Books read, things seen: May – September 2016

A big, brief, catchup post, but here are some Cold Comfort Farm sketches to brighten it up. Also, I’m starting to keep track of books read on Goodreads as well.

kjennings-coldcomfortfarm

Books

  • Crusade – Peter M Ball (part 3 of the Flotsam Trilogy omnibus)
  • Bone Swans – C. S. E. Cooney: Such beautiful novellas. I wept. I drew fanart.
  • Tempting Mr Townsend – Anna Campbell
  • A Few Right Thinking Men – Sulari Gentill
  • Madensky Square – Eva Ibbotson: I had not read this Ibbotson and it is enchanting! A romance of pre WWI Vienna.
  • Winning Lord West – Anna Campbell
  • Pawn in Frankincense – Dorothy Dunnett
  • Q’s Legacy – Helene Hanff: So charming! So tiny! The follow-up to 84 Charing Cross Road and The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street. Has influenced my driving.
  • The Ringed Castle – Dorothy Dunnett. Suffocated sounds of distress.
  • The Foundling – Georgette Heyer: Perhaps a new favourite.
  • Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons: The first time I’ve read it, and I finally read it due to being presented with it at breakfast as a fait accompli by my landlady at a Devon B&B. I read it as a science fiction novel set in the world of The Fantastic Mr Fox, which was certainly memorable. I love her sheer disregard for agriscience.
  • The Tree – John Fowles
  • Stranded with the Scottish Earl – Anna Campbell
  • The Summer Bride – Anne Gracie
  • A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald – Natasha Lester
  • [Can’t tell you about it yet but very good]
  • Cotillion – Georgette Heyer
  • The Devil’s Delilah – Loretta Chase
  • Marked for Death: The First War in the Air – James Hamilton-Paterson: Fascinating WWI aviation history.

Movies & theatre

  • Captain America: Civil War
  • The Nice Guys
  • The Hunt for the WilderpeopleThis is really, really good, people, I highly recommend it.
  • Something Rotten (musical)
  • Shuffle Along (musical)
  • Fun Home (musical): Helpless crying.
  • Ghost Busters 
  • Love & Friendship: A remarkable study in telling only the connective tissue between big events, which works because it is all about the main character’s continuous, inventive self-justification and repositioning.
  • Sully
  • Star Trek: BeyondSuffered for being seen between Sully and Deepwater Horizon, in both of which people try to actually do a headcount of surviving passengers and crew.
  • Bridget Jones’ Baby

Books read, things seen: April 2016

In which even the contemporary Australian noir fantasy has a Regency connection.

Books

April-reads

  • [Lady Helen and] The Dark Days Club – Alison Goodman: Regency urban fantasy, with a beautifully precise approach to research and a heroine who doesn’t actively dislike her ladylike life (even if she doesn’t get much chance to commit to it), but I may never forgive Alison Goodman for opening my eyes to the true horror of Regency presentation gowns. Also I really, really like the typography on the cover of the edition I have. Here is Angela Slatter’s interview with her (which I illustrated): Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club: Alison Goodman
  • The Grand Sophy – Georgette Heyer: A re-re-read, and out loud to my dad. This time it struck me that Sophy is basically a Regency Pippi Longstocking, down to the absent indulgent father, the vast bank-account, the horse and the monkey. If you haven’t read it, Mari Ness’s reread on Tor.com (while of course containing spoilers) also discusses the, ah, problematic issues of the book and will give you a fair idea of whether you want to read (or re-re-read) it.
  • The Seduction of Lord Stone – Anna Campbell: I… did not read this one out loud to my father. Though I must give a general cheer for forthright, determined heroines and negotiation of relationships (and while it exceeds my tolerance levels for certain content, since I belong to the ‘curtain blew across the screen’ school of romance, I do enjoy Anna’s writing in all the other scenes).
  • Exile – Peter M. Ball:  You may think I broke my Regency streak with these two, but the main character reads Persuasion on stakeouts. Myth-heavy hardboiled Gold Coast pre-(assorted)-apocalyptic fantasy. It resonates with the parts of my mind where American Gods took up residence.
  • Frost – Peter M. Ball: See above – I’m reading the third now and will report in the May read.

Movies

listing_the_boss

  • The Boss: Disappointing. It was two movies: a mildly crude disgraced-business-mogul-turns-good farce, and a violent-angry-girl-scouts classic comedy. Either could have been strong, but it never committed to one or the other. Which is a shame, because I like Melissa McCarthy, enjoyed Spy and I’m fairly sure would have adored the movie the end credits promised. Although we knew from Hotel Transylvania that good end-credits can retroactively ruin a decent movie.

Eclipse Online Illustrations – February 2013

Susan Palwick illustration

The first story for February was Susan Palwick‘s troubling, traumatic “Sanctuary” – a story I expected to have a major personal reaction against and ended up being deeply struck and impressed by. One of those stories for which praise and recommendation are not always in direct relationship to each other. Certainly a story for reactions. The picture above was one of the first ideas I had for it, followed by the little sketches below, riffing on one of the lighter moments in the story.

Susan Palwick illustration

I still like those little drunk angels, but Jonathan Strahan suggested we take a darker tack, in keeping with the overall tone of the story. He was perfectly correct – this is what art direction is for! – and illustrators as well as writers sometimes have to kill their darlings.

So we went darker – and to a different style, pencil-based rather than the pen-and-ink I had done for the Eclipse illustrations to date. The final illustration is at the top right, one of the darker pieces I’ve done and much more appropriate for the story.

Susan Palwick illustrations

Some of the perks of illustrating include getting to read awesome stories in advance of publication (then being superior and secretive in company), getting to draw from the works of authors who always seemed unapproachable luminaries, and discovering new heroes. Then there is the additional excitement on days when you open the email attachment, and find the by-line is by a friend. I was very excited to see the next story was Peter M Ball‘s “On the Arrival of the Paddle-Steamer on the Docks of V-“  – a story of the cruel beauty of farewell, the tawdry mundanity of loss, the heartlessness of love. Peter writes the most disturbing fairytales (and is an excellent writer, hosts Trashy Tuesday Movies, is running for AWM’s GenreCon Australia – those are just the highlights, and also, although he’s usually quite conscientious about warning me off books and movies which might scar me, he was responsible for Space Train).

I was working on some roughs for an ongoing scratchboard project, and did this little goat-headed guy from Peter’s story for practice (the picture is very tiny in real life):

Goat-head

 

The actual illustration, however, was completed at the same time as the first round of Palwick pictures, in pen and ink with digital colour. The final is on the right, and I like the hot colour of the anonymous, eponymous city (although I still have a fondness for the two travellers on the left).

Peter M Ball illustration

2008 Aurealis Awards

Aimee and I went to the Aurealis Awards this weekend and had a great time. We went to the (blessedly airconditioned) Judith Wright Centre early for the launch of Trudi Canavan’s The Magician’s Apprentice and the awards began at 6.30. Congratulations to all the winners and nominees! It was lovely to congratulate some of the winners in person, and to be gratified by the judges’ choices of my personal preferences (e.g. Shaun Tan’s win) and to talk to judges and hear about what goes into the decisions (a lot of reading and customised bookmarks).

Edited to add: the Governor of Queensland attended this year, which was lovely!

The highlight, of course (apart from the airconditioning) was just being able to catch up with old friends and acquaintances and make new ones and put faces to Facebook profiles. I got to thank Ron Serdiuk of Pulp Fiction (Press and Bookshop) in passing (he moved around a lot) for his efforts as coordinator, meet Lynne Green in person, after a few minutes where we sort of hedged around trying to work out if we were the person in the Facebook photos (mine is a drawing and hers is psychadelic), and many of the Vision and Clarion South people who were there, and spent most of the evening sitting cross-legged on the floor near the bar talking with John Catania (who was a judge in the childrens’ section) and Patrick Jones. We had a very good reason for sitting on the floor in the busiest area of the venue, but I recommend it generally – you can hear the people you are talking to so much better down there! Even so, they both thought I said we usually had a pajama party after book readings at Avid Reader (when in fact we tend to go to the Punjabi Palace).

The following morning (hot, humid and very rainy) there was a recovery breakfast at the Stamford Plaza, where survivors of the night before ate far too much and talked about teaching and books and Trudi Canavan’s builders and Alex Adsett meeting DWJ, and Aimee and I started reading aloud Space Train, which Peter M Ball kindly brought along for me (although he assures me the desire to read it will wear off after the first few pages).Then Robert Hoge convened an industry discussion panel at the Metro Arts Building, which this year focused on copyrights and contracts.

Nicky Strickland, Damon Cavalchini, Peter and I stopped at the Belgian Beer Cafe while Aimee went to the art store. Then Peter, Aimee and I had coffee at Aromas before heading off separately to the Valley where Margo Lanagan was reading from her new novel, Tender Morsels in the humidity on the back verandah at Avid Reader to a packed-out crowd (I had my knees in Angela Slatter’s back (I didn’t really get to talk to her properly this weekend, but she had a lovely red rose in her hair) and was probably distracting Jack Dann (to whom many congratulations) with the fan Aimee talked me into carrying around (although otherwise I’m glad I did). I bought a copy of Tender Morsels and Margo wrote that if I found any sentimentality in it I should let her know and she would have them all pulled.

Aimee and I are holding our own Australia Day/post-Aurealis Weekend recovery at the Coffee Club on Monday at the moment, where it is nominally airconditioned.

This is us at the awards (I have a fan here too but it is behind my back):

Aurealis Awards

I’ve put the winners here because I don’t know if the official page is a static one. There are probably more detailed write-ups all around the web if you want the gossip, who cried and who didn’t fall down the stairs on the way to collect their award.

Best Science Fiction Novel: K A Bedford, Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing

Best Science Fiction Short Story: Simon Brown, ‘The Empire’, Dreaming Again, Harper/Voyager

Best Fantasy Novel: Alison Goodman, The Two Pearls of Wisdom, HarperCollins

Best Fantasy Short Story: Cat Sparks, ‘Sammarynda Deep’, Paper Cities, Senses 5 Press

Best Horror Novel: John Harwood, The Seance, Jonathan Cape (Random House Australia)

Best Horror Short Story: Kirstyn McDermott, ‘Painlessness’, Greatest Uncommon Denominator (GUD), #2

Best Anthology: Jonathan Strahan (editor), The Starry Rift, Viking Children’s Books

Best Collection: Sean Williams & Russell B Farr (editor), Magic Dirt: The Best of Sean Williams, Ticonderoga Publications

Best Illustrated Book/Graphic Novel: Shaun Tan, Tales From Outer Suburbia, Allen & Unwin

Best Young Adult Novel: Melina Marchetta, Finnikin of the Rock, Viking Penguin

Best Young Adult Short Story: Trent Jamieson, ‘Cracks’, Shiny, #2

Best Children’s Novel: Emily Rodda, The Wizard of Rondo, Omnibus Books

Best Children’s Illustrated Work/Picture Book: Richard Harland & Laura Peterson (illustrator), Escape!, Under Siege, Race to the Ruins, The Heavy Crown, The Wolf Kingdom series, Omnibus Books

Peter McNamara Convenors’ Award for Excellence: Jack Dann