Getting serious about Series # 2 – The Warlock’s Child – Guest post with Sean McMullen

Book 1 - BURNING SEA - front coverBy now, the last of those cleverly crafted Book Week costumes are washed and tucked away. Authors and illustrators all over Australia are reaching for mugs of hot lemon and honey tea to soothe raw throats, and children are undoubtedly curling up with pen and paper or else reading a brand new story, inspired by their last week of close encounters of a literary kind. It’s why we as (children’s) authors write, to be read and to in doing so open vistas, create possibilities and share adventures.

Fantasy, sci-fi, steampunk author, Sean McMullen subscribes to this notion with the same fervor he injects into his trillions of fantastical tales. Together with well-known fantasy author, Paul Collins, he has penned yet another epic fantasy series, The Warlock’s Child. I have yet to complete the adventure with Dantar and Velza but if the hackle-raising cover by Marc McBride (he is the illustrator of the Deltora Quest series) is anything to go by, then I cannot wait to jump on that ship with them!

Sean was kind enough to share his thoughts on how reading fantasy can seriously hone a child’s reading skills.

FANTASTIC READING

Sean McMullen

What is the The Warlock's Child Bk 2most powerful tool that can be used to boost literacy in kids? In my opinion, it is persuading them to read voluntarily, and fantasy has a lot going for it when it comes to alluring, rather than forcing, students to open books.

While studying medieval literature for my PhD I discovered the origins of fantasy’s powerful combination of adventure, action and excitement, romance and magic. Around 1140 the old-style chanson de geste was being shouldered aside by the newly invented roman courtoise. The chansons were dominated by men fighting, but the romans had a good balance between male and female characters, and included romance. There were still quests and battles to maintain the excitement, but warriors generally did their great deeds for their ladies, rather than some boring king.

The roman courtoise was a sensation, and soon you were not cool if you did not read. In many tournaments, real knights dressed up and fought knights from books, and real kings and queens presided as King Arthur and Queen Guenevere. Medieval kings and queens pretending to be medieval kings and queens? It happened.

Warlock #1 launch photo
Marc McBride, Paul Collins, Sean McMullen

What worked for medieval readers still applies today’s schools, but accessibility is now the issue. When Paul Collins and I were planning The Warlock’s Child series we were careful to keep it reader friendly. Instead of hundred thousand-word doorstopper, the story is spread over six less daunting books. The first five end on cliff-hangers, encouraging kids to keep reading. The perspective is shared between two teens, Dantar and his sister Velza, avoiding gender bias.

Book One, The Burning Sea, opens with a dragon attacking a ship, and in the first five thousand words we also witness a court martial for cowardice, learn that there are spies on the ship, and discover the importance of fire prevention at sea – the hard way. In short, it’s fast and exciBooks 1-6 - THE WARLOCK'S CHILD - all coversting.

Thus readers are encouraged to begin the series and to keep reading, yet it is fantasy, which is often criticized for being escapist. Is this bad? When asked this question on a teen literacy panel my daughter – then twelve – replied, “If the real world follows you into all your reading, then you might as well not bother reading.” Fantasy can provide much needed respite from the real world, and when kids return to this world their reading skills are always sharper.

The Warlock’s Child is out now with new titles being released throughout 2015 by Ford Street Publishing imprint Hybrid Publishers.

 

 

 

The Warlock’s Child giveaway

 

wc03A couple of days ago I blogged about The Warlock’s Child, a great new kids’ fantasy series from authors Paul Collins and Sean McMullen (read post). Now I’m giving you the chance to win a copy of one of the books. Interested? Read on…

The Iron Claw is book 3 in The Warlock’s Child series. It hits bookshop shelves next month. But you’ve a chance to get your hands on a copy RIGHT NOW!

How? Simply send an email with WARLOCK’S CHILD in the subject line to givanoff@optusnet.com.au

The giveaway closes at 5pm (Melb time) on Monday 18 May 2015, after which I will draw the winner.

You must be an Australian resident with an Australian postal address to enter, and you can only enter once.

The winner will be contacted by email, as well as being listed in the comments section of this post. No correspondence on the matter will be entered into. Got that? Good! Now… go and enter.

And while you’re waiting to win a copy of Book 3, why not buy a copy of book 1, The Burning Sea, and book 2, Dragonfall Mountain.

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Catch ya later,  George

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The Warlock’s Child

wc01The Warlock’s Child is a new series of six children’s fantasy books co-authored by Paul Collins and Sean McMullen. Each of these authors has a sterling reputation in children’s and genre literature. But the two of them together… well… was there any doubt that these books would be anything short of brilliant?

I went along to the launch of the series in April, and picked up the first three books (two before they were officially released… one of the perks of going along to a launch). I started reading the first on the following day. By the end of the week I had finished all three. And now I am counting the days until the release of the next (July).

In Book 1, The Burning Sea, we meet Dantar and his sister Velza, both children of the Dravinian Battle Warlock. They are on board a ship, part of a Dravinian fleet on its way to invade the Kingdom of Savaria. Things don’t go to plan.

In Book 2, Dragonfall Mountain, Dantar and Velza find themselves stranded in Savaria. A dragon dies and the Battle Warlock’s loyalties and motivations are called into question.

In Book 3, The Iron Claw, the plot thickens. Motivations and affiliations are muddied and we’re left hanging… until the next instalment.

Oh, did I mention there are dragons? Great, BIG, dangerous dragons… with magic! So cool!

Collins and McMullen give readers a set of likeable leads — characters that have already grown over the course of the first three books. While the story at first appears simple, complexities soon become layered over the top of each other. Action and humour abound. And did I mention the dragons? An all round, excellent read.

The Warlock’s Child actually reads like one long novel that’s been broken up into parts, albeit rather skilfully. Each book ends at just the right moment… concluding the relevant part of the story while leaving questions unanswered and setting things up for the next part. For me, this is a little bit frustrating in that I want the rest of the story NOW! But I can see the benefits. Shorter, less-threatening books are likely to pull in the reluctant readers. Plus, having six books coming out one a month is a great way to build excitement and anticipation. A bit like a television series, really.

And, of course, six books means we get six eye-catching covers from artist Marc McBride. He’s the guy who created all those amazing covers for Emily Rodda’s Deltora Quest series. And dragons are his speciality. Did I mention these books have really cool dragons?

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Can you tell that I’m rather enamoured by these books? No? Okay, one more comment then… they’re a fab read! Go out and buy them. [Yes, yes I know… that was two more comments.]

The Warlock’s Child release schedule…

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter

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Blog, blog, bog

Bog instead of Blog! If I could have a dollar for every time I’ve made that typo. One missing letter and you have a potential catastrophe (albeit a rather amusing one). Mostly it happens on Twitter. I’ll quickly post a link to a bog instead of a blog. I did it this morning.

I wrote a guest post about character names for the blog of fellow author Goldie Alexander (see “What’s in a name?”). The post went online this morning and I Tweeted about it.

WHAT’S IN A NAME? Guest post on Goldie Alexander’s bog about character names…

Thankfully I spotted my error and deleted the Tweet within seconds, replacing the offending typo.

Anyway… this got me thinking about blogs. These days, it seems like every author and his dog has one. And all these authors are also doing guest posts on other people’s blogs. I certainly seem to spend more time writing blog posts than fiction.

I write two regular blogs — this one and a DVD/Blu-ray reviews blog called Viewing Clutter. I also write an irregular blog on my homepage. In addition to this I write guest posts on other people’s blogs, mostly as a way of promoting my blogs and my books.

I write my blogs as a way of cementing my ‘author brand’. Although I must admit that I hate that term — ‘author brand’. It makes me sound like a packet of breakfast cereal or some such thing on a supermarket self. But in today’s publishing industry, it’s a reality. Authors need to get out there and create a brand and be recognisable, so that each time they bring out a new book, people will know about it… and hopefully buy it.

Branding aside (god, now I have an image of corralled authors being herded like cattle), I actually enjoy writing my blogs. I like inflicting my opinions on an unsuspecting blogosphere. And there’s no editor telling me what I can or can’t say… which is not necessarily a good thing, but it is liberating.

As for the guest posts… they are usually specifically focussed on promoting a particular book or series of books. So, as well as my post on Goldie’s site, other recent guest posts that I’ve written, have all been about my Gamers books and, in particular, the latest one, Gamers’ Challenge. Want a couple of examples? Of course you do…

I’ve written about setting novels within virtual worlds for Ian Irvine’s blog.

I’ve written about book trailers for Ripping Ozzie Reads.

I’ve written about letting my imagination run wild for ReadPlus.

Etc, etc…

And, of course, I’ve hosted guest posts from other authors here on Literary Clutter. Recent visiting authors have included Ian Irvine, Sean McMullen, Simon Hayes and JE Fison.

Is all this blogging actually helping authors? You know, I have absolutely no idea. I know that people are reading my blogs (In fact, I’ve got stats apps that are telling me exactly how many people.). But I don’t know if my blogging has helped me to sell any more books. Do people who read my blogs also read my books? I’ve no way of knowing.

So, why do I keep doing it?

Well, for the time being I’m enjoying it. And so long as I’m enjoying it, I’ll keep doing it. If it ever gets to be a chore; if it ever stops being fun — that’s when I’ll stop. In the meantime, you’ll just have to put up with me. 😉

Catch ya later,  George

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Changing Yesterday

A couple of months ago, author Sean McMullen wrote a guest blog for Literary Clutter about his new YA novel, Changing Yesterday (see Sean McMullen Changes Yesterday). At that stage I hadn’t read the book. Now that I have, I thought it was time to put in my two cents worth…

Changing Yesterday is a sequel to McMullen’s 2007 novel, Before the Storm. Four years between books makes it a little difficult to remember all the details of the first… but my strongest memory of the first book, is that I loved it. Ideally, I would have liked to reread Before the Storm, before plunging into Changing Yesterday, but due to the rather large pile of review books awaiting my attention, I didn’t have the luxury of doing so. And thus, with a shaky memory, I picked up Changing Yesterday.

Let me start with an aesthetic comparison. The new book has a way better cover. The cover concept for Before the Storm wasn’t bad, but the execution was rather cheesy. Pity, as the cover may have put off the uninformed reader from discovering a great story. No such worry this time around. The same cover artist, Grant Gittus, has excelled with a stylish and steampunky cover.

Thankfully, the first few chapters of Changing Yesterday give you all the necessary information about the first instalment that you need in order to understand and enjoy the sequel.

The story centres around two cadets from a future that hopefully will never be, who have travelled back to 1901 in order to stop an extremist group of British loyalists (the Lionhearts) from starting a war with Germany. With the help of some teenagers from 1901, the cadets managed to foil the Lionhearts’ attempt in the first book. But these guys are not done for yet and have set new plans into motion. Meanwhile the teenagers find their cohesive little group beginning to fall apart. Can they overcome their feelings and work together one more time to stop the beginning of the Hundred Years War? Well, you’re gonna have to read the book to find out. 🙂

Changing Yesterday is an action-packed, rollicking good, time-travel science fiction story full of twists and turns, and a surprise or two. But it also has great characters. These characters are taken in new directions and really put to the test this time around, sometimes even surprising themselves with their actions. All the while, McMullen tempers the whole thing with a wonderful sense of humour.

“If only my mother could see me now. Lying in bed with a boy in a first-class cabin, with two pistols under my pillow, pretending to be a French courtesan for the benefit of some armed men from a British secret society who are trying to start a worldwide war.”

Changing Yesterday is a complete book in its own right, able to be read without needing to read the first book (although I highly recommend that you do). Although it provides closure and ties up the loose ends, it also opens things up for a potential third book — a book that would take things into a very different direction. Here’s hoping McMullen writes it.

Catch ya later,  George

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CHANGING YESTERDAY

Changing Yesterday is the sequel to the highly acclaimed, Before the Storm and is the work of one of Australia’s leading SF and Fantasy authors, Sean McMullen.

It’s 1901, and Battle Commander Liore has travelled back in time to stop a war that will rage for over a hundred years. But time itself is against her. Whenever she changes history, a new beginning to the war emerges and the world once again teeters on the brink of disaster.

To make matters worse, Barry the Bag has stolen Liore’s plasma rifle, the most dangerous weapon in the world. The owner is on his trail, and she doesn’t take prisoners.

One of the things I loved about Changing Yesterday is that it’s a novel that breaks rules. It spreads across so many genres. Action, adventure, science fiction, dystopian, romance, humour – it has pretty much everything. This is a novel that cannot be put in a labelled box and for this reason it will appeal to readers with a diverse range of tastes and interests.

I also enjoyed the eclectic mix of characters – the pathetic unlucky in love Daniel who is stronger than he thinks, the unscrupulous but hopeless Barry the Bag, the treacherous Muriel Baker who the reader gets to know mainly through hearsay, the invincible Liore and the feisty and clever Madeline who I have a feeling may feature in Daniel’s affections in later books. Every one of these characters has their own distinct voice and individual traits that will endear them to readers.

I was very familiar with some of the towns in which the book was set so that was also something else I enjoyed.

Changing Yesterday is one of those rare books you read where you don’t get the feeling it’s the result of blood, sweat and tears. You come away with a sense that this is a book the author really enjoyed writing.

It’s a coming of age story in which the teen characters fight to save the world and find their own path into adulthood. They leave behind family and familiarity, take risks, live by their wits and make choices that will affect their futures. There are also themes of friendship, loyalty and trust. There’s a lot of travel happening in this book – through time – on boats – on trains – by horse – pretty much every mode of transport except planes but this is hardly surprising as the story is set in 1901.

There are plenty of references for the history lover and fascinating detail that kids will love.

Changing Yesterday is published by Ford Street.

 

Sean McMullen changes yesterday

Australian speculative fiction author Sean McMullen was recently nominated for a Hugo award, the granddaddy of honours in the international science fiction scene — a huge achievement for which Sean deserves much congratulations. But that’s not what this blog post is about. Today, Literary Clutter is focusing on Sean’s new book Changing Yesterday. It’s a sequel to his YA, SF, time-travel, historical, adventure novel, Before the Storm. And so I’ve asked Sean to tell us a little about this new novel…

Changing Yesterday
by Sean McMullen

The setting for Changing Yesterday is 1901, and this is not a time that’s been explored much in Australian fiction. I like it because we see a combination of really old-fashioned attitudes and social values with the really early versions of what we take for granted today — like radio, cars, motorbikes, and safe international transport.

There is some back story to Changing Yesterday. Australia’s first parliament gets bombed — the roof falls in, killing most of Australia’s political leaders and some British royals. Evidence is found that links Germany to the attack, and this sets off a world war that lasts over a hundred years. When experiments are done to send nuclear weapons back through time, two idealistic cadets, Liore and Fox, decide that enough is enough. They travel back through time to stop the bombing of parliament and prevent the war. They are aided by four Melbourne teenagers from 1901, Daniel, Emily, Barry and Muriel. In the previous book, Before the Storm, they prevent the bombing and discover that Germany had nothing to do with it. A British secret society, the Lionhearts, bombed parliament to start the war and unify the British Empire.

By the beginning of Changing Yesterday, the Lionhearts are still trying to start their war, but the alliance of teenagers is falling apart. Muriel and Daniel had been dating, but she dumps him and runs off to Paris with Fox to become an artist. Daniel falls apart pretty spectacularly, so his parents send him to an English boarding school to get a bit of discipline beaten into him. While all this is going on, Barry steals Liore’s deadly plasma rifle. This is a weapon from the future that can sink a ship, so its theft is a big issue. Barry sails for England on Daniel’s ship, and plans to sell the weapon to the king. The very angry Liore goes after Barry on another ship, but the Lionhearts now know about the weapon, and are also after Barry. They think the weapon would be ideal to trigger the war between Britain and Germany, and they are right.

Most of the story happens on steam ships travelling from Melbourne to London, and this was a problem for the plotting. Imagine the flight from Melbourne to London on a 747. Now change the 747 into a floating hotel, make the trip fifty times longer, and remove the air conditioning. That’s right, the voyage was very long, seriously boring, and pretty uncomfortable in the tropics. Once I started doing some research I found that it was not quite so bad, though. The ships arranged a lot of entertainment like concerts, banquets, dances and deck games, and a lot of romance went on as well.

In Changing Yesterday I had Barry Porter, a sort of teenage criminal-in-training, traveling first class on stolen money, and because he is rather short on manners and is right into petty theft, there is a lot of scope for comedy. Daniel is almost as good value, because he is trying to pine for his lost girlfriend on a ship where there are way more girls than boys. Most of them are bored out of their brains, and the handsome and talented Daniel looks like he could be a lot of fun if he could be persuaded to forget Muriel.

When Daniel’s ship reaches Colombo, Liore and her new friend Madeline come aboard, and the story becomes a bit like the Terminator on the Titanic. Several Lionheart agents also come aboard, but Liore has more fighting skills than they ever knew, and one by one they go over the side. Meantime Barry jumped ship with the weapon back at Colombo, and is ahead of them on a tramp steamer. When the Lionhearts catch up and relieve him of Liore’s weapon, it seems that all is lost, but Liore has a cunning plan. It might sink the ship, but it would definitely end the Lionheart threat forever.

Although Changing Yesterday is an adventure that stretches halfway around the world, it is also a novel about growing up. Barry does not want to grow up, because he’s too good at being a ratty street kid. Liore was never really a child, and she is already perfect as a warrior. Madeline had to leave school to run her mother’s shop, so she has grown up already. Daniel is fifteen, but has always been held down by his parents and older sister. Putting him on a ship, alone, is his family’s biggest mistake, and over six weeks he becomes brave, resourceful and quite independent. This sort of journey is one that we all make at one time or another, and although Changing Yesterday is set in 1901, the characters still make the same mistakes as we do.

George’s bit at the end

Given the fact that I LOVED Before the Storm, I am very much looking forward to reading Changing Yesterday. In fact, it’s already sitting in my must-read-soon pile.

Changing Yesterday was released by Ford Street Publishing on 1 July. For more info about Sean and his writing, check out his website.

And tune in next time for a visit from author Tristan Bancks.

Catch ya later,  George

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The Making of Chasing Yesterday by Sean McMullen

Sean McMullen, the author of new young adult fiction adventure Changing Yesterday, tells us about how he researched his new book.

People who have read Changing Yesterday and its predecessor, Before the Storm, tend to get back to me with variations on this question: how did you make such an unexciting period in Australian history so interesting? Well, I like to think that I did a pretty exciting plot, but the answer also has lots to do with Google, and the way that it is changing the way we do research.

First a bit of background on Changing Yesterday. At the opening of Australia’s parliament in May 1901 there is a bombing that brings down the roof, killing most of Australia’s political leaders and some British royals. Evidence is found linking Germany to the attack, and a century of terrible war follows. Finally, two idealistic cadets from the future, Liore and Fox, travel back through time to stop the bombing and prevent the war. They are aided by Daniel, Emily, Barry and Muriel, who are Melbourne teenagers from 1901.

In Before the Storm they stop the bombing by combining their diverse backgrounds in a single team. Fox and Liore have been raised as warriors, and have been trained to solve problems by fighting. Daniel and Emily are from a rich and respectable family, but Barry is a school dropout and petty criminal. Muriel is an artist, and does rather suspect things like drinking coffee and painting nudes. Daniel’s sister is scandalised when he and Muriel fall in love.

By the beginning of Changing Yesterday the conspirators are known to be a British secret society, the Lionhearts. They want to start a war in order to keep the British Empire together. They have not yet been put out of business, and are still trying to start their war. When Muriel dumps Daniel and runs off to Paris with Fox to become an artist, the teenage team that stopped the Lionhearts the first time begins to fall apart. Daniel has a nervous breakdown, so his parents send him to an English boarding school to get him sorted out. The day that Daniel sails, Barry steals Liore’s deadly plasma rifle. Barry flees for England on Daniel’s ship, intending to give the futuristic weapon to the king in exchange for a knighthood and lots of money. Liore sets off after Barry on another ship, but now the Lionhearts also know about the weapon, and are chasing Barry. They want to use the weapon to trigger the war between Britain and Germany. I will not drop any spoilers, but the future is eventually saved, and Daniel discovers that there are lots more girls who are way nicer than Muriel.

Because much of the story involves Melbourne and steam ships in 1901, I needed a lot of everyday details like streets, railways, timetables, the cost of fares, and shipboard life. Not a lot of this was available via Google or Wikkipedia, but I still started my research with them. If the answer to a question was available on the web, great, problem solved. If not, the question went onto a list of things to be researched at the State Library. By starting with the web I saved loads of time.

The web was really good on big-issue history. Early in Changing Yesterday, Barry steals Liore’s plasma rifle and flees on the Adelaide Express – intending to board Daniel’s ship when it docks in Adelaide. Liore steals a motorised bicycle and sets off after him, hoping to catch up with the train at Ballarat. The web provided the history of motorcycles, the history of the Adelaide Express, a description of Spencer Street Station around 1901, and where ships going from Melbourne to England stopped to load coal and pick up passengers. The State Library’s books told me how long a passenger ship would take to get from Melbourne to Adelaide.

Shipboard life was quite a problem to research. There were plenty of pictures and technical details of 1901 ships on the web, and there were great contemporary photographs of  Colombo and Port Said, where they called to fill up with coal. When it came to life on board, however, the details ran out. The State Library had the data I wanted, but it was scattered across hundreds of books.

Now the movie Titanic came to my rescue. From watching the ‘making of’ extras that came with my DVD, I saw that a lot of care had gone into researching shipboard life in 1912 for this movie. The setting was only eleven years after Changing Yesterday, and that was close enough for a general overview. I then checked a couple of autobiographies in the State Library that featured voyages to England in the late 1890s. The main differences involved the greater length of the voyage, and the need to keep the passengers entertained for weeks at a time – the Atlantic run took only a few days. After that, I went back to the web! Now I was looking for the popular songs, dances and fashions of 1901, and I found all the detail than I needed.

Whether you are writing an essay, doing a school project, or writing a book, the lesson is the same. Use the web to get an overview and avoid mistakes, but don’t give up just because what you want is not there. Books and libraries are really good value for finding details that other people don’t know about, because too many people give up if it’s not on the web.

Changing Yesterday is released by Ford Street Publishing on 1 July 2011

 

Economic SF

Should science fiction authors pay more attention to world economics? Could they use the GFC as the basis of a novel or two? Award winning science fiction author Sean McMullen has joined us today for a guest post about science fiction and economics…

Should science fiction authors write about the economy?
By Sean McMullen

Science fiction authors have a patchy history with predicting the future. We missed the rise of the personal computer until it was right on top of us, while predicting a Mars landing during the 1980s. More nuclear wars were fought in SF than real wars, we also tried to tell people that personal air commuting was well within our grasp. We did get computer worms and viruses right, and even a version of the web, but as a rule science fiction is driven by the need for a cool story rather than by what is likely to happen.

Now, at the start of the new millennium’s second decade, we live in a science fiction world. If you can imagine it, someone can do it as a computer game and do it now, because we are no longer tied down by real-world technology, biology or physics. So far so good, but remember what I said about science fiction’s track record with the near future?

The problem is that most things that really impact our lives and future are not very interesting. Toxic assets? Ninja loans? Derivatives? They are dead boring to kids as themes, yet they seriously affect their lifestyle options. Now. How about writing a story about the invention of banks? Boring, yet the invention of banks financed the Renaissance, not to mention an awful lot of exploration. Heard about the Louisiana Bubble of 1720? Boring, yet it trashed the French economy so badly that some say it led to the French Revolution a few decades later. Heard about the Global Financial Crisis of 2008? They were all economic events, but they certainly made life exciting.

How hard is economic SF? Take credit. Western nations have supported their people’s lifestyles on credit for a couple of decades past, but the national annual interest bill is now up around the total ability to pay. We are already seeing the first entire countries maxed out on their credit, and this sort of thing is going to dominate our future. So, it’s happening already, yet who is writing economic SF?

What about something more exciting? Returning to petrol, there is actually plenty left, it is just getting more expensive to extract it from the really deep reserves. So, we can keep burning it, and pay with credit. So what if the world gets a bit warmer because of the extra CO2 in the atmosphere? We just get longer summers. Actually CO2 dissolves in seawater, making it more acidic, dissolving the shells of everything from clams to corals and also making life hard for the plankton. Kill off the plankton, and you kill off the organisms that supply about half of our oxygen.

Now that is really exciting, and it all happens because of economics. Our transport depends on oil, which still is relatively cheap, and transport infrastructure (like roads, parking lots, petrol stations, and however many hundreds of million petrol fuelled cars) is expensive to change. If we don’t want to pay, it will stay the same until it gets a bit hard to breathe – THEN the problem will secure our undivided attention and people will be very interested in spending money.

So, economics is determining our future right now, and it is not a pretty sight, but we are heading into the future with our eyes firmly closed and our iPods turned up loud. Should we write about it? Yes. Can we write about it without making it boring? Yes.

George’s bit at the end

Food for thought! Sounds like a niche desperately waiting for an author to fill it. Has anyone out there come across any SF with an economic focus? If so, leave a comment.

My thanks to Sean McMullen for taking the time to write a guest post for Literary Clutter. To find out more about Sean and his writing, check out his website.

And tune in next time for some exercise.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter… the economic fate of the world depends on it!

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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

Time tripping

I’ve just started reading a YA novel called TimeRiders, written by Alex Scarrow. It’s a time travel story about three teens from three different years (1912, 2010 and 2026) who are recruited by the mysterious Agency to become TimeRiders, operatives who go about fixing problems caused by other time travellers. Sounds rather clichéd, doesn’t it? I’m only 50 pages in, but so far, so good. It plunges you straight into the action and has managed to hold my interest thus far. Mind you, there are still 376 pages to go. I’ll report back once I’ve finished it.

In the meantime, I thought now might be the appropriate moment for a time travel post. After all, a bit of time travel can be fun. I’m eagerly looking forward to the new season of Doctor Who. I’d list the Back to the Future movies amongst my favourite re-watchable films (What can I say? I’m a child of the 80s). I also have a soft spot for Somewhere in Time. And I’ve lost track of how often I’ve watched the various crews of the Starship Enterprise skip back into the past. But let’s talk about books…

Now that I think about it, I can’t recall having read all that many time travel books. I own a copy of The Time Machine by HG Wells, but I’ve never read it. Yes, very remiss of me. It’s been on my “must get around to reading” list for a good many years. (Along with other classic genre novels such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde — which I did finally get around to reading a couple of years ago.) But enough about what I haven’t read… let me tell you about what I have read.

The Puzzle RingThe two most recent time travel books to have actually made it through my reading list are Kate Forsyth’s The Puzzle Ring and Sean McMullen’s Before the Storm. These books nicely illustrate the two categories of time travel fiction that most stories fall into — science fiction and fantasy.

The Puzzle Ring is a charming novel for kids and teens, revolving around Celtic fairy folklore. When Hannah Rose Brown returns to her ancestral home in Scotland with her mother, she discovers a family curse and the truth about her father’s mysterious disappearance. The only way to save her father and break the curse is to travel back in time to the era of Mary Queen of Scots. The time travel in this story is achieved by passing through the realm of fairy.

Before the StormBefore the Storm, on the other hand, is YA science fiction. Fox and BC travel back in time from the distant future to 1901 with the aid of a time machine. These two teens are on a mission to stop the bombing of the first Australian Parliament — an event that will have a devastating affect on the future of the whole world. But once in 1901, they need the help of three ordinary teenagers from that time period to complete their mission.

Two very different books — examples of the two different types of time travel stories. Both are excellent!

Now, I’m going to try and think back to the hazy past of my childhood and teenage years and mention a couple of other time travel stories.

Red Hart Magic by Andre Norton. It’s about two kids who travel back in time, thanks to a magical model of an old English inn. I’m afraid I remember almost nothing about this book except that I really enjoyed it at the time I read it, around about the age of 13, I think. I read quite a lot of Andre Norton’s books at the time.

In my later teen years I read Robert Leeson’s Time Rope books: Time Rope, Three Against the World, At War With Tomorrow and The Metro Gangs Attack. This series is about three teens who travel through time by swinging on a rope hanging from an old tree in a mist-shrouded place called the Neural Zone. Again, memory fails me as to the details. I’ve continued to read Leeson’s books, most recently his retelling of the Arthurian legends, The Song of Arthur, although my favourite of his books is the parallel worlds novel, Slambash Wangs of a Compo Gormer.

Hmmm! I don’t seem to be doing too well in the memory stakes. I wonder if there are any other books I’ve read but can’t remember that I could recommend to you? 🙂

There are, of course, the plethora of Doctor Who novelisations, novels and short stories that I’ve read over the years. I do actually remember most of these. But they would be worthy of a post all to themselves. And I will get around to a Doctor Who post (or two, or three…) some time in the future. If you happen to have a time machine, feel free to skip ahead and read them now.

Let’s finish with a question. What are your favourite time travels books? Please feel free to leave your time travel recommendations in the comments section below.

Tune in next time, when Kate Forsyth, author of The Puzzle Ring, drops by to tell us about her favourite time travel books.

Catch ya later, George