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ben peek
Posted on Sunday, January 29, 2006 - 11:16 pm:   

My review of the fifteen short story finalists in the science fiction, fantasy, and horror categories of the Aurealis Award is up at Strange Horizons. It's called 'Scalpels and Surgical Masks: A Review of the Aurealis Awards Short Fiction Finalists' which is a bit of a mouthful, I know, but there you go. So, go and read, and digest, and speak.
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Ben Payne
Posted on Monday, January 30, 2006 - 12:49 am:   

Phew, that was exhausting!

I agree with you on some of the stories, but not on others... I really enjoyed Memory of Breathing, for example... but hey, taste is taste and all that...

As you know, I find your opinions of the awards themselves oversimplistic, and overly negative, but that's an argument we have had before so I'll leave it to others to argue (or not) here:-)

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Jonathan
Posted on Monday, January 30, 2006 - 02:10 am:   

Any reason you didn't cover the YA and children's short fiction categories? And, any thought of covering the novels.

J
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ben peek
Posted on Monday, January 30, 2006 - 02:15 am:   

it was kinda big, wasn't it? i actually tried to keep it under two thouand words, but an intro to the awards, and pretty much equal time devoted to all... it was double that, lets say.

i was really surprised by 'memory of breathing'. i'd heard the reputation it had, expected something at the very least solid. at first i thought it was a case of expectations and such, so i ran it by about five people, all different ages, different backgrounds, not telling them my opinion first. all the responses were negative. but, as you say, taste is taste, and a lot of other people have liked it so what can you say?

you're welcome to put up your opinions on the awards, man, but i'm not going to argue them with you. that's not my battle to fight. i don't much like any award, and i think they're all flawed, and these days i wonder if the benefits outway those. but a lot of people think different there, too, and that's cool, and i certainly wouldn't rob them of their opinion.
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ben peek
Posted on Monday, January 30, 2006 - 02:18 am:   

hey jonathan--

time, really. size, as well. niall considered splitting this in half, and all that other stuff would no doubt take up a huge amount of space. plus, i don't think i'm the best person for YA stuff. it's not an area i have much background knowledge in. as for the novels, simply time. i have a thesis due in the middle of march--no time for fifteen, twenty novels :-)
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Jonathan
Posted on Monday, January 30, 2006 - 02:52 am:   

Well, it'd be nice if it all lead to the administators reviewing the awards, but I consider that unlikely. I mean, who needs ALL of those awards?!?
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ben peek
Posted on Monday, January 30, 2006 - 03:19 am:   

it seems a lot to me, and largely unnecessary at that. i reckon you only need adult and children divisions, but obviously people reckon different.
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Anonymous
Posted on Monday, January 30, 2006 - 03:36 am:   

Curiously, what is the basis for selecting a judge?

Also, what is the judging criteria - idea, style, structure, etc?

A passerby.
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Ben Payne
Posted on Monday, January 30, 2006 - 11:48 am:   

I don't really have a problem with the different categories... it's only three, really, if you're looking at adult fiction... *shrug*... even my limited attention span can cope with three... but if that's overload, people can just read the Golden Aurealis list, or the list of winners... it's not like anyone gets *forced* to read them all...

APB, I can't speak with any authority on the selection criteria, but I know the Awards put out a call for expressions of interest every year... I imagine the criteria changes based on the applications they receive etc...

Regarding judging criteria, all of those things and more... there's no strict criteria, nor should there be imho, because that's not how reading works...

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ben peek
Posted on Monday, January 30, 2006 - 11:01 pm:   

i sort of wonder why people bother with the categories if a clear favourite can be picked. but it also strikes me that the categories are problematic because quite often there are stories you'd consider in the wrong category. but mostly, i reckon, the golden aurealis kind of suggests they're no necessary.

just me, though.
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Anonymous
Posted on Tuesday, January 31, 2006 - 02:06 am:   

Ben Payne: '...that's not how reading works...'

But, that's how a competition works.

A passerby.
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Geoffrey Maloney
Posted on Tuesday, January 31, 2006 - 02:55 am:   

Ben

That's a really well written article. I congratulate you for the amount of work you've put into it. I can't comment on everything you said as there are a few stories that I haven't read. I agree with you about the horror category. It's just bizarre this year.

I'm also puzzled by the fact that stories from Aurealis 36 were nominated when it still doesn't appear to have been distributed. The late distribution of the previous issue of Aurealis last year meant that it was held over to this year's awards. On that basis not sure why the latest issue of Aurealis wasn't held over to next year's awards.
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Geoffrey Maloney
Posted on Tuesday, January 31, 2006 - 03:26 am:   

Actually, I forgot to mention the biggest omission by far from this year's awards: Kaaron Warren's The Grinding House -- her novella from her collection of the same name. It could have been in the SF category, but would have been an easy nomination in the horror category.
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ben peek
Posted on Tuesday, January 31, 2006 - 05:39 am:   

geoff: thank's for the nice words, man.

i don't know how aurealis 36 got there, either. it would have been easy to check if the issue had come out, for example, before the awards were nominated. if not, just withdraw, go to a couple of other stories. indeed, i don't even think the issue is out now--though i might be wrong about this.

the horror category was very weak, overall, and the fiction all very small. it's no surprise kaaron's novella wasn't there--i don't think the size appeared to the judges. i think they liked short, sharp fiction this year.
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ben peek
Posted on Tuesday, January 31, 2006 - 05:42 am:   

er. appealed, not appeared.
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Ben Payne
Posted on Tuesday, January 31, 2006 - 11:58 am:   

APB, I don't know, I just don't think that dividing a story up into style, structure etc and assigning a score for each would necessarily help in the judging process... but maybe that's just me... I'm sure each judge has their own methods and what works for one doesn't work for another... I don't think you can say a judging process will always function in a set manner...


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Damien Warman
Posted on Tuesday, January 31, 2006 - 11:24 pm:   

Geoffrey: if by "omission" of Kaaron Warren's The Grinding House you mean "wasn't shortlisted", well, I have no comment; if by omission you mean "wasn't nominated", you are mistaken: it was entered for both sf and horror. See http://www.fantasticqueensland.com/~aurealisawards/enteredworks.html
Cheers,
damien
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Geoffrey Maloney
Posted on Wednesday, February 01, 2006 - 02:27 am:   

Damien, I meant wasn't shortlisted. The rules for the AAs make it clear that stories must be nominated to the award judges before they can be considered/nominated for the short list. If Kaaron Warren's stories hadn't been entered in the awards then it would have been the fault of Kaaron or her publish for failing to do so. And I wouldn't have mentioned it. So the omission I mentioned is an omission from the short list. Not sure if you are intending to be deliberately pedantic or you took some sort of umbrage merely because I raised the issue. Kind of a strange post, Damien.
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ben peek
Posted on Wednesday, February 01, 2006 - 05:03 am:   

geoff, i just think he was going on the nomination thing. damien was one of the judges and they're coping a bit of flak over the nomination stuff, i guess. so that's probably why he mentioned it.
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Damien Warman
Posted on Wednesday, February 01, 2006 - 07:08 pm:   

Geoff, no umbrage taken. It seems likely that some author's were "overlooked" this year in the sense that the works were not nominated and distributed to judges. To say that a judging panel "overlooked" an entered work is to say that you disagree with their decision: I have no problem with someone disagreeing with the judges' choice, although I (am more or less required to) reserve my own opinion because I was a judge. Because of the two uses of the word "overlooked" in current Aurealis debates, I wanted to clarify. I am certainly being pedantic, and probably even pompous.

You write "the rules make it clear that stories must be nominated": I submit that although clearly stated, this was not widely known. I think it worth repeating that anyone can nominate a work, and I confidently expect that future Aurealis admins will continue to work hard to help judges cover the field.
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Geoffrey Maloney
Posted on Thursday, February 02, 2006 - 04:01 am:   

Thanks for clearing that up, Damien. I have no problem with the Aurealis Award rules. They were clearly stated. And I think that it is reasonable that stories should be nominated. There is so much getting published that nobody should be expected to keep up with it, off their own bat. I disagree with comments that such and such story wasn't even considered if it wasn't entered. The simple answer is that the publisher or writer should have entered it in the awards. I entered 30 or so stories into the Awards for The Devil in Brisbane. We didn't get a guernsey on any of the short lists. So be it.

I was simply disagreeing with the horror judges choice. I actually really like some of the stories on the list, but the best story in my opinion was allowed to get away. The Grinding House had a huge plot, huge amounts of character development, great world building, everything that a good story should be. It's not on a short list. I find that bizarre.


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ben peek
Posted on Thursday, February 02, 2006 - 02:15 pm:   

There is so much getting published that nobody should be expected to keep up with it, off their own bat. I disagree with comments that such and such story wasn't even considered if it wasn't entered.

yeah, but if it wasn't entered, it wasn't considered, right?

the story consideration thing is a bit like flogging a dead horse right now, so i'm not looking to restart the debate, but it should be noted that it's been suggested to be that something close to three quarters of the fiction available wasn't even given to judges to read. that's a lot of missing fiction, that.
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Damien Warman
Posted on Thursday, February 02, 2006 - 03:58 pm:   

Three-quarters, Ben? Wow.

So, where are these other 450 fantasy shorts by Aussies being published? Or the missing 300 horror shorts? (heh, horror shorts). Are Aussies really publishing more than 5 specfic pieces a day? Cos if they are, we are clearly missing most of the venues, let alone individual stories, and the award really does look a little impoverished.

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ben peek
Posted on Thursday, February 02, 2006 - 06:00 pm:   

this is a number that cat sparks told me, and she got it from bill congreve, who does the year's best. so by all means take it with the grain of salt that such a pass on comes, though i repeat the info here cause i know cat and bill, and i know they're both standup people, and wouldn't just say it.

as for the five places, yeah, they are. there are a lot of borderline publications in the country like meanjin, overland, and southerly, who do that mainstream, lit fantasy things. (not all the time, of course.) plus, there are the overseas magazines outside the sci-fi.com, places in canada, the states, and england where australians appear. dedman had stuff in the brutarian, for example (though it wouldn't surprise me if this got subbed in), and there were undoubtably others i have no idea about. i'll see if i can get bill or michelle to come here. maybe they can clear it up.
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Bill Congreve
Posted on Thursday, February 02, 2006 - 07:03 pm:   

Hello all,

For the record, for our Year's Best Australian SF and Fantasy, Michelle and I found record of about 490 short stories by Australians this year, and we managed to track down and read about 480 of them. Undoubtably there's a number we missed. Quite a number of these are flash fiction, but the AAs consider flash fiction. But there are also whole collections and anthologies that have been missed altogether. And websites. You've really never heard of SciFiction?

I took the liberty of downloading and sorting the Aurealis award submission spreadsheets, and removing those doubled up and not yet published. Total is 185 across all five categories.

What I find annoying, and I'm speaking as a five times AA judge, is the current attitude that what is submitted to the AAs is the problem of everybody but the AA administration. Surely, it's got your name on it, it's your responsibility?

We are not so large a field in this country that we can't be inclusive, and bickering over a set of rules that make the responsibility for the credibility of the awards, everybody's problem but that of the AA's administration, does nobody credit.

To conclude: short stories = major problem. Novels? The awards seem to have done fairly well. But when a novel is published as mainstream, rather than in the genre, there's no mechanism at work to bring the book into the awards. The publisher doesn't consider the awards, and the award folk haven't heard of the book. Here there's no substitute for research, on the part of somebody. SF bookshops deal with this issue on a weekly basis. Why not subscribe to one of the bookshop new relase catalogues? And read it?

The horror field? The AAs have always had a credibility gap. For instance, last year an Australian won the International Horror Guild Award for best first novel. The AAs have never even heard of the book or author. And this year? Announcing no award and then giving a highly commended? What a way to gratuitously insult an author and publisher. The sad thing is, the horror AAs have done this one before -- about a decade ago.

Anyhow, shouldn't go off like this without doing something about it. Next year we'll make our research available at regular intervals during the year. And everybody, if there's a novel or collection out there the AAs should know about, tell them. They aren't mind readers either. The reason why the nominations were introduced is this same arguement we're having now. Everybody expected the AA judges to know everything and writers would assume, because of their reputations, etc, that everything they published in any obscure corner of the world would be considered without them having to tell anybody it existed. Nominations were an attempt to move some of the responsibility to authors and publishers. But this has then removed responsibility from the admittedly over-worked and underpaid judges. But neither system has worked. Ultimately, getting something considered by the awards is everybody's responsibility, if everybody wants the AAs to be representative. Nothing like keeping your eyes open.
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Damien Warman
Posted on Thursday, February 02, 2006 - 08:21 pm:   

Hi Bill,

I'd be extremely interested to see your research; I'll write to you separately about that.

The nominated works numbers seem to suggest that there's support for Ben Peek's idea that the categorisation is unnecessary: if there are 185 separate works across the short categories, and 165 were entered for fantasy (which is what I read), then maybe we only need a fantasy category. On the other hand, I wonder how the remaining 490-185 = 300 stories split...
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Ben Payne
Posted on Thursday, February 02, 2006 - 11:54 pm:   

Bill,

While I do agree with you to a large extent, I'm wary about swinging percentages like that when Antipodean SF swings the numbers so majorly.

I believe they should have been considered, of course, but I don't think that the percentages would be nearly as bad if you considered wordage as opposed to stories considered.

Which is to say, I think the authors who have been nominated should still feel proud of their achievements.

I don't doubt that the reason Antipodean stories weren't included was because of the necessity of supplying hard copies, which is something that needs to be addressed this year.

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Ben Payne
Posted on Thursday, February 02, 2006 - 11:57 pm:   

PS. Bill, my own list of 2005's Australian publications is here:

http://www.geocities.com/aussfr/Lists.htm

I'd be interested in knowing if there's any I've missed (as there undoubtedly are)!

Email me if you want a copy.
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Bill Congreve
Posted on Friday, February 03, 2006 - 04:04 pm:   

Hi all,

Ben, your list of stuff, particularly the school magazines, push us towards 500. Yes, we must compare notes. Your list has about 330 stories, and you also list Antipodean and Shadowbox. I wonder why the AAs haven't used your research? The YA and childrens lists would be strongly boosted by the school magazine publications. There's loads more. And James Cain, who has submitted different stories to everybody...
Damien, there are a load of double ups. Okay 165 fantasy stories, a number of those were also considered as SF, and horror. Almost all your YA and children's stories were on the fantasy list. No problem with the multiple nominations, but there were, for instance, five Jack Dann Stories missed entirely, the anthology Kids Night In 2, Richard Spurling's issue of Horror Masters, The NSW WC Flash fiction competition winners published on their site. In my count, I've also dropped stuff which hasn't yet been published. All due respect Ben, but published means released to your audience, whatever that is, and Aurealis 36 has not been released yet. When will subscribers and contributors copies be shipped?

Regz
Bill
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Ben Payne
Posted on Friday, February 03, 2006 - 06:04 pm:   

I assume that the Antipodean stuff was known about, but that Ion simply couldn't afford to send hard copies of all the stories...

Which is something that needs to be rectified...

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Geoffrey Maloney
Posted on Saturday, February 04, 2006 - 03:02 am:   

I didn't nominate my flash fiction myself. I couldn't see anyway that it would be competitive. I didn't expect any one to nominate for me, either.

I was actually a bit pissed off when all the Devil in Brisbane authors expected me to nominate on their behalf, which I did. I told them what the rules were for the AAs and what they needed to do and they just went ga-ga.

I think it's the author's primary responsibility to nominate their work. If they don't, so be it.
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Ben Payne
Posted on Saturday, February 04, 2006 - 02:02 pm:   

Geoff, yeah, I've never bothered nominating my own Antipodean stories either. As you say, flash fiction has a hard time competing with longer stuff, and that was perhaps Ion's attitude too in not submitting them.

Generally, though, it's certainly in an author's best interest to nominate themself.

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Anon and Liking it
Posted on Saturday, February 04, 2006 - 06:24 pm:   

I think the biggest thing to remember is that no one gives a shit who wins this award. The first thing you need to do is figure out how to leverage the award to more prominence. Otherwise, this discussion is like a discussion carried out on a floating bathtub in the middle of an ocean, between a plumber, a miller, and a beer maker.

Anon
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ben peek
Posted on Sunday, February 05, 2006 - 01:42 pm:   

well, alright the anon and liking it (herefor referred to as ALI), how would you get the award more prominence?

there are probably people who'd argue you that there are those who do care who wins, but i'm not sure if people care outside the little scene down in aus.
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Anon and Liking it
Posted on Sunday, February 05, 2006 - 02:38 pm:   

Reduce the number of categories to something that makes sense.

Use high-profile guest judges and post their names on the site. Right now it might as well be Osama and his little brother Ed doing the judging for all anyone knows.

Change the rather weird nominating process, which makes the world come to the Aurealis rather than the other way around.

Get somebody who is an actual web design professional to design the Aurealis site. Right now it looks like somebody with a bit of html coding experience, no designer experience, and a real thing for the counter-intuitive did it.

Stop trying to make Fantastic Queensland the PR centerpiece of the site and the publicity. No one cares about Fantastic Queensland. That's regionalism at its worst. Yes, it's an Australian award, but that doesn't mean it has to seem provincial.

More carefully spell check the website so as to avoid embarrassment.


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ben peek
Posted on Sunday, February 05, 2006 - 03:15 pm:   

yeah, ALI, i really can't argue with any of that. people would argue that judges are a bit skint here, but i don't know why you can't go outside the country, or into english faculties, or to high profile writers...
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Geofrey Maloney
Posted on Thursday, February 09, 2006 - 03:36 am:   

Anon

And Fantastic Queensland tried to hijack the Devil in Brisbane launch as well. That said, I have huge problems with people signing on as Anonymous. So I won't be replying to anything you say in the future.
I often get into huge problems with what I say about Australian spec fic and Ben Peek maybe does too, but still we sign our name to them.
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Ben Payne
Posted on Thursday, February 09, 2006 - 12:28 pm:   

I agree that FQ should always be secondary to the awards themselves regarding publicity. But I for one (and I have no personal involvement in FQ) think they've done a great job. A couple of years ago the Aurealis Award ceremonies were consistently anticlimactic, with a couple of the winners present if you were lucky. In recent times, we've had the majority of them there, which is much better for the awards, imho.

Ben's right, judges are hard to find... understandably so, given the time commitment. As far as moving into universities, well, they *do* recruit judges from unis: they're the judges everyone says "Who's that? What right do they have to judge an award" about, as opposed to the higher-profile authors. That said, I wouldn't recruit anyone from an English faculty unless they had a knowledge of the genre, personally.

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ben peek
Posted on Thursday, February 09, 2006 - 03:26 pm:   

That said, I wouldn't recruit anyone from an English faculty unless they had a knowledge of the genre, personally.

i tend to think it would be interesting to have people who had a knowledge of literature, and of the craft of writing, myself. like, the mechanics of it. an actual knowledge of that. if they weren't so high up on the genre, it could be tempered by another judge who had, perhaps, less knowledge of the craft of writing.

it's an interesting thing, i think, that is sometimes missed when people look at genre writing they don't look at the actual craft with any real intensity. they look, rather, at how it works as a genre piece, while writing fiction is an artform in itself, with as many different forms and ways to do things as any artform of discipline, like science or painting, or whatever. there's no real judgement attached to that comment, mind, just one of those things i note every now and then. it's not across the board, of course, and not in everyone. just a thing in some folk.
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Geoffrey Maloney
Posted on Friday, February 10, 2006 - 03:24 am:   

Ben (Payne)

It was only last year the the AAs came to Queensland. "In recent times" suggests that FQ have run more than one Aurealis Award. They haven't. I suspect that when the awards where held in Melbourne that people who could easily attend down there thought they were very exciting too. I am afraid that this is just another exaggeration that is attributed to what Fantastic QLD do. Yes, they have done some really good stuff, but when they use that to try and say they should be involved in everything that anybody does in QLD it's just sad. Maybe it's because I'm only a recent import to QLD , having come from the southern states that I can easily see the distinction between FQ doing good stuff and FQ doing takeover stuff.
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Geoffrey Maloney
Posted on Friday, February 10, 2006 - 03:30 am:   

I agre with Ben (Peek) that people in Australia at least don't often look at the craft of a story. If it's well written enough (but not written well) and it's full on genre then it seems to go to the top of the list to be published. But hell Dan Brown's made a big career out of that with his thrillers. Clunky writtng; great thriller content.
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Ben Payne
Posted on Friday, February 10, 2006 - 03:04 pm:   

Hi Geoff,

Yeah, I was including this year's awards, as I know that a large number of nominees are going to be at this one too... regarding past ceremonies, I can only speak from second-hand knowledge, but I know that the frequent comments in reports were along the lines of "shame not many of the nominees/winners were there"...

That said, I'm aware that people like you have had problems with FQ, and fair enough. I certainly agree they shouldn't be pushing their own public image at the expense of anybody else.

Ben and Geoff, I agree it would be interesting to have people in there who knew more about the craft of stories. Perhaps, Ben, you meant creative writing faculties rather than English faculties... I did English Lit at Uni, and in my course, at least, there was little discussion of the craft of writing... it was more about the social context, politics etc... and fair enough, I don't have a problem with that... but I wouldn't necessarily pick my lecturers (who were generally good at what they did, imho) as people able to discern the quality of writing from a craft point of view... maybe they could, maybe they couldn't... I don't know...

That said, it's probably no more problematic than any other selection criteria, so maybe having, say, one academic on a panel, as you suggest, would work well.

Although I suspect most academics would baulk at the workload... I know all the lecturers at my Uni are overworked...
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ben peek
Posted on Friday, February 10, 2006 - 07:57 pm:   

Perhaps, Ben, you meant creative writing faculties rather than English faculties...

i didn't even know there were creative writing facultis, proper. my exprience of them has always been as part of the literature departments (i hate using that word english). but yeah, it's what i meant.
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Geoffrey Maloney
Posted on Saturday, February 11, 2006 - 04:09 am:   

Ben (Peek)

QLD's got great creative writing departments at its universities. I spent thirty odd years in Sydney and another nine in Canberra before I moved to Brisbane. It really is quite an amazing place. I can understand why FQ is so cocky about stuff (they just need to be a bit more subtle). It's a very supportive writing community and the lit snob stuff that happens in Sydney and Melbourne doesn't happen in QLD as far as I have seen.

This is good discussion. Thanks, guys, for keeping it moving.
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ben peek
Posted on Saturday, February 11, 2006 - 07:04 pm:   

geoff: i've always been under the impression that melbourne had a good arts community down there. a bunch of mags are government funded, after all, and it always seems to me a lot is going on.

i've never thought of fantastic queensland as cocky, but in fairness, i don't much hang in the circle so i don't see it. about the only thing i can say is that they seem keen on promoting themselves as an organisation and have a bit of a middle management feel at times in their decisions. no judgement in that, just what i've thought.

cool on the creative writing departments. if i didn't hate queensland as a place to live, i'd probably look into jobs there :-)
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Geoffrey Maloney
Posted on Sunday, February 12, 2006 - 03:32 am:   

Apart from it being hot most of the time what is there to hate about QLD or Brisbane? It's the best place I've ever lived and I lived in Sydney until I was in my middle thirties.
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ben peek
Posted on Sunday, February 12, 2006 - 03:21 pm:   

it's hot most of the time :-)

actually, i don't know why, but i generaly dislike brisbane. no real reason, just one of those things. plus, i really loathe the gold coast, and i naturally put that as something in queensland.

i've friends who live in bundaberg, though, and i don't mind that, as far as it goes. wouldn't want to live there, though.
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Geoffrey Maloney
Posted on Tuesday, February 14, 2006 - 03:48 am:   

The Gold Coast is the place we created just over the border to stop all the NSWalers from getting to the promised land. Those who don't like it get a free pass to the greater glories of QLD and the godhead of Noosa and beyond. Those who do like it get stuck there for all eternity. It's proven to be a very effective sytem so far. If you can't stop the invasion at the border then stop it in the next town. It's a traditional procedure.
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ben peek
Posted on Tuesday, February 14, 2006 - 01:22 pm:   

geoff, man, i like this thing called a city. you know, concrete, buildings, anonymity, and all that comes with that. wildlife bothers me--i try not to go beyond the border :-)

actually, on a more real but amusing side, the first time i was ever in queensland, i flipped on the telly that night and caught the news. the top story was about a guy who was going round killing people (or maiming them) by carving religious symbols into folk. that was a while back now so i'm not sure how much of that little memory has spun out of proportion or how much of it is just straight down the middle, but i swear, it's left a lingering memory about queensland in me. i can't shake the feeling that everyone up there is a crazy religious serial killer wannabe...

:-)
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Geoffrey Maloney
Posted on Friday, February 17, 2006 - 04:41 am:   

Ben, you should see the news we get about Sydney. People laugh up here and think it's just TV. Sadly, I have to tell them that although I distrust television what you see on TV is quite close to the reality. I probably just lived in bad places where crime was rampant and mixed with too many people where snobbishness was rampant as well. I liked neither of them. The reality of Brisbane is that it's nowhere near as fucked up as Sydney, but I'm sure that it'll get there one day.
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ben peek
Posted on Friday, February 17, 2006 - 08:48 pm:   

i dunno, geoff, i live in a pretty bad part of sydney. at least, reportedly, since i live smack in the middle of the western suburbs. it's never as bad as tv makes it out, but sydney does have its nice mix of crazed fuckers who shouldn't be seeing the sunshine, and elite snobs like it, as you say. but i like it anyhow. it's my home. i never felt at home anywhere else and i always feel good when returning to it.

of course, a heard a figure that sydney grows by a thousand people a week, or something like that. put that many people in it, that many cultures, and its bound to have its bad moments.
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Geoffrey Maloney
Posted on Saturday, March 11, 2006 - 04:43 am:   

Ben, you seem to have gone a bit lo-cal after the awards. After your big intro to the awards, I expected your final analysis. This is what happens when you set yourself up in such a big way. So deliver your verdict.
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ben peek
Posted on Saturday, March 11, 2006 - 09:23 pm:   

i've been busy, geoff. i had a thesis due in last week and it was a bit more time consuming than my opinions about an award.

that said, my opinions are all in the review and i stand by what i thought of the fiction. i thought that winners were going to be westwood, flinthart, and battersby. one out of three, in the end, though i was pleased for jameison and love, as i've liked both their work previously. i'm not sure how richard harland's story also got a win, or how it could be placed besides rosaleen love's and have both win, as the stories were quite different. but maybe that is how.

ultimately, though, what does it matter what i say? some fiction won, some fiction didn't. once an award has been decided it ceases to be even vaguely interesting because all the decisions have been made. so i'm not sure what you expect of me, or what you think i set myself up for.
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Geoffrey Maloney
Posted on Thursday, March 16, 2006 - 01:53 am:   

Ben, nothing more than a commentator on the awards and I'd expected after all the work you did up front that you'd round off the analysis afterwards. I didn't mean a set-up to fall if that's what you thought. It just seemed obvious to me that if you set-up an analysis like you did, you come back and conclude it later when the outcomes are known (given that there couldn't be any real conclusion to such an analysis before the results were known). We obviously studied in very different academic disciplines:-)
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ben peek
Posted on Thursday, March 16, 2006 - 04:12 am:   

i didn't think there was much a need for any conclusions. i'd said all i felt i had to say on it, and besides which, people are able to come up with those conclusions themselves and judge who is deserving and who is not. it's occasionally interesting to look at winners and see why they won over another, but it's rare when that is the case. generally speaking, it's for judges to sum up things.

reveiwing aurealis award nominations is hardly an academic persuit, anyhow. just a bit of fun and discussion. that stuff rarely has a place once the show is done and over with, y'know?
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Geoffrtey Maloney
Posted on Friday, March 17, 2006 - 03:25 am:   

So, you cop out of finishing off your analysis? It's not for the judges to sum up things. You set up the analysis of the awards. Yes, you did. Everybody paid attention. Everybody was listening.
You are refusing to conclude your analysis about the rewards. You present no conclusions. You do this in your writing. That's okay it's fiction. But when you choose to be the external judge on the awards , then we expect the external judges conclusion.

A failure to do this means you have no sense of duty and do not respect the people who have followed your argument up to now. Which I have.

Ben, in terms of your non-fiction right now,
you're looking like a crap artist. Made a big deal got your article published before the awards, made a big noise.

Live up to the responsibilty you created, or be a typical Sydney intellectual scumbag. Raise issues and don't give any answers. People in Sydney are famous for that crap.
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Shane Jiraiya Cummings
Posted on Friday, March 17, 2006 - 08:31 am:   

Geoff,

Let it die a natural death.
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ben peek
Posted on Saturday, March 18, 2006 - 02:57 am:   

geoff,

i seriously have no idea what you're on about. summing up? sum up of what? what did you actually think i did? i reviewed the short stories as they existed within the science fiction, fantasy, and horror categories. within the context of the review you can see which ones i favour, and which ones i do not, and that's that. if you can't see which ones i though were deserving of winning, then go back and reread it.

however, missing from that review are reviews of the nominated novels, the young adult, and the children's section. over half the eligible categories for the aurealis award as a whole was missed. the review was, instead, aimed squarely at the independent press and short fiction here. it was aimed here because i had a curiosity and because, currently, within this country, a history of critical voices in short fiction is severly lacking and compromised. i wrote a review of short fiction without compromise. i'll do it again and, if possible, i'll do it for next year's nominations in the same category.

but, outside that, you seriously can't be expecting me to make some grand summing up of *everything* within the award and make some statement of it, can you?

(and yes, i am aware that quite often people took what i reviewed as an indicator of the award as a whole. at the start i tried to scale that down to be able the specific independent, short fiction side that i'm interested in, and since no one has said i've done otherwise, i assume most people got that.)

so, in this situation, i have no idea what you expect from me. want me to sum up the awards? here: some people won.

as for my giving answers to you geoff, i'm not here to spoon feed you like a disabled child. use your mind. come to your own conclusions if you care that much about them. however, in the future, have some decency to be polite next time you're on this board.

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Ben Payne
Posted on Saturday, March 25, 2006 - 02:18 am:   

Geoff, Ben is definitely an atypical Sydney scumbag.

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Geoffrey Maloney
Posted on Saturday, March 25, 2006 - 02:44 am:   

Shane, I'll take your advice on this one. I've been away working which is why I'm late to come back. But I still think that Ben has failed to do the analysis, which he set up. I'm really disappointed, that Ben has done this, but I'll let it go.

I'm kind of cringing here with Ben's references to disabled children. That's just weird.

And I think the fact that Ben even said that I should use my mind means that I have been using it too much. What? I can't review the guy who's been analysing the AAs. Of course, I can.

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Geoffrey Maloney
Posted on Saturday, March 25, 2006 - 03:04 am:   

Ben, If I must be polite to post on your board again , then I probably won't bother posting in the future. However, you might want to tell us all about what the rules are for posting on your board.

If this bulletin board is your own private dictarship then tell us. And people will stop posting.
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Ben Payne
Posted on Saturday, March 25, 2006 - 03:07 am:   

Geoff, I kinda agree with Ben, insofar as I'm not sure where he could have taken his analysis from where it was...

His review pretty much covered his opinion of the stories... I think any kind of summing up would have been kinda short and pretty much "yeah, agreed, nah, didn't"... not sure it would have contributed much.

Then again, perhaps you had something different in mind...
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Saturday, March 25, 2006 - 12:37 pm:   

Geoff,
My back went up when you wrote: "or be a typical Sydney intellectual scumbag."--that seems a bit out of line to me, although not being an Aussie, maybe it was meant as a joke I missed.
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ben peek
Posted on Saturday, March 25, 2006 - 01:06 pm:   

geoff--

there aren't a whole lot of rules for this board, but i won't deal with name calling on it. it makes me slap out. now, i don't have a problem with people giving opinions, or even questioning what i've done. it's a free world, and as can be seen by your original questions, i had no prob, and i answered honestly. in this, me and you, we're just not on the same page. that happens. let it go, have a beer, time for something new.

however, typical sydney intellectual scumbag was a personal slag. you made your point without it. so do me a favour and leave that stuff off the board.
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Geoffrey Maloney
Posted on Wednesday, March 29, 2006 - 03:23 am:   

I should have dropped the "scumbag" tag. I admit that and apologise for using it, although since I've left those Sydney-centric circles I've been called worst names than that.

Sorry, Ellen, it is a joke, but a mean one. I apologise for using it. I lived in Sydney for 30 odd years and believed in the cultural arrogance of the place, when I was there. The dynamic of Sydney, especially the people who have been tertiary educated, is that it leads you to believe that you can comment and make all the critical conclusions you like about anything else that is happening across the country without ever doing anything to improve what you criticise.

Once you are outside of Sydney you realise this is not true. I supported Ben when he first did his setup analysis. And it was a set up analysis in my book. As I have said before he needed to come back and conclude his analysis after the awards where concluded.

He didn't do it. And I am now left agreeing with people in WA that Ben might have written that article simply because he wasn't nominated for an award.

And, if the Russian Princess story had been nominated for an AA and I'd been on the committee for it, it would have had my vote.

I take the scumbag word back, I honestly do. The rest stands however.

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ben peek
Posted on Wednesday, March 29, 2006 - 03:19 pm:   

geoff--

i think you miss what criticism is (while also being unnecessarily biased against 'literary educated' people in sydney). criticism is a commentary on something, not a guide to fix it. people criticised me for not offering a step by step guide for how to fix the award, but what place did it have there? award fixing is a game for middle management, not criticism. if you're lucky, people read the criticism and see points that could be improved on, and they sit round and discuss that, or they just read the criticism of this years choices and leave it at that. now, you obviously think i've been doing something more than i have, and i can't help you with that, cause we're on the wrong pages here. i don't see that i could say anything beyond who won and who i thought should win, and that can be seen in the original article. but i've already said this, so i'm repeating myself, i guess.

as for the opinion of those in western australia, well... those opinions aren't exactly new. i knew they'd come when the article got published and they did. considering the sheer amount of award stroking/pimping/idolising that comes out of people in wa, it's not even surprising that they'd view it that way.

but you know what? people got to think what they got to think and those opinions don't bother me.
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Geoffrey Maloney
Posted on Wednesday, April 19, 2006 - 05:24 am:   

Ben

I believe I can be as biased as I like against literary educated people from Sydney because I was one of them up till my early thirties and I know what they do. It's all critique without responsibility. Like there's some some middle management gurus that's gonna save the awards? Again I believe that's typical of a Sydney elite perspective: if we criticise enough, some one else will listen and make it change. Where are these middle management people in Australian F&SF? Ben, they don't exist. The awards' committees and management are made up of volunteers, some who know more about F&SF in this country and some who know less than you or I do. But it's not a powerful elite that you can never join. Roll up and volunteer for the next awards by all means, suggest some positive changes. I'm sure they'll welcome you with open arms. If you don't like what's happening go and do the work and help make the changes happen.
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ben peek
Posted on Wednesday, April 19, 2006 - 07:15 am:   

Geoff, why are you bothering me with this? You're just going round and round in circles, man. so you lived in Sydney till your thirties. Big deal. You don't know me--you don't know shit about me. So spare me the Sydney knowitallism. People are people--varied and different in all places. This insistance of yours on there being something characteristic about 'sydney critics' is tedious and just wrong, man.

As for the middle management thing, I know the position is voluntary. I know it's not an elite group. What you seemed to miss, however, was that award fixing is a job for people in the system, dedicated to the product, the company, the award, whatever. I've no interest in that, but I'm going to keep saying whatever I like about the awards cause I can. You don't like it, don't listen to it.
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Geoffrey Maloney
Posted on Thursday, April 27, 2006 - 04:38 am:   

Ben, you are one going around in circles. The whole reason you can get published and have your right to party is that lots of people put huge amounts of work into making something out of the trash heap that F&SF was in Australia. You wouldn't be getting published if it wasn't the case. And I do know you despite what you say. I met you when you were in Brisbane once and you acknowledged no one. I spent my time talking to Chris Lawson and Kaaron Warren while you huddled in black mouthing Sydney knowisms all the time.
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LS
Posted on Thursday, April 27, 2006 - 06:43 am:   

Ben, what's a sydney knowism? Do you have to huddle to mouth one? In black? Give us an example...unless you're weary of huddling. In black.
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Anna Tambour
Posted on Thursday, April 27, 2006 - 03:43 pm:   

Geoff, Move on. Slandering Ben isn't doing you any good. He is right to say "criticism is a commentary on something, not a guide to fix it." He also pointed out the obvious: "People are people--varied and different in all places." Meeting someone once does not a knowing make. It is insulting in the extreme to categorise a person as you keep doing, not to mention ridiculous. Lastly, even the most superficial acquaintance with Ben would reveal that he is hardly a mouthpiece for anyone but himself. I'm not saying I agree with all that he says he doesn't like, or that he judges of worth. But that's the beauty of a diversity of judgements. As to his, please give him the credit for having his own opinions, as you assume others give you for yours. By all means, express your disagreement with his concepts; but then in a decent discourse, you've said your piece. Slagging a person is not discourse, nor does it deserve a response.
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ben peek
Posted on Friday, April 28, 2006 - 04:32 am:   

Lucius, I'd like to help you out man, but I'm too busy huddling in black, here. It's cold. I hope you understand. I mean, i'd really like to help you, but I'm huddling here. In black. It's a bit of a full time occupation, this huddling. Hey, look, there's a chip on the floor. No, wait, that's just Geoff's dignity. It's got legs and is scurrying away now. You know, I would never have seen it if i wasn't busy huddling. In black.

And Anna, thanks for the defend.

And Geoff, the next comment you make on this thread about this, I'm going to delete, okay? I notice these swanky edit buttons on the board nowadays, and I figure I can use them to leave you voiceless here. I've been patient, man. I've let you have your say. I even respect it. Well, I did respect it. But you're just trolling now. So take down your Jesus cross, pull the nails out of your palms, and go home. I'm bored.
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ben peek
Posted on Friday, April 28, 2006 - 04:40 am:   

Blah. Apparently that's not how the editing works. Sigh. This board really needs some sort of moderating system.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Friday, April 28, 2006 - 08:16 am:   

Excuse me, but I don't see Geoff slandering anyone. So far it's only been Ben who made an offensive remark. However, this horse is dead and it is Ben's topic so he can do as he will.
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ben peek
Posted on Friday, April 28, 2006 - 03:13 pm:   

I dunno, Ellen, I think you might be missing some of Geoff's more creative remarks. His one meeting me when I apparently huddled in black and spouted Sydney knowisms (whatever they are), seems pretty offensive. As does his belief that he knows me in any way shape or form from an hour or two at a large group lunch.

But you are right in that I am being offensive to Geoff. Moreso, in fact. But it's all he's going to get from me here.
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Anna Tambour
Posted on Friday, April 28, 2006 - 03:34 pm:   

The spleen juice spattered in this thread is what puts me off boards in general. I much prefer people face-to-facing when there's disagreement. On taste, well, there's stuff that's lauded that makes me gag, but I'm not going to get into criticism because what's the point? There really is no such thing as objectivity when it comes to the supposedly awesome. One thing I like about Ben is that he does poke his head out and say what he thinks, but not in the spirit of liking to dislike. If that moved him, I would think him as pathetic as others who need that stimulation, and call themselves critics.
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Anna Tambour
Posted on Friday, April 28, 2006 - 04:02 pm:   

but Ellen, I didn't answer you directly, and I should have. Geoff's taxonomic identification of Ben and accompanying wildlife commentary re characteristics is too funny to be truly slanderous, but I do consider it slander to be saying that Ben's criticism is a case of sour grapes. That's just not on, in my book. That is also a kind of blackmail. Furthermore, time and again it has been proven to me in private conversation, that there are two levels of praise and criticism. Many people have publicly lauded, and privately dissed the same book and author. There's a huge amount of dishonesty and a great deal of bandwagoning.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Friday, April 28, 2006 - 10:10 pm:   

Actually, back-tracking I erred. It was Geoff's remark about "typical Sydney intellectual scumbag" that I feel was out of line. The rest is par for the course of BB talk :-) Sorry. All the back and forth must have confused me.
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Ben Payne
Posted on Saturday, April 29, 2006 - 02:29 am:   

okay, so this is what i've got so far:

Ben reviews the Aurealis nominees, mostly critically... debate ensues.

The awards are awarded (as they are) and Geoff, who enjoyed the review, says that he felt Ben needed to do a kind of summing up.

Ben says he isn't really interested in summing up and he's pretty much said all he has to say on the matter.

Geoff links Ben's lack of desire to provide this summing up with his fiction and his geographical location... ala the "typical sydney intellectual scumbag" appelation, for which he has since retracted the wording, if not the intent.

Geoff thinks Ben is being critical without offering any solutions... which he sees as indicative of a certain breed of literary critic...

Ben says he's aware of the fact that the people running the awards are volunteers and has no interest in being involved in that side of things...

Geoff remembers kind of meeting Ben and the impression that he seemed detached and mouthed "sydney knowisms"...

nobody is sure what that means...

Geoff says that Ben should be grateful for the work other people have put in to running awards and other aspects of the scene because otherwise Ben would have less of a career...

is this an accurate summary?

The problem seems twofold...

(a) Geoff is unhappy with Ben's (to his mind, limited) engagement with the awards, and would like him to offer something positive rather than simply tearing down.

(b) Geoff associates this unhappiness with perceived aspects of Ben's personality, and the influence of his local environment on him.

The answer to the second problem is quite simple. Geoff, you need to recognise that your knowledge of Ben's personality is limited and based on scant evidence. You could be right, you could be wrong (i think you're wrong, but that's by the by), but either way it would seem appropriate to wait for more evidence before making a judgement call on Ben's persona...

The answer to the first dilemma would seem to be that you guys need to acknowledge that you see the role of the critic in different ways. That's fair enough. There's no Bible on what criticism "is" and it's cool to debate the critic's role and their responsibility to society or the scene as a whole.

I doubt either of you is gonna change the other's mind but I don't see any harm in debating this if you both want to...

But to my mind any insertion of perceived aspects of Ben's personality are out of place and only undermine the credibility of any arguments against his position.

Sorted:-)
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ben peek
Posted on Saturday, April 29, 2006 - 03:32 am:   

I doubt either of you is gonna change the other's mind but I don't see any harm in debating this if you both want to...

No, I'm afraid not. I'm much too busy with my career to keep talking to Geoff. It's off to New York tomorrow morning. Cocaine and models in the private jet. Salman Rushdie for dinner. Some talk shows. Then, it's a morning session with my shrink about how my Daddy used to beat me with his Nobel Peace Prize.

It's not much of a career, I know, I know. And my work? What can be said of my work now, after the years of hard drug abuse? Sure, the folks back home have no respect for me, and they roll in their graves, but the same three hundred people seem to keep reading it to keep this career of mine, which I'm ever so grateful for. It's all I have. My girlfriend left me. My apartment is filled with strangers. All I have is this career to keep me in hookers and a pleasant drug addled haze.

Peace, brother.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Saturday, April 29, 2006 - 08:08 am:   

I hope to see all you Sydneyites while I'm there in a few weeks. I'm only going to be in a few days, staying with Nathan Burrage. There's supposed to be a signing at Galaxy Bookshop on the evening of June 1st.
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ben peek
Posted on Sunday, April 30, 2006 - 06:20 am:   

Hey, Ellen, I'll probably end up missing you while you're here. Shame. But I hope you have a good time, and enjoy your time.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Sunday, April 30, 2006 - 08:59 am:   

Thanks, Ben. You're not attending Conflux?
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ben peek
Posted on Sunday, April 30, 2006 - 04:50 pm:   

Nah. Cons aren't really my thing, but even if I did, I've not the money to justify them this year.
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Geoffrey Maloney
Posted on Friday, May 26, 2006 - 05:42 am:   

Got cranky. Said too much. Dropped out. I still thought it was an interesting argument from all sides. Apologies for pushing the buttons.

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