Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sunday Salon: Continuum 8 (the rest)

I am determined that today I will finish talking about Continuum, before it is far too late! Last week I gave some thoughts on the Friday night events and then a comparison between this con and the romance ones that I have attended previously. This week, I will talk about the rest of the sessions that I attended.

My Saturday started with an exploration of Melbourne's Dark Side with authors Meg Mundell, Felicity Bowker, Narelle Harris and historian Paul Poulton. Melbourne's recent criminal history has been dominated by the underworld activity that inspired the Underbelly books and TV series. With our gothic architecture and the Underbelly infamy there is plenty of darkness to be explored.

Paul's interest is with historic Melbourne and he shared a story about a doctor named Mr Beanie who was arrested on charges of murder for what appeared to be a botched abortion. His case was sent to the coroner to be investigated but he was cleared, which probably wasn't such a big surprise seeing as Mr Beanie also was the colony's coroner. One surprising thing that Paul mentioned is, like many major cities, Melbourne has a hidden underground with a series of tunnels that most Melburnians would not know existed.

Meg was interested in the hidden history of our buildings. For example, there is an asylum in suburban Kew that is now apartments, and the same is true of the former prison named Pentridge.

Another fascinating story was the one we heard about the Jack the Ripper connection to Melbourne! Fascinating stuff.

This session reminded me that I really want to get hold of Black Glass, Meg Mundell's debut novel.

The next session I attended was The End of the World is Just the Beginning which featured Sue Ann Barber, Liz Barr, Emily McLeay, Michael Pryor and Kate Eltham. This session was focusing on the current trend for Dystopian fiction in YA. The discussion about why dystopian is so popular right now was very interesting. The panellists seemed to think that there was a correlation between the periods of popularity of the dystopian style story and the breakdown in traditional structures. One of the panellists talked about her teenage sister not being able to remember a world before 9/11 and the resulting wars. There was a similarly to the Cold War panics in the 1950s and the nuclear threat of the 1980s, both popular times for dystopian reading. There was also some suggestion that the GFC could be a factor a the moment too. With the breakdown of traditional structures, there is more opportunity for the main characters, and in particular female characters, to be empowered.

I came out of this session thinking that I could listen to Kate Eltham talk all day, and that I really need to read Michael Pryor's series.

The next session was The Big Bad - Fairytale Villains and the panellists were Angela Slatter, Nalini Haynes, and Margo Lanagan (squee!). The discussion started with the question - who are the villains. There were plenty of evil women - like Snow White's stepmother and the various evil queen's - and lots of animals, but very few male villains, perhaps only Bluebeard and Rumpelstiltskin.

There was also some discussion about how many of the monsters of our past have either been neutralised (as an example natural predators like wolves and bears) or romanticised (i.e. sparkly vampires) and about how retellings can run the risk of losing the way and lose some of the power. For Margo Lanagan this means that they sometimes need to be twisted (which if you have read any of Margo Lanagan's books shouldn't be a surprise). Another interesting concept that was touched on was the idea that charming people often turn out to be the villains in fairytales, but it doesn't often happen the other way around.

Other questions that were asked included who gets the villain wrong to which the answers included Hollywood, who turns to regurgitate the same stories, any villain with an evil laugh and conversely, who gets it right, as well as where do you find the unsanitised versions of fairy tales (Virago Book of Fairytales, From the Beast to the Blonde and No Go the Bogeyman by Marina Warner and work by D L Ashliman at the University of Pittsburgh.

After a break for lunch, it was into a live recording of an episode of Galactic Suburbia, which is one of my favourite Australian podcasts to listen to. You can listen to the episode here. I have to say I was almost mesmerised as I watched Alisa rewind her wool while the three of them talked. I have to say, it was a bit odd in a way meeting Alisa, Tansy and Alex. During lunch I ran into Sean and Alex and we were chatting. To me, Alex feels a bit like an old friend because I listen to her talk regularly!

Kelly Link was the international guest for the convention and it was a pleasure to listen to her talk when she was in conversation with Kate Eltham. Kelly writes short stories and is an integral part of Small Beer Press as well. She is friends with a lot of big name authors and one of the things that she talked about is the fact that some of her friends are trying to strongly encourage Kelly to write a novel but at this stage she is mostly happy with sticking with short stories.

As a publisher, Kelly was talking about the changes that are taking place with the advent of ebooks, the increase of the influence of Amazon with some of the moral issues that leads to. One of the things that she mentioned that possibly seems a little obvious, but worth stating is that customers like Amazon more than publishers do.

The next session I attended was on Other Entities and the panellists were Margo Lanagan, Amanda Pillar, Jane Routley and Paul Poulton where the topic was talking about things other than dragons, fairies, vampires and zombies. There was lot of interesting content as the panellists talked about the where the familiar creatures come from and where the unfamiliar can come from, such as other cultures and traditions.

One of the most interesting points that was raised was about where do new monsters come from if in the past they came from the things that we are afraid of. What are we afraid of now, and is it possible to create something completely new?

After listening to some readings by Claire Corbett, Lisa Hannett, Angela Slatter and Felicity Dowker and then my last unofficial session of the day was watch the recording of the Twelve Planet Press authors podcast. I have blogged previously about the Twelve Planets short story collections and I love to see what the Press is doing with this exciting project. You can listen to the podcast here. The recording was held at Embiggen Books which is a bookshop I knew of, but I had never actually visited before. If you are in Melbourne, Embiggen Books is a gorgeous bookshop destination and I will definitely be going back.

If you do go to Embiggen Books then maybe also take the opportunity to visit The Moat, which is a restaurant/bar that is located in the basement of the State Library and seemed to be an uber cool place to visit! I didn't stay to eat because I didn't want to be catching the train too late at night by myself.

My Sunday sessions began with What's It Worth? - a discussion about the eBook industry and in particular emphasis on how much is an ebook worth which featured Jason Nahrung, Steven O'Connor, Alan Baxter and Kate Eltham. It was fascinating to listen to Kate talk about the the way that pricing is structured, and then how the publishers have tried to cut the costs involved in publishing a book. Some of the other things that were touched on includes the fact that a lot of consumers think that it doesn't cost anything to convert an ebook but that isn't actually true.

Value was something that was talked about in several ways - both how much an ebook should be to buy and what the optimal price range is for each individual panellist, about DRM, about added extras and much more.

Next up - Alison Goodman in conversation with Jason Nahrung. Whilst there were authors that I knew I wanted to read before I went to the convention but I was reminded by hearing about them, Alison Goodman is an author I don't remember having heard about before and now I really want to read Eon and Eona and her new series sounds amazing which is coming in 2014 with a novella set in the same world out in 2013.

Some of the interesting things that she talked about was her expectations as a reader that also then feed her writing. She looks for emotional journey, logic, elegance of structure, heroic characters, sensory (but not overloaded) writing. She reads widely and when you look at the various books she has had published this wide range of interest is reflected in her own settings and stories.

One thing I have often wondered about is how it works if you are working with different editors in different countries and they want different things changed in your story. Alison talked about how will only do a joint-edit so she tries to take the best ideas from each editor and incorporate in the story, so there will be very little difference between the editions published in each country. She did mention that the fundamental differences between the Australian and US edits tend to be that the Australian edit tends towards the more emotional and aesthetic whereas the US edit will be more about structure, logic and words so in the end by doing a joint edit it tends to balance each other out. The main reason why
this is necessary is political - neither publisher is prepared to give up control.

After lunch I attended the Book Blogs and Reviewing which was interesting to listen too, especially in the context that there were paid bloggers, unpaid bloggers on the panel and then a professional reviewer also in the audience.

My final session for the day was a live recording of The Writer and the Critic, another favourite podcast to listen to. You can listen to the episode here. The session featured an in depth discussion of a couple of books, but the one which inspired me was the discussion about The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.

I was very slack on Monday morning. There were some sessions that I was interested in attending but then I was also interested in finishing my non SF book so I took advantage of having time and quiet in my house to spend some time reading.

When I did make it in to the venue, the last couple of sessions I attended were The Awards Debacle and Beyond Paranormal Romance. I actually thought I was going to a different session when I walked into The Awards Debacle but I ended up staying as the discussion was quite interesting, particularly in relation to a lot of the drama that often seems to accompany the announcement of many of the national awards and short lists.

Beyond Paranormal Romance featured Michael Pryor (must read his books) Sue Burszytski. Liz Barr and Kelly Link. This was also another YA panel wanting to get away from the popular topics and look at more diverse themes. This panel was responsible for adding a huge list of books to my already bulging too be read list. Some of the authors mentioned include the following:

Scott Westerfeld
Maggie Stiefvater
Isabelle Carmody
Paolo Bacigalupi
Margaret Mahy
Carole Wilkinson
Leanne Hall
Lily Wilkinson
Michelle Cooper
Marianne de Pierres

There was lots more, including some books that are coming out in the next few months, but I do need to end this post at some point.

So, there you have it. My Continuum experience. And now, I need to go and have a lay down after writing up this post! Alex at RandomAlex has a wrap up post that collects lots of different links if you want to find out more.

Currently Reading

The Queen's Vow by CW Gortner

Up Next

Equal of the Sun by Anita Amirrezvani and Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness


  1. Sounds like you had an amazing time. So much going on! Embiggen Books sounds amazing. If I ever find myself in Melbourne I'll check it out.

  2. Australia has its own culture of books and authors who have interesting ideas on books and publishing. I have never been to a book convention but from what you have written, your Continuum sounds as it was more productive than most.

  3. Sounds like some really interesting sessions, particularly the ebooks one and Paul Poulton. So cool about the tunnels!