Trudi Canavan

bestselling author of The Black Magician Trilogy

Trudi's Blog

A Worthy Cause

It may surprise some of you to know I do read every email sent to me and every guestbook entry posted to my site. (Mind you, if someone sent me an email that waffles on for three pages, I’ll skim it. There are limits to my time and attention-span.) Sometimes I wish I had an assistant who could filter out the occasional rude or plain stupid email, but that’s a luxury that’ll have to wait until I’m mega rich.

Now and then I get an email asking a question or raising an issue I find interesting, and I consider whether or not to write about it in this blog. (I say in the guestbook that I may do this from time to time.) But like with the following guestbook entry, something about it makes me hesitate:

Hi there, Currently I am enjoying your first trilogy, and said I’d check out your website. I thought that I would let you know that your site is extremely inaccessible – that is to say, it is very difficult for disabled computer users, specifically blind people, to interact with your website. For example, most of the links or buttons on your site are infact images and as such can not be accessed by a blind person using a screenreader and keyboard to surf the net- you need to provide text alternatives (the alt=”” attribute of an image <img /> tag). Similiarly in the code of your website relies heavily on interaction with a mouse, but a great number of disabled computer users with a large variety of disabilities – simply do not use a mouse at all, they interact only using a keyboard. A method such as onFocus() should be used in place of mouse methods. The vast majority of people are unaware of the difficulties the average disabled user faces online, and as figures from the world health organisation show, approx 1 billion people worldwide are disabled. This is a large market you are excluding through the inaccessibility of this website. Apart from profitable reasons, it is socially responisble to provide services that are equally accessible to all, regardless of capability. Currently I am completing my masters in this field, if you would like independent confirmation (that I’m not half mad) please google the WCAG (web guidelines for accessible design from the web standards authority, W3C) and section 508 (American law on this topic). I would suggest you complain loudly and shame your web designer. I really enjoy your stories, and look forward to reading more, Kind Regards, Lauren.

Now, the first impression I get is that this person has absolutely no idea how to sway people to her cause. She started off well by educating with facts and explanations, but then made two huge mistakes: she did not research her target audience and she shifted to a tone that was condescending and even a touch threatening, both which will only alienate the person or people she ought to be wooing.

Of course, it’s possible she is an internet ‘troll’ trying to rouse debate (if you don’t know what a ‘troll’ is, look it up on google or wiki), or maybe a student hoping to get some useful text or statistics out of me and anyone responding to this post. But let’s go with the assumption she is trying to make the world a better place.

If you want to make the world a better place, do your research.

Firstly, if you are targeting a specific person, perhaps you ought to read the available information about that person. I am an Australian. I live in Australia. Waving American standards and laws at me isn’t going to have much of an effect – except to annoy me. I have a bio on my site. It wouldn’t have taken much research to find out where I lived.

Secondly, I am an author. Most authors can’t afford to spend a lot of money on websites. We don’t get paid to have a website – we get paid to write books – so we can’t spend too much time on websites. My website is an indulgence for me and my readers. We’re not going to commission a complete redesign of a website at the drop of a hat. Bear this in mind when promoting your cause to authors.

Thirdly, while Lauren has made some attempt to educate and explain, she does not acknowledge how little choice the average customer has. My website is a product I bought, and like many buyers, I don’t know that much about the tools used to make it. I do know that the types of tools used were initially restricted by what my ISP would support. My web designer did what she could with it – and I think she did a fine job. (Oh, and by the way, she’s a friend. I’m not going to complain loudly and shame her. I may, however, raise the issue in a friendly fashion in the future.)

Neither my web designer nor I decided that my site would be inaccessible to disabled people. Of course I want disabled people to be able to access my site. Why wouldn’t I? The more the merrier! If we’d had a choice at the time, we’d have made it as accessible as possible.

Fortunately, I’m not the sort of person who changes their views in reaction to one email. Fortunately, I’m not the average uninformed customer: I learned of this issue a year or so back, on a science program (though no solution was offered on it). Since then I’ve kept it in mind for the future. When the time comes for a redesign of my website I will see if there’s a solution available and, if it is affordable, implement it. Hopefully by then there’ll be a bit more choice in the marketplace. Technology changes quickly, after all. 

Filling in the Dance Card

The program for Conflux 5 arrived the other day, so I can now list the events I’ll be taking part in:


Friday October 3rd

9pm – Dreaming Again Launch

Saturday October 4th

4pm – Mass Book Signing

Sunday October 5th

10am – Achieving the Dream panel

11am – Choosing an Overlord panel

4pm – Making the Jump panel


There will be no bookshop signing outside of the con, unfortunately. My on-the-ground organising guru is moving house right now and has enough on her hands. Also, I’ll be flying up now so won’t have a car to get myself to a signing in anyway. I’ll be heading home earlier, too, so I can continue writing The Ambassador’s Mission.

Dreaming Again

Back in 1999, when I was an unpublished wannabe with my finger on the pulse, I heard about an Aussie speculative fiction anthology to top all Aussie speculative fiction anthologies: Dreaming Down Under, edited by Jack Dann and Janeen Webb. Oh, how I wanted to have a story in that anthology, but it was invitation-only and if anyone in the local industry knew me at all it was as an illustrator, or as the art director of Aurealis magazine.

Still, I went to the launch and got nearly every story in my copy signed by it’s creator. Dreaming Down Under went on to win the 1999 World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology and the stories within it appeared in Year’s Best anthologies and won oodles of awards for themselves.

Eight or so years later I get a phone call from Jack inviting me to contribute a story to the follow-up anthology: Dreaming Again. Suddenly I was the excitable wannabe again, bouncing around the house. But I hadn’t written a short story in years, being all caught up in time-consuming Big Honking Fantasy Trilogies. I had ideas, though. There are always ideas, buzzing around like blowflies waiting to be caught.

Getting that story out and then beaten into shape wasn’t easy, what with all the troubles we had last year, but every time I felt like giving up I thought of Jack, and how I didn’t want to let him down. So out came “The Lost Property Room”.

c-dreaming.jpgNow Dreaming Again is out and about, gathering some great reviews, including in The Australian, and it was pick of the week in The Age. The launch is fast approaching. It will be held at Conflux 5, the science fiction and fantasy convention I mentioned in a previous post, at 9pm on Friday 3rd October. I’ll be there, along with plenty of other contributors, helping Jack celebrate the release of another fabulous anthology.


Don’t forget the rules (see sidebar to the right) my dear visitors. I’ve already had to delete a few comments that don’t relate to the posts I’ve made. Not that I don’t appreciate each and every expression of delight at my books – but here is not the place. Gushing praise goes in the guestbook; spoiler questions in the fanmail.

And a throwaway last line relating to the post doesn’t count. I’m judging at the entire contents – the general gist – of your comment.

Conventions in Australia

Every year I go to one or two science fiction conventions in Australia. What is a science fiction convention, or ‘con’? Well, it can be different things for different people, so I just googled up a few descriptions and this one seems to sum them up pretty well. The cons I attend are the fan-run ones, and they tend to include literary, media, gaming and comic book ‘streams’ all in the one con. Several states have their own local cons, and each reflects the interests of the locals. Some, for example, have a more literary flavour, some have a lot of members into costuming.

As an author, I usually sit on a few panels, sign books, and sometimes judge a short story or art competition, or launch books. Otherwise I’m just another member of the con, watching panels, attending events and generally hanging about with friends.

The next con I’ll be attending is Conflux 5, running from Friday the 3rd of October to Monday the 6th of October in Canberra. Conflux, which is held every year, tends more towards the literary side of sf than most other cons and attracts lots of local authors. Most publishing companies that have an imprint of science fiction and fantasy are based in Sydney, which is close enough to Canberra that they can easily participate.

For me and my partner it’s an eight hour drive north. It’s a long drive, but we always try to stay in Canberra a little longer so we can catch up with friends. And that usually means I can fit in a signing at a bookshop, too. One hasn’t been arranged so far this time, but I’ll be sure to post details here if it is.

I’ll also post a schedule of panels and events I’ll be participating in, once that information comes my way. So if you’d like to come join in the fun and catch me at one of the con events, then ‘watch this space’.