Wednesday, September 5, 2018

I May Not Know Art.....

One of the reasons I started reading science fiction was the cover art.

I loved it, back in the seventies, when the spaceships were unusual shapes and bright colours against dramatic spacescapes. Chris Foss, who I was fortunate enough to meet a couple of years ago, soon became a favourite cover artist. I don't recall if I was aware of who he was, but I could easily recognise his work. Then there were other, more metaphoric designs for SF books. Some I loved, others I merely appreciated. Photographed covers have aged the worse. Even back then photos of model aliens or men in silver suits look dated. I seem to recall a photographed Stainless Steel Rat cover that was terrible.

So for me it was illustration, preferable paintings. Unfortunately for me, they seem to have died off as the primary source of cover art.
Recently I had a conversation with a writer who told me about the economics involved. It's cheaper to buy and crop stock artwork than commission new. It's even cheaper to buy digital manipulated pictures than buy paintings. And with the unrelenting tsunami of self published mediocrity, the standard of cover art has fallen even further.

I know graphic artists who are in competition with anyone who has access to Photoshop, regardless of the quality. New writers self publishing a story manipulate a couple of pictures, throw on text and away they go.

Here's a clue. Many of these look cheap and nasty and entice no one.

I really miss those painted covers. They had a quality missing in the digital age. I understand a painting is not going to be affordable, but at the very least hire someone trained in design to direct the art on the cover.

Me? Well, you'll find me over here gazing at my Asimov's and Harrison's and dreaming of yellow and black checked starships against enormous nebulae.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Not All Are Equal.

Despite what Goodreads and Amazon reviews may suggest, not all publishers are equal.

I recently read an anthology from a small press, one that was given to me a couple of years ago. I'd heard good thing about this publisher, and I have no reason to believe they are anything but honest and supportive of their writers. This particular book had excellent reviews and ratings on the above mentioned websites, and I was looking forward to delving into this particular collection.

4.5 stars?  Give me a break. Family and friends, and possibly authors themselves, bumping up ratings.

As you may have surmised, I found it was well below average.
There were misspellings, sentences that were incoherent, absent punctuation, swapped homonyms, and generally sloppy layout. Editing? I wonder if that even occurred. Oh, and most of the stories were just poorly written.

I'm not even sure if this press is still operating. I haven't heard them mentioned in a while and I haven't googled. If they are, I wish them well and hope they have improved.

Your product is your greatest advertising. People won't buy a second if they are underwhelmed by the first. And, of course, this is the same for writers. Send out your best work, polish it and proofread to make sure it's close to perfect. Choose where you allow your work to be seen.

I guess this is one of the reasons I have decided to not go down the self-publishing road. The whitenoise of mediocrity is deafening. I have yet to personally stumble across any self-published work that I would consider recommending. I am sure they exist, and I know of the famous exceptions, but they are the tiniest of minorities. I don't even bother anymore.

And please, don't self publish then tell me you did so because your work has been rejected everywhere. It's hardly a glowing endorsement. Yes, editors and publishers make mistakes or reject stories that don't suit them, but maybe, just maybe, there's a reason no one wanted to buy your work.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Another Con Down, Another Con to Go.

I went to Edge Lit 7 last weekend, a fabulous mini-convention held in Derby. It's a one day affair, with some great guests, panels and workshops. I've been before, as well to it's November counterpart, Sledge-Lit, and always had a good time.

I travelled up with Andy Remic, which was a joy as always. We talked life, books and writing. Lots of writing. We're friends, but I also enjoy reading his work. He's a great writer with a long, established career, and it's a privilege to spend time in his company and be offered writing advice from him. (Which usually commences with 'Cameron, have you started writing a novel yet?)

A few of the friends I traditionally catch up with weren't able to attend. Work, life, and in one case an offer to watch the World Cup. To be fair, it was an offer to travel to Europe to watch it on TV and I believe beer was involved. But there were others I was able to spend time with. I saw Selina briefly before she had to leave, was able to dine with Jay, which was great as always, and met Neil, Simon and Lucy, with whom Andy and I shared a drink or two.

I met some writerly types for the first time as well. Gav Thorpe, Anna Smith-Spark, Anna Stephens, RJ Barker, Paul Tremblay Stan Nicholls, Steve McHugh, and Adele Wearing, as well as a few others.

The panels I saw were great, I went to Andy Remic's workshop which could have been longer, and enjoyed the Gemmell Awards.

David Gemmell was a really well known fantasy author in the UK, but I'd never heard of him. Some told me his fame was limited in the US and Australia. I'm looking forward to investigating his writing.

Congratulations to Alex Davis and the team for the organisation. The weekend away inspired me. I came home and signed up for Fantasy Con in October. If you're going, it would be great to see you there. If you're not, why not?

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Lady Who Sings to the Dead.

I'm so very pleased to be back in the pages of Outposts of Beyond.  A great little magazine, containing novellas, short stories, flash fiction, poetry, articles and reviews. I feel privileged. This is the fifth time I've been published by Alban Lake, and I look forward to having a new shiny copy of this issue in my hands.

My story, The Lady Who Sings to the Dead, is set in Australia long after an apocalypse but in a non-technological time. This story occurs in the same world and many years following the events depicted in two of my other stories, The Last of the Butterflies and Fireflies.

I love this world I've created. I love visiting it and I love writing in it. I really like some of the people who populate it.

I imagine there are many more stories to be told. For the time being, however, you we have this one.


Table of contents:

The Lady Who Sings to the Dead by Steve Cameron
The One That Is All by Mike Adamson
The Voice of the Moroth by John Buentello & Lawrence Buentello
The Monster at the End of the World by Lee Clark Zumpe
The Steppenwolf Revisitation by Alan Ira Gordon
The Assassin Program by Christina Sng
The Quicksilver Wall by t.santitoro
The Unfolding by Melanie Smith
The Stories We Tell by Holly Day
Terran Vacations 2070 AD by Marge Simon
Water 2050 AD by Marge Simon
Meteor Shower BC by Marge Simon
The Ship by Marge Simon
The New Canadians  by Aaron W. Haney M.D.
Blade Runner 2049 Review by Kendall Evans
Integral Parts by Robert E. Porter

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Take Me Away....

Two weeks in the south of France does wonders for the soul, mind and body.

We drove there and back. It's kind of weird driving onto a train, sitting in the car for the 35 minute tunnel crossing, and then driving onto the wrong side of the road in France. Two weeks later we did the same trip in return, arriving home having added more than 3000 miles to the odometer.

Our dogs, faithful travelling companions both, were so well behaved. They sat on the back seat and loved every moment of the trip. I have to say though that a number of French dogs were enamoured of one in particular. Good thing she never gave out our phone number or address.

Driving in France is a pleasure. The roads are excellent, traffic flows well, and the scenery, drastically changing the further south you travel, is stunning. Then there's the food and wine. Fabulous. Just fabulous. And no, I did not add to my waistline. I was moderate in all my eating and drinking. I know, you're only concerned about my health.

Lots of scenery, lots of art and lots of history. The highlight for me was the Grottes préhistoriques de Cougnac, a series of caves with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites. But then, tucked away in the back, is a series of cave paintings. At least 25,000 years old. Primitive, artistic, and moving beyond belief. I could only stare, trying to take it all in. Photos not allowed, so I grabbed a few postcards. If you haven't seen them, then you've seen enough pictures in books, films and websites to get the idea. But those can in no way compare to the real thing.

(I thoroughly recommend the Werner Herzog documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams about the Chauvet caves, which have far more artwork than the Cougnac caves. For their preservation, however, they have been closed to the public for many years.

But at night, sitting outside under French skies and sipping red wine, I gazed at the stars and my mind turned to a prehistoric France. The people then, most likely my ancestors, saw the same stars and the same hills. How much has the landscape changed in 25,000 years? How much did they understand about the sky? There were certainly some different animals, the lifestyle was very different and the landscape too. But a few people left art that is still there now.

Yes, the holiday was also a time of self-reflection, and wonder and awe. And for me that makes for a pretty good break.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Gone, But Not Forgotten By All.

I worry sometimes that we're losing our past, our heritage.

Carson, Ross Ryan, Buffalo, Sid Rumpo, Co. Caine?

None of these will mean anything to most of you, and even if you are Australian the chances are you won't know them, or at least not have heard of them in a very long time.

These were all musicians in the early 70s. Well known at the time, and some of the members went on to other things. But now largely forgotten.

My last foray into an Australian music store had none of these available. Most of them have never even had their work released on CD. Even if it was, it was generally on a specialist re-issue label for a very short time.

I'm lucky to have a few friends who remember these acts. I also have a group of friends who have ripped their vinyl to CD and share them, as long as the music is well out of print and not available in any format. Yes, their first aim is to protect and support the artist. And that is exactly how it should be.

My dad played a lot of older music when I was young, so I have a love of crooners, big band, brass band, and even some country music. But having taught for a number of years it seems as though the past is largely forgotten by many young people. They were never exposed to it. Occasionally I has a student who would approach me when no one else was around to tell me they'd discovered some amazing "new" artist, such as Hendrix or Nirvana, and wondered if I'd ever heard of them. But these are big names, and I very rarely hear anyone mention any of the artists above, although I Am Pegasus gets the very occasional spin on Australian radio.

We need to make sure we don't lose our Arts heritage, whether it's a novel by George Turner, a Smiley film, or an old album by Blackfeather.

Explore the past. There are some real diamonds in there.

Monday, May 7, 2018

There's An Optimistic Vibe In The Air.

Spring has arrived, later than last year for sure, but it's finally here and making up for lost time. The skies are blue, the flowers are blooming and the grass needs cutting once again.

OK, that last one I'm not so keen on, but at least the grass isn't as tough as the grass back in Australia. Nor does it need cutting on a fortnightly basis.

The change in weather seemed quite sudden, and because of that the longer days also seemed to appear without much warning. One morning I realised I was waking at 5am (or earlier) simply because it was light outside.

For a number of reasons, and I'm sure the arrival of Spring is part of it, I feel really quite optimistic at the moment. I got to work with a spring in my step, a song in my heart, and a bunch of other cliches. Someone even mentioned they'd noticed I was whistling at work last week. I hadn't noticed it myself, although I know I whistle. Fortunately they told me they quite liked hearing it. I have, of course, become quite self-conscious in the office now and have stopped myself a couple of times as I was about to launch into song.

The writing continues, slowly, but this beast is being lashed into shape. I like where it's heading. I hope you will too.