Just 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.
Exciting news. The new Neko Case album, The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You, is out 3 September. And there’s already a trailer and a look at the first single, ‘Man’, featuring M Ward on guitar.
This is completely fabulous, especially if you’re a Dickens tragic like me.
And once you’ve stopped giggling, this piece about literary fakery and the strange story of the time Dickens didn’t meet Dostoyevsky is very worth a read.
Deep in the final stages of the second draft of my new novel, so no time to post, but thought I might link to a few recent reviews. First up I’ve got a long piece on Patrick Ness’ The Crane Wife in the Sydney Review of Books, in which I talk a little bit about about folk tales and the way contemporary writers tend to (mis)read them. It was a fun piece to write and I’m really pleased to be a part of the SRB, which – much to the credit of its editor, James Ley – seems to have come into the world pretty much fully formed, delivering one fantastic piece after another.
Over in today’s Weekend Australian I’ve got a piece on Lauren Beukes’ science fiction-inflected riff on the serial killer novel, The Shining Girls, and going back a few weeks, a longish piece on Jami Attenberg’s The Middlesteins and Michael Kimball’s Big Ray, both of which feature obese characters. And if you’re interested you can also check out my reviews of Ron Rash’s Nothing Gold Can Stay and Sean Howe’s excellent and extremely entertaining history of Marvel Comics, Marvel Comics: The Untold Story.
I’ve got several more pieces due out over the next few weeks, as well as a story I’m really pleased with, so will link to them as they appear.
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 Kindle, iBooks,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 Kindle, iBooks,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.
I have to thank Sean Williams for alerting me to this video about the astonishingly beautiful work of Dutch sculptor, Theo Jansen. Called Strandbeest (Stranbeests? Strandbeesten?) they are crafted from plastic piping and walk and move using systems of sails to harness the wind.
Even on video they’re extraordinary things: marvellously intricate, improbable, strangely weightless, but what really fascinates me about them is the quality Jansen himself is alert to, which is the way their motion and delicate skeletal structures seem to elide the boundary between the biological and the mechanical. Nor is this just a matter of appearance: Jansen designs them using a computer program that utilises genetic algorithms to improve their design and selectively “breeds” them to improve their performance. Little wonder that as they shimmer along the beach it’s so easy to believe you’re seeing some form of alien life possessed of its own presence and purpose.
This quality is also present in many of the creations of roboticists at places like M.I.T. (or this robotic pack mule designed for use in Afghanistan and other mountainous areas (and indeed drones like the ones featured in the final moments of the same video)), and, in rather different form in the work of artists such as Patricia Piccinini (whose bizarre Skywhale has been hovering over Canberra for the past week or so) and Miyo Ando’s beautiful work with bioluminescence, all of which seek to grapple with the way the once clear divisions between life and non-life, biological and artificial are breaking down (interestingly Jansen’s creatures are created from plastic tubing, itself, and artificial substance made from organic compounds). These are questions I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, partly because the novel I’m working on is set across the next century, and is very much concerned with many of these questions and the intersecting notion of the Anthropocene (as was my Aurealis Award-shortlisted story, ‘Visitors’), partly because I’m hoping to write something rather longer on the subject later in the year. But in the meantime you should take the time to watch the videos below, and to visit Jansen’s website, which has more information about him and the project.