Friday, January 28, 2011

Sticky Fingers, and Something Cool

We had our housewarming on Australia Day, and the inevitable mingling of my friends and my brother's friends. (I'd already met most of Li's friends, as we get together for crafternoons, AKA gossip and cake.) Rory's three years older than me, and some of his friends have children. So of them came to the party. Children! At one of my parties. I nearly spontaneously combusted. They were all very well behaved children, despite my vision of a horde of screaming, sticky-fingered monsters. I say "all" and "horde" like we were being overrun. But actually, before a baby arrived later in the afternoon, there were two.

One was a ten year old girl, and once her mother prodded her to "tell Rhiannon what you're reading", I found I didn't mind they were there so much. This girl liked to read fantasy. She was reading Eragon, and liked books about witches and magic. I got up then and there and went to my bookshelves. I would have liked to throw several hundred books at her, but I started with one. My hands hovered over the Immortals quartet by Tamora Pierce, but something held me back. Those books are very to dear to me, and what if she didn't really like fantasy? I settled on the Wolf Tower books by Tanith Lee: funny, exciting, easy to love.

If I was guaranteed to have fantasy-book-loving, dance-class-attending offspring I'd happily procreate (eventually). But what if they're sticky-fingered whiny brats? What if they didn't like books? Perish the thought.

Also, something cool. I stumbled across this yesterday while I was Googling myself. I was actually trying to find a post I did on belly dance for Pirate Penguin. Honest I was.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The New House. Or, where to write?

I have moved. The past tense is rarely so sweet as when you have moved house. It is DONE. I have moved at least nine times in the last nine years. I have crossed the river so many times that I expected alarms to go off this time around. Inner Melbourne suburbs are divided by the Yarra River. There's the arty north, stuffed full of uni students, artists and veteran op-shoppers. Then there's the trendy, beachy south, populated by the tiny dog set. And never the twain shall meet.

The kitchen viewed from the living room. That's a six-burner hob. My brother practically swooned.

I have moved in with my brother and his girlfriend. We found a gorgeous renovated 1930s house with three bedrooms, a huge living area and open plan kitchen, two bathrooms and a deck. Hopefully that's enough space that we don't get in one another's hair. I haven't lived with my brother in ten years. Last time there was a lot of screaming. We've both mellowed since then. We're still as competitive as hell though. Over board games especially. Yesterday it was Scrabble and goddamn it if he was going to beat me at a word game. It was close, though. His girlfriend, who was also playing, remarked to him, "You play better when you're trying to beat your sister." My reply? "OH REALLY? SO MY MERE PRESENCE IS ENOUGH TO MAKE YOU BETTER! MUA HA HA HA HA."

But the question is, where to write? In my flat I wrote at my dining room table. There just wasn't room in my bedroom. And besides, won't it start feeling like homework if I do it in my room? The last few days I've been writing in the study ... but it's a little cramped in there. When the weather turns chilly I might not have any choice but to write in the dining room as the ducted heating hasn't been installed yet and that's where the reverse cycle is. (All hail air-conditioning. I may only use it for a few days a year, but goddamn, I need it those few days. I detest being too hot or too cold.)

My bedroom, which is the biggest in the house as it hasn't been cut by an en suite. Love the original fireplace, even if it's only decorative.

The livingroom won't be any good, though, when people are up and about, talking and breathing and generally just being distracting. There's a hell of a lot of space in my bedroom, so perhaps I should install a desk and just suck it up if it starts to feel like homework?

Where do you write? Are you precious about it?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Review: A World Out of Time, Larry Niven

Jaybee Corbell subjected himself to cryogenic freezing in the twentieth century with the belief that he would be awoken once society found a cure for his cancer. Two hundred years later he's revived into someone elses body and under threat of instant annihilation. He is told he owes the State for his life and must become a Rammer--a deep space pilot--to repay his debt, and complete a mission that will take 70,000 earth years. Jaybee is having none of that, and takes the Rammer ship on his own course, one that returns him to the earth three million years later--an earth so drastically changed that he finds it orbiting Jupiter.

Brilliant, funny, gripping beginning. Dull, interminable, seemingly pointless middle section. And I can say little about the end because I didn't read it. I hear this novel began life as short story. I think I would have preferred that version. Corbell the Rammer was far more interesting than Corbell the explorer. I had been hoping his return to an earth drastically different from today would be as fascinating as Wells's The Time Machine, but it wasn't. The cat-tails were cute though.

I think part of the problem was he didn't have a snappy antagonist in the latter part of the book. Pierce/Peersa, a servant of the State, showed off Corbell's snarky, determined side, but unfortunately those aspects of his character disappeared when Peersa did.

I thoroughly enjoyed the beginning of A World Out of Time (1976) and I'll happily try more Niven, with the hope that they sustain my (perhaps short--but I like to think, picky) attention.

Acquisition note: This was another from my dad's bookshelves. Sorry, dad, I did try to love it!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sci-fi relief: Bally and Gucci

I put aside the sci-fi novels and research last night and picked up a copy of Vogue Australia and drooled over dresses. Particularly these bright outfits from the Bally and Gucci spring/summer collections:


Gucci. Particularly love the top and skirt on the right.

Gucci. Love this combo.

Beautiful colours, no? I shudder to think what the outfits cost ... time to get the sewing machine out and run up some copies.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Review: Academy 7, Anne Osterlund

Aerin Renning and Dane Madousin have gained entrance to Academy 7, the most prestigious school in the Alliance. Neither expect their stay to be long. Aerin is a fugitive from a slave planet, trapped there after her father's ship crash landed many years earlier and he was killed. Dane's father suspects Dane has cheated as his eldest son, Paul, never made the cut. There is no love lost between father and son. While navigating the intense curriculum, Dane and Aerin draw on one another's strengths and begin to form a friendship, one that will see them uncover the truth about their parents and the inner workings of the Alliance.

I picked up Academy 7 after I read Tamora Pierce's glowing review on Goodreads. I was also surprised, as she was, that it was sci-fi. The cover gives no indication. While it's light on space and science, there's just enough to give it that sci-fi flavour.

YA novels set in boarding schools were (and still are, really) de rigeur in the literature when this book was published (2009), and it can be a little difficult to get excited about the setting. But Osterlund manages to make it fresh with the sci-fi aspect and doesn't fill the pages with school cliches. Aerin Renning stands out from the typical new-girl-in-school character. I enjoyed her almost Aspergers-like personality, particularly when it was shown through Dane's eyes. Osterlund takes her time developing the friendship and romance between the pair. It's a slow burn rather than the bolt out of the blue, inexplicably-drawn-to rubbish that's so common in paranormal lit. I liked both of them very much. In fact, all the characters were carefully drawn and believable.

Academy 7 is light on sci-fi, but heavy on characterisation and story. A very pleasant read.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Review: Farmer in the Sky, Robert Heinlein

I hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas and New Year! I was in Brisbane for Chrissy and it poured with rain just about non-stop. So I went shopping, which I can't complain about at all cos I picked up some beautiful dresses and shoes in the sales. I also raided my dad's bookshelves for some sci-fi reading, particularly books pertaining to colonisation and space travel. I'm researching for a novel in these directions and want to see how the masters do it.

Farmer in the Sky (1950) by Robert Heinlein follows a teenage boy, Bill, and his family on their emigration to Ganymede, a moon of Jupiter. I'd like to tell you all about Bill, but unfortunately he's a rather forgettable character. Bill is little more than the words he speaks and the things he observes. The same can be said for the other characters.

This book reads more like a manual on how to colonise Ganymede than anything else--or rather, it reads as a direct reflection of the colonisation of the New World; the ship that took them to Ganymede was called the Mayflower, for instance. I gave this book a low Goodreads rating because as a book it's rather sparse on plot, tension and characterisation. But that's not to say I didn't enjoy it for other reasons. As far as the science went, it was pretty interesting. Heinlein made most of it sound very plausible. Good research material for budding sci-fi writers.

A short, interesting read if you want some hard science served up with a minimum of emotional interference.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Literature in Songs #5: Call Me Legion

There is a scene in The Exorcism of Emily Rose in which Emily, in a German tongue, screeches, "I was with Legion." The reference is to a bible passage in which Jesus meets a man possessed by demons. When asked its name the demon, through the man, replies,

My name is Legion, for we are many.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

I'm inordinately fond of that quote. It sends shivers up my spine. So much pea-soup-spewing imagery. (I could have sworn the line, or something like it, is spoken in The Exorcist but I can't find reference to it anywhere.)

Regan, pre-pea soup

The word "legion" itself means vast horde. It's the juxtaposition of the singular and plural that make this quote really work for me: My name is Legion, for we are many. The implication is, of course, that there is a multitude of demons inhabiting one body and they've managed to work together to create one cohesive voice. Creepy as.

This quote has inspired or been referenced in dozens of books, songs and films. But here's one track you've likely not heard before--this version at least. A favourite movie soundtrack from my childhood (and a favourite movie) is the Jewel of the Nile. I went hunting for a track on YouTube called "Legion (Here I Come)", as it appears on the record, and ended up with this one, a song simply called "Legion" by Mark Shreeve. It's a bizarre electronica track with an even more bizarre film clip. But I like it--the track at least. I'm rather fond of electronica and could imagine this being busted out on dance floors in the eighties. If only I had been there!

Happy New Year!!