31 July 2014

2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction

I was interviewed by Tehani Wessali (of FableCroft) for the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction.

30 July 2014


I have a long driveway.  The mailbox is down at the street, of course, and I get my keys out there and check the mail.  The key chain jingles and Pepper knows that sound and meets me halfway down the drive.  Her tail spins and curls and she bumps against my legs and the whole of her is foodfoodfood.  She'll keep doing that until I feed her.  Then she will hang about hopefully for more, spinning around my legs.

Pepper is black, and her coat is neither short nor long, and right now it is very thick because she likes to sleep outside.  Pepper is a rescued stray, and thinks piles of grass clippings make lovely beds - though she's settled down to using a cat bed on the back patio.  If you move when she's near she will jump away, in case you might happen to feel like kicking her, but she loves to be petted, and her curling tail spins and whirls.

She sleeps outside because Cinnamon hates her just a bit still, though it's no longer open war.

Cinnamon is a brown Burmese.  She came as part of a set, but Nutmeg disappeared.  They say cats won't know the difference if you never let them outdoors, and I always mentally replace 'cats' with 'children' and wonder how people know what indoor cats think, as they sit staring out the window at the world they don't miss.  But they're definitely safer indoors, and so is the wildlife.

Cinnamon can leap six foot straight into the air, and snatch a bird out of the sky.  I put that in my current book, though that cat is in disguise.

When I get home, Cinnamon will sometimes get up for food, and sometimes she won't bother.  She never hurries for food - she saves her energy for racing madly up and down corridors - and usually eats what little Pepper has left of her share.  Then she will come find me, for her right and just chin scritches and head rubs, and to settle herself on my lap while I use my computer.  Then she will sit by the heater.  Then on the top shelf of the cupboard.  And then on a towel on the heater.  And then she will wriggle her way underneath the quilt when I go to bed.  Cinnamon has short hair.  She's resting her chin on my arm as I type.

I am writing about my cats because I am going to be overseas for three months.  I don't travel often, and the longest I've been away from these two cats before was a week or two.  I boarded them at the vets those times.  They didn't like that.  This time, I am flying in a niece.

There's no way to explain UK walking holidays to cats.  They will think I am dead.

I have promised them bountiful head scritchings and treats when I return.  They don't understand that either, but hopefully the attention will go some small way to making up for the absence, for what we do to pets when we make ourselves central to their worlds, and then go away.

28 July 2014

An interesting development in piracy and scanlation

'Scanlation' is an online industry that grew up around the Western desire for Japanese manga and Korean manwha - entire libraries worth of fascinating pictorial stories, almost all of it not available in official, legal translation.  The demand and the rise of the internet soon led to the scanning and then translation of releases, posted online by 'scanlators'.

I call this an 'industry' because aggregators quickly sprang up, lifting the scanlations from individual scanlator sites and creating massive scanlation sites making an ad-fuelled fortune from all those manga-hungry clicks.  As a further response to this, a site called Batoto.net was created that combined aggregation with a system that allowed the original scanlator to receive the ad revenue.

But where were the original creators in all of this?

For a long time, nowhere but annoyed.  As anyone battling online piracy is aware, it's a hydra not worth your energy fighting.  And the majority of scanlations sat in a legal grey area, since there were no legal English translations available.  Some scanlations sites wouldn't host manga that was available in English-speaking versions - others didn't care.  And, like a lot of online piracy, it did serve an advertising function, leading to sales if and when English versions did become available.  I've certainly bought shelves of tankobon (manga volumes) for series I'm unlikely to have known about otherwise (though the official English translations were often of lower quality than the scanlations).

But still, it is piracy, even if it sits in a grey area, and that's something I generally try to avoid if I can get something legally.  I'm fairly sure that if various manga publishers set up an e-subscription model, even if it was untranslated, quite a few people would balance their consciences by subscribing to the manga they read in scanlation format.

Korean web comics (webtoons) sit in a slightly different area.  Increasingly popular in the last few years, they are hosted by ad-revenue sites such as Naver, and thus technically a Western reader who happens to read Korean can legally enjoy them.  This, of course, doesn't remove the need for scanlations for non-Korean speakers, but you could support the original webtoon by first reading through the Korean version, and then reading the English scanlation (or just a blog post with text translation).  Indeed, for some of the more popular webtoons, it's quite fun to sit up for the midnight chapter releases, talk about them on blogs, and then go to an aggregator later for a scanlation.

Naver, however, has taken this a step further.  Aware of their Western audience, and uncomfortable with the unofficial scanlations, they've started hosting English versions of their most popular webtoons at a site called Line.  [Note: the site seems to be optimised for viewing on smartphones, and you may end up with stretched images, so if you're reading on a pc, try this frame site.]

So, anyway, long story short, if you're curious about Korean webtoons, but want to read them legally, now you can!  Some of the scanlation of hundred-chapter webtoons has barely begun, but others have the full series available.  Unfortunately, as seems to be inevitable, the official translation is not fantastic - all the really formal characters have been translated using casual slang - but it's quite readable and the pictures are pretty.

This is Tower of God, which was one of my Hugo nominations this year.  Only 111 chapters!  Cast of millions!  Fun!

26 July 2014

Something short - All Foes

I'm not much into writing short stories.  They either turn into novels, or are simply moody little pieces.

This is one of the latter, up as a freebie on Smashwords.

13 July 2014

RPG neepery

The Core RPG Kickstarter is humming along nicely - looks like if support continues the tier that involves Touchstone will be hit in the next week or so!

Watching the process is bringing back a lot of RPG memories.  I started roleplaying in university and played through quite a few different systems - original rules D&D and then advanced editions. Vampire: the Masquerade.  TORG.  Paranoia.  My friends created their own system, adaptable to any setting, and Core reminds me very much of that, of the focus on the story and taking settings and running with them.

I eventually drew back from roleplaying because the stories could get too interesting, and I started thinking about the RPG world instead of my own.  My friends were way too good at telling stories!

I still have quite a few old character sheets lying about, and was admiring the little business card sized sheets of the Core system (not least for the very cool picture).

With a dice function on my phone and my character sheet tucked into a pocket of the phone case, I'd be ready to play whenever.

08 July 2014

A kickstarter for the roleplaying Touchstone fans

For those of you who like a bit of tabletop RPG, you're sure to be interested in the Core Rules Kickstarter.  Created by Origin Award-winning game designer Lester Smith, the Core Rules system combines easy character creation with the settings of books, giving you both mechanics and worlds to fool around with.

Touchstone comes in on the Sci-Fi setting level, and if the Kickstarter reaches that level you'll get the basic systems of the Touchstone Trilogy as part of the settings guides (ie. a breakdown of the powers, the places, and the types of missions available).  [And I'll get to write that part of the setting guide! ;) ]

I'm not otherwise involved with the Core Rules or Popcorn Press, but for those who loved the world of Touchstone and want to play around in it (or just like tabletop gaming and can never have too many rulebooks!), check it out!

Touchstone Trilogy - French Edition

Some news for the Touchstone fans. The wonderful Justine of Seraminda Editions has faced down the truly daunting task of translating Cass...