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The Australian Spec Fic Snapshot 2014 – Kimberley Gaal

Kimberley Gaal is a 29-year-old speculative fiction writer who lives in Canberra, ACT. She was accepted into the 2012 JUMP National Mentoring Program for Young and Emerging Artists and was mentored by award-winning horror and speculative fiction writer Kaaron Warren. Her first novel, Dark Soul, is the product of that mentorship. Kimberley is on the committee of the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild and has participated in panels on the place of mentorship in your writing at the speculative fiction conferences Conflux and Natcon, as well as appearing on less formal panels discussing the general awesomeness of zombies.

A few years ago, you went through the JUMP National Mentoring Program for Emerging Artists, and were mentored by the amazing Kaaron Warren! Looking back, what did you get from the mentor program? Did it have an impact on your writing, and its direction?

Absolutely – it had a huge impact. Kaaron is perfect parts art and business when it comes to writing. She is committed to her work and won’t compromise when it comes to quality or style, but also recognises the realities of the industry and is completely professional about it all. Working with her helped me cultivate that balance in my own practice.

I write very different content to Kaaron, in a very different style; it was never a case of trying to emulate her results, but rather to learn from her methods and experience. The JUMP Program encourages participants to choose mentors that can help you grow in areas that you know you are lacking in. Since I’m still in the early days of my writing career, I have a lot of those areas (I’m one big ball of lack, really) but Kaaron has an excellent way of drawing out my strengths while forcing me to face my weaknesses instead of hiding from them like a big scaredy runaway. She taught me to commit to my projects, to finish them even when I’m not ‘feeling the vibe’, and to look at the results from two very different angles: objectively, in terms of how good a product it is on its own, and subjectively, in terms of how well does it tell the story I want to tell, the way I want to tell it.

I learned a lot during the JUMP program, but I think that lesson – about the importance of recognising both the artistic side of writing and the ‘get down and get on with it’ side – was the most important. I don’t view writing as something I only do when the muse hits me anymore. I don’t quite buy into the ‘view it like you view your job’ idea, because to me a job is something you do for a guaranteed result, and it’s very hard to guarantee the result of your writing. I certainly treat it with more dedication and perseverance than I used to, though. Stories are like wombats trying to cross a highway (work with me here). On one side of the highway they’re just ideas. On the other side of the highway they’re finished works. You want to get them from one side to the other, and the only way to do that is by building those little underground tunnel things and hoping they go through them.

Kim_B&WEach time I sit at my keyboard and put in some writing time, I’m building another tunnel. Sometimes I can work for hours and nothing happens – no wombats like my tunnel, and the things coming through that I think are wombats are just fat dogs in wombat suits. Sometimes I sit down and find six wombats waiting to get through at once. Sometimes I think, ‘Kim, it’s time to come up with a better metaphor for this writing thing’ but then the wombats get jack of waiting for me, and if there’s one thing you don’t want, it’s a jacked-off wombat. In the end, the more time you put in, the more tunnels you can make and the better your chances of the right wombats being on the right side of the highway at the right time. Kaaron taught me that. But she did it without wombats, because she’s a lot classier than me.

Your manuscript has been accepted by the Cooke Literary Agency – congratulations! How has it been working with an agent?

I love my agent, Rachel Letofsky. I went into my working relationship with her in a very serious fashion – agents are business people, and I had to be very business-y in my dealings with them. That ended when Rachel sent me a photo of a duck statue she has on her mantelpiece and I made up a story about how its unfortunate wing-to-body-size crushed its hopes of a musical career and forced it into a seedy life as a Duck of the Night. She’s brilliant, and the rest of the team at Cooke seem pretty great as well.

She’s also been surprisingly helpful in terms of manuscript development. I say surprising because I didn’t think agents did all that much work with their authors in that regard. Working with Rachel has been a lot like working with an editor. My novel, Dark Soul, is miles better as a result, and much more marketable too. I’m excited, and nervous, and very busy picturing best and worse case scenarios, because I like to think if I can imagine every possible outcome I can somehow be prepared for stuff. In 29 years of living that has never worked, but I’m nothing if not consistent.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m making steady progress on the second novel in my series, Old Soul. My protagonist, Mae, spent the first book building a family for herself and working out who she was when she wasn’t a rage-blind monster. Now that she’s got that sorted, I thought I’d break her family apart and shatter her beliefs. Just for fun. She gets to travel though, so she can’t complain too much.

I’ve also been making headway in short story writing, and my first substantial publication will happen in a few months. Shorts have never been a strength of mine, but working with Kaaron and getting more involved with the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild’s short story crit circle has given me a much better understanding of how they work. I discovered a secret: when you’re just getting into short stories, don’t start by reading all the massively award winning stuff. Those stories were selected by other writers who recognise the skills and techniques involved, and who have read so many stories they are often drawn to unusual, cutting-edge stuff that can be difficult to appreciate when all you want is a good, fun read. Instead, find a genre you like and look for collections in that genre. My favourites so far have been the “Zombies vs Robots” stuff (zombies are my favourite, closely followed by robots) and some of the Twelfth Planet Press collections. They are quality works that are still accessible enough to read and enjoy before bed.

What Australian works have you loved recently?

After she kicked butt at the Aurealis Awards I got Allyse Near’s novel “Fairytales for Wilde Girls” and pretty much loved it. I hope she keeps doing great things. I’m also a fan of Craig Cormick and he seems to spit books out like Yoshi shoots eggs, so there’s always something new to read. The CSFG is full of writers that have kicked a lot of goals lately. And Kaaron, naturally.

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 think I’m too new to the game to really have an established ‘way that I work.’ I do follow all the industry talk with interest, but things are changing so rapidly that my personal, very inexperienced opinion is that it would be stupid to spend too much time trying to catch the waves that are forming, because by the time you’re on one it’s broken and the next is already half-formed. If you find yourself on a good wave, ride it and enjoy, but don’t go out of your way to follow someone else’s example just because it worked for them, because that’s no guarantee it will work for you. There are successes and failures in every area of publishing: for every person screaming ‘traditional publishing is dead, long live self-publishing’ there’s another person bemoaning how self-publishing has gotten so out-of-hand that it’s impossible to find good work amidst the sea of dross. I think both are probably true, and neither are probably true, and maybe nothing is true at all and we’re all figments of George R.R. Martin’s imagination and he’s just looking for ways to kill us all off. I swear I saw a white walker the other day. He was riding a Vespa.

I do think you need to be smart – or at least, as smart as you can. If you want a writing career, by all means take your shot. Work hard, learn constantly, be nice to those around you whether they’re ahead of you in the game or not. Be professional, be brave, do your research and try your best. But be willing to accept that it might not happen regardless, and that’s ok. If you want to be a successful author because that’s the only way you think you can feel special, or worthwhile, then you’re setting yourself up for major pain, because no matter how good you are there will always be factors you just can’t control, and they could be the deciding ones. My writing career, such as it is and such as it might be, only really started when I accepted that, and I’ve never enjoyed writing as much as I’m enjoying it now. I hope I make it. I really do. But I’ll be ok if I don’t.

In five years I think I’ll be reading the same stuff I read now, but maybe in different formats. I already write all across the board, so I don’t think that will change except that hopefully I’ll be better. Getting better is the one goal I think every writer should have, all the time, no matter how good they already are. If you don’t want to get better at anything you’re doing, or do it in new ways, stop doing it. You don’t love it anymore and you only get one shot at life, so you shouldn’t waste 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 – Aidan Doyle

Aidan Doyle is a Melbourne based writer and computer programmer. His first short story was published in Aurealis in 1993. He attended Clarion South in 2009 and has since been published in places such as Lightspeed, Strange Horizons and Fantasy. He has visited more than 80 countries and his experiences include teaching English in Japan, interviewing ninjas in Bolivia and going ten-pin bowling in North Korea.

You’ve found success in writing for both children (including an Aurealis nomination), and for adults (with numerous pro sales and mentions on international RRLs). Do many of the same skills and methods translate between the age groups, or is there a big adjustment in mindset required?

My natural writing style – lean, and with an emphasis on plot and humour is suited to writing for children. The main adjustment for me when writing for different age groups is subject material. Some of my stories for adults revolve around the regret of the passing of time, which is a theme that doesn’t have as strong an appeal for children.

DrabblecastHokkaidoGreenYou are a bit of a citizen of the world, regularly travelling to some amazing destinations! Do the different locations bleed into your writing, or inspire you?

For me travel is one of the best ways to get ideas. The people you meet and the history you learn. Worldbuilding is important in speculative fiction and it helps to have seen a bit of our world. I lived in Japan for 4 years and many of my stories are set in Japan. Last year I did a trip from Svalbard to Antarctica and I have a few ideas for stories set in those locations. Lots of markets these days like stories set somewhere other than a generic New York style big city.

IMG_21090I am a big fan of your writing goal tracker Planet Bingo (in fact it is my desktop screen saver on my writing machine). How important is the setting of goals to your writing process?

Jeff VanderMeer was one of my tutors at Clarion South and stressed the importance of setting goals. His Booklife writing guide has lots of useful information on the topic. I’m a big fan of checklists and to do lists. It is easier to achieve your goals if you know what they are! I use Workflowy (http://workflowy.com/) to keep a list of current activities. I also use Trello (http://trello.com/) with a small group of other writers to compare our weekly or monthly writing goals and encourage each other.

goalsJeff stressed the importance of setting concrete goals (I’m going to write 10 short stories this year versus I want to write more) and goals that are within your control (I’m going to submit 5 stories to Clarkesworld this year versus I want to be published in Clarkesworld). That being said, it’s nice to record your achievements. Christie Yant created a writing career bingo spreadsheet and I adapted the idea and made a program (http://www.aidandoyle.net/2013/08/21/writing-career-bingo/) that spits out an image with planets when I achieve a goal. Taking over the galaxy one planet at a time.

What Australian works have you loved recently?

The amount of historical detail in Hannah Kents’ Burial Rites is amazing. Jason Franks’ Sixsmiths is very funny. Cat Sparks’ collection, The Bride Price, is packed full of short story goodness.

IMG_20000Have 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?

The main thing for me is that it’s now much easier to submit to overseas markets. Email is much quicker and cheaper than overseas postage and international reply coupons. I have a young adult novel out on submission now and I’m close to finishing a middle grade novel based on my Aurealis nominated story. After that I have plans for some young adult novels and a novel based on my swordwriter stories.

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 – Pete Aldin

Pete Aldin lives in the burbs of Melbourne, Australia. His professional life is spent helping people make major life decisions and re-training people for the workforce. His private life is spent making things up.

His short stories have haunted the pages of many a magazine and anthology including Niteblade, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, A is for Apocalypse and Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show. As a father himself, he has written for several parenting magazines.

He is a rabid Chelsea FC supporter, he wastes countless hours playing FIFA games on xBox and he makes a reasonable stir fry. He can often be found lurking in the shadows at www.petealdin.com.

You’ve built up a strong list of short fiction credits (including a pro sale to Intergalactic Medicine Show). What inspired you to start writing? Who are your influences?

As a teenager, I discovered Asimov’s robot tales, Narnia, space operas and believe it or not Catweazle(!) – and I dreamed of writing a book, bringing other people the same joy I’d felt.

I let that dream die in my late 20s with dozens of novel projects started and never completed, believing it was “dumb” and an unworthy expenditure of my time and attention. Late in my 30s, I began writing non-fiction articles for management and parenting magazines, as well as blogging in a community of Dad Bloggers. I had so much positive feedback, I figured, “Maybe I am a writer.” Then the experience of holding a glossy paper magazine with my name and my words in it sealed the deal. I was turning 40, I’d had a good idea for a novel since 1994 and I thought “If not now, when?”

peteInfluences: Stephen King, Raymond E Feist, Martin Cruz Smith, Harry Harrison (his Rat series) and a bunch of less-successful authors whose names I could no longer tell you. But these authors taught me about style, about maintaining a dark edge, about the art of humour in hard fiction and about poignancy. I love to make people feel  something as they read my work. I was particularly stoked when a beta reader told me she read one of my action scenes late at night and was so hopped up on adrenaline, she couldn’t sleep that night! I’m drawn to writers like that, who play with style and with emotions, who write complexity.

Congratulations on the sale of your novel to Clan Destine Press! Could you tell us a bit about the book, and the journey to finding a home for it?

Thank you! Wow, the journey. The journey. Well, I started Eventide in 1994 (or made a series of false starts, I should say, between then and ’95), then left the opening 3 chapters in a drawer until I turned 40 in 2006. It took me three years then to write and edit it. Just as I was completing it, James Cameron’s Avatar came out in cinemas, and I had to do yet another round of edits because he had used many of the same names and even the same scene(!) as I had in my novel. A month or two later, I was happy with it and started querying publishers and agents.

Two agents wrote back in the 12 months following, saying they were very interested, but at 180 thousand words (say 650 pages in a paperback) it was wayyyy too long for a first time author and could I cut it back to 100,000 words? I said, No, but thanks and put the book aside to start working on two different novels, planning them to that 100 thousand word mark.

I met Lindy Cameron at the Melbourne Continuum con mid-2013 and pitched her the idea (badly). She was gracious and asked me to send a sample and a synopsis. She got back to me and said, “Love the idea. But way too long. Can you cut it down to 130k?” Over the next three months (with some expert and serendipitous advice from Cat Sparks) I got it down to 149, 000 without ruining the story. Still too long for any publisher to risk with a paper book, but Clan Destine read it, loved it and said they would publish it as an eBook with the possibility of a hard copy print down further down the track. And I was one very happy writer!

My blurb for the book follows (though Clan Destine may well change this upon publishing it in 2015, because it could certainly do with fresh eyes!):

Corporate military cop John Ryder thought he had a deal going with his employers, one that meant he’d never do planets. Apparently he was wrong.

With the recent arrest of a serial killer to his credit, Ryder finds himself the victim of his own success when he’s sent to solve the murder of a Marine at a research facility on a classified world. Twenty years living in space – where things are clean, orderly and techno-chic, where advanced forensics make solving crime simple – haven’t prepared him for an investigation amidst the mud, dank heat and chaos of an unsettled planet.

In this place where the indigenous stone-age Jarinyi are the ancient guardians of a wonder-drug sought by Ryder’s corporate masters, he becomes increasingly aware that the role his bosses have cast him in is spin-doctor … and becomes ever more compelled to pursue the truth. Assisted only by a military policewoman whose deeply religious nature and resemblance to Ryder’s dead lover cause him an increasingly uncomfortable attraction, his inquiry is obstructed by a smarmy anthropologist siding with the locals, a scheming Lieutenant with a hidden agenda and a drug-addicted and sadistic commando whose psychosis is fast spiraling out of control.

What’s next for Pete Aldin?

Another novel (a fifth novel project) after I’ve completed my current werewolf one in a month or so: this new one’s a Buddy Story set post-apocalypse. I have loved post-apocalyptic tales since I saw the Omega Man at about age 15. I’ve toyed with a few short stories, had a couple published, but the entire full-length story for this novel downloaded itself into my brain about a week ago and has been clawing its way out onto paper ever since.

A isI’m also enjoying writing for Rhonda Parrish’s series of anthologies A is for Apocalypse (out later this month), B is for Broken, etc. Still working on my fantasy short story for B. Apart from that, I’m putting short stories to rest as I need to focus on telling longer tales…

What Australian works have you loved recently?

Heaps of them. Devin Madson’s The Blood of Whisperers is simply the best epic fantasy I’ve ever read, and I’m horribly slack in getting around to the sequel. Meanwhile I’m halfway through Jason Frank’s Bloody Waters which is a charming read. Earlier this year I enjoyed A New Kind of Death by Alison Goodman (5 star thriller). The opening and closing stories in the Tales of Australia: Great Southern Land anthology were sheer genius (aw shucks -Ed), as were all the stories in Surviving the End. Also SM Johnstone’s Sleeper was a very tight and punchy YA novel I read very early this year – that’s worth a look for teenagers, especially girls.

The standout for me at the moment is the historical drama I’m 50 pages off finishing called Burial Rites. I mentioned earlier that I love poignancy in books I read. This book is so emotional, that I find myself quite choked up and even angry at times. It depicts a sad 19th Century world that is cruel to the people in it. And the prose is to die for.

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 am one of those people who vowed never to read eBooks…and who now owns a Kindle with about 50 books on it. From time to time, I’ll continue to buy eBooks when they’re problematic to pick up in a local store or when eBook is the only option available (as it will be with my own novel next year!) But I’m a big believer in both paper books (which become treasured artefacts) and buying from local bookstores.

ASIM_56_229_317-220x304I think the opportunities for emerging writers like myself into the near future include both epublishing and small press. With both, there is the chance to not become stuck in a rut or labelled: for instance, I had never considered the option of writing novellas until recently, since these are more attractive to both small publishing houses and are easier to create and market if an author self-publishes. This has meant I now have rough outlines/ideas for three novellas sitting in my “Maybe” folder in my office.

I think it’s a larger world for authors now, but with bookstores on the decline, it’s a tougher one for readers to find some of the new gold that’s out there.

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 – T.B McKenzie

Born just before the 80’s began T.B McKenzie grew up in South Gippsland, Victoria, where boys either surfed or played football. He did neither, and, as this was a time before the Internet, he found his escape in books. Somehow he missed the boat on Tolkien but discovered instead the works of Loyd Alexander, Terry Pratchett and Ursula Le-Guin, who all had a lot to say about things people seemed to have forgotten. He never looked back and ever since his first story — written in grade four about a monster, a sword, and a hero — he knew he wanted to be a writer. He lives now with his wife and young son in Melbourne, where he teaches Art at high school by day, and swings a sword in a Western Martial Art class by night (turns out this is way more fun than surfing or football). Every now and then he even finds the time to write.

You can find out more on his blog, http://magickless.blogspot.com.au/ and facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/magickless

You devote a large part of your blog to the process of writing, approaching it from directions that I had never even thought of – such as the concept of Kishōtenketsu. Could you tell us a bit about your process, and how some of these methods have helped with your writing?

I was a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants (panster) writer for the first few years, and only when I had an editor did I realise how much time I’d wasted. Then I became what George RR Martin calls a Gardener, and spent most of my re-drafting weeding. Along the way I became very interested in plot structure, using the three act arc as a guide to inject conflict and tension in every scene. My book was published and just as I sat down to repeat the process with the sequel, along came an article on Kishōtenketsu. It was a bit of a revelation as it’s structure of KI (intro)shō (follow), ten (twist) and ketsu (consolidate), fit more closely to what I loved most about my genre. I’ve read somewhere that we don’t gravitate to a genre of book, so much as the emotion we want that book to give us. Romance fans want love, Crime and Horror readers hunger for fear and suspense.  I think with Science Fiction and Fantasy, what I’m looking for both as a reader and writer is a sense of wonder. Kishōtenketsu, I believe, has wonder at its heart. Perhaps no better example is the movie ‘My neighbour Totoro’ which I think might be the most pure adherent to the structure that I have found.

TravisheadshotB&WforNewSiteUsing this lens has made me see more clearly what I want my writing to do, both on the micro scale of scenes and chapters, and the macro with the individual novels and the series as a whole. Originally I was going to wrap Magickless up in a trilogy, each book divided into three parts. Now each novel has four parts, and it will be a quadrology. Or a tetrology–I never have worked out what to call it, but there will be four of them. The writing program, Scrivener, has helped this kind of approach, as it is set up to work outside in. In this sense I’ve become an architect, but instead of being limited by this, it has set me free.

Worldbuilding seems to a big part of your writing, with a lot of work going into the back ground of your stories. How do you approach creating a secondary world?

The whole idea for Magickless came to me when I was arguing with friends about how stupid it was to have a quasi-medieval setting were only a few ‘chosen ones’ could use magic. If magic was real in the world, then there had better be a damn good reason why only a small percentage got to use it, and if there wasn’t then everyone should be able to access this power. But if that was the case, then there was going to have to be some rules. Money would be meaningless unless power itself was the currency. Then there is the question of limitation–does everyone get to work any spell they like if they have the right book, or are there more intricate laws that dictate magic use? Once I asked the question ‘and what would you do in this world if you didn’t have magic?’ I knew I had a book. So I guess Magickless all began with world building. If you keep giving logical answers to questions about how a world will function, you cannot help but build a believable place. Customs, names–even the layout of towns–must all link to the driving force of a society. And of course there is the language itself. I am no Tolkien, but from the beginning I wanted a unique way for the inhabitants of Arkadia to cast their spells. I started looking into a priory or philosophical languages, as I knew that magic words and grammar needed to be far more precise that our metaphorical English. In my search I stumbled on Solresol, a forgotten musical language. I was lucky to find a small community of linguists who were trying to revive both its written and spoken forms, and they helped formulate the spells you can see in the book. This was a big part of the world building, as it shaped one of the most crucial questions–how does a child learn to be a magician? Of course, I also take world building literally and make my own maps.

Dragon and the Crow cover_POD_04 (2)

Your fantasy series, Magickless, has had an interesting journey, with the original publisher, Dragonfall Press, closing down. I believe that you’ve found a new home (congratulations!) for your books, but it must have been a tough thing to deal with? Can you tell us a bit about the ups and downs?

I signed with Dragonfall in 2011, and was thrilled to be part of a fledgling mission to bring independent Australian SF to bookstores. My editor, Michael Foster, helped shape the early manuscript into something I was really proud of, and after its release I was getting great reviews and making steady sales. All was well in the world and I was just finishing up the final edit on the sequel when out of the blue, Dragonfall had to close. I was devastated, of course, but I saw Michael’s point. He was a writer first and foremost, and running a publishing house by himself was leaving him with zero time for his own projects. He made the call to get out while the going was good, and not only returned all the rights to the authors he had signed, gave us the rights to the cover art he had paid for. I was flat for a while to say the least, but then realised I had a unique opportunity. So much of what I now wanted to do with the series had come to me towards the end of writing the sequel. Most writers move on, some return years later to do their definitive edition, but I could get it right now. So I started to re-write, and at the same time I re-submitted my work to new publishers, being very upfront with my situation. Satalyte Publications, a Melbourne based house, said yes, and slowly everything fell into place. Once again I am with an exciting independent publisher, have a brilliant editor, and am among an incredible line up of writers–old and new–who have a collective noun of books in the stores with many more to come next year. It’s been nine years since I first started writing Magickless, and I hope 2015 will be the year all the hard work pays off.

Sceptre and the Sword cover_POD_05 (3)What Australian works have you loved recently?

By day I teach Art, and this term I have an artist in residence, Bernard Caleo, working with my classes and teaching them all about graphic novels. I was never a big comic book fan, and if I had to chose one medium as my primary source of entertainment, it would be audio books–about as far from a graphic novel as you can get. Then Bernard opened my eyes to the amazing underground comic scene in Melbourne and I realised that there are some stories that cannot be conveyed by words alone. Artist like Shaun Tan and his book ‘The Arrival’ can only work in the nuance of the panel. But the one I’ve really fallen in love with is Nicki Greenberg’s ‘Hamlet’. Shakespeare has always been tough for me to get into. I can’t stand the BBC style acting, or the overly earnest movie adaptations, and trying to read the plays in script form is jarring. Yet all writers should study the Bard, right? Well, it turns out that the ‘staged on the page’ version was the answer for me. All the original dialogue is there, delivered by a cast of surreal characters and juxtaposed against backgrounds that add symbology and resonance to the text. I might not be able to read it as I ride to work, but then again, just as some books need more than words, some stories  need to be read sitting down, somewhere quiet.

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?

Aside from reading to my son, I don’t read many paper books anymore. I am what they call an audio-book-o-phile, and my audible library is growing fast. No one can deny that the book industry has changed, and while some are still waiting for the ebook magic bullet to hit its target, I think the greatest threat is TV. Books take time, and so does a season of Game of Thrones. Unfortunately, for an overly stimulated audience, reading seems set to become a forgotten hobby.The industry needs to find a new marketing angle and I think it could be audio books. At the moment they are still seen by many teenagers as something their parents listen to, but more and more are taking them up. Ecosystems like Audible, which will soon be opening its publication branch ACX worldwide, not only provide a way for authors to get their works recorded, but also into the earphones of anyone with a smartphone and the app. Some writers I talk to about this balk at the idea. Books have to be printed, they say, read! But to me, audio books take what we do back to the very beginning, when an elder sat across the fire-pit and told you a tale that captivated your imagination. Writing came later. We are story tellers, and my hope is that the narrated versions of books not only re-engage a generation with novels, but also re-invigorate the ecosystem of publishing.

Travis is also looking for anonymous beta readers for his new novel. If you are interested, contact me and I will organise a copy.

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 – Rocky Wood

Rocky Wood lives in Melbourne and is the co-author of three major works about Stephen King, each of which was nominated for the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Non-Fiction – ‘Stephen King: Uncollected, Unpublished’, ‘Stephen King: The Non-Fiction’ and ‘Stephen King: The Literary Companion’. The latter won the Bram Stoker Award for 2011.

He is also the author of ‘Horrors! Great Tales of Fear and Their Creators’, a graphic novel illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne, which was shortlisted for a Black Quills Award and nominated for an Aurealis Award; and the upcoming ‘Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times’, a graphic novel co-written with Lisa Morton, and illustrated by Greg Chapman.

He has spoken at numerous conventions, including the SKEMER Con in Estes Park, Colorado (2003); Continuum 3 (2005) and Continuum 4 (2006) in Melbourne; Conflux 3 in Canberra (2006); the 2nd Annual Stephen King Dollar Baby Festival in Bangor, Maine (2005); the World Horror Conventions in Salt Lake City (2008 and 2012) and Austin, Texas (2011); the Bram Stoker Award Weekends in Burbank, California (2009) and Long Island, New York (2011); and Worldcon in Melbourne (2010). He has even addressed Stephen King’s hometown Historical Society about the author’s works and motivations. He has published non-fiction worldwide for the past thirty five years.

Rocky is President of the Horror Writers Association, having served on the Board since 2008 and is also a proud member of the Australian Horror Writers Association.

You’re known as being one of the foremost experts, if not the expert, on the works of Stephen King. When did you first encounter his work, and what was it that captured your interest?

I saw ‘Carrie’ at the movies in 1977. I headed straight for a bookshop to get the book but they didn’t have it. They did have ‘Salem’s Lot’ and the rest, as they say, is history. I’d never read any writer quite like King, and haven’t since. He has a unique voice, the characters were absolutely real (I felt like I knew them, or at least, people just like them), and the story lines compelling. Each book and story built on those reader benefits. Steve has never let me down.

rocky-wood-3 rocky-wood-le-fan-n-1-de-stephen-king,M131738You are currently President of the Horror Writers Association. What do you consider your greatest achievement so far, either personally or collectively? What do you see as the greatest challenges lying ahead for the HWA?

Under achievements our expansion of membership from 400 to 1100 is pleasing as it shows that members are happy with the broad program of the HWA. The expansion of membership provides us with funds to reinvest, for example in buying booths and tables at various festivals and conventions where we can promote our genre, the HWA and our members wares. It also allows us to invest in a wide range of member benefits.

The expansion in membership also gives us many more volunteers to run these programs, for example in the areas of our Young Adult, Library and Poetry outreach programs, our Halloween Haunts and Women in Horror blogs, member discounts, agents listings and so on. I’m particularly proud of the world class conventions we have hosted under my Presidency, including the combination of our Bram Stoker Award (R) Weekend with the World Horror Convention in New Orleans in 2013 and the upcoming combination of the Weekend and the 25th World Horror Convention in Atlanta next year.

As to challenges, we need to maintain our momentum in dozens of areas – hard work for any organisation entirely made up of volunteer members. We need to stay relevant to our members as the publishing industry changes. We need to provide fresh approaches to horror conventions. And we need to do everything in our power to promote the horror genre to an ever growing number of readers and viewers.

8bd50b2243ecfbfbd5c6ae5865271685_resized1You’ve produced a number of acclaimed graphic novels. Are there any more on the horizon? Have you considered any other forms of fiction, or are graphic novels your preference?

I’m in awe of those who write great fiction. Graphic novels are a form I learnt and am grateful for the good reviews they garnered and the Bram Stoker Award Lisa Morton and I won for ‘Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times’. Unfortunately, I suffer from Motor Neurone Disease (ALS in North America) that is severely impacting my ability to type and therefore commit to major projects.

witch-huntsWhat Australian works have you loved recently?

‘Wolf Creek: Origin’ by Greg McLean and Aaron Sterns is a chilling and all too plausible explanation of how Mick Taylor became an implacable serial killer.

Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work?

Ebook publishing has expanded my reach and sales (and income). I’ve published (but not self-published) exclusive ebook editions of one book and will publish an update to that book in both ebook and print shortly. I don’t know that the latter would have been published if ebooks weren’t around and so effective as a channel. So, the main influence is on the target market I’m writing for.

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 – Stephanie Lai

Stephanie Lai is a writer, publicist, and left-handed archer; she is occasionally paid to train people in surviving our oncoming dystopic climate change future. She writes about identities, queerness, and steampunk. Tweet her at @yiduiqie. Check her out on stephanielai.net and no-award.net

As the Chair of Continuum 9, it seemed that you had a real focus on not only ensuring diversity and accessibility, but seeing issues of social justice addressed and discussed. Two years on, what do you see as the legacy of that approach? How do you think it was received by con goers?

I think it was received very well! One con later, we had some nice feedback at C10 on some of the continuing themes, some really engaged and engaging GoHs, and some great responses. And I’m gonna be programming for C11, so I’m looking forward to continuing my agenda for addressing these issues. I especially love- and note I do not take responsibility for any of these things – that Ambelin and Jim, Continuum 10’s guests, so strongly addressed diversity, social justice, and shitty history in their speeches and appearances. On a personal appearance level, I enjoyed the support I received when I took people to task for being clueless, offensive, or just plain racist. And I love that I feel like that would continue, even without me around.

stephanielaiOne of your current projects is the excellent No Award blog, which you run with Liz Barr. What was the impetus in starting the blog, and what is your mission?

No Award was actually an extension of my secret agenda for Continuum 9. Liz and I found, whilst running a panel on social justice 101, that people were asking for Australian SFF social justice resources and we were really having to direct them to USA ones. So we decided to start our own. The focus of No Award is not solely on SFF, but as SFF fans (and with Liz and I being past and future Continuum Chairs) SFF features frequently. No Award’s mission is to look at media with a critical, and particularly Australian-hyphenate, eye.

Other than your blog, are you currently working on any other projects?

So many! Later this year I’m involved in Chinese Whispers, a play/installation piece that will be premièring at this year’s Melbourne Fringe, looking at identity and racism through the lens of the race riots in Jakarta in 1998. I’m about to finalise a piece I’ve written for a Dr Who Companions antho, and I also have an exciting series in the works for No Award, looking at climate change dystopias.

What Australian works have you loved recently?

Actually the piece I’ve probably enjoyed the most isn’t sff – its YA crime, by an old friend, Ellie Marney. And its set around inner north Melbourne, which was nice.

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’ve become very focused on short pieces of late, especially non-fiction, in large part because of the faster turnarounds than short fiction and long fiction. And, unexpectedly, I really love it! I have a piece in the most recent The Lifted Brow (Sympathy for Lady Vengeance: feminist ghosts and female monsters of Asia), 8500 words that I wrote in 2 days because it was all I could think about, and I’m really excited to keep reading and writing in that direction.

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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 – Robin Johnson

Robin Johnson was born in Tasmania, but his father rejoined the British Army in 1939, just in time for WW2. As an army brat, he moved homes frequently, but was fortunate enough to discover boys’ adventure books in the homes of English relatives at a young age. The postwar paper shortages meant BRE’s (British editions) of Astounding Science Fiction were his first introduction to anything more modern than H.G.Wells. His first employer was a now extinct airline, which fostered his love of travel and his ability to attend SF conventions as soon as he found out about them, starting with the 1957 London Worldcon, where he worshipped at the feet of John W. Campbell Jr. Moving to Australia in 1969, he soon got involved in convention fandom, first in Sydney, with Syncon ’70, then Melbourne with the first Australian Worldcon in 1975, and later Hobart, starting the Thylacons in 1999.

You have an intimate connection with Australian Worldcons, including—but not limited to— being the chair of Australia’s first Worldcon in 1975 and the Fan Guest of Honour at the most recent Aussiecon in 2011. What are some of your fondest memories from Aussiecons? Are there things that Australian conventions bring to the table that other nations do not?

When I settled in Australia in 1969, I had already been to several Worldcons. The first con here I had anything to do with, Syncon in January 1970, had a theme around getting up interest in bidding for a Worldcon, and one result was the decision at the following Eastercon in Melbourne, to form a bidding committee. It was here that John Foyster started the Down Under Fan Fund, which over the years has fostered trans-Pacific travel and friendship. Several people at that Natcon were planning attending the 1970 Worldcon in Germany (incidentally the first held in a non-English-speaking country), and as a new Australian this was exciting for me.

By this time Australia was getting a name in the fanzine world for critical and serious writing, and several of the heavy-hitters were becoming more widely known outside Australia. The reverse was also happening: by 1972 DUFF had brought a popular fanzine writer, Lesleigh Luttrell to an Australian Natcon.

rjohnsonJohn Litchen’s Antifan film was screened at LACon, the 1972 Worldcon, and many US regional conventions, to promote the 1975 Worldcon bid, thanks to tireless efforts by US fan and pro friends, particularly the late Jack Chalker. I consider the film won us the right, in Toronto in 1973, to hold the 1975 Worldcon, Aussiecon, in Melbourne.

By Australian standards, this was a huge enterprise: at least three times the size of the previous largest convention in this country, held in a prestigious (and expensive) hotel, whose staff were not used to anything of the sort, and with a satisfyingly-large proportion of foreign visitors. The ancillary events were also large, complicated and involved a huge amount of unpaid worj: a writer’s workshop over three weeks in Sydney, a large Art Show, with work by many major artists in the field from other parts of the world, as well as a huge display in Melbourne Town Hall, and of course the Hugo Awards, resulting very satisfactorily in out Guest of Honour Ursula LeGuin, winning the Novel Hugo.

leguin_dispossessedI have had little to do with the subsequent Aussiecons, apart from being honoured as Fan Guest of Honour in 2010. Each has been larger and needed more volunteers to run than the previous one, but I think each has been a great experience for the attendees (and guests). The support and attendance from international fandom has been enormous, and the exposure of aspiring Australian writers to potential markets has been inspiring.

I think the long-term effects have been the improved visibility of Australia as a nurturing ground for writers and artists, and this is very encouraging. I’m not sure that this outcome was foreseen, but it is certainly evident now that podcasts are helping the image.

For those of us newer to the scene, there is a rich heritage of Aussie speculative fiction stretching back decades that we might not be aware of. Are there any seminal works, from fiction to fanzines, that you would recommend every Aussie fan should seek out?

The fanzines that impressed me when I moved to Australia in 1969 were John Bangsund’s Australian Science Fiction Review, and Bruce Gillespie’s SF Commentary. Both were well in the sercon category (serious and constructive) and over time developed large international readership.

As for writers, I had been a fan of A. Bertram Chandler and of his Rim Worlds universe since I started reading science fiction, and discovered he was a neighbour after I moved to Sydney. A merchant mariner, his characters and situations often were reminiscent of Australia and of his profession. I was also a fan of Cordwainer Smith and his Instrumentality books, set in a future that has enabled some features of Australia to be perpetuated. Smith was the nom-de-plume of the distinguished US diplomat Paul Linebarger, who had lived in Australia for a time.

Kelly CountryI was also later a neighbour of George Turner in Melbourne, and enjoyed his work both as critic and novelist. His future Melbourne dystopias were fascinatingly detailed.

In 2009 you were awarded the Big Heart Award. Could you tell us a little about the award and its significance, and what it meant to you?

The Big Heart award, There are 469 pages in the on-line Fancyclopedia about this award, described as “fandom’s highest service award”. I cannot possibly describe my feelings on being given this accolade in 2007: apparently at the time I said I was gobsmacked. Looking down the list of recipients since it was initiated in 1959 by Forry Ackerman in memory of E. Everett Evans is a humbling process for me.

Dave Kyle, a friend of mine since before I moved to Australia, and an attendee at the first Worldcon in 1939, currently administers it as the Forrest J Ackerman Big Heart Award: the recipient is traditionally unaware until called up to the stage at the current Worldcon.

What Australian works have you loved recently?

In no particular order, I have recently enjoyed the works of Sean McMullen, Terry Dowling, Sean Williams, John Birmingham, Cat Sparks and Stephen Dedman. If the definition of Australian is extended to residents, I would include Dave Freer, whose rich variety of subject matter I enjoy.

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?

Undoubtedly the ready availability of self-publishing, and the pervasive reach of e-readers, podcasts and blogs has changed my access to the now vast array of science fiction material published. I am getting even less energetic as I age: I expect to be downsizing, and moving my somewhat bulky collection to a more compact home before long, which will cause me a lot of angst!

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 – John Birmingham

John Birmingham is a writer, journalist, and winner of The National Award for Non Fiction. He has twice been named Columnist of the Year by the Magazine Publishers Association of Australia. Mostly though, he now writes the sort of books that improve with altitude.

Looking back at the last Snapshot, you spoke about the upcoming release of the fourth Axis of Time book as a digital only release, and some of the possibilities and challenges this new territory might bring —as well as the uncertainties. In retrospect, what are your thoughts now on the concept, and what is the verdict on its success?

The verdict is still out. Mostly because I got distracted by other work and didn’t put in the effort needed to give the ebooks a real chance. To make that kind of publishing work you have to go back in time to the days of serial novels, releasing one a month or near a bouts. I didn’t do that because I got caught up in the long form novels I’ve been writing, and the ever churning chemical toilet that is journalism.

I suspect, given the figures I did get back, that my original plan was a good one. I should get back to it.

JB picOn your blog you have been talking about your current WIP, a new trilogy. It seems as if the process has been very different compared to the last one. Could you tell us a little about the trilogy, and some of the differences you have noticed?

Hugely different in some ways, quite similar in others. This next series is a mash up of some of my fave elements in genre fiction. Fantasy, alt history and technothriller. Long story short, magic and monsters come back into the world and we have to kick their arse.

I originally envisaged this series as a sort of tanks vs orcs saga, but I’ve enjoyed writing the superhero elements so much they’ve come to dominate. Probably because my hero is great fun to write. He’s a terrible, terrible arse of a man.

{5F1DDB31-B000-4099-B406-814B19709D88}Img100As well as your fiction, you are also a well known journalist. Do you find moving between the two areas of your writing a challenge, or do they feed each other?

The only clash is scheduling everything. I used to prioritise the media work because it was regular, reliable and rather well paid. Increasingly, that’s no longer the case. Not since Google ate our business model. A while ago I decided to focus in tight on book writing and because of that I’ve been winding back my media stuff.

{EEBD2E19-092D-4F13-9F9C-085541E1F8CB}Img100What Australian works have you loved recently?

I’ll always be a huge fanboy for Peter Corris’s Cliff Hardy novels. I knocked over a couple of them I’d missed a while ago. I’ve also been reading Matty Condon’s literary evocation of the Fitzgerald era in Qld. It’s amazing.

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?

As I said earlier, I’ve decided to double down on book writing and reduce my exposure to media work. The Dave Hooper series I’m finishing right now is part of that. Pan Mac will release three full length books in three months next year (Jan, Feb and March) and then I have another five ebooks lined up to follow. This is what I hope to do in future. It’s partly based on the rise of ‘binge’ culture, which we think of as being mostly related to long form TV shows, but which also applies to books, especially e-books. You get a long running series and it’s very easy to just hit that buy button if you’ve been reading them on a Kindle or iPad. This tends to apply to genre fiction more than literary fiction, of course. I still buy my big, thinly hardbacks, my shelf-worthy books from ye olde book shoppe.

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 – Rosaleen Love

Over the past forty years, Rosaleen Love has published on Australian science and society, both in non-fiction, and in fiction. She has published two collections of short fiction with the Women’s Press, UK, The Total Devotion Machine, and Evolution Annie. Her most recent books are Reefscape. Reflections on the Great Barrier Reef, Sydney and Washington, The Traveling Tide, short fiction, with Aqueduct Press, Seattle, and Secret Lives of Books, Twelfth Planet Press. She is the recipient of the Chandler Award for lifetime achievement in Australian Science fiction, an award that keeps her writing out of fear of what happens when you stop.

rosaleenreefYour latest release is a wonderful collection of short stories as part of the Twelfth Planet Press “Twelve Planets” range.  What are some if the biggest changes you have seen in the Aussie scene between now, and the first time you had something published?

I began writing short fiction in the 1980s when the print scene was flourishing. My first two short stories were published in mainstream Australian literary magazines, Westerly and Overland (from memory). George Turner gave me a prize in a West Australian convention competition, I think that was the first sf success I had. My path into publishing was the conventional dead-tree route, pre-internet. In the 1980s came the explosion of feminist publishing and specialist feminist presses, including the Women’s Press, who published my first two collections. The Women’s Press editor Sarah Le Fanu had a special interest in genre fiction, and encouraging women to bring a feminist perspective to liberating detective and sf stories. In 1994 in Melbourne we celebrated women’s writing with the 6th International Feminist Book Fair organized by Susan Hawthorne and others. It was exciting to discover the global range of women’s writing, and I gained a sense of an international audience for my writing. In Melbourne, a group of women sf writers read and encouraged each other, in events organized by Sybylla and Spinifex Press, our local feminist publishers. Our work was included in the many Australian anthologies both mainstream and sf, anthologies that flourished at the time, especially the burst of publishing that marked the Bicentennial of Australia in 1988. Of course, science fiction flourishes still, as do Australian sf anthologies, but I think back then it was all exploding around me, and I was secure in my sense of who I was writing for.

shesfan1You’ve recently had some of your back catalogue made available as ebooks. How did you find this process, and what sort of possibilities do you see this technology opening up for yourself and other writers?

My collections The Total Devotion Machine and Evolution Annie will shortly be gaining a new life as ebooks with Twelfth Planet Press. The Traveling Tide is also out as an ebook with Aqueduct Press, Seattle. It’s a new world out there, and finally, I’m in it. As a reader, I am ambivalent about the ebook. I enjoy its ease of delivery, I enjoy the process of reading, if what I want to do it to read in a straight forward way from beginning to end. For a short story, that works just fine. But often, with a novel, I want to flick backward to see where a clue was first inserted into the text, and more easily reread what came before in the light of what comes after. So I’m still set in some of the old ways.

travelingtideI think the internet has revolutionised science writing, of which I used to do quite a lot. Now the juxtaposition of text and image, often video image, in blogs written by scientists who are doing the work, accomplishes so much more than the static magazine article. Part of my life’s work has been overtaken, and I’m not sorry. The outcome is better, except in the areas of climate science denialism, and anti-vaccination propoganda, which us more rational science writers of the 1980s did not see coming. Now the internet spreads the rubbish faster.

In the last Snapshot you said that the novel will always be beyond you. Has this changed, and do you have any plans for a novel length work? Or, is there anything else you are working on?

I don’t ever think I’ll write a novel. When I see true novelists deep at work, I know they have a talent I lack. It’s as if they have the plot line clear to the end, in their head. I know that Sylvia Kelso, for example, can type out practically a chapter of a novel in a night, as if it’s risen fully formed from the depths of her mind. I spend forever shuffling a few sentences around before I get going.

I have a project going, in which I am trying to capitalise on my strengths. I am writing pieces of 350-400 words, aiming for a small but perfectly formed short story each time. This is the kind of thing I think I do best, writing that takes off from a current event or a science-related idea, and plays around, running to who knows where with it. I certainly don’t know where I’m going to end when I start. Of course, this project lends its very well to blog format, but I want to have a body of work before I start a public version of my own Rosie Project. (One of the names which I go by is Rosie, so I’m entitled to say that).   The writing needs to appear to depart spontaneously from the fizz of a bright idea, and so it might eventuate as if so, , but initially the pieces needs the revision and polish that comes from writing something and leaving to ripen for a while.

atomstalkWhat Australian works have you read recently that you’ve enjoyed?

I would have to nominate The Rosie Project by Graham Simsion, though this global best-seller is hardly a secret discovery of mine. One of the reasons I like the book is its seamless incorporation of both science (genetics) and social science (psychology) into the story. No clunkiness, no expository lumps. The scientists come over as scientists and they are shown plausibly at work. They must daily cope with the Dean, and endlessly apply for research grants. The Rosie Project is an example of science fiction so mainstream that non sf readers won’t even know they are reading sf. I rather like the trickster element in that. I am also a keen student of the cartoonist First Dog on the Moon, who used to supply the daily cartoon for Crikey.com.au, but who has now been lured away to the Guardian Australia. His cartoon strips are miniature short stories, illuminating current events from the perspective of a baffled group of endangered Australian marsupials. It was First Dog who brought us the “Hug a Climate Scientist Day” and the ABC interpretative dance bandicoot. We all need an interpretative dance bandicoot in our lives, to render the incomprehensible even more so. Way to go. Spread the bafflement around. I’ve been reading the Twelfth Planet Series to keep up with what’s current in the sf short story, and I’m finding more sf/horror than I’d like. As I explain elsewhere, somewhere, there has been too much real horror in my life for me to be interested in fabricating the unreal stuff. I prefer the sf/fun combination.

secretlivesHave recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work?

Probably not. I work the same way as ever.

What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

Se answer above, small pieces that collect to a larger view.

In five years from now, my main ambition is to still be alive. If I’m spared, as my Irish auntie used to say, I’ll be happy to read anything.

At the last Continuum, Lucy Sussex has challenged me to write a sf story about the viola da gamba (I am a keen amateur player of the instrument) and ever since she put down the gauntlet, I’ve been brooding about it. Then I realised, I already had written such a piece, back in 1995, in a Magazine Aedon. It’s good to be asked questions. They help me remember what I’ve written. Then I can re-read, and remember where I’ve been.

reefscapeThis 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.