Author August!

August seems to be the time of year I crawl out from under my rock, put on a pair of pants and make some public appearances. This year being no exception, I shall be at the following events:

  • Collins Booksellers, Edwardstown – National Bookshop Day (9th August , 1:30pm-2:30pm)
  • Flinders University, Writers and Their Worlds – (21st August,  12pm)
  • Dymocks, Adelaide (23rd August, 12pm)

At each of these events I’ll be selling the new print run of my zombie apocalypse novel “Quiver” (snazzy new cover as pictured below) and my short story collection “Everything is a Graveyard”. The Flinders University event is part of a series of intimate author talks, and I’m really looking forward to chatting to folks about my experiences with writing, dispense some hard-won advice, and generally chat about word-wrangling.

 quivernewcover

If you find yourself in the neighbourhood, drop by and say gudday!

Curly Potato On A Stick

potato

99% of this blog is dedicated to my writing endeavours. I will make an exception for this.

TODAY I ATE A CURLY POTATO ON A STICK. A whole potato, cut into a continuous spiral, deep-fried and smothered in salt. It’s moments like these that make you realise humanity is a worthy thing.

I’m considering making this my new author photo. SO GOOD.

[normal transmission resumes]

What Comfort There Is

In the near future, I’m entertaining the thought of self-publishing some odds and ends as an e-book. One project I enjoyed being part of a few years ago was the Daily Cabal, a mad exercise in masochism where our group produced a new piece of flash fiction every day. In practice our individual contributions were a new entry every week or fortnight.

And it was HARD. I think there’s a truism somewhere that shorter writings are more difficult than longer. I can blurt whole chapters of dribble out of my brain, but encapsulating an entire entertaining idea in 400 words or less? Bloody difficult, that.

Anyway, here’s one of my favourite short-short stories for your enjoyment. The working title for this kinda-sorta gonna happen collection is “Day One of the Fog”, I’ll keep you posted here on how that’s going.

WHAT COMFORT THERE IS

By Jason Fischer.

Old Syd disproved the rumour with one mad dash; it ended in a bloody game of cat and mouse, those bastard machines chasing him from street to street, finally cornering him in a neatly presented cul-de-sac. They toyed with him for hours before his screams stopped. Wet weather does nothing to dull their sensors.

So yes, we are in the end times. Our species fails, huddled indoors, dreading each sound. My frightened cadre are hiding in an opulent mini-mansion, though we haven’t eaten properly in days. An old suburb lies just within walking distance, and it’s a race between us and humanity’s killers. We do our best to scavenge from the old places, even as the suburbs are recycled and turned into neat streets, freshly painted town-houses, acres of immaculate lawns.

It seems ironic that we are being wiped out by a cliché. An uprising of artificial machines, sure. But these are not the instruments of war, rather those of peace. Construction crews, serving a purpose that our laziness corrupted, simplified. Build. Gather. Build more.

What seemed a great solution to the housing crisis turned into unguided madness. Materials gathered from existing structures. Whole forests razed for lumber. When the builders began to destroy suburbs and cities holus bolus, these mad machines were destroyed. This achieved little, given the machines’ instructions to “generate sufficient crews to achieve the task”, and those left built themselves quicker than we could take them out. They looked upon our actions as a genocide, and the best we could do simply raised their madness to apocalyptic levels.

With intelligence came survival traits, so they’ve done their level best to grind us out of existence. But still, they continue the task, and one by one we die surrounded by perfectly designed streets, neat commercial hubs, empty warehouses and marinas.

Our enemy is simple, but amazingly efficient. They prowl the old highways, pouncing upon those cars which brave our dead nation’s asphalt veins. Nowhere to go anyway. Forklifts and dozers lurk in each street, blood running from their tines, while the yellow necks of diggers and cranes lurk overhead, watching for us. Waiting patiently for runners.

Our final creations have outdone us, yet in our twilight hour we are as gods. For our killers are truly alive, and we have created this life. I have seen them mourning the machines which our partisans have destroyed, metal buckets clanking together sorrowfully as the construction crews give comfort to each other. They attend their dead, dismantling them reverently, engines and sirens roaring into the night.

Whenever they hold a funeral, we know it’s time to leave the neighbourhood. They get really vicious afterwards, which tells me they’ve discovered revenge and are more human than we.

Aurealis Magazine review of “Everything is a Graveyard”

I have loved Aurealis Magazine for a long, long time (I think I’ve still got issue #2 somewhere). It was a great moment when I sold them a story, and they’ve published three of mine now. This was one of my go-to sources when I was first learning about Australian genre writers, and I always got a kick out of the extra material – the reviews, the occasional essay, and of course all the gorgeous artwork.

So it’s especially awesome to see these folks print a review of my short story collection “Everything is a Graveyard” (from Ticonderoga Publications).

Reviewer Alex Stevenson of Aurealis Magazine says:

“Jason Fischer’s new collection of short stories, Everything is a Graveyard, might perhaps be more accurately titled ‘Everything is going to kill you’. Featuring dimension-shifting, soul-sucking witches, a ravening horde of undead camels, and murderous, amputation-happy rednecks—among other things—Everything is a Graveyard is full of messy endings for the few poor souls who inhabit its post- apocalyptic worlds.”

and

“Tremendously imaginative and a great deal of fun, Everything is a Graveyard makes up for what it lacks in depth with buckets of gore, thrills, and laughs. Zombies, classic Australiana, violence and black humour all abound, and fans of schlock horror should find a lot to enjoy.”

The rest of the review can be read here:

http://aurealisblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/21/aurealis/

Further information about Aurealis Magazine itself can be found here – honestly, it’s just a great read:

http://www.aurealis.com.au/

New Review of “Quiver”

Well, to be honest, I’m not sure how old this review is, but I stumbled across it in my travels the other day. Of my novel Quiver, reviewer Scott T Barnes says: “Quiver correctly focuses on the human reactions to a zombie apocalypse rather than on the zombies themselves. Zombies are in fact a force to push people to the breaking point, equivalent to a sinking Titanic, a horde of orcs, or an infernoing tower.”

Of my protagonist Tamsyn Webb, Scott says “She is competent, funny, determined-but-vulnerable, and very believable. The kind of girl I would have given up my entire comic book collection for, for a single date.”

I’ve asked Tamsyn how she feels about this, and while the jury is out on a blind date, she’s comic mad and will at least swap you some archery lessons for something new to read. She likes Red Sonja, Conan, anything with the X-Men, and anything weird and indy.

“I love the book’s title. It comes from a quiver of arrows, of course, but implies so much more. I can just picture naked living-dead flesh quivering as the zombies shamble forward, and the quiver that goes up Tamsyn’s spine as she nocks her arrow…”
YES. I love it when folks get what I’m trying to do. Mission accomplished! Thanks Scott.

Scott’s full review can be found here:

https://sites.google.com/a/newmyths.com/nmwebsite/books-we-are-reading/quiver

Some cautious thoughts on conflicts and fandom

If you’ve got any stake in speculative fiction writing and publishing, you’re most likely aware of the frequent conflicts in that community. What once might have occupied a few heated pages on LiveJournal, or the leisurely back and forth at conventions and via mimeographed zines has changed forever. What we have now are live rolling arguments on venues such as Twitter and Facebook – and that’s just how it is now.

Blogs now seem to serve as some sort of halfway zone between an author/pundit platform, and a repository for lengthier arguments and essays on these topics.

The most recent development in fandom is that our internal conflicts are now external, and in recent times have even hit the pages of USA Today, the Guardian, The Huffington Post and the Washington Post(and probably others). There is a lot of bad blood, entrenched positions, and an almost even division on the old left/right fault lines. Quiet online rumblings are now open hostilities.

This makes me cautiously optimistic. I’m serious. No matter what your differences, conflict is always better than apathy. An old model of group performance goes like this

  • Forming
  • Storming
  • Norming
  • Performing

So the Storming (and perhaps the beginning of the Norming) that we are currently seeing is part of an observed trend in group behaviour. (By group, I mean in the broader sense that Fandom=people who have a shared interest)

I’m not sure if step 4 periodically goes back to steps 2 and 3 when Performance isn’t working, but history seems to indicate that it does. So it goes to suit that once this stuff gets sorted, a group Performs.

Whether this means a political fracture is inevitable (as the Norming) and then the Performing means two or more loose socio-political organisations/groupings will emerge is anyone’s guess. But there is change in the wind, thanks largely to the internet and social media. For those with a stake in speculative fiction writing and publishing, we definitely live in interesting times.

Maybe the Norming means that online salvos and attacks will become a normal part of the speculative fiction experience. Which is sad, but if that’s how things are meant to go, maybe some rules of engagement will emerge, unspoken or otherwise.

I’d like to think that maybe things will end up the way the Aussies do things. We’ve got a fairly small and spread out fandom, but we’re as connected as anyone else. Also, as vibrant and talented as anyone else – several Aussies have made it to the 2014 Hugo shortlist, taking up roughly half of the podcast shortlist. So we’ve got some knowledgeable commentators here, and they’re getting some well-deserved global recognition.

And you’d better believe that there are online spats here. All the time, over all the usual things that these communities argue about. But most of the time, folks of differing viewpoints/philosophies get along, and rub elbows at cons etc.

We’re a weird little pond, and it’s quite notable that unlike elsewhere, our award shortlists are more often than not female-friendly in recent years. Basically everyone gets a go, and I’d like to think that we’re a petri-dish of how things could be everywhere.

(note: of course we’re not perfect gender-wise and other-wise, but things are humming along nicely Down Under)

So it was interesting to observe a mini flare-up in Australian SF circles yesterday, between two people disagreeing over a “state of genre fiction” article. It followed the usual pattern of these online conflicts – innocuous article is posted, the little blue birds of Twitter begin to fly, and Facebook posts sprout underfoot with the beginnings of bad feelings.

But then these people took ownership of their disagreement, and a couple of well-stated apologies later and the whole thing was over. It was beautiful to see, and the cause of ire was addressed. Said apologies were both along the lines of “Wow, Twitter really escalated that. Our bad.”

In a diasporic community with all sorts of bad blood and current nastiness, this is the sort of Norming that I can live with. At the risk of sounding like “Can’t We All Just Get Along?” this may only be one example of online fandom etiquette as it  could be. But it was great to see. Hopefully the future will bring constructive conflicts, and all of this energy and passion can be harnessed towards positive ends.

Again, we live in interesting times.

EDIT:

Okay, with all respect to those who have participated, I’m (regretfully) going to have to shut down new comments in this thread. I don’t want people to feel unsafe here, and I think things are starting to go circular anyway. Sorry, I’m not usually for censoring people but I have to stop this now. Hope folks understand!

Vale Sue Townsend

Just found out on the interwebs that Sue Townsend, author of the Adrian Mole books has died after a short illness. She’d struggled for a number of years with diabetes and blindness, but every few years she still managed to finish another instalment in the Adrian Mole series, which I would pounce on and devour the moment it hit the shelves.

It’s sad that she’s passed on, but she has left behind a sizeable backlist of books and plays, and by all accounts was a fantastic presence whenever she got to a book festival or panel. Only wish I’d seen her speak about her writing.

Some of you may remember reading The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 in school. It’s a book crammed to the brim with pubescent awkardness and background social commentary, and it does brilliantly what films like Napoleon Dynamite and TV series like the In-Betweeners later managed to capture on the screen.

But the later books are where all the magic happens. If you never managed to read beyond the first one or two books, do yourself a favour. Hunt the other books down, and enjoy the journey of this poor kid through awkward adolescence into an even more disastrous adult life.

As a character, Adrian grew from an object of pity into a somewhat detestable and pretentious loser, to his eventual redemption. For my buck, the later books are a brilliant study in developing a character. Reading the later books in the series is like a squirming exercise in schadenfreude, and I took great joy in watching Adrian lurch from one disaster to the next.

Sue Townsend’s has left behind quite the legacy, but the most important thing she’s left behind is a character we got to grow with over the years, and I don’t know what more you can ask for as a writer. Poor old Adrian was often a source of comfort, wry tutting, and always the thought “there but for the grace of God goes the Fisch.”

Apparently there was another book in the works, it will be interesting to see if it comes to light. In the current age of self-publishing and aspiring authors embracing every flavour of social media, frustrated author Adrian Mole would have truly come into his own. Lo! The Flat Hills Of My Homeland would have been an amazing 99c special on Smashwords.

RIP Sue Townsend, and thanks for all the stories :-)

Interview – Marianne De Pierres on “Peacemaker”

Today at the Fischblog I have the brilliant Marianne De Pierres, come to chat about her new book Peacemaker.

Peacemaker-CR_web

JF: Much like in your Parrish Plessis series, your new book Peacemaker is set in a future Australia. What is the draw for you to write fiction set locally, when so many Aussie authors play it safe and set their pieces in Somewhere USA?

MDP: I feel a strong connection with the Australian landscape, Jason. My dad was a Western Australian wheat and sheep farmer. His father cleared the land that they farmed and he grew up with a fierce passion and sense of place that he passed on to me. I then spent ten years of my early married life in the Pilbara. That vast, harsh and beautiful environment imbued me with such an appreciation of how frail and temporary we were, that it still informs everything I write about. This is a wild and amazing country. Why wouldn’t I write about it?

JF: Your idea of a densely populated Australia is perhaps the most terrifying to me – anywhere up to 7.5 million square kilometres of land built out (and presumably up). That’s one hell of a lot of people that can be packed into that space. When you did your worldbuilding for Peacemaker, did you posit this expansion as an extrapolation of the FIFO (fly-in-fly-out) mining lifestyle, the spread of these mining towns/settlements, or more a forecast of immigration and population growth?

MDP: Immigration and population growth, I think. I see it as more of a statement about asylum seekers. It’s easy to imagine a future where we simply must take in refugees and people from countries who can no longer sustain them.

JF: SFF Westerns are one of my favourite sub-genres, and I could reel off a list of canonical works that I’ve enjoyed, such as the Dark Tower series, Firefly, and video games like Fallout: New Vegas. What are some of your own influences, and what drew you towards writing your own SFF Western?

MDP: I grew up on Westerns (my dad again!) and I was totally convinced (at 14) that being a cowboy was the life for me. I read mainly Zane Grey, Louis L’Amour, a little J. T Edson, and of course “Shane” by Jack Schaefer. As I got older, I also researched a lot about the “real” West which was far less glamorous. My reading and writing got side tracked after that, but I always knew I would somehow find my way back to this beloved genre. And I did … thirty years later! I decided that if I wrote PEACEMAKER with a heavy science fiction slant that it would just garner endless comparisons to Firefly, so I went for a genre blend that interested me – mythical fantasy. That’s not to say that there aren’t any Sci-Fi elements, but they are revealed with subtlety, over time, in book 2.

JF: It is SO flipping cool that you’ve had an RPG based around Nylon Angel! What are some of the other memorable highlights of your writing career?

MDP: Honestly, I really think that the highlights have been the people that I’ve met along the way because of my writing career, the relationships I’ve forged – both writers and readers. But there have been some lovely moments as well. Winning awards is always nice, so picking up my chunk of wood for the Davitt award, and my shard of plastic from the Aurealis Awards was pretty cool. Getting to film a segment for a TV show in a mock-up of a space shuttle was also fun. Oh … and being Cuthulu’ed by Morag and Charlie. It explains a lot about what’s happened since.

Back Camera

JF: Apart from your work on this series, do you have anything else in the pipeline? Cyberpunk, Crime, YA, and now SFF Westerns, so what’s next for Marianne De Pierres?

MDP: OMG goodness! Now this answer could go on for a while! I am definitely one to have a few projects on the boil, so here’s a link to a breakdown of my current projects, In a nutshell though, I‘m working on three crime novels (all series), a near future dystopic adult SF novel and a YA magic realist novel. Then there’s some side projects as well that aren’t novels but are film and game related.

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Marianne’s new novel Peacemaker can be found at all good book stores, and here is a link to her book on Amazon if that’s how you roll.

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Marianne de Pierres is the author of the acclaimed Parrish Plessis, the award-winning Sentients of Orion science fiction series and the upcoming Peacemaker SF Western series. The Parrish Plessis series has been translated into eight languages and adapted into a roleplaying game. She’s also the author of a teen dark fantasy series.

Marianne is an active supporter of genre fiction and has mentored many writers. She lives in Brisbane, Australia, with her husband and three galahs. Marianne writes award-winning crime under the pseudonym Marianne Delacourt. Visit her websites at www.mariannedepierres.com and www.tarasharp.com.au andwww.burnbright.com.au

 

Black Static #39 – Review of “Everything is a Graveyard”

In the latest issue of Black Static, reviewer Peter Tennant analyses a fat stack of Australian genre books, and gives a thorough review of many new works, including my short-story collection “Everything is a Graveyard”.

Peter says “Of all these writers, Jason Fischer is the one who, to my outsider sensibility at least, feels the most Australian, with stories that simply couldn’t happen anywhere other than a land down under…an engaging and thoroughly enjoyable collection showcasing a strong new voice with a distinctive vision.”

To get the latest copy of Black Static (as usual, chock full of fiction, horror news, reviews and all that good stuff) grab a copy at your local newsagent, or it can be ordered online via this link:

http://ttapress.com/blackstatic/currentissue/