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This is a pix of our new home – well, of the apartment block – in KK. That’s Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, for those of you not familiar with the Malaysian love of acronyms.

And now the problems begin: what do I pack to take with us, when we might only be there 6 months? All my lovely reference books…how can I leave them behind? More to the point, how can I take them with me without anchoring my baggage to the tarmac under its sheer weight? Decisions, decisions…

And this photo is one my husband took in Kalimantan – the Indonesian part of Borneo. For no particular reason – I just like it. Those brown things are coconuts with the outside husk already removed.

If you don’t read fantasy, read this

The other day, I was sitting talking with a group of friends and I told a story about my childhood. One long time friend then said, “Oh, Glenda – why don’t you write that sort of thing instead of this – this other stuff?” This other stuff being fantasy. Despised pulp, less than literature, childish drivel, or whatever. What on earth can you say in reply to a remark like that?

I was on the Purple Zone this morning (the great online forum over at the website of Harper Collins Voyager Australia) and read what one writer was told when registering with the lecturer of a writing course: ‘Well, there’ll be people writing serious stuff and they may not want to read your work. But don’t worry, there’s always a couple of people writing genre stuff in each class who stick together in the corner!’

This prompted Alma Alexander/Hromic into an excellent reply on her blog.

And I feel a rant coming on, too.

We all start by reading fantasy. Cinderella. Fairy Tales. Mother Hubbard rhymes. Local stories of taking animals. All those delightful kids’ stories that have charmed generations of children, and the modern tales that are just as good. We all have a background in myths and legends from whatever the culture of our upbringing. Religious stories are – almost by definition – full of the fantastic.

Then somewhere along the line, people seem to drop out and start reading what is supposedly “real” (even though it is fiction and not real at all). Unfortunately, many do it under the mistaken belief that fantasy is only for children.

Er, why?

Because only kids have the imagination to appreciate it? Come on.

Or maybe you think fantasy is poorly written. Er, what have you been reading, ever? There is enough top notch fantasy writing out there to keep you reading a book a day for a year and never be disappointed by the quality. If this is what you think, then you are choosing the wrong books. Or is it, dare I suggest, that you actually don’t read fantasy and are just guessing???? Shakespeare wrote fantasy. So did Dante, Noel Coward, Oscar Wilde, Rushdie, Dickens, Isobelle Allende…

Maybe you think that when you’ve read one fantasy book, you’ve read them all? Excuse me while I roll around the floor laughing. That’s like saying I don’t watch TV/go to the movies because it’s all the same. Fantasy can be modern, medieval, ancient, futuristic. It can be in this world or any other. It can be sad, funny, tragic, happy, violent or romantic; it can be about love or war or passion or principles or education or …anything.

Maybe you think fantasy has no relevance to your world. Rubbish. That’s like saying we have nothing to learn from “Animal Farm” because it was all about animals. Of that Tolkien had nothing to say about the human spirit because he wrote about Hobbits and Middle Earth. All modern successful fantasy books are successful because people can relate to the story they tell.

There was a lovely article in The Guardian (Saturday January 21, 2006) where an author, Francesca Simon, (who loves “literature”) and her son (who loves fantasy) challenge one another to read the other’s favourite. Mother heads off to read Robin Hobb’s Assassin trilogy. Son ends up with Trollope.

End of experiment: son is absolutely sure Barchester Towers is not for him. Mother is hooked on Robin Hobb and goes out to buy the next book in the trilogy. It was no contest.

I have nothing to be ashamed of because I write fantasy.

And you – if you have never read it, you don’t know what you’re missing. If you tried once and hated it, then try again. You didn’t give up on mainstream books because you happened to hate one, did you? That’s like giving up on oranges because you had one sour one.

And bear in mind, we fantasy readers and writers do get tired of being scorned by people who don’t even read the genre.

Landing on a road

My husband just came back from Kalimantan in Bornean Indonesia. He took a plane from Banjarmasin to a place with the unlikely name of Slippery Rock (in translation). As the twin-engined prop came in to land, he realised they were coming down on the road…

There was a policeman at either end of the “runway” to stop the traffic. Guess that’s what is known as an economical use of facilities.

And out on the blogs there is some tearing of hair over UK’s plan to introduce ID cards. Can’t be done, say some! Why, every time you lose a card, get married, die, change your name, change your address, get older, etc you have to alter the card…how will the registration offices cope? And how will the guy on the street cope with having to produce the card every time they do something? Reading Charlie’s Diary (Charles Stross the Sf writer), you’d swear they were right. It sounds like an impossible task.

And then you realise, hey, wait a moment. Malaysia does that. In fact, we have just re-done all Identity Cards to go from the old type to the new computer chip “smart” cards for everyone over 12 years old. We have to produce the darn thing to open an account, get a license, buy a house, vote, register for anything at all, go to a hospital, enter a govt office…the list is quite endless. And we do it. It’s second nature.

Over on the horror writer Poppy Z. Brite’s blog (met her at Continuum in Melbourne last year), there’s a look at New Orleans 8 months after Katrina – and it is appalling (see the entry entitled “Not OK” March 31st). This is the USA and they can’t get something as simple as rubbish collection back on track after 8 months? You know what? I don’t think that would happen here. In fact I’m damn sure it wouldn’t, not if so many people were affected so badly. We don’t have the resources of money and facilities that the USA has, but we have something else…not sure what it is. A certain capacity to deal with whatever life throws at us? A better, more workable system of government? Maybe it’s just an absence of Dubya!

You know what? In Asia – for all its chaotic surface – there are times when things get done a damn sight better and/or more quickly that in the western world.

Malaysia Boleh

And I have to hear about my daughter’s car accident by reading her blog…?

Kids! When I complained, she said ‘Well, Mum, I learn all sorts of things first from reading your blog…’ Sign of the times, I guess. We live in different countries and blog publicly before we talk privately. How mad is that?

My daughter is surreal. She has a penchant for weird car accidents. In this one she had a car full of drums.
My first accident was backing into a broken-down post. Hers? She managed to drive into the side of a stationary three-week-old Bentley.
And if that wasn’t enough, there was a fatality too, but fortunately he was dead first. Yep, she drove her car into a hearse. With a body in a coffin. And flowers. And an audience of mourners waiting for the procession to drive off to the cemetery. I hope they had a sense of humour as they watched the coffin rocking under the impact.

Her band has just had a single out in UK, and it is doing well – nice reviews. They have their next release in Australia, April 10th. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, you can visit their website here: F.O.Machete.

Photos by Simon Clark

Author Trepidation

The rain is bucketing down – lightning tripped the circuit-breaker an hour ago in the middle of the storm – but the bucket in my dining room has remained dry. This, after 3 visits from the roof guy who muttered all the while about people who ought to know when they have to shell out for a new roof. I don’t think he believed me, especially as we were only talking about half the roof, when I said we can’t afford it yet a while.

So the lack of a leak was a plus. Second plus, it seems we may have found a small apartment in Kota Kinabalu – with, would you believe a view of Mount Kinabalu, surely one of the world’s most spectacular and memorable mountains, rising as it does – like Kilimanjaro – so far about its immediate surroundings. 4095 m, 13,435 ft.

Even so, today I am a firewalker on hot coals…can’t stay still. My latest baby is out there in the world, on its own for the first time, and no one has yet told me how lovely it is. Or how puking awful. Or anything.

I wanna be a playwright. They don’t have to wait days or weeks to find out what everyone thinks of their offspring.

And, there is absolutely no connection between all that and the fact that a category four cyclone (hurricane), Cyclone Glenda, is on the rampage in Australia, heading into my home state.

Win a free book!

If you don’t know about this opportunity to win a free copy of Heart of the Mirage, scroll down a bit for details.

Here is the first question:

The second book of The Mirage Makers trilogy is now called The Shadow of Tyr. While I was writing it, it had another name. What was that name?

Do NOT send in your answer yet. There are 2 more questions coming up within the next 2 weeks.

And just for the heck of it, here’s a picture to brighten up your day. It was taken by my husband – and those are not beetles sitting on the wings of that moth. That’s just nature pretending…
And the dead leaf in the bottom left? That’s another moth.
And we sff folk talk about sensawunda? Nature beat us to it by eons.

At last, some sense on bird flu…

I was interviewed by Tan Cheng Li from The Star newspaper last week, and today the article came out. And a very good article it is too, to counterbalance some of the wild statements that have issued forth from the mouths of the ignorant in this country. There was even one state politician who seemed to be suggesting that we kill all migratory birds.

There is far more evidence to suggest that wild birds do NOT spread bird flu than there is evidence to suggest that they do. Interesting, eh? Especially when so much of governmental investigation is aimed at wild birds. One hopes they are also committing the same amount of resources to the illegal transport of poultry, illegal import/sale of caged birds and cock-fighting birds, import of organic manure, organic fish-food and poultry feed – all of which have been heavily implicated elsewhere.

I don’t want to die of bird flu. I want the truth about its causes and how it is spread. And while people point the finger only at wild birds – thereby avoiding blame for their/our human stupidity – then we are not searching for the truth.

Three free books for readers of this blog…

Ok, folk, if you’d like a free copy of Heart of the Mirage
– book 1 in “The Mirage Makers” trilogy – here’s how:

Open only to folk who are NOT residents of Australia & New Zealand.
(Mean, aren’t I?) You folk downunder have a chance to buy a copy in your local bookstore from Wednesday onwards.

1. Answer 3 questions which will be up on this blog sometime in the next two weeks. Answers can be found somewhere in the blog. (Fortunately I’ve only been at this two months, so you don’t have far to search!)
2. Once question number 3 appears, send your 3 answers to me at info@glendalarke.com

The first question will appear tomorrow. The first 3 people to supply correct answers to all 3 questions will then be asked to supply a snailmail address for postage of the book.

If you want to know what the book is about, here’s the media release from Harper Collins:

A magnificent new offering from the author of The Isles of Glory trilogy, brimming with betrayal, invasion, magic, and survival against all odds.
From my early childhood, my life was paved with the mosaics of illusion … a history of betrayal’

The Exaltarch rules the Tyrans Empire through force and a network of spies known as the Brotherhood. In Kardiastan, the empire has forced out the ruling class of Magor and imposed their own leaders.

Ligea Gayed, one of the top agents of the Brotherhood, is ordered to find a Kardiastan rebel leader and bring him to justice. A straightforward enough assignment for her, but all Ligea finds is mystery upon mystery. The rebels seem able to come and go at will. And if Tyranian soldiers attempt to cross the desert in pursuit, they are never heard from again.

As circumstances begin to unleash chaos into her world, Ligea is forced to face her own demons and her own violent past so that she may discover the secrets of the Magor of Kardiastan …


Glenda Larke was born in Western Australia. She trained as a teacher and taught English in Australia, Vienna, Tunisia and Malaysia. She currently combines her passion for writing fantasy with an equal passion for bird watching and rainforest conservation. Glenda has two adult children and lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with her husband. She has recently become a grandmother and has spent some time in America, looking after her new grandson. Glenda’s first trilogy with HarperCollins Voyager, The Isles of Glory was popular with readers and critically acclaimed.
Travelling has given me ideas galore. And I think I have gained an understanding of how cultural differences are formed… an essential understanding for a fantasy writer who has to build a whole society from scratch.’

ACCLAIM FOR ‘The Mirage Makers’:

Glenda Larke writes stories of real consequence, and this is no exception. Powerful, down to earth and filled with the sharpness of the true storyteller, The Mirage Makers is entertainment with an edge.’

Russell Kirkpatrick, author of The Fire of Heaven trilogy

‘The Mirage Makers is a masterpiece! Larke has crafted a compelling tale of duty, honour, and redemption set in a Byzantine empire filled with betrayal, passion and greed. One of the finest writers of fantasy fiction Australia has to offer, and a world-builder extraordinaire. Larke’s characters jump off the page and take a hold of the reader’s heart and mind. You will remember this take and the world it is set in, long after you have finished reading!’

Mark Timmony, Galaxy Bookshop, Sydney

ACCLAIM FOR ‘The Isles of Glory’:

‘This is a novel from an experienced and gifted writer and it shows’

Visions magazine (on The Aware)

The Aware is part mystery, part political intrigue, part love story and many parts rollicking adventure. The action takes place in the refuse tip of Gorthan Spit, and Larke paints a nose-twitchingly vivid picture of this ramshackle, cut-throat harbour and its denizens.’

The Courier Mail (on The Aware)

Really, really good! A witty, enthralling story to keep you up late!’

Trudi Canavan, author of The Magician’s Guild (on Gilfeather)

Selling this one is going to be easy. For the first time in ages there is a book I think just about anyone who is into fantasy would enjoy’

Stefan Brazulatis, Dymocks Carousel (on Gilfeather)

Ten things I have learned as a fantasy writer.

Over at Ben Peek’s blog here and at Elizabeth Bear’s here , there are great lists on what they have learned as a writer…

So here’s my ten things I have learned as a fantasy writer:

1. No matter how brilliantly you write, there will still be people who will assume you write crap because it’s fantasy.
2. There is no way a fantasy writer can answer the question, ‘What’s it about?’ without sounding like an utter idiot.
3. There will always be the odd person who thinks you write the other kind of fantasy.
4. No matter how much you think people who read speculative fiction of any kind must be in search of writing that is sharply different, imagination-challenging and intellectually stimulating, the truth is that, by and large, what sells best is the comfortable stuff that wouldn’t challenge a Barbie doll.
5. There is no way a fantasy writer can answer the question, ‘Will they make a film out of it?’ without sounding like you’re making excuses for not being good enough.
6. It’s better not to look at the expression on the face of the person who has just said, “Fantasy? Oh, you write children’s books!” as you try to explain that no, you actually write stuff for adults.
7. Fantasy writers stutter a lot when speaking to people who don’t read fantasy but want to know all about it.
8. Science fiction writers are not always kind about fantasy books or fantasy writers.
9. Any sff book that achieves success in the wider world of literary fiction gets called something else – like “magical realism” or “surreal fiction” or “fabulist” or “a visionary portrayal” or “an allegorical look at the modern world” or “a futuristic tale of…” You get the picture. Never science fiction or fantasy.
10. Marketing people think dragons on the cover sell books, even if there’s no dragon in the story. Likewise with wolves, chain-mail (especially on women), swords (especially wielded by babes), castles on crags, bearded ancient sages with staffs, eagles, stormy skies, ravens…