Last week, author Kate Forsyth blogged her Best Books of 2010 list. Kate reads A LOT and she reads widely. So much so, that her list is broken up into ten categories covering everything from fantasy to historical to memoir to non-fiction. It made me think about my best books of 2010 list, which I blogged a few posts ago. And now I feel the need to explain myself a bit.

For those of you who can’t remember (and who don’t want to go back and look up that post), here’s the list again:

  1. Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld (I’d also include Leviathan, which was published in 2009, but which I did not get around to reading until 2010)
  2. Trash by Andy Mulligan [read my review]
  3. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger [read my review]
  4. Wolfborn by Sue Bursztynski [read my review]
  5. f2m: the boy within by Hazel Edwards and Ryan Kennedy

I’m not the fastest reader in the world, and with two young children and a career to maintain, I just don’t read as much as I used to. And because I only read a limited amount, I don’t read as widely as I used to. I tend to read books that I’m pretty sure I’m going to like. So my list has been put together from a much smaller and narrower set of books than Kate’s.

Also, my list is only of books published in 2010. When I came to writing the post, I looked at the pile of books I had read during 2010, which was divided into two groups — those published in 2010 and those published earlier. I went through the 2010 group and picked out what I thought were the truly outstanding books. There were others that were really, really good, but I chose only those that had that extra spark. It happened that there were five of them… so I made a Top 5 list. BUT, it should have been a Top 6 list. There was one other book that should have been there, but I had accidentally placed it in the ‘not published in 2010’ group. 🙁 My bad. That book is Shirley Marr’s Fury, which I’ve previously reviewed on Literary Clutter. I feel terrible at having left it out, as it is a superb read.

Now, if I were to extend that list further, and include all the books I read during 2010, it would become a Top 8 list. There would be two pre-2010 entries that I would need to include…

Human Nature (from The New Doctor Who Adventures series) by Paul Cornell, which was published 1995. One of the best Doctor Who books I have ever read. A complex tale with a very unique approach, it ended up being the inspiration for the televised two part story, ‘Human Nature” and “Family of Blood”. Well worth a read if you’re a Doctor Who fan.

The Tripods books by John Christopher. There is the original trilogy published in 1967/8 (The White Mountains, The City of Gold and Lead and The Pool of Fire) and the prequel published in 1988 (When the Tripods Came). I’ve previously blogged about these books, and as a set they would have taken out the Number 1 slot on my list.

And now that we’re in to 2011, I’m still reading books that were published in 2010. So as this year progresses, my 2010 list could theoretically expand even further. But I think I’ve rambled on enough about lists!

So, tune in next time for a guest post about punk music.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter… or I’ll make up another list.


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. 🙂

Paul Cornell talks about writing

Today, we welcome back British writer Paul Cornell. Last post we chatted about his Doctor Who writing. This time around we’re focusing on his other writing… and man, has he done a lot of other writing! Scripts, novels, novellas, short stories, comics… you name it, he’s done it.

The Interview — Part Two

You’ve written lots of stuff other than Doctor Who. In fact, you’re a rather versatile writer, having written books, comics and television scripts. Do you have a preference for any particular medium?

Prose, every time. You can just do anything, with time, character, budget, all within your grasp absolutely. Comics are a joy to me, but there are still limitations. With television I’ve always found that achieving anything is a major victory. I’ve enjoyed some of those, but it’s much, much tougher to get anything made, let alone anything good. I’ve been wondering for years if television is worth it.

Is it difficult constantly switching the mediums you write for?

Yes, it’s hard to write for two in the same day. Prose to television is like putting on a pair of those mechanical arms and working remotely.

You have two nominations in this year’s Hugo Awards — “One of Our Bastards is Missing” (published in The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction Vol3) has been nominated for best novelette and Captain Britain And MI13. Volume 3: Vampire State has been nominated for best graphic story. Huge congratulations! Can you tell us a little about each of these?

Well I’m just ecstatic about this. My two previous Hugo nomination pins are my proudest possessions, and now I have two more! And getting one for prose feels especially impossible and grand. The novelette is my take on Ian Fleming’s novels, the questions those raise about masculinity, with perhaps different answers. It’s set in a world where something fundamentally different happened in the history of science, the details of which I haven’t revealed yet, and so the great game, the balance of power of nineteenth century nations, has continued.  It’s also me talking about nation states again, which I’m fascinated by and don’t see going away. Similarly, Captain Britain is all about the vampire diaspora looking for a home.  I’ve seen some very kind reviews that confirm my feeling that you don’t need to be immersed in Marvel continuity to enjoy it. Bastards is available for free from my blog, as are the first two issues of Vampire State.

“One of Our Bastards is Missing” is the second story to feature your character Jonathan Hamilton, who first appeared in “Catherine Drewe” (published in Fast Forward 2). Any plans for more in the series?

Yes, I’m several thousand useless words into a rubbish third one, The Copenhagen Interpretation, which is flying like a sack of potatoes at the moment, and will need some savage rewriting. I think I now know what to do, though.

Your latest piece of television writing is Pulse, a pilot which recently screened in the UK. Can you tell us a bit about Pulse and whether or not it will become a series?

I don’t know yet, we’re still waiting to hear.  It’s a techno medical horror thriller show, dark doings in the health service.  It’s wonderfully directed by James Hawes and we have a great cast lined up. All we need is the go-ahead.

You’ve written for both DC Comics and Marvel, for a number of established comics series from Dark X-Men to The Fantastic Four. Is there any series you found more difficult than others to come to grips with?

That Black Widow mini-series, I didn’t make that work at all. Entirely my own fault, down to my belief that all continuity counts. To tell her origin in that space, I shouldn’t have also tried to do a modern story.

If you had the chance to actually meet one of your characters in real life, which one would you choose, and why?

I think Pete Wisdom and I have a lot in common.

Do you have a dream project (something that you would love to work on but are not sure will ever happen)?

There are some DC books I’d like to write, but that apart I’d like to get on with establishing myself as a novelist. That’s the next thing.

So, what’s next for Paul Cornell, assuming your next project isn’t top secret?

I have a novel coming out from Tor next year, about which I can tell you very little. Before then, I’m very much looking forward to Worldcon in Melbourne. I love Aussie, and I’m looking forward to touring around before the event and seeing a lot of old friends.

George’s bit at the end

Many thanks to Paul for taking the time to answer my questions. For more info about him and his writing, check out his blog. You can also follow him on Twitter. And if you’d like to hear Paul speak, he will be attending Aussiecon 4 (the 68th World Science Fiction Convention) in Melbourne in September this year. For more info about Aussiecon, check out their website.

And tune in next time to find out about a world dominated by invading tripods.

Catch ya later,  George

PS – Follow me on Twitter.

Paul Cornell and Doctor Who

Being a long-time Doctor Who fan, I am very excited to be interviewing British writer Paul Cornell for Literary Clutter. Paul is well known for his Doctor Who writing, but he’s also written a heap of other stuff, including radio and television scripts, short stories, novels and comics, and has had four Hugo Award nomination.

Paul came to notoriety in the 1990s, writing numerous Doctor Who novels, including Timewyrm: Revelation and Human Nature. He went on to write several scripts for the Doctor Who audio dramas and for the revived television series, including a two-part adaptation of his novel Human Nature. So, I thought I’d begin the interview by focusing on his Doctor Who writing.

The Interview — Part One

Can you tell us a bit about your first Doctor Who writing experience?

That would be the fan fiction I wrote at school. Some of that got published in fanzines, and one of those fanzine stories (Revelation) was made into a Doctor Who book, and one of those books (Human Nature) was turned into a TV story, so I’ve been lucky enough to have a ladder leading from my earliest amateur Who work right to the show itself.

You adapted your Doctor Who novel, Human Nature (featuring the seventh Doctor), into a two-part script for the third season of the new Doctor Who series (featuring the tenth Doctor). How did that come about? And was it difficult changing the story from one medium to another, and from one Doctor to another?

Russell phoned me up and asked me to do it. “How did it come about” stories, at least in TV, are rarely more exciting. And well, yes and no. Doctors, not so much, it’s just one voice to another, but there were a lot of other things to consider, like how long Smith and Joan had known each other, and how much a product of his time Smith is. In the book, he’s still kind of an outsider… in the TV version, an upstanding member of society.

You wrote the animated webcast Doctor Who story “Scream of the Shalka“, which featured Richard E. Grant as the Doctor and Sir Derek Jacobi as the Master. This story played around with Doctor Who mythology and took the Doctor/Master relationship in a new direction. Were you given free reign when writing this story or were you given a direction to follow? And were you happy with the way it all worked out?

I was given free reign, just about, to create the format. And then Richard E. Grant added loads of lines of his own! I was really happy with it. The animation looks primitive now, but won awards at the time. I like the things it tries out, things the TV show would decide against, and some it went in the same direction with.

Okay… Now for the nerdy fan-boy question: Who’s your favourite Doctor?

Old show, either Davison or McCoy. New show, can’t choose between them. All brilliant.

You created the character Bernice Summerfield for the New Adventures series of Doctor Who books (introduced in the novel, Love and War). Since then, Bernice has spun off into her own books and audio adventures. What it’s like for you, as a writer, to hand over your character to other writers?

It’s a joy to see her continue to grow and flourish without my help. I think it’s a good sign that she was made sturdy in the first place.

George’s bit at the end

Paul’s Doctor Who books include, Timewyrm: RevelationLove and War, No FutureHuman NatureHappy Endings, Goth Opera and The Shadows of Avalon. His Doctor Who television scripts include, “Father’s Day”, “Human Nature” and “The Family of Blood”.

My thanks to Paul for dropping by Literary Clutter. For more info about him and his writing, check out his blog. You can also follow him on Twitter.

And tune in next time when Paul returns to chat about some of his other writing, including the new television pilot Pulse and his Hugo Award nominated novella “One of Our Bastards is Missing”.

Catch ya later,  George

PS: Follow me on Twitter!

Aussiecon 4

Aussiecon 4 is coming soon and I can hardly wait! “What is it?” I hear you ask. Aussiecon 4 is the 68th World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon, for short). And it’s going to be in Melbourne. To say that I am excited, is an understatement.

Today, I’ve invited long-time Worldcon attendee, Laurie Mann, to tell you a little bit about this amazing annual event.

When the Worldcon comes to your neck of the world…
by Laurie Mann, longtime science fiction fan

For the fourth time since 1975, the World Science Fiction Convention is coming to Melbourne. Aussiecon 4 will be held at the futuristic Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre from September 2-6. If you love science fiction and fantasy, especially SF and fantasy books, this is the convention for you.

Aussiecon 4 has renowned guests of honour:  writer Kim Stanley Robinson and artist Shaun Tan, as well as fan Robin Johnson. [Note from George: Conventions like these have a long-standing tradition of inviting a fan guest of honour — someone who has contributed a great deal to the science fiction community, involving themselves in the running of conventions, clubs, etc.] Young adult author Garth Nix will serve as the MC for the Hugo Awards Ceremony.

Worldcon is an annual get-together of fans, writers, artists and publishers from all over the world. Worldcon members have the chance to choose from hundreds of panel discussions, readings and autograph sessions. You’ll be able to visit an Art Show with hundreds of pieces of original art, and a Dealers’ Room where you can buy, amongst other things, books, jewellery, DVDs, and T-shirts. You can attend a big event every night, including the Hugo Awards, a Masquerade and a gathering of horror writers.

Aside from the planned events, one of the great things about a Worldcon is the unplanned events: having a long discussion with other fans at a party about the current trend in dystopic fiction; running into your favourite author in a bar and buying him/her a drink; meeting a fan from Orlando, Florida who grew up down the street from you in Sydney.

Aussiecon 4 will attract a few thousand people from all over the world, including writers like Paul Cornell, Cory Doctorow, Ellen Kushner, George RR Martin, Sean McMullen, Robert Silverberg, Melinda Snodgrass and Ian Tregillis, and editors including Ginger Buchanan, Ellen Datlow and Jonathan Strahan.  Science fiction is often called the “literature of ideas”; at Worldcon, you’ll hear all kind of ideas discussed at great length.

Jim and Laurie Mann

I’ve been going to Worldcon since 1976, and this will be my first Australian Worldcon. Despite the fact that I’ve never been to Australia, I’ll probably know a couple of hundred of the attendees. That’s one of the great things about Worldcons; once you start going to them, you’ll always know people to hang out with, go to panels with, volunteer with…

George’s bit at the end

If you’d like to know more about Aussiecon 4, check out their website.

I’ll be attending Aussiecon 4 in a triple capacity. Firstly as a long-time reader of science fiction and fantasy, eager to meet fellow readers and to hear some of my favourite authors speak. Secondly as an author myself, to speak on panels, do a reading or two and participate in book signings. Thirdly as a Boomerang Books blogger, to report on the event for those of you who can’t make it.

Thanks, Laurie, for stopping by Literary Clutter. I look forward to meeting you at Aussiecon 4.

Aussiecon 4 will be my third Worldcon. Has anyone else out there been to a Worldcon? Leave a comment and tell us about it.

Tune in next time to hear me ramble on about how much I love short stories.

Catch ya later,  George