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Friday, 4 November 2016

A Fearsome Anthology

As a writer, one must make a conscious effort to avoid being stuck in a dark room swearing at the television in one's underpants. As a part of this effort, I joined a writers' group - the Northern Beaches Writers' Group, to be specific. I did this for several reasons, not least of which was the fact that spending my time exclusively with fictional people was sending me a bit strange. Okay, stranger.

What I expected was the usual mix of cheer squad and ersatz group therapy session, which I fully intended to ameliorate with decidedly irresponsible drinking. What I got was a serious, dedicated and talented group of authors with whom I was able to participate in multiple, rewarding and award-winning collaborative projects. All of which I ameliorated with decidedly irresponsible drinking.

The most recent of these projects has been the creation of an NBWG anthology of short stories for (hallelujah!) adults. The unifying theme was to be the interface between humanity and technology. Special focus was to be given to the question: To what extent do the machines that we make, actually make us?

What I was expecting was a mix of sci-fi and cyberpunk - cool, dark and gory and all decidedly genre. What I actually got was a delightful surprise.

Okay, the task of managing the editing of twenty plus stories ranging in length from two to six thousand words was neither delightful nor surprising. Nor was the cat-herding element of remote logistics as applied to a disparate rag-tag of self-directed, pre-occupied creatives. Being the person I am, I created what I thought to be a simple, centralised system for markups, corrections, version control and uniform product creation. What I discovered was that practically nobody knows how to use the internet, follow simple instructions or format a document. For quite a few weeks, there was a picture of me, tearing my hair out, next to the word 'frustration' in any dictionary you care to name.

As I said, though, this wasn't really a surprise. But the content and quality of the submissions really was. There were stories about bereavement and love, tales of ordinary people in far-flung universes, complex and subtle accounts of the minor but deeply impactful effect of our enhanced connectivity and, most surprisingly, a decent amount of sex.

What we've turned out here is a multi-layered, diverse exploration of an important theme. Which is nice, considering that all I was trying to put together was a more or less thin pretext for vanity publishing a bunch of our own stuff.

So, with the help of some absolute rockstars and award-winning authors too numerous to name here, we've finally got the anthology to the point where we can launch it onto an unsuspecting public. We'll be doing this at the Sunkissed Bar and Grill in Manly on Friday the 18th of November at 1830. I'd be very happy to see you there. In fact, I'd be overjoyed. Do come down - it's going to be absolutely epic.

Here is a list of people who have been a great help in making this anthology happen. They're in no particular order, but I mention them because you should do yourself a favour and check out their stuff.

Kylie Pfeiffer
Tony McFadden
Zena Shapter
Alex Cain
Harriet Cunningham
Amy Spurling
Zoya Nojin

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