The Never Never Authors – Rivqa Rafael

The ebook launch of The Never Never Land, CSFG’s speculative anthology of
Australian myths, yarns and campfire stories, is coming on 1 July 2016.
We interviewed some of the authors to hear what inspired
their unique version of the sunburnt country.


‘Beyond the Factory Wall’ by Rivqa Rafael is about Jewish magic and steampunk inventions in a women’s penal colony.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I used to say I’m an editor and writer, but these days I’m putting writer first (imposter syndrome, I’ll beat you yet). Mostly I write science fiction, but every so often I stray into fantasy, as I’ve done in ‘Beyond the Factory Wall’, which is steampunk with magic. When I’m not writing fiction or editing science books and papers, I’m likely reading, video gaming, working on my Brazilian jiujitsu skills, or kid wrangling (my partner and I have two, who we’re raising to be as geeky as we are). I am overly fond of parentheses.

What was the inspiration behind your The Never Never Land story?

It diverged a long way from the original inspiration, the real-life story of Jane Hawkins, a midwife who was accused of witchcraft and exiled from her Puritan American colony for assisting the birth of a severely deformed stillborn. When I heard a talk about the abuse that women suffered in jails in colonial Australia, the ideas merged and evolved into the story as it’s published. I mixed in the Jewish elements to create an alternate history that meshed the two concepts in a way that made sense (at least to me).

What research did you do for the story?

After those sparks of inspiration, I did a lot of research online before visiting the Cascades Female Factory in Hobart. As well as taking a tour of the historic site, I was there for a dramatised tour with brilliantly convincing actors, who really drove home the injustices that these women were subject to. Much of the detail in the story was drawn from the scribbled notes I took at the Factory. I followed that up with a couple of books bought from the site’s shop, which were also invaluable.

Was there anything you found hard about writing this story?

The subject material was difficult. Female convicts and prisoners were abused by wardens and free settlers, and had their babies taken away from them regardless of their wishes. And the idea of a midwife being accused of witchcraft for delivering a deformed baby was deeply unsettling. Anything with stolen or dead children pains me. An earlier draft featured a stillbirth scene that was agonising to write. It was even harder to edit out, but it just didn’t fit with the final story.

Why did you decide to submit to the TNNL anthology?

I wrote the story for the anthology – the ideas were brewing in my mind at exactly the right time, so it was an obvious choice.

What did you learn about the writing/publication/editing process from your experience in being involved in The Never Never Land?

So, so much. Although I’m an editor, I don’t edit fiction, and being edited at all was a relatively new experience for me. Ian McHugh edited my story, and we went through several rounds of editing in which he challenged me to streamline and flesh out (yes, both, simultaneously!) the story. It’s immeasurably better than it was when I submitted it.

What was your favourite other story in TNNL?

Of all the questions, this is the hardest! At a pinch I’d say Kim Gaal’s ‘The Nexus Tree’, which is hilarious, pitch-perfect Aussie gloriousness.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on various short stories while I gird my loins to start redrafting my science fiction novel.

Where do you want to take your writing? What are your writing goals?

The usual: world domination, of course. It’s required for CSFG membership.

Where can we find you?

My other short stories are available in Hear Me Roar (Ticonderoga Publications) and Defying Doomsday (Twelfth Planet Press).

My occasionally updated blog is at www.rivqa.net, but I’m most active on Twitter as @enoughsnark.


The Never Never Land is available now in paperback and
will be launching in standard ebook formats from 1 July 2016.

The Never Never Authors – Thoraiya Dyer

The ebook launch of The Never Never Land, CSFG’s speculative anthology of
Australian myths, yarns and campfire stories, is coming on 1 July 2016.
We interviewed some of the authors to hear what inspired
their unique version of the sunburnt country.

Photo by Cat Sparks

“Tirari Desert, Saturday” by Thoraiya Dyer is a pointed story of border protection, journalistic integrity and violent xenophobia. It opens The Never Never Land.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m an Australian writer with over 40 short stories published here and overseas, and my debut fantasy novel Crossroads of Canopy, about hijinks in a kilometres tall, magical rainforest, is coming out in January 2017. I used to be a veterinarian. I didn’t get expelled for incompetence or anything, just took a break to have the Small One and then became a writer instead!

What was the inspiration behind your Never Never Land story?

Mururoa Atoll protesters. And living in a mining town.

Is it more important to have stories set in Australia, or by Australian authors, or both?

The Never Never Land guidelines made me immediately enthusiastic, because I’d just been re-reading Dreaming Down Under which is an excellent anthology (it won the World Fantasy Award in 1999) but I was struck by how few of the stories were actually set here, as though Australians had to prove not only how well they could write SFF, but prove how worldly they were.

Was there anything you found hard about writing this story?

Making it short enough to fit the guidelines. This is my eternal dilemma. Right now I’m trying to prune a novelette down to short story size and I wonder why I must always do this to myself.

Why did you decide to submit to the TNNL anthology?

Because we live in an amazing place with so many stories.

What did you learn about the writing/publication/editing process from your experience in being involved in The Never Never Land?

I learned to specify lunar orbit when I mean lunar orbit and solar orbit when I mean solar orbit 😉

What was your favourite other story in TNNL?

So many! See my review on Goodreads. I loved the finished anthology.

What are you working on now?

Worldbuilding for a novel. Transforming our ancient saltwater crocodiles into a means of transport. I hope that when the novel comes out in three years you find them as awesome as I do, hahaha!

Where do you want to take your writing? What are your writing goals?

I want to be a writer for my job and make enough money to give the Small One as many choices in life as possible. I want writing about tree kangaroos or saltwater crocodiles in a fantasy novel to be equally or less remarkable than writing about horses or deer.

Where can we find you?

My website, thoraiyadyer.com or on Twitter @ThoraiyaDyer


The Never Never Land is available now in paperback and
will be launching in standard ebook formats from 1 July 2016.

CSFG/Conflux 12 Short Story Competition – Red Fire Monkey

The CSFG/Conflux  Short Story competition is back for Conflux 12

We want your stories of 4000 words or under, in any speculative fiction genre, on this year’s theme, which is: red fire monkey.

The competition is open to all Australian residents and members of either the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild or Conflux 12.

Entry is $5, unless you are a member of the CSFG or Conflux 12 or you are aged 16 or under, in which case it is free!


First prize is $200 and a 2017 Conflux 13 membership! Second prize is $50 and a discounted Conflux 13 membership, and third prize is $25 and a discounted Conflux 13 membership.


Stories should be written in English, suitable for a general audience (ie, no gratuitous violence or erotica), and, of course, your own original, unpublished work.

Please submit them in the following format: RTF, double spaced, courier font, with the story title in the top right header.

Make the first page of your document a cover sheet that includes your name, contact details and story title (we’ll remove this before we give it to the judges). YOUR NAME MUST NOT APPEAR ON ANY OF THE OTHER PAGES OF THE STORY.

Get it to us at csfgshortstorycomp@gmail.com before midnight on 31 July 2016.


Fees can be paid by direct deposit (BSB: 805022 Acct: 03421621) or Paypal to canberra.specfic@gmail.com (For other options or any more information contact us directly at the csfgshortstorycomp@gmail.com address)

Members News – April – May 2016


The Australian Horror Writers Association recently announced the winners for the 2015 Australian Shadows Awards, representing the very best in horror works produced by Australian and New Zealand writers in the calendar year of 2015. CSFG members taking home the incredibly cool Shadow Award statues this year included:

We should also give a shout-out to Marty Young’s Blurring the Lines, which won the Shadow Award for Best Edited Work and includes stories by CSFG members…wait for it…Alan Baxter and Kaaron Warren.

Professional development

Leife Shallcross and Rob Porteous are both pleased to announce this week that they have been accepted into ACT Writers Centre ‘Hardcopy 2016’ professional development program for writers. Congratulations to Leife and Rob, and for any of our local members looking for some assistance with their novel manuscripts in 2017, check out the Hardcopy program.

Games and Interactive Fiction

A number of CSFG members are pursuing non-traditional writing gigs you may not have considered.

Matthew Farrer, Elizabeth Fitzgerald and Rik Lagarto all contributed to Under Quarantine, an expansion book for the Through the Breach roleplaying game from the Wyrd games company.

Felicity Banks  has written several new interactive fiction adventures recently:


Dawn Meredith’s The Boy Who Went to War, a five-year project written in collaboration with 92 year old WWII veteran Jim Haynes, will be launching soon if you happen to be near the Blue Mountains: 2:00 pm on 30th April 30th at Wentworth Falls School of Arts.

The launch of Gillian Polack’s most recent work The Wizardry of Jewish Women has been deferred due to ill health and publication problems. Hopefully it’s no more than a temporary pause. (And get well soon Gillian!)

Workshops and Short Courses

Chris Andrews will be presenting a new short course at CIT Solutions this semester: Creating Compelling Characters. If you need to spice up your characters and turn them into people your readers will love (or hate!), check out Chris’ course.

Craig Cormick is presenting a free session at Gungahlin Library on Wednesday, 27 April, talking about “How to Make a Short Story Better”. Unfortunately the session is completely booked out, but keep an eye on the Gungahlin Library site for similar upcoming events.

The Witch – Flash fiction contest

CSFG is really excited to announce we have been given a bunch of free passes to THE WITCH!

To win one, you need to write us a flash fiction piece in 200 words or less on the theme below and post it to the CSFG mailing list. (Only CSFG members are eligible to enter)

Our judges, acclaimed horror writer Kaaron Warren (Bram Stoker nominee, winner of the Shirley Jackson Award and innumerable Australian Shadows, Aurealis and Ditmar awards, and now a Shirley Jackson Award judge) and Shauna O’Meara (a 2013 Writers of the Future winner, multiple Ditmar nominee, award-winning illustrator and Aurealis judge) will judge your entries and award four passes this week, and four next week.

This week’s theme is: Peek-a-boo.

All the winning pieces (and perhaps a few other honourable mentions) will be posted to our website and FB page. Happy writing!

THE WITCH is a terrifying new horror film exploring the age-old concepts of witchcraft, black magic and possession. It starts in cinemas on 17 March and is showing exclusively in Dendy.

New England, 1630. Upon threat of banishment by the church, an English farmer leaves his colonial plantation, relocating his wife and five children to a remote plot of land on the edge of an ominous forest —within which lurks an unknown evil. Strange and unsettling things begin to happen almost immediately — animals turn malevolent, crops fail, and one child disappears as another becomes seemingly possessed by an evil spirit. With suspicion and paranoia mounting, family members accuse teenage daughter Thomasin of witchcraft, charges she adamantly denies. As circumstances grow more treacherous, each family member’s faith, loyalty and love become tested in shocking and unforgettable ways.

Writer/director Robert Eggers’ debut feature, which premiered to great acclaim at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival — winning the Best Director Prize in the U.S. Narrative Competition — painstakingly recreates a God-fearing New England decades before the 1692 Salem witch trials, in which religious convictions tragically turned to mass hysteria. Told through the eyes of the adolescent Thomasin — in a star-making turn by newcomer Anya Taylor-Joy — and supported by mesmerizing camera work and a powerful musical score, THE WITCH is a chilling and groundbreaking new take on the genre.

Members News – January to March 2016

Update: Edited to correct the spelling of Rivqa’s name – sorry Rivqa!

Awards Season

Several of the major Australian genre awards are upon us, with nominations recently announced for the Aurealis and Ditmar Awards. CSFG members were well-represented on the shortlists:

In the Aurealis Awards shortlist:

  • Kimberley Gaal featured with two nominations for Best Young Adult Short Story (“In Sheep’s Clothing” from Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #61, and “The Nexus Tree” from the CSFG anthology The Never Never Land). Congrats Kim!
  • Clare McKenna and Kaaron Warren will be facing off for Best Science Fiction Short Story for “The Marriage of the Corn King” (Cosmos) and “Witnessing” (The Canary Press Story Magazine #6) respectively
  • Tehani Wesselly has been nominated as editor for Best Anthology for Focus 2014: highlights of Australian short fiction (FableCroft Publishing)

In the Ditmar Awards shortlist:

  • Cat Sparks has been nominated for Best Novella or Novelette for “Hot Rods”, Lightspeed Science Fiction & Fantasy 58
  • Alan Baxter has been nominated for Best Short Story for “The Chart of the Vagrant Mariner”, in Fantasy & Science Fiction, Jan/Feb 2015
  • Tehani Wesselly as co-editor has been nominated for Best Collection for Cranky Ladies of History, edited by Tansy Rayner Roberts and Tehani Wessely (FableCroft Publishing)
  • Shauna O’Meara has been nominated for Best Artwork for her beautiful cover for CSFG’s own The Never Never Land
  • Rivqa Rafael and Tim Napper have both been nominated for Best New Talent
  • Tehani Wesselly has also picked up nominations for the William Atheling Award for Criticism or Review for her collaborative review project Reviewing New Who and Squeeing Over Supergirl

In a bit of unusual news for CSFG, Donna Maree Hanson (under her Dani Kristoff pen name) is a finalist in the Australian Romance Readers Association 2015 awards for her paranormal romance novel Spiritbound!

Congratulations to all the nominees and good luck for the upcoming awards!


Kaaron Warren shared the very exciting news of a new book deal with Australian speculative fiction publisher IFWG, who will be publishing her novel The Grief Hole later in 2016.

Gillian Polack’s new non-fiction work History and Fiction: Writers, their Research, Worlds and Stories is out from Peter Lang International Academic Publishers in the UK in April-May. The book is about how writers use history in their fiction and includes interviews with a number of CSFG authors.

Short Stories and Flash Fiction

Tim Napper has been busy lately: he has sold short stories to Lontar: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction and Grimdark Magazine (appearing in issue #6, out now). His previously announced story ‘The Flame Trees’ is coming out in Asimov’s Science Fiction in April or May. Tim has also sold two translated stories to Austrian magazine Visionarium and the Hebrew-language SF site Blipanka.

Rivka Rafael has a short story forthcoming in Twelfth Planet’s anthology Defying Doomsday.

Zena Shapter’s short story ‘Let the Tempest Hold Me Down’ will be free to read from 24 March at Sci Phi Journal. Zena adds “Sci Phi Journal is an online science fiction and philosophy magazine that ‘explores questions of life, the universe, and anything that delves into the deep philosophical waters of science fiction universes. Oh, and I’m also supposed to encourage peeps to subscribe (in March!) because the journal’s authors get paid a percentage of subscription fees.”

David Versace has a flash fiction story in the February releases at EGM Shorts called ‘Incidental’.

Literary Festivals

Canberra’s Noted Festival is coming up in March. Kaaron Warren will be running a workshop on getting away from the desk to find inspiration for writing horror: Where the Wild Words Are


Finally, congratulations to Donna Maree Hanson, who started her PhD studies at the University of Canberra in February.



Romance for Speculative Fiction Readers

Over at her Earl Grey Editing blog, Elizabeth Fitzgerald is providing a few recommendations for introductory reading in speculative works that double as a gateway to the romance genre (or vice versa). As anyone who has attended the multidimensional GenreCon convention in recent years can attest, there’s a lot for speculative readers and writers to learn from the romance genre. For anyone looking for ideas on great entry points, Elizabeth has you covered:

There are a lot of misconceptions out there about the romance genre and, like any genre, there’s a lot of less than stellar material. If you’re a speculative fiction reader new to romance or looking to get started, it can be difficult to know where to begin.

Part One of Elizabeth’s recommended reading list offers some reliable works. In the second part of the discussion, Elizabeth throws the floor open to a few friends for their opinions.

Important – Next meeting location!

Due to the renovations going on at the Gorman House Arts Centre, the February general meeting will be held in a new location:

The Academy of Interactive Entertainment
49 Phillip Avenue, Watson

(You might also know it as the Canberra Technology park). The timing is still 7:30 pm on Wednesday 17 February.

We don’t have an exact room location yet but we will try to have signage or a traffic conductor available to steer members to the right spot.

Click for Map (AIE Watson)

2016 workshops

Canberra and Canberra-adjacent members should check out the newly-updated Workshops and Courses page.

You will find details of a number of short courses for writers being offered in the first half of 2016 by CSFG members Chris Andrews, Ian McHugh and Gillian Polack.

Flensing your filter words

CSFG member Simon Dewar, currently editing the Suspended in Dusk 2 anthology, has been reading a lot of slush lately. He offer this very useful advice on tightening up your prose by hunting down and eliminating filter words:

One of the worst culprits for weakening your prose, distancing our reader from the protagonist’s point of view and the action, are filter words. This is where you say “John thought x y z ” or “It seemed as though x y z” or you say your character thinks/knows/realises/notices/decides/wonders things… rather than just showing the character doing those things.

A great example (and perhaps the most obvious) is if I write “John saw the big man lift his pistol and fire.” You don’t need to tell us John saw it… John is present in the scene and is our POV character. Unless John is blind,  the default position is that he sees the things that go on in the scene. And if he was blind, you wouldn’t be saying he’d seen something, right? Instead of “John saw the big man lift his pistol and fire.” just write “The big man lifted his pistol and fired.”

Read the rest of Simon’s essay – and get some good editing tips – at his blog.