn my back on that knowledge. That is why I had to write the book. That is why I had to go back to Bihar again and again, get to know these women, hear their stories, and carry them forward in the shape of a novel.

The story of the Nat women in Town of Love begins and ends under a mango tree in Bihar. It is told through many voices in many places – some real, some fictional. But everything that is important in the book is true. That young girls are kidnapped and hidden away; that children are assaulted, abused, and raped. That those who reap the benefits of the human flesh trade, with all its violence and brutality, mostly walk free.

But the story also finds a glimmer of hope for the women who walk the streets of the Town of Love, the girls on display in door openings and on balconies. A hope brought by those who care. Those who enter the tiny rooms, push back the curtains, share in Rupa and Salma’s pain. Like Tamanna and Fawzia, there are those who reclaim the governance of their own lives and their own bodies. The hope of Town of Love is that there will be more of them. So that the spark ignited in a garden in Tehran will become the roaring fire I dreamed of.

Anne Ch. Ostby”

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Review: Mistification

Mieneke, at A Fantastical Librarian, has posted an insightful review of Mistification. She’s understood so well what I was trying to do with the novel, and understood the character of Marvo perfectly.


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Zombie News

I’m pretty excited by this press release from IDW.  I love the Zombies Vs Robots comic series, and to have the chance to write a story in the world was brilliant!
IDW Unleashes Prose Program for Breakout Comic Series:
35 Writers Explore, Expand and Remix ZvR World
San Diego, CA (September 6, 2011)—IDW’s gleefully subversive ZOMBIES VS ROBOTS comic book series from creators Chris Ryall and Ashley Wood will soon be eating readers’ brains from the inside via a series of short stories, novellas and more. As announced at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con in July, the company plans for an ambitious slate of original prose stories set at different points in this epic adventure of a zombie apocalypse. In ZOMBIES VS ROBOTS, the clanking robots are built to fight the shambling braineaters, in a desperate attempt to save Earth’s dwindling population.
“It’s gratifying to see that ZvR has taken on an unlife of its own,” asserts Ryall, series co-creator and Chief Creative Officer/Editor-in-Chief for IDW. “Expanding from comics into prose is a logical progression, though as the heretofore sole writer of the series I must admit that letting other writers into our subversive little world was at first troubling. But now I’m fine with it. Really. Mostly. Especially since editor Jeff Conner has corralled such a talented array of writers to tackle some really bizarre and creative prose stories. As long as no one expects me to let them write ZvR comics, too…”
A lurching cohort of writers—including such notable talents as John Shirley, Nancy A. Collins, Rio Youers, Brea Grant, Steve Rasnic Tem, Amber Benson, James A. Moore, Rachel Swirsky, Norman Prentiss, and John Skipp & Cody Goodfellow, led by Ryall himself—has been assembled to pen original stories of life during wartime in the ZVR world. “It’s our biggest project so far,” states Conner, the IDW contributing editor helming the ZVR prose program. “In a way it’s a follow-up to our Classics Mutilated release, at least in terms of its anything goes spirit. The results so far have been—um, riveting.”
The rest of the ZVR writer roster includes: Dale Bailey, Amelia Beamer, Jesse Bullington, Simon Clark, Lincoln Crisler, Stephen Dedman, Rain Graves, Rhodi Hawk, Robert Hood, Stephen Graham Jones, Nicholas Kaufmann, Steven Lockley, Nick Mamatas, Jonathan McGoran, Joe McKinney, Gary McMahon, Mark Morris, Bobby Nash, Yvonne Navarro, Hank Schwaeble, Ekaterina Sedia, Sean Taylor, Simon Kurt Unsworth, Kaaron Warren, and Don Webb.
A film version of ZVR is currently in development through Sony Pictures, with Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes as producer.
Visit IDWPublishing.com to learn more about the company and its top-selling books.
About IDW Publishing
IDW is an award-winning publisher of comic books, graphic novels and trade paperbacks, based in San Diego, California. Renowned for its diverse catalog of licensed and independent titles, IDW publishes some of the most successful and popular titles in the industry, including: Hasbro’s The TRANSFORMERS and G.I. JOE, Paramount’s Star Trek; HBO’s True Blood; the BBC’s Doctor Who; Toho’s Godzilla and comics and trade collections based on novels by worldwide bestselling author, James Patterson. IDW is also home to the Library of American Comics imprint, which publishes classic comic reprints; Yoe! Books, a partnership with Yoe! Studio.
IDW’s original horror series, 30 Days of Night, was launched as a major motion picture in October 2007 by Sony Pictures and was the #1 film in its first week of release. More information about the company can be found at IDWPublishing.com.
ZVR artwork © Ashley Wood. All Rights Reserved.

Media Contact: AnnaMaria White
858.270.1315, ext 121

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Sparks: Paul Haines

Paul Haines writes stories that get under your skin. He’s an arsehole in print, he really is. A couple of times, I’ve physically thrown a book away from me, wanting to distance myself from the words. That’s how good he is. Bastard.

“Sparks: The Devil In Mr Pussy

I was still in the throes of Clarion South burnout from the year before. I’d only started reading for pleasure again a few months ago, but was struggling to get near the keyboard to write, let alone have a brain that held any idea at all for me to write upon. Writer’s block? I just felt stifled. Stuck. Nowhere. There were a lot of things going in my life at the time, the biggest of which was IVF – the most essential and natural form of creation of all. And that wasn’t working either.

We were living in our new house and nothing seemed to be going right at all. We weren’t falling pregnant, I couldn’t write a thing, our cat was on anti-depressants (and clawing the hell out us when we tried to administer them and then he’d sit on my desk staring at me with what looked like hatred). Our house had also supposedly been built guided by the hand of St Joseph, Patron Saint of Carpenters (I kid you not) and I had had fun taking the piss out of the whole house buying situation. I then started to wonder, in those dark lonely moments of paranoia deep in the night, that perhaps I had scorned St Joseph and we were being punished for it. Again, I kid you not.

Write what you know, they say. I also remember Cat Sparks telling me if you only write what you know you become very limited and boring. So I started thinking about mind-altering drugs (again), this time for research not pleasure. I wondered what those antidepressants did to my cat because they really fucked him up, turned him into a completely different animal.

So I started writing what I knew. Creativity – in all its form – stifled and withered; a house haunted by St Joseph, a cat angry and addicted, fatherhood no longer in my control, and living quietly in suburbia. For the record, I never tried the cat’s anti-depressants, and I never ate his cat biscuits. Though I got close to nibbling on those biscuits.

What came out was weird and wonderful. A blurring of all genres and none that it clearly relates to. It’s also laugh out loud in places and was probably one of the pieces that really helped define the “Paul Haines” voice and the length of short story that really suited me – the novelette. Lessons learned: write it if it is me, and that it is real, and it’s all happening, baby! I was lucky enough to win a Ditmar for the story.

We had to put Mr Pussy down later that year. My wife was now pregnant and he just wasted away to fur and bone.”

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The Vampire Book Club has a feature, asking the contributors to Ellen Datlow’s Blood and Other Cravings what draws us to vampires or vampirism. They’ve also got a giveaway, the chance to win a copy of the anthology.

My story “All You Can Do is Breathe” was sparked by an interview I heard on the radio. A survivor of the Childers Backpacker Hostel fire was talking about how it felt, ten years later. He talked about how difficult it was to be a survivor, and how some days, all you can do is breathe.

I’d already had in my mind the idea of a miner who survives a cave in, and this sentence gave me the feeling for the story. I wrote the first draft in a sitting, intensely conscious of my own breathing. I’m not sure if that breath-rhythm comes through the story, but it helped me pace the words out.


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