In the vociferous arguing about the ins and outs of who behaved worst over the second test etc etc there are people implying that criticising the Australian cricket team is unAustralian and whingey.1

Please! I love my country, I love cricket, but when the men’s team behave like dickheads they should be called on it.

People who play sport at a professional level are not exempt from the social contract. No one is. Writers (to pick a random example out of the air) shouldn’t behave like dickheads either. Recently I was at an award ceremony where the speeches of the winners were generous and moving. All but one. This one person got up to accept their award without a gram of graciousness. Their speech was about the importance of their book and the judges’ perspicacity in picking it as the winner. That speech left me not wanting to read anything by that writer. I don’t even want to meet that writer.

Very few people in this world achieve things without considerable help; acting like you did it all on your own is graceless and rude.

Ponting’s and the rest of the team’s arrogance and inability to admit that they ever do anything wrong makes me ambivalent when Australia wins test matches. Don’t get me wrong. I love for Australia to win, but, well, I love it a lot more when they’re gracious in victory.2

So, yeah, this debate isn’t just about cricket. It’s about how people should behave. How we should treat the people around us. There’s a reason that photo of Flintoff offering commiserations to Brett Lee has become so famous. It captures a moment of perfect grace:

Getty Images

  1. Though what’s more Australian than whingeing?! []
  2. And aren’t ropeable when they lose. []

Not cricket

I’ve had a few people writing to ask why I’m not commenting on the disastrous second test between Australia and India. There are several reasons. I’ve not been able to follow any of the cricket as closely as I’d like. I haven’t had time.

But mostly because I’m embarrassed. And, well, I think Greg Baum and Mike Coward have expressed what I feel about it so well that i don’t really need to add anything.

I will though: I’m sick of Aussie sportsmen (and, frankly, it’s the blokes, not the women) behaving like dickheads. I’m not Indian, so the bad behaviour of the Indians doesn’t make me ashamed, and, you know what? We’re the host country here. We should be behaving like hosts. What’s wrong with a bit of graciousness? The Aussie team of 1960-61 managed it up against that fabulous West Indies team. Why can’t our current team be more like them?

Look, unlike Mike Coward, I don’t think there was ever a golden age of well-behaved cricket teams. There’s always been cheating and sledging and arrogant behaviour.1 But it didn’t used to always be us. Right now the Aussie cricket team reminds me strongly of the English under Jardine back in 1932-33. It’s not a pleasant thought.

That said, I still wish I’d been able to see it . . . And I really hope the next two tests are less horrible with much better umpiring!

  1. In fact, there’s a whole book about it: It’s Not Cricket : A History of Skulduggery, Sharp Practice and Downright Cheating in the Noble Game by Simon Rae. []

Not that anyone asked . . .

. . . but I am hundred per cent in favour of the WGA strike. Doris Egan, who’s a writer on House,1 eloquently explains why. And, yes, a lot of it is about dosh. Why the hell shouldn’t writers be adequately compensated for their work? Here’s my favourite bit:

By the way, I’m not at all sure this understanding [about money] goes up to the CEO’s office; how can it, when that CEO can be handed sixty million dollars just for quitting? Someday I must tell you the story of the famous exec who said, “Why not make this character middle-class? Let’s say he makes $300,000 a year—” and the writers all stared at him.

That’s right the folks who are keeping the writers from having a fair cut of the work they create think $300 grand a year for one person is a middle class wage. Words completely fail me. It’s like those people who crap on about the outrageous amount male basketball players earn but don’t say a word about the insane earnings of the people who own and run the teams and leagues. An athlete’s career is short and physically dangerous.2 Execs get to keep on raking it in when they’re old and grey.

You really have to wonder at a world where it’s the executives around the creative folks who make the obscene amounts of money while most of the creatives are grateful to be paid at all.

Now, to be clear I am not referring to the producers or any of the other staff who are currently out of work because of this strike. That’s right, this strike means lots of people, not just writers, are going to be without pay for the duration. And most of those people—unlike the writers—don’t have a strike fund to keep them going. Not that the big bosses up top give a damn about any of them.

I believe I’ve ranted enough.

  1. and also wrote some of my fave fantasy novels of the early 1990s []
  2. The majority of those who become pros rarely have more than ten solid earning years. []

Woo hoo Phoenix!

Phoenix won the WNBA finals. I am so very happy. I LOVE their style of play. I love Penny Taylor and Cappie Pondexter and Kelly Miller and Diana Taurasi. They are awesomeness personified. They SO deserved to win.

And Detroit totally dogged it. They have not looked that good these playoffs. They barely got past the New York Liberty. Same against Indiana. They did not deserve to win overall. Plus Bill Laimbeer drives me insane. That said Deanna Nolan is probably the most gorgeous shooter I have ever seen. I’d happily watch her play all day long. And Cheryl Ford is crazy strong and brave.

Next year the Liberty are going to knock Detroit out. Oh, yes, we will!

Uni***ns + High School Musical

Libba Bray1 is the best friend a girl could have. Look what she done gived me:

oh my Elvis!

I screamed.

Do you notice the choking hazard warning? And that the evil uni***n is call “Destructicorn”?

Happy sigh.

Have any of you seen High School Musical? I think it may be the most conflict-free movie I’ve ever watched. Quite astonishing. I admit I was a tad disappointed by the choreography. The dance sequences were much better in She’s the Man. Also how come there were so few songs? And is that the richest high school in all of the US of A? The size of the gym! and the theatre! and the gorgeous patio! Wow. Also the basketball team had about twelve different uniforms. Way more than the New York Liberty have.

Speaking of the WNBA. The last of the finals is on tomorrow. Let’s go Phoenix!

  1. and since I’m mentioning Libba I should also mention that Maureen Johnson is not the only one to have already read The Sweet Far Thing. That’s right! Me too. It is deeply awesome. The best of the trilogy. []

So far so good

Three quarters of the WNBA playoffs have gone exactly how I want them to. Phoenix beat Seattle (two Aussies against one); Indiana beat Connecticut (one Aussie against Satan’s own team); San Antonio beat Sacramento (one Aussie—assistant coach Sandy Brondello + 2 ex-Liberty stars against no Aussies and no ex-Libs).

Now we just have to beat Detroit and my basketball year will be complete. Seriously, I didn’t think we’d make the post-season so for the Liberty to get past the first round would be a second miracle. I love what Shamika Christon, Janel McCarville and Loree Moore have been doing in the post-season. I’m so stoked for the 2008 season. The New York Liberty is going to be insanely good.

This year’s WNBA season and post-season has been the best I’ve ever seen. I cannot believe how amazing the games were tonight. I am in heaven.

Let’s go, Liberty! (And the Opals for gold next year.)

(Frivolous) things I hate

Because today I must share the negativity, a list of my current hates:

  • Referees who only seem to see the fouls committed by my team
  • Bill Laimbeer1
  • Friends who are always late—especially when we’re meeting for dinner and I’m starving and the stupid restaurant won’t seat us until the entire party is there
  • Restaurants that won’t seat you until the entire party is there—What gives? The table is empty and just sitting there. We’ll order stuff. Lots of it! You’ll make more money off us if you seat us straight away. What does not seating achieve except to make us really really really pissed off at you for keeping us hanging in the crowded, noisy bar area?
  • People who never answer the important emails I send them2
  • email
  • Microsoft Word
  • Computers
  • good bloggers who don’t blog every day
  • Bad bloggers who do blog every day
  • Books with female protags who are helpless and passive and can’t walk two steps without falling over
  • Badly written crappy books that sell millions or everyone else I know seem to think are the best books ever. You are all very very wrong! Stop buying crap!
  • Plane travel3
  • People who feel they must share how much they hate sport (and the people who like it) when the conversation has just been all about sport and clearly the other people in the convo love sport. There are other people who share your opinions—go talk to them!
  • People who love the Connecticut Sun
  • The Connecticut Sun
  • ESPN for showing little league baseball instead of most of the Indiana-Connecticut game and right now for showing women’s golf instead of the start of the Phoenix-Seattle game. You suck ESPN!
  • Running out of nectarines
  • AFDs
  1. Though I do love hating him. Don’t ever change, Bill! You were eerily calm and unaggro during today’s game. A game where you don’t get a technical foul is a just plain wrong. []
  2. I am aware that my email responses have been, um, less than optimal this year, but I’m busy! The people who are sposed to be responding to me but don’t are lazy goodfornothings. It’s totally different. []
  3. Have I mentioned how happy I am that we’re going to Atlanta by train? []

Woooo hoooo!!!!!

Can you hear that screaming? That’s me yelling myself hoarse with joy because we beat Detroit in Madison Square Garden last night.


Almost all the punters predicted Detroit would sweep us. Ha ha ha! Instead Detroit played awful. It was like they’d been cursed. And after an awkward messy first half we played great.

Of course mean old Bill Laimbeer didn’t say a word about how well the Liberty played he just went on about his own team’s suckiness. Whose fault is that, Bill?

Now I think we’re a more than even chance to take Detroit on their home court and I’m cranky that me and Scott’re going to be at smelly DragonCon cause it means we will miss our next home playoff game. At least we’ll be back in time for the finals!

And how about Phoenix’s rout of Seattle? They took Lauren Jackson out of proceedings (yes, I am an LJ fan, yes, that made me sad, but also wow—not many teams have managed it this year) and ran and shot at will. Wow, they are an entertaining team. I also enjoyed the triple overtime Connecticut-Indiana game. Bummer that Connecticut won. At least the next two games are in Indiana. Here’s to Indiana beating the annoying Sun.

I love the playoffs.

And how about Janel McCarville being named most improved player? Woo hoo!!! And LJ defensive player of the year for the first time. Happy sigh.

Let’s go, Liberty!

Washington won their game which meant they were one game ahead of us, but we won our game, which meant we’re tied, but we’ve beaten them 3 times this year so we go through to the playoffs!


Let’s go, Liberty!!!

Liberty rollercoaster

I’ve been a New York Liberty season ticket holder since 2003 (though I saw my first game in 2000) and this year has definitely been the most discombobulating. We started off with that 5-0 winning streak then later in the season we had the horrific 0-7 streak and looked to be no chance for the playoffs. Yet here we are one game left and if we win we’re in. In fact, even if we lose we could still make the post season—if the Washington Mystics lose their game.

This year I have seen the Liberty lose an astonishing number of games they should have won. They’d have a lead at the end of the first half only to come back out in self-destructo mode. I’ve wanted to strangle Cathrine Kraayeveld (her stats don’t list anywhere near as many turnovers as she’s responsible for: Standing immobile when the ball lands on top of you and not getting it—surely that should count as a turnover?) and Coach Patty Coyle (why did it take her SO LONG to give Janel McCarville, Tiffany Jackson and Jessica Davenport more than a handful of minutes?!)

We have missed Becky Hammon something fierce. One look at how brilliantly the San Antonio Silver Stars have played this year speaks to that. Last year they were one of the worst teams in the league; this year they’re second in the West. I fantasise about what the Liberty would have looked like this year with Hammon, Loree Moore and McCarville playing together. Don’t get me wrong Davenport and Jackson are fab and they’re going to be even better in a year or two, but we no longer have a reliable shooting guard. We no longer have someone who will reliably roll in and save our arses at crunch time as Becky has done a billion times.

I miss her.

The trade to San Antonio was brilliant for her but we were left with a big ole shooting-guard-sized hole. We better get one in next year’s draft. Though I’d settle for a forward/centre/guard like, say, Candace Parker.

But it has been a joy to see Loree Moore step up and become a very Theresa Weatherspoon-like point guard. She and McCarville are our solid core. Here’s hoping they’ll get us through tomorrow’s game and into the playoffs.

An unanswerable question

Someone just wrote to ask me what to do when the writing is not going well. Fortunately, Diana Peterfreund has just written on this because I have no useful answer.

I suspect my own struggles with sentences that crumble as I type, with plot and character and meaning twisting out of my control, are at least partly because I’m very early on in my career. Old timers are much smarter about this stuff. Fer instance, my parents heard Thomas Kenneally interviewed the other day and he said that the writing got easier as he got older. After having written for more than forty years and having produced a bazillion gazillion novels (or, you know, thirty odd) he knows his own process and what to expect.

I don’t.

Not really. I’ve only written six novels and the writing of each one was different. I’ve been a freelancer writer for four years. I still have no idea how long it takes me to write a book. I can tell you how long the last one took, but not how long the next one will.

When you’re starting out you don’t know what to expect. You don’t know what you’re capable of. When the crappy writing days hit you—it’s a shock and you don’t know how to handle them.

Even super disciplined writers, like my old man, have days of words dissolving into puddles of putrescence, when they can’t focuss, and can barely squeeze out five words let alone a thousand.

What he does is keep writing. That’s where the discipline comes in. The act of getting yourself into the chair and typing—even if the words you’re producing make William McGonagall look like a genius—can be enough to get you past the crap and into the good.

Or not.

Sometimes people just need a break.

And only the writer can figure out which it is.

Personally, I’m pretty much always convinced that I need a break. Preferably in a place where there’s plentiful cricket coverage (alas, poor England), the food is fabulous, and the wine even better.

Sadly, my deadlines say otherwise . . .

Tell it like it is (updated)

From this sensible article on cheating in sports by JERÉ LONGMAN for the New York Times:

Fausto Coppi of Italy, who won the Tour de France in 1949 and 1952, was once asked if he ever fueled himself with amphetamines.

“Only when necessary,” he said.

How often was that?

“Most of the time,” Coppi replied.

The Tour de France ranges from 3,000 to 4,000 kilometres long (1,800 to 2,500 miles) which must be covered really fast in three weeks over hill and dale with just two rest days. Evidence is pretty strong that chemical assistance has been used since the tour began.

Longman points out that the two sports that have had the most drug scandals are the ones that have pursued the issue most vigorously: cycling and track & field. The end result: people think those are the sports that are jam packed with drug cheats. Yet it’s very likely that there’s not a pro sport in the world that doesn’t have athletes who use performance enhancing drugs.

My biggest concern is that athletes are taking drugs that can cause them long term damage (even death) because the hypocrisy around the issue means that drug use is unregulated. And some of the drugs being taken have never been properly tested. That’s scary.

In an ideal world there would be drug-free athletes. What we have now is a world in which not everyone using is getting caught, those who stay clean are at a disadvantage, and there’s doubt and suspicion of everyone. I’m not sure it’s tenable. But I’m not sure what is.

Which is to say I’m bummed I didn’t get to follow the Tour this year. I’m thrilled at how well Cadel Evans did. And I’ll be making sure I get to follow it next year. And hoping that something really radical and smart happens across all sports to regulate drug use in a way that make for more transparency and way less potential harm to athletes. And while they’re at it, if they could end all match fixing, that’d be grouse.

Update: Jenny Davidson has pointed to this fascinating article by Stuart Stevens on performance-enhancing drugs. Stevens tries a whole bunch of them, notes the results, and comes down firmly against them. Well, against almost all of them.

Lauren Jackson

My favourite basketballer in the entire universe is Lauren Jackson, which every so often puts me in the weird position of barracking for the team she’s playing against. See, I’m a New York Liberty fan and she plays for the Seattle Storm, which very confusingly has the same colours as Australia (green and gold).

Last Sunday her team narrowly beat my team, and on the one hand, I was deeply bummed—it was so close! We almost had them!—on the other hand, damn she’s a fine fine player. And, oh, how much I love watching her play. I just prefer, you know, when she’s playing for the Opals and they’re winning the world championships.

How good is Lauren Jackson? So good that we have to triple team her:
Don't hurt Loz!
That’s Tiffany Jackson, Ashley Battle and Shamika Christon doing the honours. Go Liberty!

She’s 196cm (6ft 5in) but she can run like the wind:
Go LJ, go!

She’s so mighty that mere chairs cannot contain her:
Check those knees!

She smiles like a goddess:

And battles like a warrior:
Grab that ball!
That’s the Liberty’s Janel McCarville attempting to battle back.

She’s my hero:
Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!
Cathrine Kraayeveld (obscured by the non-corrupt WNBA ref) and Shamika Christon attempt to shut the mighty Loz down.

Oh, and um, just in case you think I spent the whole game stalking LJ, I also saw this great hat:

Best hat ever!

All photos by Scott Westerfeld. Thank you, Mr Husband!

The Tour

Marrije asked over on insideadog if I’ll be following the Tour de France this year. Sadly, I will not.

This year has gotten out of control. I cannot afford to spend hours every day watching the Tour and following it online. I am incapable of following the Tour non-obsessively. So for the first time in years I’m not following it at all. (No spousal pressure was brought to bear in the making of this decision. Well, okay, just a little bit. I am not husband-beaten! I am not!)


The New York Liberty (10-8) will have to sustain my sport-following needs this northern summer.

And now I go back to the myriad tasks that confront me. At this point it’s so bad I’m resorting to triage. “Which of these tasks will most blow up in my face if I don’t do it?”

But, you know, Vive Le Tour!

New York Times suckage

New York has a sports team that’s opened its season with a five game winning streak, despite not even making the playoffs last year and no longer having its best and most popular player. How many column inches has the New York Times given this remarkable performance?

Pretty much none. Unless you count the teeny tiny AP reports.

This is because the team is the New York Liberty and it’s a women’s team. The New York Times is incapable of covering women’s basketball unless it’s a profile of a male coach. Especially if that male coach is ex-NBA and coaches a non-New York team.

The New York Daily has no problem covering the Liberty nor does the New York Post. What’s it going to take for the New York Times to send a reporter down to Madison Square Garden? A perfect season? Sex-change operations for the whole team? Pigs to fly? I understand it’s a hell of a hike from the Times’s headquarters to the Garden. They’d want a really good reason to have to travel so far.

Damn your sexist moronic eyes, New York Times!! Grrrr!!!

Sometimes basketball makes me cry

Today at the New York Liberty versus Phoenix Mercury game (we won!) the Rutger’s women’s team stood in the middle of the court during one of the breaks. We gave them a standing ovation, stamping, and clapping and yelling for them. At every timeout thereafer they were beseiged by well-wishers and autograph seekers. They may not have won last years’ finals but they definitely won the battle against racist radio announcers. Yay!

Kay Yow one of the greatest coaches of women’s basketball ever and Vivian Stringer the fabulous coach of Rutgers were also there. So was Teresa Weatherspoon the best pointguard the Liberty has ever had. All were applauded and mobbed for autographs. It made me so happy. It made everyone happy. I’m still glowing.

Somewhat relatedly, Amy Fiske says she met Michelle Timms. To which I can only say, “Oh my God! You met Timmsie! She’s a goddess!”

Also check out this article about playing women’s basketball in Russia. Incredible stuff.

Genetic gifts

I seem to have rolled out of the ranty side of the bed every morning this week. First I was peeing on the eighties and now I am cranky on account of a particularly stupid thing that was said to me about basketball.

Viz, “I can’t stand basketball. It’s just a bunch overpaid genetic freaks running around with a ball. Who cares?”

As I had just been talking about the joys of my season tickets to the New York Liberty, I clearly care, and you, Mr Shorty Bald man, were being very rude. I poke my tongue out at you!

But that’s not what’s raised my ire, nope, it’s the phrase “genetic freaks”.

So, what are you supposed to do if you’re naturally good at a sport? If you’re built with extra long legs and arms, super-quick reflexes, or extra-big capacity lungs, and happen to enjoy working hard at the particular sport your genetic advantages suit you for? Huh? Work in a circus? Become an accountant? Cut your legs off so you don’t freak out people who are shorter than you?

Show me a professional sport that doesn’t have freakishly talented people playing in it. That’s what pro sports are about: talent (genetic freaks) and hard work. Cause you can be the tallest person in the world but if you can’t run up and down that court, or handle a ball, or get your shots to sink, then you are not going to be playing pro ball. End of story.

Besides show me exceptional people in any field who aren’t in some way genetically gifted. Doesn’t being super smart also mean you won the genetic lottery? Why don’t the top physicists and mathematicians and philosophers piss you off? Aren’t they genetic freaks too for being massively smarter than you the way basketballers are massively taller than you?

And anyway there are pro basketballers who are shorter than you, like Nate Robinson, Mugsy Bogues, Debbie Black and Becky Hammon. (Though maybe Becky’s a little taller than you. My bad.)

Okay, I feel much better now. Why couldn’t I think of any of these responses at the time? Stupid slow brain.

Yours rantily,


Happy, happy

Australia just thrashed England in their Super Eight match. They barely broke a sweat doing it. Ha ha!

I discovered this lovely review of the Magic or Madness trilogy by a future librarian. It’s pretty spoiler free if you want a squizz. I really liked this bit:

The magical abilities are also not what one expects—Reason has an amazing aptitude for math and patterns. Her friend Tom can create magical clothing, and Jay-Tee’s magic is in movement—like running and dancing. (None of this, ooh-look-at-me-I can-fly-or-read-minds . . . etc.)

I did that on purpose! And someone noticed! Woo hoo!

Also Scott just read me the almost last bit of Extras and it is good! So. Very. Good.

And on Tuesday we fly to San Antonio where it is much much warmer than NYC and there are many cool librarians and young adult writers for us to hang with. Happiness!

Of fans and geeks

El and Rachel Brown correctly surmised that the fan half of my question was inspired by the bruhaha about whether John Scalzi should be nominated for a fan writing Hugo or not.

For the record: yes, Scalzi should, and I hope he wins for all the reasons that have been described in great detail here, here and here. I’m also not comfortable with people telling other people that they are or aren’t “fans” or “geeks” or anything else. Those are the kind of labels you get to choose for yourself.

The geek half was inspired by my being asked to contribute a story to an anthology about geeks and geekery. My instant response was to say, “No.” Not just because I can’t write short stories, but because I couldn’t begin to think of a geeky story. (Plus no way am I biting the head off a chicken. Ewww.)

Also I was just curious about how you lot define those words. Part of what’s interesting in the great Is-Scalzi-a-Fan debate is that there were so many different definitions of what a “fan” is, which led to much talking at cross purposes. Seems thesame is true of “geek”. Veronica defined it the way I would, but Cecil defined it the way I would define “fan”.

A number of people take “fan” to mean someone who loves something uncritically. I can’t help but laugh at that when I think of the number of letters I’ve had from self-proclaimed Magic or Madness fans who tell me in minute detail the stuff they don’t like about the trilogy, just as much as the stuff they do. Clearly, these are slippery, slippery terms.

Thanks everyone for such fascinating responses.

So why do I call myself a fan but not a geek?

Let’s take the word “fan” first. I’m not a fan of science fiction, which may sound odd for someone who did a Phd on it, which became a book. To be honest the whole PhD thing was never a passion. All I’ve ever wanted to do is be a writer, but as everyone knows there’s no money in that, so I went for an academic career to support my writing habit. The subject of my PhD was an accident. I’d read sf as a kid but I’d read lots of other things too and, honestly, I think the vast majority of sf (film, television or film) is on the nose. Many of the so-called classics of the genre like the work of Isaac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke or Star Trek or Blade Runner leave me cold.

It’s the world building that does it for me with science fiction, being transported to somewhere that is not like the world I know. I get that just as readily from books about places I’m unfamiliar with: Japanese crime books fascinate me; Australian ones not so much. I also get that button pressed by books from the past (Jane Austen, Tale of Genji,1 Elizabeth Gaskell, Miles Franklin et al) historicals, fantasy, westerns and so on. Raymond Chandler, Patricia Highsmith and Jim Thompson create worlds that are almost completely alien to me. I adore their work.

I love the writings of Samuel R. Delany and Maureen McHugh and Ursula K. Le Guin. But I’m not convinced that it’s the science fictioness of their work that does it for me. I’m just as happy when they’re writing fantasy or memoirs or criticism or blogging or whatever else they choose to write. I love the way they string their words and sentences and paragraphs together. Yum.

If I were to be banned from reading one genre it would be less of a hardship for me if that genre were sf rather than fantasy or historicals. (Naturally, I exempt manga from all these categories.)

I’m also not a fan in the sense that Ulrika is talking about. That is I’m not a member of a community that came together around a love of science fiction in the late 1930s and is still going strong today. Or am I? I definitely feel like I’m a part of the WisCon community. For years I helped with the running of that particular science fiction convention. I was on the ConCom. Can you get much more fannish than that? And, like John Scalzi, I feel very much at home with many members of the science fiction community who definitely consider themselves to be fans.

However, I’ve never written fanfiction. So I’m not part of that thriving aspect of fandom. Nor do I read it. Though there are definitely books and stories I love, like The Wide Sargasso Sea, that are a kind of fanfiction—but the kind that plays around with out of copyright texts and thus gets to be published.

I’m happy to call myself a fan not just because of the WisCon thing, but because there are a lots of things I love. Elvis Presley’s voice. Cricket. Madeleine Vionnet and Hussein Chalayan’s clothes. The writing of way too many people to list here. I love Bring It On and Deadwood and Blue Murder and My Brilliant Career and ES and Nana and Osamu Tezuka and mangosteens and the food of countries like Spain and Mexico and Thailand and Japan and Italy and Ethiopia and the great wines of Australia and New Zealand and Argentina and South Africa and Italy and France and Spain and many other places.

I don’t think the word “fan” implies uncritical love. There are clothes of Vionnet and Chalayan’s that I think are naff, Cricket matches that bore me, Angela Carter books ditto, and Spanish food and French wine I’ve had to spit out.

So why aren’t I geek?

First up, the word is American and doesn’t have much resonance for me. I never heard it as a kid nor “nerd” neither. Not outside of a John Hughes movie. (That’s not true of younger Aussies.)

The people I know who are self-described nerds or geeks have passions for stuff that bores me. Video games, role-playing games, board games and the insides of computers. I have many friends who are into these things and, well, I am not like them in this regard. I do not know what “chaotic good” is, even though Scott’s explained it to me like a hundred times.

I’ve had flirtations with various computer games over the years, but my attention span for them is microscopic, and ulimately I’d much rather be reading a book.

Once I got into Go for about a year, to the extent that I was playing it with a bunch of Go fanatics on servers in Korea, and reading books on it. But it was largely research for a novel I was writing. When I finished writing the book my interest in playing Go lapsed. It’s still by far the best game I’ve ever played, but I doubt I’d even remember how anymore. I haven’t played since 1999.

Many of my geeky friends are also collectors.

I hate stuff. I spend a large chunk of my life recycling and throwing stuff out. I hate things that sit on the mantlepiece and serve no purpose other than to collect dust. I see no point in them. Nor in stuffed animals, or dolls, or collectable cards, or any of that. I love cricket but I have no desire for cricket stuff cluttering up my house and am endlessly giving away the cricket tat people give me (clothes excluded).

If I collect anything, it’s books, but I cull them ruthlessly and often. If I’m not going to reread it, or I’ve had it for more than a year without even cracking the spine and there seems little likelihood that I will, then out the book goes.

Also I have a terrible memory. Always have had. I can’t tell you what year Bring it On came out, or who directed it, or who all the actors are without looking it up. I have to read a book a billion times before I can remember any details about it and even then I’m pretty crap. I just did a test on Pride and Prejudice I don’t think I’ve read any book more times than that one. I got 5 out of 10. I would not be able to tell an original Vionnet gown from a knock off. I do not have the trainspotting gene.

So, yes to “fan” and to “enthusiast” (thanks, Bennett), no to “geek” or “nerd”. I’m also quite happy to be called a “dag”. Yes, I am also a “spaz”. (Though, Christopher, I say to you: Know thyself!) And “dilettante”? Oh, yes, that’s me. I have the attention span of a gnat.2

  1. I confess I have never finished The Tale of Genji despite repeated attempts. The bits I’ve read have been fabulous. It’s just that the book is so damned heavy and hard to read in bed. I know, I know . . . dilettante. []
  2. Except for blogging, apparently. Bugger but this was a long post . . . Sorry! []


I was going to rant all over my blog today about the bloody ICC‘s idiotic decision to demand that youtube take down all footage from the World Cup. But then I found this excellent rant that says everything I want to say. Here’s a taste of Andrew Miller’s wrath:

Only three days ago it was suggested on this website that the events of the past week might serve as a wake-up call for cricket’s fiscally obsessed powerbrokers. Fat chance. A game run increasingly by lawyers for lawyers, has deemed it necessary to go to war on the very online enthusiasts who can spread the word of a game whose reputation has been dragged through the mincer.

It is an astoundingly short-sighted decision by a ruling body that has once again shown it is completely lacking in a sense of priorities. God knows that cricket could do with some good publicity at present. Only 24 hours ago, the ICC’s Lawyer-in-Chief, Malcolm Speed, was telling Cricinfo how wonderful the match between Australia and South Africa at St Kitts was turning out to be. “Let’s all just watch the cricket,” he suggested when queried about the latest murmurings about Bob Woolmer’s death. Mal, we’d love to. But 75% of your global audience have no means of tuning in.

Yes, that’s right the ICC is so money-grubbing that they sold off the TV rights to cable channels which the majority of cricket lovers in the UK and Australia can’t afford. Cable in those countries is crazy overpriced and—other than covering the cricket—crap. Trust me, I pony up the dosh specifically to watch the cricket. And the cricket is the beginning and the end of what’s good on cable. For most cricket fans youtube is the only way to catch glimpses—and it is only glimpses—of the World Cup.

When will all those moronic beaurocrats wake the hell up? I am so sick of copyright insanity. Colour me extremely bloody ropeable.

National character

Shashi Tharoor has written a wry op ed piece for the New York Times on the World Cup and how Americans are oblivious to what is preoccupying a billion plus folks at the moment. It ends thus:

In any event, nothing about cricket seems suited to the American national character: its rich complexity, the infinite possibilities that could occur with each delivery of the ball, the dozen different ways of getting out, are all patterned for a society of endless forms and varieties, not of a homogenized McWorld. They are rather like Indian classical music, in which the basic laws are laid down but the performer then improvises gloriously, unshackled by anything so mundane as a written score.

Cricket is better suited to a country like India, where a majority of the population still consults astrologers and believes in the capricious influence of the planets — so they can well appreciate a sport in which, even more than in baseball, an ill-timed cloudburst, a badly prepared pitch, a lost toss of the coin at the start of a match or the sun in the eyes of a fielder can transform the outcome of a game. Even the possibility that five tense, hotly contested, occasionally meandering days of cricketing could still end in a draw seems derived from ancient Indian philosophy, which accepts profoundly that in life the journey is as important as the destination. Not exactly the American Dream.

Ha ha! That makes me giggle. Though to be honest I’m not convinced. Cricket’s popularity in India and elsewhere is an historical accident. If in the early days of cricket in America they’d had some home-grown cricketing heroes demolishing visiting English players and some ambitious entrepreneurs touring the game around the country and bringing in the dosh I reckon things woulda turned out differently.

Cricket’s also bloody popular back home. I’m pretty sure the majority of Australians don’t consult astrologers or believe in the capricious influence of planets (of pollies? yes, but planets? not so much). Or certainly we don’t do it any more than Americans do.

I’m always suspicious of sketches of “national character”. I’m not saying there aren’t difference between nations. I’m often amazed by the extraordinary confidence of the middle and upper classes in the US, especially the white folk. So many of them seem to have this sense of the inevitability of their own success (whether it’s happened yet or not). I’ve never met so many people who are just waiting for their first million, their first broadway show, big movie role, bestselling novel. No question in their mind that it will happen. Even if they’ve never acted or ever written anything longer than a limerick.

But I’ve also met enough Americans who are not like that, and Australians who are, to be wary of typing a whole people. People are complicated and large groups of them even more so and you can never discount regional and class and racial and gender differences.

I also wonder how much of that disturbing confidence is real and how much of it is people saying what they think they’re supposed to be saying.

Back home you’re emphatically not supposed to say stuff like that. If you do you’re a wanker who writes tickets on yourself. Being up yourself is one of the worst things anyone can say about you.

Here that attitude doesn’t seem nearly so wide spread. For instance American English has no home-grown synonyms (that I’ve heard) for “writing tickets” “being stuck up”, “getting above yourself”, “being up yourself”, or “being a wanker”. Mostly because they almost never accuse anyone of that kind of behaviour. Nor do they have the terms “tall poppies” or “cultural cringe”.

So while it might be true that on the whole Americans=confident and Australians=not confident. It could also be that we just know what we are and aren’t allowed to say out loud. If an Aussie says “I’m a genius!” odds are they’re being sarcastic. If a Usian says it not so much. But does the Aussie secretly think they are a genius while the Usian secretly fears they are not?

There are, of course, lots of exceptions to all of this. And things are changing in both countries. I even know Americans who adore cricket.

And, um, did I mention that I have a new book out, Magic’s Child? And, er, it’s not too foul. Really. Well, um, other people think it’s okay. Sorry. Don’t mind me. I’ll get out of your way now . . .

My very first online ad & other matters

For the next month, there’s an ad for Magic’s Child up on Locus online. Tis my very first one and I’m dead excited. Ordinarily, I can’t stand ads but somehow it’s different when it’s an ad for one of my books. That makes me want to pat it and sing it songs. Lovely, lovely ad. Designed by the fabulous Courtney Wood who also made those beautiful screensavers which you can now download from the links in the sidebar.

There is now a cover for the Science Fiction Book Club’s 3-in-1 version of my trilogy. It’s called The Magic or of Reason.

In other vainglorious news, the Hathor Legacy likes Daughters of Earth, describing it as the “perfect marriage of fantastic stories and excellent critical analysis”. Yay! That’s what I was going for.

And to stop skiting for a second, wouldn’t it be great if this happened? An ODI series between India and Australia right here in NYC? I could bring all my USian friends what want to learn about the noble game and convert them to the glories of cricket in their own country. Bliss!

Also this could be the day Magic’s Child is released into the wild. i await reports. Remember there is a prize for the first person to send me photographic evidence that my latest book exists and it may not be as crappy as I said.

Slaughter of the Minnow-cents + Sachin

Every world cup it seems there’s a debate about whether allowing in the so-called minnows of the game is a good idea or not. Because every world cup there are 200-plus run victories as Bermuda or Scotland or whoever are bowled out for less than a hundred by Australia or India or whoever.

It’s happened again this year. Herschelle Gibbs even smashed a world record 36 off an over against the Netherlands. For those whose maths is as poor as mine that’s a six off every single ball. No one had ever it done it internationally before, not in ODIs and not in test cricket.

The argument against the inclusion of minnows is that they help create crazy world records like that cause they’re just not up to snuff. “What’s the point of such an uneven competition?” they ask. And blah blah blah.

To which my response is, “Please!” One of the best ways to improve at anything is to learn from people who are better and more experienced than you are. Letting the minnows play with the top cricketing nations means that they will get oodles of practice against the best players in the world. As they improve they’ll create more interest in cricket back home and more potential cricket players and thus the game will grow and prosper throughout the world.

And they do get better.

As evidence I present Exhibits A & B: Bangladesh and Ireland.

The minnows sometimes upset the giants. Bangladesh just beat India in the first round. In the past few years they’ve racked up victories against a number of top teams including Australia. They are no longer as minnowy as they once were. I don’t think they’re a shot at the world cup (though how cool would that be?) but they’re certainly going to give a number of teams a testing time. Yay, Bangladesh!

First Ireland tied with Zimbabwe in their opening match and then in their second they beat Pakistan! Bowling them out for a pathetic 132 in the 45th over and following that up with a gritty batting display against some awesome bowling (and even better appealing—give Mr Sami an Oscar! He’s up there with Our Shane). And I’m so relieved the bad light and rain did not reduce things to a Duckworth-Lewis decision. Bravo to Ireland. They have several players I reckon England1 would love to have on their side.

Back in the olden days Sri Lanka and New Zealand were minnows; now they are not. They got that way by being included in world-class competition. I really don’t understand how anyone could argue against minnow inclusion. Me, I’m hoping a US of A team will qualify for the next world cup.

And via Christopher Rowe some other cricketing news: Sachin Tendulkar is going to have his own comic book:

The superhero character will be known as “Sachin The Master Blaster” for comic books, animation and games.

Excuse me? Sachin is one of the finest, but there is only one Master Blaster and his name is Viv Richards.

The article also claims that Sachin is the second greatest batsman of all time. Nuh uh. Not on his own he isn’t. I don’t care what Wisden says. There are a lot of other very fine batsmen in the running for that spot. Other than Sir Viv, there’s Brian Lara, Garfield Sobers, Sunil Gavaskar, and Ricky Ponting. But don’t ask me to pick a best out of that lot. I can’t. They’re all amazing. And besides comparisons are odious.

  1. Bummer about that loss to New Zealand, eh? []

Important matters

1. I have been accused in certain circles (okay, in certain emails) of deliberately not mentioning the English win in the recent ODIs against Australia in New Zealand. So here you go, you whingeing poms:

    Yay, England for finally stringing together three wins in a row! Way to peak at the right time. Yes, you are now contenders for the World Cup next month. Go forth and be happy!

    It’s still only One-day cricket, but.

2. I’ve also been meaning to remonstrate with one Maureen Johnson who has let down her fellow pro writers by revealing one of the most closely guarded secrets of our trade. First it was Matthew Cheney, and now Maureen. When is this going to stop, people? Are you going to start selling your secret decoder rings to the punters? I hope you remember the sacred oathes you swore. Don’t forget that there will be repercussions!

3. I’ve also been asked why I think it’s okay to hurt Maureen Dowd’s feelings when I’m so precious about novelists’ feelings. To which I can only respond: Well, der. I am a novelist. Of course I’m more worried about our feelings. Besides it’s well known that columnists are made of much sterner stuff than thin-skinned novelists. They are mocked all the time and are well used to it. But every time a novelist is mocked a little piece of the world’s communal imagination disappears in a tiny puff of smoke. It’s on your own heads if you mock us.

The one exception is John Scalzi who has managed to maintain the thick hide of a columnist despite becoming a novelist. You can mock him as much as you want. He loves it!

4. Over in the magical land of livejournal, there’s some really fascinating discussions going on about urban fantasy and the demonisation of “normal”. I have much to say on this subject and am struggling to get them together in a way that makes sense to anyone but me. But they involve lots of thoughts about Pan’s Labyrinth and fairy tales.

5. I have discovered a good thing about the cold. When you fall over in the street, you’re so padded with gloves and coats and scarves and etc etc, that it doesn’t hurt!

6. Feel free to share some matters you consider important.

Best movie of all time

For ages people have been telling me that I have to see Lagaan. Well, now I have. And everyone’s right. It is the best movie of all time. No contest.

It has everything that should be in a movie: cricket, the British are the baddies, more cricket, dancing, singing, a love triangle, and more cricket. Lagaan is perfect. (Well, it could have been longer with a wee bit more cricket and a few more songs, but other than that—perfect.)

At least seventy minutes of the movie is a cricket match. How did that make any sense to American viewers? Cause most of the folks who’ve recommended it have been yanquis who know nothing about the noble game. How did you keep track of the balls and overs? How did you even realise


that Bhuvan wasn’t out at the end cause the evil bastard captain had stepped over the boundary when he took the catch?

Also what was it like not getting all the cool little cricket history references?

I mean the actor cast as the big baddie captain even looks like Douglas Jardine (or at least he looks like Hugo Weaving playing Douglas Jardine in Bodyline—same thing). And he certainly behaves like Douglas Jardine. Right down to stretching the ethical limits of the game to breaking point. And then there was the fabulous homage to Baloo Palwankar with the untouchable spinner. Fabulous stuff.

Sigh. And now I believe I will watch it again.

That word does not mean what you think it means

This one breaks my brain.

From the Sydney Morning Herald the Australian cricket team responds to accusations of being arrogant, rude, sledging bastards:

“The way I look at cricket, you do everything possible to win. Some people like the verbal side of the game, some don’t, but you just get one with what your job. I take what Vincent is saying as a backhanded compliment.”

Hayden, Clark’s Australian teammate, was equally indignant.

“If he considers that to be the case, I’m not unhappy about it, to be honest,” Hayden said. “It’s a great clash between New Zealand and Australia and long may it continue. It doesn’t matter what sport—we could be playing kick a cockroach from here to the wall and we’d want to be competitive.”

You know last time I looked “indignant” meant “cranky”, “pissed off”, “ropeable”. It did not mean “bemused”.

Talk about sloppy journalism of the let’s-try-to-manufacture-controversy-even-if-the-quotes-don’t-fit variety. That or the journo truly doesn’t know what “indignant” means. Well, whoever wrote that, I am indignant at your use of the word indignant.

Though maybe they were just being a smartarse? Cause Hayden is just as indignant as Clarke, i.e. not at all.

Goodbye Warne, McGrath and Langer

The last day of this year’s Ashes series didn’t even amount to two hours of play, but it sure did sum up the series. Australia bowled well; England crumbled. Didn’t run except when Andrew Symonds was holding the ball ready to run them out. Then Langer and Hayden got the handful of runs necessary for the 5-0 sweep. It took five overs longer than I thought it would on account of Harmison finally decided to bowl some scorchers. But then it was done.

And for years I will have fun telling folks that I was there to see Langer, McGrath and Warne say goodbye to cricket. The way I’ve already been able to skite about being there to watch Steve Waugh get his in-your-eyes-selectors century off the last ball of the third day back in 2003.

Five-nil. Only the second time in the history of the more than century-old contest. Oops.

I don’t see England recovering any time soon. But it would be nice if they did. I’ve said it many times before but we need at least five strong test sides: Australia, England, India, South Africa, and the West Indies. And I would love for it to be eight with New Zealand, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. But right now not one of them is even close to being able to beat Australia.

Maybe the next ten years will show improvements all over. That would be lovely. I’m hopeful that enough Australian talent has been poached to help build up sides all over the world. Yep, that’s right cricket is now our Imperial export. In your eye, Douglas Jardine.

Maybe the next Warne will be from Kenya or Zimbabwe and they’ll have support from the rest of the team and from their bureaucrats and they’ll reshape the face of cricket, not just in their country, but throughout the world. Why not, eh?

(Just as long as Australia stays strong!)

Stygian gloom

Today I will share with you one of the many reasons I love cricket. This is more for me than for you, because I am currently very cranky with cricket—specifically with the Australian and English cricket teams—and I need to remind myself of the love.

Australia because they got out way too early: Warne? Gilchrist? I’m looking at you! Where were your centuries?

And England because they crumbled and lost five wickets. Yet a-bloody-gain.

I would like to remind you both that I have tickets for tomorrow’s play and right now I’m not seeing it go past lunch. A pox on both your houses.

I am also pretty dirty on the weather. What? You can rain all night? But barely disturb the cricket? Curse you!

But here’s my latest reason for loving cricket:

Stygian gloom has its own entry in Leigh & Woodhouse’s Cricket Glossary:

Stygian gloom: “The middle half of this game, and the end, was played out in gloom so Stygian Dickie Bird would have been reaching for the smelling-salts and a handy flashlight.” A topos for reporting on bad light at Headingley and in Hades.

Last Day of 2006

It’s been another good year for me professionally and I will now skite about it: My second and third books, Magic Lessons and Daughters of Earth, were both published to some very nice reviews and reader responses. The whole Magic or Madness trilogy sold to Editora Record in Brazil, Magic or Madness and Magic Lessons sold to Mondadori in Italy, while Magic Lessons and Magic’s Chld sold to Amarin in Thailand. And then there was the recent sale of the trilogy to the Science Fiction Book Club for a 3-in-1. Not to mention Magic Lessons being on the shortlist for the Aurealis.

It was a great year for Scott who hit the New York Times bestseller list not once, not twice, but three times! Woo hoo! Twice for Specials and once for Pretties. Also my friends Yvette Christianse’s (Unconfessed), Kate Crawford (Adult Themes), Ellen Kushner (Privilege of the Sword), Julie Phillips (James Tiptree Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon) and Delia Sherman (Changeling) all published wonderful books that were well-received. If you haven’t already read them—do so immediately!

Other dear friends also published fabby books, but these are the ones that I saw through gestation. In the same way I’m very excited to see how Holly Black’s Ironside and Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones fare next year. Do yourself a favour and get hold of copies as soon as you can!

Next year I have three English-language publications on the horizon:

  • Magic Lessons will appear in paperback in February.
  • The final book of the trilogy, Magic’s Child, will be out in hardcover in March.
  • Also in March—the SFBC’s 3-in-1 edition of the trilogy.

As you can imagine I’m dead excited to find out what my readers think of the complete trilogy. Do not hold back! (Unless what you have to say might harm a writer’s delicate sensibilities. Always remember: praise is good!)

This year has also been a great one for me blog. Readers way more than doubled this year, which is just lovely. I’m particularly excited to have picked up so many more readers here in Australia. Especially the ones I don’t know and am not related to. (Not that there’s anything wrong with my friends and relatives, mind. Well, not that much wrong.) Thank you so much everyone for hanging out and commenting. Your comments are more than half the fun. Without you there wouldn’t be much point. Much appreciated.

Last year on this day I set out my goals for 2006:

I’m aiming to write two books (both of which I’ve already started) in 2006 and sell one (two would be nice, but I don’t want to jinx myself). I also plan to spend the majority of the year in Sydney, cause now that I’m home I just want to stay. And I really, really, really want to get tickets for the Sydney Ashes test. Ideally for every day of play.

How did that work out?

I finished one book: Magic’s Child, but it wasn’t one of the books I was talking about above. So I didn’t finish either of the books I aimed to. Though I got awfully close to finishing the first draft of the great Australian feminist monkey knife-fighting mangosteen cricket fairy young adult novel. (So close I can smell it! Oh the frustration!)

This year I have the same goal: to finish two novels. My odds are much better given that I’m mere days away from finishing the fairy book . . . And I’ve made good starts on six other novels. Dunno which one I’ll write next. What fun not to know!

I didn’t sell any books on account of not finishing any to give to my agent for said selling. I won’t be declaring my intent on sales again because it’s pointless. I have some control over how many books I write; but none over how many I sell.

The big change this year was my decision not to sell any books until I’ve finished them. (Another explanations for no sales this year.) It’s also why I’m finishing this year without any dread deadlines over me. Much less stressful!

I spent only five months in Sydney and even though that’s more time than I spent anywhere else I still did not see nearly as much of my family and friends here as I’d like. Sigh.

There was way too much travelling this year. And while I loved all the places I visited—Bologna and Kyoto especially—I haven’t stayed anywhere for more than three months since 2003. I’m sick of it. I’d love to travel less, but already 07 is shaping up to be very travelly. Come June though and I believe we’ll be applying the breaks. Aside from it being exhausting and conducive to the contracting of viruses, travelling that much in aeroplanes and staying in hotels is terrible for the environment and no amount of offsets makes up for that.

I did get tickets to the Sydney test. Fourth day. Can’t wait. And we Aussies reclaimed the ashes what should always be ours. Bliss. Now I have to figure out how to get coverage of the world cup while we’re in the US of A. We may even cough up for satellite coverage. Would be fabulous to get over to the West Indies, but see above on wanting to travel less.

To sum up: Life is good. I hope yours is too.

I have a very good feeling about 2007, not just for me, but for the wider world.

Happy new year!

4-0 and England weeps

What is wrong with England?

  • shite fielding: Look at Australia in the field and then look at England. The Poms with a few exceptions (Collingwood, Panesar, Pietersen) have no intensity. They don’t run down every single ball, turning fours into threes, twos into ones, and saving singles. They look lethargic and bored.
  • shite captaincy: Flintoff looks lost. He’s not leading by example given his poor batting displays and erratic bowling and he’s not leading on the paddock. His field placings have been all over the place. He elects to bat when the wicket is iffy. He doesn’t seem to know whether he’s playing test cricket or Sunday arvo mah jong. And way to not show any confidence in your new bowlers Panesar and Mahmoud. Give ’em three overs here, then pull ’em off, and never let ’em get their rhythm going.
  • shite field placings: What’s with the defensiveness? What’s with giving Monty fields that allow the batsmen to score at will? What’s with no consistent plan of attack?
  • shite batting: You’ve got eleven blokes with bats. Surely you can get two or three of them not to throw their wickets away? And do none of you know how to shepherd the tail?
  • shite selections: Monty Panesar a very promising spin bowler. Chris Read is a million times the keeper that Geraint Jones is and Sajid Mahmoud’s got promise and all. Why were they kept out of the side by way less promising and performing players?
  • shite protection of your top secret bowling plans: I mean, honestly! Did you really have to make the farce farcier?

Your boat is listing, England, fix it. World cricket needs you. And I need you to get your shit together so there’ll be a fourth day in Sydney. I’ve got tickets! C’mon, people!

Meanwhile Australia is doing just fine. Every single player has more than proved their worth during this series. Andrew Symonds has finally shown what he can do at test level, Brett Lee has got his groove back, Stuart Clark is fabulous and Warne has proven once again what a gobsmackingly incredible cricketer he is. Oh, how I will miss him!

Did anyone else get a tad teary as he walked off the MCG with McGrath?

Boxing Day

It’s a good day to be hungover a bit under the weather. The Boxing Day test starts in less than an hour. Will it be too cold and wet to start? I hear it was freezing in Melbourne yesterday. Will Shane Warne take his 700th wicket today?1 Will England get its shit together for more than one or two sessions? All excellent questions to contemplate while languishing on the couch.

I was going to post about how 2006 was for me and how 2007 is shaping up, but the idea makes my head hurt. How bout youse guys? Tell me about the good things that happened to you this year and the good you’re looking forward to in 2007? I’ll post mine when the ghost of wines drunk yesterday aren’t haunting me.

Happy Boxing Day!

  1. Unlikely, I hear the MCG is favouring pace. I reckon it’ll be day 3 before Warnie gets his 700th scalp. []

Summer in Australia

I just came across a lovely piece by Mark Lawrence about the outsiderness of living through Australian summers while knowing very little about cricket:

What [being a migrant] means is that I have very little understanding of the finer points of cricket, and don’t play it at all well. I can’t tell the difference between ‘long leg’ and ‘short leg’, and I have absolutely no idea where ‘mid-on’ is. After over a decade living in Australia, I do have an idea of how the game is played, but only a middling understanding of how it is scored or how a test proceeds. Strategy? Not a scratch. So much so that during the recent Ashes test in Adelaide, I had trouble keeping up with what was going on, while my colleagues could assess exactly how the day’s play had progressed and what the scores meant in an instant. I was left going, ‘What happened? What happened?’.

Of course, as he points out, there are lots of Australians who don’t give a damn about cricket, actively hate it even. Sadly many of them are friends of mine. At dinner last night as I was trying to talk with another cricket-loving friend about Shane Warne’s retirement, the rest of the table stuck their fingers in their ears and starting humming. It is to sigh.

But, yes, during an Australian summer cricket is everywhere. It’s the main headline on the sports page and quite often the front page too. You see it played on television (free-to-air and cable), on the various cricket grounds around the country, in parks, on beaches and in backyards. It’s played at all levels: from muck around family games where the stumps are an esky, through school competitions, grade and state levels, all the way up to international test series.

For me, even more than cicadas, the voices of Alan McGilvray, James Maxwell, Geoff Lawson and the rest of the ABC’s radio commentary team past and present has long been the sound of summer. Cricket discussions with my family, my (non-insane) friends, cab drivers, wait staff, people in queues for the bus are as much a part of summer as mangoes and passionfruit.

What will our side be without Shane Warne? Is Langer going to retire too? What about Hayden and Gilchrist? Is this the end of Australian cricket supremacy? How long before Murali takes Warne’s world record?

Lawrence worries that his cricket ignorance will affect his son’s progress in the game:

To an extent, my concern is whether my son will lack the necessary cricket skills, as I don’t want him to miss out on learning the game and being included in the matches that will invariably spring up at school, or at the beach or park with friends and family as the summer progresses.

But I recognise there is more to it: some of these concerns stem from my anxieties about what it means to be a migrant in Australia and, by extension, being an outsider. It is also an anxiety about whether I can truly prepare my son to be at home in Australian culture – to not be an outsider through no choice or fault of his own.

My father is the son of migrants from a non-cricket playing country (Poland/Ukraine) who knew nothing about the game and cared less. But he grew up loving and playing cricket and passed that love onto me and my sister. (As did my fourth or fifth generation Australian mother.) I grew up listening to, watching, talking about and (very) occasionally playing cricket in the backyard.

In my teens, inspired by the Bodyline mini-series, I started to read about the history of cricket. The first book I read was a very poorly written biography of Donald Bradman. The first book I enjoyed was Sid Barnes’ autobiography, which confirmed my admiration of Bradman the batsman and dislike for Bradman the man. I also discovered Keith Miller and fell in love.

The history of cricket is the history of English colonialism; they brought cricket with them wherever they went. In some place it died out: For my birthday this year Scott bought me two gorgeous American prints from the 1870s. One of them shows international cricket being played in New England. The other shows a game of baseball looking remarkably like a game of cricket.

In some places it did not: A quarter of the world’s population lives in cricket-playing nations. Just read C. L. R. James’ Beyond a Boundary on cricket in the West Indies and Ramachandra Guha’s Corner of a Foreign Field on cricket in India and Pakistan. They are not only extraordinary books on cricket, they are amongst the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read, bringing the complexity of the game and its history alive. They are about race, class, caste, gender, nationhood, politics and colonialism, because it’s impossible to write a good book about cricket without touching on those issues.

The books of Gideon Haigh are also remarkable and have taught me a great deal about the history of cricket in my own country. And thus a great deal about Australia. You don’t have to like, or give a rat’s arse about cricket to be Australian. But knowing a little of the game’s history teaches you a little more about Australia’s. For example, our first team to tour England was Aboriginal, and yet the official Australian team has had almost no representatives of Aboriginal ancestory.

I didn’t start loving cricket because of its happy history of illuminating colonial relationships, but reading its history has made an already rich and complicated sport irresistably fascinating to me. There are few sports with as long and rich a history. And I can’t help but want to share that fascination with other people, Australian or not.

I hope that Mark Lawrence is curious enough to read some of those books. It is truly not necessary to know the difference between “long leg” and “short leg” to enjoy them (or cricket for that matter). Though if he does want to know there’s a rather helpful *cough* *cough* guide right here.

No way! (updated)

Shane Warne is retiring. I cannot believe it. He was good for another three or four years easy. What the hell?!

Thank God I get to see him bowl in Sydney. He is the best bowler I’ve ever seen tweaking the leather. And I’ve seen some greats. I don’t know what I’m going to do with no Warne to watch? Aaaarggh!!

And what is he going to do now? The mind boggles.

How can I go to bed on this calamitous news?!

Update: I have deleted comments on this thread which I deem to be disrespectful. When I am in deep mourning my sense of humour is impaired. I do not mock your sporting idols (okay, except for Johnny Damon. But that’s different.)

The Ashes

The Ashes are back where they belong and all is right with the world.

Now if only they’d give us the actual urn!

The third day . . .

I haven’t been blogging the third test because I’ve been sitting in front of it entranced, transfixed, and incapable of typing (plus there’s the whole absence of wireless thing). Those first two inning were something else, weren’t they?

I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to see Andrew Symonds back and making magic for the Australian test side. He’s one of the best fielders of all time. His bowling was fabulously effective—if only he could stay in a tad longer he’d be a lock on the number six spot. Frankly, I think his performance in this test should bag him number six no matter what. His fielding alone makes an insanely big difference. Plus he’s one of the most entertaining cricketers in the world.

And speaking of entertaining cricketers—how about that Monty Penasar? He’s a bit of alright, isn’t he? And not nearly as crap in the field and with a bat as we were led to believe. Are the English selectors mentally challenged? I reckon that’s the end of Ashley Giles’ test career. Go, Monty!

And now tis almost time to turn the tellie on for the third day’s play. Heaven!

Never Say Die

See, that’s the problem1 with test matches. They don’t always go the way you think they’re going. First innings points can mean nothing. There are five days, fifteen sessions. Oodle of time for oodles to happen. Any one of those sessions can go badly, one or two or three or four or five or more players can have an awful match, and yet that team can still win.

Like Australia did today. On the back of fabulous second innings efforts from Lee & Warne. Especially Warne. He may well be a dickhead off the paddock, but on he’s a genius. And both of them were being written off after their first innings. Drop Warne? I don’t bloody think so.

England had some fabulous innings too: Collingwood, Pietersen & Hoggard. But it weren’t enough. Maybe the next test? Who knows.

Today was one of the most exciting days of cricket I’ve seen in an age (since last year’s Ashes, even). And not just because we won. (Though that were lovely, weren’t it?) But because it ebbed and flowed, because there were slow sessions and lightning fast ones, and incredible (Warne) and woeful (Warne) innings, and because the bookies’ odds went up and down like yo-yos.

That’s why I love love love me some test cricket!

  1. “Problem” here is a synonym for “glory”. []

Ashes to Ashes

And so it begins in sunny Brisbane three hours ahead of sunny Bangkok. I’ll make no predictions of the 5-0 variety (though wouldn’t that be nice?) but I will say that you’re barking mad if you think England has a chance in hell of keeping the Ashes.

Flintoff consoles Lee

Yes, I know I said that last time too. And frankly if it hadn’t been for some shocking lapses by the captain we woulda won that and all.

Here’s to the next few weeks of battle. May it be as awesome as four two years fifteen months ago, except with the proper ending this time.

Oh, and check out the English Ashes cricket blog (via Alison). Fabulous!

Dope, proofs, hoops, words

Today is going to be insanely off-the-charts busy so instead of the long and thoughtful post on the meaning of the “sublime” that I’ve been working on I’ll

  • recommend Sara Gran‘s Dope what I recently read and loved. Imagine a noir 1950s novel if it was written much more spare, set in New York, and narrated by an ex-(teetering on the edge of non-exness) junkie prostitute who now makes a living boosting jewellery. Not going to tell you another thing about it. Just that it’s short, there’s not a word out of place, and it made me cry. (Mind you Qantas ads make me cry.) Read it immediately!

    Any of you read any read-immediately books you’d like to recommend? Dope was recommended by Marrije. Thank you!
  • and exhalt in the page proofs of Magic’s Child what arrived. It looks like a real book! All typeset and stuff! So purty! So far the proofer has spotted a minor plot oopsie (someone not having something and then somehow out of nowhere having it) and reminded me once again that I’m the world’s worst punctuater. All she does is shift my commas around and remove and add semi-colons. Bless her! And sigh on my inability to ever understand the simple comma.
  • boast of my squeaky wheelness. I wrote to one of my favourite blogs, women’s hoops—twas a mournful letter whingeing that they hadn’t blogged the Aussies winning the World Championships and here’s how they responded. Bless ’em!
  • The ABC has this fabulous wordmap project where they’re trying to map the regionalisms of Australian English. It doesn’t take a second to add regionalism of your own. My problem is I’m not at all sure where I picked up the words I used. I had no idea “grouse” was more of a Victorian word. I’ve never lived in Victoria. Only New South Wales, the ACT and Northern Territory. I reckon tellie, books, and radio must muddy the waters of pinning down regionalisms more than somewhat.

And now I roll up sleeves and get to work.

Why do you like sport?

This is not a question I get asked very much. Not directly, anyway, but every single time I post about sport someone writes and asks me when I’m going to post about interesting topics again. That’s right, the biggest complaint I get from you, dear readers, is that I talk about sport too much.1

Now I ain’t never gonna stop writing about sport, no matter how many of you are bored into a coma by it. I writes about what I wants to write about. You can suggest topics if you want but if I can’t be arsed to write on that topic then it ain’t gonna happen.

I digress. The complaints do get me thinking about why it is that I like sport so much. Seriously, for me to learn the rules of a sport is for me to become addicted. I’ve had to start studiously avoiding contact with new (to me) sport just to have enough hours in the day to, you know, get books written. I try very hard to only pay attention to cricket, the Tour, and women’s basketball. And the Olympics. I cannot get any work done when the Lymps are on.

I’m not that fussed about playing it. Tennis is great fun, I love swimming and riding my bike but I have zero interest in doing any of them competitively. (Gah!) But I can watch pretty much any competitive sport and I can do it for days and days and days. For me it brings together the aesthetic pleasures of watching athletes at the top of their form, with the soap-opera like joys of a long-running story (what can I say I’m a narrative junky in all its forms), together with the gossip and politics. A good sporting scandal is prolly my most favourite thing in the world.

Clyde Walcott, one of the West Indies' greats.I love how knowing about the history and politics of cricket (West Indies not getting a black captain until the 1950s and then only after a long-running campaign orchestrated by C. L. R. James; the long campaign to get an Untouchable to play for India), and about women’s basketball (Title IX, and when it was allowed into the Olympics, and how little coverage it gets in the mainstream press) adds so much to watching any individual game.Picture purloined from

I love the majesty and pomp. I love supporting (and hating) individual players and countries.

Why do you love the particular sports you love? Sing it, please!

No offence intended but I’m uninterested in why any of you don’t like sport. I’ve been hearing it long and loud from my fellow arty-farty types my entire life. I get that you’re an oppressed minority. I feel for you. But enough already! Let us sport obsessives bond for a bit. And, yes, I will delete anti-sport diatribes.

So fellow sport lovers—time to share that love!

NB The first image is of Sir Clyde Walcott who died earlier this year. He was one of the greats of West Indian cricket. Bless him.

The second is of the Australian women’s basketball team winning the world cup. Bless ’em.

  1. It’s particularly weird as I’ve hardly blogged sport at all this year. Very little mention of cricket, the World Cup, or the Tour de France; pretty much nothing about the Liberty’s unhappy WNBA season, and hardly any mention of all the various Australian triumphs this year. I’ve been busy, okay? []

Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!

We won! For the first time ever we won the world championships of women’s basketball!!

Penny Taylor was awesome! As was Kristy Harrower and Lauren Jackson!

Opals win!
(Picture purloined from

I am so very very very very very happy!

Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!

Tell me stuff (updated)

You are correct that I have not been blogging much or responding to comments like I usually do or even responding to email a whole lot.

The reason is that I’m on a deadline (yes, the same one, yes, it was moved again, yes I really have to meet this one) and am working my arse off. (Oh, how I miss my arse!)

In the meantime I think you lot should entertain me. Here are some questions:

  1. Does anyone have any recs for best brunch place in NYC?
  2. Who’s going to be the first Australian to win the Tour de France (no, it doesn’t have to be this year)?
  3. What’s the best book you’ve read lately?
  4. I just read Out by Natuso Kirino. Loved it. Can anyone recommend a recent crime novel that’s sort of like? I don’t like mysteries—that is I prefer crime books where you know who done it and it’s the whys that are the thing. So I want something all psychologicy. (My fave crime writers are Patricia Highsmith and Jim Thompson.)
  5. Where do I go to buy buttons in NYC? (Yes, that’s right I still haven’t gotten them.) (Oh, and by “buttons” I mean those things that can fasten clothes.)
  6. Is anyone else following the New York Liberty this year? Testing times, eh?
  7. Apparently I need some kind of formal wear, you know, like a dress. Anyone got any recs for cool interesting designery shops in NYC?
  8. What’s your favourite Elvis song and why?
  9. Without googling explain the difference between the Australian and New Zealand flags. Which is lamer?
  10. What new-to-DVD movie should I get to reward myself when I finally meet the deadline?

Thanks! Hope you’re all having a fab weekend (what’s left of it), that all your deadlines are being met and you don’t look at Monday morning with too much dread. As soon as my deadline is finished I promise to be a good blogger again.

Update: bonus question:

Riemannia‘s question here reminds me that I’ve been wondering what you call those metal door thingies that you see all the time here in the footpaths of NYC. You know, that when you open them reveal stairs that lead down into the basement of shops and restaurants and bars. Do they have a name? They aren’t grates so what are they?

Italy through to the finals

Okay, so Italy beats the Ukraine 3 nil, then Germany 2 nil to make it to the finals. Makes us Aussies look pretty good, eh? We kept them to 1 nil. Plus that one goal was from a penalty kick awarded for a flop.

I’m just saying . . .

Noooooooo!!!!! (updated)

Okay, I got nothing against France. They publish my books after all, and it’s where some of my ancestors are from, but I love the Brazilian football team, have done for ages, and I really, really, really wanted to see them in the final.

I’m bummed.

Yeah, yeah, France played better. Yeah, yeah, I have the consolation of England being knocked out. But it’s depressing knowing it’s going to be an all-European final with not one team from the rest of the world.


Oh, well, maybe we’ll be able to take the Tour de France. Are there any Brazilians in the Tour? Ghanaians? Japanese? With all those drug expulsions surely my Aussie boys Cadel Evans and Michael Rogers are a shot?

Right then, that’s out of my system, back to Magic’s Child . . .

Update: Here’s a haiku I swiped from Scott’s blog:

yes, brazil lost it
yellow shirts not so sunny
rain falls on the field


Thus far survival

Football is a brutal tying-my-stomach-in-knots game. Aaarggh!!! Especially right now as Australia plays Italy. They’re better than us on paper and having watched the first half I can see they’re better than us on the field too. But they haven’t scored yet . . . on account of two incredible saves from our fab keeper, Mark Schwarzer.

Just forty-five more minutes to endure . . .

P.S. Sorry, Marrije, that was a tough, horrible game with awful ref’ing.

P.P.S. Yes, I should be off at the conference, but you guys didn’t think I’d miss this match did you?

P.P.P.S. Sorry about being behind with responding to comments and emails. This conference is crazy frantic.

Oh my elvis!!!

We’re through!! We made it to the second round!!


That is all.


Okay, I shouldn’t be writing this I have way too much work, but I’ve been getting quite a few emails this morning asking if I’m happy about Australia’s 3-1 defeat of Japan in their first match of the World Cup. Dunno if “happy” is the word. Let’s just say there has been much dancing and chanting of Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi! all over the flat.

One more time: AUSSIE! AUSSIE! AUSSIE! OI! OI! OI!

And now I go work.

Very quick

Anna Genoese explains P&Ls. I am eternally grateful to her. I have never understood these before. They were just this mysterious thing my editors would groan about. Anna Genoese is a goddess.

Thanks for all comments in previous post. You are all goddesses. My problem has been solved by reading Anna’s post: the thought of P&Ls has killed smelly monkey brain creativity and now I can focuss on task at hand.

Shana: cricket helmets are heavy!

Friday week is Oz speak for the Friday after next Friday. I.e. rewrites due next Friday not today.

Has anyone seen Daughters out in the wild yet?

Yay Jason Gillespie. Double century. Strewth.

Write now.

How Bout that Bangladesh?

In the few moments that I’m not banging MorM 3 into shape, I’ve been taking a squiz at the first test in Bangledesh and, wow. Turns out my sister was right and I—like many other commentators (most notably, our noble captain, Ricky Ponting who said they weren’t worthy of test status)—was talking out my arse. And ain’t that fabulous?

Matthew Hayden batting (briefly); Shahadat Hossain appealing (unsuccesfully)
Getty Images

Bangladesh are the worst ranked team in the world; Australia are the best (by a considerable margin) and right now Bangladesh are pounding us. Excellent stuff. Not just because it’s been an incredibly entertaining test match, but because of what it means for the future, for the raising of the level of test cricket world wide. Colour me very happy indeed.

Though it ain’t over yet. We can still win!