January 25th, 2008


Black Sheep Review

Carrie Laben (teratologist) wrote a review for Black Sheep which is pretty neat:

But with that out of the way, the book shines. Peek takes the standard dystopian furniture, all the ubiquitous cameras and brainwashed grunts and creepy identical houses and small bands of idealistic rebels and the like, and at first he seems to be going down the standard dystopian paths with it. But then he takes several unexpected turns - first into Dick-esque paranoia, and then into a series of confrontations with the fact that the solution to our hero's dilemma isn't as simple as raging against the machine. In fact, there may be no solution at all.

One of the real strong points of Black Sheep is in the characters who collaborate with the government. You have, of course, those who collaborate out of fear, and those who enjoy petty power for petty power's sake. But you also see people acting out of genuine conviction, both genuine conviction that the system is good and genuine conviction that the system is flawed but repairable by people working from within. And people who feel that a series of compromises that allow most people to live a tolerable life, even at the cost of breaking a few eggs, is better than throwing everyone into chaos. And people who just genuinely don't appear to think about politics at all. And, for that matter, people who bitterly oppose the current order - because they want something that is, from our protagonist's point of view, even worse.

Read the rest here. Then you can buy the book off Amazon, or wherever you manage to find it.

(Am currently running a two day workshop for gifted and talented people. My assistant is an unemployed ex principal with a phd, and two masters degrees. I remember when they used to be students.)
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An Aurealis Moment

This year, Tansy Rayner Roberts (cassiphone) wrote a review of the Aurealis Award Nominations. It's quite different to mine, which is good, though I personally would've liked it if Tansy did reread the nominated stories and talk about them.

Ah well.

Anyhow, I get a couple of mentions:

I would, however, note that the omission of Ben Peek’s Black Sheep from the SF shortlist was something that surprised me; as it turns out, the work was not even submitted for the awards and thus was not considered, which I find disappointing as it was the most interesting Australian speculative fiction novel I read in 2007. I understand how hard it is for judges to read everything that is sent to them, let alone the works that aren’t, but this issue has been a problem for the AAs for years, and it’s something I for one would like to see rectified. The awards can’t be completely credible unless everything is considered and read and included, and I believe the awards team should take equal responsibility with the publishers and authors for seeing that this happens.


Best horror, short story Terry Dowling, “Toother”, Eclipse #1 Richard Harland, “Special Perceptions”, At Ease with the Dead, Ash-Tree Press Rick Kennett, “The Dark and What It Said”, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #28 Ben Peek, “Black Betty”, Lone Star Stories #23 Anna Tambour, “The Jeweller of Second-Hand Roe”, Subterranean #7

My absolute favourite story on the horror short list is the Tambour; I’m especially glad to see it there because I know from experience that the category system of the AA’s sometimes means that the more alternative, slipstreamy stories like those Tambour writes often slip through the cracks. I also found Dowling’s “Toother” entertaining and readable; I liked the odd crime procedural style. I thought the Peek story was well-written but struggled with the piratical overdose of 2007 to take anything more from it. I have to say, few of these stories really stood out for me as being “horror” in particular, but then it’s the area of spec fic I’m least qualified to comment on.

Now, to the controversy:

Yes, Black Sheep never made it to the judges, but that was my call. Sean Wallace (oldcharliebrown) told me it was requested, and then asked me if I thought it was worth doing, no doubt remembering the previous two years of whining speculative fiction authors who didn't like my opinions of their work. Not them, mind you, but their work. Personally, I didn't think it was worth it. I'm not even going to fake a polite opinion here to mask the most obvious knowledge that, when it comes to the Aurealis Awards, my name and my work has a nice red cross through it, and if you ask me and most people, the idea of anything of mine being given any money out of it is laughable. It's a good laugh, and I made that laugh, because I believed then--and now--that the thing that slows down local literature is a lack of critical and interesting debate over the work published. The Aurealis Awards made a nice big target two years ago and I hit that, twice, but you can't keep hitting it--other people have to do that, which is why I'm happy to see Tansy doing so. But lets face facts: the Aurealis Awards and I parted company two years back, and I've no interest them as ways to judge the quality of what I do. If you do, that's cool. Me, no thanks, so you ask me if it's worth it, my answer is going to be no, and I'm good with that.

Now, before I got that email, however, I had a conversation with Daniella Tidman, who works in Infinitas, and who was a judge on the Science Fiction panel. Somewhere in the conversation, she told that she didn't see the point in giving awards to obscure books that can't be found easily as it doesn't bring in new readers to the genre.

So, when I get an email asking me if I think it's worth it, I laugh, and say, "No."

Now, yes, I know, 'Black Betty' is nominated in the horror section, which I have to admit, makes me laugh because that section is run by Shane Cummings, who once called me a cancer. I've never actually met Shane, but there you go. Some people they got opinions. At any rate, the story was online, and I'm happy enough for Eric Marin (ericmarin) to get some cred out of it 'cause he published it, but I did nothing for it to be there, and it's just not important that it is. Reading the piece, that's important. You do that? No--well, it's here.

Anyhow, since I've not been contacted about it, I think we can all feel safe about the award going to someone it'll mean something for, as winners are generally tipped off beforehand so they can fly up, prepare speeches, and all that. Know anyone suddenly going to Brisbane for the ceremony? Put your bets down.

Awards don't mean a thing, but they have a use if they promote discussion and reading, and if that makes you go read a book or a story, then we're all cool. After that, it's nothing but noise, and time can be spent better, and unless you're throwing cash at me with the statue, I don't care.
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