My mum was an art teacher, so art has always been a huge part of my life. But no artwork has ever struck me like Patricia Puccinini’s work, and I don’t mean Skywhale.
I haven’t been to Canberra to see it flying. I find I never really know a piece of art until I’ve stood before it, or in this case, beneath it. I’ve seen some photos on @theskywhale_ and other sites. It looks good.
I support it because it’s Piccinini and it’s weird and awesome. Like most of her work, it leaves me feeling awed and peaceful. I fell in love with Piccinini’s work the day I saw it.
Her “Comforter” was the first piece I encountered, in the Art Gallery of NSW. “The Comforter,” is a sweet little girl, an orphan I thought. She reclines against a wall. In her arms a baby lies, but a baby with an unusual body shape. The little girl is covered in a fine down of soft black hair.
I crouched by this piece for a long time, amazed by the finish, the realism, the weirdness, the emotion and the beauty. The girl might be part monkey, and the baby part monster, but love and peace radiates from the scene.
Almost always, I wander through galleries looking and not finding what I want. I want artists to connect with me, to visually please and yet challenge me. I want their unique creations to connect with me and make me feel something.
Her work does it. As do Raqib Shaw’s glittering murals.
Piccinini twists conventions of beauty, tradition and normality into new shapes. Her people and creatures are just beyond the edges of my reality. I hurt with them, I fear them, and I fear for them. I want to help them, but do I dare?
In her work I see a challenge. Can we expand our empathy across conventions of appearance and difference?
I was thrilled when I heard about Skywhale. I would love to see it in the sky. But I feel afraid for it, too, as I fear for all her creations, that they will be shunned or stoned or ridiculed, because they are more different than our culture is prepared to tolerate.
I hope Skywhale travels around Australia and the world, and people are challenged and amazed by it. That they smile and laugh and make boob jokes.
Piccinini creates the best art I’ve ever seen. It comes from her soul, from a unique and magical place. It is new and wonderful and exquisitely executed.
When people question the value of her work, they’re decrying the value of art. Art’s purpose isn’t to please and entertain. It’s to explore. It’s a celebration of our creative spirit. It’s like the point on the pyramid of our civilisation. If we fail to expand our art, we are blunted. Our potential for growth is stunted.
We need art, like fiction, to challenge, stir, inspire and innovate. It’s like a knife disemboweling the skin of perceived reality to discover the shining intestines of what might be.
Skywhale makes me smile. It draws attention. It ends the debate on breastfeeding in public. Breasts are okay. With it floating above you, who could be afraid of a humble human breast in an infant’s mouth?
To me, Skywhale is the coolest thing Australia has ever done. I hope some of us realise that. It’s weird, it’s wonderful, it attracts global attention, and it’s bleeding edge.
The truly shocking thing is that Piccinini was only paid $8800 for her design. That’s very generous of her. She’s my hero.
Supanova 2013 was my first time at a convention as an exhibitor. I attended as part of my group, Gold Coast Speckies. It was a fair amount of work to get organised, but we shared that fairly. And when we were there we had a great time.
Our goals were to increase our web and Twitter followings, and to get the word out about us and Speculative Fiction, and sell some books. Our Twitter following didn’t increase much at all, which is a wake up call. It seems that while many writers love Twitter, much of the world (even the geek world) is not on it. Most people were more interested in buying an e-book instead of a physical copy.
We were delighted with our experience and the conversations we had, though.
The best parts, for me, were the happy faces and the great costumes, and talking to writers who were taking the first steps onto their creative path. I told them to join the Vision Writers and GC Speckies Yahoo groups.
It surprises me, actually, that this is my first piece of advice to new writers. Maybe I should say something like, “Write every day.”
But I feel like getting into the community is the best place to start, because it’s your line to advice, critique and markets. But even more importantly, writerly friendship and understanding. I feel like I wrote in a vacuum through my twenties and it didn’t help me with the quantity or quality of my writing.
On Wednesday I’m heading to Canberra for Conflux, for a long weekend packed with panels and meetings and afternoon teas and dinners. I can’t wait! Actually, I better go and pack.
My panels are: “Birth, Life and Death — Life Transitions in Speculative Fiction,” that’s on Thursday night at 9pm. Jodi Cleghorn can pinch me to keep me awake. My other panel is “Writing Communities” on Saturday morning at 10am. If I am hung over for this panel, my key point of advice will be, “Do not drink too much with one part of your writing community and embarrass yourself in front of another of your writing community the next day.”
Jokes aside — I promise not be (obviously) hung over or sleep deprived — I am very much looking forward to both of these panels. Speaking at Natcon is a little scary because there are so very many very knowledgeable writers about, but I think we all have unique insights and different views to share.
Goodnight and good writing and reading!
Today GC Speckies were delighted to attend The Gold Coast Writers Festival session about Science Fiction and Fantasy. Authors Rowena Cory Daniells, A.A. Bell and Jill Smith talked about their writing and our favourite genre. We also got to chat with them afterwards!
On the panel the writers said that Queensland was producing some great writing. They also discussed their first explorations of Science Fiction as children, from Lost in Space to the Jetsons.
They talked about how Science Fiction foretold the future.
“Who has a mobile phone?” Bell asked, and all but three of the audience members raised their hands. Science Fiction predicted those, but it didn’t predict the internet, Daniells said.
Bell said she would have her eye on the “black sheep,” those trying out different things in their writing than the rest of the flock. Those in the audience without the mobile phones might be in the new wave of big writers, she said.
Bell also discussed the distinction between Sci-Fi, S.F. and Science Fiction, and this was new and interesting to us. She said Sci-Fi was the more popular and fun end of the continuum, whereas Science Fiction was the scientific, political and intellectual extrapolation of science.
Daniells, Smith and Bell saw the future of Science Fiction and Fantasy as positive and dynamic. Publishing developments like small independent publishers, self publishing and e-books have allowed cross genre work to find readers, whereas mainstream publishers traditionally shied away from cross genre work which wasn’t marketable to a defined market.
Daniells said that Fantasy was growing up, from traditional and quest based fantasy to grittier and multifaceted work. She said that Science Fiction raised the ethical issues of science that the real world will one day have to face, such as genetic predisposition to disease and the effect that might have on insurance policies.
When asked about dystopian cyberpunk, the authors said readers prefered positive fiction, and negativity in Science Fiction may have pushed readers toward Fantasy. Smith said readers love strong characters who triumph in a happy ending. Bell said she encouraged readers to enjoy story shapes and the mood and technique of novels, rather than focusing on which part of Speculative Fiction a novel fell into.
The writers also said the internet has enabled Queensland writers to sell their writing in other states and countries, the only inconvenience being the time zone differences.
Daniells said she saw herself as a citizen of the world and her writing reflects the greater human condition.
GC Speckies Helen, Janis and Adriana attended the session and handed out some cards, hoping to recruit more local readers and writers to our meetings on the 3rd Sunday of the month at Ashmore. One fan we met recommended Arctic Rising by Tobias Buckell.
It was great to see these award-winning and knowledgeable authors! I hope I’ve relayed their panel accurately and would love them to clarify or expand on their views, if they wish to do so.
Cross posted at www.gcspeckies.com
I’m not good at post-con blogs, but I must blog about Natcon 2012 because otherwise I’d fail to acknowledge the fantastic people that are Australian Speculative Fiction. Yes, you know who you are. Everyone who was there. And you folks who couldn’t make it but wanted to. Etc.
Everyone I met was friendly and nice; my hair and hat received a zeppelin of compliments that should ensure their floatation until next June. The hat is safely away in the cupboard. I’m just a little grumpy with it, but haven’t even waved a bread knife at it yet.
No one was too friendly, except the cab driver who took me back to my hotel after midnight on Sunday morning. He was disturbingly enamoured with how deeferent my hair was to the point of being a beet creepy. But he let me out of the cab with all strands, ribbons and other accoutrements intact.
The niceness of con-goers is a special phenomenon, and I could wonder if everyone is nice because they want other people to like them and their work. But I don’t think that’s true, because not everyone creates work. I think a common love of genre is behind the spirit. I’ve heard someone else say it’s because we’re all fans at heart.
I wish I could bottle the convention spirit and spread it through the atmosphere, because it’s a spirit I’ve never found anywhere else. It seems to epitomise the opposite of hostility and war.
Maybe this is what religious people love about their spirituality, but I’ve been to churches and never felt anything akin to the enjoyment of hanging out at a convention.
I have been to literary nights and witnessed aggressive debates, which fell into name-calling and abuse, and to some extent I’d like to see more debate at conventions, without name-calling. Maybe I should attend more panels and debates…
There was a debate or two, wasn’t there? That might be a place for me to start. Scratch that last para.
I’m glad that I’m still making friends on Twitter with people I saw at Natcon, like Nalini Haynes, who I didn’t bump into at the con though I saw her on a panel. Social media is great for that. By the time I see her at the next con it’s very likely we’ll be friends.
There was a slight dissonance, I found, when talking to faces I’d never seen clearly before. I had to remind myself, for example, that Sean Wright had admired my tomatoes a year ago as a Twitterpic; although I’d never seen his face we’d shared many exchanges and I consider him a friend.
There’s not much else to say. I had a top time and got a great idea (The Fairytale Villains and Short Story panels inspired this) which I’ve launched into.
It might be worth noting that I found the best spot in the WHOLE con on Sunday. It was, what I came to think of as, Jo Anderton’s chair by the fire. That girl is a clever cookie.
Enough rambling. I am sooooo sick. And I keep getting sicker. This con lurgy is bad news. Perhaps they are testing biological weapons on us in an attempt to exterminate nerds. What a stagnant world it would be then.
So thanks heaps to the organisers and all the volunteers, and the dear waitress and maître d who worked their arses off to keep the hoard fed, coffeed and boozed.
I can’t wait until the next Natcon, and will drag more GCSpeckies with me if at all possible.
Until then, I’ll see you in the social media sphere.
Here is the first book created by H.K & J.Z Sparkle. I’m the first nom de plume, there. J.Z is the five-year-old illustrator and creative influence. She invented Diamond Loveheart Star, I think, and also had some direction in the story line.
The slideshow below is not ideal, but might work best in fullscreen and if you pause it so you can move on at your leisure. If it has already moved on, the first slide should be the cover, which is also above.
Thanks for reading.
In other writing news, I got my copy of Midnight Echo 6 in mail today. My story is really in there! You can read part of my story here. If you love it you can buy a copy from the Australian Horror Writers’ Shop.
Hope you enjoy!
Helen and J.Z