Tag Archives: Helen Stubbs

Wednesday Writers: Helen Stubbs

After a holiday period hiatus, Wednesday Writers in back! And, who better to start with than the wonderful Helen Stubbs with a timely post on love? Generally, I try and pretend Valentine’s Day doesn’t exist, but Helen has managed to write such a great post that I am feeling all warm and fuzzy!

Speaking of Helen and writing, make sure you check out some of her work. There is a reason why she is one of the most exciting new voices around!

The Writer in Love.
(or I love you…can you leave me alone?)

Hi David, thanks for having me on Wednesday writers.

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day I’ve chucked my initial blog in the bin folder, in favour of a piece on the troublesome matter that is balancing one’s human love with one’s true love. That is, writing.

A wise woman and published author once said to me: If something is in the way of your writing, get rid of it. I assumed this applied to spouses, too, but it didn’t seem quite fair at the time as we’d just had a baby together. So I’ve kept my partner and he comes in quite handy in a number of ways.

Continuing down the tangent of imparted advice, a good friend once said to me, with empathy, that writers need time to do nothing. I translate this to mean that it looks like we’re doing nothing, when in fact we are very busy in our heads (the best place to be). We silently toil developing realistic characters out of thin air and intricately weaving plotlines and details into our latest masterpiece then flitting off to find something to scrawl on (or tap at) to record our latest instance of, AHA! I just solved that pesky plot flaw!

Therefore, some of the qualities a writer needs in a partner are patience and respect for mental space and distance. A writer needs blocks of time to him or herself, which can be very hard to come by in this busy world.

Support, “You’re so talented!” probably wouldn’t go astray. I envy the authors who get up on stage and guff on about, “And I need to thank my wife, Regina, who believed in me even when I didn’t.”

My partner has the “Helen needs time to herself” thing nailed, but he reads my stuff and shrugs. “It’s okay.”

The problem might be with what I write about. Husbands fare badly in my work. I don’t know why. I love my father, my brother and my partner so it’s not one of those I hate men things. Perhaps I am trying to even things up against the popularity of female victims. And besides, what’s a strong woman to save a man from if he hasn’t been chopped up a little?

Before I digressed, I was discussing the time and space for writing. Writing can be compared to a meditative or religious practice. If I don’t make time for it, my calm deteriorates. Therefore, everyone in the relationship is happier if a writer has time to write.

But writers are not all selfishness and silence. There are several upsides to having a writer as a partner, though I wonder how writer-writer relationships work. I would be interested to hear from someone in a double-writer relationship. If you are reading, do comment, oh Writer in love with a Writer.

I’m going to take a stab at some generalisations on the positive qualities of writers. I believe we are resourceful. No whiney clinginess for us. (Except for “wine” wine. You know, red and white. We usually love that). Give us a pen and paper and we can entertain ourselves for hours. But beware if our story isn’t working, or we’ve received a rejection that morning. There might be a furrowed brow. A snappy remark. Even a sulk.

We are creative and imaginative. If you’re stuck in longboat on a river of sump oil with trolls waving heat tracking miniature missiles at you from the Harbour Bridge above, you want us on your team. We’ll write you a powered parachute and hurricane out of there.

We’re romantic…aren’t we? We ought to be able to create a decent love poem, at any rate.

I think we’re open-minded and empathic. Hell, I am. Things that annoy other people are fascinating to me. I want to know what goes on in others’ heads so I can add it to a character, some day. I think there’s an overlay of my own oddness here. Sometimes I see life as a work of fiction and people as the characters. Only a little. I’m not totally mad.

If only life conformed to the neat structure of fiction and it always had a happy ending.

This brings me to the point that writing and love are inextricable bedfellows. They are entangled! The reality of romantic love is always a story. Stories of death are generally riveting and so are stories of love. In reality, love often ends sadly, be it in departure or death, which is poignant.

The concept of romantic love arose from courtly love and chivalry – very recently in evolutionary terms. Everyone has heard the story of Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere. We also know the great romances of Shakespeare and Austen with their explorations of heartfelt love and real problems like enmity and financial concerns.

Some authorities on the matter tie romantic love to the development of the novel. Parents and governesses have long been concerned about the silly notions novels put into their daughters’ heads. Now we have Barbie and the Internet for that.

But love runs deeply; it fills our hearts, it burns in our veins. It most certainly wasn’t invented less than a thousand years ago. I suspect feelings of lust and adoration evolved with humans and animals. (I believe animals love, in a slightly different way.) But, back in those days, love may have been a minor concern compared to imminent death, hunger, disease and social standing.

So, are writers to blame for all this romantic love business? (Romantic love being alleged as a great oppressor of women and hijacked by commercial purveyors of chocolate, jewellery and roses.) I shrug. Perhaps. We did think up space travel, too. You can’t win them all, right?

Where am I heading here? I’m not sure, but I better find somewhere to go. AHA! She races to the keyboard…

If writers gave us love, then we must give love to our writers.

You, partners of writers out there, who are being forced to read this amazing insight into modern times and the human condition…

Treasure your writer. We are wonderful, sensitive, intelligent individuals, so talented that sometimes we don’t know what to do with ourselves. You can admit it; you don’t know what to do with us, either.

Bring us a coffee and our laptop in bed. That’s better than breakfast. Give us half a day at home to write. A whole day? Did you say we could have a WHOLE day? See us leaping onto your lap, yelping with joy, our paws raised, our tongue lolling with joy! We will love you forever for the gifts of time and understanding.

HELEN STUBBS will be on a panel about Birth, Life and Death in Speculative Fiction at the Conflux Natcon in Canberra in April. Her fan group, GC Speckies will attend Gold Coast Supernova in April, too, so come say “Hi,” if you’re there. She is one of the fans. They are not her fans.

Her upcoming publication is “Casino Five,” in Next. Please ask for her autograph; she loves that. Her short stories are also in Tales from The Bell Club, Midnight Echo, Winds of Change, and Dead Red Heart. She won the Aussiecon Four Short Story Competition with “The Perforation,” and was a quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Award. On twitter she is @superleni. Disregard the hat.


2012 Aussie Snapshot: Helen Stubbs

Australian writer HELEN STUBBS loves the beautiful weird, especially fiction about the future and alternate realities. Her short story The Perforation won the Aussiecon Four Short Story Competition and her unpublished novel Black Earth was a quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Award. Her short stories appear anthologies and magazines including Winds of Change and Midnight Echo 6. Her interests include chatting to strangers, fretting about the environment and marvelling over art and innovation. Contact Helen at twitter.com/#!/superleni and helenstubbs.wordpress.com.

You describe your writing as having an “eco feminist” slant. Can you tell us a bit about what that means? How important do you think it is for speculative fiction to tackle the big issues?

I mean stories that take civilisation’s trajectory to its logical extreme, or explore our place within our ecology (and universe), and the interconnected lifecycles there. My favourite eco feminist author is Sheri Tepper, who explores the future of humankind out in the universe in books like “The Companions.” I’ve always found ecological relationships and lifecycles fascinating.

As for big issues, a fiction writer’s first priority must be to entertain their reader (or you won’t have readers). There are many examples of great Spec Fic that don’t explore big issues, however, when I begin to wonder about the universe it leads me to big questions. I love fiction where humankind gets a cosmic spanking for its arrogance, like when extra terrestrials come down and beat us up because we have technology but no conscience about how we use it.

Your novel, “Black Earth”, was a quarter finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Award and was read by Angry Robot. While it wasn’t picked up, this must have given you a great deal of confidence in the level of your writing. How did this recognition impact your writing? Has it created any other opportunities you might not have otherwise got?

These were encouraging…but, confidence…not really. When my work is chosen for something I want to shake the editors or judges and say, “Are you sure?” Parts of Black Earth are positively cringe-worthy. I find the more I learn about writing the more I realise I don’t know, while it seems like there is some magic in great writing that possibly can’t be learned.

Still, I’ll keep sending my work out put my hand up for anything because I love writing, working with editors, and talking with writers. And if I waited until my writing was perfect I’d die first.

Are you likely to return to “Black Earth”, or are there other projects you will be working on in the near future?

I plan to submit “Black Earth” to the Vogel’s Literary award, as it isn’t doing anything else… and I’m just young enough.

I’m currently working on a novella, “The Cupcake Girl of Winding Street,” with which I’d like to test the waters of e-publishing. I’m also writing a Science Fiction novel about a half robot girl who cares for a herd of humans, post I.T. takeover.

What Australian works have you loved recently?

I loved “Debris” by Jo Anderton and “The Couriers New Bicycle” by Kim Westwood. I also loved “Valley of Grace” by Marion Halligan, which is not Speculative Fiction.

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

Aussiecon 4 was my introduction to the scene so I’m not sure what it was like before, but since then I’ve found the community very friendly and highly talented. I had the best time at Aussiecon 4! Somehow I’d won their short story comp so I got to go in the green room with the real writers.

A huge convention like that grabs attention, inspires people and forges more connections between the community hotspots of Australian Spec Fic. It also creates international opportunities by bringing foreign publishers and agents in.

Thanks for including me in the Aussie Snapshot, David. It was a pleasure to answer your questions

This interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 1 June to 8 June and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus. You can read interviews at: