A spot of signal-boostification

15 11 2016
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The powers-that-be at Peggy Bright Books have alerted me to the following, which I’m passing on for your edification and delectation:
Peggy Bright Books is having a November E-book Giveaway and Summer sale!
We have 5 e-copies of our latest titles, Walking by Sean O’Leary, and The Tame Animals of Saturn by Adam Browne to give away.
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To enter the draw, just send an email to editor@peggybrightbooks.com stating which title you’d prefer, and what format. Both
Walking and The Tame Animals of Saturn are available in mobi, epub and PDF versions. (NB: due to the large number of illustrations in TAOS, these are large files: 2MB–7MB).

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Entries close 25th November, 2016.

Our two anthologies, Light Touch Paper Stand Clear (featuring stories from Joanne Anderton, Adam Browne, Sue Bursztynski, Brenda Cooper, Katherine Cummings, Thoraiya Dyer, Kathleen Jennings, Dave Luckett, Ian McHugh, Sean McMullen, Ripley Patton, Rob Porteous, and Anna Tambour) and Use Only As Directed (stories by Stephen Dedman, Dirk Flinthart, Dave Freer, Michelle Goldsmith, Alex Isle, Lyn McConchie, Claire McKenna, Charlotte Nash, Ian Nichols, Leife Shallcross, Grant Stone, Douglas A Van Belle, Janeen Webb, and M Darusha Wehm), are only $AUD15 each (including postage within Australia) until 23rd December.
 
Support Australian small press and get yourself a bargain!




Book launches: two books, two launches

6 06 2016

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They’ve been around unofficially for a couple of months, but they haven’t officially been launched yet. The launches happen this week, and if you’re in Melbourne you’re welcome to attend one or both of them. The books in question are The Tame Animals of Saturn, by Adam Browne, and Sean O’Leary‘s short fiction collection Walking.

Here are the details. (Note that each launch features both books):

Launch 1 is at the Kathleen Symes Library and Community Centre, 251 Faraday St, Carlton VIC 3053, on Thursday 9th June at 7-8 pm. The launch, in ‘Multi-Purpose Room 1’, will have light refreshments provided. The reading from Adam’s book will be by Australian actor Francis Greenslade, while the reading from Sean’s book will be by the author himself. Both authors will be on hand to chat about and sign their books, and there will also be art on display and for sale.

Launch 2, with readings by both Sean and Adam, is at the Hotel Jasper, 489 Elizabeth St, Melbourne, on Friday 10th June at 6-7 pm. This launch, in the Granger Room (‘room 1’), is part of Continuum 12; since it’s part of the convention, there’s an entry fee of a gold coin donation which gets you access to all of Friday evening’s events at the con. There won’t be refreshments provided at the launch itself, but I’m given to understand the hotel bar is in reasonable proximity.

As the typesetter for both books, as well as the editor for Sean’s, I’m hoping we get a good turnout for the events.





An exercise in third-party signalboostery

21 05 2016

It’s come to my attention that Adam Browne’s The Tame Animals of Saturn has been reviewed, by Stephanie McLeay, in Aurealis 90. While it would be unseemly for me to repost the entire review here (and obviously there are plenty of good reasons to buy the latest issue of Aurealis), it is, I think, fair use to snurch the review’s first short paragraph:

Few books have created a ‘What the hell is this?’ reaction as strongly as this illustrated novella. The Tame Animals of Saturn is a brilliant, utterly unique piece of writing that transports you to not so much another place as another state of mind.

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Adam has a few other reviews / readers’ assessments for the book over on his blogspot. But, reviews belonging to that rarefied group of entities for which too much is never enough, there’s always scope for further reviewage. I’m given to understand that Peggy Bright Books remains keen to find further reviewers, both for Adam’s book, and for the other recent release, Sean O’Leary’s Australian noir lit / crime collection Walking. Review e-copies of both of these books are currently available from Peggy Bright Books, in exchange for honest reviews.





And while I’m on the subject of free samples …

4 05 2016

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I’ve made mention previously of the two recent Peggy Bright Books which I’ve had a hand in producing: Sean O’Leary’s noir/lit collection Walking, and Adam Browne’s weird bestiary The Tame Animals of Saturn. There are now free e-samplers available for both of these tomes, through the PBB website, should you wish to dip your toes in the prose: the Walking sampler is on offer in pdf, epub, and mobi formats, while the Tame Animals sampler is proffered only in pdf. (That final link actually does double duty, because it also provides a purchase opportunity for the hot-off-the-press epub/mobi editions of Tame Animals: these e-reader-friendly versions of the book inevitably lack some of the aesthetics of the printed version, but they do allow Kindle junkies, for example, to access Adam’s twisted masterpiece on their preferred platform. The e-versions of Walking have been available pretty much from the outset.

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An interview with Adam Browne

21 04 2016

I’ve served as editor (or, to be pedantic, co-editor) on two of Adam Browne’s stories: ‘The D____d’ in Light Touch Paper Stand Clear, and ‘Animal The Colour of Waiting’ in Next. My most recent interaction with Adam is as typesetter of his latest release, The Tame Animals of Saturn, a work I see as a younger sibling of his novel Pyrotechnicon (for which I’ve recently uploaded here the review I wrote for ASIM three years ago).

AdamBrowneTAOS1_lightenedAdam Browne, with latest release and convenient stone armrest

To provide some hopefully-helpful background to Tame Animals, I recently queried Adam on what it was all about. Herewith follow his responses:

1. You’ve extrapolated the work or life-story of Cyrano de Bergerac in Pyrotechnicon, Alighieri Dante in ‘The D____d’, and now Jakob Lorber in The Tame Animals of Saturn, and I know there are other well-known figures that have cropped up in your fiction. Would it be fair to say that you’re somewhat obsessed by historical literary personalities? And what draws you to such people?

I use historical references in general because they help with world building. They’re an antidote to the bad sf I used to read as a kid—books like Voyage of the Space Beagle—they were so thin, so contextually meagre!—the worlds nothing more than pastiches from the sf canon—set in a standard-issue sf Future … Good futuristic sf, most of it written after our unquestioning love of the future faded, works very hard to create a context with depth and heft. I don’t necessarily write futuristic sf, but I reckon using historical characters is a way of creating that richness. A friend once said the practice ‘adds velvet’ to the genre.

I wrote for a long time with someone I’ve had a falling out with—my fault—and he impressed me with the way he played with sf; I was still young, still immersed in the genre; he was mature enough to stand outside it and cock his head this way and that, looking at it in a larger, more historic context.

Also, sf is the literature of ideas; the people I write about or refer to were people with ideas—they interest me—I write about stuff that interests me.

Citing them adds gravitas where I feel it might be lacking. I like writing essays, and essay-writing still shows some legacy of the old conception of the Golden Age. Llike before the Renaissance, or the Enlightenment, when any completely new idea was mistrusted because Aristotle hadn’t thought of it first.

And I like to see and play with the big picture. I’ve recently enjoyed the sf novels of Kim Stanley Robinson, but generally I find the immediate problems arising from climate change, say, are too small-picture to engage my imagination. I don’t say this proudly. It’s just that i feel great sympathy for the cosmic context of writers like Olaf Stapledon. Rising sea levels would provoke less than half a line in his Last and First Men.

2. Why Jakob Lorber?

In The Book of Imaginary Beings, I read of Lorber’s ‘Leveller’. It’s green and, like a lot of Lorber’s animals, elephantlike. Borges writes with great dry wit of the immeasurable service the Leveller does man. Its pyramidal legs are made by God to stomp out roadways in preparation for the tarmac-layers and so on.

When I first read this, more than thirty years ago, I fell in love with Lorber—to me, it’s self evident that such a person has to be investigated. It’s only with difficulty that I acknowledge there might be some people who aren’t immediately captivated by things like this.

I should add that one of my illustrations is a cheating reference to the Leveller, which is not native to Saturn, but Neptune.

3. Tame Animals is both a work of fiction—I assume it’s fiction, though as yet nobody has prised back the veil of Saturn’s cloud decks, so an element of doubt must be maintained—and a collection of artworks. Obviously both take inspiration from the imaginings of Jakob Lorber, but which came first, the words or the art? And how would you describe the interaction between the two modes of expression?

The literally incredible thing is that people are still willing to believe in him. Getting into this, I’d assumed that any faith in him that remained would have focused on his spiritual stuff, or such bits of wisdom as he offers—but no. It’s a conspiracy: NASA et al are hiding the truth—that Saturn, for example, is a solid earthlike planet; that the rings are likewise solid, populated by the souls of the elegant, sexless humanoids that inhabit the planet-proper; that our own planet rotates because its gigantic south-polar organ of excretion is helical; and so on.

These are people who need to believe in order to enjoy something—I might go too far the other way, generally—but in this case, for me, Lorber is a wonderful fantasist who deserves to be rescued from obscurity and outrageous Christian mysticism.

People very often feel the need to couch fantasy in junior fiction, or in humour—or in religious/spiritual writing—it’s as satisfying to me in one form as another.

I was interested in him decades ago; I actually can’t remember when I began writing this, but I do know that the words came first. Someone had to nag me into illustrating it. It seems ridiculous now that I resisted the idea. I’m sometimes suspicious of illustrated books—the idea that the text won’t stand up on its own …

4. You’ve mentioned Jorge Luis Borges’ Book of Imaginary Beings as an influence, at least in the context of Tame Animals, and possibly more broadly. What is it about Borges’ work that attracts you?

I discovered Borges when I was young. My reading tastes were still immature, but he wrote so simply that I wasn’t scared off. I was exhilarated by his commitment to the idea. He works so hard to exploit the idea as fully as possible. Too, his delivery is concise. Every paragraph is pregnant; the kicks he gave me weren’t matched until the advent of good cyberpunk writing—the ‘crammed prose’ that Bruce Sterling talks about.

I responded to the melancholy in his stories too, and the uncertainty—he creates an abstract space in which he can pack in even more ideas—’is this amazing thing true, or is this?’

He made his own subgenre to which a lot of scholarly nerds like me are now seriously devoted. I find myself wishing he wasn’t so popular. I get miffed when I see other people talking about him—I’m propietorial about him—I discovered him!—he’s mine!

5. Are there other historical figures out there that, right this moment, you are stalking with pen and sketchpad? What is your next project likely to involve?

I’m writing a standard-issue sf novel at the moment, with spaceships and aliens etc—there’s no particular historical figure I’m picking on, but it is set in SPACE VENICE—the city’s apologists say: ‘as the Venetians denied the centuries of plagiarism and theft with which they composed their city, so we deny any accusations that we are a copy of that city’.

I have to say, novel-writing is a chore. I’d rather make books like Tame Animals. I reckon if my current novel doesn’t make me any money or make any sort of impact, I might give up novelising and concentrate on shorter things, illustrated things.

But—if there is another novel in me, I’d like to set it in Metropolis. I haven’t checked if anyone else has done this. Cities belong to genres as pieces of fiction do. Venice belongs to the romantic tragedy. Metropolis belongs to the epic.

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If the above whets your appetite or your whistle, you might just want to check out The Tame Animals of Saturn for yourself. In this context, I’ll note that the book is currently available at a special pre-launch rate from the Peggy Bright Books website. And, of course, Adam’s Pyrotechnicon (from coeur de lion) and his short-story collection ‘Other Stories’, and Other Stories (from Satalyte) are also well worth your while.





An interview with Sean O’Leary

8 04 2016

I recently mentioned Walking, Sean O’Leary’s second short fiction collection, as one of two books I’d been working on in recent months. I’ve since conducted an interview-by-email with Sean, which I’ll present below.

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1. Your biography makes  it clear that you’ve lived in many different parts of Australia, and your story settings are similarly far-flung across the country. To what extent are your literary stories informed by personal experience?

Quite a lot. Mainly because it’s easier to set stories where you’ve been and I was itinerant for quite a while. Trying to find my place in the world. But I worked in five star hotels and places like the YMCA Hostel in Darwin so, I had a look at the world from both sides of the street. At times because of my ‘habits’ I might have been having breakfast at the Salvos and then turning up to work in a shirt and tie on the reception desk of a five star hotel.

2. You’re open in your fiction about the impact schizophrenia has had on your life; in Walking, both the title story and  ‘Slipping Away’ speak to this impact. Aside from its relevance as subject matter, how has schizophrenia shaped you as a writer?

I’ve never quite experienced exactly what went on in ‘Slipping Away’ but there have been times in my life when schizophrenia or its effects on me have made me frozen in fear or literally bolting down the street away from some imagined happening. I have found that at times my whole day to day living has been so heightened it is either scarily brilliant or scarily too awful to ever want to go there again. I have been hospitalised three times due to schizophrenia for a variety of reasons but having said that I’ve been happy and healthy for a couple of years now with no incidents.

3. Several of your stories veer strongly into ‘noir’ territory. What attracts you to this style of writing? And what authors would you cite as influences for these stories?

Everyone likes ‘noir’ don’t they? I am a big fan of Ian Rankin and the Rebus books, which are quite dark. I actually think the Rebus TV series, in parts, may be even darker than the books. But I really like American author George Pelecanos and his crime fiction set in Washington. Pelecanos was a writer on The Wire too, a brilliant crime fiction TV series. And I think a lot of the very great crime fiction these days is also in TV series. Starting with The Wire and The Sopranos through to Dexter and Breaking Bad. So, if you can write both like Pelecanos can, then you’re something special.
I am also a huge fan of Arnaldur Indridason, who is a crime fiction writer from Iceland and the stories are set in Iceland, mostly in Reykjavik featuring his detective, Erlendur. Very dark and very bleak.

4. Various stories in Walking have either a literary or a crime-fiction flavour, and in some cases the two overlap quite strongly. There’s also an element of SF in some of your stories. If you had to focus on just one style of writing, which would it be, and why?

I couldn’t separate literary and crime. I love them both. And I think they sit quite well together. I really respect writers like Garry Disher and Peter Temple. You could say their novels were literary crime novels. Peter Temple won the Miles Franklin Award for his novel, Truth.
John Burdett is a an English writer who spends most of his time in Asia and writes brilliant novels set in Bangkok, which has to be the greatest place on earth to set a crime novel.
And sci-fi is great. I have read the John Christopher trilogy that included The City of Gold and Lead and I have to say I really loved the Hunger Games trilogy. And I read The Day of the Triffids and Chocky by John Wyndham. But once again I think movies and TV do it well too. The Twilight Zone is amazing still today and the Alien movies are unreal and my story ‘Proktor Man’ gets its inspiration from Blade Runner.
I love this quote I read from some sci-fi magazine submission guidelines. It says, All fiction is written to examine or illuminate some aspect of  human existence but in science fiction the backdrop you work against is the size of the universe.

5.‘Connections’, the longest story in Walking, hovers around the 7500-word mark, on the borderland between ‘short story’ and ‘novelette’. Do you see yourself as continuing solely or predominantly with short fiction, or do you have an ambition to produce longer works, such as novels? What are your plans for the future?

I am writing a crime fiction novel right now set in Sydney in 1990/91. I lived in Sydney for more than a few years around that time also so once again I think I have the locations down and I worked a lot in Kings Cross, mostly at night so I really did see both sides of the street. I lived in Bondi and Leichhardt and Coogee, the North Shore too so … I have my fingers crossed I can write a cool noir crime novel.

If you’re interested to learn more about Sean’s writing, a great place to start is Walking. You can find the details here, on the Peggy Bright Books website.





‘Walking’, by Sean O’Leary

2 04 2016

Further on the ‘what have I been doing over recent months’ front, there’s this. Walking is a collection of seventeen short stories by Melbourne author Sean O’Leary.

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As well as editing the collection, I also did the typesetting and the cover design, so my perspective on the book is hardly that of a detached observer. But be that as it may …

Sean’s stories mostly fall into the ‘crime’ or ‘literary’ category (although a couple of Walking‘s stories qualify as SF), and are narrated with a plain immediacy that keeps the pace fast and throws the characters into sharp relief. The settings are, without exception, various versions of a real or imagined Australia (Sean seems to have lived in almost every city or town in the country); recurring themes within the stories are attraction, responsibility, retribution, and schizophrenia. Sean has an eye for the grittier, less pretty side of life, and he tells a good story. His work has been praised by Garry Disher and by Les Murray. This is his second collection: his first, My Town (Ginninderra Press, 2010), is now, I gather, quite difficult to locate.

If you’re interested to learn more, Peggy Bright Books has the book on sale (in paperback and e-book versions), at a reduced price prior to its June launch.