Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Missed the List, and the fun of Honkers...

Okay, so last week, while I was no doubt stuffing my face in some fantastic little Chinese restaurant in Hong Kong, I missed the announcement of the shortlist and Notables lists for the CBCA Book of the Year.

So huge, and somewhat belated congratulations to the various listees - it's a really great array of books and authors up there this year. I was really thrilled to see a lot of new faces, including some I got to meet recently at Somerset, up there. I hesitate to name names, because I don't want to miss anyone out, but there were a few little highlights for me:

I was stoked to see Dust by Christine Bongers up on the notables list, also Mama's Song by Ben Beaton - an old friend of mine from Uni days, Penni Russon's Little Bird, Penny Tangey's Loving Richard Feynman, Lili Wilkinson's Angel Fish, Kate Constable's Cicada Summer, and John and Stella Dinalis' Schumann the Shoeman.

There are a lot of others, too. Far too many for me to list here. Congraulations to everyone who made the lists, (and commiserations to those who deserved to but didn't - it's awful being a 'notable exception') Going over the list this afternoon has been one of the highlights of my day. It's also highlighted the amount of reading I have to catch up on in the next couple of months... sigh...

So now I'm back at work, have moved into my new office (which is smaller than my old one, but in which I can actually open the window - joy!), I have the month from hell pretty much behind me, and will probably get to do some more regular blog posts. Or not. I should have learned by now that it's dangerous to make promises along those lines.

Last week in Hong Kong was fantastic. It was my first visit there, and I'm so glad I went. Even if our flight home took us through far too many Australian capital cities (Canberra via Melbourne via Adelaide), we at least got a lot of practice entertaining an overtired 15 month old in a confined space. It's quite amazing the games you can play with an airline saftey card and a packet of pretzels. (Actually, Toby was a little trooper for the most part. He even slept for 7 of the 8 hours on the way from Hong Kong to Adelaide, which was *lovely*)

And Hong Kong itself was just an incredible experience. Toby was very popular everywhere we went, and at several restaurants people kept bringing out little treats for him to eat such as smoked eggs and marinated tofu. I'll be honest and admit that his parents did pretty well out of these situations, too.

What I found most intriguing about the trip was the incredible population density - I've been to some big cities before - Bankok, New York, London, Paris etc..., but this was the first time I've been to a city that size trapped on an island roughly half the size of the ACT. As a result, the way people live in Hong Kong is like nothing I've ever seen - from the freeways you look down through the layers of the city, into deep valleys formed by skyscrapers, with humanity evident at every window, flouro-lit by a million advertisements, and filled with the smells and sounds of people from every walk of life. So much of it reminded me of the physical environment of Blade Runner. (Including the air - we've all come back with nasty chest coughs)

We did all the usual things - the major tourist destinations like 'The Peak' and the various markets, but also took any opportunity to get off the tourist track - eating in small restaurants where we were the only europeans, catching the trams from point A to B, and just walking around the various districts, taking in the sights. The photo below (which those of you who follow me on Twitter might have already seen) is of the central city skyline at night, taken from the Kowloon ferry - one of the most incredible skylines I've ever seen. The photo, sadly, doesn't capture the movement or general 'twinkliness' of the reality. (For that, you have to watch the most recent Batman film, which featured quite prominantly the tall building just right of centre)

And just as good as all this, I came up with a few very exciting story ideas, which is one of the best aspects of travel. It also means I can go back there on a tax deductible research trip, if I decide to follow up with any of them :) (Actually, in all seriousness, I suspect this trip is going to have a huge impact on my Orion novel, research trip or not...)

But, for now, it's back to reality for me. We're into the second half of the semester, which promises to be interesting, then I have the Sydney Writer's Festival in May, followed by my first ever academic conference (at least, as an actual academic) in Woolongong in June. I'm delivering a paper. I'm already absolutely crapping myself. More on that later...

Oh, and blogging. Lots more regular blogging.



  1. I haven't been to Hong Kong for, oh, 13 years, but like you was amazed by the density of the population (and we flew into the old airport, where you could see into everyone's lounge rooms), and their propensity (on the Island at least) to fill every spare centimetre with some kind of horticultural effort, when said space was not filled with concrete ... and our lodgings at Sai Ying Pun were similarly uncapturable by camera. You've made me want to go back immediately! Good luck on your upcoming gigs, academic and otherwise.

  2. Great post Tony - you're right re the list - congratulations to all! Only I think EVERYONE deserves a prize - including the notables. I was so happy for Chris Bongers and for Richard Harland especially. Loved reading what you said about Hong Kong - I have never been there. I long to go. It's great how travel can stimulate the imagination in that way. I get completely what you say about Blade Runner drawing inspiration from that - no doubt, it played a role - it hadn't occurred to me. I also know the designers (and Scott) drew from the film Metropolis and the famous Mobieus comics (I think that's how you spell it) which also depict the 'city' as a series of layers and with this almost visceral density that just jumps out of the panels. I just didn't realise that one like that existed - and like you, I have been fortunate enough to travel to the other places you mention. Oh, I am all inspired to go to Hong Kong now! And it's great that Toby behaved so beautifully - but with parents like you and Imogen, I am not surprised! Glad you're all home safe and, along with Julia, I am sending loads of good wishes for your first academic paper.



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