so. i went to a launch thing out in collins bookstore last night for science fiction/fantasy genre people. usually, i don't list these things, because i figure no one wants to read it, but i listed the writers of western sydney, and i figure the two will make an interesting comparison. i should start by saying that i knew, even before i stepped into the store, that there would be no poetry, because the small press of australia genre scene publishes very little, if any, of it. (in fact, it's not uncommon to find guidelines that say don't send poetry, we don't like it, don't want it, and don't have editors for it.) so i knew i'd be safe from rhyming bush poetry.
(that said, i think the genre small press is making a mistake. good poetry is good poetry, and a lot of it falls under the fantasy branch. it seems a bit small minded not to publish it, in my opinion, especially when, picking up any years best volume, i can find a number of poems that were simply fantastic, and deserving of publication. and it's not like the poetry scene is already a limited market.)
to start with, the writers of western sydney and the genre scene in collins bookstore, suffered from a similar lack of participation. there was about thirty people there last night, just as there was about forty, maybe fifty on Friday night. both crowds were dominated by a middle aged, older crowd, which makes me wonder why there aren't younger people in attendance. the genre is popular among a youth demographic, and when i did promotion for Passing Strange on the Program, a youth orientated site, there was a bunch of feedback, and the woman i worked through on it told me that the competition got a lot of quick feedback for the free book give away, so one has to assume there is some interest. and my friends and i, all in our mid to lower twenties, all have various degrees of interest in both this genre and others, so then, why, is it that none show?
i don't know. maybe there needs to be some sorta campaign, something akin to JJJ's promotion of australian music. find someone to champion it in a larger market, maybe. or maybe it has something to do with the rebirth of 'pulp fiction' in the genre. i know i find it hard to have much interest in work that's a throw back to the thirties and forties pulp, and which occasionally leaves you with the feeling that this particular genre scene is simply regurgitating its work.
but, away from this vague speculation, and back to the night itself. there was a reading by terry dowling from his collection Rynosseros. the tom tyson saga is a strange one of sand-ships, coloured captains, and tribal societies. it takes a bit to get into, and i must admit that i prefer dowling's other work, but it is a totally australian science fantasy, and dowling is firmly in control of his craft and talent that the stories are always enjoyable. there's also a touch of ballard's earlier work to influence it, so if you've enjoyed the vermilion sands work, then this should appeal to you. dowling himself reads well, and the audience heard the story of a sand-ship battle, which was a fine way to start. (if you follow the link, you can read 'the robot is running away from the trees', a tom tyson story, online.)
following that was a panel on the publishing scene. it was okay, though you do have to wonder about a self professed independent scene that doesn't publish poetry, but that's me. the panel stated that the aim of the small press, and i agree, is to publish that which won't be published my the large corporate publishers. it's also their aim to promote emerging and new writers, too. sometimes it does both, sometimes not, depending on who you find, which is pretty much the way of all things.
there was, however, a sense from the writers of western sydney that they were more open to promoting younger orientated writers--if for nothing else than the hip hop acts which were shown. (and, now that it occurs to me, there aren't many different cultures being explored in speculative fiction of australia either, but that might be simply because there are not a lot of russians living in australia publishing spec fic in english.) but the writers of the western suburbs did made a conscious effort to embrace youth and different culture. the local genre scene often doesn't, but then, perhaps, it is simply not their place to do so. still, one of the most important criticisms that can be leveled at the western science fiction/fantasy genre scene is that it is very white. in australia, one has the sense that white is the only colour in the scene. as i said, i think this is an important criticism, so take of that what you will.
anyhow, this is becoming long and rambling, isn't it? okay. well, after the launch, there was dinner, and i'll spare you that, except to say that i had these neat tuna coquet things.