Classes March-April

Because I’ve got so much going on, classes are on hiatus till March, but once they start, there’s a bunch! May is coming within the week; I am still nailing down two classes for it.

Important Change: While the 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific slot remains the same, the other slot has moved from 1-3 PM to 12-2 PM Pacific.

Class cost is $79 for Patreon supporters and former students; otherwise $99. There are three Plunkett scholarships in each class taught by other teachers; classes that I am personally teaching will take extra ones or sliding scale as appropriate. All classes are recorded and the recording is sent out the week after class. You can register to just get the recording if you prefer; please indicate that’s what you’re doing if so.

To register for a class, mail me and include:

  • The class or classes
  • Whether or not you are a Patreon supporter/former student
  • How you would like to pay (Paypal, Venmo, check, other)

Here is the current list. New classes are bolded. AM classes are 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific time; PM classes are 12-2 PM Pacific time.


March 5 AM Xander Odell Writing Neurodiversity
March 5 PM Cat Rambo Eating Your Words: How to Write About Food
March 6 AM Kate Heartfield Planning and Outlining Your Novel
March 6 PM Cat Rambo Principles for Pantsers
March 12 AM Cat Rambo Replying to Other Stories
March 12 PM Evan J. Peterson Two Truths and A Lie: Writing Unreliable Narrators
March 13 AM Jennifer Brozek Project Management for Writers
March 13 PM Cat Rambo Follow the Money: Using Economics in Plotting, World-building, and Character Development
March 26 AM Margaret Dunlap Demystifying Outlines
March 26 PM Cat Rambo Beginnings & Endings
March 27 AM Rebecca Demarest Building Blocks of Mystery Writing
March 27 PM Cat Rambo Dunking the Reader in the Details
April 2 AM Tracy Townsend Reading Like a Writer
April 2 PM Cat Rambo First Draft Novel Blues
April 3 AM Cat Rambo Writing Stories that Change the World
April 3 PM P.J. Manney New Mythos Class
April 9 AM Fran Wilde Cussing in Secondary Worlds
April 9 PM Sam J. Miller Writing Masculinity
April 10 AM Cat Rambo Moving From Idea to Draft
April 10 PM José Pablo Iriarte/Cat Rambo Writing Nonbinary
April 23 AM Monica Valentinelli Introduction to Game Writing
April 23 PM Cat Rambo Fixing the Broken Story
April 24 AM Catherine Lundoff So You Want to Put Together an Anthology?
April 24 PM Cat Rambo Writing Your Way Into Your Novel
April 30 AM Cat/Wayne Rambo The Algorithms of Storytelling: Design Patterns and Fiction
April 30 PM Henry Lien Outlining for Pantsers

Descriptions of new classes that don’t have pages up yet:

  • Eating Your Words: How to Write About Food: (Cat Rambo) Taste is one of the most evocative senses to explore in writing, adding new dimensions and resonances to a scene. In this workshop, we’ll talk about how to incorporate food details into your scenes and worldbuilding, including some specific techniques that we’ll test out in class. Come prepared to learn how to write drool-worthy food to delight your readers.
  • Planning and Outlining Your Novel: (Kate Heartfield) Starting a new novel can be daunting. How long will it take? How long will it really take? How many drafts should you plan for? Should you write in drafts at all? Is an outline necessary? How do outlines work, anyway? In this class, an award-winning novelist who’s been through the drafting and revision trenches many times will take you through a process to plan it all out in a way that works for you. We’ll talk about time management as well as the craft side of moving from idea to draft and beyond. And we’ll discuss the psychological side of dealing with the unexpected — and the tedious — aspects of novel writing. Suitable for those who already have an idea in progress, in any genre, and for those who don’t. We’ll do a few short exercises together in class.
  • Follow the Money: Using Economics in Plotting, World-building, and Character Development: (Cat Rambo) Far too often, writers don’t consider the economic underpinnings of the world in which they’re working. But factoring in finances can yield new story ideas as well as plot twists and turns, rich world-building details, and insight into character and motivation. How do you use economics to create not more sensible worlds — but more interesting ones?
  • Writing the New Mythos (P.J. Manney) Description to come.
  • Writing Nonbinary: (José Pablo Iriarte/Cat Rambo) What does the idea of nonbinary do to traditional ways of writing gender, and how does it create richer, more interesting characters? How do you write nonbinary characters? How does being nonbinary shape writing not just about gender, but fiction overall? Join two accomplished story writers in a class that will combine lecture, discussion and writing exercises to deepen your understanding and skills.
  • Fixing the Broken Story: Cat Rambo Sometimes you know a story isn’t working, but you don’t know why. Identifying gaps and structural problems is the first step to fixing them. In this workshop you will learn techniques for identifying what’s missing in a story and then fixing the problem through a mixture of lecture, discussion, and in-class exercises. bring a story (or two) that you want to work on!
  • Outlining for Pantsers: (Henry Lien) This workshop teaches writers a painless but powerful technique to create a plot outline for their novel or story without killing spontaneity or discovery. Instructor Henry Lien has developed a Plot Grid technique to offfload the outlining process to a document that will keep track of the plotting for you. The Plot Grid allows for a sort of x-ray vision revealing the rhythm of your plot threads, and is scalable from the beat level to the act level. The workshop also explores how a) the Plot Grid delegates plot structure to a document that can be manipulated and rearranged in a mechanical way, freeing you to disregard structure and remain spontaneous; b) the Plot Grid allows you to see and be in control of your story like you’ve never been able to before; and c) The Plot Grid enables you to write stories that you couldn’t have before because their architecture or choreography were too intricate. Students will leave the workshop with a finished portion of their Plot Grid and clear steps on how to complete it for the rest of their novel. Note from Cat: I expect this class to run well over the two-hour mark.
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Guest Post: The Belfast Bar’s Beer-Battered Cod from The Big Cinch by Kathy L. Brown

The Big Cinch. (Art by Renato Pinto.)

In the prohibition-era, supernatural noir novel, The Big Cinch, Sean Joye, a young veteran of 1922’s Irish Civil War, has made his way to his brother’s place in the United States and into the employ of an ambitious judge. The courthouse charwoman, Mrs. MacSweeney, decides he’s just the person to rid the place of some troublesome haunts that only she can see. She shows up at Sean’s brother’s pub to convince him to do his duty.

Mrs. Mac’s Ghost Problem

Mrs. Mac’s whiskey seemed to take effect and she tucked into her dinner like a starving person. “I’m a God-fearing, Christian woman. I’ve never been a drinker. I marched with the temperance ladies. I’ve no truck with the devil or his wiles. But the new courts building is cursed. I’ve felt it since we moved in. And it’s getting worse. The vile things are bolder every day.”

“But why do you think I can help you with ghosts?”

She considered her words.

I waited, anointing my fish with malt vinegar. We batter the cod here, as Grandmother Joye did. No soggy breadcrumbs. Makes all the difference.

“I say ‘get thee behind me, Satan.’ But I was cursed with a bit of the Sight, I suppose,” she said at last. “‘Twas worse when I was a girl. But when you came outta the lobby this morning, I could see their mark on you. They’ve claimed you as one of their own.”

One way or the other, the fae are responsible for humans with the Sight—a knack for seeing the unseen and knowing the unknown—and we recognize each other. Perhaps outright, or maybe just an attraction to a kindred spirit. But in those days, I refused to look at many things I could plainly see.

“Do you want pie? I want pie.” I half stood and waved at Maud. “Is there apple?”

Mrs. Mac sopped up the grease on her plate with a bit of bread and popped it into her mouth. “No one believes me. I’ve about been sacked for warning folks.”

“What can I do?” I had a thought. “Shall I find you a priest?”

She about choked on her Bevo. “The Church of Rome has no answer here, boy.” She looked pleased though, as Maud brought warm pie with cheddar cheese. “No offense. I know it’s the way you was raised and you don’t know no better.”

“None taken.” I agreed to coffee at Maud’s suggestion and the child poured it for the two of us. “So, not saying you are right or wrong about me and what I might see or feel or know—”

“I want them to leave me alone. To go back to Hell and leave me be. Seeing as you know them, I thought you could tell the haunts that.”

I couldn’t deny I’d run smack dab into the Veil before. But I didn’t need this bother right now. I didn’t want it. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I just don’t see how I can help you.”

Her faded blue eyes turned bright with anger. She gripped her fork like a weapon. “‘Tis a shame you’re marked for damnation.”

Grandmother Joye’s Beer-Battered Cod

Sometimes people use cornmeal or even breadcrumbs to prepare fried fish. But, according to Sean, that would be wrong.

  • 2 pounds fresh or frozen Icelandic cod (If frozen, unthaw completely.)
  • Salt and pepper to season fish
  • 1 ½ cups flour, plus more for dredging the fish
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 12 oz Smithwick’s Ale (Or any mild ale or lager. Grandmother doesn’t like the effect of high heat on stouts or IPA.)
  • Melted lard or shortening or vegetable oil
  • Malt vinegar, lemon wedges, and tartar sauce as desired

Beer and Fish: The batter makes all the difference. (Photo by ndemello from Pixabay.)

Pat fish fillets dry and cut into individual portions. Lightly salt and pepper them, then dredge in the flour.

Thoroughly mix 1 ½ cups of flour, baking powder, salt, and dill together with a fork.

Stir in the beaten egg and enough beer to make a thin, pancake-like batter.

Submerge each piece of dredged fish in the batter briefly, then set aside for a few minutes while oil heats. (This is messy work. Take care the fish fillets don’t fall apart)

Using a heavy skillet, melt the cooking fat to a depth of ¼ to ½ inches. Heat at moderately high heat until shimmery. Test the oil temperature with a spoonful of the batter. If it cooks up to a golden-brown dollop in about 60 seconds, the oil is ready for the fish.

Avoid crowding the pieces in the pan. Cook on each side about 3-4 minutes (depending on thickness of fillet) until golden brown. Grandmother didn’t have an instant read thermometer, but the fish would have an internal temperature of 145 degrees F.

Serve hot with malt vinegar, lemon wedges, or tartar sauce. Fried potatoes (chips) are the traditional side dish.


Author Photo: Kathy L. Brown. (Photo by Jon Aikin.)

BIO: Kathy lives and writes in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Her hometown and its history inspire her fiction. When she’s not thinking about how haunted everything is, she enjoys hiking, crafts, and cooking for her family. Her novel, The Big Cinch, published by Montag Press, continues the supernatural noir Sean Joye investigations described in her novella, The Resurrectionist, and novelette, Water of Life.  All stories are available as paperbacks and e-books from Amazon.com and paperback from Barnes & Noble. Wolfhearted: A Novella is a secondary-world, YA fantasy. Follow her on Instagram at kathylbrownwrites, Facebook at kbKathylbrown, and Twitter at KL_Brown. Kathy’s blog, Kathy L. Brown Writes the Storytelling Blog, lives at kathylbrown.com.


If you’re an author or other fantasy and science fiction creative, and want to do a guest blog post, please check out the guest blog post guidelines. Or if you’re looking for community from other F&SF writers, sign up for the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers Critclub!

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Hurray! It’s Time for the 2021 Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers Holiday Sale!


The holiday sale is over!

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Holiday Shopping without Supply Chain Hassles

Holiday Shopping without Supply Chain Issues from the Rambo Academy for Wayward WritersIf you’re holiday shopping this year, you may have noticed there are problems getting stuff due to a combination of supply chain issues and here in the US, our beleaguered postal system.

Part of my solution is that I’m making a lot of my gifts this year, including my favorite gingerbread caramels, flavored marshmallows, and a family staple, chocolate spritz cookies. I’ve even invested in an old model metal cookie-gun for the last of those after going through several plastic ones. It’s always fun to take it down from the shelf.

Other people are getting presents like plants I’ve started for them, rocks I tumbled, and of course – plenty of books! The nice thing about the latter is that I can do it electronically, and Patreon supporters will get a special story on Christmas as a result!

If you’re shopping for a writer and were wondering what the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers offers, here’s some options I’ve assembled. I’m happy to offer gift certificates for any of the following:

  • A certificate for a live two-hour class. I am still putting together the January-March calendar, but it’s shaping up as an interesting slate. Cost is $79.
  • A certificate for a half-hour coaching session via Zoom. Happy to talk about overall career, a specific issue, or even an individual story. Cost is $50.
  • A certificate for a year’s access to the virtual campus: Discord server; Zoom events like co-working, writing games and story discussion club; and occasional free classes. Cost is $25.

Recipient will get an electronic certificate, and you can choose whether they get it right away or on the actual day of the holiday you’re celebrating.

To order, or if you have questions, mail me.

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Guest Post: Food and SF in Jewish Australia – Part 3 by Gillian Polack

Part Three

The recipes in The Wizardry of Jewish Women are Jewish food, but not as most people know it.

In the novel, two sisters (Judith and Belinda) are sent boxes that were stored in a garage for two generations. One box is full of culinary recipes from their great-grandmother Ada. The other box is also full of recipes, but for spells.

Belinda, the cook, takes the box with the recipes. She sends food parcels to Judith as she tests the recipes. In one of the parcels is feminist biscuits, because Belinda believes profoundly in teasing her feminist sister. The recipe box was terribly important. I wanted to show readers that lost culture could be fascinating and familiar. Also, I wanted to balance magic with memory.

Ada’s recipes are mostly from Belle Polack, my grandmother, because Ada and Belle are from near-identical cultural backgrounds. Jewish cooking followed a really interesting historical path from London to Australia and that is the path I used for Ada’s recipes.

Now for some recipes. First, the feminist biscuits (which would probably be called ‘cookies’ in North America) and then, some of my grandmother’s recipes.

Anglo-Jewish Australian cooking has some significant differences to other Jewish foodways. Ask me sometime, because this is one of my favourite subjects. I often start by saying something like, “My people cook, but we have no family bagel recipe.” The family lost many recipes for a generation. Only my first cousin believed we had family recipes for Christmas until my grandmother’s notebook was found hidden in my father’s study after he died.

The only metric recipe is the one for feminist biscuits, because it’s the only modern recipe. All the other recipes use British Imperial measurements. The cups are pre-metric Australian cups: a cup of sugar is 6 ounces and one of flour is 4 ounces. Here is a conversion tool for some of the rest.

I admit, I use a table at the back of a 1970s cookbook when my memory fails me, or I do conversion using my family’s classic “By guess and by G-d” technique.    

 

Feminist Biscuits

Ingredients

  • 150 g butter or equivalent amount of oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 small cup sugar
  • 1 cup self raising flour
  • 1 drop vanilla (optional)
  • Desiccated coconut
  • Green food colouring
  • Purple food colouring (red and blue combined)  

Method

Melt butter. Add everything except the food colouring. Mix well. Swirl the food colouring through the mix. Drop a teaspoon at a time on well-greased trays. Bake in a moderate oven for 10-15 minutes. Try not to eat them all at once.  

 

Christmas Pudding

This is my grandmother’s recipe, transcribed. I haven’t modernised it or translated it at all. I did, however, add a comma. Note: Do not even think of making the milk variant of this Jewish Christmas pudding for anyone who keeps kosher.  

(Medium Rich) 1 lb suet, ¾ lb fine breadcrumbs, ¾ lb brown sugar, ¼ lb flour, 1 lb sultanas, 1 lb currants, ¼ lb mixed peel, ½ teaspoon mixed spice, a good pinch salt, 1 lemon, 4 eggs, ½ pt beer or milk, ½ gill brandy. Prepare all the ingredients. Sieve flour & mix with crumbs & finely chopped suet. Add fruit & chopped peel & grated rind of lemon & sugar. Mix in the beaten eggs, beer or milk. Stir well. Cover a clean & put away until next day. Add the brandy, turn into greased basins & cover with the greased paper & pudding cloths. Boil for 8 to 10 hrs. Remove the paper & cloths, let puddings cool & recover with fresh paper & dry cloths. Store in a cook, dry place. Boil for a further 2 hrs before serving.  

And now for a few more less contentious recipes.  

 

Belle Polack’s Honey Cake for Jewish New Year  

Ingredients

  • 1 lb honey
  • 1 ¼ cups plain flour
  • 1 small cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 small cup oil or melted butter
  • 1 tsp cocoa
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • a heaped tsp bicarbonate of soda  

Method

Melt the honey and sugar over a low flame. When they are cold, add the eggs (which should be well-beaten first—a form of domestic discipline), the oil and the remaining ingredients. Put the bicarbonate of soda in last.

Pour into a well-greased cake tin and bake in a moderate oven for 1 ½ hours.    

 

Madeira Cake  

This cake is from Belle’s maternal grandmother who left London in the 1860s.  

Ingredients

  • 5 oz butter
  • 6 oz sugar
  • 6 oz self raising flour
  • 2 oz plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • ½-1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla  

Method

Cream butter. Add vanilla. Beat in eggs well, one at a time. Add flour then milk and vanilla. Bake for 1 ½ hours in a moderate oven.


BIO: Dr Gillian Polack is a Jewish-Australian science fiction and fantasy writer, researcher and editor and is the winner of the 2020 A Bertram Chandler Award. The Green Children Help Out is her newest novel. The Year of the Fruit Cake won the 2020 Ditmar for best novel and was shortlisted for best SF novel in the Aurealis Awards. She wrote the first Australian Jewish fantasy novel (The Wizardry of Jewish Women)Gillian is a Medievalist/ethnohistorian, currently working on how novels transmit culture. Her work on how writers use history in their fiction (History and Fiction) was shortlisted for the William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review.


If you’re an author or other fantasy and science fiction creative, and want to do a guest blog post, please check out the guest blog post guidelines. Or if you’re looking for community from other F&SF writers, sign up for the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers Critclub!

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Guest Post: Food and SF in Jewish Australia – Part 2 by Gillian Polack

Part Two

I have ten published novels. I’ll talk about just five today. Even five is too many, however, Judaism slips quietly into five, so I’m introducing five of my novels today. There are two novels I couldn’t write without being Jewish Australian. I’ll save those two for last. Let me give everything numbers, to make it easier.

1. In Langue[dot]doc 1305 (a time travel novel) I have a single Jewish character. That’s all. When I did my MA and PhD in Medieval History, I discovered many fascinating things about the Middle Ages, and some even more fascinating things about how we see the Middle Ages. I wanted to smash together our knowledge of the Middle Ages and how we interpret it and to make it explode. Also, I wanted marauding peasants. That single Jewish character is one of the pieces that led to the explosion.

I can’t tell you more without spoilers, but I can say that scientists checked my depiction of my bunch of scientists and said, “Scientists behave like this. How did you know?” That’s another story.  

 

2. My space opera novel, Poison and Light, tells of a society that reinvents the eighteenth century for all the wrong reasons. There are three Jewish towns on New Ceres, and they quietly rebel against the rule of the eighteenth century. Also, there are Jewish puns. The novel is set in a big city and the towns are a tiny part of the whole. The puns, the “I’m not what you think,” and the tendency to overeducation reflect my relationship to my own cultural relationship with my own country (as an Australian Jew). That’s the surface Jewishness.

Poison and Light has sword fights and balloon rides and gourmet food and much politics, but it’s actually about how Grania (the protagonist) deals with impossible loss and change. Her efforts are part of my personal response to the Shoah.

I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to learn how pogroms and exploitation and massacre and throwing people out of their homes and homelands affect survivors and I’m not even close to understanding. In Poison and Light, I built a society of colonisers and bigots because I wanted to understand the vested interests people have in defending what they know, even if it means hurting people. Poison and Light is one step towards me understanding, and none towards acceptance.  

 

3. I used a different Jewish history in The Time of the GhostsThe Time of the Ghosts is a contemporary fantasy set in Canberra. Three women (the youngest is sixty) and their sidekick fight supernatural threats. There aren’t nearly enough novels with Jewish fairies, so their sidekick reads a memoir written by a Jewish melusine. These three women are all heroes of the tea-drinking, dinner party, and stock-whip using kind.  

 

4. My most recent novel (The Green Children Help Out) is totally about Jewish superheroes. My background is Australian Orthodox (somewhere between Modern Orthodox and Conservative) and I wanted to create an alternate universe where people could kick ass their personal work towards tikkun olam. Tikkun olam is more balancing the world and bringing it to rights than saving it, and it’s informed my whole life. It was about time it informed the lives of a bunch of superheroes who are, as the title suggests, the Green Children.

The Green Children Help Out is set on an alternate Earth (with magic) so that I could look into how to write people from cultural minorities. Also, I wanted a world so real that I could step into it in my mind.  

 

5. The very first Australian fantasy novel that incorporated Australian Jewish culture was my own The Wizardry of Jewish Women. It uses the Anglo-Australian Jewish culture I come from and it includes my grandmother’s recipes with their London Sephardi origins. There are many novels about ultra-Orthodox Jews, and very few about secular Jews, and I wanted to even things out a bit.

What happens when secular Jews rediscover lost culture and a lemon tree becomes demonically possessed? I began building the family culture with food, so I’ll tell you more about The Wizardry of Jewish Women and give you some of the recipes in Part Three.


BIO: Dr Gillian Polack is a Jewish-Australian science fiction and fantasy writer, researcher and editor and is the winner of the 2020 A Bertram Chandler Award. The Green Children Help Out is her newest novel. The Year of the Fruit Cake won the 2020 Ditmar for best novel and was shortlisted for best SF novel in the Aurealis Awards. She wrote the first Australian Jewish fantasy novel (The Wizardry of Jewish Women)Gillian is a Medievalist/ethnohistorian, currently working on how novels transmit culture. Her work on how writers use history in their fiction (History and Fiction) was shortlisted for the William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review.


If you’re an author or other fantasy and science fiction creative, and want to do a guest blog post, please check out the guest blog post guidelines. Or if you’re looking for community from other F&SF writers, sign up for the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers Critclub!

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Guest Post: Food and SF in Jewish Australia – Part 1 by Gillian Polack

This essay has three parts. The first tells you about who I am and why I find ways to put Jews and Judaism in my fiction. The second tells you about my novels and the Jewishness of them. The third is the good bit. When I build worlds for my novels, I make sure that there is food in the world. I will talk about some of that food and, of course, there will be recipes. Recipes are worth waiting for. If you want to start on the fiction before you read the first post, then my most recent novel is The Green Children Help Out. I explore what a superhero looks like when created by a Jewish Australian woman with disabilities. Hint: there’s no Superman. And now, on with the posts.

Part One

I’m Jewish Australian. It used to take courage to say this in front of strangers, and it still takes a moment and a deep breath. Things are different in Australia. It’s not just the big spiders and curious streetlife. I’d rather talk about the curious streetlife, because kangaroos are a traffic hazard where I live and our magpies attack people. Also, it’s easier than talking about being Jewish.

Officially, I’m classified as CALD (Culturally And Linguistically Diverse), but until recently I was NESB (from a Non-English Speaking Background). Unofficially, I’m called many things. I often call myself a giraffe (an exceedingly short one).

Why a giraffe? Strangers tell me after panels or papers or talks,  “I’ve never met anyone Jewish before” or “You speak very good English for someone Jewish.” People with more worldly knowledge ask when I left New York or Israel or, if they’re less tolerant tell me, “You should go back to where you came from.”

I usually ask, “Do you mean Melbourne in general, or specifically Hawthorn?” Melbourne is my home city and Hawthorn my home suburb. I’ve been away for nearly forty years.

The conversation continues, “Go to where your parents came from.”

“That’s difficult, because my father lived in country Victoria and my mother in Melbourne—you need to choose.”

The conversation seldom stops there. Most of these people expect me to turn into some mythical being from somewhere they never quite identify, and are very disconcerted when they find out my father’s mother’s mother’s mother was born in London, as was her mother, and her mother’s mother. The rest of me comes from all over Europe. My family has been in Australian for well over a century.

Most Australians expect Jewish Australians to be exotic. The most common terms are “Exotic White” or “Near White.” During the infamous White Australia policy, Jews were Honorary Black.

These days, I describe myself as “off-white.” It stops all the questions before they begin.

The writer I’m most often told about when people discover my profession is Arnold Zable. He wrote a fictionalised account of his family’s last days in Białystock during the Holocaust. He was one of the last people to escape this far, you see. Another member of his family who escaped married a cousin of mine and a couple of years ago I finally met Zable.

“You know my mother,” I said, “And your cousin married one of my cousins.”

“Which cousin?” he asked.

“Feivel, the carnival guy.”

This tells you something else about Australian Jewry. Prior to World War II, we were few in number. Many of us are related in some way, if we come from an older family. Or our parents went to Sunday school together.

We are culturally different to Jews who arrived after the Shoah. I call us the scones-and-committee branch of Judaism. Our branch has writers and musicians and dentists and teachers and shopkeepers and lots of people who worked in the garment industry. I have a cousin who specialises in lipstick and a sister who specialises in wine. My great-aunts ran a shop that Phryne Fisher would have gone to for her haberdashery. My family fought in World War II. We are, in our way, quintessentially Melburnian.

And yet… I’m off-white. It took until my third novel for strangers to stop telling me my English was very good for someone Jewish.

All these descriptions roll out as if I’ve said them a thousand times. I have. They’ve been my defence against bigots and those who assume there are no Jews in Australia and against all those people who don’t see me unless I shout.

My fiction helps me shout. I hold the pinpricks I face up to the light so that a picture shines through. I don’t write literary novels. I write science fiction and fantasy. Every now and then I stop and ask, “Why don’t I write like CS Lewis or “Doc” Smith or, in fact, any of the writers I grew up reading?” I have things to say about myself and my culture, I suspect, that don’t fit into a classic SF story. There are scones, there are committees, and there’s a lot more.

Next post: Meet the novels in which I say these things.


BIO: Dr Gillian Polack is a Jewish-Australian science fiction and fantasy writer, researcher and editor and is the winner of the 2020 A Bertram Chandler Award. The Green Children Help Out is her newest novel. The Year of the Fruit Cake won the 2020 Ditmar for best novel and was shortlisted for best SF novel in the Aurealis Awards. She wrote the first Australian Jewish fantasy novel (The Wizardry of Jewish Women)Gillian is a Medievalist/ethnohistorian, currently working on how novels transmit culture. Her work on how writers use history in their fiction (History and Fiction) was shortlisted for the William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review.


If you’re an author or other fantasy and science fiction creative, and want to do a guest blog post, please check out the guest blog post guidelines. Or if you’re looking for community from other F&SF writers, sign up for the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers Critclub!

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Round-up of Awards Posts by F&SF Writers, Editors, and Publishers for 2021

It’s that time again! Once again I have created this post for consolidating fantasy and science fiction award eligibility round-ups. If you are an F&SF writer, editor, podcast, or publisher working in comics, fiction or games, I hope you’ll let people know what you have that they should be reading.

Past things I have written about why writers should do this include On Awards: To Be Pushy Or Not To Be Pushy (2014), The Spontaneous Knotting of an Agitated Awards Process (2015), and To Eligibility Post or Not to Eligibility Post? (2016).

Want a sample post? Here’s mine for this year.

Here are the previous such round-up posts from 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.
Continue reading

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2021 Publications, Appearances, and Other Notable Things

Text reads "2021 Publications, Appearances, and Other Notable Things."It’s been a great year. Here’s some highlights. I have tried to identify what length and genre everything is, as well as where you can get it. The podcast I work with, IF THIS GOES ON (Don’t Panic), is eligible for Hugo nominations.

In January, my story “Shot Through with Shards of Light” appeared in SPACE: 1975, SPACE OPERA STORIES, 70S STYLE edited by Robert Jeschonek. This story is set in the same universe as my space opera, YOU SEXY THING, and grew out of thinking about a particular aspect of that universe.

March of 2021, my short story “Crazy Beautiful” appeared in The Magazine of F&SF as part of Sheree Renee Thomas’s inaugural issue. This story is very important to me, speaking about something that I deeply care about, and I’ve been stoked that so many people liked it. It is my only story that starts with a Bob Ross quote. Rich Horton said of it, “Perhaps my favorite story from early in 2021.”

In April, Jennifer Brozek and I turned in the manuscript for our co-edited anthology, THE REINVENTED HEART. So exciting! I got a piece of game writing in, with “The Sisterhood of the Shovel,” which appeared in THE WELL from Shoeless Pete Games.

My Beneath Ceaseless Skies novelette, Every Breath a Question, Every Heartbeat an Answer, also appeared in April. This is a Tabat story, and features the protagonists of “Hoofsore and Weary” and “Brittle Are My Boughs, And Sorrowful My Heart.”

Some things reviewers said about Every Breath a Question, Every Heartbeat an Answer

In May, the third book of the Tabat Quartet, EXILES OF TABAT, appeared from Wordfire Press. In it, Bella, Teo, and Lucy all adventure outside the city, with very different results. The final book, GODS OF TABAT, will appear in 2022.

In July, a story that my spouse Wayne and I wrote together, “Stand and Deliver,” appeared in DARK MATTER magazine. It’s a story of fatherhood and time travel…sort of.

In August I actually did some traveling. I went to Laramie, Wyoming, and was part of the Laucnh Pad workshop, an effort aimed at getting more science into one’s science fiction, and I learned so much that I’ve got an entire notebook’s worth of notes.

In October, my flash piece “A Tourist’s Guide to Terror,” appeared in Jennifer Brozek’s anthology, 99 TINY TERRORS.

In early November, my collaboration with Jermaine Martin, “Riders of the Void,” appeared in GUNFIGHT ON EUROPA STATION, edited by David Boop. We took one of my favorite westerns, “Shane,” and used it as the spark to start our story and I’m pleased with the result!

In mid-November, my long-delayed space opera, YOU SEXY THING, appeared finally! Amazon named it one of the 20 best F&SF books of 2021 and there’s been some great reviews. Here’s some of what people have said.

  • “…a thoroughly entertaining sci-fi romp” – Publishers Weekly
  • “A romp. If you’re the kind of person who likes Mass Effect, or enjoyed Valerie Valdes’s Chilling Effect and Prime Deceptions, or fell head-over-heels for Tim Pratt’s Axiom trilogy… then this book is definitely for you. This is a fast, zippy novel that hides some surprisingly substantial emotional heavy lifting under its hood…. Cozy-with-a-soupçon-of-suspense hoot-and-a-half.” ―Locus
  • …a delightful, action-filled space jaunt, packed with engaging alien species, a bioship that learns emotions, and witty references.” – Library Journal
  • “Rambo absolutely nails it.” – BookPage
  • “Fun, fantastic, and delicious―I loved it!”―Ann Leckie, author of Ancillary Justice
  • This action-packed space opera is loads of fun.” ―BuzzFeed

I did a lot of other stuff, like teaching for the Norwescon Writers Workshop, Cascade Writers, Williamette Writers, and Clarion West. I read for Older Writer’s Grant for Speculative Lit Foundation as well as for a middle grade contest. I did a holy crapton of readings, and plenty of panels, which I should have tracked better in order to include here.

The school did nicely again this year and I added several on-demand classes of my own:

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Upcoming Launch Events for You Sexy Thing

Cover of the space opera novel, You Sexy Thing, by Cat Rambo, published November 16, 2021

Preorder now!

Only a few more days until the book launch and I am super stoked. This Sunday is my birthday and we’re going out for a special festive dinner, and then I launch into a week of frenzied activity in which I will be book shilling right and left for a bit.

Thank you SO much to everyone who’s pre-ordered or reviewed an ARC. If you would like a signed bookplate, this post has info on how to get one as well as preorder links for Powells, Amazon, Audible, Barnes & Noble.

Here’s what’s coming up next week for the book launch!

Have you entered the GoodReads giveaway for a special copy?

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