anthologies in review

Steph loves anthologies; Liz is more ambivalent, being less of a fan of short stories.

(Liz clarifies: I just don’t enjoy anthologies.  Too many stories in too short a space.  I need to read them, like, three stories at a time, or else they become a blur.)

Steph is on her own as she reviews:

  • Dead Sea Fruit, Kaaron Warren (horror)
  • Eat the Sky, Drink the Moon, a whole awesome bunch of stories by Indian and Australian writers and illustrators
  • Phantazein, reworkings of fairy tales, yes excellent, from Fablecroft

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Aussie spec fic for young readers: A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay

A Single StoneEvery girl dreams of being part of the line – the chosen seven who tunnel deep into the mountain to find the harvest. No work is more important.

Jena is the leader of the line – strong, respected, reliable. And – as all girls must be – she is small; years of training have seen to that. It is not always easy but it is the way of things. And so a girl must wrap her limbs, lie still, deny herself a second bowl of stew. Or a first.

But what happens when one tiny discovery makes Jena question everything she has ever known? What happens when moving a single stone changes everything?

A Single Stone is a deliciously claustrophobic piece of semi-dystopian body horror for middle grade readers, inspired by Kafka (because why not?) and The Silver Chair (because it is the best Narnian book FIGHT ME).

Continue reading “Aussie spec fic for young readers: A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay”

aussie spec fic right there on my teevee*

I know it’s hard to believe, but there’s some Aussie spec fic on teevee this year. I KNOW.


Steph has seen episode 1 of this three part series. Episode 1 is available for free on youtube, and eps 2 + 3 can be purchased for five whole aussie dollars from the website. (Steph plans to do so shortly)

It was crowdfunded, and is some hard SF without actually spending too much money. There’s an isolated space station, a drifting spaceship, a bunch of refugees, a dead crew, and some fun special effects that I enjoyed mostly because they came with an Australian accent and some brown Australians.

Airlock stars an ex-classmate of Housemate of No Award Bella, Mark Coles Smith, also known around these parts as a very attractive young Indigenous Australian man. I’m not saying that should be part of your reasoning but it should definitely be part of your reasoning.

(Liz fell in love with Mark Coles Smith when she watched The Gods of Wheat Street, which is another piece of Aussie spec TV that everyone should watch — it’s a ghost story and family drama, and all the main characters are Indigenous, also it’s bloody good — and No Award endorses his cheekbones.)


Our ABC has blessed us with Glitch, a series about zombies. No Award has not yet watched this series.

When Sergeant Hayes is called to the cemetery, he makes a startling discovery. Six people have inexplicably returned from the dead and are in perfect health. How is this possible? Who are they and why are they back?

Bless you, Our ABC. Glitch is available on iView and Steph will be watching this as soon as it’s all aired and she can mainline it.

The Kettering Incident

Not sure what this is about yet, but it’s a mystery series with “otherworldly overtones” and is “Tipped to be Australia’s Twin Peaks,” which sounds a) right up No Award’s alley and b) specifically relevant to Liz’s current interests, which include ‘mainlining the X-Files’ and ‘reading about murders.’ Also it’s set in Tasmania, which is the most traditionally gothic part of Australia.

(Sadly, this series will allegedly air on pay tv, which of course means it will subsequently be heavily illegally downloaded)

(Liz clarifies: reading about murders, not committing them.  I just want to make that clear.)





In space, no one can hear you have manpain

Infini was written and directed by an Australian, features an all-Australian cast, and was filmed in Australia.  It should rocket straight to the top of the No Award List Of Things We Really Like.

'infini: search. rescue. destroy'

If only that were true.

The all-Aussie cast are doing American accents — except one guy who I think is meant to be British, but he sounds like an American actor trying for Aussie — and it’s just a tedious fest of rehashed Star Trek plots mixed with manpain.

Now, I don’t mind a bit of rehashed Trek.  Serve it up with some shiny low-budget effects and local accents, I’d have eaten it up with a spoon.  (And then whinged here about the dude-heaviness of the whole thing, but that’s half the fun!)  But setting it in the US is just … lazy.  Everyone has seen this before.  Why not change it up a bit?  (Answer: the accountant was in charge.)

Similarly, the casting is just woefully dull.  Of the fourteen cast members — that includes bit players — ten are men, and nine of those are white men.  I’m not great at distinguishing faces, so I knew them as Lead Guy (aka The Dancing With The Stars Host), The Other Other Hemsworth (turns out there are three!), Beardy McBeardsalot (aka Guy From Animal Kingdom), REX MANNING (that was his character’s name — I could recognise him because people kept saying it in allcaps), Is He English Or What?, The One With Dark Hair, and The Rest.

(I should note that Kevin Copeland, The One Guy Who Isn’t White, is in fact American.  He does a lot of Australian stuff, though.  I totally forgot he wasn’t One Of Us.)

One of the film’s four women is a bit player.  The remaining three are:

  • Lead Guy’s pregnant wife, who cries and makes him promise to come home, then cries a bit more;
  • Claire, the medic, who has Abortion Angst and a failed romance with … I think it was The One With Dark Hair;
  • Philippa, who is introduced like she’s a big deal — though not as big as REX MANNING, of course — but who doesn’t really get much to do.

If you’re keeping track, that’s two-thirds of the female characters having uterus-related character development.  Infini

Claire is played by the beautiful and underrated Grace Huang, so that’s two non-white people in the cast.  There’s a moment where, as she goes mad from PLOT REASONS and also Abortion Angst, she says goodbye to her mother in Mandarin, and that’s the closest we come to further character development for her.

Not that the men fare any better.  These characters are strictly cardboard cut-outs.  Lead Guy bonds with Is He English Or What? over fatherhood, and has high level manpain because What If He Dies?  REX MANNING shouts and shoots things.

There’s quality dialogue like, “I’M TALKING TO MY FUCKING KIDS, MOTHERFUCKER!”  The final act is basically just guys screaming at each other, while I texted Stephanie to ask if I had to keep watching.  She said yes, which I’m pretty sure is a human rights violation.

Maybe Australian accents wouldn’t have saved this movie.

The highlight, for me, was the repeated shots of Sinister Wind Farms On An Alien Planet.  A lot of the dialogue was mumbled, so I’m not sure why they were sinister, but there they were.  Wind farming.  Ominously.  Maybe Going Crazy In An Isolated Facility On An Alien Planet is one of the symptoms of Wind Turbine Syndrome?  I made a joke on Twitter about this being what it takes to get an arts grant these days, but it turns out Infini received no taxpayer funding.  Thank heavens.

Oh, and the plot — a mining operation on a distant planet turns out to be digging up an alien life form, and it’s maaaaaaaaad.  Star Trek did it with “The Devil in the Dark” (TOS) and “Home Soil” (TNG); Doctor Who did it with “42” and, like, every third Pertwee serial.  This is entirely skippable.

Infini was released direct to iTunes and maybe other video on demand sources, who knows?  Liz paid AU$6.99 to rent a HD copy of Infini from iTunes and kind of wants her money and her two hours back. 

science fiction saves the future

Stephanie was invited to speak at the Speculative Fiction Festival at the New South Wales’ Writers’ Centre last week. It was curated by Cat Sparks, and it was excellent!

The blurb for Steph’s panel:

Can Science Fiction Save the Future? (11am-12am)

This panel examines science fiction as an agent of scientific and social change, serving as a cultural primer, preparing us for new inventions, moral arguments or major events, such as catastrophic destruction or the possibility of transhuman consciousness. Should SF shake us out of complacency regarding genuine threats to society, as well as inspiring compelling new possibilities?

Steph was on this panel with Joanne Anderton, Marianne de Pierres, Bruce McCabe, and Keith Stephenson.

Stephanie has so many feelings climate change and speculative fiction, news at eleven.

There was a feeling that spec fic isn’t for evangelising because the reader doesn’t want to be lectured at. But I disagree – science fiction is for evangelising. I write climate change fiction because I’m inspired in my day job, and I want everyone to know it and be converted.

Scientific accuracy is as important as being able to write well and to convey your meaning. If we’re to inspire, what’s the point in inspiring things that can’t scientifically happen because they defy physics? There’s an argument to be made for inspiring people to move beyond the known science but there’s only so far one can go with that. Don’t be suggesting our climate change future in Australia is going to be full of, like, coral and white people unless you can prove it.

Scientific accuracy is important in my own work, and preferably in the work of others. There’s no shame in throwing the book against the wall when the science is wrong. And half the fun is creating a fantastical world within scientific bounds.

But also: what’s the point in inspiring when you’re doing it on false pretenses?

But can’t you trust the reader to tell the difference between possible and impossible? Can’t you trust the reader?

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Australian Spec Fic Week

It’s not official, it’s just here at No Award! This week No Award is going to talk EVERY DAMN DAY about spec fic.

Liz and Steph love spec fic, and we have a special place in our hearts and in our lives for Australian spec fic. And we could say there’s not enough of it (there isn’t), but what there is just isn’t talked about enough. So we have taken it upon ourselves, sacrificed whole hours of our time, to engage with and review a number of Aussie spec fic texts.

australian space stamps
look how old they are!

Some upcoming highlights:

  • Shiver! As Liz watches a movie with many shots of sinister wind farms!
  • Tremble! As Steph reads horror books on the plane to Perth!
  • Gasp with delight! At the Indian-Australian YA spec fic anthology with pictures, what the hell, give us more.
  • Wibble With Discomfort! As Liz digs up some hardcore claustrophobic body horror for readers aged 9-14.
  • Whine with jealousy! As Steph steals books from Australian small presses to read!
  • Look on with envy! As Liz steals them from Steph and reads them herself!
  • And, be not surprised! As Steph starts the week with sitting on a panel and threatening to throw books against the wall.

We’ll update this post at the end of the week to be a master list, but we would love for you to come on this journey with us. Tell us you disagree with us, or agree, or just aren’t sure.

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