Monday, June 29, 2015

Sydney V Richmond 26/06/2015 (SCG)

It's an old cliche, and it's a ridiculous one, but it does apply here. It was a game of two halves (every game has two halves, it's what makes a whole). However you need to go a step further and point out that these halves were contrasting.

Some history and background. After having surprisingly lost to West Coast the week before, Richmond's place in the 8 was in jeopardy, making that even more precarious was the fact that this game was against Sydney, cemented in the top 8 and it was at the SCG, a ground on which Richmond had not won since 2004, and even then it took a 7 goal haul from Matthew Richardson to do it.

It really was a case of which Richmond would come out to play. The one that put Fremantle to the sword, by setting up a big quarter time lead, which they rode to the final siren, by defending strongly for the rest of the game, or the one that allowed West Coast to lead them to the ball and only showed tantalising glimpses of what they could really do if they let themselves?

The opening quarter was a case of both Richmond's and it was a pretty scrappy affair. At the time, Alex Rance and Buddy Franklin were breaking even, although the Swans spearhead did not appreciate Rance being physical on him and didn't deal well with it. The Swans took a small lead into the first break. Jack Riewoldt was probably the Tigers best player, having personally kicked more than half our score.

I don't know what happened in the 2nd quarter. I don't think anyone does. For the most part of it, Richmond kicked appallingly, the Swans had loose players everywhere, Dan Hannebery and Gary Rohan seemed to have the ball on a string and the Tigers only winner was the valiant Jack Riewoldt. It was late in the 2nd quarter when the worm started to turn. Lance Franklin elected to run past the ball and collect Shane Edwards heavily with his shoulder, he hit the smaller man in the head and he crashed to the turf. He got straight back up, but Buddy had been reported, and Edwards would later be assessed for concussion. That got in Buddy's head and Rance began to get on top of him.

This is the half time score:

SYDNEY SWANS    3.4   8.7   (55)

RICHMOND             2.4   3.5   (23)

As you can see that's a 32 point deficit. The only time in Richmond's history we'd come from more than 32 points down at half time to record a win was in the 1973 Preliminary Final against Collingwood. That particular Richmond team went on to win the Premiership that year and backed it up with another flag in 1974. With all due respect to Richmond 2015, they ain't Richmond 1973, and Damien Hardwick is no Tommy Hafey.

The 3rd quarter was like the 1st one against Fremantle and the 2nd against Collingwood. It started with Trent Cotchin, he kicked a miraculous goal, while laying on the ground and being tackled. The slow motion replay of Mark McVeigh on the goal line watching with a mixture of horror and disbelief, as the ball goes past him, is a thing of beauty. If it isn't goal of the year, it's going to very very close.

Cotchin's heroics got the team going all over the ground. Alex Rance got right on top of Franklin, in fact Buddy had one disposal for the 2nd half. Someone sat on Hannebery, he went from having 20 possessions in the first half to finishing the game with 29 total. Gary Rohan must have dug a hole somewhere on the SCG and crawled into it, because he was almost unsighted for the second half. Ty Vickery turned into a gun forward/ruckman and dominated every other big man on the ground. Jack, of course continued on his merry way. As the siren for 3 quarter time rang, Richmond had turned a 32 point deficit, into a 2 point lead.

The thing was, could Richmond keep it up? You bet your bloody life they could! It did get tight and the Swans went hard at their forward half, but kicked points when they need goals. They levelled it with about 5 minutes left on the clock. The ball went forward and who was on the end of it, but Jack! He's never had very good returns against the Swans, but his 6th goal gave us a 6 point lead, with not a  lot of time left. We scrambled it forward again. Two Swans dived on the ball, Jack used his foot to trap it and then stepped back for Ivan Maric to run forward and put it through the big sticks soccer style. When we repelled the Swans next forward thrust with 2 minutes left, the commentators called it a Richmond win, and just to put the cherry on top of the cake, Anthony Miles kicked a goal with 4 seconds remaining and Richmond won by 18 points. Back in the 8, up to 6 and with a definite chance for top 4.

Jack Riewoldt salutes the crowd after one of his 6 goals.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Favourite Fantasy Authors and Books A - Z (V)

I looked for U authors, but like Q it doesn't seem to be a popular letter for authors. As a result this entry is for V.

I love this picture of Catherynne M. Valente, commonly referred to as Cat by her fans. This just seems to capture a lot of the author, mysterious and playful at the same time.

Valente first came to wider public notice in 2006, with the release of her two volume series The Orphan's Tales. The first volume garnered her the James Tiptree Jr. award and the series won the Mythopoeic award in 2008. She followed it up with Palimpsest, which was nominated for the 2010 Hugo. It didn't win, but it established Cat Valente as one of the most genre bending authors in the field. Valente puts a bit of everything into her work.

After Palimpsest she began a trilogy called A Dirge for Prester John, despite her prolific output, the unfortunate demise of the series' publishers; Night Shade, has meant the 3rd volume remains unpublished. However she has released a version of Kotschei the Deathless, called Deathless and won awards for her novellas Silently and Very Fast and Six-Gun Snow White.

It was Palimpsest that lead to her greatest commercial success thus far and probably her most accessible series of novels. That book mentions a fictional children's book called The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making.

The idea of that book fired Valente's imagination and that of her fans enough that she published a version of it online. It was successful and led to a printed version. Thus far the Fairyland series has spawned 3 sequels (The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two and the Boy Who Lost Fairyland), there's also a prequel (The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland - For a Little While) There is a 5th book due out, but it doesn't have a title or a release date as yet.

Cat's Radiance, another genre bender, is due out sometime in 2015.

Cat Valente keeps an active website at, which contains her thought provoking blog as well as a bio and details about her fiction. She also tweets as @catvalente.

My introduction to Valente's work was Palimpsest, which is where readers first heard about The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. I, like many others, was intrigued about the book, which is described as a classic fairytale. Cat managed to get the project crowd funded and online, the buzz generated by that saw a print version arrive.

I was enchanted by this book from the start. It's totally unlike anything else the author has done, other than her amazing facility with words and language and general. If anyone wants to know how to really use language and concepts I advise them to read Catherynne M. Valente, and take notice of what she does, not just in the Fairyland books, but all her work actually. 

The book is told in an old fashioned way, with a narrator telling the readers about young September, whisked from Omaha during WW II by the Green Wind - a Harsh Air on his leopard to Fairyland. In Fairyland, the girl will meet all sorts of fascinating characters from the Wyverary (sort of a cross between a library and a kind of dragon) A through L (Ell for short) to the Marquess, whose iron fist has ruled Fairyland until September's arrival.

It can be enjoyed on a number of levels and is therefore cross generational. Kids love September and Ell, and older readers find delight in the way Valente uses language and concepts and makes them dance to her tune.

I rated it an instant classic the first time I read it, and I still do. It will be remembered and celebrated for a long time to come.

Further and related reading: as I stated in my bio of Cat Valente she has quite a body of work. Fairytales and different treatments of them are something she often comes back to, and all her work is different and pushes the boundaries of what we regard as genre. If anyone has an interest in Fairyland then Palimpsest is worth a read to see where it all began.

Fairyland owes a lot to those that went before it, and it makes me think of Alice in Wonderland and to a lesser extent Oz (another girl who was whisked away from her dreary home and existence by the wind). I see elements of Tove Jansson's Moominland and Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth in it. Despite the influences it remains something unique on it's own, but those listed works hold up quite well next to it.

I have a few W's, and I think it may be my most successful letter for a while, it may also be my last unless I can find some X, Y and Z authors.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Richmond V West Coast 19/06/2015 (MCG)

Weird is the word that springs to mind when I think about this game. Everything about it just seemed off. I'll put things in perspective and maybe that will explain it.

It came after a bye. A bye is an odd thing in this day and age. We'd had a week off and the Eagles hadn't, plus they were coming off their 3rd trip and 3rd 6 day break in a row, so they should have been a bit tired and looking forward to their own break, probably hoping to go into it with some momentum.

We'd had a lot of momentum before the bye and it had been stopped dead in it's tracks. Richmond were expected to win this game for a whole host of reasons and that's always dangerous for them. I can remember former Hawthorn player Brad Sewell speaking on radio before the Melbourne game, and saying that as an outside observer, Richmond always seem to play better when they're the underdog and can approach the game with a nothing to lose attitude.

The crowd were nervous and for a Richmond crowd they were quiet. The attendance was over 45,000 (a record for Richmond V West Coast matches), and a good 35 - 40,000 of them were Richmond (West Coast don't have many supporters in Melbourne, and it's a long trip to make for a home and away fixture), yet they were quieter than I've heard much smaller crowds. It was mentioned a number of times on 774 during the game and I could feel it. It seemed to communicate itself to the players.

I know it was for a good cause, but the little thing they did turning out the lights for the Alannah & Madeline Foundation, added to the weird atmosphere. We also wore a jumper tinged with purple for the occasion. Here's a picture of Brett Deledio on the night in the jumper.

There was also a strong rumour that Jack Riewoldt would be a late out, which caused a betting plunge on the Eagles. At no stage was there any indication of this, and the player trained on Thursday night and played any questions about it with a straight bat, so I'm not sure where it came from, but it just added to the general feeling that things weren't quite right.

All night most of the side were off their games. I don't know if the crowd's negative energy had transmitted itself to the team or not, but they just weren't the same team mentally that had won 4 games in a row and knocked off Fremantle before the bye.

Trent Cotchin played like he had an injury. Corey Ellis was good early, then injured himself and was taken off, this caused sub Conor Menadue to play more game time than anyone had expected. Ivan Maric looked like an old man and was monstered by Nic Naitanui in the ruck. Jack Riewoldt played about half a game, although I don't think he was injured. It was like a flu bug had gone through the entire side. Despite all this we only lost by 20 points. I'm putting it down to an off night and hoping that we're better against the Swans this week.

Special mention to Dustin Martin, who was the only Tiger player to put in 4 quarters and his 3 first half goals kept us in the game. I think the kid may have come of age, hopefully against Sydney he can take a few mates with him.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Favourite Fantasy Authors and Books A - Z (T)

I thought I may have a few T's, but strangely enough it doesn't seem to be that popular a letter for surnames of authors. It may be misleading because arguably the most famous of all fantasy authors has a surname beginning with T, and yes he is here, along with a far more recent and not as well known author.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien - January 3 1892 - September 2 1973. Of course he was going to be here, he was always going to be here. I don't think it's possible in this day and age for me to do a list like that and not include him. Above is my favourite picture of J. R. R. Tolkien. It just seems so perfect. You can really see why he was called The Father of the Hobbits in a shot like that one.

There's not much about his background and life that hasn't been extensively written about that I can add to, although I will say that his life and many of it's key elements played significant parts in the creation of Middle Earth. His early childhood in South Africa, he was bitten by a baboon spider which has been pointed to as having echoes in his fiction, although he said that he had no lasting memory of the incident or any particular animosity towards spiders (could have fooled me. I'm an arachnophobe and the sequences with Shelob in both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings have played parts in my nightmares). Following the death of his father, the family moved to England, and he grew up in Worcestershire. This setting inspired settings and scenes in his books, especially the Shire and Bag End was in fact the name of an aunt's house.

He managed to survive the First World War, but like many of the participants found himself with memories that he didn't want and could never forget. This experience may have also played a part in his writing. There are those who sought parallels in The Lord of the Rings with the Second World War, but Tolkien said that they were wasting their time looking, because there weren't any. There may be some with his experiences in Word War 1, though.

Another key element in his life and his writing was his occupation. Following the war he became a Professor in English Language, first at the University of Leeds, and then Pembroke College, Oxford. It was here that he became part of the Inklings, and met fellow author and professor C. S. Lewis. The two became great friends, they shared some experience, having both served in WW I, and they were also both keen writers. Tolkien's work influenced his writing. A particular interest was Norse language and legends, and that influence is clear in the creation of the dwarves, their language and even the name of his fictional setting Middle Earth, which recalls the Norse legend of Midgard (what the Gods call Earth).

He didn't just write about Middle Earth. Prior to the publication of The Hobbit (which began life as a story he told to his children, much like Richard Adams and Watership Down) he was better known for a treatment he had done on the Beowulf legend. He also wrote things like The Father Christmas Letters (also to entertain his children),  Farmer Giles of Ham and those that did borrow from his own 'legendaria, Roverandom and Smith of Wootton Major.

He was actually surprised that The Hobbit became popular and probably even more so that Allen and Unwin asked for a sequel. They in turn were probably stunned with what he gave them as the sequel.

The Lord of the Rings became Tolkien's magnum opus, although it was followed up by The Silmarillion (published posthumously) and other works which his son Christopher has cobbled together from his father's work. He never seems to stop 'discovering' fragments, which he then turns into books that sell very well to a ravenous public. As an interesting aside one of author Guy Gavriel Kay's first forays into the world of fiction was working on turning Tolkien's notes into The Silmarillion.

While J. R. R. Tolkien passed away in 1973, his work and contribution to the field of fantasy will never be forgotten, and he laid the building blocks for the genre. He is possibly responsible, more than any other author, for making the genre what it is today.

What? The Hobbit? Surely you've made a mistake! Confession: I actually prefer The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings. If pressed to do a top 10 of my favourite fantasy novels ever, I'd get The Hobbit in there, but couldn't find a spot for the sequel. I don't dislike The Lord of the Rings, and I respect what it did and it's influence on the genre as a whole, but I don't love it.

Why do I like The Hobbit so much? It may be because at the heart of it, it is a caper novel. The whole thing is about a giant jewellery heist. The dwarves employ a hobbit, who they have been led to believe is a highly effective burglar, to help them steal a massive treasure from a dragon. Okay, the treasure did initially belong to them, but they're still stealing it back. There are games within games, too. Gandalf tricks Bilbo into inviting the dwarves into his home, he tricks the dwarves into believing that Bilbo is a burglar. Bilbo cheats in the Riddle Game with Gollum and gets himself a magic ring. He tricks the trolls. Gandalf, the dwarves and Bilbo manage to fool Beorn into letting them into his house. The whole thing is a non stop action ride, with tricks, riddles, games, chases, captures, escapes and a happy ending.

The Hobbit has a whimsical fairy tale feel to it, Tolkien even playfully subtitled it There and Back Again. I'd like to visit the Middle Earth in The Hobbit, the one in The Lord of the Rings, not so much. Maybe Hobbiton for Bilbo's Eleventy First birthday party. I don't think the term had even been coined then, but The Hobbit is a prequel. It contains a number of characters and elements that are very important to The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf, Gollum and the One Ring itself, which was more than just a cool thing that could turn the wearer invisible as it turned out.

I've read it countless times, and I always know that I'm in for a fun adventure every time I open the pages of my battered old copy.

Further and related reading: naturally there's The Lord of the Rings and the never ending stream of bits and pieces of J. R. R. Tolkien's work that his son Christopher seems to keep on uncovering. Things like pre The Hobbit works (Farmer Giles of Ham, Smith of Wootton Major and Roverandom) have been reprinted in recent years. Even some of the more scholarly work like his treatment of Beowulf is available, and there are a lot of biographies and studies of Tolkien and his work. He also left us with enough material for at least 6 enormous films and an entire set on a working sheep farm in New Zealand. Seriously, if you have ANY interest at all in The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and/or the films made of them, you HAVE to visit Hobbiton in New Zealand. It is absolutely mind blowing, it's like walking right into the pages of the books.

A lot of Tolkien's influences are pretty clear; the Norse mythology, Beowulf and the Arthurian legends (come on, Gandalf is Merlin with another name). He was also influenced by what were for him, more recent fantasy authors, names like Lord Dunsany and E. R. Eddison.

Since Tolkien plenty of people have been inspired by, and in some cases copy him *cough* Dennis L. McKiernan *cough*. Terry Brooks' The Sword of Shannara is highly derivative of Tolkien, although after that he became more original from The Elfstones of Shannara onwards. Stephen Donaldson's Tales of Thomas Covenant owes a great debt to Tolkien and is every bit as derivative as Brooks' work. The elves in Raymond Feist's Midkemia series are straight out of central casting in Middle Earth and even Tad Williams pays Tolkien great homage with his Memory, Sorrow and Thorn epic, as well as parts of his Otherland series.

I'd be surprised if many people knew who the man in the picture above was. His name is Ian Tregillis, and he is for me, one of the best minds to emerge in the fantasy field for the last 5 - 10 years.  He's an alumnus of the famous Clarion Workshop, which may be where he first met George R. R. Martin, he's also a member of Mass Effect, the writing group, which also numbers George R. R. Martin among it's members. Unsurprisingly when you read his work, he has a P.h.D in physics. He doesn't get technical, but his work does have the feel of someone who knows their science, despite that it is most definitely fantasy, of the alternate history kind.

He first appeared on the scene in 2010, with Bitter Seeds, the first book of the Milkweed triptych, a series about how differently the Second World War may have been if Germany had access to super soldiers and Britain a conduit to the world of magic.

He followed Milkweed up with Something More Than Night (I haven't read this, although I do want to, I'm just not paying for a hardback copy and I don't think it ever got a paperback release) a rather noir story about fallen angels and the foundations of reality. It got fairly mixed reviews and didn't seem to be all that well received by the public, hence the no mmpb publication.

Earlier this year Ian Tregillis released The Mechanical, the first of the Alchemy Wars series. He's back on the familiar turf of alternate history, although totally different from what he did in Milkweed, and if the first book is any indication, then this series could even top Milkweed for mine, although that will be pretty hard to do.

Like any even half popular author these days Ian Tregillis tweets as @ITregillis and keeps a website at, he is also on Facebook.

The first book in the Milkweed triptych only came out in 2010, and I read it in 2013, but it made such an impact on me that I had to include it. It can't be added as one book, you need all 3, and it's not a trilogy as such. It is a triptych. The word generally refers to a panel painting that is done in 3 parts, so it's odd to call a book that, but with Milkweed it absolutely fits. It is as I said earlier an alternate history where World War Two works out differently because the Germans have developed super soldiers. They can walk through walls, burst into flames, read minds and even divine the future. In reaction and to level the playing the field Great Britain deploy their own secret weapon, a group of blood sorcerers who make deals with the denizens of magic. The 3 books weave in and out of time, and Tregillis brings the story together brilliantly. He also creates a for the most part highly believable alternate reality. What really sets this apart from the pack though is the creation of the character of Gretel, the German foreteller. She's so well described as is the 'gift' that she has been cursed with.  character who will never leave me.

Further and related reading: Ian Tregillis has also published Something More Than Night, and The Mechanical (read The Mechnical, great stuff. Probably the best book I've read this year), and he contributes to George R. R. Martin's pet project the Wildcards shared world books.

If you're looking for alternate history then it's hard to go past Harry Turtledove, who amongst his many projects often plays in the What if WW2? sandbox. Robert Harris' Fatherland also does this very well, imagining a future where Hitler never died in the bunker, Joe Kennedy Sr. became the President of the USA, and the USA did a deal with Germany that saw them gain most of the Soviet Union. Ken Grimwood's Replay goes back to the future, having his main character relive his life over and over from a certain point always trying to change it and creating multiple options in the future, which is something similar to what Ian Tregillis did with Gretel in Milkweed.

I don't think I can find a U, so next week may be the V's.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Half a season

The win against Fremantle was Rd 10 and it signalled the halfway point for Richmond and the first round of byes. That meant the Tigers didn't play last week, along with five other teams.

I'm not a fan of the staggered byes. I'd prefer to have a weekend off where there's no AFL games. Promote it as local football week or something and get a few more people going to grass roots games. This way it also doesn't disadvantage anyone, and everyone comes back from the week off in the same situation and ready to get into the second half of the season. Anyway the AFL in their infinite wisdom, and an unfounded fear that if they have a weekend without football everyone will forget about it and follow the rugby or something, so instead they stagger the bye over 3 rounds.

However I thought it provided a perfect opportunity to look at the games we've played, our fortunes and those of our opponents, before they played us and after.

Rd 1 V Carlton

The traditional Thursday night season opener was back. Despite some tough talk from coach Mick Malthouse, Carlton were really ripe for the picking. They came out hard, and I think it surprised Richmond a little, but after that opening quarter onslaught, the Tigers got their own game plan working, and opened the Blues right up going through the middle of the ground. They really should have won by more than the 5 or so goals they did. Using Jack Riewoldt as a mobile forward worked a treat, Alex Rance's All Australian form returned and debutant Kamdyn McIntosh was best on ground. The only sour note was the report and injury to Brett Deledio.

That first quarter was about as good as it got for the Blues. Their season spiralled out of control. They sacked their coach before the bye round and lost superstar Chris Judd to injury, he retired after the Rd 10 game.

Rd 2 V Western Bulldogs

For some reason the media wanted to fall in love with the young Western Bulldogs. They beat West Coast in the opening round, a side notorious in recent years for not travelling well. They did manage to fall over the line against the Tigers in 2014, but I'd hoped we'd improved. Credit to their neophyte coach Luke Beveridge. They played with a maturity beyond their experience and years. They took the middle corridor away from us, gave us no room, forced us to take low percentage shots at goal and really should have won by more than the eventual 3 goal margin.

Lost both Ricky Petterd and mature age gamble Kane Lambert through injury. Lambert courtesy of a hospital pass from team mate Steve Morris. Petterd was a late inclusion for Shane Edwards and honestly had he not been injured he would have been dropped. Both were long term injuries and could have spelled the end for Petterd at the RFC.

The Bulldogs continued their strong opening to the season, but eventually the lack of age and experience caught up with them and they've fallen away recently. Stuck at 11th position on the ladder, a game and percentage out of the 8.

Rd 3 V Brisbane

The loss to the Dogs saw the usual panic descend amongst the fans and there was an air of gloom going into this match. I didn't really buy into that. There were a few reasons for it. Brisbane aren't much chop, I'm not being mean, they're not. They've lost most of their stars now, and they'd been hit with injuries, coach Justin Leppitsch is still trying to fix the train wreck that he inherited from Michael Voss. They hadn't just lost their opening two games, they'd been thumped. We also have some sort of hold on them, haven't lost to them for a long time, regardless of venue. I don't know why this is, it just happens with some teams. They will beat us one day, but it wasn't going to be this game. Shane Edwards returned and provided the missing spark from the Bulldogs game. The young Lions were valiant and tried hard, but it was never going to be. The floodgates opened in the final quarter and they lost by over 70 points.

The Lions have managed to register a few wins since that game, but they're still in the bottom 3, and I can't see them improving much for some time yet.

Rd 4 V Melbourne

I don't rate Melbourne. I never have, even when they've been good, which hasn't been often. Despite this they have an annoying habit of beating us. This game was on Anzac Eve and it's something that both clubs want to make a regular fixture. Hopefully in the future we can come to play, unlike this particular game. It was a weird game. Alex Rance had about his worst half in 2 seasons. Nothing we did worked, we kicked badly and somehow we lost the bloody thing. It galls me to lose to Melbourne, because at present they're really not very good. They had a better start to the season than they've had in a while, but they're still one of the bottom four sides, which is where they belong.

Rd 5 V Geelong

Not content with regularly contesting finals and winning Grand Finals, Geelong completely own Richmond and have for nearly 10 years. We've come close a few times, but never taken the 4 points out of the encounters, not since 2006. We thought this year was a chance, as the Cats have fallen away a bit. We stuck with them for the first half, but then they pulled away. It was like we could see it happening, but couldn't do anything about it. This did worry me, because there were times when it really did look like the coach had lost the players and that's disastrous. Made it close, but close isn't good enough.

The poor start to the season has plagued the Cats. They've dropped a few they would have ordinarily won, so they're just out of the 8, but if we don't keep winning, they'll take the spot we want.

Rd 6 V North Melbourne

I personally don't consider the Kangaroos a bogey side yet, but they are fast becoming one. Unfortunately given the Geelong game and the result, this one was scheduled in their home away from home in Tasmania. If it had been in Melbourne I think we may have taken it. Again, we pretty much handed it to the opposition. We gave up 92 points via turnovers. You're never going to win a game doing that. We also took a less than 100% Brett Deledio into the game, hoping to be able to sub him out, but an early injury to Ben Griffiths put paid to that plan, and also condemned Ivan Maric to having to single handedly ruck an entire game against the Roos multiple opponents, one of whom is Todd Goldstein, one of the league's best ruckmen. I got that same sense of coach losing players during the game.

Overall the Roos have struggled to consistently reproduce last season's form that saw them finish top 6, and are currently struggling to get a spot in the 8.

Rd 7 V Collingwood

The Tigers other real nemesis along with Geelong has been Collingwood. The last time we beat them was in 2007. Matthew Richardson nearly took mark of the year and Brett Deledio kicked 5 goals. The start of the game looked pretty much like the past 3 weeks on repeat. There was plenty of unrest in the stands, and we hadn't approached the game in a great state of mind. Something just seemed to click in the 2nd quarter. Richmond went through the Pies like a hot knife through butter. They kicked 8 goals for the quarter, 6 of them unanswered. They came back at us, and the lead changed a few times in the last quarter, but Ty Vickery took it back and Dustin Martin sealed it. The Pies Jamie Elliot kicked a goal on the siren, but that still left them 5 points adrift and the Tigers were back in the hunt.

Collingwood are still in the 8, but the fact remains that the only other top 8 side they've managed to beat are GWS, who are a surprise inclusion there.

Rd 8 V Port Adelaide

Despite the belief that the Power's coach Ken Hinckley is a far superior coach to Damien Hardwick, the Tigers coach holds a winning record against his opposite number. The problem is that Hinckley's win was in 2014's Elimination Final and put us out of contention. They were also fired up for this game by losing to lowly Brisbane the previous week, and it was club favourite Kane Cornes' 300th and final game. None of that mattered to the Tigers, they started the game the way they'd played the second quarter against Collingwood and the Power had no real answer, or seemingly, any way to stop it. Their 3rd quarter was their best and they stopped the Tigers from scoring, but were unable to turn behinds into goals and the Tigers hung tough in the last to turn a few non believers into believers.

At the start of the season the Power was being talked up as a possible Grand Finalist. Halfway through the season they've been badly exposed. Their game of frenetic pace and superior fitness has been shown to be unsustainable. Their foundations have been very shaky, they've been hit by injuries and loss of form, the game plan has been worked out and if they can pull themselves out of this then Ken Hinckley really can coach, but at present he looks like he's only got the one plan and that's not working.

Rd 9 V Essendon

We have an odd sort of schedule with the Bombers. We generally play them twice a year and usually split the difference. They normally win the first game, which is the Dreamtime Game, and we win the later game. This time we were the favourite, and that's usually not good for the Tigers. However we were determined this time and while Jake Carlisle for them marked anything that even came close to him, he couldn't convert and that will always hurt. Richmond also took away their preferred game of playing on by slowing it down and playing tempo football. We were also more accurate.

The Bombers are falling fast. The saga about the drugs has taken it's toll and they look like a fractured club from inside. Making finals is the last of their worries.

Rd 10 V Fremantle

This was the acid test. Fremantle were undefeated and on top of the ladder. They call their home ground the House of Pain. What they don't do is score quickly and heavily, they like to lock games down. Richmond came out on fire, they kicked 8 goals in the first quarter and it was breathtaking. The Dockers did get back into it, but they were shell shocked and again while we faded a little in the 3rd quarter, we never let them head us and held on in the last.

We had a week off and the Dockers pulled out a narrow win agains the Gold Coast. The break can't come fast enough for them.

6 - 4 is a decent platform, and it's better than it looked after the North Melbourne loss. This week's game against the West Coast is huge. Win that and we're on the way, and the murmur will become a roar.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Favourite Fantasy Authors and Books A - Z (S)

I think maybe because I seemed to have so many favourites that started with A and B that I thought other letters would follow suit, so I'm little bit surprised when it doesn't work out that way, so for S I only came up with 2 and a half. I'll explain how the half works later on.

Robert Silverberg is the elder statesman of the SFF world these days and he's been greatly awarded for his craft (although has never won the Hugo for best novel). He looks rather like a distinguished Shakespearean actor, and having been fortunate enough to meet him once and hear him speak a few times, he has the voice to match the image, he also gives some of the funniest speeches at the Hugos.

He's best known and recognised for science fiction, which makes up the vast majority of his extensive catalog, and although his Majipoor series takes place on another planet, so could possibly be classified as planetary romance, most people regard it as fantasy.

In some ways Robert Silverberg is also responsible for giving the world George RR Martin's Dunk and Egg stories. The first of those 'The Hedge Knight' first appeared in the Silverberg edited Legends anthology and the second was in Legends II.  The Legends anthologies were as much as anything the idea behind the recent anthologies Warriors, Dangerous Women and Rogues, edited by George RR Martin and his good friend Gardner Dozois.

Robert Silverberg still regularly appears at conventions and the like, but is not as active or as prolific as before. His last publication was a collection of short fiction in 2014.

A friend loaned me Lord Valentine's Castle when I was a teen and I found it one of the most interesting fantasies I'd ever read. This was adult fantasy that was unlike anything I had encountered before. It takes place on a planet that has apparently been conquered a long time ago by humans and other space faring races. As colonists tend to do they've paid scant regard to the original inhabitants and those chickens are going to go home to roost. It's quite a swashbuckler, too and owes more than a passing nod to things like Sabatini's Scaramouche. The titular character has had his memory wiped and doesn't know that he's supposed to be the ruler of the planet, for much of the book he thinks that he's exactly what he appears to be; an itinerant juggler. It's wonderful melding of science fiction and fantasy, it delves into mind control, the evils of colonisation and imperialism, yet it never flags or preaches and moves along at the sort of clip befitting any good old fashioned adventure story.

Further and related reading: there's Silverberg's back catalog, which just in terms of novels along numbers in excess of 70, before including the Majipoor novels, those number at 8 with the publication of Tales of Majipoor in 2013. Like I said Lord Valentine's Castle at times put me in mind of Scaramouche, which is not fantasy. Valentine is a performer and travels across Majipoor with a troupe of jugglers. That element may have been homaged by Robert Jordan in some of his Wheel of Time novels where a handful of characters take refuge with a travelling show.

The lady above is Caroline Stevermer, and she's my half. Along with fellow writer Patricia C. Wrede

she was responsible for a delightfully daffy little book called Sorcery & Cecelia.

As well as that particular series she's also done a Ruritanian fantasy romance the Galazon series, and done historical work for the young adult market. She doesn't publish a lot, but she does try to change things up frequently.

Sorcery & Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot is the first of the Cecy and Kate books, about a pair of cousins living in an alternate Regency world where magic works. The book began life as a version of the letter game, with the two authors taking on a character and writing letters back and forth as if they were those characters. As a result the book is told in an epistolary form. It's probably aimed at a YA audience, but it is so delightfully done that it's hard for audiences of any age to not get something out of it. Possibly because of this epistolary approach I never found any of the faux Austenish language at all gimmicky or forced, it came across as very natural. There were further books in the series. The sequel was written in the form of the two cousins diaries as they went on the Grand Tour and the 3rd readopted the epistolary approach and included extra viewpoint characters. It's a lovely vision of a world not all that different from our own, and it is a delight to read.

Further and related reading: Caroline Stevermer is quite well regarded for the Galazon series, which is not all that dissimilar in theme to the Cecy and Kate books. Regency themed books with fantasy are all the rage these days and this was one of the first of them. Mary Robinette Kowal has just completed her Glamourist Histories, which are on that theme and one half of Emma Newman's Split Worlds series is set in a world inhabited by faeries who never seem to have progressed past the late 18th century. Susannah Clarke's award winning Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is also set in an alternate Regency England with magic, but I found the language of the time in that forced and gimmicky, which was not the case at any time with the Cecy and Kate books.

Although Jonathan Stroud has been writing work for young adults and younger readers since the mid 90's, he really came to prominence with the publication of The Amulet of Samarkand, the first of his Bartimaeus series in 2003. Two further Bartimaeus books followed that, and then he moved into the world of standalones before returning to add a fourth Bartimaeus book in 2010. His early work as an editor taught him a lot about structure and the industry in general. He's currently working on the Lockwood and Co series, which is a group of horror influenced mysteries aimed at younger readers. That's already had 2 books out and a 3rd is due this year.

The Amulet of Samarkand was an intriguing book. It was aimed at younger readers, but it drew in a wider audience. It too was set in an alternate England where magic worked, the people with the power were magicians. It had two main characters, the young apprentice wizard Nathaniel and the 5,000 year old djinn Bartimaeus, who Nathaniel summons to help him out with his studies. The style is very interesting. It's written in both 3rd and 1st person from two PoV's, all of Nathaniel's chapters are written in 3rd person and Bartimaeus' chapters are in 1st person, which allows the author to use the genie's highly sarcastic and often amusing viewpoint. It was done so seamlessly that I was more than halfway through the book before I even really picked up on it. Nathaniel's story is covered in the first 3 books, which is why they're called a trilogy, and he later wrote a standalone story about Bartimaeus alone before he came into Nathaniel's service. Funny, suspenseful and clever, can't recommend this highly enough.

Further and related reading: there are the other 3 Bartimaeus books, but for some reason the two sequels in the original trilogy never quite hit the heights of the first one for me, and I felt the 4th was an attempt to milk a concept that was largely done and didn't need to be revisited. Aside from the 4 Bartimaeus books Jonathan Stroud has Lockwood and Co (currently up to 3 books) and 17 other books, some aimed at very young readers, and seems to have largely confined himself to the YA and middle grade market since The Amulet of Samarkand. Again parts of this series put me in mind Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell as well as the Cecy and Kate books. The whole idea of using a genie as a major character summons up the Arabian Nights and that in turn made me think of Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis' Rose of the Prophet series.

Next week T and when you use the letter T and fantasy authors in conjunction we all know what that means.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Fremantle V Richmond Domain Stadium 05/06/2015

This one didn't go at all to script. Fremantle won their first 9 games on the trot and were tipped to win this one. One of their champions Michael Johnson was playing his 200th game, they were going to set a record of consecutive club wins. Nat Fyfe was in Brownlow medal winning form and giant ruck man Aaron Sandilands was unbeatable in the middle of the ground. It was also being played at their home ground of Domain Stadium, the so called House of Pain.

That's not to say the Tigers were without hope. They were on a 3 match winning streak. No significant injuries, a ton of belief, a fairly good recent record against Fremantle and no fear of the venue, plus they had a break afterwards with the bye. Others have also observed that Richmond tend to be at their best when they have nothing to lose, and this was one of those games.

I actually like Friday night games because they get it all over and done with early. You know right from the start whether you're going to be happy over the weekend with the win or rather solemn after a loss. The downside is that there's a whole weekend of football to come, especially this weekend, with the Queens Birthday Monday public holiday, and your game tends to get lost in the shuffle when they review everything after the round.

The opening term from Richmond was about as astonishing a thing as I could ever hope to see. From the opening bounce the Tigers went on a rampage, and they had 6 goals on the board before the Dockers had even blinked, they did manage to score 3 for the term, but it looked pretty poor against our 8. Plus the 200 gamer Michael Johnson was on the bench and wearing the red vest with a leg injury.

As expected the Dockers did hit back hard, but we held them at bay for the second quarter, the lead got out to 8 goals at one point. The 3rd was, as has become common, our worst for the game, but the first quarter had set us up for a big one in the last and we held Fremantle when they came at us, running out with a 27 point upset.

Everyone is now wondering what happened at the start of the season when Richmond lost games to the likes of the Western Bulldogs (fallen in an enormous hole, as I expected them to) and Melbourne (playing like the rabble that they are). They're also asking is this the real deal? It's gone on for 4 consecutive matches I suspect it may be.

As a closer I'd like to discuss clash jumpers. This is ours:

It could be worse I guess, it's just our colours reversed. It could be Essendon's which is horrible, or we could be like St Kilda, who can't seem to decide which version they like the most and seem to change it all the time. My main issue is why do we need a clash strip? Who exactly do we clash with? The only two teams that realistically clash in the AFL are Collingwood and North Melbourne. Clash strips are a giant rort by the AFL to gouge cash out of people for alternative jumpers. Years ago no one had any difficulty telling the teams apart on the field, not even the Pies and the Roos, that was because one wore black shorts and one wore white shorts, but you can't make a lot of money out of selling black and white shorts. We were told it would only be when there was a genuine clash, maybe once a year. We've worn it against Port Adelaide and now Fremantle. I fail to see how no one can tell the difference between teal, white and black and yellow and black or purple and white and yellow and black. I give it a few years and we'll be wearing it every other game.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Favourite Fantasy Authors and Books A - Z (R)

Q defeated me, I admit it. In our library we have one book written by a Q author, and it's not a fantasy. So, I decided to move straight onto R. Curiously enough I could only locate two R authors I wanted to include here, which was surprising.

Laura Resnick is the daughter of the prolific and popular science fiction author Mike Resnick. While not as well known as her father, Laura has won awards for her own work. As well as writing, she's studied acting, taught languages and spent time working on a kibbutz in Israel, which is where I think the above picture comes from.

Her original break through into writing was under the pseudonym of Laura Leone and was in the romance genre. When she started to use her own name, she published a well regarded, but little known high fantasy series.

More recently she's written a successful urban fantasy series about the supernatural misadventures of struggling New York based actress Esther Diamond. 

Laura keeps a website at and tweets under the name @laresnick.

Because of the publishing history of the Esther Diamond novels I kind of came to them in a roundabout way. The first book I saw in the series was the second one Doppelgangster. I'd read that and it's sequel Unsympathetic Magic, before I even knew that there was a book before Doppelgangster. While they can be read as standalones and Laura Resnick does a good enough job of catching new readers up the story so far, I always knew that there was a story before Doppelgangster, and I wanted to read it. A bit of research led me to Disappearing Nightly. The book was originally published by Luna, an imprint of Harlequin. It didn't do as well as the publisher had hoped, and actually became kind of hard to find. After acquiring the series, new publisher DAW did eventually reissue Disappearing Nightly, with one of the cool and eye catching Daniel Dos Santos covers that suit the series so well. The names in themselves are quite a lot of fun, as well as the three I've mentioned we've got Vamparazzi, Polterheist, The Misfortune Cookie and Abracadaver.

The Esther Diamond series is one of the most fun urban fantasy series out there, and it deftly mixes romance with police procedural and out and out comedy. Esther is a struggling actress, who accidentally hooks herself up with a 250 year old Hungarian wizard Maximilian Zadok, a handsome Irish Cuban detective Conor Lopez and an assortment of others, including her agent (later revealed to be a vampire) and semi retired wiseguy Lucky Battistuzzi. Esther really just wants to get regular employment as an actress and maybe have a relationship with Conor, but dead bodies and Max keep popping up when they're not wanted and drawing her into the investigations.

If Janet Evanovich had set her books in New York, and made Stephanie Plum into an actress rather than a bounty hunter, and used some supernatural elements she would have written the Esther Diamond series. Every time I read one of these I'm struck by the strong cinematic element to them and can't believe that someone in the TV industry hasn't taken the option to try and make them into a series.

Further and related reading: there is Laura Resnick's high fantasy series; The Silerian Trilogy, and if anyone could track them down her romances under the name of Laura Leone may still be available.

However for things similar to Esther Diamond, there are any number of police procedural urban fantasies out there. Top of the list, but with less romance and a lot harder edge there's Ben Aaronovitch's Peter Grant series and Paul Cornell's Shadow Police series. Seanan McGuire's October Daye books are urban fantasy mysteries, but mainly operate on the fringes of our world and a lot in the faery kingdoms around it. Jim Butcher's Dresden Files is similar as well, but it's started to veer more out of our world over recent books. The closest thing to Esther is Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series, but that's not fantasy at all. Very little can get the mix of romance and action with fantasy quite right and Laura Resnick does that with Esther Diamond.

The woman above needs no introduction. For those that don't recognise her, her first names are Joanne Kathleen and she's better known by her initials J.K, because her publisher didn't think boys would buy novels about a young wizard if they thought they were written by a female author. This was of course an unfounded and ridiculous fear.

I don't think I really need to repeat the well known story about J.K Rowling being a young mother, who spent her days writing in a cafe, and found the dream of every aspiring author, by writing a series that caught the public's imagination and turned her into one of the wealthiest and most successful writers ever.

After Harry Potter she turned her talents to more adult fare and has written the drama A Casual Vacancy as well as two mysteries under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. While all three have sold well on the author's name, they haven't been as well received as Harry Potter, and it's unlikely that anything will ever replicate the phenomenon that was the Harry Potter series.

Again I probably can't add a lot to the multitude of words that have spoken at length about the series as a whole. A lot of people tend to pooh pooh those who admit to liking this series now. It seems to be popular to simply bag anything popular because it was popular. A bit of research shows that Rowling went to great lengths to put meaning behind what an initial or cursory look shows that a lot of thought went into what seems at first glance to be fairly simple concepts.

Harry Potter made reading cool again and introduced an entire generation to reading and to fantasy. It's what is now called a 'gateway drug' to the genre. It's become a springboard, and I think it's encouraged plenty of people to dream and to write, because their idea can too be just what everyone wants to read. For that alone it deserves all the praise that it has received.

Further and related reading: there are the other 3 books Rowling wrote outside of the fantasy genre. She has actually never seen herself as a fantasy writer, she wrote children's books, they just happened to feature magic as the focus. She also wrote a few companion pieces: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Quidditch Through The Ages and The Tales of Beedle the Bard.

Her influences ranged from Enid Blyton's Malory Towers school books to other 'girls own' fiction like Elinor Brent Dyer's Chalet School books and even things like Rudyard Kipling's Stalky and Co or Anthony Buckeridge's Jennings books, but all of those are set in rather idealised versions of the real world. There's a lot of Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea series about Hogwarts, especially the first book. Patrick Rothfuss also used elements of that in The Name of the Wind. The most similar, though is Lev Grossman's Magicians. His magical university of Brakebills is largely a tertiary version of Hogwarts.

So next week I have the S authors, and hopefully I can find more than 2.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Richmond V Essendon 30/05/2015 (MCG)

Every year the AFL has an Indigenous Round. It celebrates the role that indigenous players have played in the game and in wider society. Every team features an indigenous component in their playing strip as well. The showpiece of the round is a match between the two old rivals Essendon and Richmond. It's generally played on the Saturday night, and has been called Dreamtime at the G. The Dreamtime game was the brainchild of former Richmond premiership player and Essendon premiership coach Kevin Sheedy. Sheedy was a great champion of indigenous players.

Just like last week against Port Adelaide this game was also a tribute to a great player from the opposition. It was defender Dustin Fletcher's 400th game. He's only the 3rd player in history (the other two are Richmond's Kevin Bartlett and Hawthorn's Michael Tuck) to reach this milestone, so it's quite an achievement and worthy of celebration.

Unlike the Port Adelaide game Richmond were favourites to win. In some ways that's actually a disadvantage. For some reason the Tigers seem to get nervous when they're favourites to win and play accordingly.

This night was somehow different. The team was quite settled. The only change was the injured Ty Vickery out for the tall, young forward Liam McBean. Conor Menadue also started on the ground and Corey Ellis donned the sub's vest.

Richmond started well and scored 3 goals for the quarter, 2 of them from skipper Trent Cotchin. The Bombers had gone down their end plenty of times, but weren't hitting the scoreboard, they'd kicked more points than goals.

The Tigers led the Bombers on the scoreboard and everywhere around the field for most of the night. The Bombers came back hard in the 3rd quarter, cutting Richmond's lead to 1 point at one stage, but Richmond steadied and extended it to 8 points by the final break.

I think that took a lot of the wind our of Essendon's sails, and they never really looked likely from that point on. They did try, but just didn't have it in them. Richmond were two goals ahead, and there was still time, but when Jack Riewoldt kicked a point to make it 13 points and requiring 3 accurate shots from the Bombers to win the game, that was it. 

As the picture says, Dreamtime is Tiger Time.