The Aussiecon Author Videos, part 1

I’ve been promising these videos for quite a while, and I’ve finally managed to drag myself away from my word processing program long enough to open up the video editing program and prepare the videos. When you watch the videos, you’ll probably notice that there isn’t very much editing at all. So, what’s taken me so long? I’ve only ever used the program once before, and I couldn’t remember how to use it. So it took me a while (lots of trial and error resulting in much colourful language) to re-learn the program and then to get the videos ready. Okay, enough with the pathetic excuses. On with the show…

In September 2010 I attended Aussiecon 4, the 68th World Science Fiction Convention, held in Melbourne. (Check out my Aussiecon 4 Memories post.) There were an awful lot of authors wandering about, so I thought I’d corner a few of them and stick a video camera in their faces. I asked each of them to introduce themselves and then to tell me about the book (or books) which has had the greatest influence on them.

And so here are the first four authors…

Michael Pryor is the author of many YA novels, including the Laws of Magic series. He is also co-creator, along with Paul Collins, of The Quentaris Chronicles. Check out his website.

Foz Meadows is the author of The Rare trilogy — the first book, Solace and Grief, was published last year; the second book, The Key to Starveldt, will be published later this year. Check out her blog.

Jane Routley is the author of numerous fantasy novels, including Mage Heart and Fire Angels. She writes under her own name, as well as Rebecca Locksley. Check out her website.

Richard Harland is the author of numerous novels for kids, teens and adults. His most recent novel is Worldshaker. Its sequel, Liberator, will be published later this year. Check out his website.

And tune in next time for another four videos. I promise. Maybe.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter… or I’ll post a video of myself. 😉

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Aussiecon 4 Memories

The 68th World Science Fiction Convention is over! Five days of panels, talks, signings, parties, awards and other related stuff, has ended. People from all over the world are making their way home… or perhaps sightseeing across Australia before departing our golden shores. I’m now sitting in front of my computer at home in Melbourne, still exhausted, trying to come to terms with the fact that it will probably be at least another 10 years before the Worldcon returns to our country.

Since the convention finished, the blogosphere has been inundated with reports and reviews. Check out the report from Foz Meadows, author of Solace and Grief, for ABC Radio National’s The Book Show Blog. Also, check out the blog from Narrelle M Harris, author of The Opposite of Life. If you’re on Twitter, you can see posts about Aussiecon 4 at #Aussiecon4 and #Aus4.

The Dealers’ Room!

Reading the various reports, it is evident that different people had very different experiences. Some people partied; some people networked; some people collected autographs and listened to their favourite authors; some people promoted; some people shopped in the dealers’ room; and some people sat around chatting and drinking way too much coffee. I tried very hard to do a bit of everything! 🙂 And now it’s time for me to add my view of Aussiecon 4 to the ever-expanding blogosphere.

The Ticonderoga Publications table in the Dealers’ Room.

The writer Guest of Honour was Kim Stanley Robinson, author of numerous science fiction novels, including Galileo’s Dream and the Mars trilogy (Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars). I’ve never read any of his novels, as my taste in science fiction tends to lean towards lighter, adventure-based story-telling, rather than hard science. Despite this, I made the effort to attend his Guest of Honour speech… which was thoughtful, humorous and very entertaining. What I enjoyed most about it, was the insight into his non-writing life; and how he felt that one of the greatest things given to him by his writing career was the opportunity to work from home and watch his kids grow up. As a writer who is also a stay-at-home-Dad, this really struck a chord with me. I’m even tempted to go off and read one of his books.

Kim Stanley Robinson giving his Guest of Honour speech.

The artist Guest of Honour was Australian illustrator and author, Shaun Tan, creator of many wonderful books, including The Lost Thing, Tales From Outer Suburbia and The Arrival. I’ve heard Shaun speak numerous times over the years, but I never tire of listening to him. Given that my artistic abilities do not extend beyond stick-figures, I am in awe of anyone who can draw… and can this guy draw, or what? And he makes it look so easy. And he comes across as such a nice guy.

Shaun Tan (right) on a panel about art with D.M. Cornish (centre) and Richard Harland (left).

Now, let’s move on to Doctor Who, because as any regular Literary Clutter reader will know, I am a Doctor Who fanboy. Two writers who worked on the revived Doctor Who series were in attendance at the convention — Paul Cornell (who I’ve previously interviewed on Literary Clutter) and Robert Shearman (who wrote first season’s “Dalek”, the last truly awesome episode to feature this race of pepper-pot encased aliens). I got the chance to meet both of them, and even spoke on a panel with Mr Cornell — “Playing in someone else’s sandpit: franchise writing”.

There were a number of interesting Who related panels, including the one I was on, “We are all fairy tales: Doctor Who’s fifth season”, which was a discussion of how the series had changed with its new production team. It was during this panel that I referred to head writers Russell T Davies and Stephen Moffat as “Rusty and the SMoff” and made the grand statement: “I’d have the River over the Pond, any day!” — although I guess you’d need to be a fan to find any humour in this. Thankfully, neither Paul nor Robert were there for that one!

Of course, there was much discussion of both film and television during the course of the convention. One session I found particularly interesting was George RR Martin’s on-stage interview with Melinda M Snodgrass. Melinda is author of numerous novels (including the Circuit trilogy) as well as being a scriptwriter who has written for, amongst other shows, Star Trek: The Next Generation, SeaQuest DSV, The Outer Limits and Sliders. George is author of countless novels (including the Song of Fire and Ice series) as well as being scriptwriter of 14 episodes of the 1980s television series Beauty and the Beast. The interview worked extremely well due to the obvious rapport they have from being long-time friends and colleagues, and was a wonderful insight into the world of television writing.

And then, of course, there were books… many, many books! And much discussion of those books. Some of the panels I attended included “YA speculative fiction: industry overview and insights”, “Getting published in YA spec fic”, “Nuts and bolts: editing YA spec fic, an insider’s view” and “What’s hot and what’s not: trends in YA spec fic” — do you see a pattern forming here? There were also lots of great readings, by authors local and imported. The highlight for me was the tag-team reading session by Richard Harland and Jack Dann, each providing character voices for the other’s reading.

I’ve barely scratched the surface and I’m out of blog space. Tune in next time as I continue to ramble on about the awesomeness that was AUSSIECON 4!

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter… I’ve now got more than 100 followers, so I must be worth following. 🙂

Speaking at Aussiecon 4

Aussiecon 4, the 68th World Science Fiction Convention is now just round the corner. Five days of panel presentations, readings, signings, book launches and kaffeeklatsches (I’l explain the term later in the post), beginning on Thursday 2 September at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. I’m getting excited!

Last week, an email arrived in my inbox from the convention’s programming director, detailing all the programme items I had agreed to do and providing me with a schedule. Wow! I didn’t realise I had volunteered for so many items. I’m doing seven panels (two of which I’m chairing), two kids’ programme items, a reading, a signing and a kaffeeklatsch. And, of course, there are dozens of other programme items that I want to go and watch. It’s going to be a rather exhausting and exhilarating five days.

So, here’s a round-up of the panels that I’m on, with descriptions from the programme:

Game on! Games and YA spec fic — “A discussion of the influence and penetration of games of all sorts into the world of YA Speculative Fiction.” Also on this panel are Leanne Taylor, Bob Kuhn and Ben Chandler. I, of course, will be chatting about my novel, Gamers’ Quest, as the entire story is set within the multiple worlds of an elaborate, virtual reality computer game.

Playing in someone else’s sandpit: franchise writing — “With original novels based on entertainment properties such as Star Wars, Doctor Who and Halo regularly hitting the bestsellers lists, media tie-in fiction is big business. It is also a type of fiction that comes with its own rules and expectations. A group of authors discuss their own experiences working with someone else’s characters — the challenges, the benefits and the drawbacks.” Also on this panel are Karen Miller, Paul Cornell, Russell Blackford and Jennifer Fallon. I’m rather excited about this panel. My experience with franchise writing is minimal (I’ve done one Doctor Who short story and one book in the Behind The News series), so I’m looking forward to hearing the words of writers more experienced than myself.

Making a living: Professional writing for speculative fiction authors — “For many writers of science fiction and fantasy, the money earned from her or his craft is never enough with which to make a living. What other opportunities are there to earn a sustainable income? A look at ways to earn money as a professional writer outside of the speculative fiction markets.” Also on this panel are Cory Doctorow, John Scalzi and Jennifer Fallon.

QF — “Quite Fannish: a cheap attempt to cash in on the success of Stephen Fry’s quiz show with a similar name. Let’s see what interesting misconceptions the contestants have about science fiction and its associated sub-culture.” Also on this panel are Marc Ortlieb and Ian Nichols. I’m not sure what to expect with this one. I think I might have to watch a few episodes of QI before the event.

Fantasy TV: What happened? — “The overwhelming success of Star Wars in 1977 sparked off a wave of derivative science fiction television dramas such as Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and Battlestar Galactica, each intended to capture the Star Wars audience on the small screen. Following the similarly successful release of The Lord of the Rings from 2001 to 2003, no such wave of derivative programmes followed. Why has fantasy television failed to enter production as successfully as science fiction television? What are the hurdles facing writers, producers and television networks, and how might they be overcome?” Also on this panel are Jeanette Auer and Lara Morgan.

We are all fairy tales: Doctor Who’s fifth season — “In 2010 Doctor Who returned to the screens with a new writer/producer, a new TARDIS, a new companion and a new Doctor in the form of Matt Smith. How has Doctor Who’s fifth season differed from the four seasons before it? Has the transition from Russell T Davies to Steven Moffat been a successful one? A critical review of the most significant change in Doctor Who since it returned to TV.” Also on this panel are Kathryn Sullivan, Narrelle M. Harris and Rani Graff. I’m a complete Doctor Who nerd, so this panel should be a lot of FUN!

YA science fiction – a guy thing? — “Is Young Adult Science Fiction written by males for males?” Also on this panel are Foz Meadows, Sue Bursztynski and Gina Goddard. Yes, another excuse for me to talk about Gamers’ Quest.

And the two kids’ programme items are Writing career guidance for kids and Books from TV series.

Then, of course, there’s the kaffeeklatsch. A kaffeeklatsch, for those of you who don’t know, is a small, informal gathering over coffee (or tea). The host author is joined by up to nine people for a chat about pretty much anything. There are a whole bunch of authors hosting these, including Garth Nix, Rowena Cory Daniells, Trudi Canavan, China Mieville, Marianne de Pierres, Stephen Dedman, George R R Martin, Charles Stross and Ian Irvine. Demand for places at kaffeeklatschs hosted by some authors can be high, so you have to sign up beforehand… people often need to arrive very early and wait in line in order to get into the kaffeeklatsch of their choice. Given the calibre of the other authors, I’m not sure that people have to worry about lining up too long to get into mine. 🙂

If any of the above has sparked your interest in Aussiecon 4, then check out the website, buy a membership and join the several thousand other people who will be heading to the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre in just under a week.

And tune in next time as Sean Williams tell us a little about writing Star Wars books.

Catch ya later,  George

PS — Follow me on Twitter… go on… you know you want to!

Talking about writing

People often imagine writers to be rather hermit-like creatures, tucked away in quiet, darkened corners, chained to computers, furtively tapping away at their keyboards, rarely venturing out into the sunshine. Okay… I may be exaggerating a little. But there is often the perception that writers are rather solitary and often shy. That perception is, of course, utter nonsense.

These days, writers are expected by their publishers to promote their books. This means getting out there, amongst the readers, and talking about their writing. It means attending writers’ festivals, doing talks at libraries and bookshops, and visiting schools. For many writers, speaking engagements, as well as teaching writing, is a way to supplement their income… because, unless you happen to be a best-selling novelist, a writer’s income is often in need of supplementing.

I speak about writing for promotion, for income and, most importantly, because I love doing it. I’m very passionate about writing and reading… and I love sharing that passion. As a children’s author, I’m also a great believer in the importance of showing kids that reading and writing can be fun. So I particularly love doing school visits. There is nothing better, whilst giving a talk about writing, than noticing a spark of excitement in the eyes of one of the kids in the audience. If I can inspire just one kid to pick up a book he may not have otherwise considered, or take up a pen and decide to write something she may otherwise have thought beyond her… then I have achieved something to be proud of.

Over the years, I’ve done a lot of school talks and writing workshops. This year I’ve also embarked on a new challenge. I’ve taken on teaching at university level. For one semester, I am tutoring and guest lecturing in the University of Melbourne’s third year creative writing subject, “Encounters with Writing”. I delivered my first ever university lecture this Tuesday. It was a somewhat nerve-wracking, but also exhilarating experience. The students appeared genuinely interested and the course coordinator was pleased. I got feedback from several people that the lecture presented information they had never thought about before. Mission accomplished!

Now, my mind is focussed on some upcoming speaking.

In early September I will be attending Aussiecon 4, the 68th World Science Fiction Convention. I’m scheduled to do some readings and to participate in a number of panel discussions, including “Game On! Games and YA Spec Fic” and “Franchise Writing”. I’m also looking forward to hearing other writers speak during this five-day event.

This Saturday, I’m off to Daylesford for the Words in Winter Festival, where I will be doing two presentations on the writing of Gamers’ Quest, a book signing and a short story writing workshop for kids. If you happen to be in the vicinity, stop by and say ‘hi’!

And tune in next time to find out what I thought of Leviathan.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter!