Cleansing fires

Clarion South: the perspective of hindsight

Clarion forced my hand on three things – it made me work, it made me socialise, and it caused arguments. The results of all three have ultimately been worth it. Now with a few months of looking back, I know there is so much I could have done better while at Clarion. But more than that, I see the mistakes I made, and can clearly identify with the perspective granted by time why I wouldn’t change any of those mistakes, except one.

I feel I’ve learned considerably from Clarion, the good and bad of it all. It’s more than Clarion though, it’s everything that came after. Clarion was a catalyst. It confirmed some things, opened my eyes and new doorways, and forced me to confront parts of myself I never knew existed. The time from Clarion through to Conflux (January to April) has been like a cleansing fire for the soul. Clarion South, conventions, Shadowed Realms, anthologies, editing & revision, university – all of these events/experiences have shaped me into a writer, editor, partner, and person who knows exactly where he’s heading. Those cleansing fires burnt away much of the unnecessary, leaving a charred skeleton, a nucleus, from which I’m building a new life, and heading in a real direction (with a destination!). It’s all very empowering.

I firmly believe there is no such thing as a negative experience. It’s just an experience. It’s how you shape yourself around that experience which develops your character.

If nothing else, these experiences, and this period of my life, has spurred me into action. I find myself enjoyably knee deep in revising my own stories. The cool thing is I see how much better they’ve come out with my increased editing knowledge. Then Ange culls them – we now have an agreement that she is to ‘murder my darlings’ on sight. Two of my Clarion stories have had the treatment, and now Midnight on the Jetty, my story sold to The Book of Dark Wisdom, is receiving a going over. Ange always loved the original version, but the revised version (with bonus news story at the end!) is simply superior in every way. I’m very pleased it won’t be published for a while yet, which has given me a good chance to make it something I’m proud of once more.


Speaking of news stories, I received word that my last Journalism assignment rated a High Distinction, and has so impressed the lecturer that she will be using it as the exemplar to other students. Woot!

I’m definitely struggling with uni, but from a different point of view. I want to be challenged, and yet I can’t afford to invest the time to tackle a challenging set of units. Fortunately the first semester is drawing to a close this week, which will allow me to focus on writing for a while. I have three assignments yet to be graded, and a final test to be submitted on Monday, but other than that, I’m cruising especially well. The last Creative Writing assignment was a killer – a portfolio which turned out to be 70 pages of original work, plus another 20 pages of revised work.

I’m pleased to say that all up, I am holding a Distinction average across the course, with my worst grade being a Credit. I’m not too sure what mark/percentage this is, but it sounds cool enough. It seems I have a talent for writing academic tom-foolery.

Editing goodness
I’ve been helping out ad hoc with the imminent release of Shadowed Realms #5, which is always my pleasure. Ange is running a very tight ship, and I reckon she’s doing an excellent job, considering the other projects she has simmering away on the hotplate right now.

For me, well, Nigel’s plans for Tales from the Sunburnt Realm look very exciting, as does the artwork and the first few stories I’ve seen.

I also expect to make an editing-related announcement very, very soon. This project looks groovy – stay tuned.


Thylacon is now only a week away and there appears to be a billion things we still need to do! Then there’s Continuum!!! I think my time will be a little on the sparse side…

Here’s the latest info on the panels Ange and I will be contributing to:

Are we ready to embrace the e-book? SUNDAY 4.10pm
Zara Baxter (chair), Steve Lazarowitz, Alison Barton, Shane Jiraiya Cummings

Centrelink 2050 – what jobs will we lose to the new technologies? SUNDAY 7pm
Andrew Finch(chair), Monissa Whiteley, Shane Jiraiya Cummings

Would you clone a thylacine? MONDAY 9.30am
Where are we going with clone technology?
Robert Hoge (chair), Michelle Marquardt, Angela Challis

CONTINUUM: (times to be confirmed)
Scary Movies: Thriller vs Splatter
A look at movies that actually scare people even though the graphic content is relatively low as well as movies that have a high splatter content that don’t scare anyone.
Paul Poulton, Kirstyn McDermott, Shane Jiraiya Cummings

Is Blogging the Fanzine for the 21st Century?
Everyone seems to have a blog or a live journal these days. Are blogs replacing fanzines?
Fiona McLennan, Medge, James Allen, Shane Jiraiya Cummings

Reinventing the Creation Myth: Gods and Monsters
How we interpret our gods and our monsters in a world in which good and evil no longer seem as cut and dried, nothing seems quite genuine or real, ideals and meanings shift, and why things like gods and monsters are so important to us in fiction today.
Neil Gaiman, Robin Hobb, Cameron Rogers, Jenny Blackford, Shane Jiraiya Cummings

The Launch of the Horror Writers Association/Shadowed Realms
The launch of the Australian Horror Writers Association, the winning stories for the inaugural SS competition and launch of the C3/AHWA issue of Shadowed Realms.
Kim Wilkins, Richard Harland, Marty Young, Carl Schaller, Mick Piemontese, Angela Challis, Shane Jiraiya Cummings

Yes, there are no typos (except Ange was named ‘Tallis’ for a while…). One of the benefits to becoming a writer is sharing panel space with the likes of Kim Wilkins, Richard Harland, Robin Hobb and Neil Gaiman.

Fun times ahead.