Nova Mob: June/July

Murray notes:

Our next two meetings have two compelling debut novelists as guests, namely Vanessa Len and Shelley Parker-Chan. Allen and Unwin recently published Vanessa Len’s first novel Only a Monster and Shelley Parker-Chan’s novel She Who Became the Sun is already known to many due to its being on this year’s Hugo Best Novel ballot. Fingers crossed for the win!

June 1st:

Vanessa Len – Only a Monster

Vanessa Len’s first novel

Melbourne writer’s first novel at Nova Mob meeting 1 June 2022  

Vanessa Len is an Australian author of Chinese-Malaysian and Maltese heritage. An educational editor, she has worked on everything from language learning programs to STEM resources, to professional learning for teachers. Vanessa is a graduate of the Clarion Workshop in San Diego, and she lives in Melbourne. Only A Monster is published by Allen and Unwin, who describe it as a standout YA contemporary fantasy debut, the first in a planned trilogy. 

“It should have been the perfect summer. Sent to stay with her late mother’s eccentric family in London, sixteen-year-old Joan is determined to enjoy herself. She loves her nerdy job at the historic Holland House, and when her super cute co-worker Nick asks her on a date, it feels like everything is falling into place.

“But she soon learns the truth. Her family aren’t just eccentric: they’re monsters, with terrifying, hidden powers. And Nick isn’t just a cute boy: he’s a legendary monster slayer, who will do anything to bring them down.

“As she battles Nick, Joan is forced to work with the beautiful and ruthless Aaron Oliver, heir to a monster family that hates her own. She’ll have to embrace her own monstrousness if she is to save herself, and her family. Because in this story . . . she is not the hero.”

Contains romance aspects and time travel. 

Copies are for sale and signing on the night as part of our encouragement of local writers and booksellers.

Sample download (17 page pdf file)

Vanessa Len – Only a Monster – Nova Mob 1 June 2022, Kensington Town Hall

You are invited to a Nova Mob gathering at:  Wednesday 1 June
8.00pm – 9.30 pm or so, first floor Conference Room, Kensington Town Hall
30 – 34 Bellair St, Kensington Melbourne VIC 3031

Simultaneously with a Zoom meeting. COVID-19 protocols apply. Please don’t attend if you feel unwell, or if you are not fully vaccinated.

By Zoom – as transmitted from the Kensington Town Hall

Wednesday 1 June
8.00pm – 9.30 pm Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney time
7.30pm – 9.00pm Adelaide time
Join Zoom Meeting

Passcode: nova
Meeting ID: 417 758 3193
💥 💥 💥


Shelley Parker-Chan – She Who Became the Sun
Hugo Awards shortlisted writer at Nova Mob meeting 6 July 2022

Hugos are announced at Chicon WorldCon 1-5 Sep 2022. Here’s hoping! The shortlist is strong:

  • She Who Became the Sun, by Shelley Parker-Chan (Tor / Mantle)
  • A Desolation Called Peace, by Arkady Martine (Tor)
  • The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, by Becky Chambers (Harper Voyager / Hodder & Stoughton)
  • Light From Uncommon Stars, by Ryka Aoki (Tor / St Martin’s Press)
  • A Master of Djinn, by P. Djèlí Clark (Tordotcom / Orbit UK)
  • Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir (Ballantine / Del Rey)

What follows is taken from the novel’s Wikipedia entry which also has many links to interviews, reviews, and so on. Please go there to discover more.

Please also go to the Locus Spotlight:

“She Who Became the Sun is a 2021 fantasy novel by Shelley Parker-Chan. Parker-Chan’s debut novel, the novels tells a re-imagining of the rise to power of the Hongwu Emperor in the 14th century. “

“The book is a finalist for the 2022 Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Fiction and the 2022 Hugo Award for Best Novel.”

“Zhu Chongba, the son of a family in an impoverished village, is foretold in a prophecy to achieve greatness. However, after a bandit attack leaves the village devastated and most of the family dead, he dies of heartbreak. His sister then assumes his identity to go study at a Buddhist monastery, and begins plotting her own survival and her own path to greatness.

“ The novel has been noted to touch on themes of gender, sexuality, and diasporic identity. In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Parker-Chan described the novel as “a queer reimagining of the rise to power of the founding emperor of the Ming dynasty. It’s also a fun story about gender,” adding that mainstream white Australian culture had “a particular type of Australian masculinity that is held as the ideal. This excludes every other kind of masculinity, especially queer masculinity and Asian masculinity.”

💥 💥 💥

Archibald entry from Nick Stathopolous

A Man Who Found Red

Australian artist Nick Stathopoulos is an Archibald Prize 2022 finalist. The Art Gallery of NSW announced that “The Red Scarf,” his portrait of Wayne Tunnicliffe, is one of 52 works up for this year’s award.

“This is the eighth time Stathopoulos has been an Archibald finalist. He won the People’s Choice in 2016 with a portrait of Sudanese refugee and lawyer Deng Adut.

“He told Facebook followers, “I didn’t think I had made the finalist cut this year. I didn’t receive the official email for days after the rest of the finalists.”  

“The $100,000 prize is awarded to the best portrait of a person “distinguished in art, letters, science or politics” painted by an Australian resident.

“Tunnicliffe, the painting’s subject, is the head curator of Australian art for the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and oversees the Brett Whiteley Studio.

“The winning painting [was] announced on May 13 [here: Blak Douglas for Karla Dickens]. The finalists for the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman prizes will be on show at the Art Gallery of NSW beginning May 14.

“It’s great to see Stathopoulos enjoy success in the fine arts because he has also made a mark on fanhistory as a past Hugo and Chesley Award nominee and 10-time Ditmar Award winner.”

quoted from from File 770

[Murray: I firmly believe Nick’s portrait of Deng Adut should have won in 2016. It’s a phenomenal work which does what portraiture ought to do, reveal and illuminate multiple aspects of character. A surprising number of artists in the Archibald fall short of doing that fundamental thing. That year was an odd judging year, seemed to be more about the judges than the art. ]

💥 💥 💥

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as she is spoke

From the Nova Mob meeting 4 May 2022  

Here’s a link to a youtube video as a follow-up to Lucy Sussex’s part of her talk with Terry Frost last month on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. “Chaucer can be understood (mostly) by the modern reader, but the dialect of the writer of the Sir Gawain poem is only fractionally intelligible to modern ears.” Here is a reading of part of the poem, which sounds almost Gaelic to me. In truth it’s Middle English (North West Midlands dialect).

Dangerous Visions and New Worlds is on the Hugo Ballot!

Chicon’s Hugo shortlist announced for Best Related Work. Congratulations Lucy! Congratulations Iain and Andrew!

On Wednesday 6 April Iain McIntyre spoke to the Nova Mob in a blend of COVID-imposed isolation prepared talk and live-action Zoom Q & A about Dangerous Visions and New Worlds – Radical Science Fiction 1950 – 1985 edited by Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre. 

On Friday 8 April opened an email from Mob member and former WorldCon Chair & Co-chair Perry Middlemiss:

“Congrats Lucy, and well done Murray for getting the timing of Wednesday’s Nova Mob meeting exactly right.”

Chicon have announced the Hugo shortlists and Dangerous Visions and New Worlds – Radical Science Fiction 1950 – 1985 is on the ballot for Best Related Work! Iain said:

“thanks for the call. We were told a few weeks back but sworn to secrecy so I couldn’t mention anything the other night. It is very exciting.”

We can’t really claim credit for the timing because various circumstances did prevent Iain speaking at the Mob sooner. What wonderful recognition for the book, its editors, and its contributors, including Mob member Lucy Sussex! Here’s hoping it wins its category – the scholarship is certainly worthy of a Hugo.

Locus recommends

Each february, the writers/reviewers from Locus magazine publish their recommended reading list.


A Blessing of Unicorns, Elizabeth Bear (Audible Originals 10/20; Asimov’s 9-10/21)
A Psalm for the Wild-Built, Becky Chambers (Tordotcom)
“Arisudan”, Rimi B. Chatterjee (Mithila Review 3/22/21)
Defekt, Nino Cipri (Tordotcom)
Fireheart Tiger, Aliette de Bodard (Tordotcom)
“Sleep and the Soul“, Greg Egan (Asimov’s 9-10/21)
Lagoonfire, Francesca Forrest (Annorlunda)
“Philia, Eros, Storge, Agápe, Pragma”, R.S.A Garcia (Clarkesworld 1/21)
The Album of Dr. Moreau, Daryl Gregory (Tordotcom)
A Spindle Splintered, Alix E. Harrow (Tordotcom)
& This is How to Stay Alive, Shingai Njeri Kagunda (Neon Hemlock)
“The Dark Ride”, John Kessel (F&SF 1-2/21)
In the Watchful City, S. Qiouyi Lu (Tordotcom)
And What Can We Offer You Tonight, Premee Mohamed (Neon Hemlock)
The Annual Migration of Clouds, Premee Mohamed (ECW)
The Return of the Sorceress, Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Subterranean)
“A Rocket for Dimitrios“, Ray Nayler (Asimov’s 1-2/21)
Remote Control, Nnedi Okorafor (Tordotcom)
“The Abomination”, Nuzo Onoh (F&SF 9-10/21)
“Submergence”, Arula Ratnakar (Clarkesworld 3/21)
Flowers for the Sea, Zin E. Rocklyn (Tordotcom)
The Necessity of Stars, E. Catherine Tobler (Neon Hemlock)
“The Giants of the Violet Sea”, Eugenia Triantafyllou (Uncanny 9-10/21)
Comfort Me With Apples, Catherynne M. Valente (Tordotcom)
The Past is Red, Catherynne M. Valente (Tordotcom)
The Secret Skin, Wendy N. Wagner (Neon Hemlock)
Fugitive Telemetry, Martha Wells (Tordotcom)
“A Canticle for Lost Girls”, Isabel Yap (Never Have I Ever)

The full list is at

Suggestions from Crit Mass

LynC suggested the recent Garth Nix, The Left-handed Booksellers of London, or if we were looking for an interesting mystery series, The Vinyl Detective by Andrew Cartmel: Written in Dead Wax (2016); The Run-Out Groove (2017);
Victory Disc (2018);
Flip Back (2019);
Low Action (2020)
& Attack and Decay (2022)

Jane Routley noted she was really enjoying P Djèlí Clark’s A Master of Djinn, the novel set in an alternative Cairo, following on from the novellas Dead Djinn in Cairo and The Haunting of Tram Car 015.

Kate Treloar picked a classic:
E M Forster’s The Machine Stops

Ruth Jenkins suggested The Apollo Murders by Chris Hadfield and the alternate history collection Sideways in Crime edited by Lou Anders

Adam Jenkins mentioned
The Lifecycle of Software
by Ted Chiang, but
chose the manga ōsō no
“Frieren of the
Funeral” as consistent good

Beata Sznajder considered Space Opera by Catherynne M Valente, but recommended Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes.

Andrew Vincent considered graphic novels: he mentioned Saga, but thought the story overly long, and preferred Rat Queens.

Andrew’s ultimate choice was an online computer game, Wildermyth, available on Steam:

Jocko suggested Hail Mary by Andy Weir.

Jeff Harris talked about time travel invasions: Invasion from 2500 by Norman Edwards (a pseudonym for Ted White and Terry Carr) from 1964,
and Clifford Simak’s Our Children’s Children (1974),
but settled enthusiastically
on Ken MacLeod’s Selkie Summer (2020).

Roman suggested the second of the Johannes Cabal novels by Jonathan L Forward, Johannes Cabal — The Detective, from 2010. He was reminded of the series about a necromancer when he listened to an audio-book (Blustery Day) of short stories about Cabal.
Johannes Cabal the Necromancer, 2009
Johannes Cabal the Detective, 2010
Johannes Cabal: The Fear
The Brothers Cabal, 2014
Johannes Cabal and the Blustery Day: And Other Tales of the Necromancer, 2015 (collection)
The Fall of The House of Cabal, 2016

The Bat-usi

A pop-culture giant has shuffled off this four-color coil. Adam West, who played the title role in the 1966 Batman, and later reprised the role in voice and physical form more than once, has died of leukaemia at the age of 88.

Keith R.A. DeCandido picked his five best bat-moments, including the Bat-usi:

the entire scene in the bar that leads up to Batman doing that magnificent dance in “Hi Diddle Riddle,” the first episode of Batman to air, is pretty much vintage West Batman. We start with him entering the discotheque and refusing the offer of a table, instead going to the bar because he doesn’t want to draw attention to himself. Reportedly, that scene was the one West read for his audition, and one of the reasons why he got the part was that he played that line 100% straight rather than wink at the camera or be a goof about it. Perhaps the best thing about West’s portrayal was that he took it completely seriously. He refused to stoop to the joke, which is why little kids (like me!) could watch the show unironically and view Batman as a hero who did good. We took him seriously as a hero because he took himself seriously as one.
Even when it was totally ridiculous. Like trying to be inconspicuous while walking into a discotheque while wearing a brightly colored skintight outfit and a big blue cape. And dancing a silly dance, though the latter was after they put a mickey in his fresh-squeezed orange juice.

Crit Mass Feb 23: A delight of stories

People are asked to bring along an SF&F novel/novella they enjoy, and tell us why they think it’s interesting. (Assume you have 5-7mins to convince us.) We will each choose one of the suggested works to read and report on at the March meeting.

Given the current state of the covid outbreak, the February meeting will be zoom only.

Critical Mass
Feb 23, 2022 6:30pm Adelaide, 7pm Melbourne

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 821 6779 6217
Passcode: 784499

Far Sector round-table

James Bacon: Jo is quite Irish, I wondered if you were trying to bring an extra depth to this character as there was a lot to her history and the first comic was very intense, and what you were trying to do with her, was she your first comic book character?

N.K. Jemisin: She was first one I have wrote myself, I have been a comics fan for years, and I did the same thing with her character that I did with any character I would have written, which was to give her some depth, but I honestly felt that she was a bit shallow as there wasn’t time to really delve into her background or any of the other stuff that is gone on in her life. I was only really able to give a thin sketch of her, and I was a little kinda sad about that, so to hear that she has a lot of depth, great, I faked it [laughter] but I wanted her to be three dimensional, interesting, memorable, quirky, complicated, flawed, she’s an ex NYPD cop, I have a lot of feelings with a  capital F about that and I wanted to not portray her as a one note thing, I wanted her to be layered. If she came across as complex and having some depth, then good, it means I did what I set out to do.

See for the full discussion about Far Sector
The collected series is now available

Sibilant fricative

On the film Blade Runner
In fact, this is what links all the films I love the most: they manifest what I take to be a new cultural logic in SF. The genre has shifted from being a literature of ideas (books are good at ideas) to a literature of enduring, powerful and haunting visual images (films are poor at ideas, but very good at the poetry of beautiful images). This is what La Jetée2001: A Space OdysseyStalker, Alien and The Matrix have in common – their gobsmacking visual aesthetic. But Blade Runner beats all of these. It is the most beautiful, the most haunting, the most visually perfect of all of them. It is Scott’s expert conjuring with near-palpable beams and shafts of light amongst the cluttered, smoky and misty darkness; the shadows blocking out a somatically believable city; the gorgeous design; the detail.
— On Quantum Thief
At the heart it’s a heist story: Jean le Flambeur is sprung from a deep space prison by the enigmatic warrior Mieli and her Banksish sentient spaceship Perhonen, in order to pull-off a complicated crime upon Mars. Meili is in the service of a mysterious, capricious goddess-like being, and the plot unwraps its several mysteries in a very satisfying manner. The Oubliette in particular is a splendid creation; not so much in terms of its far-future hardware as its social codes of privacy, guarded by information-exchange veils called ‘guevelots’, policed by ‘tzaddicks’ – and its currency, time, to be lavishly spent or carefully hoarded as citizens countdown towards a ‘death’ that reprocesses their consciousnesses into ‘Quiet’ machines that do all the hard areoforming and city maintenance work. There’s also a quick-witted Holmes-like youth, with a genius for solving crimes.
— On Chris Priest’s The Islanders
One of the things I loved about The Islanders is that pretty much all the Priestian fascinations and preoccupations are here: doubles; mirrors; dreams; stage magic; the unreliability and instability of narrative, and several intriguing and underplayed metafictional touches (a young [female] novelist writes fan letters to a tetchily unpredictable Kammeston; when her first novel is published she sends a copy to him. It is called The Affirmation). It coheres, or more precisely refuses quite to cohere, very stylishly indeed. It’s an archipelagic novel in more than one sense (always assuming that the word has more than one sense), formally embodying its scattered loosely connected strings of island subjects in loosely connected strings of narratives. There’s a distant family relationship with Borges, perhaps; or Ballard’s anthology of ‘condensed novels’, The Atrocity Exhibition.

Roberts, Adam. Sibilant Fricative: Essays and Reviews . Steel Quill Books.

Sibilant frictive is a collection of 40+ reviews/essays by Adam Roberts, collected in print in 2014.
You may disagree with Roberts on some things, but you will find his comments interesting and worth reading.