Illustration Friday: Puzzled

This illustration is for the fairytale in which the last task set for the hero is to determine which of three shrouded figures is the princess – the other two being dragons. Along his journey, he had aided a hive of bees. Since the princess liked honey, they hovered about her and so he was able to solve the problem.

I like the idea of this otherwise undescribed princess, familiar of bees and dragons, and that single touch of detail – that she loved honey – which makes her a little more human than so many other princesses (Snow White who… wasn’t good at bartering? Sleeping Beauty who couldn’t spin…) This princess’ sweet tooth is neither a virtue nor a situation – just a detail, and yet a point on which the plot turns. And I wonder how she and the hero would get along once they finally met – he so humble and kind to all living things, she unfazed by dragons and beloved of bees.

Illustration Friday: Puzzled

In other news: A very pleasant evening, this evening. Friends came over and there were candles, writing, chalkboard lettering, roast chestnuts, hot milk with honey and spices and a short remedial course on digitally editing line work which I am sure everyone who is waiting to receive illustrations from me is very glad to hear has taken place.

Rapunzel’s Dalek

Rapunzel's Dalek

This instalment of the Dalek Game is for Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale.

I love retellings and reimaginings, and would have gone a very long way out of my way to read Shannon Hale after she wrote a novel of The Goose Girl, which is one of my favourite fairytales (I am currently trying to straighten out a mangled short-story attempt at combining it with a Natalie Merchant song). Rapunzel’s Revenge was marvellous – a wonderful wild-west fairytale – lively and dangerous and fun, beautifully drawn and useful for getting the most unlikely people interested in comics

I have, best intentions notwithstanding, tried not to like Rapunzel in the past. First, it does not have the brightest hero – when my father first told the story to me, and the prince reached the tower and saw Rapunzel, my father said, “And what do you think he did?”, so I answered, “Went to the hardware store and bought a ladder.”

Second, it is so often held up as an example of the passive heroine (Catherynne M Valente has a strange-lovely version of the princess-waiting-to-be-rescued type in the Orphan Tales), and modern retellings tend to play up the action in consequence (whether with lassos or frying pans). But taking it apart recently (as I do with fairytales from time to time – it’s a fun game, I’ll introduce you sometime) I finally realised that it is much more of a Tam Lin story than anything else, and that Rapunzel has always been one of those characters who Goes Out and Does Something. On foot. In the wilderness. With twins.

Also, it makes an excellent play for staging in a tree house.

In other news: Yesterday I posted a subtly Doctor Who and Firefly flavoured wedding invitation I designed for friends.

Australian SpecFic Snapshot

The Australian SpecFic Snapshot has been happening this week – 5 questions asked of each of… quite a number of Australian speculative fiction writers, editors, fans and illustrators.

The interviews will be archived on ASif! but are being blogged here:

Kathryn Linge interviewed me (thank you Kathryn!) and I got very excitable and showed off a very small panel (but one of my favourite) from the Recent Project: http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/102434.html

2009 Aurealis Awards

The Aurealis Awards were on Saturday – a very classy evening put on by Fantastic Queensland, Ron Serdiuk and Diane Waters. It’s the last to be administered by Fantastic Queensland and possibly the last in Queensland. Very sad – it’s been a beautiful series of events and it’s nice to have everyone come to Queensland!

I left buying my ticket until a week before the awards and then, luckily, left home at 5 for a 6.30 start. It should have been a 20 minute drive, but the Ipswich Motorway was blocked, and then the Story Bridge was completely closed because someone was threatening to jump. Then the traffic in Southbank was terrible, there were accidents on the Captain Cook Bridge and another on the freeway. But I made it on time, and didn’t get locked out, which was all to the good, because I ended up receiving the inaugural Kris Hembury Award for Emerging Writers & Artists! I always thought they warned people who were getting awards, but no-one even checked I was coming – someone told me later that of course they knew I was, and that Fantastic Queensland is “like the CIA”.

I wrote about Kris’ funeral last July.

The award was presented by Kris’ parents Perry and Leith after a very moving speech by Kate Eltham and a slide show of Kris which had most of the audience sniffing. I jumped when they announced me (Tim said that was the highlight of his evening) and had to climb out over a row of of people and give a completely impromptu, somewhat emotional and very sincere thank you, of which I do not remember a word. Such a very great honour, and it was wonderful to see Kris’ parents again and meet more of his family.

The cocktails ran late and there were congratulations in many directions. I caught up with and met many old friends and new, including Madeleine Rosca who gave me a copy of her shortlisted Hollow Fields. I dropped Janet home afterwards, and went in again the next morning for breakfast at the Stamford, morning tea with Karen Miller, Lisa Hannett, Angela Slatter, Peter M Ball and Abigail Nathan, and last hurrah drinks for FQ at the Belgian. Then I was unwell from the heat and the partying and went to church and home and completely forgot I was meant to be out to dinner – I am a bad friend.

The full awards were:

Best Science Fiction Novel
Andrew McGahan, Wonders of a Godless World, Allen & Unwin

Best Science Fiction Short Story
Peter M. Ball, ‘Clockwork, Patchwork and Ravens’, Apex Magazine May 2009

Best Fantasy Novel
Trudi Canavan, Magician’s Apprentice, Orbit

Best Fantasy Short Story – joint winners
Christopher Green, ‘Father’s Kill’, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #24
Ian McHugh, ‘Once a Month, On a Sunday’, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #40, Andromeda Spaceways Publishing Co-operative Ltd

Best Horror Novel
Honey Brown, Red Queen, Penguin Australia

Best Horror Short Story – joint winners
Paul Haines, ‘Wives’, X6, Coeur de Lion Publishing
Paul Haines, ‘Slice of Life – A Spot of Liver’, Slice of Life, The Mayne Press

Best Anthology
Jonathan Strahan (editor), Eclipse 3, Night Shade Books

Best Collection
Greg Egan, Oceanic, Gollancz

Best Illustrated Book/Graphic Novel
Nathan Jurevicius, Scarygirl, Allen & Unwin

Best Young Adult Novel
Scott Westerfeld, Leviathan Trilogy: Book One, Penguin

Best Young Adult Short Story
Cat Sparks, ‘Seventeen’, Masques, CSFG

Best Children’s Novel
Gabrielle Wang, A Ghost in My Suitcase, Puffin Books

Best Children’s Illustrated Work/Picture Book
Pamela Freeman (author), Kim Gamble (illustrator), Victor’s Challenge, Walker Books Australia

Further awards presented at the ceremony:

The Peter McNamara Convenors’ Award for Excellence
Justin Ackroyd (he got warned in advance)

The Kris Hembury Encouragement Award for Emerging Artists
Kathleen Jennings.

Illustration Friday: Instinct

Illustration Friday: Instinct (1)

Stories about selkies rarely end happily. They’re as bad as Arthurian legends – I almost always know how they are going to end. In that context the picture above (ink pen and wash, adulterated in photoshop) looks more bleak than sassy, although it was the culmination of a series of scribbles of selkies dive-bombing into the water with their seal-skins tied around their necks like kids playing superheroes. Still, I like it and may rearrange it so that it works as a frame or title.

Just so you’re warned, the second picture contains mild fairytale nudity… Continue reading

November short book reviews

I was doing NaNoWriMo and decided to read only short stories, partly to catch up on the large pile of anthologies acquired at conventions, and partly because I thought it would suit my concentration reserves. I read and write short stories but am still working out exactly which sorts and structures I like (I’ve worked this out with novels and poems, but my short story reading has been more scattered and interstitial) and this went a way towards helping me solidify my ideas, although I am still structuring them.

Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #37. Dirk Flinthart’s ‘This is Not my Story’ was probably my favourite, because it reminded me in good ways of Bridge to Terebithia and Peter Pan, and in spite of some darkness and loss of chances and potential had an innocence and hope to it. Eilis O’Neal’s The Unicorn in the Tower also stood out, not so much for the story as for the writing, because it still feels in my head like a tapestry. Jason Fischer’s Rick Gets a Job was exactly the sort of short story I like, structure wise, and the sort of story that really bothers me because I want to know people can fight back and have a chance of succeeding in some small way (this is why I prefer Fahrenheit 451 to 1984, for example) – the combination of deeply depressing story of enslavement and chatty Australian working-class feel also weirded me out (in a good way as far as writing and a bad way as far as my mental calm :).

The Grinding House – Kaaron Warren. Brilliantly written and deeply disturbing. The structure/feel of many of her short stories aren’t in line with what my personal preference is developing to be, but the images – the clay men, the bone flowers (oh, and the entirely fused skeletons of ‘The Grinding House’) – are extremely compelling and lingering. Her short stories do what good short stories can and should do, just not always what I want them to do. This isn’t a criticism – just me working out my personal preferences.

Magic for Beginners – Kelly Link. I should dislike Kelly Link’s story structures because she tends towards open-ended and ambiguous endings which would usually bother me, but she does it like Dianna Wynne Jones does them (i.e. I know there’s an answer there if I just keep rereading the ending) and she writes so beautifully and the stories spin off into so many other stories in my head that I love them all, even the ones that leave me frustrated and puzzled. My hands-down favourites are ‘The Faery Handbag’, which is just marvelous and makes me want to spend more time in op shops, ‘The Hortlak’ for its slow hilarious bizarre convenience-store-world, and ‘Magic for Beginners’ which is just weird and odd and loving and full of idiosyncratic and independent individuals, horror writers and avid fans and phone booths and a very remarkable television show which takes place in the World Library where a girl band called the Norns plays in the basement and the main character is never played by the same actor twice. The last story has been compared to Borges, but if it is Borges it is Borges with a larger heart and an understanding of fantasy fans and a keener sense of humour. You have no idea how glad I am that I have now read some Borges and can actually say this – I feel like having wanted to like Borges I have been rewarded by being able to read Link.

Canterbury 2100 – Flinthart (ed). I just love the structure of this. It is a brilliant structure and if the stories were all horribly weak (which they aren’t at all) I think I would still like the book. I am a sucker, in fact, for tales within tales, and characters interrupting each other, and nested stories and ideas which continue through other ideas (why I love Valente and fairy tale retellings and stories by Link and DWJ that spill off the edge of the page). Inspired by the Canterbury Tales, the stories in the anthology are united not by theme but by setting – the anthology takes place in 2100 in the carriage of a train on its way to Canterbury, whose passengers pass the time during a breakdown by telling stories – hard science fiction, social science fiction, medieval feuds and tournaments, love stories, ghost stories (I will never look at a balloon man without thinking of intestines), fighting against corporations, oppression, fate. I really liked the way the supernatural and superstitious threaded through tales of technology and bare-bones survival. It tended to the bleak – the present of the anthology is not a pleasant one – and some of the stories (the events, not the writing) were just nasty (there are a couple of people – you know who you are – I recommend do not read Ben Bastian’s ‘The Doctor’s Tale’), but there were flashes of beauty in the world as well as the stories and the telling. I think I liked Matthew Chrulew’s ‘The Gnomogist’s Tale’ best, because of the sustained joke about the sequins and the wonderful narrator’s voice which could have been precious but never faltered. Laura E Goodin’s ‘The Miner’s Tale’, which was not a fantasy and not a fairytale retelling and not entirely happy nevertheless managed to hit a lot of my other buttons (see comments above re fighting back and having at least the hint of a ghost of a chance).

May Australian Spec Fic Carnival

For your viewing pleasure:

Continue reading

Illustration Friday: Garden

Garden

A cut paper illustration of shadows to cast upon the wall with the hands. Alternative title: How I Wilfully Make Life Harder for Myself.

I drew a rough pencil sketch on sketchbook paper, then put this on top of the black paper and cut it with a blunt stanley knife on a deteriorating cutting mat, lifting the sketchbook paper at intervals to clean up fiddly bits of black paper under a bad light late at night.

Comments and critique are always welcome, as are suggested mnemonics to encourage me to, oh, use good tools, bright ideas and a decent light all of which I have.

Illustration Friday: Leap

Leap - colour

This week’s picture was drawn in pen (unipin), scanned and coloured in Photoshop. It is very loosely based on DaVinci’s portrait of a lady with an ermine, and if I’d had the reference around, I might have had fewer problems with the sleeve!

Comments and critique are always welcome.

Leap - black and white

Get back hordes of chaos, or: 5 more things I have not been embarrassed about

  1. Wearing my blouse inside out. Worked this out at the bus stop, but I had to wait to get into the city, through two blocks and into MacArthur Central bathrooms before I could fix it. Trying very hard to be cool and deliberate but hampered by not remembering where the tags where and consequently walking with my arms very close to my sides in case they were in the seams. Of course, it turned out to be in the neckline and my hair was down, so that was why I couldn’t find them with my elbows.
  2. Trying on wigs. Genevieve even joined in! With a bob I look even more like my mother.
  3. Changing into sneakers and socks in the middle of Queen Street Mall. I saw stranger things go by.
  4. People watching and asking if they could take photos of me drawing the latin dancers. Well, this sort of thing has rarely embarassed me at the time.
  5. Buying the most delightfully awful book I could have cause not to regret buying. I’ve been dithering on this for a few months now and didn’t quite manage not to defend myself, but after telling the cashier it was for “comedic value” I salvaged the situation by asking if he read fantasy and (as he did) inviting him to look at the pictures, and he agreed with me. If you are particularly unfortunate, I may even review it.

It was an artistic Friday evening. After Genevieve and I had our semi-regular melting-moment-and-mocha at a cafe in the Myer Centre, we went to the photo shop so I could show her last weekend’s paintings and print out copies. While we waited, we tried on wigs in the wig shop (I found a nice length of bob for… $400+, so might get a more theatrical, cheaper wig unless I can bring myself to the overwhelming question of whether to cut my hair before the 1920s banquet). Genevieve left to practice her scales in the music shop and I returned to the photo store to discover they had printed 24 copies on gloss instead of matte. While they reprinted them I avoided buying a tripod (most of my photos are self-portrait/reference shots so my gorillapod and a chair will do for now) and resisted art books in QBD. Then I sat on a bench in Queen Street Mall and sketched passersby before buying a canvas board and the above-mentioned terrible book. I then proceeded to Brisbane Square, where I drew people dancing and other people watched and commented and cactusdude took photos over my shoulder which he may put up when he gets back to Sydney (he asked first and gave me his card after).

Then I walked back to Milton and had a bite in what is invariably the dirtiest McDonald’s of my acquaintance and would have finished being artistic then and there except that Sinatra came on the radio and two policemen who were just leaving started singing and whistling to “I did it my way”, so I drew a quick picture of that. Then I walked home and tried to take a picture of a frond of bougainvillea (hah! got it right first time!) which would have made a very pretty border ornament, except it was too dark to pick up anything except a distant pool of streetlight on my phone, and so was home by a little after 11.

In the end, the photo shop gave me both sets of photos (glossy and matte) so there may be some left over and I will probably offer them to the earliest takers before very long.