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5 Things About Australia.

When you write speculative fiction, everything comes down to worldbuilding, which is the fancy word writers use to describe the ability to make the fantastic elements of a story consistent and believable. For the Books of the Wyrd (Liesmith, Stormbringer), I used to think this meant focusing on things like the authenticity of the Norse elements, and the mechanics of the Wyrd and Wyrdborn. As someone who’s consumed fantasy media ever since she was a little girl, this was something I figured I could handle.

And then I decided to set my story in Australia.

I mean, it made sense; I’m Australian, so why wouldn’t I? The problem? I sold Liesmith and Stormbringer to a U.S. publisher, who published it to a U.S. audience. Suddenly, I was coming up against questions about an entirely different set of worldbuilding, one I hadn’t prepared for.

This is the “worldbuilding” of Australia-as-setting. And, let me tell you; getting over with Viking gods and magic? Easy. Getting over with an Australian setting that defies the stereotype of rugged white manly men doing rugged white manly men things in some nebulously hostile Outback? Much, much harder.

So let’s have a quick look at that stereotype. Because as much as Australians love messing with foreigners’ perceptions of our country, I really think it’s time to clear a few things up…

Keep reading at Buried Under Books…

2015-08-10T07:29:59+11:0010th August, 2015|Tags: guest blogs, stormbringer, wyrdverse|

The One Girl in the Village.

I was fifteen when I stopped reading fantasy novels.

I remember the book that killed my interest. I’m not going to name it, only to say it’s considered one of the greats of the genre. My father had loaned it to me, the book pulled from his wall-to-wall collection of battered SFF paperbacks after I’d asked him for something to read. Something for “grown ups” (this was in the mid-90s or so, before the YA boom filled in that transitional gap between growing and grown). He took Famous Fantasy Novel from its shelf, and handed it to me. “Read this,” he said. “It’s a classic.”

I didn’t make it through the first fifty pages.

“It starts slow,” Dad said. “Stick with it.”

But I wasn’t worried about it starting slow. I worried about it starting wrong. I worried about it starting as a story of a farmboy and his farmboy friends, and the One Girl In The Village.

Continue reading at In Bed With Books »

2018-06-26T13:22:35+11:007th August, 2015|Tags: books, culture, guest blogs, sff, stormbringer, wyrdverse|

“People are the stories they tell”: On the importance of diversity.

Today I’m over at Book Country with a post on diversity. This was originally supposed to be one of those “listicles” issues but, well. It’s me writing it, so it turned into this, instead. Also, for the record, I wrote this a few months back, prior to the whole blow-up with the 2015 Hugos. Rest assured that there would be… a few changes to the text if I’d been drafting it now, shall we say.

One of the most fascinating things to realize about the (Western) publishing industry is that it’s been around, in some form or another, for something like 500 years. That is one oldindustry. It’s also an old industry that’s seen an enormous amount of disruption, to the point where it seems every year brings something new to shake things up.

If 2014 rattled anything on the manuscript-stacked table, it did it via talk of diversity, a.k.a. the way marginalized and other non-majority authors are treated and their stories told. This is particularly relevant as we enter April, which marks the one year anniversary of the#WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. Originally intended to spotlight the lack of diversity in children’s literature, over the past twelve months it has since grown beyond its original mission statement, spawning conversations in every corner of the industry.

And for good reason. There’s plenty to talk about when it comes to publishing’s relationship to diversity and, to set the scene, let’s begin by pointing out that…

1. Publishing is super, super homogeneous

No matter where you look–from fictional characters to their creators to their producers–the consensus is that the publishing industry is white and it is (with some exceptions) male and it is middle-class. “Write what you know,” says decades worth of well-meaning writing advice. Which, according to a quote attributed to US sci-fi author Joe Haldeman, is “why so many mediocre novels are about English professors contemplating adultery.”

Plenty has been written about this topic already, noting the homogeneity of characters appearing in genres as disparate as children’s lit and erotic romance. Employment wise, the publishing industry as a whole isn’t much better than the fiction it produces, with indications things are getting worse as publishers poach executive talent from the notoriously white and male tech sector. Meanwhile, white male authors are not just more likely to gain critical acclaim–particularly when they write in genres traditionally considered to be “for women“–but to get sympathetic pats on the head from prestigious media outlets when they do “lose out” on literary awards in favor of women or people of color.

Not only that, but plummeting advances for novels mean that “author” is fast becoming more of a side project than a day job. Sure, self-publishing is on the rise, but self-publishing is notoriously cost and labor intensive, making it prohibitive for large segments of the community. Ditto for writing in general, for that matter, and there’s been a lot of chatter recently about the so-called “death of the creative middle class” in countries such as the US. This is a phenomenon that is almost always both phrased and derided as a very white, very privileged sort of thing to complain about. People are dying because they can’t afford health care, and poets are whining that they have to get day jobs? Get real!

But the reality is that the people hit hardest by the de-professionalization of writing as a career path aren’t white middle-class Arts majors. They’re segments that are so disenfranchised they become invisible to the entire debate. The second shift is a well-observed phenomenon and affects more women than men; where does a “third shift” of writing fit into that? (Hint: supportive partners help a lot.) Poverty disproportionately affects people of color compared to white people; when families are struggling to work multiple jobs just to survive, where does the energy come from to produce a novel? Ditto for people with disabilities and mental illness, and for people in the LGBT community. If writing is a privileged person’s hobby, and writers write what they know, how many stories are we missing out on simply because the authors who would’ve written them never even got a chance to start?

The reality is we don’t know what we’re missing out on. And that matters because…

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2019-07-31T09:37:33+11:0022nd April, 2015|Tags: culture, guest blogs, xp|

5 things everyone gets wrong about Loki.

It’s been at least, oh, five minutes since we last had a guest post, so today I’m taking over Michael J. Martinez’s blog to talk about everyone favourite subject: the god Loki.

‘Cause, like, did you know Loki is supposed to lead an army of Viking zombies to kill all the gods at the end of the world? And how that’s amazingly cool but hardly ever talked about? Well. You’d totally have known that if you read this article. Which you should. Right now.

And say thanks to Michael (and go check out his books) while you’re there.

2016-05-14T10:09:17+11:0020th November, 2014|Tags: guest blogs, loki|

SF Signal Mind Meld: Gems outside the genre.

Hey, so guess who’s over at SF Signal today, talking about their favourite “non-SFF” books? This author, that’s who.

Shout-outs go to Chinese classic Xi Yóu Jì, Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature… and fanfic, specifically coffeeshop AUs.

Go check it out.

2014-11-13T07:13:30+11:0013th November, 2014|Tags: guest blogs|

“Wicked Loki and Loyal Sigyn”.

Literally the only times Sigyn appears in the Norse sagas is during Loki’s punishment for the murder of Odin’s son, Baldr. In that one story, she loses not just her husband, who’s bound in a cave until the end of time, and not just her children, who are killed/cursed by Odin in order to create Loki’s bindings, but also her own freedom; Sigyn stays with Loki during his imprisonment, holding a bowl over his face to catch drops of burning snake venom that were set to drip into his eyes.

It’s not a fun punishment. For either of them. But the reality is, Sigyn doesn’t have to be there. Not really. Despite what old Marvel comics might have you believe, the Vikings did practice divorce, and wives who were unhappy with the conduct of their husbands could leave them without becoming destitute or pariahs from the community.

Sigyn didn’t, though, despite the frequent questionable conduct of the man she was married to. As a kid, I thought there had to be a story there.

Today I get to gush a bit about my fascination with Sigyn over at Little Red Reviewer.

(Also pls be to totally ignore the place where I’ve written “regale” as opposed to “relegate”. Guh. /facepalm)

2017-07-17T11:07:23+11:007th November, 2014|Tags: guest blogs|

New stories for old gods.

Today I’m over at the Qwillery leading with a thrilling intro on population demographics:

Here’s a weird thing to think about: in the age of the Vikings, between around 800 CE and 1000 CE, the population of the whole of Europe is estimated to’ve been in the vicinity of 30 to 50 million people. In comparison, a little over a thousand years later, in 2012 CE, an estimated 76 million people in the US took themselves off to a cinema to watch the old Viking gods Thor and Loki battle it out in Marvel’s The Avengers.

Or, to put it another way: today, something like twice the entire population of medieval Europe knows who “Thor” and “Loki” are, in one country alone.

Who says the old gods are dying?

2018-06-26T13:21:36+11:005th November, 2014|Tags: guest blogs, loki, norse mythology, thor|

He’s still a jerk, though…

And this is what I learnt, growing up in the Woden Valley, lying on the floor in the living room, paging through the Big Red Dictionary on a Wednesday: the Norse gods, the æsir, never really went anyway. They never died. If nothing else, six out of our seven days of the week still honor their names. (The only one that doesn’t, Saturday, replaced the Viking day of washing, laugardagr, which we still remember today in the word “laundry.” There’s an old joke here about differing Anglo-Saxon and Viking attitudes towards cleanliness, which I’ll let you imagine for yourselves.)

Another guest blog by yours truly, over at My Bookish Ways. Enjoy!

2017-09-05T13:09:42+11:0010th October, 2014|Tags: gonzo author stories, guest blogs, liesmith, writing, wyrdverse|