Snapshot 2012: Robert Hoge

australian speculative fiction snapshot 2012 logoBRISBANE writer Robert Hoge has never had a job that didn’t involve writing. His first job was working on a sports newspaper at the University of Queensland where he spent time interviewing future Olympic gold medallists before they were famous. Since then he’s worked as a full-time journalist, a speechwriter, a science communicator for the CSIRO and a political advisor. Robert has had a number of short stories, articles and interviews published in Australia and overseas. You can visit him at www.roberthoge.com.

You had a beautifully poetic short story in last year’s After the Rain anthology and there’s a similar atmosphere to other shorts: is that a preferred mode or just what best suited those yarns, a space you were in at the time…?
Glad you liked it.

I kind of hit on a series of shorts about the elements – especially water – almost by accident. I certainly didn’t plan it that way but I think I kept coming back to it because it was simple but brutally powerful at the same time.

I like taking the elements we’re so familiar with – water, rain, fire – and throwing them onto the page and seeing what happens.

You’ve got an autobiography occupying your time — where to after that, writing-wise?
Yep, I haven’t finished any new short stories in a while because I’m still really focussed on that. But by the end of the year, I want to knock a few new short stories out and get stuck into a novel about civil disobedience that keeps rattling around my head.

After the awards ceremony at Perth’s natcon last year, you wrote an open letter to the spec fic community about ensuring access to such ceremonies. What was the response?
The response was very heartening – especially from the event organisers themselves. Everyone seemed to immediately understand and acknowledge that we need to do better – as a community.

I think the community has a tremendous capacity to self-organise and self-correct when we need to. We can get an awful lot done when we put our mind to it.

What Australian works have you loved recently?
Well, if I keep it to the last year or so…

The Courier’s New Bicycle by Kim Westwood; the collections by Paul Haines, Angela Slatter (2) and Lisa L. Hannett; and a lot of the really high quality stuff that’s coming out from Twelfth Planet Press.

I’ve also really been enjoying the artwork Kathleen Jennings has been producing – it’s great and you can tell almost immediately that it is a work produced by her.


What have been some of the biggest changes in Australian speculative fiction in the past two years since Aussiecon 4?
That’s a hard one. I think it’s so much easier for everyone to organise now, to communicate, that the changes seem – and probably are – less pronounced. And I think some of these things would have happened without Aussiecon 4 anyway, but I’m really impressed with the development of some of our independent presses. The people running them are doing great but I’m also really impressed with how much it is allowing other creatives like Amanda Rainey and Dion Hamill to develop as well.

* * *

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:

Writing round-up

Writing: it’s easy, right? Take a couple of weeks, knock out that yarn that’s been banging around in your noggin’ ever since you read that thriller on your Gold Coast holiday back in whenever and reckoned, hell yes, once I’ve done the important stuff in my life, I’ll write a book and that’ll be luvly.

Here’s a Facebook post from Ian Irvine about his new yarn:

I’ve done 10 hard drafts of Vengeance, plus written more than 80 background docs on story planning, character creation and analysis, world-building and story analysis documents. And spent something like 2,800 hours on it thus far.

Ian also has a handy bunch of info on his website: the truth about publishing, writing tips, marketing tips … well worth a long, slow read, possibly with note-taking.

Meanwhile, I’ve had a ‘yes indeedy’ with a solid chuckle thanks to Patrick O’Duffy’s post about, mostly, punctuation that riles him. E.g.,

(The Oxford comma) bleeds energy from the sentence like a speedbump on a suburban street, and dribbles into the eye like birdshit

After the rain

And finally, but most definitely not least, a minor crow moment. As you might have gathered from Ian’s post, sometimes, the yarns take time. They take iterations. They take hair-pulling and wailing and gnashing of teeth. This one here (well, you can’t see it, but trust me, it’s here, the recalcitrant bugger) has been a burr under my saddle for more than a week now, little more than a page or six of incoherent, barely related scenes, ideas, descriptions, dialogue lines … Damn it, just write yourself, why don’t you? Who are you and what do you want? It’s still not telling me. But it’s all very worthwhile when you get a mention in dispatches such as at this review of After the Rain* over at ASiF (where I have been known to drop the occasional review, myself).

Also pleasing is the mention of Robert Hoge’s ‘The Shadow on the City of My Sky’, a gorgeous story that I saw when we were critique buddies way back when, and am very pleased to see in print and being deservedly praised. Peter Ball’s ‘Visitors’ was another of my favourites from that anthology; I’m glad it got tapped here, too. Peter’s work is awesome: check it out.

So, the lesson from today’s internet surfing/procrastination is this: work hard, mind the punctuation, do your best and hope someone appreciates the end result.

* I’m judging collections and anthologies for the Aurealis Awards this year, but After the Rain is not up for consideration due to its publisher being involved in the awards. So I can say with a clear conscience that the antho, regardless of my story being in it, is very solid indeed.

Books! King, Powers, After the Rain, Shaun Tan, the Man Booker International shortlist

After the rain

The news:

The Man Booker International shortlist (NOT the Man Booker, for a book, but rather for a lifetime achievement) features John Le Carre and Philip Pullman, and Aussie David Malouf is in the 13, too. I find it cool that Le Carre wants to stay out in the cold — he’s not competitive, it appears, and the organisers have politely declined his equally polite request to be withdrawn.

And FableCroft has opened pre-orders for After the Rain, which includes my cyberpunk homage to misspent RPG days. The story has been fine-tuned since it was included in FableCroft’s flood relief charity e-version. The physical release is due out for Easter.

And it would be remiss to fail to mention the ongoing Year of the Shaun Tan, with the Aussie artist adding the mortgage-killing Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award to this year’s Oscar. Huzzah!

And the reviews, briefly:

Full Dark, No Stars, by Stephen King, collecting four yarns all uniformly bleak. The opening novella, ’1922′, is classic obsession/haunting stuff, I had a couple of wee niggles, but I can’t go past the man’s command of character and, in this collection, the economy of words and gorgeous phrasing. ‘Big Driver’ is an ugly tale where the ugliness is not just foreshadowed but announced — you’d think that’d kill the suspense, but it doesn’t. The short story ‘Fair Extension’ is probably the least engaging, a Faustian exercise in human bitterness with surprisingly few twists. And ‘A Good Marriage’ is another simply domestic bliss gone bad, an one way in which we can handle home-grown evil. Even when the story has a kind of happy ending, there are no real winners here: such an apt title. King at his best or even his mediocre is a great salve.

And the other novel to have travelled from the to-read pile to the finally read one is Tim Powers’ The Stress of Her Regard, a fetching alternative reality in which the poets Byron, Keats and Shelley battled very literal demons. It’s clever and I can only imagine how much fun the author must’ve had digging up the poetic extracts to head each chapter, selecting not only for theme but to set the mood on the action to follow. It’s a pedestrian pace but well worth the stroll through this superbly imagined fantasy.

Dead Red Heart and More Scary Kisses: books with bite!

more scary kisses cover

Here is the cover of More Scary Kisses, Ticonderoga’s anthology of paranormal romance stories due out in April. The table of contents is here.

And Ticonderoga’s Australian-themed vampire anthology, Dead Red Heart, has had its table of contents announced, and it’s a monster: 32 yarns, more than 130,000 words, due out towards the end of April.

I hope this means both will hit the shelf in time for Swancon, Perth’s annual spec fic convention which this year is also the national science fiction convention.

It’s particularly exciting to have a couple of stories coming out this year after such a long hiatus.

after the rain ebook edition

There’s also a story of mine, a cyberpunk one just in contrast to the New Orleans hot-and-sweaty of MSK and cane-and-dust vampire action of DRH, in Fablecroft’s forthcoming After the Rain anthology, also due out in time for Swancon. A special e-edition of ATR is available with proceeds going to the Queensland flood appeal. More than $1200 has been raised so far. Awesome!

For me, after the rain should probably be after the drought, it’s been so long since I’ve written a short story. But last year, after much kicking around and failing to succeed with novel-length manuscripts, my subconscious apparently found a window for some short stuff. Dark Prints Press’s Surviving the End anthology started the ball rolling — that book’s due out in 2012, and I quite like the story of mine in it: a dirty, post-apocalyptic Australian Gulf-country yarn.

I’m back in drought mode, now, but it sure feels affirming to have been able to dredge out some yarns!