Author Archives: David McDonald

WSFA Small Press Award Winner Announced

The winner of the WSFA Small Press Award was announced today at Capclave 2014. Congratulations to Alex Shvartsman on his winning story, Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma!

I know it is one of those things people say so often that can be seen as a cliché, but it really was an honour to simply see my name next to the other nominees, all writers whom I look up to. It is also an honour have my name associated with all the past nominees and winners—talk about being in exalted company!

I think that the WSFA deserve our commendation for creating this award. To me, small press is the heart of the publishing world, and is worth celebrating and promoting. For many authors like myself, small presses are the first place we are given an opportunity to see our work in print, to work with editors and publishers, and learn our trade as writers. Through small presses, I have had a chance to work with editors like Tehani Wessely and Robert Greenberger, both of whom who have had stories appear on WSFA shortlists, and who have gone out of their way outside that initial relationship to take me under their wing, to mentor me, and continue to take an interest in my progress.

I also wanted to acknowledge John McKinlay, my great-great-great-great grandfather. He doesn’t have the same recognition as Sturt or Major Mitchell, but his journeys make incredible reading, and his resourcefulness and achievements make him the rival of any of Australia’s great explorers. It was a truly special experience to be able to take his journals and turn them into this story and I hope that it will lead people to read the originals, which are available in the public domain (you can find a copy here).

Writing this story brought some uncomfortable challenges. As I read, I realised that I couldn’t talk about McKinlay’s journeys without touching on his encounters with indigenous Australians. When writing about a culture that is not your own there is always the fear of getting things wrong or committing cultural appropriation, but it seemed to me that the only other choice was to erase them from this history, and that has been done too many times before. So, I attempted to portray them with respect, disavow the bankrupt idea of an empty land that white settlers filled by default, and acknowledge the place that the first inhabitants of our land have in all its stories. How well I have succeeded I will leave to the reader to decide.

I also need to thank Steve and Marieke Ormsby, the owners of Satalyte Publishing. It is no exaggeration to say that this story would not have been written without Steve’s prompting and coaxing and patience­—thanks for sticking with it, Steve! And, without Marieke, there would have been no were-dingoes! It’s a measure of the quality of what they are doing that two stories from their inaugural anthology made it on to this shortlist and I am sure it is just the beginning.

Congratulations to all the nominees, and especially the winner!

  • WINNER: “Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma” by Alex Shvartsman, published in Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, edited by Edmund R. Schubert (Hatrack Publishing, April 2013)
  • “Acts of Chivalry” by Sean McMullen, published in Tales of Australia: Great Southern Land, edited by Stephen C. Ormsby and Ellen Mae Franklin (Satalyte Publishing, December 2013)
  • “Bits” by Naomi Kritzer, published in Clarkesworld Magazine, edited by Neil Clarke (October 2013)
  • “Like a Bat Out of Hell” by Jonathan Shipley, published in After Death, edited by Eric C. Guignard (Dark Moon Books, April 2013)
  • “Morning Star” by DK Mok, published in One Small Step, an anthology of discoveries, edited by Tehani Wessely (FableCroft Publishing, May 2013)
  • “Set Your Face Towards the Darkness” by David McDonald, published in Tales of Australia: Great Southern Land, edited by Stephen C. Ormsby and Ellen Mae Franklin (Satalyte Publishing, December 2013)
  • “The Traditional” by Maria Dahvana Headley, published in Lightspeed, edited by John Joseph Adams (May 2013)
  • “Trap-weed” by Gemma Files, published in Clockwork Phoenix 4, edited by Mike Allen (Mythic Delirium Books, July 2013)

A delightful short list surprise!

So, yesterday morning I woke up to an email. It was very early by my standards, my eyes were a bit fuzzy, and to be honest I wasn’t sure why I had been sent it. I could see that a story from an anthology my friend had published had been shortlisted for an award, which was lovely in of itself, but I wouldn’t normally expect a direct email about it at that time of the morning. Normally I’d find out about something like that from Twitter or Facebook  when I was awake enough to process it.

Then my eyes opened properly, and I realised I had been shortlisted, too! To say I was surprised would be an understatement….

The WSFA Small Press Awards have had a number of illustrious winners and nominees…I started listing names here but it really is a glittering list of some of my writing idols. They have also historically been very good to Aussies, with the wonderful Tansy Rayner Roberts winning TWO, and people like Jason Nahrung and Jo Anderton nominated in the past. I mean, seriously, talk about quality!

And the shortlist this year is no less impressive. Seeing my name next to writers of that calibre is…surreal. As you can guess, I am honoured and humbled and hyperventilating. I certainly don’t expect to win, but I truly am just happy to be on the list.

It was also very nice to two other Aussies on the list. I’m delighted for D.K. Mok, an extremely talented writer, and also thrilled that Fablecroft are represented again – Fablecroft are one of my favourite publishers. And, another story from the anthology I was in is there, the amazing Sean McMullen making an appearance. The fact that two Satalyte Publishing stories appear tells you what a great job Steve and Marieke are doing. and why Satalyte is rapidly becoming one of the top publishers in Australia.

The full list  and details about the awards are here. Congrats to all the nominees!

  • “Acts of Chivalry” by Sean McMullen, published in Tales of Australia: Great Southern Land, edited by Stephen C. Ormsby and Ellen Mae Franklin (Satalyte Publishing, December 2013)
  • “Bits” by Naomi Kritzer, published in Clarkesworld Magazine, edited by Neil Clarke (October 2013)
  • “Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma” by Alex Shvartsman, published in Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, edited by Edmund R. Schubert (Hatrack Publishing, April 2013)
  • “Like a Bat Out of Hell” by Jonathan Shipley, published in After Death, edited by Eric C. Guignard (Dark Moon Books, April 2013)
  • “Morning Star” by DK Mok, published in One Small Step, an anthology of discoveries, edited by Tehani Wessely (FableCroft Publishing, May 2013)
  • “Set Your Face Towards the Darkness” by David McDonald, published in Tales of Australia: Great Southern Land, edited by Stephen C. Ormsby and Ellen Mae Franklin (Satalyte Publishing, December 2013)
  • “The Traditional” by Maria Dahvana Headley, published in Lightspeed, edited by John Joseph Adams (May 2013)
  • “Trap-weed” by Gemma Files, published in Clockwork Phoenix 4, edited by Mike Allen (Mythic Delirium Books, July 2013)

 

The march to global domination continues!

Some more Aussie Snapshot news!

The collated list of interviews is up on SF Signal. Thanks to the team there for hosting us, and hopefully it will mean more international exposure for our snapshotees.

There is also a nice article on Yahoo, via the West Australian

And, last but not least, the ever industrious Tehani and Katharine have started archiving all the old snapshots on a dedicated site. Eventually the new interviews will go there, too. Check it out for a glimpse of the scope of the project, and of the awesomeness of the Aussie scene.

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The Australian Spec Fic Snapshot 2014 – Ambelin Kwaymullina

Ambelin Kwaymullina is an Aboriginal writer and illustrator from the Palyku people. The homeland of her people is located in the dry, vivid beauty of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Ambelin has written and illustrated a number of award winning picture books as well as writing a dystopian series – ‘the Tribe’ – for Young Adults. When not writing or illustrating, Ambelin teaches law and spends time with her family and her dogs.

You are halfway though a Young Adult series (the Tribe) that mixes dystopian and post apocalyptic themes with social commentary, to critical acclaim. What is it that attracted you to YA? Do you think that there are themes or concepts that YA can explore differently than other genres?

Why do I write for the young? We owe them something, those of us who are older – at the very least, we owe them a world that is a little better than the one we inherited. And it only takes the briefest glance at the situations in which many young people across the globe are living to know that we adults are collectively doing a very poor job of providing such a place. I’ve said before that I don’t invent worlds where the young are at risk; I just write about how to defy that reality. And YA explores those issues differently because it does so from the perspective of the young and not the old. I think we become far too accepting of the many injustices of this planet as we grow older; we can even come to believe that great inequities are inevitabilities rather than things created and perpetuated by human beings and human societies. But what we as a species have done we can also challenge, defy and undo – and the young understand this far better than the old.

cover-ashala-wolfRecently, you were the Guest of Honour at the Australian National Convention, Continuum X, which I believe was your first time as a GOH. How did you find the experience? Was it what you expected?

I loved it! And I did approach it with a degree of trepidation because I knew I would be speaking to issues that some people find confronting, including the appropriation of Indigenous culture. And, okay, yes, a few people did come up to me and say things that were not very nice. But the vast majority came seeking to improve their understanding and to engage with what I was talking about. In the end, I think what I had fulfilled at Continuum X was not an expectation but a hope – because I hoped, at a spec fic convention, to find people who seemed like they came from a better time and place. I hoped to meet people who valued the great diversity of human existence and who were doing their level best to make their corner of the world just a little bit brighter for those around them. And I did.

ambelin-bgWhile at Continuum, you continued the tradition of marvellous GoH speeches (you can read an abridged and edited version of the speech here), and it has attracted a great deal of comment on the internet. Were you surprised by the reception your speech received? What results or changes would you like to see come out of your speech?

I was surprised, in a good way, at the level of attention the speech received. And if there is a change I’d like to see people make, it’s this: pay attention. Start noticing when small acts of exclusion occur around you. And start speaking out or intervening (if it is safe to do so, and get help if it isn’t). I think people are too often susceptible to believing it’s big, grand gestures that truly matter. But like water running over rock, it is our everyday behaviour that shapes who we are and the world in which we live. Besides which, as someone who has had the ugliness of racism and sexism directed at them, I can tell you this: for someone else to speak up is a grand gesture, and a profoundly important one. We are all more powerful together than alone.

cover-two-hearted-numbat-largeWhat Australian works have you loved recently?

I’ve been revisiting Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn series recently. This was one of the first spec fic series I ever read, and it retains its magic for me through many re-readings; I never get tired of it.

Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

I try to write the best story I can; I can’t say I pay that much attention to changes in the industry (aside from anything else I just don’t have the time to keep up, any ‘spare’ time is devoted to writing). I do pay attention to writers, and I read as much as I can, most especially Indigenous writers both from Australia and elsewhere. And I will, of course, perpetually be reading and writing speculative fiction. I have a new three book series in my head right now, and a different, longer series after that. I’m not short on material. Just time.

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This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot. In the lead up to the World Science Fiction Convention in London, we will be blogging interviews for Snapshot 2014 conducted by Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright.

To read the interviews hot off the press, check out these blogs daily from July 28 to August 10, 2014, or look for the round up on SF Signal when it’s all done. You can find the past Snapshots at the following links: 2005, 2007,  2010 and 2012.

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The Australian Spec Fic Snapshot 2014 – Karen Wyld

Karen Wyld lives by the sea, nestled between scrub, hills and vineyards. She’s had an eclectic working life, and currently works in Aboriginal workforce development. From dabbling with poetry as a soppy adolescent, to editor of a pre-internet alternative magazine, Karen now uses social media to procrastinate.

Never content with taking the easy path in life, Karen independently published her first novel. With sights on becoming a hybrid author, she is working concurrently on four genre-confused manuscripts.

Visit Karen’s website to find out about her first novel ‘When Rosa Came Home’. While there, read some short stories and blog-posts.

You live in an incredibly beautiful corner of Australia, and some of the shots on your blog are stunning. You also get to do a fair bit of travel around the place. When it comes to your writing, how much of an influence are your surroundings? How big a part does a sense of place play in your stories?

Over the last five years, my day-jobs have involved a fair bit of travelling through country South Australia, and more recently around Australia. Recent business trips involved airports and motel rooms in capital cities. It’s surprising how much writing can be done in a motel room, especially if it doesn’t have free Wi-Fi. However, I’m a country-girl at heart, and need to occasionally get out on the open road.

Travel inspires me on many levels. I’ve just returned from a two-week road trip from coastal South Australia to Uluru, Northern Territory. Finding myself suddenly in-between work (my job was a victim of the recent federal budget cuts to Aboriginal services), I ended up doing this trip on the cheap. This meant days of driving (window down, belting out songs) and then sleeping in my car at night (it was too windy for the tent). Might sound awful to some, but this mode of travel gave me a much better perspective of the country I was travelling through than the usual plane plus motel combo.

Photo by Darren De Silva

Photo by Darren De Silva

I started a new job this week, so I’m now looking at how to keep travelling as a writer. The dream of the moment is to hunt down a vintage caravan, renovate it, and hit the road on week-ends. I can imagine travelling to new places, writing, speaking at writers festivals; and then coming home to the beautiful Fleurieu Peninsula. Home is important to me.

I’ve always felt a strong connection to my surroundings, and I think that comes out clearly in both my fiction and non-fiction writing. Done right, place becomes another character in a novel. A reader should be able to not only see the setting of the story, but to smell, feel, hear and taste. What better way to evoke all senses then through place?

There is a beautiful tribute to Doris Nugi Garimara Pilkington AM on your blog. Could you tell us a little about her influence on you, and your writing? Are there other writers who have influenced you, or in whose footsteps you wish to follow?

Aunty Doris, who passed away earlier this year, is on my list of inspiring authors for two reasons. Firstly, because of her courage to write about issues many would have preferred stayed secret. And secondly, being related to a fearless female author inspires me to use my own writer-voice.

Some people label me as ‘political’, as I have a strong sense of social justice, and I’m very vocal about rights for humans, animals and the environment. Naturally I gravitate to writers who tell brave stories, and touch on enviro-socio-political issues. Which is probably why I mostly read, and write, magic realism. It’s a genre that is rich in place, and gives a voice to the oppressed. Magic realism is strongest when used by First Nation peoples that are grappling with the aftermath of colonisation, and other power-based atrocities.

100_1845Many Australian First Nation writers, past and present, are labelled as political. Mostly published by universities and small publishing houses, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers have been sharing brave stories for decades, especially using autobiographical and historical styles. This is changing as new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers find their own voices, and explore other genres, putting pressure on publishers to accept a broader range of work. We shouldn’t be expected to fit in a certain literary box, or always create main characters who are Aboriginal, or story-lines that involve Aboriginal issues, culture or histories.

Still, we need to honour the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers who have paved the way for us, and brought important issues to the attention of mainstream Australia, as well as internationally. Aunty Doris will always be remembered as having a pivotal role in raising awareness of darker times in Australian history. A time not so long ago, when many children were forcibly removed from family and community, through polices founded on cultural bias and xenophobia. By writing of these times, her words have helped progress healing and social justice. I believe that to constructively influence peoples’ worldviews through writing, to bring about much needed change, is the pinnacle of writing.

You’ve talked on your blog about coming to writing later in life. Can you tell us a little about the road to publication, and what the future holds? What are you working on?

To clarify, I’ve been writing both fiction and non-fiction from a young age, but only just published my first novel. In the 80s, I volunteered for an alternative magazine. I eventually became the editor and main contributor, until it got too much juggling the challenges of micro-publishing in the pre-internet days, and being the sole provider of a young family. I finished my first full-length manuscript about 20 years ago, but I put it in a drawer after being disheartened by the messages I was hearing from the publishing industry. However, like the banks’ opposition to women seeking mortgages, it was just a matter of waiting until attitudes changed. Decades later, having obtained the qualifications to get an acceptable income to buy a house, I felt it was time to publish a book.

roadThe timing was perfect. Advances in technology, and the way people use new technology and social media as a source of information and entertainment, has had a positive impact on publishing. Control is slowly shifting from the gate-keepers to the innovators, and this has opened the flood gates for aspiring writers. Diving into this on-line world enabled me to connect with supportive writers from around the world, and given me the means to learn both the art and business of writing. Going indie is not easy, and it’s extremely time consuming, but I’m glad I’ve taken that pathway. I’ve had to build a wide range of capabilities, and master elements that traditionally published writers wouldn’t even know existed. I’ve also had to toughen up; to not let the creative side take over, and instead make decisions based on good practice. Publishing independently does not mean that quality should be compromised, nor does it mean doing it alone. So for my first novel, I outsourced key elements of the publishing process, such as editing and cover design.

karenwyld_whenrosacamehome_web_finalAs an emerging writer, I’m not confined to any particular genre, and like to create hybrids. So far, my work fits within magic realism, literary fiction, indigenous literature, speculative fiction, or contemporary fiction with a dash of the absurd. Over the past few years, I have developed a number of manuscripts, which are in differing pre-published stages. The next one off the rank, which I will venture down the traditional publishing path for, is a politically-charged magic realism novel, set in the 60/70s. Through the lives of non-identical Aboriginal sisters, and their mother, the book explores themes such as identity, diaspora, racism, country and belonging. The characters travel through Country, from coast to desert, so place will be a key element of this story.

What Australian works have you loved recently?

I don’t recall the last time I read a book by an Australian author. Writing on a daily basis changes the way you read. I still read daily, but the way I read has changed. For me, writing involves a rhythm, both when stringing words together on screen and when reading. I find too many recently published novels lack a rhythm I can relate to, so I don’t often read for pure enjoyment anymore.

Because I needed to pack lighter when travelling, I went over to the dark side and am now an avid reader of e-books. I read a lot of e-books by other indie authors. Some as research into this emerging side of publishing, but mostly to support writers I’ve met through social media. There is a strong sense of community and playing-it-forward amongst indie writers. If there is a traditionally published book I really want to read, then I’ll look for it at the local library. The big publishing houses don’t seem to understand, or are resistant to, new ways of reading. They often overlook e-books, or overprice their books on-line, and basically make it more difficult for readers to access commercially published books.

When I do read for enjoyment, I usually find myself returning to my collection of books with dog-eared pages. My favourites have rhythm, they are rich in descriptive prose, evoke emotions, and touch upon important issues. So I re-read books such as Beloved (Toni Morrison), One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez) or Marie Laveau (Francine Prose). At the moment, I am not connecting to fantasy or sci fi novels. However, a new Pratchett novel will always get my attention.

Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

We live in exciting times and, for writers who are able to adapt, it’s only going to get more interesting. Writers finally have choices, and are no longer kept out of the game by conservative guardians. These changes will be of particular benefit to writers who may have been pushed aside in the past, such as indigenous writers, and for those who creatively explore genres that are not considered profitable by industry.

Road_croppedIt’s not only writers that are benefiting from a transforming industry. We now have more choices of reading material, at prices that suit all incomes, and buying methods that are more consumer-driven. And the breadth of available storytelling formats is amazing. The way we tell and absorb stories will keep on changing at such a rapid pace that it is almost impossible to predict the next five years.

Hopefully, changes will include the actual bones of story, and not just how they are published and consumed. Personally, I think many novels have become stripped of descriptive prose. Writers are being told to be concise with dialogue and scarce on adverbs. Verbs and adjectives have also become victims of the prevalence of action-packed books. Reading should be challenging, it should expand both our vocabularies and capacity to think and feel. We might be at risk of losing the beauty, and profound messages, which can be found within books.

My first novel was driven by a dissatisfaction with contemporary novels; those with a pace that is much too quick and prose too thin. I purposely slowed down, filled the pages with uncommon words and enhanced the role of setting. I also experimented with how far I could push an allegorical style of writing. What resulted was a warm tale for adults, reminiscent of fairy tales but without fairies and similar folk. Now that I’ve had my fun, the next few novels will be in a more serious vein. However, if I can continue to fuse magic realism, gothic tales, speculative fiction and other non-commercial genres, I’m sure I will still writing far beyond the next five years.

This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot. In the lead up to the World Science Fiction Convention in London, we will be blogging interviews for Snapshot 2014 conducted by Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright.

To read the interviews hot off the press, check out these blogs daily from July 28 to August 10, 2014, or look for the round up on SF Signal when it’s all done. You can find the past Snapshots at the following links: 2005, 2007,  2010 and 2012.

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The Australian Spec Fic Snapshot 2014 – Raymond Gates

Raymond Gates is an Aboriginal Australian writer based on the Gold Coast, whose childhood crush on reading everything dark and disturbing evolved into an adult love affair with writing horror. He has published a number of short stories, several of which have been nominated for the Australian Shadows Awards. With the help of his muse, he plans to drag the novel that lurks within him into the light. Delve into his mind at: http://www.raymondgates.com. You can aslo find him on Facebook and Twitter.

You¹ve built up a strong list of short fiction sales, appearing in some great anthologies, and storming the Australian Shadows Awards! What is it about short fiction that appeals to you?

I think all would-be writers can benefit from cutting their teeth on short fiction. It’s a great way to practice getting the elements of writing – characterisation, storyline, voice, etc. – just right for the story you want to tell. It’s also a good way of getting ideas out of your head and onto the
page. Not every story is novel-length, however that doesn’t mean it’s any less of a story. It still deserves to be told. When I write, I don’t start with a word count in mind. I just write and the story is as long as it needs to be. I think short fiction works well for many readers as well,
particularly those reading digital formats and reading between activities. If a novel opens a window to another world, short fiction allows you to peek through the curtain, and sometimes that’s all you want to do.
Ray_AuthorPicRecently, you did a radio interview where you talked about, amongst other things, issues relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers in genre fiction. How do you feel the Australian spec fic community is doing when it comes to welcoming indigenous writers What are some of the challenges? Are there any writers we should be keeping an eye out for?

I think the Rhianna Patrick’s Beyond Unaipon series showed that Indigenous spec fic writers are starting to make inroads into the Australian community, and I think the community is ready to embrace this. Part of this is that, as other writers interviewed in the series stated, the development of the indie market and relative ease of self-publishing has given Indigenous writers unprecedented opportunities to get their work into the public arena. Traditional or ‘mainstream’ publishers seem to have been reluctant to run with anything Indigenous that was not biographical, historic, or about social issues. The feedback I’ve had in the past indicates this is primarily based on fear: fear of getting the cultural sensitivity issues right, so as not to receive any backlash – real or perceived – from Indigenous communities, and fear that the Australian public won’t support spec fic with Indigenous overtones, or grounded in Indigenous culture.

dead-red-heart-webYet I think writers such as Ambelin Kwaymullina, Teagan Chilcott, and Tristan Savage are demonstrating that not only is the spec fic community ready to hear stories told by Indigenous writers, they’re finding that Indigenous writers bring something unique to the spec fic world through their culture and background. Publishers need to start working with Indigenous writers not only to bring out great stories, but to understand how to incorporate Indigenous culture and ideas into spec fic while maintaining cultural safety. That will get us past these fears, and once that happens, I think you’ll witness an explosion of Indigenous writers and stories into the spec fic market.

What’ s on the horizon for Raymond Gates? I believe there might be a novel lurking, and even some game development?

I have produced some short fiction for an Australian table-top miniatures game developer, Demigod Games, as part of the background to their historical-fantasy setting of their game, Conquest of the Gods, and there may be more opportunities to work with them on similar projects in the future. I have been forever threatening to produce a novel, and have spent the last several months engaged in some serious research with Brisbane’s Goth community and the Carpathian Magistratus Vampire Society to help make sure I get things right (there’s a hint as to what it might be about!).

I’ve also been approached by a small television and film production studio to discuss the possibility of adapting some of my short fiction to the screen, which is very exciting – I’d love to see some of my work brought to life in a Tales from the Crypt type of show, or as part of a short film festival!

Beyond that, I just keep writing, and looking for and welcoming opportunities to share my imagination with others.

ahwaWhat Australian works have you loved recently?

Sadly, I haven’t had the opportunity lately to spend any time with fiction. The last Australian writer I read was Ruby Langford Ginibi’s account of her life through her first book, Don’t Take Your Love to Town. It was especially important to me because not only is it a poignant and moving insight into the life of an extraordinary Aboriginal woman, and life for many Aboriginal people over the last half-century, but as Ruby and I are related it gave me an insight into a side of my family that I’ve never known.

Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

There’s no question the rise of self-publishing and the indie market has changed the publishing industry forever. That alone is not only influencing what and how people write, but how people read and access works. I don’t believe we’ll ever see the predicted demise of the paperback though, because reading is more than just ingesting words, it’s an experience. Those dog-eared, creased, coffee-stained, slightly torn pages are far more intimate that the cold glare of a screen will ever be. As for how it influences my work over the next five years; I’m still keen to adhere to the traditional publishing route for now, because I believe this is more likely to keep challenging and developing me as a writer and (hopefully) move me into the upper echelons of the spec fic world. My next goals are to crack the professional markets and see at least one novel of mine on the shelves.

I would like to see the horror genre – my genre – return to its former glory days when horror meant exploring the deep, dark recesses of the imagination and unknown, rather than piggybacking onto the latest trends. And if I can be part of, or even instrumental, in that process, all the better.

This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot. In the lead up to the World Science Fiction Convention in London, we will be blogging interviews for Snapshot 2014 conducted by Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright.

To read the interviews hot off the press, check out these blogs daily from July 28 to August 10, 2014, or look for the round up on SF Signal when it’s all done. You can find the past Snapshots at the following links: 2005, 2007,  2010 and 2012.

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The Australian Spec Fic Snapshot 2014 – Holly Kench

Holly Kench is a writer and a feminist, with a classics degree and a fear of spiders. She lives in Tasmania, Australia, where a lack of sun provides ample opportunity for hiding indoors and writing off-kilter stories. Holly writes about her life as a stuffed olive on her blog Confessions of a Stuffed Olive and manages the website Visibility Fiction, promoting and publishing inclusive young adult fiction.

I am a huge fan of your cartoons! When did you first start creating them, and can you tell us a bit about the process involved?

Thank you, David!

I started creating my cartoons nearly three years ago when I first decided to start taking my writing seriously (more than writing only for myself and friends). I wrote a few stories and put them on my blog, but they seemed really boring without pictures (because I have the maturity of a 3 year old and the attention span of a dead goldfish) so I decided to illustrate them with stick figures, and it snowballed from there. At some point the illustrations kind of took over…

My process? You make it sound like these things are the result of some kind of forethought. Typically each comic or story begins with me experiencing some socially awkward event, or remembering some mortifying childhood experience. Then I write. All my posts begin as text – usually long rambles written at 3am. Often by the time I finish writing, I realise I can say the same thing with more punch if I delete all the words and just draw a few sad looking stick figures. Of course, words are my enduring love, so a lot of the time the fun for me comes from crafting those rambles. The luxury of my Olive cartoons is that I can pick and choose whether I want to create a short comic or a short story, and can use supplementary stick figures to give my stories another dimension.

astronautI create all my Olive pictures in MS Paint and maintain that it is the best graphics program since, well, MacPaint. Once I’ve added in the pictures, I hit ‘publish’ before I can think about it too long and chicken out.

You have a story in the upcoming YA anthology from Twelfth Planet Press, Kaleidoscope, alongside an amazing range of YA authors. What inspired you to write your story, and why did that anthology in particular appeal?

I was so excited when I first heard about Kaleidoscope. I’ve been a fan of Julia Rios, via The Outer Alliance Podcast, and Alisa Krasnostein, via the Galactic Suburbia Podcast and Twelfth Planet Press, for quite a while. Both their podcasts are on my must-listen list. So when I heard they had teamed up to create an anthology with a theme that basically summarised everything I was dying to see in fiction… well, I happy-freaked out.

I didn’t have to read the planned table of contents to know this was going to be a fantastic anthology. Then when I did discover the amazing authors they had included… I mean, what can I say? I just feel so lucky to be involved.

Kaleidoscope-Cover-706x1024My fan-girling for Alisa, Julia and the rest of the Kaleidoscope authors aside, the theme of Kaleidoscope is something I feel very passionately about. I’ve written quite a bit in the past about the need for more diversity in fiction and it was clear from Alisa and Julia’s initial posts about the anthology that they were coming from a very similar perspective to my reasons behind starting Visibility Fiction.

My story “Every Little Thing” was loosely inspired by a novel I wrote (but never quite finished) a few years ago. Even though I eventually put that novel in the drawer-of-doomed-manuscripts, one of the secondary characters really stuck with me. When I read the submission call for Kaleidoscope, that character came straight to mind and I knew I had to tell a story from her perspective – though Mandy ended up being significantly modified from her original being. I can’t tell you how happy I am to have her story included in Kaleidoscope. I hope people like it.

You manage the site visibilityfiction.com. What is the site’s mission, and where do you see it going in the future?

As I mentioned, Visibility Fiction’s mission coincides a lot with that of the Kaleidoscope anthology. We publish and promote young adult fiction with protagonists from diverse backgrounds. Our aim is to create a space where people can access free, positive stories about diverse characters, and to address the imbalance of representation in fiction, which tends to focus on straight, white, cis, able (etc) characters.

When I first started the site, I had just finished some university work focusing on LGBT representations in teen culture (comparing the representation of the closet in Buffy and Pretty Little Liars – heh), but I soon realised that the lack of LGBT characters in TV, film and fiction was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to missing representations.

Visibility Fiction CoverI also realised that no matter how much I wrote about the current imbalances in character representations, if I wanted to really commit to seeing change, I needed to actively address the problem from within fiction. I began writing more diverse stories, but I also realised there were so many experiences that I could not even fathom. I decided there needed to be more spaces where people could access diverse stories from diverse voices, and spaces that promoted inclusive fiction in all its forms. So I made one.

My dream for the future is to be able to offer pro-payments to authors. I want to see more stories and a wider range of authors on the site. I’m very fussy about the stories we publish, in terms of the writing and the nature of the diversity presented. We have some fantastic stories up there and I’d like to see more. A pro-payment would help with this, but I also think it’s only fair for authors to receive that kind of compensation for their work. We run on donations, though, so our budget is fairly restricted.

Looking even further down the track than that, I’d love for the site to eventually become obsolete. I want to get to the point where diversity in fiction isn’t something we have to search for and actively promote, but where diversity in fiction goes hand in hand with fiction itself. I think that would be amazing.

What Australian works have you loved recently?

I fell into a steampunk spiral a little while ago and haven’t quite managed to pull myself out. There’s a lot more of it out there this year than in the past, both adult and YA, and this is both good and bad – good because it feeds my obsession, and bad because it’s beginning to get to that point where finding the good stuff amongst the rubbish can be a bit of a chore. That said, Australian author Bec McMaster totally brings the good stuff. I’m currently reading My Lady Quicksilver, which is the third in her London Steampunk series. These are some of the most addictive books I’ve read in a while, but a word of warning, they are VERY high on the steam scale of romance, so not for those who squirm at a bit of sexy times in their fiction. There’s a great overarching intrigue plot as well, and some of the best steampunk world building I’ve read.

Getting away from steampunk for a bit, I’ve also just started Nina D’Aleo’s The Whitelist. Last year I really enjoyed Nina D’Aleo’s The Last City, which was all fabulous characters and an amazing world. She has a very unique way of writing that really appeals to me and is very captivating, so I’m excited to be starting another of her novels.

Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

I only read digital content these days, so the increase in the availability of digital content has hugely influenced my access to reading material. I love ebooks and I’m also a complete audiobook addict. I don’t remember how I functioned before audiobooks. I don’t even want to think about it. I’m also a big fan of libraries, and despite what some of the end-is-nigh paper book fanatics might say, the wonderful thing about libraries these days is the way they are adapting to provide more and more digital content (including audiobooks). Libraries are a good example of how previous models of book consumption can be adapted to make the most of the digital world, while still providing spaces that are all about book love. Seriously, guys, hug your librarian!

I think outlets for digital publications have also made it possible for more diverse and interesting fiction to be published. Stories that previously might have failed to find a path to publication through traditional models now have more opportunity to find an audience, not only via self-publishing, but also through digital first publishers which seem to be more willing to take risks with less mainstream content. For example, I’ve been reading a few female superhero novels lately (The Masked Songbird by Emmie Mears, Sidekick by Auralee Wallace and Scorched by Erica Hayes), all of which were released by digital first publishers, and I honestly have my doubts about whether some of these novels would have seen the light of day in the past.

As you can tell, I’m pretty positive about the way things are moving. There are definitely scary factors, but that’s the nature of transition, and I can see more good results from the new world of publishing than bad.

I have no idea what I’ll be publishing/writing/reading five years from now. Probably fiction, maybe some non-fiction. I can’t really say more than that.

This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot. In the lead up to the World Science Fiction Convention in London, we will be blogging interviews for Snapshot 2014 conducted by Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright.

To read the interviews hot off the press, check out these blogs daily from July 28 to August 10, 2014, or look for the round up on SF Signal when it’s all done. You can find the past Snapshots at the following links: 2005, 2007,  2010 and 2012.

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The Australian Spec Fic Snapshot 2014 – Lewis Morley

Lewis  has a Bachelor of the Arts in Interior design from Sydney College of the Arts, and a Certificate in Art Direction from the Australian Film, TV and Radio School. He has worked for almost 30 years in the Australian film & TV industries. His specialities are miniatures and visual effects, special props, concept modelmaking and illustration. He has also won the “Ditmar” award for best Australian Science Fiction Artist. You can find out more here.

In the past you have worked for WETA on some incredible movies. What was your favourite project, and why?

Being asked to work at WETA was one of the high points of my film career. The Workshop is like Mount Olympus, everyone there is the best, working at the peak of their abilities. My traditional work method is to be involved in all aspects of the design, construction, finishing and filming of my projects. WETA is organised on a much more partitioned operation, with work often shared around to give everyone a go. I worked on Weta Collectables, both Lord of the Rings and Dr. Grodbort’s blasters as well as the films “The Hobbit” and “Elysium”. The Hobbit workload was Goblin weapon finishing, Azog costume development and constructing a lightweight Gandalf dummy for the final battle. Elysium tasks included sculpting a maquette of the robot suit (my personal favourite), building a mock-up robot suit and developing an on-set disintegrating Chem-Rail gun effect.

The guitar that you made for Richard Harland is one of the coolest things I have ever seen. Can you tell us how that project came about? Have you made any other custom projects based on objects from books? If you could pick any object from any book to make, what would it be?

I was asked by Richard to create something impressive on a budget (which is my natural comfort zone!). I have a laser cutter/etcher which was perfect to produce the engraved brass and inlaid marble components that change the look of the guitar but still allow it to be played. There are some antique style brass handles over the strings which look great but may cramp his style a little! I’m also indebted to Eric Lindsay who bought a lightning-effect display which he generously gave to me because he felt I could make better use of it. Concealed beneath a clear plastic hemisphere filled with crystal shred, it gives the perfect illusion of a pulsating power crystal.

guitarIn the past, I’ve made faux tin-toys based on stories by Ray Bradbury.

minitAs for other book inspired works, I’d love to do the Martian machines from War of the Worlds. Warwick Goble, Frank Paul, Mike Trim and Roger Dean have all done distinctive versions, but with my laser cutter, I think I could do something interesting with Well’s description of the Martian pivot-less sliding knee joint…

What projects are you currently working on? Where can we see more of your work?

I have many uncompleted projects, two that I really want to get back to are short films that have already had pre-viz animatics completed, so I know how long they run and what needs to be filmed to complete them.

One is “March of Progress” a faux 1960’s style documentary about a veteran flyer of the Inner World War who used his magnetic powered aircraft to vanquish inter-dimensional bio weapons.

The other is “Your standard day on the Nets” a claymation short featuring my comic character “Peregrine Besset” dealing with inter-dimensional junk falling into her world…

I created this character almost 15 years ago and am currently developing a rebooted version with a more considered world view. I take the writing workshops at Continuum very seriously and am attempting to integrate the insights I’ve learned there into a more holistic narrative.

godofthedeadThe existing 7 issues I have written, drawn or produced are archived in the comics page at www.redworldstories.com but I feel they are a very crude version of the story I now want to tell.

redworld2
A more complete overview of my various works can be seen at www.morleypride.com

What Australian works have you loved recently?

My most recent film was “Infini” which had an ambitious high concept “Outland meets 28 Days later” vibe. I haven’t seen the final cut, so I don’t know if they’ve successfully pulled off the story structure, but I had a great opportunity to inject some interesting design work into the hand guns and helmets. In a world clogged with spacey combat helmets, I was able to give the final look a slightly different feel.

With Australian  stuff that I’ve had nothing to do with, the writings of Anna Tambour are a firm favourite, not just her stories like “Crandolin” but also her blog “Medlar Comfits“.

Have recent changes in the film industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

The basic structure for film production has changed in the last 15 years, moving away from a reliance on multi-skilled individuals and towards more ordered workers within highly compartmentalized skill sets. This makes it a lot harder to learn different skills, move between departments or progress beyond a defined pay scale. The simplest example is Ray Harryhausen doing most of the effects for “Earth Vs the Flying Saucers” by himself versus the 15,000 people employed in the latest “Planet of the Apes” film. The increased sophistication and demands of modern big budget production means it is almost impossible for one person (no matter how skilled) to produce a finished work. I have found my options within big productions shrinking and I am moving towards independent productions that still allow me some creative freedom.

I think the only way forward for my own comic story is as a web comic. This imposes a three-panel episode structure, but also allows for full colour in the final images (something beyond the economics of photocopied comics) Chopping the story into smaller instalments may also allow for more regular delivery.

peregrinebessetThe only thing I can’t solve is how to get any sort of return on the effort expended. Maybe some kind of micro-payment might give some incentive, but as it exists the project is purely a labour of love. I have dreams of some kind of animated version, but as yet, no practical way of achieving it…

This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot. In the lead up to the World Science Fiction Convention in London, we will be blogging interviews for Snapshot 2014 conducted by Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright.

To read the interviews hot off the press, check out these blogs daily from July 28 to August 10, 2014, or look for the round up on SF Signal when it’s all done. You can find the past Snapshots at the following links: 2005, 2007,  2010 and 2012.

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The Australian Spec Fic Snapshot 2014 – Amanda J Spedding

Amanda J Spedding is an award-winning author, editor and proofreader. Her stories have been published in local and international markets earning honourable mentions and recommended reads. She won the 2011 Australian Shadows Award (short fiction) for her steampunk-horror, ‘Shovel-Man Joe’.

Amanda is the owner of Phoenix Editing and Proofreading, and between bouts of editing, is currently writing the first draft of her novel.

Amanda lives in Sydney with her sarcastically-gifted husband and two very cool kids.

You’ve been a big contributor to the growth of the Australian Horror Writers Association. What are some of the AHWA’s achievements that you are most proud of? Where do you see it heading, and what challenges does it face?

Thanks, but it’s more being one of the many volunteers who’ve worked together to provide a home and voice for Australian writers and publishers. What achievements stand out for me? I’d have to say Midnight Echo and the Mentor Program. I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with both. It was the Mentor Program that drew me to the AHWA, and getting mentored by the extraordinary Kaaron Warren gave me incredible insight into my writing and the publishing industry. It also made me want to give back, so I became a committee member and held the position for three years – I hope the AHWA goes on to do more great things.

As for Midnight Echo, just holding a copy in your hands, with its horrifically beautiful covers and insanely good stories speaks for itself. As co-editor of issue 8 (with Marty Young and Mark Farrugia), getting to shape an issue and work with fantastic authors from both here and overseas was definitely a highlight.

AJspeddingYou also run an editing and proofreading business. How does working on the other side of the desk influence your own writing?

As an editor, I have an innate understanding of grammar, story structure and elements – all the things I work with authors on achieving in their work. ‘Write tight’, I tell them, and it’s something I definitely take on with my own work. Words have to fight for their right in the story.

However, as a writer, being an editor can have its drawbacks, especially when it comes to unrealistic expectations of perfection (I’m anything if not self-aware) – I’m an editor, I should be getting everything right. It does help, though, when sending off a story submission, that I’ve got the grammar, syntax and tense issues right. Being able to look at a story from both sides of the desk is a definite plus, but it’s no guarantee.

snafuYou’ve been very successful with your short fiction, with award recognition and appearances on an international RRL. What is it you enjoy about writing short stories? Are there any longer works in the pipeline?

Short stories are a blast to write. Being able to tell a fully-rounded story within a limited word-count is part of what has always drawn me to the short form. Writing horror allows me to reach into the worst time of a character’s life and… exploit it. Be it one hellish scene, or a drawn-out tortuous series of events, a short story forces you to really focus the horror and the effect of this on the character. Like I said, a blast!

I have two projects in the works at the moment. I’m currently writing the draft of my first novel – an apocalypse story that doesn’t shy from the horrors (inflicted on and by the characters in this world) that come with extinction-events. Creating on such a big scale – geography, faith-systems, inter-connectivity… it’s been a steep learning curve, and I’m loving it.

The other project is a comic based on my short story ‘The Road’ (Midnight Echo #9). The short story was ripe with imagery that really suited this medium. The script is now with illustrator Montgomery Borror, who is doing an incredible job bringing it to life. I’m very excited about both projects.

road page 17What Australian works have you loved recently?

I’ve been reading a lot of Aussie pieces of late. I’ve just finished reading Carnies by Martin Livings, and that was a great tale – it really dragged me into the story, and I was more than happy to spend time in his old-world carnival. I’m currently reading Davey Ribbon by Matthew Tait, and am really enjoying its supernatural flavour. Alan Baxter’s Bound, and Andrew McKeirnan’s short story collection, Last Year, When We Were Young, are next on my ‘to read’ list.

Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

In regard to writing, no – I don’t think the changes affect the way anyone writes. Sweeping statement aside, it’s more how a writer decides they wish to publish – a choice many writers didn’t have ten, fifteen, twenty years ago. Anything other than traditional publishing was looked down upon. That stigma is almost gone now, and with a lot of author-published books being on par, or even better than traditionally published books, it definitely is a viable option for many authors. With my editing business, I’m seeing a lot more writers wanting to take the author-publishing route; wanting control of the final finished product and how it’s presented and marketed.

Five years from now? I’ll still be writing horror – I have a passion for the genre and its many sub-genres. I fell in love with steampunk when I wrote ‘Shovel-Man Joe’, which won the Australian Shadows Award for short fiction in 2011, so there’s definitely a steampunk/horror novel in my future. Reading? Any great story with a dark bent, and hopefully many great stories from Australian authors. I couldn’t even begin to predict what will be ‘on trend’ in five years. Publishing? I hope to be publishing novels and comics that leave readers reeling and have them thinking ‘what would I do?’

This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot. In the lead up to the World Science Fiction Convention in London, we will be blogging interviews for Snapshot 2014 conducted by Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright.

To read the interviews hot off the press, check out these blogs daily from July 28 to August 10, 2014, or look for the round up on SF Signal when it’s all done. You can find the past Snapshots at the following links: 2005, 2007,  2010 and 2012.