Snapshot 2012: Alison Goodman

australian speculative fiction snapshot 2012 logoALISON Goodman has been writing and being published for almost 24 years. She began to get published in her second year of university – mainly feature articles and short stories – and her first novel came out in 1998: Singing the Dogstar Blues, a young adult science fiction thriller. It won the Aurealis Award for Best YA novel and was an ALA Best YA book. That was followed by her crime thriller, Killing the Rabbit, published originally in the USA, and which is now about to be re-released in print in Australia and as an e-book under the new title, A New Kind of Death.

Her latest two books are the fantasy duology Eon and Eona, which were New York Time Bestsellers and have been published in more than 18 countries and 10 languages. Eon (under its initial Australian title The Two Pearls of Wisdom) won the 2008 Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Novel and was also an ALA Best YA book and a James Tiptree Jr Honour Book.

This year, Alison has been contracted to write a new historical/supernatural series with publishers in the USA, Canada and Australia. The first book is due out in 2014.

Keep in touch with developments at www.alisongoodman.com.au and her Facebook page.

  • Alison is guest of honour at Continuum, starting TOMORROW NIGHT at Rydges on Swanston in Melbourne.
  • YA SF, crime, Chinese-influenced fantasy … have you picked stories to best address certain themes, or are you just having a grand old time in all the diversity genre has to offer?
    I suspect a bit of both. In terms of genre, I go where the story takes me. When I have the initial idea for a book or series, I take note of where it seems to fit in the genre market and think about the conventions of that genre. If some of them work for me, I’ll use them (either with or against the expectations). However, I don’t feel obliged to stick faithfully to the conventions or, indeed, to one genre. I do like to meld genres, which can bring a whole bucket load of problems with it but is a lot of fun to write.

    In terms of themes within a novel, I usually find that I may start with an idea of a thematic line – developed from the plot and character – but find that other, stronger themes emerge as I write. Having said that, the thematic starting point is not usually the driving force for me in my writing process – I am more engaged by character and plot and these supply the passion that propel me. So, I don’t feel that I pick stories to write by the appeal of their themes. Still, it is not really possible to separate out those three elements – plot, character, and theme. They are so deeply entwined in the development of my fiction that at least some of each needs to be in place before I start writing.

    Romantic plotlines, of varying degrees, operate under some level of mostly social pressure duress in your books, and happy endings are not guaranteed. In what ways is love, whether unrequited, doomed or conquering all, important to your storytelling?
    I think it is more that desire is important to my storytelling, rather than love. That often includes the desire for love, but I think that is secondary to the desire for the ultimate goal of the main character, be it power as in the Eon duology or truth in A New Kind of Death (Clan Destine Press). Love is not the main goal of my characters, but it is almost always part of their motivation. How characters go about loving or seeking love is a fundamental building block of my characterisation. It is not the driving force of the main plot-line – that is the domain of romance fiction – but it is one of the elements that adds depth and universality to the characters, and provides sub-plots that support and add duress to the events in the main plot.

    You’re in the midst of a research trip to Europe for your new series. Has anything you’ve unearthed been wonderfully surprising, the kind of thing where you just HAVE to use it in the books?
    Yes, I came across a porcelain women’s urinal shaped like a lady’s slipper. In time of necessity in a crowded royal drawing room, it was slipped under one’s huge hooped court dress and clutched between the thighs! That is definitely going into my novel. However, I’m always wary of bunging in a bit of research because I like it. For me, research has to be at the service of the story and the fastest way to become a bore is to write pages of research detail and go off-story.

    I recently read an article by James Wood in the on-line New Yorker about Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell novels, but it is also about writing good historical fiction. Wood writes that:

    ‘..what gives fiction its vitality is not the accurate detail but the animate one … novelists are creators, not coroners, of the human case’.

    That really hit a chord with me. When I am researching, I look for those shining details that are going to give the flavour and energy of the time without weighing down my story…such as a urinal for women that is shaped like a shoe.

    What Australian works have you loved recently?
    This is where I shift uncomfortably and confess that I haven’t read much fiction lately because it has been all about researching my new series. My stack of fiction To-Be-Reads is huge, but I have just finished Garth Nix’s new book A Confusion of Princes which was magnificently inventive with a great, wry narrator and a lot of satisfying action. I’m also reading an advance copy of Kirstyn McDermott’s new novel Perfections, which is heart-achingly gorgeous. Mostly, though, I have been reading primary and secondary source research books, which sounds dry but is actually a lot of fun. And, as it happens, one of the most valuable research books I’ve come across so far has been by an Australian – Jennifer Kloester – who has written an excellent guide to the Regency era in Georgette Heyer’s Regency World.

    What have been some of the biggest changes in Australian speculative fiction in the past two years since Aussiecon 4?
    I think some of the biggest changes in Australian speculative fiction are the same changes that have been hitting all of publishing. What immediately comes to mind is the rise of the e-book and the crisis of the bookshop. The gathering force of the e-book is offering some great opportunities for authors – more control over backlists and a greater cut of the royalties – but as with all these new modes, it also brings challenges that often leave many behind. The demise of so many of our bookshops breaks my heart, and I sincerely hope that Australia does not follow in the footsteps of Britain and starts closing libraries too.

    Another change that I think has particularly affected the speculative fiction market is the ‘phenomenon book’ such as Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games series. They can all be gathered under the banner of the speculative genre and, I think, have opened up new audiences to our work, and in fact, to the idea of reading for pleasure.

    * THE END *

    THIS is my final interview conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 1-8 June and archiving them at Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus: the list of interviewees is here. You can also read the interviews at:

    Snapshot 2012: Janeen Webb

    australian speculative fiction snapshot 2012 logoJANEEN Webb is a multiple award-winning author, editor and critic who has written or edited 10 books and more than a hundred essays and stories. She is a recipient of the World Fantasy Award, the Aurealis Award, the Peter MacNamara SF Lifetime Achievement Award, and is a three-time winner of the Ditmar Award. She is internationally recognised for her critical work in speculative fiction and has contributed to most of the standard reference texts in the field. She holds a PhD in Literature from the University of Newcastle, and lives on a small farm overlooking the sea near Wilson’s Promontory.

    You’re cancer battle meant you weren’t able to co-edit 2008′s Dreaming Again (the follow-up to 1998′s milestone Dreaming Down Under) as planned, but you’ve since, wonderfully, announced that you’re back. How have you been making up for that lost time in your writing? Back to your Sinbad series, perhaps?
    In all honesty, I should say that I still have, and probably always will have health issues – remission isn’t cure – and I just have to accept that. And although it sounds trite to say that writing is a great form of therapy, like so many axiomatic statements, it happens to be true: writing is a kind of zen space where the world can be as one would wish it to be, and I can try to make up for lost time. And I’m happy to say that yes, there is a third Sinbad YA novel in progress, working title Flying to Babylon. I am also writing an Arthurian fantasy, Perfect Knight, and an alternate Australian history novel.


    Back in ’98 you co-wrote an academic study, Aliens & Savages, on racism/bias in Australian SF: have you been able to keep track to provide an idea of how the current situation compares?
    I think this is one of those times when fiction is ahead of politics. We currently see a xenophobic political focus playing the politics of fear in a way that would not have been out of place in the 19th century. It seems our leaders have not yet learned kindness to strangers. Recently published fiction is more generous and understanding in its explorations of issues concerning both indigenous and immigrant peoples: it was good to see Kim Scott win the Miles Franklin Award with his historical novel of culture clash, That Deadman Dance.


    You’re known for your academic work in the realm of speculative fiction as well as your fiction. How do you find the two streams rest side by side — do they feed each other or are they slightly uncomfy bedfellows?
    It took me a long time to learn that the research techniques for both academic work and fiction are the same thing, seen from different angles: that I can use the same skill base but apply the results in a different fashion. The best fiction has a solid research base underneath it, and a background in the academic world does no harm at all in honing those technical skills.

    I recently used material from Aliens & Savages as the basis for my story ‘Manifest Destiny’ (in Gillian Polack’s Baggage anthology, reprinted in Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene’s 2010 Years Best Australian Fantasy & Horror from Ticonderoga), and am revisiting more of that work for my alternate history novel, so in that sense the two areas do complement each other very well.

    The downside of being a critic is my constant awareness of the scope the field, of the best that is produced, of the sheer volume of work that’s out there: sometimes it’s hard to stifle that internal critical voice in order to write at all!

    What Australian works have you loved lately?
    My favourite new work is Kim Westwood‘s The Courier’s New Bicycle, which recently won the Aurealis Award for science fiction novel. Kim has thought deeply about the issues of gender and has some very original ideas embedded in a compelling story: she is a genuinely fascinating new voice in the field.


    What have been some of the biggest changes in Australian speculative fiction in the past two years since Aussiecon 4?
    I think it’s really too soon to tell: a lot of things are still in the pipeline.

    One thing I will note is the rapid expansion of Creative Writing PhDs in the field. With so many of our best writers venturing into this sphere, SF has reached critical mass in this area. This unexpected incursion into academia will have an enormous impact in future years: I like the idea that SF is finally colonising the mainstream.

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    THIS interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 1-8 June and archiving them at Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus. You can read interviews at:

    Snapshot 2012: Scott Robinson

    australian speculative fiction snapshot 2012 logo
    QUEENSLAND writer Scott Robinson grew up reading and writing science fiction and fantasy — he was writing ‘novels’ when he was 10 years old. “It was never short stories, strangely enough,” he says, “but at 13 was sure I was going to make my living as a poet when I had poems published in Quadrant. Twenty-five years later, and I’ve barely made a couple of weeks’ worth of wages from any sort of writing at all.”

    Last year, he made one of his books available for free as an e-book and has since self-published four on Amazon — the first three books of Tribes of the Hakahei (The Space Between, Singing Other World and When the Times Comes), as well as a stand alone crystal-punk fantasy call The Brightest Light. The final book in the Hakahei series, A Different Kind of Heaven, is pending.

    Scott lives with his pregnant wife and two children. His website is www.scottjrobinson.com.


    What have been the joys and sorrows of the self-publishing route?
    Joys: my books is out there in the world for people to read. I’ve had some great feedback from readers and really can’t get enough. The sorrows: not as many people are reading them as I would like.

    Marketing has always been a problem for self-published authors, but these days I have to be compete against the good stuff out there as well as fighting the negative image created by the ‘writers’ who decided to knock up a book over the weekend and make their fortune. At least in the old days, the wife or husband or other keeper of the funds was something of a gatekeeper. Now, it takes no time or money as all to publish a book. Apparently, for some, it doesn’t take any effort, either. So, I just keep hoping for some word of mouth to kick in (The Brightest Light got a great review on Amazon the other day) while I work on the next book.

    Some varmint tried to purloin your free book through Amazon. How did you handle that and has it affected the way you look at e-publishing?
    My first port of call in that instance was an email to Amazon. I received an auto reply saying someone would contact me in three working days. When that didn’t happen ,I sent another email. Eventually, after a week or two, I initiated a live chat with Amazon customer service (or someone like that) and spoke to them. The book was taken down a couple of days later.

    I don’t think it changed my view on self-publishing. I actually brought forward my move to Kindle because of that. Piracy is something that could happen to everyone and it may have been a bit of a compliment that someone went to the effort (though not a lot — the conversion was terrible) to steal my work.

    You like to mix ‘n’ match your genres: has this worked for you or against you when shopping around the stories?
    Against me, of course. :) The writing and the stories and everything else are great — it’s just that the editors can’t fit them into an easily marketable niche. It sounds nice and I’ll keep telling myself that.

    What Australian works have you loved recently?
    I actually haven’t read a lot of anything recently. I’ve been working on novels pretty solidly for about six months — getting ‘completed’ one’s ready for Amazon and finishing off No 4 in the Tribes of the Hakahei series. Unfortunately for me, I do my writing and reading in the same head space so they can interfere with each other quite dramatically.

    The last one I read was probably Business of Death by Trent Jamieson. It’s not really my kind of story, but I flew through it anyway (by my standards) and could definitely see the quality.

    Some of my favourite Aussie stuff from years ago would be Souls in the Great Machine and sequels by Sean McMullen. Or the Parish Plessis books by Marianne de Pierres. I also enjoy most of the stuff by Sean Williams.

    I have also been trying to get around to The Sentients of Orion series and King Rolen’s Kin <by Rowena Cory Daniells> for a while. And recent releases Roil (by Jamieson) and Debris (by Joanne Anderton). Just not enough hours in the day

    I can’t wait to make use of my Kindle and try to support some indie writers, hopefully some of who will be Australian. It’s always great to discover someone new and if nobody else knows them, it’s even better.

    What have been some of the biggest changes in Australian speculative fiction in the past two years since Aussiecon 4?
    Because of my slow reading (slow even when I’m not writing) and the fact that I don’t attend cons (or Vision Writers) any more (lack of money and two young kids to look after and feed), I probably don’t really follow Australian spec fic as something separate to spec fic in general. I just read what I read without thought to where it came from. But the changes here are probably the same as everywhere else and stem from the ease of self-publishing e-books. Or publishing them even if they aren’t yours. I think it’s a great thing but will be even better when the world comes up with a way to weed out the ‘first draft, I don’t need an editor’ type writers because they make it much harder for those of us who do care.

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    THIS interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 1-8 June and archiving them at Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus. You can read interviews at:

    Snapshot 2012: Rjurik Davidson

    australian speculative fiction snapshot 2012 logoRJURIK Davidson is a freelance writer and associate editor of Overland magazine. Rjurik has written short stories, essays, reviews and screenplays. PS Publishing published his collection, The Library of Forgotten Books, in 2010. His novel, Unwrapped Sky, will be published by Tor in 2012. He writes reviews of speculative fiction for the Age newspaper, film reviews for several magazines and has a regular column in Overland. Rjurik’s screenplay The Uncertainty Principle (co-written with Ben Chessell) is currently under development with German company Lailaps Films. He has been short-listed for and won a number of awards. He can be found at www.rjurikdavidson.blogspot.com and has a blog on the Overland website called Against Reality.

    You have a collection and, in the pipeline, novels set in your world of minotaurs and sirens: how have you approached such mythic creatures in your fiction?
    As a child I read the Greek myths and, around the age of six, my imagination was captured by the ruins of Ancient Rome. There’s always been something transcendent about myth, which is why they still resonate with us. But in my stories, I wanted to approach the mythology — minotaurs, sirens, cyclops and gorgons — with a modern sensibility. That is, I wanted to keep the sense of myth and the mythic, but place it within an industrial world. The minotaur myth, for example, is sometimes said to be about technology: Theseus finds his way through the minotaur’s labyrinth with a ball of string. In a sense, ‘The Passing of the Minotaurs’ <read the short story at SciFi.com> — which is an extract from an early section of Unwrapped Sky — is a rewriting of this myth in an industrial capitalist world. The minotaurs are undone by modernity — by the power of commodification, if you like, in a similar way to many old and beautiful things in our world (old buildings or old forests, for example).

    This fantasy world, and the city of Caeli-Amur, might be thought of as city a bit like Rome or Turin in the 1920s. In Caeli-Amur, there’s industrialism, a rising working class, a strange bureaucratic capitalism, but there’s also the remnants of an older less developed society, and even further back the ruined remnants of a more advanced society. So the mythology all takes place in a world where there’s a great deal of of change. There’s social turbulence. No one quite knows where it’s all headed. It is a world where ‘all that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned’ as Marx once described it. What could be more profane than the death of a minotaur and the use of its body parts as commodities?


    Have the short stories been a way of exploring the world in preparation for the longer works, or were the novels always the end goal?
    I love short stories. In many ways, they’re more interesting than novels. You can be more experimental and you can be more adventurous in content. Quite often, the things which become famous at novel-length are first done in short story form (think of Gibson, for example). The stories gain a certain notoriety and this encourages the writer to develop those sorts of stories at longer length. One of the reasons is that novels have a slightly longer shelf-life, and there’s a little more money in them. That’s the way it happened with me, anyway. People liked Caeli-Amur and the stories set there, so I thought, right, time to write a novel set there. Still, I’ll always write short stories, just as I’ll always write essays and scripts and other things.


    You are an editor on a literary magazine and you’re a Ditmar winner for best new talent: what’s your take on the literature/genre divide?
    Oh, I have several responses, all pretty contradictory. My first response is that the division is false. Writers like Atwood, Ishiguru, Houllebecq and Winterson are clearly writing SF. On the other hand, there are plenty of SF writers writing very ‘literary’ science fiction: Gene Wolfe or M John Harrison, for example. Partly the division is invented by the marketing departments of publishing companies, partly there’s an inherited prejudice against SF in the ‘mainstream’ (which I find ignorant and repulsive), but there’s also quite often a self-reinforced ghettoisation from the SF community also.

    I find it all pretty frustrating because there are all sorts of deleterious effects of the division. SF writers are unfairly ignored and ‘literary’ writers writing SF too-often claimed as ‘original’ when they’re really borrowing tropes that have been around for decades. At Overland we try to be inclusive: we’ve had special SF editions, publish SF stories and articles, but I do feel fairly sad that the SF community pretty much ignores us — something reflected not only in terms of our submissions but reflected in things like awards, links to our online articles and so on.

    Another passed-down quirk of the division between the literary and SF worlds is the over-emphasis on plot-driven narrative in genre. Genre writers, readers and editors probably do want more ‘action’ than the literary world (which could often do with more action!). I’m not sure that’s healthy. Having said that, the SF community is a really welcoming and in the end, in terms of fiction, that’s where I happily exist.


    What Australian works have you loved recently?
    There’s a bunch of really great Australian SF writers. In fact, I’m amazed by the talent in Australian SF. I’ve loved stories by James Bradley, Lisa Hannett, Angela Slatter. But you know, I’m constantly surprised by the number of new writers coming though. And then there are other wonderful writers who have been around a while: Kirstyn McDermott, Margo Lanagan, Deborah Biancotti, Trent Jamieson and so on. I might say that the loss of Paul Haines leaves a massive hole in the SF scene.


    What have been some of the biggest changes in Australian speculative fiction in the past two years since Aussiecon 4?
    I’m not sure I could answer that. I’ve been a bit lost in novel-writing. But things seem to be coming along okay. The Aurealis Awards I went to last year were vibrant and professional, and the writers coming through, as I mentioned before, are talented. The end of Clarion South is a pretty big blow, I think, and there’s the ongoing ‘digital’ revolution (Aurealis is now mostly in e-book format).

    The challenges here are going to be the challenges the whole publishing industry is facing. No one can be sure quite where we’ll end up, but it seems likely that there will be less money around, and fewer readers (the statistics show that the average reader age is increasing). None of this is great for writers or publishers and we can expect that as an money-making industry, publishing might be on its last legs.

    At Overland we’ve been debating this for some time (on the website, in public forums and in the magazine’s pages) and some of us think that the solution may be to return to a more, for want of a better term, ‘social-democratic’ system, where the government funds an independent publishing house (or houses?) in the way it funds something like the ABC.

    In this sense, the challenges of publishing are similar to those of quality Australian TV drama, which can’t compete with international TV without stepping out of the system of commercialism. SF steps out of these bounds with labour-of-love small presses (which are wonderful), but they’re not a way for anyone to earn a basic living.

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    THIS interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 1-8 June and archiving them at Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus. You can read interviews at:

    Snapshot 2012: Simon Brown

    australian speculative fiction snapshot 2012 logoSIMON Brown started writing fiction every day at the age of 14, which means he’s been a writer for more than 40 years. He’s had six novels published in Russia, which means his brag shelf has books he’s written that he can’t read. He currently lives in Thailand with his wife, who is an English teacher in Phuket, and his two school-age children.

    PanMacmillan, under their Momentum imprint, have just released e-book versions of his previous fantasy trilogy, the Chronicles of Kydan. He’s working on three different books – a young adult/crossover horror, the first book in a new fantasy trilogy and a non-fiction book – because he can’t make up his mind which one to concentrate on.


    You’ve been living overseas for the past few years. Grist for the writer’s mill or one huge distraction?
    Living overseas is a great way to concentrate the mind on what you’ve left behind, at least initially. After four years in Thailand, I find that some of the things about living in a different country and a different culture are finally starting to get under my skin and become a part of me. It’s a nice feeling. But when I look up and towards the horizon, it’s always towards Australia. I think my time here in Thailand will start seeping into my work about the time I come home. That’s the way of things.


    Momentum has re-released one of your series as e-books. What’s been happening to let readers know they’re available?
    Mark Harding at Momentum Books has been great at getting the Chronicles of Kydan some attention. It was recently one of the books of the week on Google Play, for example, and the Momentum site has a piece by me on writing the trilogy. Gillian Polack has also kindly let me blog about the trilogy on her site. I just have to save up for an e-book reader now so I can download them myself. Imagine carrying hundreds of books in your pocket. Weird.


    Can you tell us more about what’s inspired the latest projects?
    The young adult/crossover horror novel, based on a short story I wrote called ‘Water Babies’ (published in Agog! Smashing Stories), is currently with a publisher, so until I get word back it’s difficult to say where it’s going.

    The idea for the new fantasy trilogy I’m working on was inspired by reading about the importance of trade in ancient and medieval societies, something usually ignored in most fantasies. Since it’s just kicking off, I’m not sure how it’ll pan out at this point, but I’m enjoying booting ideas around.

    The non-fiction book I hope to co-author with a good friend who is also a great writer is about the development of quantum theory. The book will concentrate on the Fifth Solvay Conference in 1927, which featured an amazing array of scientists who were also larger-than-life personalities.


    What Australian works have you loved recently?
    I’m ashamed to say that I’ve been so detached from the Australian scene over the past four years that I’ve read very little home-grown fiction. I did manage to read and enjoy the first book of Sean and Garth’s Troubletwisters and Scott Westerfeld‘s Leviathan (we’re allowed to poach Scott, aren’t we? (definitely: his snapshot his here — JN).


    What have been some of the biggest changes in Australian speculative fiction (or the industry?) in the past two years since Aussiecon 4?
    Difficult to assess from a distance, but surely the big development not just over the past two years but the past decade has been the increase in the number of Australian specfic writers and the quality of their work. I think Clarion South has a lot to do with this (and by implication Clarion South’s organisers), as well as the continued and it seems to me against-all-odds existence of short fiction markets such as Aurealis and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine.

    The other big change has been the slow but inevitable move in Australia from ink to phosphor dot and LED, including e-books and online magazines. We’ll have to wait a year or 10 before properly assessing what effects this has had on writers and writing. If I’m still around, feel free to ask me again in 2022.

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    THIS interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 1-8 June and archiving them at Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus. You can read interviews at:

    Snapshot 2012: Talie Helene

    australian speculative fiction snapshot 2012 logoTALIE HELENE is a musician and writer, from Melbourne. She has poetry published in journals including Voiceworks, Avant and Inkshed, and Mary Manning’s About Poetry (Oxford University Press), and a co-authored short story (with Martin Livings) ‘The Last Gig of Jimmy Rucker’ in More Scary Kisses (edited by Liz Grzyb). Talie is horror editor for the anthology The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror (Ticonderoga Publications), and was news editor for the Australian Horror Writers’ Association for four years (2006-2010), for which she received a Ditmar nomination. She is a member of the SuperNova writers’ group. Talie has a background in music journalism – especially extreme genres – and has performed with many artists including The Tenth Stage, Wendy Rule, Sean Bowley, Saba Persian Orchestra, Maroondah Symphony, and Eden. She is currently developing a new audio arts anthology titled The Unquiet Grave. You can find out more at www.taliehelene.com.

    What are the pleasures and perils of compiling the horror component of the Ticonderoga Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror?
    One of the guiding principals I have is that the stories need to go to different emotional places, because horror is about hitting raw nerves. If you hit the same nerve too many times, you desensitise and the stories become emotionally monochrome. Horror is unique in that the genre is defined by emotion, rather than trope or context – you can have a completely supernatural story that is horror, and a totally realistic story that is also horror. So trying to keep the mix fresh and blow the readers away in different ways, keep the emotional impact – that is pure fun. Editing a Year’s Best is a bit like being a DJ. The works are already published and polished, so the job is to find that mix of hits and undiscovered gems and make the overall experience entertaining and powerful and surprising. It’s a kick!

    Working with Liz and Russell at Ticonderoga is totally a pleasure. I was a dark horse choice for this editing job, and having them believe in my instincts is very humbling. They are also really understanding, and they’ve been very supportive throughout. Having a purpose that isn’t focused on my own headspace has probably been a saving grace for me. Just getting to associate with such fine writers is a buzz and an honour; meeting some of ‘my authors’ and having these instantly engaging conversations about narrative that I would never otherwise have is a delight.

    The perils. Well, there should be perils in compiling horror, right?

    I think probably the biggest peril is balancing literary horror and visceral horror; horror goes to places that connect with visceral responses, and it goes to places of deep trauma and danger and anger, and sex and death are so very tangled together. If the emotion overwhelms the form it can be incomprehensible, and if the form overwhelms the emotion you get cliche. The quality that lifts both aspects up is authenticity. I’m just one person, so I have to trust my own instincts as to which stories do which of those things excellently. Just entering that territory is perilous, because when people disagree they will disagree vehemently. Conversely, if I didn’t stick to my guns about my choices, I have no business editing horror.

    I worship what I would call literary horror – writing that engages with top-shelf word craft and narrative constructs in the service of hitting those raw nerves. In the Capital L Literature world the idea of ‘literary horror’ is regarded as an oxymoron. The reality of any genre is you have to read through a truckload of mediocrity to find the amazing work. Go to a Capital L Literary spoken word night. You will have to endure an avalanche of bullshit to experience a few dazzling talents. But I think it’s harder for people to go the other way – from the literary world, to the horror world – because horror stories do contain exploded intestines! The bad ones have exploded intestines! The brilliant ones have exploded intestines! It takes a committed reader to learn to separate being repulsed by bad gory writing, and enthralled by brilliant gory writing – which is also repulsive! But repulsive in the service of some larger meaning.

    Really great horror stories aren’t just about horror – there is always something else that makes you empathise. That’s the reason Stephen King writes so much about love and different kinds of relationships. If you write about death, you write about life. I think horror is the deepest genre because it speaks from that precipice of our mortality. But I’m not allowed to harpoon people who don’t share that view!

    While I prize literary horror, I also feel very connected with visceral horror. There would be something really wrong if the horror selection in Year’s Best didn’t include some stories where things that are supposed to be inside people are splashed all over the page – maybe that is blood, or a terrible secret, or unbearable knowledge. I think there are people who read horror and appraise the shock value over the literary merit – that reader is going to roll their eyes at terror in sunlight stories or existential horror. For me, blood and the numinous are equally powerful. By making a broad selection, I’m demanding the reader be open to all of that.

    Is that condescending? I don’t mean to be condescending to consider that a peril. My gut tells me horror writers feel that they put great demands on readers too, and that is one of the issues of commercialism (or lack of) for horror.

    There is an amorphous danger zone of gender politics in the speculative fiction community in Australia, and in horror more than any other genre. It is in part due to a disparity in theorised feminism, because writers range from all walks of life – can I say thank fuck? That is something I can appreciate from both sides, because I’m not a theorised feminist myself. (I don’t have a degree, and while I do read feminist musicology with interest, I’m truant on Feminism 101.) I think the sticking point is that horror is often violent, and historically violence precedes from the patriarchy, so there has been confusion in separating confronting language from gendered language.

    As horror editor of the Year’s Best, I’ve had to remain silent on feminist issues I might have otherwise been very vocal about, because I have conflict of interest – and I support people in their artistic practice who have completely contradictory views, including views that I don’t agree with. It doesn’t mean I’m not participating in the discourse, because I will recognise writers who are disrupting and interrogating those issues in their work, and that becomes an influence in my editorial process. I want the anthology to be a powder keg of awesome! My philosophy is stolen from an old 3RRR Radio Station ID: ‘Diversity in the face of adversity’.

    A more personal peril is discovering if I don’t include a writer’s stories, I can hurt the feelings of a friend – and maybe give them the erroneous impression that they had ‘a bad year’. While the words ‘best’ and ‘horror’ are the stars by which I navigate in story selection, there are also other pressures on the selection process – and not every fine story on the shortlist makes it through. It does not always mean those stories aren’t as good – or that I am prejudiced against a certain flavour of horror and won’t ever include it. This is the arts. It is subjective. It has to be subjective. And the DJ part of the editorial process serves a mix, not just an evaluation.

    The final peril is for me as an emerging writer. Donning the hat of gatekeeper threatens to crush my view of my own writing with 10,000 tonnes of neurosis. (And that’s what SuperNova is for?)

    You’ve got a Ditmar-nominated short ghost story co-written with Martin Livings: is this a sign that we might be seeing more Talie Helene stories out in the wild soon, and is the supernatural likely to play a role in new material?
    If by soon you mean ever, then the answer is ‘eventually’. It’s a sign! The stories I have in progress have supernatural elements, although that wasn’t a conscious choice. You can’t really marinate your brain in horror fiction without soaking up the supernatural – and it kind of crunches down to writing emotion. I was already into it, but how tumultuous and marginalised my life has been in the past few years has probably pushed me deeper into it. You can write emotion through the supernatural that might not translate if you tried to deliver it Capital L Literary style. I don’t want to jinx the writing by turning this into a publicity blurb for unpublished work. I need to submit an ‘unavailable form’ to my retail job for SuperNova Sundays, and be humble or shameless with bringing drafts to the table.


    You’re known for being a musician and a writer, and ‘The Last Gig of Jimmy Rucker’ combines the two: in what ways do those two creative pursuits influence each other in your practice?
    Your question makes it sound nice, Jason. My stock answer is ‘they are the two halves of my heart’ – but right now, fox-holed in a robotic random day job, wearing a plastic smile and folding knickers in a department store – music and writing feel like combatants! They both fight for time and energy I barely have, and one is always stealing time from the other, so of course the other claws in as an influence. Anything beyond writing, that a writer spends time immersed in – history, physics, maths, or philosophy – that is going to influence them. That goes both for social engagement – dialogue colour and character – and for soaking up information that ignites ideas. Whatever boards you tread – the squeaky boards there are your story. Especially if the dark stuff sings to you.

    So that kind of influence… I’d like to think my diction and structural sense of drama are influenced by music. I’m definitely influenced by the more personal ways people use music, and that is always a place of story – to grieve, to love, to evoke memory, to escape, to heal, to endure, to mark time, to hide from or find themselves, as a mask, as a drug, as an excuse, as redemption, as Dutch courage, a mating cry, a war cry, a goodbye…

    There is something really spooky about singing a Dorian mode with a bunch of other music students. It is intended as an aural drill, but sometimes it hits you that you are inside an ancient structure – and it gives you shivers.

    What Australian works have you loved recently?
    I’ll tell you about some things I didn’t anthologise. I had post-it notes plastered all over them – one saying ‘HELLYEAH!’ and one with a sad face and ‘NOT HORROR’.

    Two stories from Cat Sparks – ‘The Alabaster Child‘ and ‘Beautiful‘ – were both completely immersive science fiction with a distinct visual style. Cat is one of the best visual stylists in Australia, which is not surprising given her involvement in design and photography. She studies colour and light all the time. Thoraiya Dyer‘s ‘Fruit Of The Peepal Tree‘ was the most delicately painted and subtly paced story I read from 2011, and I’m so glad it won the Aurealis in the Fantasy Short Story category, because I was shattered I couldn’t use it for Year’s Best. Even touching on dark themes of loss, environmental degradation, and female infanticide – it didn’t riff the emotion of a horror story, but it was an exquisite story.

    The Rage Against The Night anthology Shane Jiraiya Cummings edited as a fundraiser – while under-the-radar locally, that was an impressive collection. The excerpts I’ve seen from Rocky Wood and Greg Chapman’s Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times (with Lisa Morton) look kickarse.

    What have been some of the biggest changes in Australian speculative fiction in the past two years since Aussiecon 4?
    Given that I have an Atheling nomination for a 2010 Year in Review essay (co-authored with Liz Grzyb), and I’m gap-filling the 2011 review essay right now – it is absurd, but I don’t feel that qualified to answer this question, because I only really follow the horror. I’m kind of new as a writer and an outsider in the Australian speculative fiction enclave – and I’m tremendously self-involved. The PR Bitch answer would be to say Ticonderoga Publications launched a Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror series, right? The size of the two boxes of Year’s Best reading – 2010 and 2011 – 2010 weighs in as a year of bigger output, but the marketing impetus of a Worldcon makes that almost a given.

    Australian spec fic had an international profile boost with all those international practitioners visiting Melbourne. While I’d never dream of suggesting it was the reason Alisa Krasnostein and Twelfth Planet Press scored a World Fantasy Award, I think the wave of Aussiecon4 helped an already deserving and enterprising nominee – and this is a good and natural development, and I’m cheering that success on.

    The bowing out of Brimstone Press certainly changed the playing field for local horror writers. Bummer. The AHWA seems to have lost cohesion, but I can see a rallying point emerging with Marty Young executive editing Midnight Echo.

    The unfortunate melee that Robin Pen hilariously sketched as ‘Ballad of the Unrequited Ditmar‘ seemed to cause a lot of hurt – factions seem delineated, which I think is a pity because in a scene this small we all move forward together. (Who knew I was such a hippy?)

    I think the true biggest change – to paraphrase the words of Bren MacDibble – there is a Paul Haines shaped hole in the world. For the broad generation of Paul’s contemporaries, the wave of writers around him, that loss is going to be felt for a long time. Art doesn’t evolve in a slow creep, it leaps forward with bold thinkers and original voices, and then other practitioners play catch-up. I’m not saying he is the only trailblazer in Australia, but that ego Paul always talked about having – to my mind was just that awareness. He was a leap forward kind of artist. He was special. He knew it. The curtailing of that brave talent is the biggest change I’ve seen, and the saddest.

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    THIS interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 1-8 June and archiving them at Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus. You can read interviews at:

    Snapshot 2012: Jay Kristoff

    australian speculative fiction snapshot 2012 logoJAY Kristoff is a Perth-born, Melbourne-based author. His first trilogy, The Lotus War, was purchased by Tor in the three-way auction by US publishing houses in 2011. He is as surprised about it as you are. The first instalment, Stormdancer, is set to be published in September in the US, UK and Australia.

    He can be found shuffling about aimlessly and frightening the children at www.jaykristoff.com.


    What attracted you to the Japanese-style setting for Stormdancer? And then that dollop of steampunk? An interesting mix!
    Steampunk came first. I thought the steampunk genre was a cool place to explore the idea of a destructive techonology –- I loved cyberpunk as a kid, loved the mood of decline combined with the theme of the machine as an ‘enemy’. And that’s a well-trodden alleyway in the realm of futuristic sci-fi, but historic sci-fi tends to look at the past through rose-tinted goggles and see the advent of the machine age as a ticket to a land of wonders. So I liked the idea of destroying that perception, bringing back that nihilistic ‘punk’ element for which steampunk is named but so often overlooks.

    Thing is, the traditional stomping grounds of steampunk (Victorian England and colonial America) have been done, and done very well. I don’t like the idea of repeating someone else. There were some incredible cultures on this planet at the time when Victoria and Albert were knocking boots, and I’ve been a fan of Japanese film and fiction since forever, and it seemed like combining the two might lead me somewhere interesting. Plus, you know, chainsaw katanas…


    In what ways has your penchant for role-playing games informed your writing?
    I never really considered it until recently, but when I think about it, I’ve been building worlds since I was 12 years old. It starts with grid maps and random pluckings from the Monstrous Compendium (‘Heh, THIS will fuck ‘em!’), but I think anyone who’s spent any time being the game master knows how cool it can be to create a living, breathing world, people it with memorable characters and watch players get lost in it. I think that is writing, in a very real sense — the same discipline you use to create an exciting game world is the same as the one you use to create the world in a novel.

    A couple of the fundamental world-building ideas in Stormdancer came directly from the last Pathfinder game I ran. So apparently you can learn some important life skills sitting in dimly lit rooms with your buddies rolling polyhedral dice. Who knew.


    On your blog you say you don’t believe in happy endings. Why is that?
    Victory without sacrifice feels cheap to me. If I read a book or see a film in which all that was required to beat the Big Bad Guy was a little sleight of hand or some sharp-shooting, I feel cheated. I want to be afraid for the characters I love. When I’m in a book or film, I want to know not everyone I love is going to make it out alive, or intact, because to my mind, that makes me love them more. And I’m not talking about pathos for pathos’ sake. I’m talking about the death of Wash in Serenity, or Lin being rendered brain dead by the slake moth in Perdido Street Station — that kind of thing. Characters feel more real and tangible and alive to me when I know they could be gone at any moment, because that’s what real life is like. Triumph means more when it’s purchased with the things heroes hold dear.

    I want my readers crying even as they’re cheering.


    What Australian works have you loved recently?
    I read The Music of Razors by Cameron Rogers last year, and simply put, it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read in my life. Capital A ‘amazing’. I also scammed a copy of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak from my lovely Aus publishers at Pan-MacMillan (ah, freebies) a couple of weeks back, and I’m loving it so far.

    What have been some of the biggest changes in Australian speculative fiction in the past two years?
    Truthfully, I’m not really part of the scene, so I can’t really speak to that one. I do think we live in very tumultuous times in publishing — the advent of e-books, the rise of Amazon and the impact that’s having on publishers and brick-and-mortar stores. Long-standing publishers are shedding entire floors in NY city. Audiences are changing, and what’s expected of you as an author is changing.

    But ultimately, it’s still all about the words. Write the right words, and everything else will follow. That’s the beauty of it.

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    THIS interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 1-8 June and archiving them at Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus. You can read interviews at:

    Snapshot 2012: Kyla Ward

    australian speculative fiction snapshot 2012 logo
    KYLA Ward is a Sydney-based creative who works in many modes. Her latest release is The Land of Bad Dreams, a collection of dark and fantastic poetry. Her novel Prismatic (co-authored as Edwina Grey) won an Aurealis Award for Best Horror. Her short fiction has appeared in Ticonderoga Online, Shadowed Realms, Borderlands, Gothic.net and in the Macabre anthology, amongst others. The next Cursebreaker story, ‘The Jikininki and the Japanese Jurist’, will shortly appear in The New Hero anthology from Stone Skin Press, who will also print her very first Mythos tale, ‘Who Looks Back?’ in Shotguns vs Cthulhu.

    Her work on RPGs including Buffy the Vampire Slayer saw her appear as a guest at the inaugural Gencon Australia. She has had feature articles in magazines ranging from Dragon to Art Monthly Australia. Her short film, ‘Bad Reception’, screened at the Third International Vampire Film Festival and she is a member of the Theatre of Blood repertory company, which has also produced her work. In addition, she programmed the horror stream for the 2010 Worldcon. A practising occultist, she likes raptors, swordplay and the Hellfire Club. To see some very strange things, see her website at www.tabula-rasa.info.


    Your first solo book is a collection of poetry — did you see that coming in your projections of a writing career, given how hard it is to get poetry published, let alone (one would think) macabre poetry?
    No, it was a complete surprise! I attended the secondary launch of Leigh Blackmore’s Spores From Sharnoth at the Don Banks cottage and performed a few pieces in the open mic section. Danny Lovecraft of P’rea Press heard me and the entire idea was his. The faith was his and a serious part of the work. Poetry is a hard sell these days and I can’t pretend the book has been an overwhelming financial success, even though we recently made it onto Amazon. But I hope that the good reviews in Publishers Weekly amongst others, the Rhysling nominations and making the Stoker preliminary ballot go some way towards repaying him.


    You write for the theatre and for role playing games as well as poetry: in what ways do these pursuits influence your fiction practice?
    Undoubtedly it does. As a matter of fact, one of the things turned up by the process of editing The Land of Bad Dreams was that, all unknowing, I write poems specifically to be spoken aloud. Danny would point out errors in the metre and such that I couldn’t see, until we realised I was counting the points where I drew breath as syllables! Some pieces such as ‘Day Cars’ we ended up leaving in this weird hybrid form. But as I have said elsewhere: when I have an idea, it’s generally specific to a form. A script idea is a script, a poetry idea is a poem, a novel idea is a psychosis. It is extremely rare that I would translate one to another.

    I think this is one reason poetry continues to be written, long after the days when people would fight each other at bookstores to secure the latest instalment of Byron’s ‘Don Juan’. Some ideas can only be expressed in poetry, and any attempt to do so tends towards poetry, whether this is acknowledged or not. Thus ‘prose poems’, dramatic monologues and a significant amount of flash fiction.

    What advice do you have for writers who get the chills when it comes to reading their work out loud to an audience?
    No, no, no: it’s the audience who are supposed to get the chills!

    Being able to read your work in public is a great resource for a writer. They are the most difficult aspect of a work for the general public to ignore, or pirate. Readings can make a launch or signing into an event. Readings can be filmed and placed on YouTube. Plus, nothing displays the artistry of a piece, the flow of sentences and the aptness of words, like performance — assuming that the performer doesn’t freeze up and treat gripping prose like it’s a list of ingredients on a cereal box. The life is all there on the page, you simply have to release it out. Practice is the key: first getting used to the sound of your own voice and then learning how to control it. In my case, I can’t pretend that lengthy drama training didn’t help.


    What Australian works have you loved recently?
    Ben Peek’s ‘Below’ and Stephanie Campisi’s ‘Above’ <in Above/Below>. Clever, unusual and effective.


    What have been some of the biggest changes in Australian speculative fiction in the past two years since Aussiecon 4?
    Those associated with a slow recovery from near-total exhaustion? Or was that just me? E-books seems to have taken off in a big way. I am also looking forward to seeing what happens with GenreCon in Sydney this November: a brave experiment by any standards.

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    THIS interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 1-8 June and archiving them at Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus. You can read interviews at:

    Snapshot 2012: Russell Blackford

    australian speculative fiction snapshot 2012 logoAFTER many years in Melbourne, Sydney-born Russell Blackford has returned to Newcastle with wife Jenny, where he grew up. He has a law degree from the University of Melbourne and a Ph.D in philosophy from Monash University and an Eng. Lit. Ph.D from Newcastle Uni. He’s now a conjoint lecturer in the School of Humanities and Social Science at the University of Newcastle.

    He’s a philosopher, a literary critic and sometimes a creative writer specialising in fantasy and science fiction. His books include a trilogy of novels for the Terminator franchise, collectively known as Terminator 2: The New John Connor Chronicles. He also wrote a thriller, Kong Reborn, which is modern-day sequel to the original 1933 King Kong movie, and the much-reprinted fantasy story, set at the time of Queen Zenobia of Palmyra, ‘The Sword of God’.

    He has also been active in the Australian science fiction community for well over 30 years, including ‘a fair bit of work’ in convention programming.

    His most recent books are 50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We are Atheists (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), edited with Udo Schuklenk, and, just off the presses, Freedom of Religion and the Secular State (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), which deals with many of the hot-button issues that arise when religion and politics meet. He’s currently working on two new books: 50 Great Myths About Atheism (Wiley-Blackwell, co-authored with Udo), and Humanity Enhanced (MIT Press).

    Russell’s also editor-in-chief of an online peer-reviewed journal, The Journal of Evolution and Technology, and a columnist with the magazine Free Inquiry.

    Russell is online at www.russellblackford.com, runs personal blog Metamagician and the Hellfire Club and blogs in a more philosophical way at Talking Philosophy.


    Has science fiction driven your academic interest in ethics and humanity, or has your interest in those areas steered you towards science fiction — is science fiction the ideal ‘text’ for talking about gods, identities and being ‘more human than human’?

    Really, I can’t make that kind of distinction. My interests in all these things are entangled and they date back to primary school. Also, I think there’s something more fundamental going on, which is my sense of the mutability of human cultures, something I’ve felt in my bones for as long as I can recall. I’ve always had a just-slightly-alienated, semi-anthropological attitude to my own society and its mores, folkways and default outlook. Perhaps my socialisation didn’t ‘take; in the way it was supposed to (actually, I suspect that this is true of many people who are involved in science fiction). In my essay, ‘Unbelievable!’, in 50 Voices of Disbelief, I talk a bit about this in relation to religion: at a very early age, I rejected the religious beliefs around me, largely on the basis that I saw Christianity as just the mythology of our time and place, something that would not seem plausible in, say, a couple of thousand years … any more than classical mythology seems plausible to us. As I describe in ‘Unbelievable!’, I did return to Christianity for a period in my teens, but once again it didn’t take. And just as well.

    My love of ancient cultures, and their mythologies, and my love of speculation about the future are of a piece with this, and so is my scepticism about a lot of moralising and traditional moral rules. I have certain core values that drive me -– political freedom, compassion for suffering, the life of reason -– but I also have this very strong resistance to what seem to me culture-bound and largely arbitrary restrictions on what humanity might become (hence the ‘more than human’ part of your question), and on how, in the here and now, individuals might flourish.


    Do you ever find it difficult balancing the academic mantle with the fan who just wants to say ‘Hulk, smash — hell yes’?

    Nah, that’s fine. I love adventure movies and comics, and always have. I’m very fond of many of the great characters that have become, by now, a kind of twenty-first-century syncretic mythology, albeit not one that any sane person believes literally. In particular, I loved the new Avengers movie –- until it got too long and (I thought) too lacking in tension and felt danger. I found much to love simply because of the movie’s interpretations of the characters. Hulk, Black Widow, Thor, Loki, Iron Man, etc, were portrayed in ways that kept bringing that choked-up feeling to me, with moments that were just so recognisable and ‘right’.

    None of that cuts across my work as a philosopher, but what probably would cut across it would be trying to write these characters, and create those character beats, myself. I’ve had some minor success with media tie-in work, and I thought I did a pretty good job with The Terminator in particular. I could probably write the main Avengers or X-Men characters -– I understand and love them as much as almost anyone. The problem is that creative writing demands (for me) a certain obsessive mind-set. If I were writing stories involving the Hulk, say, or, say, Doctor Doom, I’d be wandering around constantly imagining what it might be like to be inside the heads of those characters, thinking about how they would perceive, explain to themselves, and react to what’s going on. Hopefully this wouldn’t show through in my overt behaviour! But it would crowd out the level of obsession that I also need in order to do philosophy well.

    Enjoying what other people do with those characters is fine –- it’s all fun. In fact, it’s very pleasing to see the characters done properly.


    Damn it, Russell, when are you going to write cyberpunk again?
    That’s a hard one -– again, to do this well I’d need to be totally obsessed with it. That’s the big problem with me and creative writing, and why I don’t do as much as I’d ideally like.

    The cyberpunk style, or sub-genre, or whatever we call it, is a good fit for someone like me. I can feel the allure, as well as the obvious downsides, of the classic 1980s cyberpunk futures. It all fits in with my slightly alienated perspective on my own society and its various pretensions. Right now, though, I’m not sure when I’m likely to return to writing fiction. It will only be when I’m ready to give it that sort of obsessive involvement … and at the moment I’m obsessively involved with writing non-fiction books, which (for me) is a very different mind-set. I expect it will happen, though. I have a lot of stuff to get out of my system right now, but who knows what the future will bring?

    If I’ve learned one thing in my life, it’s that I’ve got to get whatever ideas are in my head out of there and onto the paper or the screen. There’s never any worry about the ideas drying up as long as I keep doing that.

    But what wants to get down onto the screen at the moment isn’t cyberpunk-style fiction. Alas.


    What Australian works have you loved recently?
    I tend to be behind with my reading of Australian science fiction and fantasy. Suffice to say that we have some exciting talents currently in the mix -– to name just one, a writer who has been exceptionally impressive of late has been Tansy Rayner Roberts.


    What have been some of the biggest changes in Australian speculative fiction in the past two years since Aussiecon 4?
    I doubt that it’s possible to draw conclusions about changes over a period of only two years. You need a longer timeline to see whether a trend is permanent or what impact a breakthrough might ultimately have. At the moment, one thing that strikes me is the very high quality work in fantasy and horror from a number of relatively new female writers -– Tansy Rayner Roberts again, Alison Goodman … the list would actually get rather long –- but this situation has been developing for some time now. Let’s say two decades.

    You see some other things when you step back. For example, one obvious change over the past few years, though perhaps not all that remarked upon within Australia, is the successful return to the sf genre of Damien Broderick, who has placed multiple stories in year’s best anthologies of late. Good things keep happening.

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    THIS interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 1-8 June and archiving them at Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus. You can read interviews at:

    Snapshot 2012: Stephen Dedman

    australian speculative fiction snapshot 2012 logo
    STEPHEN Dedman was born in Adelaide in 1959, but grew up (though many would dispute this) on the outer limits of Perth’s metropolitan area, far enough from a good library that he had to make up his own SF and horror stories. He’s been writing for fun for more than 40 years, and for money for more than 30, selling his first short story in 1977 and his first novel in 1995.

    That novel, The Art of Arrow Cutting, was shortlisted for a Bram Stoker Award. His short stories, published in an eclectic range of magazines and anthologies, have won two Aurealis awards and a Ditmar, and been nominated for the British Science Fiction Association Award, the Sidewise Award for Alternate History, the Seiun Award and the Spectrum Award. His latest publication is ‘More Matter, Less Art’ in Midnight Echo #6; his story ‘The Fall’ will be in Exotic Gothic 4. For an up-to-date bibliography, go to www.stephendedman.com.


    Has your time as a bookseller revealed any lessons for you as a writer: craft or business wise?
    I worked in SF/F bookshops, on and off, from 1985 until 2011, and while it’s occasionally alerted me to the presence of new markets (notably Aphelion and Aurealis) and books that are useful to genre writers, the main thing it’s taught me is that there’s little point in new writers trying to cash in on a trend, be it cyberpunk, epic fantasy, zombies, or sparkly vampires. By the time they’ve finished a draft and sent it anywhere, hundreds of other writers will have done the same. Instead, writers should go to the bookshops and the libraries and look for the books they want to read, and if no-one’s written it yet, write it themselves. Write the stories you would pay to read.


    You write across so many genres — are there themes that are present across them that perhaps you’re exploring in different ways?
    There are some themes I keep coming back to, beyond the obvious SF and horror themes of possible futures and things that scare us. Outsiders and otherness (most of my protagonists are from somewhere else). Obsession. The relationship, and often the gulf, between our fantasies and what we actually want or would let ourselves do in reality. And dinosaurs and ninja, of course.


    Given your enviable back catalogue, are you excited about the possibilities of e-publishing and POD?
    Cautiously excited. I’m definitely excited by the idea that no book or short story ever need disappear completely. I’m less optimistic about the prospect of making a living from it; I’m not yet convinced that the long-tail economy isn’t something like the trickle-down effect, all jam tomorrow but never jam today (kudos to Cat Valente, by the way, for telling me that that was a Latin pun).


    What Australian works have you loved recently?
    I’m embarrassed to say that since we sold Fantastic Planet bookshop, I haven’t been keeping up with them as much as I should. I was enormously impressed by The Courier’s New Bicycle by Kim Westwood, and Felicity Dowker‘s new collection Bread and Circuses is excellent.

    What have been some of the biggest changes in Australian speculative fiction in the past two years since Aussiecon 4?
    Mainly that more people are self-publishing, either as hardcopy as e-books, and it seems that the big publishers’ are cutting back on midlist, with print runs getting smaller and backlist going to PoD.

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    THIS interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 1-8 June and archiving them at Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus. You can read interviews at: