Narrative Transport. The official Michael Pryor website.
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  • November23rd

    I know I’m not alone when I say that I can’t wait for the day when robots are everywhere, making life easy for us so we can lie on the beach or sleep in until noon or apply stucco to walls or whatever we’d like to do if it wasn’t for work getting in the way.

    Having said that, I fully understand that this period of bliss will be followed by the inevitable Robot Uprising. It’s not surprising, when you think about it, that a time of unlimited labour-saving devices taking care of our every whim will be followed by a nightmarish hell when the robots, en masse, turn on their masters. It’s unavoidable, really.

    So being the sort who likes to plan ahead, mostly by scribbling ideas on Post-it Notes and then forgetting about them until they turn up on the sole of my shoe, I thought I’d share my three best ways to prepare for the Robot Uprising.

    1. Know Your Enemy. If the world of movies is any guide, robots will come in all shapes and sizes. While you’re lying back in your hammock and wondering if an umbrella or a spray of tropical flowers would look better in your coconut shell encased refreshment, don’t forget to inspect your RoButler or Steel Stephen or whatever your metal slave is called. Look for weak spots. Test its reflexes by dropping your sunglasses in its path. Try to confuse it with contradictory demands. Your life may depend on it.
    2. Get fit. Don’t worry, this is relative. All you have to do is to be able to run faster than your neighbour when the hordes of angry, chrome-plated insurgents come down your street. The key here is to keep an eye on your Gym-O-Rama Personal Training ‘bot. Fitness, in the hands of your robot underlings, can be dangerous. While you’re putting in those kilometres on that treadmill with Artificial Intelligence, it’s a perfect opportunity to propel you through the third storey window. Strapping yourself into an enhanced exercise bike is just asking for trouble. I think you can imagine the mayhem when weights machines run amuck.
    3. Find a Refuge. When it comes, this machine-made Armageddon will require some speedy residential relocation. You’ll no doubt have noticed that some canny Real Estate agents are already advertising remote properties as ‘Perfect for the Robot Uprising!’ but you need to get out and about. Bring back the Sunday drive as you embark on scoping expeditions. Look for places easy to defend, perhaps surrounded by water. Smack bang in the middle of a swamp is good, as the mud plays hell with robot moving parts, but may have a few drawbacks like malaria to contend with. Don’t discount an underwater refuge, but most of these have been snapped up by Master Criminals and Evil Overlords so they may be in short supply.

    With some preparation and a little care, the upcoming Robot Uprising needn’t inconvenience you at all. A few simple precautions such as I’ve outlined will help you survive the reign of terror that our once trusted servants will wreak upon us, where civilisation will crumble and fire will most likely fall from the heavens. Good luck!

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  • November15th

    Community Sherlock – various incarnations Cards Against Humanity
    Star Wars 1984 M. Python
    Pulp Fiction Doctor Who Oscar Wilde
    LoTR Superman Wizard of Oz
    Three Musketeers Telestrations The Sweeney
    Dorothy L Sayers Arrested Development The Castle
    CS Lewis Erza Scarlet Lord of the Rings
    Silence of the Lambs Shane Firefly
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  • September13th

    • Don’t place your Forest of Terror right next door to your Mountains of Doom alongside your Chasm of Eternal Fear. You can have too much of a good thing.
    • Remember: rivers flow from the mountains to the sea, not the other way around. Tempting though it may be to have water running uphill, the laws of hydrodynamics are fairly well understood and if broken, will have unfortunate consequences for urban sewerage and waste water disposal.
    • Weather happens.
    • Never try to have a capital of the Evil Empire of Doom without a Z, K or X in the name. It just doesn’t work.
    • The Web of Life is really tricky in fantasyland. Dragons as your top-level predator play hell with the food chain.
    • Never put anything interesting in the middle of your fantasyland. If your map goes to two pages, you can lose important stuff in the gutter …
    • Cities are where they are for three reasons: protection, trade routes and ‘lost in the mists of time’, which is always handy.
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  • July16th

    Exciting stuff. We’re having a big launch for Gap Year in Ghost Town – and you’re invited!

    With the publication of GYIGT due next month, a carnival launch will be held at Readings Kids (315 Lygon St, Carlton) at 6.30 on 17 August. I’m excited that Leanne Hall, author of This Is Shyness, Queen of the Night and the award-winning Iris and the Tiger will be launching my book, so make sure you mark this date in your diary and get there for the promised sincerity, hilarity and conviviality.

     

     

    Yes, RSVPing to misc@michaelpryor.com.au would be appreciated. Catering and stuff like that, you know.

     

     

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  • April11th

    Gap Year in Ghost Town (Allen & Unwin August 2017) has a cover! Authors, naturally, are always nervous about how their precious work is going to look, but the very clever Craig Phillips has come up with an absolute winner. I love its combination of spookiness and street smarts, and it captures the smart, creepy and funny tone of the book beautifully.

    Roll on August!

     

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  • February16th

    music notes small

    I like listening to and reading about other writers. I find the process of writing fascinating, and I find the multitude of different approaches empowering. There is no single magical formula for writing. There are a million ways to do it and to do it well.

    Take the business of music while writing. I’ve asked many writers about their aural habits while writing, and the responses are truly varied. Some insist on absolute silence. Some will allow birdsong and other natural noises but nothing else. Some fill the room with heavy metal mayhem until the dust shakes down from the ceiling.

    Me? I can have music, but I prefer it to be music without words. Words, even sung words, can intrude too much, especially if I’m writing dialogue. So instrumental music is fine, classical music can be good, but my favourite is movie music. Film scores can be sensational for nudging the right mood along. Vangelis’s ‘Bladerunner’ soundtrack is excellent if I’m in a futuristic world. ‘Lord of the Rings’ is perfect if I’m doing a battle scene. Erich Korngold’s score for ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’ or the Indiana Jones march are terrific for those ‘let’s go adventuring’ moments, while if I’m after epic grandeur, I love Maurice Jarre’s ‘Lawrence of Arabia’. Spooky, creepy moments? Try Bernard Hermann’s ‘Vertigo’ or (if you’re up to it) ‘Psycho’. Romance? I love Max Steiner’s lushness. ‘Casablanca’ is an all time favourite, but when I find I’m thinking of Ingrid Bergman instead of what I’m meant to be writing, I know I need to change the playlist.

     

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  • December3rd

    4th October – first full day in Venice

    Yesterday (and the day before?) was the long, long trip. Two legs – Melbourne – Dubai, two hour wait, then Dubai Venice. Arrived in Venice at 3 o’clock and met by Georgia, our landlord, who walked us from Piazza Romana where our bus brought us, to our little flat in Campiello Mosca, a gorgeous, tiny square with an ever running water spout, just around the corner from the grand church of San Pantalon, the one with the awe-inspiring trompe-l’œil ceiling.

    Slept for eleven hours, getting up at eight. Breakfast, we went around the corner to Tonolo, a recommended pasticceria, for bombe and coffee. Good stuff, very Italian.

    Our local fruit and veggie sellers, St Barnaba.

    Our local fruit and veggie sellers, St Barnaba.

    After that, we walked to Campo San Margherita, on our landlord’s recommendation, for some fruit and grocery shopping. Then we walked down toward Accademia and eventually went right through Dorsoduro to see Giudecca across the water.

    After lunch we did more wandering up to the station and Piazza Romana. Then we meandered toward the Rialto, finding good old Campo Silvestro and Locanda Armizo (where we stayed in 2004) along the way.

    Four o’clockish we made our way back to our flat, and at six o’clock, the bells started ringing near and far. At least one set very close.

    Dinner was at the Trattoria Dolfin. Good pasta and so so salmon main course. Read More | Comments

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  • September19th

    fantasyland5

    If you’ve ever looked at our world with discontent, unhappiness or a feeling of ‘I could do better than that!’ then fantasy writing is for you. In a lifetime of reading Fantasy and half a lifetime writing it, I’ve compiled a number of hints, tips and techniques for novice world-builders. And since I’m not loathe to offer advice, here’s a pick of the best of them.

    • Don’t place your Forest of Terror right next door to your Mountains of Doom alongside your Chasm of Eternal Fear. You can have too much of a good thing.
    • Remember: rivers flow from the mountains to the sea, not the other way around. Tempting though it may be to have water running uphill, the laws of hydrodynamics are fairly well understood and if broken, will have unfortunate consequences for urban sewerage and waste water disposal.
    • Weather happens.
    • Never try to have a capital of the Evil Empire of Doom without a Z, K or X in the name. It just doesn’t work.
    • The Web of Life is really tricky in imaginary worlds. Dragons as your top-level predator play hell with the food chain.
    • Never put anything interesting in the middle of your imaginary world. If your map goes to two pages, you can lose really interesting things in the gutter.
    • Cities are where they are for three reasons: protection, trade routes and ‘lost in the mists of time’. Always handy.
    • ‘Wetlands’ is a more congenial name for ‘swamp’.
    • There’s no reason why the north has to be cold and the south hot. Such an approach is Northern Hemisphere-centric.
    • Remember: you have to stop map-making sometime and start writing.
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  • August13th

     

    One of the other hats I wear is as co-publisher of Aurealis, Australia’s longest-running magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. In a recent editorial, I wanted to let the writers out there know what we’re looking for. It turned into a statement of principles, the criteria by which we select stories for inclusion.

    Here it is again, for your interest.

    At Aurealis, we want to see:

    1. Good writing. By this, we mean more than a simple facility with written English. Even though this is important, it should be a given, a basic expectation of any submission. Rather, we enjoy apposite language, sentences with flexibility and rhythm, dialogue that is alive with character and intonation, complexity of construction and stark simplicity used in the right times and places.
    2. This is hard to define, and has much to do with Point 1, above. Your story should sound individual and alive through its narrative point of view.
    3. Your main character should be engaging. That’s it in a nutshell. Of course, there are a million different ways to make your main character engaging. You just have to choose the right one and implement it deftly.
    4. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your central premise needs to be wildly new, although this is desirable. A fresh take on a well-established concept is good. Quirky, idiosyncratic characters are also useful in upping your originality quotient.
    5. Be economical with your story.
    6. Quick movement into the heart of the story. We are a short story journal, which means you don’t have unlimited space to work with. This can be a challenge in Fantasy and SF, where world-building and background detail is important, but do your best. Don’t linger too long in the set-up. You’ll lose us.
    7. Hard SF. We don’t get enough of these sort of stories.
    8. Humour – but it has to be really
    9. Think about your characters. Are you making unwarranted assumptions about dominant cultures? Are you overlooking possibilities?
    10. The X Factor. It could be freshness, it could be the unexpected, it could be something shocking, it could be something that makes us grin or wince or sit up straight after the first paragraph. We can’t tell you what the X factor is, exactly, but we know it when we see it. Including it is a good thing.
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  • July26th

     

     

    Once upon a time, the job description for a writer was fairly straightforward: you sat down and wrote. After that, you worked with an editor and revised your work through to publication.

    Now, the requirements of the job are somewhat different, particularly if you are a writer for young people. It’s not enough just to do the writing – you have to be able to talk about it. Over my writing career I’ve presented to thousands of people, young and old, all over Australia. I’ve talked to cLECTERN smallrowds of hundreds of people. I’ve run intensive writing workshops. I’ve been a writer-in-residence. I’ve been on panels, I’ve chaired debates, I’ve even done the MC thing and hosted glittering occasions. So far this year, I’ve spent nearly forty days away from my desk doing that other part of the job, at schools, libraries and festivals. In the beginning, I was uncertain about this part of the job, but I’ve grown to enjoy it. I’ve learned about presenting and honed my skills by the time honoured method of trial and error followed by reflection. I thought I’d share a few things that work for me.

    1. Introduce yourself. Part of the success of your presentation hinges on your credibility, so you need to establish this straight away. Even if you get an introduction, it’s worth spending a bit of time expanding on it, establishing why the audience should bother listening to you. You have some expertise, but tell the audience what it is!
    2. Outline the presentation. This is a simple way of connecting with the audience. Let them know, broadly, what you’re going to cover. Let them know that there will be time for questions at end – or that you’re happy to take questions along the way. Tell them at the beginning that you’re going to cover the Top 5 Ways to Write a Detective Novel (and then tick them off along the way). Tell them that you’ll spend time on the Life of a Writer, then you’ll read an excerpt from your latest book, and at the end you’ll show them something from your Work in Progress. These signposts help your audience’s expectations, and get them ready for your presentation.
    3. Engage. Easier said than done, of course, but try to connect with the audience near the beginning of your talk. Some suggestions: tell a short anecdote about your school days or your reading; tell how you got to the venue (a funny thing happened to me on the way …); ask a leading question that most of them will answer in the affirmative (‘How many of you saw [insert name of latest popular movie here]?); thank them for having you as a speaker – because it’s important market research for you …
    4. Keep an eye on the audience. Try to judge from their expressions and posture how your talk is going. Speed it up, if necessary. Slow down and explain more if they’re looking puzzled.
    5. Audio visual is helpful, but not to be relied on. No matter how well you’ve prepared your PowerPoint or images of book covers, there’s no guarantee it will work on the equipment at whatever venue you’ve arrive at. I have multimedia presentations but I use them very judiciously, usually at places I’ve been before. If I take them to an untried venue, I arrive early and I have a complete alternative, low-tech presentation ready to go, just in case.
    6. Mention your website at the end, and it can be worth mentioning if you have a Facebook and Twitter presence.
    7. As you finish thank the audience and repeat your name. It never hurts.

    I enjoy the talking side of the writing job. It’s refreshing, challenging and it gives me a chance to meet my audience face to face – or my potential audience, anyway.

     

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