October 2017

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A bold debut … unique experimentation

My Life & Other Fictions Michael Giacometti

Excitement is building ahead of the release of Michael Giacometti’s book, My Life and Other Fictions, with Elizabeth Flux singing its praises in Books + Publishing. The review confirms Michael’s reputation as one of Australia’s most talented emerging authors.

Bringing together 20 very different stories, My Life and Other Fictions is a bold debut from Michael Giacometti and a unique exercise in experimentation with form and voice. Initially it seems like there is no common thread; the reader is taken from modern day to the past and back again, and it’s impossible to predict what the next story will be.

An extended vignette on a football training session feeds into a doomed boat journey, and a tale of stolen identity laden with red tape precedes a satirical take on cultural ignorance. As the book progresses, however, it becomes clear that Giacometti is painting a bigger picture, exploring themes of spirituality, fate and unbreakable cycles … The line between fiction and nonfiction is blurry, and it’s something Giacometti understands well.

The depth of research and clear allusions to historic and religious literature give this book a strong foundation, but it is the moments of truth, and the inspiration the author has drawn from his own experience, that tie it all together.

A resident of Alice Springs, Michael convincingly weaves the landscape and people of the Northern Territory into his writing. In 2008, Michael embraced the Australian spirit of challenge and adventure to become the first person to trek across the Simpson Desert from east to west, on foot, alone and unsupported. In the author’s own words, the journey left him with a renewed sense of ‘energy and boundless space’ from which he ‘emerged as a writer’.

The themes of hardship, the struggle to survive, transformation and rebirth continue throughout his collection of short stories. Included at the end of the book is a personal essay in which Michael shares his insights and reflections on how the stories originated and evolved and the role that his own spirituality played in shaping them.

My Life and Other Fictions is scheduled for release on December 1 and is available directly from Spineless Wonders. Pre-order now and get a discount!

Keep an eye on the Spineless Wonders website, Facebook and Twitter for details of the book launch and blog tour. And look out for an interview with Michael on the Spineless Wonders blog, The Column.

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It’s a Bird! It’s a plane! It’s …

 The Dead Aviatrix Carmel Bird EIGHT SHORT STORIES

... Carmel Bird’s super new digital short story collection, The Dead Aviatrix, and it’s set to take flight at a suitably spectacular launch on November 5 as part the Australian Short Story Festival in Adelaide. Peter Goldsworthy will be doing the honours. A follow-up event at the State Library of Victoria will take place on December 14, with ABC Radio’s Jonathan Green.

The Dead Aviatrix is the first book of short stories in Spineless Wonders’ new Capsule Collection series – small collections of stories or poems produced solely as ebooks. It brings together eight of Carmel’s stories that have been recently published in various journals.

As Carmel says, ‘every short story has its own history’, and she recently gave us an insight into how she wrote the first piece in this collection:

The title story ‘The Dead Aviatrix’ was inspired by something that happened to me as the writer of a novel some years ago. It was an awful and troubling thing, and I wondered for a long time about how to write about it in a useful and interesting way. The narrative involved my surname and the surname of an Australian woman flier, and it was a story about publishing. Then one day I was reading online about the phenomenon of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, the first book-packager for children, and I found there a story with a woman flier in it, and I was captivated by the sentence:

The aviatrix sat looking on through all this tumult with a happy smile.

Something went Ping! and suddenly I had the story. Maybe the use of the term ‘aviatrix’ was what did it. A word very much of its time. Female aviator. Not a word that is safe to use seriously any more because it is unfashionable to characterise women workers as being separate from men workers. You are not supposed to say, for instance, ‘actress’. So ‘aviatrix’ was horribly un-PC. In particular I loved the ‘trix’ part of it; I just liked saying it. The character of the intern invented itself. Since I wrote the story, the matter of interns has become the subject of government and media attention.

I chose the aviatrix as the title for the whole collection. When I began telling people about the ebook I was surprised at how many of them reacted to the title itself. The word ‘aviatrix’ set them off in various ways, and, curiously, so did the word ‘dead’. By coincidence it was at exactly the time of the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Amelia Earhart. Although the story has in fact nothing to do with Amelia. This was one of those sweet moments of coincidence that sometimes flavour and favour the writing of fiction.

The Dead Aviatrix is out on November 1 and is available directly from Spineless Wonders. If you are in Adelaide for the Australian Short Story Festival, you can also pick up a copy at the launch on Sunday, November 5 at 5.10pm, Unisa City West, 55 North Terrace, Adelaide. BYO semaphore flags.

Or you can join ABC Radio’s Jonathan Green who will discuss the new digital collection at Palmer Hall, State Library Victoria, on Thursday, December 14, 6.30-7.30pm. This event will be followed by an online Q&A with Carmel on Tablo.

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The Carmel Bird Digital Award

Named in honour of one of Australia’s foremost short storytellers, this new annual award offers cash prizes and publication by digital publisher, Spineless Wonders. Stay tuned to our blog for details.

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Subverting sci-fi stereotypes – Lisa Dowdall

We caught up with Lisa Dowdall, whose story ‘To My Maker’ appears in Spineless Wonders’ digital Slinkies series of stories by writers under 30.

What are your favourite authors and books? How have they influenced your writing?

Octavia E. Butler, N. K. Jemisin and Nnedi Okorafor particularly influenced this story. These women subvert many of the gendered and colonial tropes of traditional science fiction by imagining women of colour as active agents on the boundaries of the future – somewhere we’ve usually been silent or invisible. I was thinking about Butler’s Xenogenesis series in particular around the time I was working on ‘To My Maker’ and, together with Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, I think it shaped the story, though I wasn’t necessarily aware of it at the time. 

What were some of the challenges you encountered in writing the story?

I was very nervous to write about slavery. I was nervous to write of violence – particularly sexual violence – in a way that felt immediate but not gratuitous. But I also didn’t want the story to focus on these things. Of course, Nia’s enslavement and her struggle to free herself are major narrative events, but I hope the focus isn’t solely on them. To me, this story is also about a woman’s self-determination, about freeing herself from others’ expectations, about living with the past, and about her relationship with her mother.

I knew I couldn’t write within a particular cultural tradition; by that I mean, I couldn’t write a story from the perspective of a black woman in the antebellum American south or a slave child in Ghana. I couldn’t – or more importantly, shouldn’t – try to write like Toni Morrison or Ayi Kwei Armah. Those aren’t my stories; that isn’t my place. But I did want to experiment with new ideas about the intersections of race, gender and technology. I knew I wanted it to be science fictional – a genre I love, but one that’s entangled with identity politics. But I also didn’t want the science fictional tropes to overpower the sense of loss in the sections set in the mother’s house. I wanted those to feel familiar. I wanted it all to feel familiar, and both old and new, all at the same time.

I have to thank the Slinkies editors for their patience and guidance, and also my readers – most importantly Tanya Thaweeskulchai – for their feedback on various drafts.

What other projects are you working on?

I'm currently working on a couple of things. I’m in the final (I hope) editing stages of my dystopian fantasy novel Impossible Things, which imagines magic as a non-renewable resource. I’m also writing something else – a novelette, maybe – called Stone Hearts, which is made up of a series of linked micro-fictions.

You can download Lisa’s story from Spineless Wonders at Tomely.

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Also on the Slinkies bookshelf …

After being scammed on Airbnb, a young woman finds herself lost in an unfamiliar city. She stays with an old friend, whose motives she can't discern. When she chances upon a strange painting dated with the year 2133, she becomes obsessed with its secretive artist. As the mystery deepens, her suspicions about her old friend grow, her ties to family back home begin to fray, and she watches her life spiralling away from her.

2133 / Osaka’, a story by Alexander Bennetts, is also available through Tomely.

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Lonely Phone rings Ben in at number one

We are excited to announce the winners in the Phone It In competition.

First prize of a Spineless Wonders book pack goes to Ben Schofield for his audio story ‘Lonely Phone’.

Lauren Grubic and Ben Volchok tied as runners up for ‘Eggs Scrambled and Beat’ and ‘Oh, no! said Jarvis Cocker’ respectively.

A giftpack also goes to online voter, Rhonda Rashleigh.

The results were announced at the Wind Down ceremony of the 2017 National Young Writers’ Festival. Check out the Spineless Wonders blog for a full report and photos from the festival and the Phone It In voting poll, soon to be posted by Slinkies team members Ashleigh Mounser and Emma Howe.

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Writing postcards

‘Quote’ unquote

Who sends postcards anymore? The recipients will appreciate the gesture because they’re either very old, or very into handmade and vegetables, or they’re my partner. I flex my fingers and look around. The light really is extraordinary. It shimmers off doorways and pots of geraniums and olive oil bottles. I sip my beer. The last postcard is the trickiest, because I need to find a considerate way of saying I’m not coming back.

‘106 Hours’ by Susan McCreery, published in Loopholes, 2016.

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El Alamein Fountain in Kings Cross

Competition winner

Congratulations to Jason Peterson of Potts Point, NSW, who has won a copy of Landmarks for sending in his snap of El Alamein Fountain in Kings Cross. ‘My favourite local landmark which is just a little older than me!’ writes Jason.

Our next prize is a copy of Michael Giacometti’s My Life and Other Fictions. Email us the biggest fiction you’ve told about your life, in 25 words or less. 

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Explosive fiction

As you can see, we’ve been having a ball doing some #storybombing at the Surry Hills Festival and Double Take Projection and Pop Up Arts Festival.

The exhibition, set up at The Pottery Shed in Nickson Street, invites visitors to listen to stories over old-school telephones, get inspired by landmarks that are special to other people, then write about their own special places – using the typewriters provided. For more information, check out the Spineless Wonders blog or the festival website.

There are still two festival dates to go – October 5 and 12 – so go along and get bombing.

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Dates for your diary

October 5 & 12 – Landmarks #storybombing, Surry Hills Festival and Double Take Projection and Pop Up Arts Festival.
November 1Release of The Dead Aviatrix, Carmel Bird.
November 5 – Launch of Carmel Bird’s The Dead Aviatrix by Peter Goldsworthy at the Australian Short Story Festival.
December 1 – Release of Michael Giacometti’s My Life and Other Fictions.
December 1 – Closing date for submissions to ‘Year of the Dog’ themed Little Fictions event.
December 14 – Carmel Bird in conversation with Jonathan Green at State Library Victoria.

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This month’s Sluglines was prepared by Mark Vender, Sarah Schofield and Stephen Webb.

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