Spin Off Festival 2019

We all know Adelaide flies under the radar: we are often defined by the Malls Balls or our filtered water. Although we aren’t considered to be the artistic hub of Australia, little old Adelaide is home to one of the most vibrant art scenes in our country. The proof is in the festival pudding. The most recent example: Spin Off Festival 2019.

For those who are not familiar with this festival, Spin Off states that it brings ‘the cream of the Splendour in the Grass line up to Adelaide, curating a concentrated super dose of sideshow revelry’. It was a concentrated super dose of talent, but not for a second did this festival feel like a sideshow.

We were blessed with a divine day. In the midst of what has been a cool Adelaide winter, the sun showed its face, the air was still, and it was blue skies as far as the eye could see. The space was decked out with food trucks that bordered grassed areas, and a KFC tent was providing free food on the hour. Transmission – who run Adelaide’s regular indie music nights – set up a dance floor that was buzzing well into the evening. Our showground was filled with so many beautiful, energised, and groovy people.

The day kicked off with Kian, our young hip-hop, indie singer who melts hearts left, right and centre. The Australian rapper Kwame, known for his performance energy, was unmatchable on stage. Around lunch time, Ruby Fields brought waves of crazed fans through the gate to see her rock out with her appealing angsty vibe. Mallrat followed – wearing the most fabulous red, frilly two piece– and drew us in with her sweet nature and infectious liveliness. The flow didn’t stop! The surf and garage rock duo Hockey Dad impressed, backed with artistic on-screen visuals, Wolf Alice gave us the music for a solid, high energy dance session, and Ocean Alley, as the modern reggae fusion group they are, did not disappoint their devoted fans. Ball Park Music were next and have established themselves as irreplaceable in the Australian music scene, always pleasing with their honest, upbeat tunes. Catfish and the Bottlemen were the penultimate act and, from what I heard, were a huge influence on the large attendance at this year’s festival. Boy, are these guys loved, and their music is what I like to call ‘boogie friendly’ – it’s awfully hard not to get into it. And then there was Childish Gambino. The big one. What talent. What spectacle. His dramatic display was captivating, and I have very rarely been a part of a crowd so enthralled by a performer. Gambino will be spoken about for generations, and Adelaide was stoked to have him here.

The thing about any festival, is there is a strong sense of community. For however long a festival lasts – a single day or an entire weekend – festival goers get to know the space and all its nooks and crannies: a festival and its set up grows to feel like home in a mere few hours. People bond over a shared experience, and sweaty bodies getting down for a groove creates a unique intimacy. But in our city, I can’t help thinking that these festivals are even more close-knit. You could stand in a single spot in our showgrounds filled with thousands of humans, and bump into half of the people in your life. In the mosh, all you have to do is look both ways and you are guaranteed to lock eyes with a familiar face. It’s nice to think of this city, and the young people who go to these events, as an interlocked community.

Adelaide not only showed up for Spin Off, but we gave the national and international artists before us a bloody good time. Good on us!

 


Words by Michelle Wakim

Photograph by Stazi Markovich

 

Inside the Indie Games Room at AVCon

A sneak peek into some new and upcoming games that appeared at AVCon.


Now in its eighth year, the Indie Games Room (IGR) is the prime area to check out new and upcoming games by local developers at the Adelaide Anime and Video Game Convention (AVCon). In previous years IGR has hosted many great local titles, including the popular 2D platformer Hollow Knight. Here are some standout games that on display in the IGR this year.

Cardboard Carnage by Cardboard Kids

Making its debut in 2019, Cardboard Carnage is a game developed by Cardboard Kids, a development team made of TAFE SA students. The game was made using Unreal Engine and is inspired by games like Psychonauts and similar games from the original Xbox – early Xbox 360 era (2003-2007). There is currently no release date for Cardboard Carnage.

Homeowner by Birdrun

Developed by William Newman and Ashleigh Hanson, Homeowner is a 2D top down survival game developed during a Global Game Jam. The premise of the game is trying to survive the daily life of being a homeowner. This is explored through maintaining your character through basic needs, like income, sleep, food and entertainment, similar to a Sim. Its pixel art style and colour palette are inspired by games created for the Commodore 64 in the 1980s. While Homeowner made its AVCon debut in 2019, Newman and Hanson have previously made appearances in IGR before. The game can be downloaded for free here.

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The team at Manatech in IGR.

Little Reaper by Little Reaper Games

Little Reaper is a 2.5D platformer that follows Ollie, the assistant to the Grim Reaper. Other titles like Ducktales and Hollow Knight have been listed as inspirations for this title. The game has been developed in the Unity game engine alongside C# coding. Little Reaper Games’ debuted at AVCon this year, but Little Reaper has appeared at Australian PAX, bar one, during its six-year development. Developer Adam Robertson says they hope to release the game on PC later in 2019. There are plans to port the game for Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4. Check out their website here.

Manatech by Drunk Galah

Manatech is a top down fantasy twin stick shooter for PC. The game has players selecting characters to pit against each other in an arena during a time limit. Developer Peter Cowen said its art style was inspired by World of Warcraft (circa 2010) and Battlerite. Developed in Unreal Engine and this is the third time Manatech has been featured in the IGR at AVCon. While there is no release date so far, the developers plan on releasing to Steam Early Access within the next year with console ports coming later on. Check out Drunk Galah’s website here.

Rooftop Renegade by Melonhead Games

Returning for their second AVCon, Rooftop Renegade is a 2D side scrolling platformer set in a futuristic city. The game was developed using Unreal Engine and its art style is described by the developers as “Pixar meets sci-fi”. Melonhead Games held several competitions over the weekend around the game and were selling stickers of the game, which were designed by local artist Kayla Woods. They are hoping to sell Rooftop Renegade at the next AVCon.  For more information on Melonhead Games, check out our Spotlight feature here and their website here.

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Rooftop Renegade on display.

Tinker & Spell by Anthony Robinson

Developed in Unity, Tinker & Spell is a 2D Metroidvania side scrolling platformer made its AVCon debut in 2019. The game has been worked on by its developers for the last six months and has an anime-inspired art style. Its primary narrative focus is around a collapsed civilisation and magic working alongside robot tech. There is currently no release date for this game, but you can check out their The Rookies page here.

 


These are only some of the games on display in the IGR during AVCon in 2019. For a full list of the games present check out the link to the IGR website here.

Words and images by Cameron Lowe

 

In Conversation: Matt J. Pike

When Adelaide indie author Matt J. Pike started his writing career, the publishing landscape was nothing like it is now. Indie publishing was still new and risky while traditional publishing was still more appealing, being less risky. The multi-award-winning author attempted to make his start with traditional publishing, but after many rejections for Kings of the World and having a major publisher drop Apocalypse: Diary of a Survivor, he turned to indie publishing – he hasn’t looked back since.

Of his books and series, Apocalypse: Diary of a Survivor has been by far his most popular. Told in a first-person perspective point, Apocalypse: Diary of a Survivor follows Jack Baldwin, a teenager living in Adelaide who survives a meteor colliding with the Earth. The series has been a success in both ebook and print and has won three bronze medals in teenage and young adult categories on Amazon in the UK and US. Kings of the World (Starship Dorsano Chronicles) and Scared to Beath (Zombie RiZing), the first in their series, have won the Global Ebook Awards in Teen and Juvenile Literature in 2013 and 2015.

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Pike’s various sci-fi worlds aren’t just created for pleasure, he’s hoping to find a cure for his daughter. Pike’s youngest daughter has Rett Syndrome, a neurological disorder which can hinder someone’s ability to do everyday tasks, such as walking and talking. It’s a childhood disorder, affecting more girls than boys (about 1 in 9000). All earnings from his books are donated to helping to find a cure. For those who are interested in finding out more about Rett Syndrome, visit his page here or AussieRett here.

Writing and publishing indie fiction, according to Pike, is both fun and challenging, with creative and marketing control being one of these. “I think having creative control, as well as marketing control is a pretty powerful combination,” says Matt, “as is having the worldwide rights to my work. Sure, it means a lot more things to do (like, lots), but I like all those challenges.  You have to be dedicated, but it’s rewarding.”

As for the future, Matt has plenty of stories coming up for avid readers and fans. He will be releasing the final entry in his Apocalypse series, entries 7-9 in the Zombie RiZing series. A “very inappropriately funny sci-fi action novel” he is co-authoring with fellow Adelaide indie author Russell Emmerson is also currently in the works. He also plans to start work on a side series to Apocalypse soon.

For those interested in Matt J. Pike and his works, check out the link to his website here. He will be doing the convention circuit at numerous Adelaide events, including AvCon in July and Supanova in November. He will also be at the upcoming Sydney and Brisbane Supanovas.


 

Words by Cameron Lowe

Racing the Sun

44330028Reading Racing the Sun by J.R. Koop was like taking a deep breath of fresh air. Set in a Southern Asian inspired fantasy kingdom and with a queer love story at the centre, this Young Adult work is bright against its heavily heteronormative, and predominately Western-based peers. After the soul is stolen out of her secret lover’s chest by a sorceress bent on resurrecting the Ashen God, Rahat must race through the dangerous jungle to save both her lover and her kingdom.

Koop’s writing flows easily and is very fun to read. Her characters and their relationships, especially between family members, are engaging and well-formed. The passages with the faerie, Qaidra, were some of the book’s best they provided much of the lore and world-building background for the work. Qaidra is a being that has suffered and the glimpses into her past were sharply drawn and helped flesh out the faerie into a strikingly memorable figure. That said, I do think the world of Abrecan  could have done with a little more world-building in terms of the lore of the Gods and the significance of the faerie Rapture; at times it felt as though the author expected you to be privy to the inner workings of the world without the full breadth of that insider knowledge quite making it to the page. However, the world-building that was present was rich and interesting – Koop clearly has a vivid, active imagination and lots of love for the things she creates.

The politics of this novel – Rahat and Iliyah, her lover, are both of the ruling class but cannot be together: instead Rahat is promised to Iliyah’s brother to unite their kingdom – add tension to the plot and a desperation to Rahat that endears her to her readers. Although, again, I would have benefitted from a tiny bit more of an explanation about the things that prevent Rahat and the girl she loves from being together, especially given the reason for their separation – Iliyah’s service to a God as a dream weaver – proves to be easily dismissed at the end by the powers that be.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which felt like a good mix of Neil Gaimen, Garth Nix, and Audrey Coulthurst. There’s lots to love in Racing the Sun: the rich world of Abrecan; the sweet love story; the love and encouragement between family members; the unusual range of creatures and beasts (I loved the mechanical horses, they were my absolute favourites); the adventure. This novel is a refreshing addition to the YA genre, and I am excited to see what Koop produces next.

Four Stars.


 

Words by Riana Kinlough

Adelaide Comic and Toy Fair 2019

The Adelaide Comic and Toy Fair is one of the major events for pop culture memorabilia, toys and comics in Adelaide. Now in its sixth year, the event opened at the Marden Sports Complex (MARS) in Marden on April 14. After enjoying my first visit in 2018, I decided to once again go along again and like last year, this didn’t disappoint.

The first thing that caught my attention as soon as I entered the MARS Complex was the sheer size of this event. It was far bigger than the one I attended in 2018, which was held in the German Club on Flinders Street. It took up almost the entirety of the complex and had numerous stalls all filled with toys, comics and pop culture goodness. Visitors could buy Star Wars figurines, VCRs of classic movies like Alien and the latest comics from Greenlight Comics.

Like many of these events, there are always at least two standout items on sale. This year there was a sealed box of a Sega 32X, an add-on for the Sega Mega Drive. Sold by King Kaiju Collections, one would be paying of upwards of $1,000 to own this strange but unique history of Sega. The other item was a tea pot shaped as the genie from Aladdin (1992) one would pay about $49.95 for.

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Representing local creators at this year’s event included Dark Oz, Matt J. Pike and Dr. Mike 2000. Alongside his usual items of horror and sci-fi comics, Dark Oz owner Darren Koziol was selling Laserdiscs. One standout of this collection was a copy of Titanic. Pike was selling his books which include the Apocalypse series, which is a post-apocalyptic series set in Adelaide. Dr. Mike 2000 sold his Universe Gun comic series, a collection of twelve volumes which is basically Yellow Submarine meets sci-fi.

A number of different pop culture clubs and societies were present at the event too. One of these included Starship Mawson, a local sci-fi and fantasy society. In attendance of this stall included the society’s founder, pop culture historian and avid Tintin fan Stuart A. Blair. Fresh of the heels of the Franco-Belgian Comics exhibition at Supanova, Blair once again had a small display of Tintin memorabilia for attendees to enjoy.

If there are any criticisms for the Comic and Toy Fair this year it would be the venue itself. While the MARS Complex was massive, there was little to no air conditioning or fans available on the day. It was a warm day and inside was stuffy and hot, distracting from the enjoyment. The complex too is in an inconvenient location for those who don’t drive, which would have held some people back from attending.

The 2019 Adelaide and Comic Toy Fair is by far bigger and better than last year’s event. It’s still one of the prime events for pop culture, comic and collectible lovers around Adelaide. Entry this year was $4, more than last year, but still worth it considering the treasures waiting to be discovered.


Words by Cameron Lowe

Super Indie: Indie Fiction at Supanova

Indie fiction was the rising star at Adelaide’s Supanova convention in 2018. Indie fiction being a title self- published by the author rather than a house publisher. As part of Artist Alley’s Indie Press Zone, indie authors and publishers have become more prevalent at Supanova in recent years, and are now a part of the core experience. This prevalence has increased as the tools to self-publish have become more accessible. At the 2018 event I attended panels by local indie authors and had a chance to speak with some of them. Below are just some of the interesting discoveries I made about both indie fiction and the convention.

Kylie Leane, author of Chronicles of the Children series, is one of the longest exhibiting local indie authors at Supanova. She began selling her books at Supanova in 2013 and has seen the community and enthusiasm around indie fiction grow since then. She was only one of two indie authors in 2013 and only had half a booth in a very small Artist Alley. This began to grow slowly over the years, becoming four authors by her third year and now roughly 15-20 authors (fiction and comics included) as of 2018. Leane has also said she likes the enthusiasm the Supanova committee has for indie fiction. This support has been to the aligning of their interests and passion for the craft.

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Indie publishing appeals to some writers because of the opportunity for representing diversity Katie Fraser, author of Realm of the Lilies series, said indie fiction has given an outlet for people to tell their stories without gatekeepers, be it an agent or a head editor of a publishing company. This was a recurring criticism of traditional publishers, mentioned also in panels by authors like Maria Lewis, writer of The Witch Who Courted Death, who has been published both independently and traditionally. Even these authors have said self-publishing allows diverse voices to emerge, especially for stories traditional publishing may see as difficult to market even though they might be good. These diverse voices can be ones related to gender, disability, and minority voices to name a few.

This idea of gatekeeping makes indie fiction more appealing to some writers. Matt J. Pike, author the Apocalypse series, compared indie fiction to the Adelaide Fringe and traditional publishing to the Adelaide Festival of the Arts. The Adelaide Fringe offers a wide range of different performances where performers can experiment with their craft, compared to the Adelaide Festival, which has a more traditional arts and arts representation. Pike was encouraged to turn to indie publishing because of the long waits on hearing from agents and publishers. This frustration was also felt by Fraser, it would take months to hear from an agent and then even more time for a publisher to respond to a submission. This is what drove her to go indie with her first book, Through the Fig Tree, in 2016. However, aforementioned authors have said there is some hurdles that you will face by going indie. One of these is that you will be doing a lot of the hard work like advertising and hiring artists yourself. The authors have mentioned too that it is best to know or hire a great structural and line editor to help with your project.

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Many indie authors mentioned the local indie community is a major benefit to them. Fraser said the indie community is amazing and they often catch up with each other, be it at Supanova or at dinners. Pike said that there is amazing support from within the community for each other.

When asked what advice they would give anyone interested in going indie, the aforementioned indie authors gave a similar response: “Just do it.” Both Fraser and Leane stressed the importance of knowing someone who is a good editor. Both were lucky to know good editors, but Fraser says you can also find good editors through Twitter as well. She also says to write what you know and that there’s no right or wrong in the indie world. The world of indie fiction offers a chance for all voices to be heard, regardless of genre or idea.

The genuine enthusiasm Supanova has for local indie fiction is undeniable looking at the schedule for 2018. Over the course of the weekend, there were at least three panels dedicated to indie authors. These were spread over comics and fiction, all headlined by local indie authors. This is a vast improvement compared to a few years ago, where an occasional indie author would join one of Supanova’s literary panels. It shows Supanova is eager to promote local indie fiction at their events and to give these authors more publicity.

Going indie allows you to get your stories out there, even if they’ve been rejected numerous times by traditional publishers. If your work is experimental then it can become a good place for you to showcase it to a niche audience. Indie publishing is a growing field, and certainly something to consider when delving into the publishing world.


Words and photography by Cameron Lowe.

Meet-the-Team-Cameron2Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.