Category Archives: Fun stuff

Covers anything we want to talk about. Book reviews, movies, non-book related stuff.

Answers to last week’s quiz

So last week we asked you to name some characters from speculative fiction you thought you really shouldn’t like, but did.

This week we have some answers for you. If you haven’t done the quiz, go and do it now.

I used to be a hero, until I got tortured. Now I’m the torturer. I’m good at my job. I hurt people, I force them to confess (even if they didn’t do it). I am grumpy.

Oh, and I hate stairs.

A measure of how well readers love a character is at author talks, when lots of the audience ask specific questions about one character.

The first time I heard Joe Abercrombie talk was at GenreCon Australia.  Come question time, it seemed that all anyone wanted to talk about was Sand dan Glokta, from Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy. You could tell, from the way the audience reacted to both the questions and the answers, that they loved Glokta.

And you have to admit, he is a great character. Even though he does torture people. You even make excuses for him. He’s in pain all the time, he was tortured himself.

 

I’m a convicted killer and a thief. I supposedly once gouged a man’s eyes out, just for fun.

I’m the last surviving member of a bikie gang that terrorized the Barbary Coast of California.

The government offers me a pardon if I take a shipment of drugs across country.

Here’s a perfect example of a character who has a reputation that doesn’t gel with who he is.

Hell Tanner, from Roger Zelazny’s Damnation Alley. He’s the opposite of the unreliable narrator. It’s external people who say he’s one thing, he behaves in another way.  That is, we’re told he’s a monster, murder and rapist (and no doubt he is), but we see him as a someone who loves his brother, and tries to stop him going into danger.

 

One of us is a burglar, the other a hitman. We’re partners, and we help out a private investigator on occasion.

We’re on the side of angels, although the angels don’t necessarily believe this is an entirely positive thing.

Louis and Angel, from John Connolly’s Charlie Parker series of books.

These are two more characters popular with readers. I first heard about Louis and Angel when I went to a dinner organised by one of our bookstores, Dymock’s. John gave a talk. A member of the audience wanted to talk about Louis and Angel. You could hear from the response of the other people in the room that it was a popular question.

Sherylyn, who has since read some of the Charlie Parker books, agrees. Louis and Angel are great.

They even get their own book, in The Reapers.

 

I’m a seven-foot skeleton. I wear a black robe, and carry a scythe.

Easy? Duh? But which one am I?

I have a granddaughter, Susan, and an apprentice named Mort.

This one was easy, yes.

Death, from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.

What else can I say?

Except that Death is a great character.

 

 

 

I am a former lawyer. I lost my girlfriend to another man, and keep trying to get her back. I’m nice to my dog, I let him push the button to set off the explosives.

 

I sort of wish we could write characters like Jack Holloway, from John Scalzi’s Fuzzy Nation. I don’t think a lot of Jack, and I still can’t work out if he’s deliberately written to be a decent man who hides the fact that he does a decent thing behind a facade wisecracking and moral unpleasantness, or whether I just didn’t like him much.

I sort of don’t wish we could write them, too, because Jack wasn’t a great person. The closest we’d get to someone like that is Jordan Rossi (in the unpublished Acquard stories, not in Linesman.)

Or maybe not.

Loved the book, didn’t know what to think about Jack, even after the story finished.

 

How did you go?

Incidentally, if you ever get a chance to hear either Joe Abercrombie or John Connolly talk, go along. They’re both great speakers.

Quiz: Characters you like, but feel you shouldn’t

We haven’t had a quiz for a while, so let’s talk about characters who really aren’t nice, but you like them anyway.

They’re all speculative fiction (and the fact that we used that word rather than fantasy and science fiction is a clue in itself, folks, as one is more a mystery with supernatural elements). Some of them are anti-heroes, some secondary characters in other books.

Also, your degree of ‘not nice’ may differ from ours, especially for the last one. It’s subjective.

 

   I used to be a hero, until I got tortured.  Now I’m the torturer.  I’m good at my job. I hurt people, I force them to confess (even if they didn’t do it). I am grumpy.

Oh, and I hate stairs.

 

I’m a convicted killer and a thief. I supposedly once gouged a man’s eyes out, just for fun.

I’m the last surviving member of a bikie gang that terrorized the Barbary Coast of California.

The government offers me a pardon if I take a shipment of drugs across country.

 

One of us is a burglar, the other a hitman. We’re partners, and we help out a private investigator on occasion.

We’re on the side of angels, although the angels don’t necessarily believe this is an entirely positive thing.

 

I’m a seven-foot skeleton. I wear a black robe, and carry a scythe.

Easy? Duh?  But which one am I?

I have a granddaughter, Susan, and an apprentice named Mort.

 

I am a former lawyer. I lost my girlfriend to another man, and keep trying to get her back. I’m nice to my dog, I let him push the button to set off the explosives.

You may not consider this guy unlikeable. We do, but we can’t work out if he’s deliberately meant to be an unpleasant man who turns out okay, or if he’s supposed to be an okay man who just doesn’t work for us as a character.

We’ve actually mentioned our ambivalence about him in another blog post (and that’s another clue). You decide.

 

How do you think you went?

Answers next week.

Saturday night

If you’ve read this blog in the past, you might know I’m a big fan of Jon English and David MacKay’s rock odyssey, Paris. It’s about the Trojan war.

A concept album came out in 1990, with John Parr (who sang Man in Motion, from St Elmo’s Fire) as Paris, and Sheila Parker as Helen of Troy. The album had some impressive talent on it—John Waters, Barry Humphries, Philip Quast, Doc Neeson, John Parr, Sheila Parker, Joe Fagin, Demis Roussos, David Atkins and Terence Donovan. It was backed by the London Symphony Orchestra and London Philharmonic Choir.

It’s one of the albums we listen to a lot when writing.

The show has been produced as an amateur musical since, but it has never been produced professionally.

Not until Music Theatre Melbourne (MTM) produced a four-show concert series.

Paris is a rock opera. I’d never even imagined it as concert. I mean, an orchestra in the back, a choir behind them, and the singers down the front.

It was great, and the singers were superb.

Afterwards, they all sang a Jon English song as a tribute. Fantastic.

More cat pictures, please

“And then Mrs Wiggles the cat, and Martha the girl, went up the ramp, and the spaceship took off.”

(If you haven’t recognised it, the title of this post is a play on Naomi Kritzer’s Cat Pictures Please, which won the 2016 Hugo and 2016 Locus Award for best short story, and was also a Nebula nominee for the same. You can read it on Clarkesworld magazine.)

Sometimes, all you want is something beautiful, but the news is depressing and everywhere you look, people are doing horrible things to each other.  So, today, I present to you … cat (and dog) pictures.

It’s May. It must be Eurovision

It’s Eurovision time.

This year has gone fast. It seems only a few months back I was talking about last year’s Eurovision Song Contest. It’s one of the must-watch items on our television calendar, but lest you think all Australians watch it, they don’t.  Enough of us watch it that we’ve had an entrant in each of the last three years, but none of us know what we’d do if Australia won. (I know, we’re not part of Europe. As some journalist once said, just go with it.)  But it’s not a massive event on our social calendar. Not like, say Grand Final, or Melbourne Cup, which everyone watches.

We watch the final, which is on Sunday night Australian time.  It’s a delayed telecast, so we try not to watch until then. Or hear who won.  That’s why, as I post this, the competition is probably over, but I don’t know what’s happened yet, and I’m talking as if the semi-finals haven’t even happened.

So trends?  Men with high voices.  It felt like every second male sang high.

I’m a sucker for a power ballad.  There are a couple that get close, but no standout for me.  This year, my two stand-outs are songs that may not even make the finals.

How does rap yodel sound?

Ilinca, featuring Alex Florea, from Romania.

Or what about a little operatic background from Jaques Houdek, of Croatia? I’ve heard a version of this song without the deeper voice in the background.  I love the slightly-operatic version best.

Enjoy it, if you’re watching it. Have fun.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2

Yesterday we saw the Guardians of the Galaxy 2.

I’ve got a new favourite character.

I adore baby Groot.

The opening scene was gorgeous. A James Bond-style action sequence, with baby Groot dancing along to the music on the sidelines, and each of the main characters stopping in the middle of the battle to pick him up and take him out of danger.

Needless to say, I enjoyed the movie.

As I sat there, watching some of the fight scenes, I couldn’t help being a little envious.  In a movie like Guardians of the Galaxy, the fight scenes are over the top.  A novelist has to justify the odds.  If your characters are fighting and they’re outnumbered or out-skilled, you have to explain how they can win.

(Obviously, this thought comes directly from the fact that we struggled to have our protagonists in our next book win some of the fights when they’re up against some superior forces.)

Stay right till the end of the credits to see all the codas, .

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Quiz Time—Fantasy Whodunnit

I love a good mystery novel. Even better, I love a good speculative fiction whodunnit.

Time for a quiz, I thought.  Science fiction mystery novels.

So I started writing the quiz.  Isaac Asimov’s Caves of Steel, Vernor Vinge’s Marooned in Real Time.  They were easy.

I need a minimum of five novels for a quiz.  I googled some more. And stopped, realising that I hadn’t read many of the more modern science fiction mysteries.

O…kay.  Science fiction mystery quiz on hold until I’ve read more of the SF mysteries that have been released in the last ten years, not in the last fifty.

But … I have read some fantasy mysteries more recently.  So, let’s do a quiz about that instead.

This is a mix of urban fantasy, Flintlock fantasy, and what I would call traditional fantasy.  They’re not all murder mysteries.  In at least one of the stories, it’s not a traditional murder but the protagonist is searching for someone. (And that’s as many clues as you get.  🙂 )

These books are from our bookshelves.

Mystery One

Someone is disembowelling children.  Not only that, they’re tattooing the arms (and thighs) of the victims, from wrist to elbow.  I’m from the local policing force; young, but I’ve been around the force a while.  My two companions in the investigation are the man who killed my friends when I was younger (not happy about him being along, as you can imagine), and a dragon.

Mystery Two

I am a constable at the Met (London Metropolitan Police).  While standing guard over a murder site one morning (the victim was beheaded), I speak to a witness.  There’s just a slight problem.  The witness is dead.

Mystery Three

I make a living finding dead people, seeing how they died.  In this first job I get called in to find the body of a missing woman who was murdered in what appears to be a murder-suicide.  Except it wasn’t. It turns out both the victims were murdered.  And in fact, the female victim’s sister was also murdered (a few months earlier).

Mystery Four

I am a disgraced magician.  I draw pictures that tell the truth.  I am forced into taking a lowly-paid job with the town coroner, sketching the newly deceased. My truthful sketch of a young, dead girl shows the child was from a wealthy family, and murdered.

Mystery Five

I live a double life as both myself and my private detective twin brother.  I take a job hunting for a missing aristocrat, who has run off with a mysterious machine that everyone, including the all-powerful Patent Office, is looking for.

How did you go?

Answers next week.

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We’re back

The flight is only eight hours, and the time difference between the two cities is 2-3 hours (depending on daylight saving) so we shouldn’t be jet-lagged, but Singapore Airlines was determined to feed us. By the time we’d had dinner and settled, it was midnight, and they woke us at 4:00am to start breakfast.

We’re home from our international travels. A little bit tired. It’s an overnight trip from Singapore, leaving at 9pm, getting back into Melbourne at 6am. I even manged a couple of hours sleep, but we’re still sleeping most of today. Overnight travel drains you.

We’ve some local travel still to do (then back to work after Easter, sigh), but we’re back with consistent internet access. I can’t believe how much I rely on (reasonably priced) internet access nowadays.

We’ve a few comments and mails from readers. We’ll start replying to those as soon as we’re coherent enough to form full sentences.

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Still relaxing

The view from the bar on deck eleven. It’s the first real cloudy day we’ve had. No rain though.

I’m sitting in a bar on deck eleven. Behind me, two women have a private dance class.  They’re dancing to Footloose.  I’m not even watching. I’m sitting, facing a full window.  There’s a little patch of grass outside. I can’t determine if it’s real or fake.  It looks real, but I cannot possibly see how the crew can maintain it, so it’s probably fake.  But it’s the realest looking fake grass I have ever seen.

Past that is the sea, and off in the distance I can see land. (I think. I need binoculars to be certain.)  Everyone is at lunch, so up here on the eleventh deck it’s blissfully peaceful.

We’re cruising, and life is relaxing.

The South China Sea is like a millpond.  It’s funny to realise that although we’ve cruised before, we’ve always cruised on the ocean.  This is our first sea, and the ship doesn’t roll much at all.  (This ship is so smooth you can’t even tell when it moves away from port unless you’re actually watching.)

We’re into the last week of our overseas holiday.   Next week we’ll be jet-lagged, but home.

It will be good for the blog, at least. On holiday, it’s hard to think of anything but holiday posts. 🙂

Sailing out of Singapore

There are a lot of boats in Singapore harbor.

Sailing out of Singapore. Boats everywhere. Or do I call them ships?

Our internet will be a little erratic for the next two weeks.