Thursday, July 31, 2008
The Virtual Minicon brings together speculative fiction writers and editors from all over the world online. Go to Events on the Conflux site and follow the directions to choose who you want to talk to. Each person is online for an hour.
In case there are some last minute changes or you want to recheck the timetable go here . Times are Australian Eastern Standard Time.
Saturday 2 August
12pm Glenda Larke
1pm Chris Barnes
2pm Gillian Polack
3pm Bruce Gillespie
4pm Cat Sparks
5pm Stephen Hunt
6pm Peter Strong
7pm Karen Miller
8pm Fiona McLennan
9pm Maxine McArthur
10pm Sharyn Lilley
11pm Karen Herkes
Sunday 3 August
12am Ellen Datlow
1am to 6am break
7am Sherwood Smith
8am Nicole R. Murphy
9am Jonathan Strahan
10am Kaaron Warren
11am Sean Williams
12pm Kevin J. Anderson
1pm Phill Berrie
2pm Jackie French
3pm Jack Dann
4pm Simon Haynes
5pm Marianne de Pierres
Monday, July 28, 2008
The only sounds were those in and right outside the the house - Angus kitten playing with a ball, the radio, the occasional cawing of the raven sitting on the fence near the door. Nothing moved outside. A dove hunched on a rafter, fluffed to twice its normal size. No sign of the flocks of honeyeaters and wattlebirds who are usually out feeding, squabbling or splashing in the bird bath.
The sun burned its way through the clouds and fog - first just a fuzz of lighter cloud, then slowly brighter, wrapped in a watery nimbus that vaporised, until it broke through. Puzzled birds woke breaking into a belated dawn chorus and I could see roofs in the next street, palms, and cars.
The first rays of sunlight bejeweled the camellia where droplets hung from every leaf and set silvery beads winking and glittering in the curve of the nasturtium leaves.
Sound crept back with muffled steps- a car starting in the next street, the distant hum of the highway, ravens arguing. Looking down into the valley fog still hid houses, parks, the school, making us an island in a sea of white that slowly receded - and vanished.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
This is by no means meant as a comment on Italian behaviour. I see it more as symptomatic of a world where we see dead bodies - real or fictional - on television every day. Somewhere along the line we have been desentsitised to the point that people act as they did on that beach and that is something we should all be ashamed of.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
At such short notice and with the school holidays starting we couldn't find anywhere else to stay where we could take our dog.
As it happened it was hardly the weather for a holiday anyway because another cold front blasted its way in a few days later compounding everyone's misery. Add in the power shortages and days where the minimum temperatures have been 1 and 2 degrees Celsius and this has not been a pleasant winter so far. We're not used to this in the sunny West.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Monday, July 14, 2008
Given I already share my life with a needy dog and a neurotic cat (another abandoned rescue kitten) this is not something I am too sure about. If she can't get the owner's permission to have a pet when the lease is renewed, and as she intends to travel in the near future, I can see him becoming mine and taking on another cat is not something I had planned.
But what can you do? Angus is a pretty little fellow - a silvery grey tabby - and very cuddly. At present he is confined to one room except when I let him out for a game and explore. Already very cross because he is still having to be force fed antibiotics to deal with an infection, Cadillac is not happy about any of it. He started by hissing and growling but now has resigned himself to just keeping as much distance as he can between them.
The fact that Angus is silvery grey, and has discovered most of the places the evicted rodent was living in are great hiding places, is not helping his acceptance by cat or dog. They see him streak across the floor where they had seen the rat and immediately assume it's back. So playtime has to be closely supervised. Virgo has been coming here each day to help dose the cat - a two person job - and can't resist playing with Angus which invariably ends up with extracting him from some of his more inconvenient hiding places. This reignites the conviction of other two that the rat is back and there is much barking and and excitement as they try to predict which path he will take. They are invariably left milling around in total confusion because he usually heads straight up onto someone's shoulder where he settles down like a purring kitten brooch.
Yes, he is a sweet little creature but what kitten isn't? I haven't agreed to take him on permanently yet. The thought of another cat mentally scarred by its kittenhood is a bit daunting. We shall wait and see.
This is an argument I've heard many times before. Cats are vermin. Kill them. That way we will save the innocent little native birds and animals. It would cut down on the predation. There's no doubt about that but before we get all righteous about this let me give an example of some cat haters I know. As they railed against the destructiveness of cats, they were in the process of stripping a large bush block of all its native vegetation so they could build a house and establish a largely self sufficient garden.
Am I the only one who sees the hypocrisy in this? To me the one doing the most damage to native wild life is the person who has just cleared nearly 3/4 acre of land. They have removed nesting sites, food and water sources and all the hiding places the resident animals and birds relied on for safety. When at some time in the future the trees and bushes they planted have grown large enough to replace some of those lost resources the creatures they - and their neighbours - displaced will be long dead and possibly extinct. Not that it would matter because they will net their trees or drive off any bird that encroaches on their food garden so if they are still alive they'll still won't find a haven there.
I accept that we have to live but I can see no difference in the destruction humans cause - global warming springs to mind - and that caused by cats except that in the scale of things the cat damage is minimal compared to that of humans. If anything cats are more honest. They kill to survive. I don't like to see it anymore than anyone else but the truth is despite all my efforts to make as little impact on the planet as possible in my lifetime I and the rest of humanity have done far more harm than cats - and we have the nerve to denigrate another creature for exercising its right to survival.
Friday, July 11, 2008
3.00 pm, July 9.
Here we are at Walyunga Pool, one of my favourite places in the world. It's the middle of the first week of the school holidays so there are quite a few people about weather not withstanding. It's grey, cold and wintry but fine after a rainy morning – and the sprinklers have just come on. Now I don't feel so guilty for not having noticed that I was supposed to put the money in an envelope before I put it in the box. Oops.
There's a bus load of school kids out in inflatable rafts shooting the rapids. The water level is pretty good and if we have some more rain before the Avon Descent (which is only three weeks off) we should have a spectacular race. The Avon Descent is a 134 kilometre two day event that starts at Northam about sixty kilometres from
Given Walyunga’s popularity as a place to watch the would-be competitors practising, I have to wonder why you would a) put sprinklers on in the picnic area during the day when you know there are going to be a fair number of visitors and b) put on sprinklers at all in the wettest time of the year? Yeah, beats me too.
All that aside, I love this place. It's in a valley deep in the foothills. The river rushes past frothed with white after splashing and roaring over the rapids where it emerges from the depths of Boongarup Pool about twenty minutes walk upstream. Where I'm sitting is calmer. A peninsular of rocks, dumped in some distant flood perhaps, juts out into the stream forming a quiet pool where the rafters paddle in to beach their craft on a rocky beach. Swimming in the summer is now frowned on due to the hidden snags and tricky currents but this time of the year the water is flowing so fast that the occasional overturned rafter is only at risk from hypothermia.
The birds and animals are incredibly tame. They come and sit on the table in search of handouts, leftovers or anything that happens to get dropped. While I have been sitting typing this a magpie, very handsome with his neat white jacket and black shirt front, has been sitting on the opposite side of the table, head cocked to one side, as he talks to me in soft chirps and warbles.
In the last five minutes this is what I have seen:
A flock of Western Ring Neck parrots (known as twenty eights here because of their call) drifting out the trees like a sudden fall of leaves.
A pink and grey galah dancing in the tree above me until a flock of its fellows swept across the river and it followed them.
A pair of sulphur crested cockatoos screeching downstream only a few feet above the river, feathers brilliant white in a sudden ray of sunlight.
Two plump grey teals waddling up, shovelling crumbs between quacks.
The rafters have all packed up now. The only sounds are the rushing water, the murmur as the afternoon wind starts to pick up, the rustle of the leaves and, in the distance, the beep beep of the bus backing out.
The types of birds have changed.
Two Australian ravens are scavenging around the picnic tables. They manage to look dignified as they stalk along, a hint of iridescence on their glossy black feathers.
In a lazy circle a pied cormorant surveys the banks for a place to spread its wings to dry.
A pair of Australian wood ducks wandered up from the water to graze on the grass. He's a handsome fellow too with his soft brownish grey body, dark head and matching dark stripes the length of his back. His mate is more drab - like a faded image of the male.
The afternoon is closing in now and there's a chill striking up from the ground. The kangaroos are starting to wake up. A mob of Western greys have just bounded down the slope to feed on the soft winter grasses patchworking the hillside. They say
The Australian bush I think is unfairly characterised as drab.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
But survive we did. We might be lying shivering on the sand just now but the storm has eased, the sun has come out and we are ready to move on.
So what has been achieved this year? I have re-edited my novel and have about a quarter to a third of the sequel at first draft stage. I have taught workshops - some under more difficult conditions than others - and given talks. Most importantly I have kept writing. Nowhere near as much as I would have liked to have done but that doesn't matter. I have kept on. Now I'm going to dry myself off and roll up my sleeves, soggy though they are. The boat has washed up beside me and, once I've bailed it out, it's back into the water and straight out towards the gap in the reef and the open sea.
This year will be the best ever.
Sunday, July 06, 2008
By Friday midday I decided I could manage with the aid of a microphone (and inadvertently sent the organisers into a spin by starting my email requesting one with "I've been struggling with laryngitis". Sorry, Linda.)
Well I managed although my voice has gone back a few notches to a whisper today. I find these events very stimulating both as a teacher and student and the session, I think went well. I stayed on for another session and wished I could have gone to them all. What a collection of gifted writers giving freely of their knowledge - Helen Iles, poet and editor, Janet Woods, a prize winning romance novelist, Jennifer Langley-Kemp, poet and short story writer, Ian Toyne, actor and playwright and Elizabeth Bezant, writer and writing coach. If you weren't there you really did miss something special.