Fragment 1: Tamed

The first Fragment tale available for download is “Tamed” — a story written in 1998 for the World Fantasy Award-winning anthology Dreaming Downunder, edited by Jack Dann and Janeen Webb. The story takes place in the world of Tharenweyr, which is the setting for Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead, though in a country on the opposite side of the continent to the mercantile state of Vesuula, which is the novel’s main locale. “Tamed” was conceived as a story in its own right, but also as the possible beginning of a sequel to the novel — part of the overall fictional reality of Tharenweyr but having its own coherence. Whether it becomes that sequel is yet to be determined.

Story:

Torm pur Nathal is an outsider who has come to the rural coastal fringe of Tenen, seeking something that remains elusive. When he discovers that the area is home to a “monster tamer”, Bryalt — eldest offspring of the Weller Family, fascination and hope lead him to seek employment on the Weller freehold. But Bryalt is barely keeping a grip on his sanity, and when his mother dies, he succumbs to despair. The drontagis or “monster corruption” he has been holding at bay erupts in force, and all hope seems lost. Yet Bryalt is not the last of his family…

Read it now:

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Fragments Wins Best Novel Award

Continuum X — the National SF Convention for 2014 — was a special one for FRAGMENTS OF A BROKEN LAND: VALARL UNDEAD. At that convention it won the Ditmar Award for Best Novel.

Ditmar1This is wonderful in itself, but the icing on the cake, as it were, was the context in which the Award was announced. My partner Cat Sparks had already won the Best Collected Work and Best Short Story Awards — for her superlative collection The Bride Price (Ticonderoga Press) and a story from it, “Scarp”. That was exciting enough. As it happened, however, Cat had been asked to present the Best Novel Award. So, without having any prescient knowledge of the winner, she made the announcement and presented me with the Award. I will always remember her excitement on opening the envelope — and that of Jack Dann, who was sitting next to me and has been phenomenally supportive of the book for a long time. There was much shouting and hugging, then and later.

Unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be any pictorial evidence of me in my new suit (which I had brought not because I thought the book might win, but because I had been asked to present an award myself, earlier in the evening — and was required to dress in my “Oscars finery”).

Here is the full list of shortlisted works for the Best Novel category:

  • Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead, Robert Hood (Wildside)
  • Ink Black Magic, Tansy Rayner Roberts (FableCroft)
  • The Beckoning, Paul Collins (Damnation Books)
  • Trucksong, Andrew Macrae (Twelfth Planet)
  • The Only Game in the Galaxy: The Maximus Black Files 3, Paul Collins (Ford Street)

I was honoured enough to be among such worthy nominees.

The full list of Ditmar Award nominees and winners can be found on Locus Online.

Writers know we have to be content with the value of the work itself, to believe in it, and not to place too great a reliance on positive reviews or to take negative reviews to heart. True worth lies in the words, in the endeavour. But often, deep down, we struggle with insecurity and … well,  it’s hard to function in a vacuum, to get minimal response or sometimes never get even a glimmer of audience reaction to our work. Is anyone reading it? Does anyone care? Negative reviews are bad enough, though at least you may be able to learn from them. Being ignored can be the worst. When the work concerned is one that was deeply felt and the making of it had drawn blood, sweat and tears from the writer for (potentially) many years, such silence can be debilitating. So despite the problematic nature of awards in general (and arguments about them tend to proliferate throughout the writing community), the recognition offered by awards such as this one, both for winner and nominee, goes a long way toward ameliorating the pain of silence.

Fortunately Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead has been blessed with some wonderful and insightful reviews, even if the major magazines and review sites have been less than generous with their attention. But the dark gloom falls at times. Now this Ditmar Award for Best Novel comes like a burst of light in the darkness, a sonic boom in the silence. My thanks to everyone who voted for it — and were so generous with their congratulations and best wishes afterwards.

Addendum: Cover of The Bride Price, Cat Sparks (Ticonderoga Publishing). Trust me… you want to read this book.

bride price

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