Heading Down Under

For those of you who have been staying up nights wondering whether I would show up at AussieCon4, go take a nap: Yes, I plan on going.

No, I have no more details at the moment — I haven’t even got my AussieCon4 membership yet so every other question you might have about my attendance and participation will be answered with “I don’t know,” because I don’t and probably won’t for some time. Sorry.

But I can say I am excited to go. This will be my first trip to Australia. I understand that when you get off the plane, they hand you a jar of Vegemite and a koala, and a former member of Men at Work is on hand as your personal valet! I can’t wait.

65 Comments on “Heading Down Under”

  1. “I understand that when you get off the plane, they hand you a jar of Vegemite and a koala, and a former member of Men at Work is on hand as your personal valet! I can’t wait.”

    Also, plan on having Paul Hogan personally chauffeur you around in a Subaru Outback.

  2. If you’re a coffee drinker . . . (and my experience only includes NZ) two words for you: Flat White.


  3. Lucky you! Melbourne is a great city. If you get some time, rent a car and go for a drive on the Great Ocean Road. Best drive ever!

  4. They also drop a poisonous spider down your pants, but don’t let that worry you. I lived in Melbourne for two years without getting killed by the wildlife so it must be possible.

  5. I’ve heard that those who are koala-intolerant can request a wallaby instead.

    There is no alternative for those who are Men-at-Work-intolerant.

  6. Remember to wear your magnetic shoes so you don’t fall off the bottom of the planet.

  7. Skip the koala. Get a kangaroo. They are much more useful. They box and what not, so you can use them as “watch roos”.

    I just made that up, so please don’t delude me with how I am really just stupid.

  8. Have you been warned that the streets down there are absolutely teeming with snakes and spiders that can kill you simply by looking at you? It’s true. I just want you to be prepared.

    And if you wake up in the middle of the night to answer nature’s call — well, be aware that goannas are drawn to darkness and porcelain and cold water, nuf said.

  9. “and a former member of Men at Work is on hand as your personal valet”

    See, I was told my taxi from the airport would be driven by Clive James. I think the concom needs to clear this up.

  10. Have you been warned that the streets down there are absolutely teeming with snakes and spiders that can kill you simply by looking at you? It’s true. I just want you to be prepared.

    But won’t it be too cold for snakes and spiders to be in the streets when he gets there?

  11. Insanely jealous – I really need to go back there some day.

    Make sure you try some VB and Toohey’s – both excellent brands of beer that for some reason you just can’t get here in the States

  12. Stace Johnson@4: “There is no alternative for those who are Men-at-Work-intolerant.”

    That’s what the Little River Band is for.

  13. “Have you been warned that the streets down there are absolutely teeming with snakes and spiders that can kill you simply by looking at you?”

    Don’t forget the drop bears.

    Mr. Scalzi, do you have a large knife?

  14. if you get a chance to meet sean mcmullen or max barry, please let me know so that i might instantly expire from envy. what a pure pleasure that would be, to be a fly on the wall and listen to the three of you talk…

  15. While on their way to Melbourne, the really smart folk (like Jay Lake & Cheryl Morgan) are heading to Au Contraire- the New Zealand National SF con- which takes place the weekend before WorldCon.

  16. Apparently the Kangaroo Crossing signs are not to be taken lightly.

    We have someone in our office who used to live down there. He has a great story of a co-worker hitting a full-grown male red kangaroo. The car was totaled and the person seriously injured when the critter in question came through the windshield.

  17. Don’t be mislead by these comments! I mean, yeah, we’ve got the drop-bears, koalas, ‘roos, spiders, snakes and Men at Work to deal with, but don’t let Rich fool you; VB & Tooheys are swill. Nearly as bad as ‘sex in a canoe’ American beer.

    (Though probably not as bad as Fosters, which for some reason we seem to export, despite the fact that nobody who lives here buys the stuff…)

    Let us know if you have enough leisure time while you’re down here to require Melbournian recommendations.

  18. Oh, John, John, John, no, no, no – you naiive little poppet, you. No vegemite, no marsupials, no 80s pop icons. We just hand you a very large stick with which to defend yourself against the local wildlife – all of which wants to kill you.

    In the meantime, practice your ‘G’day’. Thre will be a test.

  19. Real:

    Not Real:
    Drop bears
    People who actually like Vegemite*
    *I mean, how gullible do they think we are? That stuff takes like snot from a 3,000-year-old mummy’s used-to-be-nose. How could anyone eat it for any reason other than a) nutrition or b) to fool Americans into trying it so they can laugh at us? We see through your ruse, Ozzies!!

  20. tom:

    Hitting a big red is very dangerous to both car and roo. Hitting a wombat, on the other hand, if generally only dangerous to the car. Tough little fellows.

  21. Xopher: mummy-snot eh? I prefer Pratchett’s theory that it was discovered by someone attempting to make vegetable soup with beer instead of water, then falling asleep and letting it cook down to a slurry at the bottom of the pot.

    Not to be argumentative, but people who actually like Vegemite do exist: I am one, for example. From previous arguments with United Statesians about this, I have concluded there are two issues here; firstly there’s the ‘acquired taste’ aspect. Maybe you just have to have it foisted upon you from a young age. Secondly, though, there is the correct proportions issue. Vegemite is best used sparingly. I generally eat it with butter/marge/what-have-you such that it acts as a discolouration, rather than something to be spread on in peanut-butter thicknesses.

    Kinda like the salty version of mistaking wasabe for avocado or something.

  22. BonusWavePilot: I always figured that’s why it was “export quality”. If it was any good we’d already have drunk it, y’see.

  23. Note that you can get flights on a real airline Auckland-Wellington-Auckland for under USD90, if you are looking at options for getting to NZ NatCon.

    We give you a kiwi, and a kiwi, and Peter Jackson (a kiwi) gives you a ride in his Sopworth Camel.

  24. Having visited Oz last October for the first time, I can say ” Wonderful place!” Can I come with you?

    I’d avoid the vegemite. Every cappachino I had was awesome, didn’t try the flat white. I recommend a cassowary instead of a watch roo — evil dinosaur birds that kick butt can’t be beat.

  25. BonusWavePilot: Pratchett’s theory is probably correct. As long as some joker came up and peed in it as soon as the cook fell asleep, said joker having had asparagus for lunch.

    As for your professions to liking Vegemite: it won’t work. I’m onto you, as I’ve explained. (It’s SO irritating when they won’t give up the game even after you’ve obviously caught on.)

  26. We’ll have to make sure that we get a video of John Scalzi throwing a boomerang.
    A Darwin stubby might make it into the night and I’m sure the wife will just *love* you in budgie smugglers.

    You’ll find out when you get here :)

  27. Actually the American tourists we hand Echidna’s too. :-D

    And as a warning, do not mention Men at Work in Australia, it’s a source of deep personal shame for our nation. In fact the only musical export I think Australian’s are collectively proud of is AC/DC.

    Also your offical Australian moniker is Scalza. In high School I had to be called Baza, despite having the christian name Aaron, because my year group all ready had an Aaron that was called Aza and that would, I was told, ’cause some confusion’.

  28. But I can say I am excited to go. This will be my first trip to Australia. I understand that when you get off the plane, they hand you a jar of Vegemite and a koala, ….

    What they don’t do any more, at least based on my last trip to Australia in 1999 (guess why), is to have people come on the plane after landing spraying for bugs before they let anyone get off. I went through that in 1976, 1977, and 1985 (guess why for the latter).

    If you have the time and are taking Athena with you, you should try to schedule a day trip to see the little penguins.


  29. Sweet. My sister’s going but I couldn’t afford it so it would be awesome if you could make it over to the NZ con as well.

  30. Heh – hopefully you’ll get to enjoy the cute little beagle sniffer dogs at the airport. They’re an occasional treat.

    BTW, quick warning for all first-time Aus travellers – don’t bring fresh fruit/food/honey with you as snacks unless you can manage to eat it all on the plane on the way over. We’ve very fierce quarantine laws and customs will happily drop it all in a bin in front of you (and fine you if you forgot you had it and didn’t declare). [Also untreated wood and anything else that could conceivably have a bug, or a plant or animal disease that Australia has managed to avoid catching.]

    Other recommendations: check out pie floaters, lamingtons, Lygon Street, the Great Ocean Road, and remember that Crowded House wrote “Four Seasons in One Day” about Melbourne with good reason.

  31. A quick primer on Australia:

    Vegemite: Delicious if you’ve grown up on it, probably not so much if you’ve never had it before. Personally I eat it straight out of the jar with a spoon.

    Beer: James Squire, Coopers, Little Creatures, Cascade.

    Wildlife: Not nearly so dangerous as you’d be led to believe. Except for the drop bears, they’re really nasty.

    Men At Work: Made some good music, unfortunately pigeonholed by one smash hit.

    Might I also suggest that while you’re in Melbourne you take a short flight across Bass Strait and visit lovely Hobart? Of course I am telling you this purely because I think you’d enjoy it, and not at all because I have a pile of books I’d like to get signed…

  32. I’ve been three times and loved it all three. Melbourne’s zoo isn’t quite as good as Sydney’s, but it has a fantastic reptile house, should you want to see all the snakes somewhere they can’t actually kill you. Also live Wombat petting. Just make sure to see the Tasmanian Devils before they go extinct. The aquarium is better than Sydney’s. There you will learn about how they recycle tank water to operate the loo: Australia is just like Dune when it comes to water discipline.

  33. You’ll have to introduce yourself as Bruce at the con panel.

    Also be sure to demonstrate your long-range marksmanship with a buffalo rifle. The natives love that stuff.

  34. @Celuran: you could well be onto something there with the Fosters theory.

    @Xopher: all right, all right, no-one here actually eats the stuff. But hell, with the amount that gets made, if we don’t get the tourists to eat it, we’ll be wading in the bloody stuff by the end of the month…

    @Obal: yes, yes and yes! Those are more like the beer you want to be drinking. Also, yes, Mr Scalzi is unlikely to be eaten by any of the scary wildlife. Well, at least probably not snakes. If he stays in the city, that is… probably. Just don’t go swimming in the ocean, what with the sharks, blue-ringed octupii, box jellyfish, those little critters that live in the cone shells and shoot poisonous darts etc…

    Still a few spiders around you might want to look out for too – there’s a handy guide here:

    At least in Victoria we don’t see too many of the funnel-webs. Still got white tails, mouse spiders, redbacks, wolf-spiders etc though.

    Of course you mustn’t let all of this worry you – deadly fauna is no longer on the top-5 list for cause of tourist deaths. Not with our recent massive increase in knifecrime… >:D

    I jest, I jest. Its lovely here. They aren’t kidding about the ‘4 seasons in one day’ thing though…

  35. This is very good. We might need to invent a few new poisonous spiders and dangerous marsupials, though, just to keep you from getting uppity. Redbacks and drop bears just aren’t going to be up to sratch.

  36. I live on the Great Ocean Road, not too far from the Twelve Apostles, and it is a stunningly beautiful place to live. The Otway Fly is a great day-trip from Melbourne, if you’re not wanting to drive the whole Great Ocean Road.

  37. They might hand you a koala, you never know. I just decided I’m going as well. Some guy I’m married to convinced me. We’ll see you there!

  38. Folks, remember that our esteemed host will not be partaking of the beer, drinkable or not (and thanks for the tips, I know what to avoid, but not what to drink over the ditch).

  39. *cheering* AWESOME. You’ll be signing a few books; hope you don’t mind! I really look forward to perhaps getting a chance to meet you in person. (And Krissy, who, after kicking annoying bar-stalker butt, is now one of my personal heroes.)

  40. I understand that when you get off the plane, they hand you a jar of Vegemite and a koala, and a former member of Men at Work is on hand as your personal valet!

    <stereotype mode=”tongue-in-cheek”>
    Budget cutbacks have made the latter two items increasingly rare of late. These days, the average debarking tourist can expect the aforementioned jar of brewer’s residue and a packet of adhesive tags with the words
            GOOD DAY – I’M
    although the rendering of each tag is unique. The exceptional tourist may rate a bush hat with dangly corks and all.

    A question of somewhat greater import, as AFAIK you do not imbibe substitutes-for-water which contain alcohol:
    How’s the Coke Zero supply situation in .melbourne.au ?

  41. Well in all seriousness we have had a plague of redbacks this summer, but I believe no one has died of an spider bite in Oz since the 1980’s.

    Watch those Koalas, they pee on you and have nasty claws.

    Healesville Sanctuary, not far out of Melbourne, is a great alternative for the zoo with a platypus display and set in nice bushland.

    No problems with coke zero, have some in the fridge right now.

    September is a beautiful time of year in Melbourne, not too hot. I hope you get some holiday time here.

  42. I can’t believe I forgot to mention TimTam cookies in my last post, in all their twelve zillion varieties. Infinitely better than vegemite.

  43. Don’t forget the topless beaches!!!
    I hope you have a great time! I wish I could go.

  44. @Joyce: wait, the rest of the world doesn’t have TimTams?

    John, you may not be a booze-hound, but you must do this: eat a TimTam (which, as you will see, are rectangular chocolate coated biscuits) by biting off opposite corners, and slurping your coffee through it first. Insides of it go all melty, its excellent. (And, btw, I was doing it *before* the ad with the nun. Oh yeah, I’m TimTam old school.)

    Oh wow, having utoob’d to see if said ad was around to add a link, it seems this method of TimTam consumption is known as the ‘TimTam Slam’ and is all over youtube…

  45. @Joyce Just don’t tell John that we eat them spread with vegemite. (We eat everything spread with vegemite. Why should chocolate biscuits be any different?)

  46. So the question is, what are your plans for being stranded in Australia if a volcano goes off? Charlie Stross foolishly did not consider that in his travel planning, and look at him now.

  47. So the question is, what are your plans for being stranded in Australia if a volcano goes off?

    1) immediate application for citizenship

    2) inform beloved wife that she will have to be called “Sheila” forthwith

    3) see 2); (daughter/wife) (Kylie/Sheila)

    4) obtain khaki shorts, stubbie, ute, rugby ball

    5) commence work on best-selling series “Old Bloke’s War”

  48. ajay, what’s a stubbie? What’s a ute?

    I’ve heard the word ‘stubbie’ before, but…let’s just say I very much doubt you mean the same thing. And I know what a Ute is, too, but I’m pretty sure it has a different meaning without a capital U, and in Australia.

  49. Ah! GIMF. A ute is what we call an SUV (not to be mistaken for SVU, which is something very else). A stubby (spelled that way on the site where I found it) is a particular size of beer bottle.

    And John will also have to learn to say G’Day as if it’s phonemic transcription (that is, it’s pronounced /gday/ not /gədey/ as we might say it Up Over.

  50. Xopher, you are a little off, utes are pickups. SUV’s bodies aren’t flexible enough to handle the real work that utes can do.

  51. Rugby ball, in September, in Melbourne, No! No! No!. Football is King and not the foot kicking kind that we call soccer, AFL.

    Oh and you pronounce it Melbin.

  52. Viva la Watch-wombats! And do not worry about bringing Coke Zero with you – we have it here. Seek me out at the Con if you wish to be inducted into the arcane ways of the Tim-Tam slam, the proper way to eat Vegemite, or the mysteries of the Barbecue Shape.

    Xopher, I am saddened that you were bitten by a Vegemite as a kid, but you need to let it go. You’re starting to put people off.

    Sundry, who fear our wildlife: most of the really deadly stuff is in Sydney. Or in the Outback. (makes vague hand-wavy gesture towards Black Stump). You’ll be perfectly safe in Melbourne unless you say you are a Collingwood supporter.

    If you want to get up close and personal with the wildlife, and you have access to a car, Healesville Sanctuary – about an hour out of Melbourne – is a better bet than the Zoo.

  53. My Dad’d from Australia (Adelaide). I’ve been on two long family trips there, both for about a month each, once when I was 7 and once when I was 14. It was a really fun time. It’s a lot like the States, but people tend to be more friendly and down-to-earth.

  54. @Xopher:
    There aren’t really people who eat pop-tarts, are there? I sincerely hope not.

    Come over to Adelaide while you’re here. It’s only a forty minute flight, and you’ll be met by an adoring mob demanding Krispy Kreme.

  55. @vian
    You want real danger, say you’re a Collingwood supporter during a Crows home game.

  56. Like Daniel at #16 said, the New Zealand SF con “Au Contraire” is the week before in Wellington


    I’ll be going :)

    Take an extra week, come to the con, we’ll show you round, show you a good time (and no, won’t do ridiculous cliches like giving you marmite, a stuffed kiwi and take you bungy jumping!)