A few Science Fiction haiku of my own


One of the things I really want to do with the re-opened blog is to post more of my own specfic writing than I used to do.

So, for the first post, I’ll put up some Science Fiction haiku/’scifaiku’ that I wrote a few months ago, for an anthology call-out. By now, it has become apparent that my scifaiku didn’t get included, so I’d like to give them a new and different chance to reach some readers. 🙂 SF haiku is both inspired by and different from the original nature-oriented  form of haiku and also a bit more casual than the strict ‘old school’ 5-7-5 syllable form that was/has been taught in many countries’ schools for so many recent decades.

I’ll do a separate post about SF haiku, as I’m really enjoying the form and what creative possibilities it can offer, both in its own right and as it relates to Speculative Fiction in general.  For now, here are the first ones:

Opera scene:

of two space-ships, gliding

towards a star.


Forgotten space:

chambers of a deserted

cargo terminal.


Small islands:

A mad scientist makes a bridge…

nothing is safe.


Volcanic temper

of a leading colonist

dooms fine dream.


Hello again! The Green Castle is re-opening. :)

Hello again,

I am happy to re-open the main doors and lower the drawbridge of The Green Castle and resume the blogging activity about the vast range of Speculative Fiction. 🙂

The months-long ‘closing the castle’ time was unplanned. After the post about experiences at Conflux9/NatCon in Canberra over the Anzac Day Long Weekend, many other things started to demand attention…and the blogging momentum was lost. The blog itself wasn’t forgotten, though: I took some notes of new ideas for things to blog about, investigated more  Speculative Poetry and started writing some, saw some new movies including the new ‘Star Trek’ one – and one or two that were ‘old classics’ but I hadn’t seen them myself. Magazines such as SFX and SciFiNow also gave me many hours of interest-filled reading.

I want to resume blogging at The Green Castle at least a couple of times a week. My increasing interest in Speculative Poetry, both in terms of reading and writing it, will get a fair bit of blog-post space from now on. Short personal essays on various aspects of specfic will also ‘get an airing’. 🙂  This blog also seems to offer a good incentive to write some micro-fiction/flash fiction and also share some information about ultra-short story forms and maybe links to related author interviews on websites/blogs, plus any promising writers’ guides that deal specifically with these forms of stories.

My first post of my own recent/new writing is coming up very shortly, in a separate post.

For now: welcome back to The Green Castle! 🙂

cheers, Tim

Fun and discoveries at ‘Conflux9’ in Canberra for 2013

Hi and welcome back to The Green Castle!

Within the past week, I’ve had the  chance to attend the annual ‘Conflux’ convention for Speculative Fiction, held in my home city of Canberra, Australia.  Although usually held in early October, this year Conflux9 was on Thursday 25 – Sunday 28 April at the Rydges Capital Hill hotel, which is located between the suburbs of Forrest and Manuka in the city’s Inner South.  The different time of year was also to make it easier to combine with the longer-running NatCon that is traditionally held in April and in various cities. This year being Canberra’s own centenary year, the two cons merged to form a super con. 🙂

This year’s convention theme was: ‘Steampunk, Junk and Angels’ -which was played out in various ways throughtout the four days of activities and in the striking design of the program book’s cover art…and in concentrated forms at the Steampunk High Tea and Masquerade dance in the ‘Junkyard Cathedral’. The Steampunk theme was also pretty eveident in various panel sessions and the launch of Richard Harland’s latest Steampunk novel, Song of the Slums.

Conflux9 -‘the con’ from here on in – really was a great four-day event that offered a wealth of story-telling, many chances for social gatherings on small and large scales, panel sessions covering a wide range of Speculative Fiction topics and themes as well as various aspects of the story-telling craft, a very friendly and informal atmosphere and of course daily chances to discover and buy lots of fantastic new books. 🙂  How informal? Well, how many major awards ceremonies do you know of or get to go to that happily accommodate jeans&t-shirt kind of clothes…and that’s after a full day of being busy with whatever activities you chose to try out then heading straight to the ceremony venue? 🙂

More assorted features of the con: annual Art Show, Interview with International Guest of Honour (Nalo Hopkinson from Canada), the entertaining Opening and Closing ceremonies, a major award ceremony on the Saturday night for presenting the national-level annual Ditmar Awards, a Cocktail Reception, a Market Day that expanded the range  of merchandise stalls, plus various book launches and the traditional end-of-con ‘Dead Dog Party’ on early Sunday evening.

A personal highlight: as a member of the Canberra Speculative-fiction Guild (CSfG),  I was very keen to make sure I was at the launch of the group’s newest anthology, Next, on the Friday night. Although I don’t have a story in the Next anthology, I’ve been following the project’s progress as have so many Guild members; and while I enjoy book launches in general anyway, this event had both an additional personal interest and also some additional inspirational value. 🙂   This launch presented the tangible end results of about 1 1/2-years’ work since the previous collection (i.e Winds of Change, launched at Conflux7 in 2011), many personal creative breakthroughs and a general achievement by the Guid itself, in continuing as a successful community group.  It was edited by Guild members Simon Petre and Rob Porteous.

The guest speakers who launched Next – i.e, the writers Richard Harland and Janeen Webb – both did a fine job of setting the scene and making the all-important declaration. Rik and Leife, two of the CSfGers represented in the anthology, did energetic short readings of their respective stories.  Once the launch was declared Official and more wine and nibbles were consumed, a substantial portion of the contributing writers lined at up the Signing Table, checked their pens were reliable and it was time for the audience to do some keen autograph-hunting,  to personalise freshly-bought copies. 🙂

Interview with International Guest of Honour: Nalo Hopknson, interviewed by writer Justine Larbalestier:  the audience reaction suggested that everyone attending this feature event was really pleased they did make a point of being there, as the Guest f Honour gave so many interesting and funny stories about her background of life in the Caribbean, New York then Canada, her process of gaining recognition as a writer, experiences of the famous Clarion writers’ workshop, publication of first book and general matters about story-telling, non-writer work for a a Toronto arts council, Literary and/vs Genre Fiction. She also gave some really good answers to questions from the audience and worked those into some of what she had already said, so the overall experience was very inclusive as well as informative and fun . And really, isn’t that ability of a writer  one of the classic gauges of personal value for attending such a session at any writers’ event? 🙂

Panel sessions: for a four-day event, there sure were lots of choices for panels sessions! 🙂  Some of my own choices included: Crime tropes, essence of Steampunk stories, self-publishing experiences and strategies, “putting the heart back into super-heroes”, alternative uses of magic and using history to inspire fiction. All the panel sessions I attended were rewarding in one way or another. Other panel topics/themes in the program included: Dr Who, conventions themselves, promotion, mentoring and the ethics of immortality.

Workshops were offered too, plus readings by authors and a ‘gauntlet’ session for story-tellers who felt a bit competitive. 🙂

Opening & Closing Ceremonies; Ditmar Awards: long-time Canberra writer Craig Cormick did an excellent job as MC of the  con’s Opening & Closing Ceremonies, with his light-hearted and creative approach that tied in with the con’s on-going thematic attachments to magic and characters, he engaged the audience right from the start, took care to cover the  ‘house-keeping’ matters and kept each ceremony “moving along nicely” for pace.

The Ditmar Awards, presented on the Saturday night of the con, were hosted by a different writer: Sydney-based Deborah Biancotti. She also used  a generous amount of humour to keep that ceremony progressing well.  Screens were set up to show Tweets of what was happening during the ceremony and there was an intriguing attempt to make a Lego model of SF writer Gary Wolfe.  A couple of lucky audience members even won an opportunity each to go up on stage and announce nominees for an award category and do the Opening of the Envelope and Reading Out the Name. 🙂 As the Ditmars are substantially based on fan votes, this was a great way to keep the awards connected to the audience full of fans, as well honouring the delighted recipients.  I’m very happy to report that CSfG members Shauna O’Meara (for art works) and Kaaron Warren (book and story categories) were among those collecting fine trophies designed by artist Lewis Morley.  Again, that ‘something extra’ that lasted through the con days, was very much a part of the Ditmars ceremony. 🙂 

Overall impressions? Inspiring, fascinating, informative, sociable and fun.

**Huge thanks! to the Co-Chairs Donna Maree Hansen and Nicole Murphy, the whole Conflux9 committee and hotel staff…and everyone who helped make it happen by simply being there and having a fine time. :)**

Note: for some extra samples of personal Conflux9 experiences, here is a link to the list of various personal ‘wrap-up’ blog posts by other attendees who have already contributed reports for the con’s official blog.

‘The Creature from the Black Lagoon’: series of feature articles in a magazine

Hi and welcome to The Green Castle 🙂

My interest in the topic of “classic monster characters” in the spec-fic range has been increasing in the last year or two and there are certain particular monsters that have a way of catching the attention, no matter how brief a glance I take at ‘monster magazines’ in a  newsagency.  This turned out to be true for me, once again, a little less than a week ago, when I saw  the March/April 2013 issue (#266) of Famous Monsters of FilmLand magazine in a city newsagency. I decided to buy a copy as an addition to holiday reading over Easter Long Weekend. By the time I’d finished  the second article on Good Friday morning, I realised that making a few comments about the articles  could make a good topic for a blog post. 🙂 I’ll get to the matter of the magazine itself in a later post.

The articles:

Issue #266 of the Famous Monsters of FilmLand magazine dedicates the great majority of feature space to two series of articles: one each about ‘The Creature from the Black Lagoon’ and the ‘Wicked Witch of the West’ as played by Margaret Hamilton in the original ‘The Wizard of Oz’ movie. I’ll comment on the Witch articles in a different post.

The lavishly illustrated articles (pp.12-36) on The Creature cover a fair variety of aspects of its life as a very unusual  original film-industry creation that actually became iconic well beyond the silver screen.  During the Cold War,  the trilogy  of Creature films  – ‘The Creature from the Black Lagoon’, ‘Revenge of the Creature’ and ‘The Creature Walks Among Us’ – contributed to the 1950s craze for 3D movies. There was the original compelling artwork and costume design, dedicated work by various  stuntmen whose own very high level of fitness and stature when doing the land and water scenes made the Creature seem fittingly powerful and menacing, the sheer profit-making power of the trilogy that then influenced many other monster films for decades afterwards, plus directing and producing matters.  Throw in some unpleasant credit-stealing and other studio politics, but that was largely lost on the audiences and only ‘came to light’ in later decades.  There was also the strangely powerful grip the Creature had and has on the Public Imagination  (which in itself can be pretty monstrous).

From what I could gather in the articles, some of the reasons for the Creature (also known as ‘Gill-Man’) being unusual for the movies of 1950s America, included:  an exceptional level of skill and resources applied to the artwork, sets  and costume production in an era when Monster Films were already ‘on the way out’ in Hollywood;  the fact the title-role character wasn’t created as a post-war nuclear mutant or Mad Scientist’s experiment but as an actual made-for-Hollywood (using, apparently, some ideas from actual Amazon River legends that had been mentioned at an A-list party in 1940s) character within Hollywood and that the first two films became significant in the fuelling of the 3D movie craze.  The final film, in the early ’60s, was screened after the 3D craze had faded.  Add some powerfully lurid graphic art for the movie posters, some inspired (or sometimes just plain lucky) casting decisions for key characters that helped “bring the story alive” on screen, the great stunt work mentioned above and one  stand-out factor in that by the third movie  the audiences were actually more often on the Creature’s side than not!   All the three films were meant to be horror flicks in which human characters were meant to be consistently and ultimately preferred by the paying audiences and this was in an era of regular atomic testing, electric shock therapy in asylums and liberal use of lab rats, etc.  By the last parts of the third Creature movie  it has been prodded, shot at innumerable times, repeatedly operated on in some very ruthless and sickening experimental surgical processes and imprisoned in various ways.  It also kidnapped various sultry swimsuit-clad heroines who had, of course,  also been the “object of affection” for the films’ various leading and supporting male characters. 🙂  The Creature’s kidnappings were vividly featured in a fair range of the movie posters as well as in scenes in the movies.   However, according to the magazine’s contributing writers, cinema audiences eventually saw that for all the Creature had wreaked a lot of havoc, it had a basic common trait with the already-heroic Hunch-back of Notre Dame: the Creature had  a poignant and powerful hope, however doomed, that was to be able to simply live on its own terms and even “find love” instead of being reviled and hunted.  Now, this is too late for the Creature itself to feel any better, but I think some justice of a sort has been awarded to The Creature by it achieving story-telling immortality and icon status beyond the likely intent of its various creators. 🙂

In addition to the commentaries on the movies and the Creature character itself, plus the influences on Horror films and Hollywood productions, later articles in this same series go into the  matters of movie-related pop culture, both at the time of original studio releases and in later decades. I was very interested to find that Creature-related collectibles not only still exert a hold on many collectors and fans of the movies, but also consistently command a higher price than for items relating to other monsters and ‘monster movies’ of the same era.  The magazine’s editor admits to doing some ‘field research’ of his own…and loving it. 🙂

Online image galleries: haunted houses, creepy castles, spooky mansions, etc

Evening, all; welcome to The Green Castle. :)

This will be a fairly short list-style post, including ‘hot’/live links, about online galleries of pictures featuring haunted houses, creepy castles, spooky mansions, decrepit asylums, etc in Fantasy Art and also places in various parts of the off-line world.  I’ll reference websites, facebook pages and a blog or two if I find it easily enough, that l’ve enjoyed browsing (or even just discovered during process of compiling this post) as part of my increasing interest in and enjoyment of Speculative Fiction over the past several years.

There won’t be any particular ‘order of favourites’ within this list, as the ones I’ll include – starting with some I can easily think of “off the top of my head” or get an example of from ‘bookmarks’ or quick keyword searches – are already among those I keep re-browsing or certainly intend to, now that I’ve found them.  Plus, there are simply so many I haven’t even discovered yet.

So, here are some to ‘whet the appetite’ [ :) ]:

Haunted, Old, Beautiful Mansions, Castles and Spooky Deserted Asylums [NB: this is a facebook page and you may get a pop-up box to request logging in to/signing up for fb; so is the ‘Spooky places’ page immediately below]

Spooky Places

Creepy castles [this ‘fotosearch site has a lot of other galleries too, like ‘dark stair-wells]

New England’s Most Haunted Asylums [unlike the ‘Creepy castles’ one above, that includes some artwork, this one is an actual newspaper feature from a Boston-area paper’s online edition]

The Spookiest, Creepiest Old Houses For Sale in America [this is an actual real-estate agency feature, from a New York-based online magazine-style site, so lists US$ prices of pictured mansions]

Exploring Mysterious, Abandoned Mansions [blog post on ‘Urban Ghosts – Forgotten Places & Urban Curiosities”; main images also have a flikr address for galleries of related photos ]

Derelict Mansions [a photo-based UK site that specialises in black&white photos of “…derelict mansions and larger houses” in Wales, arrange dona county-by-county basis; far as I can tell, it’s not a real-estate site like the first US one listed above]

Gothic & Fantasy Art -‘Places’ album [contains a lot of art works, including gloomy castles and isolated mansions]

Happy browsing! 🙂

My own poem: ‘Three monks in a castle courtyard’

Hi and welcome again to The Green Castle. 🙂

One of the reasons for re-starting this blog was to create a space for sharing some of my own new writing that relates to or has in some way been inspired by various parts of the Speculative Fiction range and that this would also be true for also Speculative Poetry – i.e, verses in any form that drew on the same range as any prose pieces.

So, for this post I’m going to offer a poem I have written today. It describes some types of scenes that I have thought about in connection to my own reading of the Epic Fantasy tradition, especially when it comes to actions and characters in and around castles.  Beyond that, I wanted to present a picture of some monks as characters who might  offer more story-telling potential than men simply chanting in choirs or hunching themselves over vellum pages in a scriptorium. Those are both fine in their own ways and well-known to be authentic to the lifestyle of so many different orders of monks, but I felt there can be more to it than ‘just’ that.  Given how complex some political alliances can be in Epic Fantasy and in the original worlds that inspired and continue to inspire that tradition, I became intrigued by the possibility that a meeting between monks would not be entirely or even mostly about debating a finer point of scripture.

To add more intrigue to both the scenes in the poem and the writing process, I decided to not give myself any narrator’s privilege of knowing what the monks said but not revealing it to any other readers. There is also the issue that not all monks in a story or poem, or “in real history” back in Medieval Europe, would simply get along well with each other just because of all of them being ‘men of the cloth’.  Finally, some abbeys and monasteries could and did become very bound up in castle-based politics and so monks could, at least possibly, be used as couriers or spies, or both, and that could be without, or sometimes even with, their knowledge and agreement.

I hope you enjoy this early version of the resulting poem. 🙂

Three monks in a castle courtyard 

Three monks huddle

in a castle’s icy courtyard:

two monks in white robes,

their visitor in green.

They whisper, gesture, pull on their robes,

steal quick glances at soldiers

up on the castle’s walls.


The monk in green makes a final sign,

then stalks away.

He is noticed by a guard in the gatehouse, but neither man speaks.


In the next warm season,

an invading army closes in on the castle;

the guard remembers the monk who left early,

but not the exact shade of green.

Is there a link to the army’s flags?


An arrow robs him of any answer.

Stephen King writes about his own short stories in ‘Everything’s Eventual’

Hi and welcome to The Green Castle. 🙂

Some of Stephen King’s non-fiction about writing in general and his own writing in particular is what I really enjoy re-reading, out of all his work. In the early 1980s, Danse Macabre presented many intriguing insights about his personal history of loving and raising himself  among Horror stories and a more specific delight in storytelling through movies. As a bonus, he describes the Golden Age of drive-in movie theatres that ahs become a fairly faint memory for even many ‘Generation X’ readers, including this blogger. 🙂  Even back in the early ’80s, and the ’70s, when his then-editor first suggested the idea for this book at a time when King was ‘only’ four or five books into his now-legendary career, King’s knowledge of Horror was encyclopaedic in detail and scope. His love of it was already all-absorbing. For me as a reader, easily the best feature of the book is that the writing was and remains very accessible – very informed yet still had and had an easy-going aspect to it. In his own words:  “…I hope you have some fun with this book. Nosh and nibble at the corners or read the mother straight through, but enjoy”. Now that is unlikely to ever be confused with the introduction to a super-serious thesis. 🙂

Many years after that book, his On Writing memoir, which keeps being cited as a ‘modern classic’ about the writer’s craft, certainly rewards a lot of re-reading, partly because he is still willing to laugh at himself a lot and also be easy-going and candid about how he describes his own early life. Later, the accident and his process of living with the recovery also includes flashes of humour among the grimaces. His wife, Tabitha, and the kids, also get occasional very heartfelt mentions and there is no doubt just how much he realises he is indebted to his wife for staying through a lot of not-good-at-all times. For this post, though, I’m singling out his early-2000s collection of short stories, Everything’s Eventual, in which he also provides a really interesting range of personal commentaries about the stories. I’ll write about the stories themselves in a later post.

Firstly, imagine for a moment that you’re at a writers’ festival and in one panel session that includes a favourite writer -I’ll call them The Writer just for easy reference – and you get the chance to hear their personal ‘take’ on the experience/s behind specific stories and why they just “had to” write them, even if the stories didn’t find a market any time soon or win a competition. On the day of that panel session, The Writer is every bit as entertaining as you hoped when booking your festival ticket. You learn that there was no getting around the fact that a specific story idea had entrenched itself in The Writer’s mind and wouldn’t get out unless and until written out onto a page or screen. The Writer does have the ‘gift of the gab’ to a fair extent, and plenty of past festival experience, so they seem at ease with the audience and happy to share some tales about the writer’s life as they see it . It is one of those Ideal Writers’ Festival experiences you can take away with you and happily remember on your way home and later still, when reading their next story or hearing them in an interview, reading a column they’ve done for a magazine or simply checking out their author blog or website if they have one (King himself does have an online presence, at: http://www.stephenking.com/index.html).

Keep that image in mind but now add this scenario: you saw in some writer’s news updates you get that The Writer was going to be at ‘that’ writers’  festival as a panel member and do long signing sessions, one-on-one chat sessions for the festival’s website/on-site radio station/special magazine supplement, etc…but for one reason or another you just can’t get to it this year.  After coming to grips with that disappointment, you ask yourself: what is a ‘next best thing’ kind of option? Well, if you’re lucky, The Writer has actually written about their writing life and some specific books or favourite stories. So, while you’re house-bound until maybe the next year/the next festival, you can at least go to those comments/reflections/remarks within an interview and absorb yourself in the reading of them and enjoy what The Writer has given you in some form. Also, you  are giving yourself a personal (albeit imaginary) panel session experience featuring The Writer presenting their gems of self-deprecating humour and hard-earned wisdom…with a pretty good consolation prize that, clueless family members/brash guests/hungry pets aside, no total jerk or pushy bitch will cut in at random with their own self-glorifying comment and/or trivial question that breaks the flow of words and you won’t have to witness the  panel’s MC not managing to convince them to shut up and sit down or leave early.

OK, time to go to the book itself and give a few short examples of what I’ve been talking about. 🙂

Introduction: ‘Practising the (Almost) Lost Art: “…[I] have run a lot of language through the 2.2-pound organic computer/word processor I hang my Red Sox cap on”[p.xi] – on his decades of writing experience, not kidding himself about offering something profoundly new, yet having some confidence his own take on things could be worth considering. Plus, on the value of the Short Story as a form of story-telling: “…the equivalent of one of those one-of-a-kind items you can buy in an artisan’s shop”[p.xvi];

for the story ‘Autopsy Room Four’: “at some point I think every writer of scary stories has to tackle the subject of premature burial, if only because it seems to be such a pervasive fear”[p.30];

for the title story, ‘Everything’s Eventual’:  “it [the story] came out smoothly and without a singe hesitation, supporting my idea that stories are artifacts: not really made things which we create (and can take credit for), but things wich we dig up”[p.235]

for the story ‘Lunch at the Gotham Cafe’: “For me what makes it [the story] go isn’t the crazy maitre’d but the spooky relationship between the divorcing couple. In their own way, they’re crazier than he is. By far.”[p.360]

for the story ‘1408’, which started out as a ‘this is one possible way to start writing a new story’ kind of exercise in the On Writing book: “…In any case, let’s check in, shall we? Here’s your key…and you might take time to notice what those four innocent numbers add up to.”[p.424]

Happily, I suggest, Stephen King’s comments about the stories in the Everything’s Eventual collection are as close as you might reasonably get to a next-best-thing personal chance to ‘hear’ his wry and seasoned take on story-telling. 🙂

*For this blog post, I am using the Hodder&Stoughton/Hodder headline edition, Everything’s Eventual: 14 Dark Tales, published in 2002. The cited Danse Macabre edition is also from Hodder, in 1981.