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Posts from the ‘Writing’ Category

A new novel, a new story and a new anthology …

It’s been a while since I posted, and given how much I’ve got to get through over the next few months it may be a while before I get back to posting more regularly, but I wanted to announce a couple of things.

The first – and most important – is that Penguin will be publishing my new novel, Clade, in Australia in February next year, with other territories to follow. I’ve posted a few bits and pieces about it here and there, but it’s a book I’ve been thinking about and working on for a while now, and I think it’s pretty special. At some point I’ll pop up a proper description, but for now it’s probably enough to say it’s about time, and family and climate change, it moves from the very near future to the end of the 21st century, and that it’s got birds, floods, bees and aliens. I rather love it and I hope other people will as well.

Although I’m currently deep in the process of editing Clade, I’ve also spent the first half of the year working on a couple of other projects. The first is another new stand-alone novel, which is slowly taking shape; the second is a trilogy of new novels. I can’t talk much about either just yet, except to say that the first novel of the trilogy is written and the next two are underway, and I’m hoping I’ll have drafts of both the standalone novel and all three books in the trilogy by the end of next year.

In the meantime I’ve got a couple of other bibs and bobs around the place. One is a new story, ‘Skinsuit’, which you’ll find in Island Magazine 137. The full text of the magazine isn’t online but you can pick up the print version at good bookstores here in Australia or order print and digital versions from Island directly (while you’re there you might want to think about supporting the magazine and its investment in Australian writing and culture by subscribing). The issue also features fiction by Tegan Bennett Daylight, Angela Meyer and Sunil Badami, as well as non-fiction by Alison Croggon and Damon Young, so you’re guaranteed value for money.

The other is a piece in if:book Australia’s The N00BZ: New Adventures in Literature. Edited by Simon Groth, the collection is the culmination of a project that saw fifteen writers including attempt to stretch or challenge their writing practice in different ways. Sometimes the challenges were personal – Sean Williams participated in a sleep deprivation study, and charted the effects on his writing – sometimes, as with Benjamin Law’s decision to learn shorthand, they were technical, and sometimes, as with Jeff Sparrow’s exploration of the experience of not writing, they involved an examination of the author’s writing practice more generally. For me the challenge revolved around trying to develop and write the script for a comic, a project that was both about exploring my lifelong fascination with comics and beginning the process of learning to work in a new form.

It was a great project, and one I enjoyed being involved in immensely, and having read the contributions of the other writers I’m confident they enjoyed being involved in the process as much as I did. If you’d like a taster you can read my contribution online, but I really do recommend you check out the entire collection, which is currently available in digital form with the print version to follow in August.

Best Australian Stories 2013

Best Stories 2013Just a quick note to say how delighted I am that my story, ‘Solstice’, has been selected for Best Australian Stories 2013. Originally published as part of The Big Issue’s Fiction Issue, it’s also the first part of my new novel, Clade, which will, with a bit of luck, be published later next year.

My copy of the collection only turned up in the mail an hour or so ago, so I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. But this year’s collection, which was edited by two-time Miles Franklin-winner, Kim Scott, and includes stories by Kalinda Ashton, Tony Birch, Georgia Blain, Tegan Bennett Daylight, Ashley Hay, Andy Kissane, Wayne Macauley, Ryan O’Neill and Favel Parrett to name just a few, looks particularly impressive.

There’s a full list of contributors on the Black Inc website. Alternatively you’ll find copies at any decent bricks and mortar or online bookstore. I’m not sure if the electronic versions are available internationally, but if you’d rather go electronic it’s available for Kindle, KoboGoogle Play and iBooks.

And while I’m here, I should mention how pleased I was a little while back to see my Rapunzel novelette, Beauty’s Sister making the Recommended Reading List for The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2012, edited by Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene. The full list, which includes works by writers including Joanne Anderton, Margo Lanagan, Jason Nahrung and Kaaron Warren is available on the Ticonderoga website and is well worth a look.

Paper Nautilus

JBR10001_Book_cover_finalI’m very excited to be able to say my first book of poetry, Paper Nautilus, is now available as an ebook through Amazon. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it (and given it’s (a) poetry and (b) has been out of print for more than a decade that’s presumably pretty much everybody) it was first published by Five Islands Press as part of their New Poets Series in 1994, was shortlisted for the National Book Council of Australia’s Banjo Award for Poetry in 1995, and contains a series of poems I wrote between 1991 and 1993.

It’s always strange rereading work you wrote a long time ago, but looking at the book again I’m surprised how well it stands up. Perhaps unusually I didn’t really start writing until I was in my 20s, and because I managed to get published reasonably quickly the poems in Paper Nautilus aren’t just the first things I had published, many of them are amongst the first things I ever wrote. That being the case it’s sort of gratifying to find the book contains not just a number of poems I’m genuinely proud of but a number more I’d forgotten that are surprisingly good (I have to confess I had no memory of ‘Winter Afternoon’ at all until I reread the book). Even more interesting is seeing the way so many of the interests and preoccupations of my fiction were present right from the beginning.

I’ve made a few minor corrections to the text but otherwise the book is as it was when it was first published, except for the very handsome new cover, designed by Who Creative.

There’s more information and a few reviews over on the page I’ve created for the book, but given you can have the whole book for a mere US$2.99, perhaps you’d be better off just hopping over to Amazon and buying a copy.

Coode Street and Me

the-coode-street-podcastA little after the fact, but if you get a chance you might want to check out Episode 154 of the Coode Street Podcast, which features me chatting with Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe about subjects ranging from Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Paul McAuley’s Quiet War series to Margaret Atwood, Tolkien and the future of science fiction.

I’m a big fan of Coode Street, which I think is necessary listening for anybody interested in science fiction or fantasy, so it was great fun to be a part of it. You can download the episode from Podbean or from iTunes.

If you’re interested I’d also very much recommend taking the time to check out M. John Harrison’s recent appearance on the show (available via Podbean and iTunes), in which he demonstrates he’s exactly as brilliant in person as on the page, and the conversations with Graham Joyce (whose new book, The Year of the Ladybird, is a delight (again, Podbean, iTunes)) and Ursula Le Guin (Podbean) from a while back.

Brisbane Writers Festival

brisbane writers festivalJust a quick note to say I’ll be appearing at this year’s Brisbane Writers Festival, which runs from Tuesday 3 September to Monday 9 September.

I’m on three panels. The first, Fables and Folktales, also features Kate Forsyth (who just wrote a lovely review of Beauty’s Sister), Donna Hancox and Angela Slatter, and is fairly self-explanatory. The second, A Sense of Wonder, which also features Ashley Hay and Bianca Nogrady, is about science and communication, and the third, Future Imperfect, which also features Sean Williams and Antony Funnell, is about science fiction and the future. Fables and Folktales is at 2:30pm on Saturday 7 September, A Sense of Wonder is at 4:00pm on Saturday 7 September and Future Imperfect is at 2:30pm on Sunday 8 September.

I’m really excited about the panels and about the Festival in general, which seems to have gone out of its way to develop a program that isn’t ashamed to schedule literary writers like Philip Meyer and Ruth Ozeki alongside speculative and comic writers like Matt Fraction (writer of the brilliant, brilliant Hawkeye), Dylan Horrocks and Marjorie M. Liu. The latter are all appearing as part of the Well Drawn event on Sunday 8 September, and I’m very much looking forward to catching their sessions.

Information on the Festival and details of all events are available on the BWF website. More information about my sessions and ticketing is available on my profile page.

Beauty’s Sister out in paperback today!

9780143569657

I’m delighted to say my novelette, Beauty’s Sister, which was published as a digital-only Penguin Special last year is now available as a nifty orange Penguin paperback. You can see the rather lovely cover on the right (I know it’s been said before, but the orange Penguin livery is one of the truly great pieces of design), and if you’re in Australia you should also be able to buy it at your local bricks and mortar bookshop (elsewhere you’ll have to check out online retailers or buy it in digital form for  KindleiBooks,Google Play, or Kobo (or for Kindle in the UK)).

As the blurb below explains, ‘Beauty’s Sister’ is a reworking of ‘Rapunzel’, but along with ‘Catspaw, or The Rakshasa’s Servant’, it’s also one of a series of “tales” I’ve been working on over the past year or two. At some point they’ll hopefully form a cycle of some kind, but for now I’m just enjoying exploring the things they let me do with magic and fables.

Anyway, the blurb is below. If you’d like to buy a copy check out your local bookshop or take a look on Booko. And as I said above, if paper is no longer your thing you can also buy it for for KindleiBooks,Google Play, or Kobo (and for Kindle in the UK)).

“A story of jealousy, passion and power, Beauty’s Sister is a dark and gripping reimagining of one of our oldest tales, Rapunzel, from acclaimed novelist James Bradley.”“Juniper, living deep in the forest with her parents, is stunned to discover that the beautiful girl living isolated in a nearby tower is her sister. When the two girls meet, what begins as a fascination and a friendship ultimately develops into something truly sinister.

I hope you like it. I’m thrilled it’s now in paperback.

Catspaw, or The Rakshasa’s Servant

rakshasaJust a quick note to say I’ve got a story in the May issue of Aurealis, which hits the interwebs today. Entitled ‘Catspaw, or The Rakshasa’s Servant’, it’s basically a contemporary folk tale, and was inspired by a post on Lev Grossman’s blog which reproduced the image on the right, an image that will be immediately recognisable to anybody who played Advanced Dungeons and Dragons in the 1980s (next up, a story called ‘The Unbearable Squareness of Gelatinous Cubes’).

Anyway, you can purchase Aurealis from Smashwords for AU$2.99, which seems an absolute bargain for a story that features duelling shapeshifting tiger demons. And which is really a tribute to my many years as a devoted player of role-playing games.

Read my story, ‘The Flats’, for free

'West Beach Sandhills', © 2007, Barry Leadbeater

‘West Beach Sandhills’, © 2007, Barry Leadbeater

When I began this site part of my plan was to use it to publish short pieces of fiction, either drawn from works in progress or harvested from other published and unpublished sources. In the end that didn’t happen, mostly because the moment never really seemed right, but just lately I’ve been thinking I might start to post a few things here.

To that end I’ve just uploaded my story, ‘The Flats’, which was published a couple of years ago in the Get Reading! anthology, 10 Short Stories You Must Read in 2011. I’ve chosen it as the first one partly because I like it, and partly because a translation by Jorge Salavert has just been published in the Spanish-language literary magazine, Hermano Cerdo, so it seems sensible to have the English-language version available as well.

You can read ‘The Flats’ online now. If you’d like information about some of the other stories I’ve published recently you can check out my new Short Fiction page, or you can go direct to the source and grab a copy of my Aurealis Award shortlisted story, ‘Visitors’, from the Review of Australian Fiction or read ‘The Inconvenient Dead’ over at Overland or in Best Australian Stories 2012Australian (and I think, US) readers can also grab copies of my Rapunzel novelette, ‘Beauty’s Sister’ for KindleiBooksGoogle Play, and Kobo, while UK readers can download it for Kindle.

Meanwhile I have to get back to my novel …

‘Visitors’ shortlisted for the Aurealis Awards

Pitcher PlantI woke up this morning to the very lovely news that my story, ‘Visitors’, which was published in the Review of Australian Fiction in the middle of last year, has been shortlisted for an Aurealis Award in the Short Fiction Category alongside stories by Margo Lanagan, Greg Mellor and Kaaron Warren.

Obviously being on the shortlist is pretty fabulous in itself, but I’m doubly pleased because it feels like a real vote of confidence in the time and effort the Review’s editor, Matthew Lamb, has invested in the publication. Matthew’s now editing Island (a process he spoke about recently) but in his time at the Review he helped create a space in which both new and established writers could stretch themselves and try new things, a process that’s paid off in spades over the past couple of years.

You can read the full list of finalists over on the Aurealis Awards website, and if you’d like to read the story itself it’s available for $2.99 through the Review of Australian Fiction (or you can get the whole of Volume 2 for $9.99). My congratulations again to all my fellow finalists (and in particular Margo Lanagan, whose novel, Sea Hearts, was also shortlisted for the Stella Prize earlier this week) and my thanks to the judges and organisers for all their hard work.

Oh, and the picture of the pitcher plant? If you read the story you’ll understand.

Perth Writers’ Festival and the Stellas

3262_8415-width=620&height=385&scale_mode=c_PWF-Base-imageThis is a little late in the day (although it’s been that kind of month), but if you’re in Perth and heading to the Writers’ Festival over the weekend I’m doing a few sessions you might want to check out.

The first two are on Friday: ‘Critical Thinking’ with Stephen Romei, Geordie Williamson and John Freeman at 12:30pm in the Juliet Tent and ‘The Problem With Beauty’ with Ali Alizadeh and Dennis Haskell at 5:00pm in the Woolnough Lecture Theatre. They’re followed by ‘HBO and the Rise of the TV Novel’ with Sue Masters, David Petrarca and Rosemary Neill on Saturday at 11:00am in the Octagon Theatre, ‘To the Point’, with Susan Midalia, Zane Lovitt and Julienne van Loon at the somewhat brutal hour of 9:30 on Sunday morning, and my final session, ‘Inside the Imagination of China Miéville’ at 12:30pm on Sunday in the Octagon Theatre (although I’m only asking the questions in that one). They all look like fascinating sessions and I’m really excited to be a part of them and the Festival more generally (the line-up this year, which includes Margaret Atwood, David Marr and James Meek is really impressive and the programming is thoughtful and provocative).

You can also catch my partner, Mardi McConnochie at ‘Love Story’ in the Juliet Tent at 11:00 on Friday, ‘Is Happy a Dirty Word?’ in the Dolphin Theatre at 12:30pm on Saturday and ‘Of the Time’ in the Woolnough Lecture Theatre at 11:00am on Sunday. She’s also one of the guests at the Stella Prize Trivia Night in the Sunken Garden on Saturday at 6:30pm.

And while we’re on the subject of the Stellas it was great to see the release of the inaugural longlist for the award. It’s a really interesting and diverse collection of books that span fiction, non-fiction and memoir. Big congratulations both to everybody on the list and to all the people who have worked so hard to make the award happen.

UK editions of ‘The Element of Need’ and ‘Beauty’s Sister’ now available

Beauty's SisterIt’s taken a while, but the Penguin Specials editions of my Rapunzel novelette, ‘Beauty’s Sister’, and my essay about Adelaide, adolescence and serial murder, ‘The Element of Need’, are now available in the UK. At the moment they’re only available for Kindle, but iBook and Google Play editions should be available soon, and as soon as they are I’ll post links. I understand they should be available in the US reasonably soon as well.

Both cost £1.99. You can buy the UK edition of ‘The Element of Need’ here and the UK edition of ‘Beauty’s Sister’ here.

Australian readers can download copies of ‘The Element of Need’ for KindleiBooksKobo, and Google Play, and Beauty’s Sister’ for KindleiBooksKobo and Google Play.

That was the year that was

Polar Bear

So, it’s December, and although I’m still scrambling to get some things locked away the year is pretty much done. I’m going to post something about the books I’ve enjoyed most over the past twelve months next week (I’m leaving it so late because I don’t want to preempt the picks I’ve made for The Weekend Australian and The Thought Fox, although if you want a preview you can check out my picks for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, which were published last week) and if I get really excited I might do a musical round-up as well (although I’m not going to make any big promises on that score).

Looking back over the past twelve months I’m sort of amazed by how much I’ve gotten done. I haven’t managed to write much long non-fiction, but I’ve written a lot of reviews, written and submitted my doctoral dissertation and somehow managed to stay on top of all my normal commitments (or at least mostly on top).

More importantly though I’ve written a lot of fiction, some of which is even good. I’ve knocked over most of the first draft of a new novel (or novelly thing – in fact it’s a discontinuous narrative made up of ten interconnected stories), and with luck I’ll have something deliverable by April next year. Although it still doesn’t have a title the opening section was published as a standalone story in The Big Issue earlier this year and I’m hoping two more sections will be published as stories in the new year. What I’ve got is rough but I’m really pleased with it.

As well as the novel I’ve written and published a number of stories. Some – like my Rapunzel novelette, ‘Beauty’s Sister’, which was published as part of Penguin’s excellent Penguin Specials series (and is available for KindleiBooksKobo and Google Play), and my alien invasion story, ‘Visitors’, which was published by The Review of Australian Fiction – have been published as in electronic formats only, others, like my zombies in suburbia story, ‘The Inconvenient Dead’ are available online and in print (you can pick up ‘The Inconvenient Dead’ in Best Australian Stories 2012 as well as Overland 206). In addition to the stories above I’ve got another two which will be published in the new year and several more about to go out, all of which I’ll link to as they appear.

I’m also pleased to say my essay about growing up in Adelaide, ‘The Element of Need’, was also republished as a Penguin Special a few months back. If you haven’t read it you might want to check it out: I think it’s one of the best things I’ve written in recent years. There’s a post with more details about it here, or you can buy it for KindleiBooksKobo, and Google Play. And staying with the creepy theme, you might also want to check out my essay about ghosts and ghost stories, ‘Encounters with the Uncanny’, which appeared in Meanjin earlier this year. I’ve also just finished a longish piece on 2001: A Space Odyssey that I’m really pleased with and will link to once it’s published in the new year.

At this point I’m hoping next year will be equally productive – I’ve got a pile of stories that need writing and at least two novels I want to get written once this one is done – but for now I’m just happy to have gotten so much done over the past twelve months. I hope you’ve all had equally productive years.

And, finally, because it’s summer in Australia I thought I might direct you to this piece I wrote about summer and the myths of Australianness a couple of years ago: it’s not new but I like it. Or you could check out my review of John Smolens’ Quarantine, which appeared in The Washington Post a few weeks back, or my review of Ronald Frame’s Havisham, which appeared in The Weekend Australian last Saturday.

The Best Australian Stories 2012

Best Australian StoriesSince it’s been out for a couple of weeks this is a little after the fact, but I wanted to say how delighted I am my story ‘The Inconvenient Dead’ has been selected for this year’s Best Australian Stories (which comes complete with a spiffy redesign). The volume, which was put together by Sonya Hartnett, also includes stories by a bunch of good people such as David Astle, David Sornig, Romy Ash and newcomers like Rebecca Harrison, and while I haven’t read all of it yet, I’m happy to report that what I have read is fantastic.

I’ve also added three reviews to the site: my pieces on Patrick Flanery’s striking and often unsettling exploration of trauma, memory and complicity,  Absolution and Dana Spiotta’s stunning third novel Stone Arabia (if you haven’t read it run, don’t walk to your nearest shop and buy it now), both of which appeared in The Weekend Australian earlier this year, and my review of Peter Heller’s haunting excursion into apocalyptic fiction, The Dog Stars, which ran in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age a few months back. And while we’re on the subject of reviews you might also want to check out my piece on James Meek’s The Heart Broke In, which appeared in The Weekend Australian a few weeks ago.

And the novel? Nice of you to ask. It’s grand: not there yet but close-ish to a (very rough) first draft, which is nice.

Podcasts, Poems and P76

Bruce Pennington, ‘Children of Tomorrow’

Busy writing, which is cutting down on the posts, but in the meantime I thought I might point you in the direction of a couple of things that might be of interest.

The first is the latest episode of Jonathan Strahan and Gary Wolfe’s excellent Coode Street Podcast, which I was lucky enough to be a part of last weekend. If you’re interested in SF and Fantasy and you don’t already listen to Coode Street I heartily recommend you check it out; recent episodes have featured discussions with Paul Kincaid about his stinging critique of the state of contemporary SF in the Los Angeles Review of Books a few weeks ago (there’s a nice roundup of other responses to the piece on Kincaid’s website) and the brilliant Kij Johnson (if you haven’t read her new collection, At the mouth of the river of the bees, you should do so immediately, although not before you’ve read the opening story, ’26 monkeys, also, the abyss’). The episode featuring me is available for free from the Coode Street website or direct from iTunes.

The second is this week’s launch of issue 6 of P76. This is a project with a rather wonderful story behind it. As some of you may remember, P76 was a small but adventurous literary journal that produced five issues in the late 1980s and early 1990s before folding just before the publication of its sixth issue in the summer of 1992/3.

Earlier this year P76’s editors, Mark Roberts and Linda Adair, found the setting for this lost issue, which features work by M T C Cronin, joanne burns, Gary Dunne and others and decided to publish it as a time capsule showcasing the state of Australian literature 20 years ago. This was a decision that was of particular interest to me because the issue also contained one of the first poems I ever sold, and which, as a result of the magazine’s collapse, never saw the light of day. If you’d like to read the issue it’s available from Rochford Street Press. Issue 1 of P76 is also available for free online. My poem’s called ‘Wintering’, and it’s actually not bad.

Now, back to the novel …

Encounters with the Uncanny: Postscript

Last week I mentioned that the September Meanjin has an essay by me about ghosts and ghost stories. At the time the piece was print-only, but I’m delighted to say it’s now available online in its entirety.

Obviously I think you should read it right away, but once you have I think you should come back here, because in the week since it was published it’s acquired an extremely unsettling postscript …

Read more

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