Jenny Blackford's Web Site
I am a writer and poet passionately interested in science fiction and fantasy, ancient history and religion, food, gardening, and the natural world – especially cats.
I studied Classics (Greek and Latin) at the University of Newcastle, NSW, and was awarded the University Medal, but instead of finishing my Ph.D ("The Tripartite Godhead in Indo-European Religion") I fell into an unexpected career in Melbourne as a computer network specialist. In 2001, I gave up my day job and started writing full-time. My historical novel The Priestess and the Slave was published in 2009. Later that year, Russell Blackford and I (and my muse/mews, our Ragdoll cat Felix) moved back home to Newcastle. Our resident kookaburras and magpies threaten every day to eat Felix's beautiful blue eyeballs, and noisy miners swoop him menacingly.
I love to share my love of words, the ancient world, spooky stories and, of course, cats. I'm available for school visits and workshops, especially around Newcastle or Sydney, but sometimes in other places. To find out more, check out the Ford Street Publishing Creative Net website.
I was one of the Collective that published the award-winning fanzine Australian Science Fiction Review (Second Series), and I review (regularly, if not frequently) for the New York Review of Science Fiction. I was an Aurealis fantasy judge in 1998 and 1999, one of the five judges worldwide for the World Fantasy Awards 2009, and have recently judged the Conflux 2013 short story competition and the long fiction section of the Australian Shadows Awards. I am on the board of the Hunter Writers Centre. If you'd like to email me, try this.
Jenny with the ruined Temple of Poseidon at Sounion, the Temple itself, and Jenny with her muse. All photos taken by Russell Blackford.
My long centaur poem in The Pedestal Magazine last year was been nominated for a Rhysling award; I have a poem in the latest Westerly, one forthcoming in Strange Horizons and three forthcoming in Quadrant. My poem "Hungry as Living Sorrow" was awarded second prize in the Long Form section of the Science Fiction Poetry Association competition for 2013, judged blind by the esteemed Jane Yolen. Most excitingly, wonderful Pitt Street Poetry will publish an illustrated pamphlet of a suite of twelve cat poems, The Duties of a Cat, later this year.
My short stories have been published in places as diverse as Cosmos magazine and Random House's 30 Australian Ghost Stories for Children. My Honorable Mentions from Gardner Dozois and Ellen Datlow are mounting up quite satisfactorily.
Hadley Rille Books commissioned me to write The Priestess and the Slave, a historical novella set in fifth century BC Athens and Delphi, which was published in 2009. Pamela Sargent called it an "elegant short novel" and praised its subversive feminism. For more details, look here.
My current projects include an adult novel about the improbably dramatic life of Bronze Age princess Medea, grand-daughter of the Sun, and one for children based on my magical circus story "The Dragon in the Tent".
1. "Ti-trees Rising" (poem) published in Dolly magazine, 1973. (It had won the Hunter Valley Research Association's Poetry Prize the previous year, when I was ridiculously young.)
2. "Mirror" (a nasty poem) published in 2010 in Midnight Echo 4, guest edited by Lee Battersby. I'm delighted that it was reprinted in Ticonderoga's inaugural Year's Best Australian Fantasy and Horror, edited by Talie Helene and Liz Grzyb, and also in I Know What I Saw, edited by Barry Napier, from Belfire Press's Needfire imprint, December 2012.
3. "Silver-Clean" (a nasty sf poem) published in Midnight Echo 6, November 2011, the special sf horror edition guest edited by Jason Fischer, David Kernot and David Conyers.
4. "Their Quantum Toy" (a cat poem) published in Star*Line 35.1, early 2012. It was one of outgoing editor Marge Simon's Editor's Choices for the issue, so it is available online – just scroll to the end of the page here and click on the name of the poem.
5. "Learning How to Be a Cat" (yes, another cat poem, with a touch of Bradbury hommage) published in the wonderful Underwords YA science fiction anthology Futuredaze, February 2012.
6. "The Duties of a Cat" (yet another cat poem) published in the February 2012 Orbit edition of The NSW School Magazine, with glorious illustrations.
9. "Engine of Strange Delights" (a poem for librarian-scholars) published in Dreams & Nightmares #95, May 2013
10. "Roughly spherical, and covered in dead leaves" (a cat poem!) published in the august literary journal Westerly #58, July 2013.
11. "Hungry as Living Sorrow" was awarded second prize in the Long Form section of the Science Fiction Poetry Association competition for 2013, judged blind by the esteemed Jane Yolen.
12. "Viking" (originally published in the kids' pages of the Sunday Herald when I was 12) published in the October Touchdown edition of The NSW School Magazine.
13. "Soft silk sack" (another cat poem) forthcoming in The NSW School Magazine.
14. "Power Men" forthcoming in Strange Horizons.
15, 16, 17. "Red velvet cabbages", "The drowned brickworks" and "The Aluminium Apples of the Moon" accepted by Les Murray for Quadrant!!!
The Priestess and the Slave
Cover art (c) Rachael Mayo
Archaeology buff Eric Reynolds commissioned me to write The Priestess and the Slave, a historical novella set in fifth century BC Athens and Delphi, as the first in an innovative Hadley Rille Books series of archaeologically-accurate short novels about the daily lives of ancient people living and coping with real historical crises. It was published on 15 April 2009. It's available from amazon, fishpond and many other places.
The amazing Kate Forsyth wrote, "Completely fascinating - a vivid and evocative glimpse into the life of the past, with its terrors and joys so strange and yet so familiar," and the astonishing Alison Goodman said, "A compelling blend of vivid storytelling and meticulous research. Fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable."
Legendary sf feminist Pamela Sargent wrote on Goodreads, "This elegant short novel…tells the interwoven stories of Thrasulla, a Pythia who is one of the oracles of Apollo, and Harmonia, a slave in an Athenian household. The author, with degrees in Classics, brings authority and detail to this story of those so often neglected by history, those without power. Women in classical Greece led especially limited lives, but Jenny Blackford brings both suspense and compassion to Harmonia's tale, which is restricted entirely to her master's house, and to Thrasulla's, when she must confront the madness in a Spartan king and the greed of a sister priestess."
Macquarie University's scholarly journal Ancient History: Resources for Teachers: "historically accurate to the finest detail… It is extraordinarily moving… This is a rewarding book on both levels. A true ancient historical novel."
Short Stories for Adults:
2. "Trolls' Night Out" (adult fantasy) published in Jack Dann's anthology Dreaming Again (HarperCollins Voyager), July 2008. Dreaming Again is the ten-year-on follow-up volume to the World Fantasy Award-winning Dreaming Down Under (which Jack edited with Janeen Webb). This story received an Honorable Mention from Gardner Dozois in his Year's Best Science Fiction 26.
3. "Ariadne" (adult fantasy set in ancient Greece) published in Aurealis 41 (April 2009), edited by Stuart Mayne.
4. "The Arrows of Apollo" published in Origins, ed Eric Reynolds, Dec 2009.
5. "A Terrible Beauty" (a nasty fable featuring Athena, Hera and the Morrigan) published in the February 2010 issue of Three Crow Press, the Morrigan Books Ezine (issue 6 volume 2), edited by Reece Notley. The webpage has disappeared, but you can read it online here (for free!).
6. "Adam" (adult fantasy) published in Kaleidotrope 9, July 2010, edited by Fred Coppersmith. This story received an Honorable Mention from horror doyenne Ellen Datlow.
7. "Velvet Revolution" (adult sf) published in Cosmos magazine Aug/Sept 2010 issue (#34). It's online here, and you can read it for free! This story received an Honorable Mention from Gardner Dozois in his Year's Best Science Fiction 28.
8. "The Head in the Goatskin Bag" (adult fantasy) published in Kaleidotrope 13, Fall 2011, edited by Fred Coppersmith. This story has been reprinted in the Year's Best Fantasy and Horror for 2011, edited by Talie Helene and Liz Grzyb (Ticonderoga Publications).
9. "The Sacrifice" (adult fantasy set in ancient Colchis, at the far end of the Black Sea) published in Aurealis 47 e-zine (on Smashwords) in February 2012. This story received an Honorable Mention from Ellen Datlow.
10. "A Moveable Feast" (adult fantasy/horror) published in Bloodstones, October 2012, edited by Amanda Pillar (Ticonderoga Publications). This story is being reprinted in the Year's Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2012, edited by Talie Helene and Liz Grzyb (Ticonderoga Publications).
11. "The Quiet Realm of the Dark Queen" (adult fantasy) published in Dreaming of Djinn, May 2013, edited by Liz Grzyb (Ticonderoga Publications).
12. "New Miracle Celebrity Weight Loss Diet" (YA/adult fantasy) published in Penumbra e-mag's H. G. Wells theme issue in June 2013. (I also have a post on their blog, answering the question "How long did it take you to get your first publication, and what were some of the obstacles you had to overcome?"
13. "Under the Roses" (adult fantasy) forthcoming in A Quiet Shelter There, edited by Gerri Leen (Hadley Rille Books).
Short Stories for Children and Young Adults:
1. "Dave's Diary" (children's sf) published in Pearson Education's Spinouts Sapphire volume They're Here, 2002.
2. "Emily's Big Chook" (children's sf) published in Explore, Longman magazines, 2002.
3. "Alistair" (children's ghost story) published in 30 Australian Ghost Stories for Children, Random House, 2004. The NSW School Magazine reprinted "Alistair" in the September Touchdown edition, 2005, as the title story.
4. "Bertie" (children's ghost story) published by The NSW School Magazine in the August Touchdown edition, 2005. It was the title story, with an especially gorgeous wrap-around cover by Kim Gamble. The School Magazine reprinted "Bertie" in a ghost story issue of Touchdown in 2009.
5. "Barry" (children's fantasy) published by the in the July 2006 Touchdown edition of The NSW School Magazine.
6. "Losing Weight" (children's sf) published in the August 2007 Touchdown edition of The NSW School Magazine.
8. "Fee" (children's sf) published in Explore, Longman magazines, January 2009.
9. "Glukera" (children's historical fiction) published in the February 2010 Touchdown edition of The NSW School Magazine.
10. "Slugs and Snails" (children's fantasy) published in Tehani Wessely's anthology Worlds Next Door, August 2010. An audio version of the story, read by me, and a copy of the text are available for download on the Teaching Resources page for the book.
11. "Nits!" (children's sf) published in the November 2010 Orbit edition of The NSW School Magazine.
12. "The Dragon in the Tent" (children's fantasy) published in the May 2012 edition of The NSW School Magazine as the title story.
13. "Furry Little Demon" (children's historical fiction ) published in the October 2012 Orbit edition of The NSW School Magazine.
14. "Vulture, Stool, Rope" (children's historical fiction) published in the November 2012 Orbit edition of The NSW School Magazine.
15. "Six Legs, Three Heads" (children's science fiction) forthcoming in the NSW School Magazine.
You can read the first two chapters of The Priestess and the Slave at the publisher's website.
Chapter One – Thrasulla, the Pythia
Chapter Two – Harmonia, the Athenian slave
Stories for adults:
"A Terrible Beauty" (a nasty fable featuring Athena, Hera and the Morrigan) was published in the February 2010 issue of Three Crow Press. The story webpage has disappeared, but you can read it online here.
Stories for kids:
"Slugs and Snails" (children's fantasy) was published in Tehani Wessely's anthology Worlds Next Door, August 2010. An audio version of the story, read by me, and a copy of the text are available for download on the Teaching Resources page for the book.
"Their Cold Eyes Pierced my Skin" (a poem set in a fantasy version of Bronze Age Greece, with centaurs) published in issue 70 of The Pedestal Magazine, is archived here. It's probably not recommended for people much younger than 18.
"Liquid Pleasure" (a nymph poem set in Greece) published in the Spring Equinox edition of Eternal Haunted Summer, is available here. Again, it's probably not recommended for people much younger than 18.
"Hungry as Living Sorrow" was awarded second prize in the Long Form section of the Science Fiction Poetry Association competition for 2013, judged blind by the esteemed Jane Yolen.