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.

—-

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.

IMG_9139_web

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/

Risking the Disapproval of Drusilla the Ditmar Diprotodon

diprotodon

Some of you may remember my friend Drusilla, the Ditmar Diprotodon. This unlikely mascot from the Pleistocene era has been using my blog to spruik Australia’s national science fiction award since she stumbled into our time-stream back in 2011 or so.

Things have changed for Drusilla. She’s discovered coffee, iPads (problematic given her paws) and of course, the vibrant genre fiction scene found in her home continent. I’ve been a bit wary of disturbing her, given that she is apparently “hibernating”. I swung by her place to see if I could get anything useful out of her this year regarding the Ditmar Awards.

JF: Drusilla! Hey, hello! How are you?

DDD: [groans] What do you want? I’m sleeping.

JF: Yeah, I’m calling bullshit on that. Pleistocene-era Australia didn’t snow during winter.

DDD: What would you know? Were you THERE?

JF: Well, no.

DDD: I was. So piss off. [accepts bucket-sized coffee] Okay, you can stay.

JF: Drusilla, did you have anything to say about this year’s Ditmar Award?

DDD: Seriously dude? As if everyone hasn’t nominated yet. Here’s the hyperlink to my usual spiel, just to save everybody time [mashes iPad with her enormous paw]. Argh, I think I broke another one. Jason, can you..?

JF: Sure. Here it is (http://jasonfischer.com.au/thus-spake-drusilla-the-ditmar-diprotodon/).

DDD: I don’t really have much more to add than the usual – list as many works/people as you think are deserving of the awards. You’re not diluting your nomination by doing so – in fact, you’re ensuring a diverse ballot paper by doing so.

JF:  Thanks Drusilla. Will you – will you help pimp my stuff?

DDD: You have GOT to be kidding. I read your collection, and you didn’t even write a story about Diprotodons.

JF: Well, I mentioned them in that one story.

DDD: You mean the one where your “drop bears” used to eat us. Whatever.

JF: [hands over a bucket of Haigh's chocolate and a new iPad]

DDD: It’s my pleasure to announce Jason Fischer’s Ditmar eligible works as follows:

Best Novella or Novelette

  • “Everything is a Graveyard”, Jason Fischer, in Everything is a Graveyard, Ticonderoga Publications.

Best Short Story

  • “Art, Ink”, Jason Fischer and Martin Livings, in Antipodean SF 180.
  • “L’Hombre”, Jason Fischer, in Everything is a Graveyard, Ticonderoga Publications.
  • “When the Cheerful Misogynist Came to True-Town”, Jason Fischer, in Everything is a Graveyard, Ticonderoga Publications.

Best Collected Work

  • Everything is a Graveyard by Jason Fischer, edited by Russell B. Farr, Ticonderoga Publications.

DDD: So here’s a (possibly incomplete) list of eligible works, to help jog your memory should you be as sketchy as Mr. Fischer:

http://wiki.sf.org.au/2014_Ditmar_eligibility_list

DDD:  And here’s the nomination form:

http://ditmars.sf.org.au/2014/nominations.html

JF: Thanks Drusilla. I’ll just be quietly leaving now.

DDD: [Eating sounds, shortly followed by snoring]

 

The (Slow) Hunger Games

Greetings folks! [blows dust off ye olde blog]

Like any other field of endeavour, writing attracts many types of personalities. Every sort of philosophy and viewpoint is represented, somewhere, by someone. From the best-selling authors through to the twitching crafters of manifestos and bizarre fan-fiction, we’re all sitting down to Make the Thing Happen.

One thing I believe we creatives have in common is a hunger. A drive to get those words out, to crystallize whatever we’ve got going on inside our skulls. Everyone has a different reason for doing this, be it a personal journey, a desire for fame and wealth, a need to communicate an important message as far as possible. A deep love of a franchise. Or even just for the lolz.

But it’s important to remember that we’re all hungry, even if it’s for different things. And that’s fricken awesome, folks. Hunger is a great drive for creation, and should be applauded. The opposite of a striving, hungry soul is a complacent and stagnant one. If a writer can deliver that sense of urgency, of importance, to those who read their work, they’ve made the world just that little bit better.

What I’ve observed, both in my own journey and observing that of others, is that the hunger changes. You might change targets, several times. The small victories near the starting line no longer seem sufficient, and as you grow and evolve, you just get hungrier.

Not hungry like the hummingbird, a blur of activity that has to eat and eat, just to keep going (and oh, how I hummed!). I’m thinking more like the deep hunger of a reptile, some long-lived thing that hides beneath rotten logs. You’ll pounce on something and eat, and it will be amazing and satisfying. You’ll digest it for weeks, months, before you need to eat again.

I think that long-view can only benefit the average creative. Focusing on resonance instead of the quick and shiny glim of a tasty bug. Growing into an impressive force that lurks beyond human ken, and is remembered, nay, feared :-)

Be driven by that deep, slow hunger. Work on something ambitious and memorable, and focus on it like an ancient swamp creature with nothing better to do. I dare you!

swampmonster

“Dude….just finished writing an awesome book. Dude? Where are you going?”

New review for “Everything is a Graveyard”

The folks over at ScaryMinds have just released a review of my short story collection “Everything is a Graveyard”. About it they say:

“Jason Fischer’s first collection Everything Is A Graveyard is arguably the best release of tales to chill by this year. A very solid collection of post apocalyptic stories that have a uniqueness about them that will provide you with hours of entertainment while making you wonder why on earth this Author hasn’t released a collection previously. As expected Ticonderoga Publication have produced a polished release that simply states professionalism. Excellent release that is one of the must have books of 2013. Do not miss this collection, it’s destined for cult status, highest recommendation folks.”

10 stars out of 10. Plus many other very kind words by the reviewer. I’m quietly stunned. Best review ever! I always love it when people enjoy my stories, and get a thrill when someone takes the time to write a review.

To read the rest of the review (and see some of the other excellent reviews and content hosted on this site) click on the following link:
http://scaryminds.com/reviews/2013/book182.php

Notes from the coal-face

Hey all :-) long time since I blogged on my Doings Of Note. Sadly, real life has a way of derailing these things. I’m really going to try and update this thing more often, even if it’s just hair-metal video-clips and vague absurdities.

I try my best to keep stupid non-writing stuff away from this site and on my social media. The end result is a paucity of updates on the Fisch-Blog, and a near constant stream of puns and dodgy pictures everywhere else.  

Anyways, onto the shareholder report. Here is what is going on at Fisch-Tech Enterprises (ie my comfy chair and laptop). Following the launch of my zombie-tastic short story collection “Everything Is A Graveyard”, I found that I’ve largely abandoned short form writing. Don’t get me wrong, I regret nothing, and learned a lot of things from working on shorter pieces. At some point, every journeyman writer should try to encapsulate a SF idea in flash fiction form.

In recent months though, I’ve found that I can’t write in anything shorter than novella length. I’m naturally leaning towards beefier slabs of writing, with the leisure to develop characters, let them drive the story, and take it into weird and wonderful directions that my poor outlines don’t expect. It’s nice to feel comfortable working on longer pieces, and I’m no longer a slave to the Take Over the World Now! mindset that drove me circa 2007 or so.

Case in point – the current novel (tentatively named “Wipe”) didn’t even exist as a concept until about a month ago.  It was driven by a radio commercial, a workmate’s fear of not having done much with her life, and a whole bunch of random internet wool-gathering. When the last bit fell into place, my creative flywheels started spinning, and just like that the first 6 chapters have fallen out of my head. In about a fortnight.

I love the characters like they’re real people, and find the setting compelling enough that I constantly want to go back, to reveal just that little bit more of it. Each day, I simply can’t wait for my next writing session. That’s not work, friends, that’s Loving the Gig That You’ve Got.

It is so nice just to revel in the sheer joy of writing again. To put aside all of that knife-gripped-in-the-teeth results-driven creativity, and just have a ball. I feel sad that I forgot this feeling for so long, but it’s sure nice to have it back.

In closing, I give you this video of animals caught stealing. Peace out, y’all!

 

It’s Officially Official…

…my debut short story collection “EVERYTHING IS A GRAVEYARD” is, as of today, officially released in all markets. There was a book launch and sales of the book at the Melbourne Zombie Convention, but now, it’s open season on this mad epistle.

Direct from my brain to your hands, you will thrill at the troubles of  minotaurs, and death come shambling, crying, laughing to your door. The beasts of the Outback, now murderous and cunning. Arcologies, mouldering in the twilight of humanity. Lastly, do not forget the muscle cars, tearing through dead cities, burning through the last of the fuel with style.

Don’t just listen to my obviously biased bleatings. Here’s what some others have to say about my new book:

“If you haven’t been reading Jason Fischer, your literary diet is lacking in zest, zing, and essential vitamins. ‘Undead Camels Ate Their Flesh’ is alone worth the price of admission here.” – Gardner Dozois

“Without a doubt Everything is a Graveyard contains a wealth of left-field undead storytelling. But that’s not the whole story. Fischer’s apocalyptic obsessions cover much wider ground than that, from sheer fantasy to the realism of the ever-present threat of dropbears. If zombie tropes, and indeed all apocalypse stories, are about our personal and social attitudes to mortality (and they are), Fischer explores the personal and social absurdities and profundities like few before him.” – Robert Hood

You can buy this book RIGHT NOW. Either through Amazon, or directly from Ticonderoga Publications. May you read, and enjoy :-)