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.
Recently, 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.
Yet 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.
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.