Pleasantly brain dead

After all my boasting that I was probably the only person at Aussiecon 4 who was in better health at the end of the festivities than at the start, on Tuesday the adrenalin stopped pumping and I felt exhausted all day. But it was a nice kind of brain-dead tired, ya know?

I had an excellent time, and Monday was a hoot. I’m a raging extrovert (as those who’ve met me will attest) and I like to talk! So being on panels is a thing of joy rather than fear for me. Even when I haven’t had time to prepare properly. Hell, making it up as I go along is kind of what I do for a living, right?

One of the things I found most stimulating and delightful about the panels I attended and appeared on was the capacity for the panellists, and the audience, to shift from having fun to having insights. The panel on “25 Things I Learned from SF” began as pointing out all the silly tropes that appear in such fiction to concluding that readers of SF are sometimes better prepared for the changes in the real world than people who, for example, had not already spent 20 years reading about the possible social, ethical and moral repercussions of cloning.

Even stranger, the deliberately schlocky “Vampire VS Zombie Smackdown”, ripe with comedic potential, turned at one point to a brief discussion of depression and the fear of loss of self, and concluded in a very adult compromise that vampires may be more stylish, and zombies may win the actual war, but they are both really cool monsters. I was also thrilled to be on a panel with George RR Martin, who created one of my favourite tv series of the 80s, Beauty and the Beast, and that I got a chance to tell him so.

I met some wonderful people over those five days. I had fun, I hugged Rob Shearman, I spoke to writers and publishers, I got some great advice and some excellent tips, I hugged Rob Shearman again, I bought books, I spent some quality time with Sally, I got the blues and Terry hugged me better, and people I either didn’t know well or didn’t know at all came to tell me they liked my book, which also made me feel better.

My book stash includes Peter M Ball‘s Bleed (sequel to his amazing book Horn), books by Alison Croggan, Rob Shearman, Marianne De Pierres, Heather Brewer, Karen Chance and Sean McMullen, and an anthology edited by Gillian Pollack.

Among my favourite things this convention? Getting to know Tansy Rayner Roberts a little better; hugging Robert Shearman who is a delightfully naughty and funny man; getting writers I like to sign their books for me; snagging Kim Stanley Robinson to sign The Years of Rice and Salt; Kirstyn McDermott giving The Opposite of Life a shout-out on her panel “Has Hollywood Sucked the Vampire Dry”; spending hours with Sally, who is excellent company; and seeing the look on John Richard’s face when people squeed at him OMG YOU’RE JOHN RICHARDS FROM BOXCUTTERS!! and seeing that same look on Josh Kinal’s face when they were both there to interview Rob Shearman and Paul Cornell on a panel for their show. (Check out iTunes or for this brilliant podcast about all things TV).  I swear, the two of them were almost glancing behind them to see the *other* John Richards and Josh Kinal, who were surely the ones that people meant.

Actually, Peter M Ball articulated the evident truth that Australian writers (and podcast presenters, obviously) are always surprised when people come up to say they like their work. American writers seem to go “Well, thank you kindly. Why, yes, I’d be happy to sign your book. How do I spell your name?”. Approach an Australian author with “I really liked your book” and they tend to look slightly startled and say “Really? Are you sure?” and look around to see if you actually meant *them*.

Aussiecon 4 was inspiring, validating, educational and most of all fun. I feel a little like I’ve been run over by an extremely friendly stampede of widely read wildebeests. Not a bad way to go, all things considered.

These huge events, run from conception to final ceremony by volunteers in the SF community, will always have challenges. The committee by now are exhausted – actually, they were probably exhausted about two months before the con – and some of them may have checked into Rest Homes for the Bewildered for a little while. I want to thank them all for their hard work, especially as it is unpaid work that has been going on, for some of them, for several years. No con is ever flawless, but I had a pretty perfect time, and anything I regret is down to my feeling too under the weather to attend all the items I had on my “must see” list.  I had a fun, convivial time among like minded folks. And that, my friends, is always something to be treasured.

Aussiecon 4 – Day Five

Tomorrow is Day 5, and the last day of the Worldcon. The nasty bug that had been lingering for the first few days now seems to be fading at last, leaving me wishing I had a time machine to do over the first few days again – so many panels and readings and speeches I missed! But I had a great time loitering in the dealers room and spoke to a lot of wise, wonderful, funny, thoughtful, kind people, so actually I can’t complain.

I attended a panel called “Has Hollywood sucked the life out of vampires” which was good fun, and the lovely Kirstyn McDermott gave a shout out for The Opposite of Life, which endeared her to me immensely. 🙂 I was on the next two panels – on in which we discussed how horrific real life can someetimes be, and how that related to horror writing; and then I mediated a panel on the Fifth Season of Dr Who, which mainly meant I hogged the microphone, though occasionally allowed the marvellous panelists George, Rani and Kathryn get a word in edgeways…

Josh and John from Boxcutters interviewed Rob Shearman and Paul Cornell, so there was a table full of charming and funny guys, and it was all recorded for an upcoming episode of Boxcutters, so if you missed it there’s hope for you yet. (Check out Boxcutters on iTunes!)

After dinner, I stayed with some friends to watch the Hugo Awards. Nice to see so much talent being recognised for their efforts, and now I plan to actually read some of the nominees as well as winners…

Tomorrow I have a full day. At 10am I will be on a panel on “The 25 Things I Learned from SF”. Given I haven’t had time to prepare, I’m hoping to think of at least three things.

At 11am I’ll be doing a reading. I plan to read a different part of The Opposite of Life, so if you want to come along but already have the book, at least I’ll be reading out a different bit for a chance. That’ll be followed by a signing session (and many thanks to the Aussiecon program team for putting me in this bit of the program!)

My final panel of the con will be at 2pm, when I will be leading the vampires team in the Zombies vs Vampires smackdown. I don’t know if there’ll be any reasoned debate, but there may be a melee, so that’ll be worth the price of entry, surely.

Aussiecon 4

Today is Day Four of Aussiecon 4, the Australian Worldcon. I started with a nasty cold and while still a bit ill, I’m actually getting a little better each day. Surely this means that, against tradition, I should be in perfect health by Day 5, instead of a total wreck like everyone else.

I’ve done a few panels so far – I had a marvellous time with Bob Kuhn, Alison Croggan and Rob Shearman on a panel about Science Fiction and the Theatre, in which we more or less concluded that the two genres were made for each other and it’s a shame there isn’t more of it. And that there is probably more of it than anyone thinks, it’s just that no-one calls it SF cos they don’t want to frighten off the audience. Ben Ellis, Lally Katz and Robert Reid, Melbourne playwrights who incorporate a lot of SF concepts in their work, got a mention too, as did actor/director Scott Gooding, who was in the audience.

I also went onto a Friday panel on 10 minutes notice discussing whether or not there is an ‘Australian voice’ in SF, and if so, what is it?

Today I’ll be talking about the reason for writing horror when real life surely offers up enough horrors all by itself. It’ll be interesting to see what everyone has to say about it. I’m also doing a Dr Who panel straight afterwards, because my interests are nothing if not eclectic.

On Monday I will be participating in the zombie vs vampire smackdown, which should be fun. I’ll also be doing a reading from The Opposite of Life if you’d care to come along. I’m going to find a passage I haven’t read before, so even if you’ve already read the book, perhaps it will have entertainment value for you.

Either way, if you’re at the con and would like to say hello, please come up and introduce yourself. When not on panels, or attending panels, I’m often in the dealer’s room at the Doc Rat/Pink Iguana table next to Dymocks.

Melbourne Literary App: Guerilla Literary Launch!

It’s almost spring, the Melbourne Writers Festival is in full bloom, and here comes the Melbourne Literary iPhone app to crank up the literary vibe another notch!

Full details of the app are listed below, but we’re also having a last-minute literary launch to coincide with the Writers Festival.

Launch: 6pm on Wednesday 1 September 2010 at Softbelly Bar, 367 Little Bourke St, Melbourne.

It’ll be rough-hewn, last-minute, lots of fun and oh so literary. See you there! (BYO beret)

Even if you can’t make it, please let your friends, members, associates, customers, subscribers and/or literary heroes (delete as necessary) know about the Melbourne Literary app and its celebration of our word-obsessed city!


The iPhone app that uncovers Australia’s City of Literature:


Melbourne Literary app for the iPhone
Why? To celebrate Australia’s only UNESCO City of Literature via an easy-to-use guide to the city’s bookshops, writers, publishers, literary events, literary locations, and literary-themed cafes, bars and public art.
How much?
Only $3.99.
Where? From the App Store.

Whether you’re based in Australia or in far-flung foreign climes, this app created by Melbourne writer Narrelle M Harris will take you on an inspiring journey down Melbourne’s literary byways.

You’ll encounter great writers and entertaining books at every turn, be they fiction or non-fiction.

This app can be used in many ways. On a rainy day, curl up in a armchair at home and read about Melbourne’s fine writers, or use the list of books set in the city to compile your next library list.

When the weather improves, head out on Melbourne’s streets to discover literary locations, funky bookshops, forgotten monuments and cool “hip lit” cafes.

What’s in the Melbourne Literary app?

For about the price of a cup of excellent Melbourne coffee, (just $3.99) you will get 161 entries about books, writers, publishers, bookshops, locales to visit and links to online bookshops where you can buy all titles mentioned.

Your purchase will also include regular future updates, providing more rich information on Melbourne’s literary history.

Download Melbourne Literary from iTunes via, or directly to your iPhone from the App store.

MELBOURNE LITERARY allows you to search by category, including Literary Locations, Poetry, Bookshops, Cafes & Bars, Young Readers, Set in Melbourne, Writers, Events, Indigenous, Queer Lit, Publishers, and Monuments & Memorials.

Each entry includes a slideshow and descriptive text. If the entry is for a place you can visit, maps will guide you to the literary wonders.

Narrelle created Melbourne Literary in association with San Francisco-based Sutro Media. Narrelle lives in the city centre of Melbourne, Australia, with her husband, Tim Richards, and their apartment-bound cat Petra.

Words are like oxygen