Monthly Archives: June 2012

A Conversational Journey through New Who – S03E12/13/14 – Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Timelords

David is coming to New Who for the first time, having loved Classic Who as a kid. Tehani is a recent convert, and ploughed through Seasons 1 to 6 (so far) in just a few weeks after becoming addicted thanks to Matt Smith – she’s rewatching to keep up with David! Tansy is the expert in the team, with a history in Doctor Who fandom that goes WAY back, and a passion for Doctor Who that inspires us all. We’re also joined today by guest viewer Joanne Anderton, who is also discovering New Who for the first time! We’re working our way through New Who, using season openers and closers, and Hugo shortlisted episodes, as our blogging points. Just for fun!

Last time we looked at Blink, and now we move on to:

“Utopia / The Sound of Drums / Last of the Timelords”
The Doctor – David Tennant
Martha Jones – Freema Agyeman
Captain Jack Harkness – John Barrowman
Professor Yana – Derek Jacobi
The Master – John Simm

TEHANI:
So, this feels like a bit of a cheat really, but the finale of season three is actually three linked episodes, so that’s how we’ll review them!

First up, JACK IS BACK! Woo! I had forgotten that he and the Doctor actually have a conversation about why the Doctor deserted Jack after he was killed and made immortal. In fact, there’s a lot I’d forgotten about the conversations in “Utopia” – there’s actually some quite revealing things said, which are important to both hindsight and for setting up what’s ahead, which was pretty cool second time around.

TANSY
I am watching this live with Tehani in my living room! Sorry, David. Obviously you need to come visit us too.

DAVID:
Haha maybe next time we need to skype or something.

TANSY:
That would be great fun, though only one step away from podcasting…

My honey is lecturing us on how far away the heat death of the universe will be, and suggesting that the Doctor has got his sums wrong. Surely not!
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Wednesday Writers: Saul Garnell

Often, in all the noise and furor that comes with the debate about which publishing model is superior to all the others, we lose sight of the fact that we are incredibly fortunate to live in a time of vast opportunity where there is more than one path to publication, and that people are finding success in both traditional and non traditional avenues. In today’s guest post, Saul Garnell (a stand up guy I had the pleasure of meeting at Conflux and have stayed in touch with ever since) talks about his road to publication and why he chose to take this path.

My Journey with Independent Publishing

I write with Hotspur Publishing, a small independent publisher finding its way in the ever-changing marketplace. And though I’m quite satisfied with how things have worked out, I have to admit that being part of the independent-publishing phenomenon wasn’t my original goal: it just sort of worked out that way.

You see, back when I first had the notion to write a novel, I had made up my mind to write a book acceptable by traditional publishing standards. To that end, I knew I had the basic skill. But I never felt that writing science fiction should be a hermetic activity, and I realized early on that I needed a partner to help guide me. So after searching for about a year, I found David Bischoff. At that time, Dave was one of the few freelance editors with an extensive background in science fiction and fantasy. However, back in early 2009, the market had not yet gone through any of the upheavals we’ve recently seen, and few editors with Dave’s background were available on a freelance basis. I was lucky to find him and thankful that he took me under his wing. Together, we began to work on my first book, Freedom Club, which ended up getting completed around mid 2011.

Then the big day came: what to do with my finished manuscript. Submit to traditional publishers and agents? It was a real problem because, at that particular time, the market no longer looked anything like it did in early 2009. Things had been turned upside down. Self-publishing was all the rage, and some traditional publishers were either closing their doors or reorganizing. Very important was that (most if not all) large publishers relied more heavily on known writers to guarantee their bottom line. So yes, I could submit my book to traditional publishers and agents, but it seemed increasingly apparent that new writers like myself faced an uphill battle getting any kind of recognition.

That’s when something interesting occurred.

You see, David Bischoff had come up with the idea to start his own publishing house, not only to republish older works now out of print, but also to publish backlog and the works of new authors. He named the organization Hotspur Publishing, and asked me if I would be interested in being one of his new authors. In some sense, it was a natural evolution. Dave and I had already forged a strong editor/writer relationship, and at this point I should probably say that I jumped at the opportunity he offered, but in fact I mulled about it for a few days. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I wasn’t excited about what Dave had presented me. After all, opportunities like this don’t appear every day. The problem was that I had to reevaluate the market and decide if my first novel still had a chance with the traditional route. To make a long story short, even though I felt strongly that my book met the requirements of New York publishers, the chances of getting picked up as an unproven author were not favorable in 2011. At that  time, the market was simply too unstable for either a publisher or reputable agent to go with someone like myself. I am of course a businessman by trade, so this logic wasn’t alien to me. All successful businesses would lean towards less risky ventures during times of market upheaval. And here we were, in the middle of The Great Recession. All my instincts told me that if I wanted to go the trad route, I’d be putting off getting published for some time, or just waiting around and never getting published in the end.

But I had a choice laid before me. Namely, to join Dave and help him establish Hotspur Publishing at a time when the market was open to new ventures. To our advantage, barriers to entry were at an all-time low. The e-book channel was growing at a fast pace, and Print On Demand had become a low-cost option if paper copies were required. On top of all that, Dave  brought into the picture Chris Lampton and Amy Gilbert from Illuminated Pages. Chris and Amy together have many decades of publishing experience and support Hotspur with both line editing and graphic design. As a team, we’ve worked out a low-cost method of quickly producing books of high quality. So even though we had some white space in our business model, there was no significant money at stake. Under those conditions, there seemed no reason to resist, and every reason to give it a try.

That brings us to today. It’s been just under one year, and irrespective of commercial issues, we’re having a lot of fun at Hotspur. Not only did we get my book published, I began working with Dave on other projects, namely the reboot of Star Hounds, a series of three books published by Ace Books back in the early 1980s. For those of you unfamiliar with Star Hounds, it’s classic space opera, with a kick-ass cyborg heroine who loves adventure, space pirates and, well…kicking butt. Dave not only let me rework the original manuscripts, but he agreed to co-author a new 4th book, one that we e-published earlier this year.

The great thing about projects like Star Hounds is the reboot process itself. I was surprised how fun it was, and how much it taught me about the art of writing and packaging a book. It’s more than just scanning a book and converting printed text into digital format. I found it fascinating to document and reshape the original Star Hounds universe that Dave had created decades ago. Once the rebooted novels were complete, we soon jumped into writing the new story. Honestly, it was amazing to learn about the art of collaboration. Every team has its own methodology, I suppose. For us, it was a back-and-forth process. Dave wrote some chapters, then I picked up the story and wrote a few more. Dave edited my text and vice versa. Slowly but surely we forged a new storyline from which a grand new vision emerged.

If you ask me what I’ll be doing with Hotspur next year, I couldn’t tell you. But I can tell you that a huge benefit of indie publishing is the control one has. We have no lack of projects and no burden upon us to write books beholden to the needs of an antiquated business model. Dave and I craft our books under the philosophical belief that genre fiction has literary merit, while also being able to entertain a wide range of readers. This idea has been at the heart of genre fiction ever since its inception. It thrived decades ago, and I do believe indie publishing will spearhead genre publishing’s revival against the homogenizing effect of mass marketing and profit taking.

So let me sum things up as best I can. I’m satisfied with how things have progressed and I’m quite certain Hotspur Publishing will continue to thrive over time. As more authors join us and we publish a greater body of work, we’ll continue to explore what’s possible in all types of fiction (and some nonfiction too). At some point, Hotspur will take off into a new dimension. When will that happen? I don’t know, but at the same time I’m not so concerned. That’s because of the sheer enjoyment I get from writing under an indie imprint. I work under the guiding hand of professionals and produce quality science fiction with the greatest degree of freedom an author can expect. From where I stand, it’s what writing is supposed to be about, and more than enough compensation in the near term.

Saul Garnell - I was raised in New York State, and now living in Arizona. I work during the day for a company called SAP and having lived in Australia, Japan, India, and Germany, I bring an international perspective to my writing, along with an unusual point of view driven by many years of experience in the banking and software industries. Freedom Club is my first novel, a speculative fiction in the near future. However, I have delved into other genres by writing some horror, and Military SF pieces. I only write part time, but enjoy writing Science Fiction as a hobby and look forward to publishing more with Hotspur Publishing in the near future.

For more information on Saul and his books, please see the following links:

Hotspur Publishing’s Website: www.hotspurpublishing.com
The Freedom Club Blog: www.freedomclubthebook.info
The Voodoo Robot Chili Blog: voodoorobotchili.wordpress.com
Twitter: @sgarnell

Deck the Halls available for pre order!

Deck the Halls: festive tales of fear and cheer, featuring a story by yours truly, is now available for pre order! Press release below (and what an awesome cover!).

Pre-Order Now for the special price of $15.99 plus shipping (Australia only)

Editor: Jodi Cleghorn
Original Artwork: Andrew McKiernan
ISBN: 978-0-9871126-4-4 (paperback)
ISBN: 978-0-9871126-5-1 (eBook)
Size: 203x127cm (Perfect Bound)
Pages: 226
RRP: A$21.99

DECK THE HALLS traverses the joy and jeopardy of the festive season, from Yule to Mōdraniht, Summer Solstice to Years’ End. The stories journey through consternations and celebrations, past, present and future, which might be or never were.

Along the way you’ll meet troll hunters, consumer dissidents, corset-bound adventurers, a joint-toking spirit, big-hearted gangbangers, an outcast hybrid spaceship, petrol-toting politicians, mythical swingers and a boy who unwittingly controls the weather.

Heart-warming and horrifying, the collection is a merry measure of cross-genre, short fiction subverting traditional notions of the holiday season.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Touched Rowena Specht-Whyte
Drench the School Benjamin Solah
Coming Home Rebecca Dobbie
While You Were Out Sam Adamson
Twenty-Five Rebecca Emin
A Jolly Pair Christopher Chartrand
Gays and Commies Graham Storrs
A Better Fit Jen Brubacher
Salvation Nicole R Murphy
A Troll for Christmas Jo Hart
Modraniht Kate Sherrod
Bosch’s Book of Trolls Susan May James
‘Til Death Do Us Part Emma Kerry
High Holidays Dale Challener Roe
The Headless Shadow Jonathan Crossfield
End of a Tradition Paul Servini
Weatherboy Nik Perring
Not a Whisper Lily Mulholland
Lords of the Dance Janette Dalgliesh
Through Frosted Glass Laura Meyer
Midsummer’s Eve Stacey Larner
Yuletide Treasure Rob Diaz II
Broken Angel Jodi Cleghorn
A Golden Treasure Chia Evers
Fast Away Jim Bronyaur
Apprentices to Time Icy Sedgwick
Unfolding Alison Wells
Egg-Ceptional PJ Kaiser
Hail the New Trevor Belshaw
Perfect Light Dan Powell
Softly Sing the Stars Steve Cameron
Through Wind and Weather David McDonald

Wednesday Writers: Deborah Kalin

Something that I struggle with, and that I have noticed with many of the writers around me, is that it is so easy to get distracted by all the peripheral stuff and forget the core business of writing. I can sit down to write with the best of intentions only to realise hours later that I haven’t written anything, that I’ve just fooled myself into thinking I needed to update my blog (oh the irony of writing this right now) or interact on Twitter. Those things may be useful to me as a writer, but they still aren’t writing. That’s why this post by the talented and wise Deborak Kalin really hits home. Definitely food for thought.

Silence, or How I Learned To Love (And Switch Off) The Internet

It’s something I’ve heard at almost every point of wanting and trying to build a writing career: you have to be active on the internet.

When I joined my first writing group, I remember being told I needed a blog. The reasoning being that a web presence is essential, because writing is a slow (and often isolated) process and readers need some way to discover you and discover that you have more than the one story/book available. Since there’s nothing like a static site to spell death on the internet, a blog was the easiest answer to maintaining a dynamic web presence. It would allow the building of community, connecting me with other writers to support me and my career, providing a signal boost which would maybe, just maybe, prove the tipping point into viability.

To be fair, the blog did, indeed, connect me with other writers, and through it I’ve met some people I now count as close friends. As to how it impacted reader interaction, or sales … who can say? I can’t. I don’t think anyone can.

And of course virtual socialising, which didn’t start with blogs, didn’t end there. Now we also have twitter, facebook, last.fm, tumblr, pinterest, just to mention a handful. As a writer at any stage, the pressure to be part of this swirl comes from all directions: readers want the personal interaction; publishers want the writer to be utilising the valuable promotional opportunity; writers want that same signal boost, and they also want to touch base with the community at large. The cross-pollination of ideas that comes from exposure to a wide variety of stimulus and industry chatter is, in its way, invaluable.

But it comes at a cost. There’s the inevitable time pressure, yes, but then there’s also the noise.

This is something with which I’m only just now starting to grapple. The sense of community and the sheer quantity of stimulus paraded out every hour is intoxicating. It challenges, pushes thinking in new directions, sparks ideas … and it also drowns out the silence.

I use that silence as a place from which to create. I like stuffing myself full of ideas and letting them ferment, unable to be spoken to anyone, until there’s no other option than to burst forth in a story. I’m a total junkie for that process and the internet — with its many platforms wanting me to dash off a thought here or an observation there — sips and saps at my silent time until it takes longer and longer for the fermentation to finish in a story.

For me, and several others, the answer has been to withdraw from the internet; to be more selective about which services I let myself use and how often I use them. I used to guard my writing hours: lately I’ve taken to guarding some silent hours as well.

Deborah Kalin is the author of The Binding duology (Allen & Unwin), and is currently working on a short story collection for the Twelve Planet series (Twelfth Planet Press). She can no longer remember what she has said about herself from one bio to the next.You can find her site here.

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Wednesday Writers: Bren MacDibble

I can’t over emphasise the part that speculative fiction played in my childhood. One of my favourite memories of my early school years was being part of a program where every week I would receive a new book to read, and the joy I felt upon opening the pages of the “Encyclopedia of Things That Never Were” or reading about Tripods and Triffids will never leave me. Growing up in a small country town, science fiction opened up horizons I never could have imagined, and without it my education would have been sadly lacking. That’s why I am thrilled to welcome Bren MacDibble as she talks about ” The Value of Science Fiction in Education”. I promise to keep you jar nice and clean and sparkling, Bren.

Thanks for inviting me to contribute. You have a fine collection of writers here. I feel like you’ve been capturing us and putting us in little jars on the shelves of your blog. Label my jar: The Value of Science Fiction in Education. It’s a topic I spoke on recently at SCBWI in Melbourne and one I’ve been exploring in a clumsy way for a while. In addition to writing short stories, I work in gifted education and write for children, so every day I stumble on more ideas to support my claim that SF has great value in education.

You’ve no doubt heard of the current trend to make education measurable and accountable which seems to have resulted in (excuse me for over-generalising here) teaching children to sit exams and the narrowing of what is perceived as intelligence.

A picture speaks a thousand words:

A picture speaks a thousand words

The view of Darwinism generally, is that in times of rapid change, overspecialisation leads to disaster. And the human species finds itself currently living in a time when population growth continues to accelerate, a time of rapid technological change, and even climate change is in danger of accelerating. If ever there were a time to raise lateral-thinking children with amazing problem-solving skills, that time is now. It’s not enough to teach them what we know. We have to teach them to reimagine the future. And THAT is where Science Fiction comes in.

I first became interested in Science Fiction as a child in the 70s in New Zealand. And some of that was in part due to the lingering Cold War. I don’t know if that affected people in Australia to the same extent. Maybe you were all busy watching Aussie news or that bizarre Mr Squiggle thing. Over in NZ, the news in the 70s was all about what was going on in the world and we were busily being psychologically scarred by the news about the Cold War. We felt that we were living under the threat of a nuclear war.

What is interesting about the first golden age of science fiction, in the 1950s, is that it coincided with the height of the Cold War. A publication from that time suggested that youths were fearful. They were described as being “plagued by fears of the uncertain future and impending doom, haunted by the possibility that they wouldn’t survive the Cold War.”

The 1950s were a simple time, fast forward to the 2010s and things have only become worse and so much more complicated for our kids. Children are bombarded daily by media and by us teaching them about the importance of protecting our environment, caring for native species, being tolerant towards other people, we drum it into them, and we have to. We need things to change and it won’t change in one generation. Shane L Larson put it so perfectly in his article: The Dreams and Fears of Children, when he said, “Our children are not little rocks, unaware of the world around them. They are highly observant students of the world, absorbing and processing every tiny bit of information they are exposed to within the framework of their own worldview.” Read this article about the startlingly honest dreams of a first grade class and you’ll see that children today have a certain and justified fear of the future.

Recent discussions have pointed out that in modern post-apocalyptic YA, nobody needs to explain the apocalypse. By the time a child becomes a young adult reader they can guess a hundred ways to screw up a planet. No YA reader needed to be told how the worlds of Hunger Games or Uglies got that way. They could easily imagine it happening.

Stephen Hawking has said, “Science fiction is useful both for stimulating the imagination and for diffusing a fear of the future.”

What science fiction does is explore possible futures. It allows us to explore the possible pitfalls of current thinking, to experiment with new ideas or technology, it allows us to exercise critical thinking and analysis skills about future problems and ethics.

For instance, when scientists revealed Dolly, the world’s first cloned sheep, the media launched into debates about the ethics of cloning. Science Fiction fans were not surprised. These debates had been played out in the stories they’d been reading for the last thirty years. They were prepared for cloning technology in a way few others were.

1984, Waterworld, The Day After Tomorrow, iRobot, The Terminator, Roadside Picnic, Snowcrash, Blade Runner, 28 Days Later, Outbreak, District 9, I am Legend, Children of Men, The Courier’s New Bicycle, Wall-E, Mars Needs Moms, we could go on naming Science Fiction stories all day that allow people to experience a possible future. But why do we need these stories? Scientists can tell us what might happen given an advancement in any technology, or any major climate change, or the impact of a super virus. But to really understand what experiencing this might be like we need to put a human face on it. We need a narrative. We need Science Fiction.

I know there is more to solving tomorrows problems than SF but SF is my thing, so that’s what you’re getting. I don’t consciously write science fiction to educate though. I write to entertain. And that might sound odd since most of my children’s publications are in the educational market. Sometimes I make comments on the values of current society, but I don’t have any answers. I don’t think any one does. I love that Worlds Next Door created something that could be used to educate as well as entertain by including classroom exercises. Generally, though just challenging children to imagine the future is enough.

Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein both claimed that SF is the literature of change and it is the ability to imagine and cope with changes that will enable children to enter the future with faith in their ability to adapt to new challenges.

The future isn’t a place we’re going to go. It’s a place that we’re going to create. (Nancy Duarte)

Bren MacDibble is a New Zealander who went backpacking 20 years ago and hasn’t made it home yet. Melbourne is the place she hangs out most. During the day she works as a mild mannered wrangler of gifted children for a private organisation, by night she attempts to write extraordinary works of speculative fiction.

Bren is a Clarion South survivor and a member of the SuperNOVA Writers group, she is also a member of the Speculative Fiction Writers of NZ, ASA, SCBWI, Kids Writers Downunder and is a Greyhavener and Hiveminder and… some other things. She recently completed a QWC/Allen & Unwin Manuscript Development Program.

Bren has ten children’s books in the educational market (mostly published by Blake Ed) as well as multiple short stories published in Orb Magazine, Andromeda Spaceways, SHiny, Empress of Mars, Antipodean SF, SciFiDimensions, and children’s magazine publications, and a play at The Australian Script Centre and… some other things.

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2012 Aussie Snapshot: Jack Dann

Jack Dann is a multiple-award winning author who has written or edited over seventy-five books, including the international bestseller The Memory Cathedral, which was 1 on The Age Bestseller list, and The Silent, which Library Journal chose as one of their ‘Hot Picks’ and wrote: “This is narrative storytelling at its best… Most emphatically recommended.” The West Australian called his novel The Rebel: an Imagined Life of James Dean “an amazingly evocative and utterly convincing picture of the era, down to details of the smells and sensations—and even more importantly, the way of thinking.” Locus wrote: “The Rebel is a significant and very gripping novel, a welcome addition to Jack Dann’s growing oeuvre of speculative historical novels, sustaining further his long-standing contemplation of the modalities of myth and memory. This is alternate history with passion and difference.” He is the co-editor, with Janeen Webb, of Dreaming Down-Under, which won the World Fantasy Award, and the editor of the sequel Dreaming Again. His latest anthology Ghosts by Gaslight, co-edited with Nick Gevers, was listed as one of Publishers Weekly’s “Top Ten SF, Fantasy, and Horror” Picks for the Fall. It has been shortlisted for the Bram Stoker Award and has just won the Aurealis Award.

Jack lives in Australia on a farm overlooking the sea. You can visit his website at www.jackdann.com and follow him on Twitter @jackmdann.

Your latest anthology, “Ghosts by Gaslight”, has been incredibly well received, including a nomination for a Bram Stoker Award – congratulations! It’s far from your first, though, you have a long history of producing quality anthologies. How long does it usually take from coming up with a concept for an anthology to it hitting the printers? What are some of the main challenges in putting one together, and have you had to face new challenges over the years?

Yes, my co-editor Nick Gevers and I have been very pleased with the reception of Ghosts by Gaslight…and chuffed that it won the Aurealis Award.

I’ve certainly done a few anthologies, and I’ve found that the length of time from concept to a book-in-the-hand varies, as it can sometimes take quite a while to (a) sell the concept, (b) go through the contract process with all its to-ing and fro-ing, and (c) gather the stories (which basically comes down to pestering overworked authors!). Now I’m talking about an anthology of original stories. A reprint anthology is much faster endeavor because I’ve already collected the stories I want to include. Also, sometimes I collect a spine of reprint stories and ask selected authors for original fiction—that’s what I did when I edited Wandering Stars. However, to (actually) answer your question, it can take anywhere from a year to two years + from concept to actuality. How’s that for fudge-factors?

The main challenges of putting together an (original) anthology… Well, as I said, you need to come up with a killer concept, get the best authors to commit to writing a story, find the right publisher (and the right money!), work out the contract, and that’s just the beginning. One of the main challenges (and I consider it a rewarding, often joyful challenge) is the back and forth between author and editor to get a story that’s “almost there” over the editorial bar. Admittedly, this is subjective on my part. No excuses. The challenge is to work with the author to produce the story s/he is really excited about. To put it bluntly, the editor’s challenge is to assist when needed and not “piss in the soup.” I’ve been told I’m a pretty good story-doctor. But for the real skinny, you’d have to talk to the authors.

New challenges? There are always new challenges. I’ve seen a few changes in the publishing industry, the transformation of family companies into rather large international corporate entities; the Roger Elwood mega-selling of anthologies in the 1970’s and the subsequent bursting of the anthology bubble when it became very difficult to sell anthologies…and now there are the current challenges of the post-GFC publishing environment in a new digital age. It has become more difficult to sell anthologies to established publishers for the kinds of advances needed to buy stories from top-selling authors. But, of course, we author/editors just thrive on challenges. <Grin>

In the past you have, whether as a writer or editor, collaborated with a number of different authors, including some of the industry’s biggest names. Are there any figures from the past you would have loved a chance to work with but didn’t get the opportunity?

I’ve always enjoyed collaborating, both as writer and editor. Writing novels and shorter works does make for a rather hermitic lifestyle. Gregarious as I might seem on a podium with a microphone in my hand, I’m at base a loner. I suppose that’s why when I was living and writing in upstate New York George Martin used to call me “the hermit of Binghamton.” I’m still a hermit, except I’m a hermit who commutes from a farm in South Gippsland to the apartment in Melbourne. But when I’m working with another author (or editor), everything seems much easier.

If I’m writing the beginning of a story with, say Gardner Dozois, I do so with the knowledge that he’ll fix any infelicities or Jack Dann jarring stupidities. So I don’t get caught up on worrying about this or that sentence…I just write, pound away at the keyboard without any concern for style or consequence. (Because…Gardner will fix it all up.) And if I’m working on a draft sent back to me by, say, Barry Malzberg (who can write faster than I can talk!), I don’t feel the pressure of actually writing. It feels like I’m editing, even if I end up adding another five thousand words to the story. I’ve often envied script-writers because they usually work in partnership with other writers. Certainly beats the hell out of sitting alone with the laptop on my lap and concentrating until I start the proverbial sweating of blood. But you’ve got to find the right collaborator: a great collaboration combines both writers’ strengths; a bad one combines their weaknesses. So, yes, I’ve been lucky to be able to write my own strange visions and also to collaborate with such wonderful authors and editors such as Gardner Dozois, Michael Swanwick, Janeen Webb, Barry Malzberg, Nick Gevers, Jonathan Strahan, George Zebrowski, Paul Brandon, Greg Frost, the late Jack C. Haldeman II, Susan Casper, Pamela Sargent, and Keith Ferrell.

But, aha, I really haven’t answered your question, have I? Okay, yes, there are a few “figures from the past” I would have loved to have worked with. Philip K. Dick comes to mind first. When the galleys for my novel Junction were ready, my editor sent one to Philip K. Dick for a blurb. Phil apparently loved the book because he sent back a long and wonderful quote. Being young, immature, and supremely confident (of course), I reacted by writing Phil a thank-you note. It began with something like “I realize that you probably owed my publisher a favor, but…” He wrote back to tell the slack-jawed numbskull of an author that he really loved the book. When I wrote my next book The Man Who Melted, I could almost feel his presence, and I thought that, in time, we’d certainly collaborate on a story or novel. (Remember the aforementioned “young and supremely confident”?) Sadly, the galleys of The Man Who Melted were on his desk when he died. But the older “me”, the one with the shock of grey hair and the face that looks like an old guy…he’s still confident that in some alternate universe Dick and Dann are collaborating on some crazy, wild fiction.

A last ironic note on the subject: I later discovered that Phil had written somewhere that he believed I was a CIA agent. Ah, well… (Oh, just for the record, I wasn’t.)

And I wish I’d done some writing with my old friend Bob Sheckley…and that master stylist and cat’s-cradle magician Roger Zelazny, who used to thread several sheets of bond and carbon paper onto his typewriter platen and type absolutely clean copy.

Living writers and editors I’d love to collaborate with? Where to start? Stan Robinson, John Kessell, Bob Silverberg, Ellen Datlow, Lucius Shepard, Pete Crowther, Neil Gaiman, George Martin, Sean Williams, Terry Dowling, Kit Reed, Kate Wilhelm, Sonya Dorman. The list would just go on and on. In the meantime, I’ll just have to stay in my studio, blinds drawn, and write by myself.

You’ve had phenomenal success across a range of formats, whether it is short stories, novellas, novels or anthologies. Are there any other mediums that you would like to explore in the future?

The short answer: film, television, and graphic novels. (Yes, believe it or not, I can be concise, even if pithy is a long way off!)

What Australian works have you loved recently?

As with my response to who would I like to collaborate with, there are too many to name; and I certainly don’t wish to leave out the many authors I love and respect. So here are just five titles that popped into my head: Antique Futures by Terry Dowling, The Girl with no Hands and Other Tales by Angela Slatter, Worldshaker by Richard Harland, The Courier’s New Bicycle by Kim Westwood, and The Library of Forgotten Books by Rjurik Davidson. No, I lied, there are six titles: add Jason Nahrung’s Salvage.

Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?

I think digital technology is changing the entire publishing industry. We’re experiencing a digital tsunami. As the established publishing paradigms keep shifting, I suspect that Australian literary and category fiction will look very different…very soon.

This interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot. In the lead up to Continuum 8 in Melbourne, we will be blogging interviews for Snapshot 2012 conducted by Alisa Krasnostein, Kathryn Linge, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Ian Mond, Jason Nahrung, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright. To read the interviews hot off the press, check these blogs daily from June 1 to June 7, 2012.

You can find the past three Snapshots at the following links: 2005, 2007 and 2010

 

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2012 Aussie Snapshot: Brendan Duffy

Brendan Duffy emerged on the Australian speculative fiction scene in 2002 after finishing an 80,000 word PhD about the deep molecular evolution and comparative analysis of mammalian sex chromosomes. He has always maintained an interest in the science of evolution, and also the evolution of science, having also studied the history and philosophy of 17 & 18th Century biology. He writes fiction set in past and future worlds where paradigms of antique or fantastic science yield milieux with technologies that function alongside contemporary belief systems such as religion and/or magic. Brendan mainly writes cyberpunk and steampunk, though is still exploring different realms of the genre. Themes explored include consciousness and colonisation.

Brendan Duffy is the Aurealis Awards winner for science fiction short stories in 2003 and 2004, with ‘Louder Echo’ and ‘Come to Daddy’. ‘Louder Echo’ was also selected for Hartwell & Cramer’s Year’s Best Fantasy 4, and ‘The Tale of Enis Cash, Smallgoods Smokehand’ was selected for Congreve & Marquardt’s Year’s Best Australian SF& Fantasy 2004.

He is a graduate of the inaugural Clarion South speculative fiction writers’ workshop of 2004, and was awarded an Australia Council for the Arts emerging writer’s grant in 2004.

He was also nominated for Best New Talent Ditmar Award (2003 and 2004), Best Novella Ditmar Award (2004), Best Fantasy Short Story Aurealis Award (2003), and the Pushcart Prize (2004).

Brendan is currently writing a novel set in 16th century Italy, based on the secret life of the renaissance scientist and playwright, Giambattista della Porta.

Your story, Space Girl Blues, appears in Coeur De Lion’s latest anthology Anywhere But Earth amidst a veritable “Who’s who” of Aussie Spec Fic writers. Editor Keith Stevenson has recently come out and spoken of some of the challenges facing small press anthologies, including lack of reviews. Do you think the scene is supportive of anthologies? Do you see a continuing place for anthologies in the future? And, where did Space Girl Blues find its genesis?

I can’t really claim to have my finger on the pulse of the beating heart that is Aussie spec fic because these days I’m more a truant or vagabond than an ongoing genre contributor locked into dynamic dialogue with the zeitgeist. I haven’t been keeping in touch with the scene at all, and of late there have certainly been many anthologies I’ve not contributed to or even been aware of (and I rue that fact), so I can really only answer this question with one eye open. I write less than one short story a year, and hope to place it well, so was thrilled to get into AbE with a freight train of great writers. AbE is an exciting read with some truly wonderful stories, yet I was surprised by the lack of online buzz it generated and wanted it to achieve a larger presence, including more reviews and some discussion on what the antho had to offer and how it dealt with the theme. On the other hand, the genre itself formally supported AbE with AA nominees and a winner. And as far as the future goes, I would like to see more anthos.

But thanks for asking how Space Girl Blues came about. I grew up in green-belt suburban Eltham among sylvan trees and dams, where Don’s Party was over and the children of those mud-bricked hippies grew up to be football hooligans or fist-fodder. My high school was staunchly proud of its statistically aberrant processed white-breddedness. My older brother fled Beer-Garden Australia and mailed care packages back from London that contained all kinds of cultural oddities for those remaining behind enemy lines, including music from another planet; some strange band from Akron Ohio that couldn’t get a deal anywhere had found an indie label in London to press limited runs of post-punk new wave 45s. One of these was a song from 1978 called Automodown about the Kent State massacre, and sandwiched behind this with no pregap was an unlabelled two minute add-on called Space Girl Blues with offworld lyrics and theraminesque riffs that made me know my teenage brain was buttered on the sci fi side. This song stayed with me, engendered a ferment that I knew one day would write itself a story. The internet allows you to mine, commodify and recolonise your past with the methodical relentlessness of BHP, the pedantry of a trainspotter, and I now have over 49 of their albums, demos, outtakes, alternate versions.

You were a member of the inaugural Clarion South class of 2004 ( a class that has gone done in legend!). How much of an impact did that experience have on your career as a writer? How important is it to Aussie Spec Fic that Clarion South, or something similar, happens again in the future?

Clarion South was wonderful, and I left ultra-positive, enthusiastic, and with a feeling that things would move a touch quicker than have. Its ironic that Clarion South is now a fictional world in itself, the intensity, the workload, the think-tank environment; and as I boldly tread through a brave new world of used nappies, bills and play-lunches the memories of that wonderful time crystallise into hallowed things of legend from an Eden lost and gone. Clarion South generates Australian culture. It had a major impact on my life, helping to clarify my goals and aspirations with surety. I don’t really have a ‘career’ as a writer yet, its more an MO for a few short bodies of genre bladework, but many writers from CS have carved niches as short story writers, while others have gone on to become successful novelists. I hope to join the latter and have my novel out shortly. Don’t ask what shortly means.

You’ve written a number of acclaimed and award winning short stories, and built quite a reputation in the field. Is your focus still on the short form, or are there other projects that you are working on that we might see in the future?

I have a lot of works planned, but I’m a slow writer without an abundance of spare time, so most of these will remain submerged and not get to gulp air. I guess it comes down to choosing the right bait for my hook. I hope to keep writing a few short stories while mainly concentrating on larger projects. I have almost finished writing my first novel, but it’s been quite a lengthy experience (I wrote my first draft at Clarion South back in the dreamtime). I’m currently interested in late medieval science and milieu, witches and the Inquisition in Languedoc, time travel, and have recently been attempting to enthuse colleagues in a manifesto of post-transhumanism that builds upon Mundane SF.

What Australian works have you loved recently?

The Courier’s New Bicycle was a great novel that took Aussie spec fic to new places. I was impressed with the work and thrilled for its success, and I hope there is more where that came from. I also enjoyed the Slice of Life collection, he was a canny one.

Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?

I’m so non-scene I really couldn’t say.

This interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot. In the lead up to Continuum 8 in Melbourne, we will be blogging interviews for Snapshot 2012 conducted by Alisa Krasnostein, Kathryn Linge, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Ian Mond, Jason Nahrung, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright. To read the interviews hot off the press, check these blogs daily from June 1 to June 7, 2012.

You can find the past three Snapshots at the following links: 2005, 2007 and 2010

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2012 Aussie Snapshot: Nick Stathopoulos

Nick Stathopoulos was born in 1959. The son of Greek migrants, he grew up in the Western suburbs of Sydney and spent way too much time drawing in front of the b&w television.

A graduate of Macquarie University, he is a founding member of the Illustrator’s Association of Australia, and has worked as an artist for over thirty years in film, television, animation, and book publishing.

He is a multi-award winning illustrator – including eight Ditmars, a Gold Penguin Television Award for art direction – and is a multiple finalist in the prestigious Archibald and Doug Moran Portrait Prizes with his hyper-realistic portraits.

Nick exhibits his fine art regularly, and his obsession with pop-cultural icons and his collection of die-cast and collectible toys have taken on a new life as the subject of a series of one-man shows called Toy Porn at the NG Art Gallery in Chippendale.

He now spends way too much time drawing in front of the LCD television, only this time running DVDs of the same old shows he watched as a child.

Congratulations on once again making the list of finalists for the Archibald Prize! How do you go about picking subjects for portraiture? Are there particular qualities you are looking for? What statement were you trying to make with this year’s entry?

Thank you. It’s always a big deal to make the Archibald finalists. My Archibald portraits are personal projects, and they seem to be taking longer to paint every year. As for chosing a subject; it can be tricky. Celebrity plays a significant factor. I remember discussing this with art critic John McDonald, that the Archibald is a popularist show, and unless your sitter is a celebrity, your chances of selection are dramatically reduced. That notwithstanding, I have a mental shortlist of people that I think would be interesting to paint for various reasons. The Archibald is a great way to meet all my heroes! This year’s sitter, Fenella Kernebone was chosen because she’s immeresed in the media arts world, is familiar to veiwers, and has a really charismatic presence. The rather literal message of this year’s entry “Art does belong” is a response to the ABC canceling its local arts programming.

Looking back at previous Snapshots, you’ve mentioned your desire to make a film based on the life of the aboriginal artist, Albert Namatjira. Has there been any progress in realising this dream? What is it that attracted you to Mr Namatjira’s story?

This project is my most heart-aching failure. Altho the film received a significant grant from the SA Film Corp to tie up all the permissions from the extended family and it looked like it was happening at the time of the previous Snapshot, the Namatjira film is in limbo. I always thought his life story would make a great film. The failure of this project to get up is a major source of frustration and despair. I’m now working on a short monster movie for Tropfest which I’m hoping might be a calling card for a bigger project. At least I hope to get this one finished.

One of my first exposures to your art was your incredible “Toy Porn” Exhibition, which spoke both to my inner child AND my inner geek. Do you have any projects coming up that will incorporate elements of the fantastic, or that touch on speculative fiction?

The TOY PORN shows have been extremely popular. I received a huge amount of favourable publicity which I’m delighted with. I’m about to start work on TOY PORN 3 which is slated for April next year. I think that’s going to be my last exhibition of paintings based on my extensive toy collection, at least at the NG Art Gallery in Chippendale. They’re very labour intensive paintings.

What Australian works have you loved recently?

I’m no longer reading any fiction let alone local work. There’s too much out there and I can’t keep up with any fiction to be honest. I used to read lots, particularly if it was a manuscript for a cover I was working on. I also enjoyed reading works by my friends, but frankly, I just don’t have the time or the inclination anymore. I’m just too busy working on my own projects.

Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?

I’m not sure if the genre has become more marginalised or whether it’s now so ubiquitous as to render fandom irrelevent. The face of publishing has changed dramatically over the last ten years. It’s taken a while, and there has been a great deal of resistance from publishers, but e-books/publishing have finally challenged the hard copy book as the prefered delivery system. We’ve seen the rise of small ’boutique’ publishers geared directly to serving a specific fan base. The major publishers have consolidated themselves and their products along demographic lines. We see less hard SF published and more high fantasy written for, by, and published by (older/mature age) women…whereas once upon a time it was predominantly a college-age male dominated scene. Fandom has also taken a hit. The traditional Worldcon is no longer the premier event…certainly not in terms of attendance figures. We’re seeing fandom (as I knew it) aging and dying. Technology has rendered the fanzine obsolete. In fact, as a one-time cover artist, I feel sidelined and utterly obsolete. When I was younger I dreamed of being Chris Foss or Bruce Pennington or Michael Whelan. But the reality as been a bitter, harsh, and ultimately futile struggle. I find myself often wishing I had pursued a fine art career a lot earlier in life. But it’s all been grist for the mill.

This interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot. In the lead up to Continuum 8 in Melbourne, we will be blogging interviews for Snapshot 2012 conducted by Alisa Krasnostein, Kathryn Linge, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Ian Mond, Jason Nahrung, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright. To read the interviews hot off the press, check these blogs daily from June 1 to June 7, 2012.

You can find the past three Snapshots at the following links: 2005, 2007 and 2010

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2012 Snapshot: Robert Hood

ROBERT HOOD’s long career in the fantasy/horror/SF/crime genres has always had a dark, fantastical edge. With over 150 stories published, many re-printed in his three collections to date (most recently Creeping in Reptile Flesh), his is a significant presence in the field. His novels include Backstreets and the Shades series. A dark fantasy novel, Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead, is due out in 2012 from Borgo Press (US). Hood’s website can be found at www.roberthood.net.

Your blog, Undead Backbrain, is an essential resource for fans of horror, featuring zombies, robots and giant monsters. But you are also a major fan of superhero comics. Where did your love of superheroes come from? What superhero related works are you reading at the moment, and what would you recommend to people coming to the genre?

I’ve had that particular obsession since I was a teenager and 20-something uni student, back in the mid-to-late 60s and into the 70s. For me this was when Marvel first hit its stride – at least in the form that I loved.

Back then I had a vision of what comics could do as an artform – the combination of drawing and writing gradually becoming a new and accepted fictional genre, not just a commercial oddity. Maybe that’s one of the things that led me to study the works of poet/artist William Blake for my postgraduate thesis. Blake was an artist as much as a writer and his books really need both pictures and words to properly convey his meaning. They are closely intertwined. He even invented his own world of Gods and Monsters, which he used to explore his unique vision of human life and society. He would have been a comic artist/writer, if he were alive today. After all, the line between gods and superheroes is virtually indistinguishable.

However, by the time I left Uni and full-time work became more demanding, the development of the “graphic novel” as I envisaged it hadn’t happened yet (except perhaps for some isolated examples, such as in Burne Hogarth’s gorgeous renderings of the Tarzan stories, which had even been adopted by the artistic elite as “high art”). The necessities of moving about, paying bills and all that real-world stuff convinced me to sell the huge stash of comics I’d been lugging around — and I stopped reading them as such.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I fully realized that much had happened in the graphic novel field since I last paid any attention to it. Mike Mignola’s Hellboy stories, Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead and Alan Moore’s Watchman started me off, and then I stumbled upon DC’s huge “event” sequence, Blackest Night – where a sort of superhero zombie apocalypse consumes the world of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the Green Lantern – and out of curiosity bought the main sequence in book form. They were such beautiful books, with artwork that is stunningly dynamic, complex and painterly, no longer simply four-colour two-dimensional “cartoons”. It was like a revelation. I hunted down and read every iteration of the Blackest Night Event – all 80-odd cross-over comics – in book form mostly, and occasional comics and e-comics, when trades weren’t available. I loved it for its gorgeous art (especially that of Ivan Reis), its complexity and its sheer audaciousness. It’s not perfect by any means (and I’d hesitate recommending it to anyone unfamiliar with the DC Universe due to its rampantly self-referential nature – though if you’re willing to engage with it and follow the various threads you’ll quickly acquire the requisite knowledge), but given the logistics, it was an amazing achievement, especially when all issues are read sequentially.

As a result of all this exposure I began looking elsewhere and realized that much development had been happening since the 1990s. Not big news to some, but I hadn’t been paying attention. Moore’s work (including his brutal Batman: The Killing Joke and his re-boot of Swamp Thing) led me to Frank Miller’s 1990s re-imagining of the Dark Knight, and indeed the role of Batman generally in significantly raising the GN bar. Clearly in my absence graphic novels had become a more adult artistic experience (some of the time at least), perhaps reflecting the fact that those of us who grew up with Marvel and DC – especially the artistically inclined and more educated – went on to become either creators or adult readers, who are well-catered-for by the complexity of much of it, the occasional explosions of sheer invention and the socio-political, not to mention metaphorical, undercurrents.

One of the aspects of Marvel (and now DC) that fascinated me most in the past was the development of a sort of alternate fictional reality that embraced the various franchises. The Marvel Universe, as it was later known. Stories would continue from one franchise into another. For example, what began in Amazing Spider-Man influenced what was going on Thor or the Incredible Hulk. That is still a big interest today and it has expanded exponentially. Many readers — especially in this Age of Internet Whingeing – complain that the big Event crossover storylines (where a central event consumes the entirety of the “Universe”) are too confusing. And indeed, reading them – even working out which bits should be read in what order – can be a complicated business (the internet can help – yay for nerds!). Of course, the “Event” strategy can easily be seen as a cynical marketing ploy. But I love it. Now they’re even doing it in blockbuster movies, in a very tentative way, naturally, given the money involved. Great for business, but it also gives an added level of conceptual depth and involvement to each comic reality.

At the moment I’m reading a vast Marvel-universe sequence that began with a superhero Civil War, which sees the “good guys and gals” come to blows over attempts by the government to regulate super-heroics and which results in the death of Captain America (and others), followed by a vast invasion via infiltration by the shapeshifting Skrull race, the deposing of Nick Fury and Tony Stark (Iron Man) from their leadership roles and the elevation of Norman Osborn (ex-Green Goblin) to leadership of S.H.I.E.L.D., followed by the siege of Asgard (which has “fallen” to Earth), as well as Planet Hulk and its follow-up World War Hulk (which is exactly what it sounds like – the Hulk vs everyone – a bit of Hulk Smash! simplicity is remarkably cathartic). Taken as a whole, it is incredibly complex stuff that hangs together well, despite a variety of creators.

Geoff Johns has been particularly effective in creating and coordinating such Events for DC Comics – including a “Crisis” Event that tidied up the inconsistencies of the DC Universe (the company has done such Crisis house-cleaning several times over the past decades). Johns’ Green Lantern re-boot, somewhat disappointingly rendered in the recent movie, was a remarkable feat. Like Doctor Who, the Green Lantern mythos has expanded from its early ad hoc beginnings as Johns (and others) imaginatively rationalized its oddities in a way that integrated it into a much larger and more complex whole.

To name a few recommendations, Moore’s work as mentioned above certainly, Ed Brubaker’s run on Captain America; Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One and The Dark Knight Returns; Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s beautifully stylized Batman tales, The Long Halloween and Dark Victory; Loeb and Jim Lee’s Batman: Hush; Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman; Mark Waid’s earlier Kingdom Come; and the excellent Gotham Central series by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka (Batman’s turf from the noirish point-of-view of the Gotham City PD). I really enjoyed Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s post-apocalyptic Mad-Max, western, alternative future Wolverine epic Old Man Logan, too, which (like Millar’s Wanted) postulates a scenario in which the super-villains finally got together and killed off or subjugated the superheroes.

Those are just some I’ve particularly enjoyed, but I’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s out there – and of course it doesn’t cover the excellent non-superhero side of graphic novels, such as Brian K. Vaughan’s Y: The Last Man; Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan and Ed Brubaker’s noir crime epic Criminal. The list is, if not endless, at least extensive.

One name I haven’t mentioned much is Grant Morrison, who has also done some pretty amazing re-imagining of the superhero genre, including his surreal Arkham Asylum, which has to be seen to be believed – at least as a commercial proposition. Morrison is a mad Scotsman — articulate, pretentious and inventive. I recently read his book Supergods, which wittily explores the development of superhero comics and expresses my own metaphorical tendencies when I try to describe my interest in the genre – beyond the sheer imaginative enjoyment of it anyway. He interprets superheroes as modern deities. Sure, we don’t “believe” in them as objective realities, but arguably they serve a similar imaginative role for our culture as the Olympian gods and their mythic activities served for the ancient Greeks, or the Asgardians for the Vikings. They allow us to dream of greatness, of immortality, of power, and through their superhuman trials and moral confusions explore our own society’s values, our own humanity and our relationship with the world. Pretentious, sure, but why not?

As well as being an award winning author and critic, you have also been a very successful editor. Your Daikaiju! anthology series with Robin Pen was extremely well received, with international notice and a number of stories going on to make recommended reading lists. Will we see a fourth Daikaiju!, or any similar anthologies, in the future?

Seriously, those anthologies wore me out. I put a lot of energy into them and the process took me away from my own writing for at least a year. Editing – real editing – is an exhausting process, and though I’m often asked if I’ll be doing more of the same — and am often tempted by the thought — it’s not going to happen. Not until I change my mind anyway.

You have a new novel, Fragments Of A Broken Land: Valarl Undead, coming soon. Can you tell us a little about it?

Fragments Of A Broken Land: Valarl UndeadFragments, for short — has been a long-running obsession. It’s a fantasy novel in the “other-world” mode, both straightforward and paradoxically complex, that was begun several decades ago, and has been re-worked many times since. It has a long history of near publication and I’m quite serious when I say it’s only the enthusiasm of Jack Dann that has stopped me from abandoning it altogether. Jack enthused about it – and did a thorough structural edit on it – before I knew him as more than one of science fiction’s greats. He has become a good friend since and has tried hard to get the book into print, driven by his enthusiasm for it — without success, until recently. Why that is may be open to conjecture, but two agents who also tried to sell it both claimed it was the novel’s unexpectedly literary nature that lies at the heart of the problem. I’m not entirely sure what that means, but it’s been a struggle and has caused me to work at the book, on and off, for many years. Now Borgo Press – a long-established US small-press that has become an imprint of Wildside Press – have contracted it and it is due to appear, in various formats, either toward the end of this year or the beginning of the next. I await that Event with mingled fear, excitement and relief.

The story concerns a group of people descended from the survivors of an apocalypse that ended the previous Age, who unknowingly come together to deal with the still unresolved consequences of past greed and attendant destruction. An elusive undead creature motivates and informs the sudden escalation of violence that drags them into a vortex of supernatural horror. The title relates to the aftermath of the apocalypse, but also to the “pieces” of a lost Creator scattered throughout the protagonists’ fragmented reality … including a supra-real cosmic monster on which two of the characters’ alternate identities are exiled.

So yeah, it’s got a very giant monster, a zombie, demons and an apocalypse. There’s even a poem or two. Now that’s what I call true horror.

I’ve begun a website where I will be posting updates, information about the novel and its background, and – as publication draws near – a few self-contained bits and pieces that I removed from the book during the various revisions in order to let the plot flow faster and more smoothly. Eventually I’m planning to release a short collection of stories in e-book format, made up of tales set in the world of Fragments, but at different times. Most of these are already written. For those who are interested – and you all should be – the site can be entered at http://fragmentsnovel.undeadbackbrain.com/. There are already a few bits and pieces there, including a mini-essay on the influence of poet/artist William Blake on the book’s development.

What Australian works have you loved recently?

Mostly anthologies, such as Anywhere But Earth (edited by Keith Stevenson), Ishtar (edited by Amanda Pillar and K.V. Taylor) and Damnation and Dames (edited by Liz Grzyb and Amanda Pillar). Yes, I have a story in two of those books but that doesn’t make them any less worthy. The Courier’s New Bicycle by Kim Westwood was a very worthy winner of the Best SF Novel in this Year’s Aurealis Awards and it’s an excellent book. There are lots of other works I’m sure I’d love if I’d had time to read them, but life’s been busy and writing tasks distracting…

Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?

The biggest developments seem to have been in the small-press publication area. Quality anthologies and collections have burgeoned, and this is not a category embraced by commercial presses. As production technology changes, so the ability of independent concerns to produce quality books has grown, and luckily the rise of skillful editors has followed suit. Without the latter, the former would be useless. Notably, too, excellent and powerful women writers have come to the fore in increasing numbers. This is a wonderful development, and not just in terms of achieving gender equity.

This interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot. In the lead up to Continuum 8 in Melbourne, we will be blogging interviews for Snapshot 2012 conducted by Alisa Krasnostein, Kathryn Linge, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Ian Mond, Jason Nahrung, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright. To read the interviews hot off the press, check these blogs daily from June 1 to June 7, 2012.

You can find the past three Snapshots at the following links: 2005, 2007 and 2010

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2012 Aussie Snapshot: Matthew Chrulew

Matthew Chrulew lives in Sydney where he plays basketball in the men’s over 30s comp at the Brickpit on Thursday nights – come along! His short fiction has appeared in Antennae, Pseudopod, Canterbury 2100, Macabre: A Journey Through Australian Horror, and elsewhere. His end-times burlesque novella The Angælien Apocalypse (Twelfth Planet Press) was a finalist in the 2010 Aurealis Awards. Other stories have been shortlisted in the Australian Shadows Award and reprinted in year’s bests. He blogs at matthewchrulew.wordpress.com/

I was fascinated to read about the “Black Paintings” tour that you have recently been involved in, and its intersection of different creative expressions. Can you tell us a little more about it, how you got involved and what you took away from it?

I had interviewed Trash from The Red Paintings a while back for some of my academic work. They are a sci-fi art-rock band who have always had visual artists paint as part of their live shows. I wanted to see how writing might relate to this combination of music and painting, and they were kind enough to have me along as part of their tour last summer. Some notes on the shows are on my blog, starting from: http://matthewchrulew.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/writing-experiment-the-black-paintings-tour/ It was a demanding and joyful trial, and I’m developing the ideas and prose that emerged into a longer work about anesthesia and synesthesia.

You were a member of the inaugural Clarion South workshop in 2004. How much of an impact did that have on your writing career? Is it something you would recommend to other writers?

If a writer ever has the opportunity to spend six weeks writing, critiquing, and hanging out with cool people, then I would certainly recommend they take it. My career is still, well, careering, but Clarion gave me friendships and skills and ideas that enrich my life and work.

After the success of last year’s novella double with Thoraiya Dyer, “The Company Articles of Edward Teach/The Angaelien Apocalypse”, is the novella a form that you plan on returning to soon? Or do you have other works that you are focussing on in the short term?

It’s academic essays and books that seem to have the highest priority these days. But when fiction becomes an option again there are a range of half-formed things waiting. These include more Angælien stories, though with entirely different tones; more cannibalism and detached heads too; the experimental work The Black Paintings; and my long-suffering postapocalyptic novel about mammoths.

What Australian works have you loved recently?

Terry Dowling’s Clowns at Midnight is a wonderful work of cerebral horror that deserves a wider readership. It was a pleasure to read horror short fiction for the AAs this last year, and Talie Helene has selected for the forthcoming Ticonderoga Year’s Best many that could easily have made the shortlist. Lisa Hannett’s Bluegrass Symphony is an exemplary short story collection. I encourage everyone to buy six copies of Adam Browne’s forthcoming novel from Coeur de Lion: one for each bodily sense and the other for your linguometer. And while the author is Iranian, it was published in Australia so I say it counts: Reza Negarestani’s hybrid theory-horror novel Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials.

Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?

The rise of self-promotional spamming as a way of life.

This interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot. In the lead up to Continuum 8 in Melbourne, we will be blogging interviews for Snapshot 2012 conducted by Alisa Krasnostein, Kathryn Linge, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Ian Mond, Jason Nahrung, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright. To read the interviews hot off the press, check these blogs daily from June 1 to June 7, 2012.

You can find the past three Snapshots at the following links: 2005, 2007 and 2010