Writerly round-up: a new book, an award, a farewell

It’s the afternoon after the four days that came before, and what a grand four days Continuum 8 offered. Held at Rydges in Carlton, where the bartenders were, as usual, outgunned by demand, the convention pulled together writers, publishers, readers and knitters (!) from around the country for the celebration of all things fantastical.

Twelfth Planet Press launched new titles by Kaaron Warren — a printing error has meant a recall for those who have already snaffled the enticing collection — and Margo Lanagan (officially hitting the shelves in August) and my novella Salvage (yay!). Keep an ear out for a podcast recorded at the beautifully laid out Embiggen Books(timber shelves! ladders! SECRET DOOR!) about the Twelve Planets series of collections. [update: the podcast is now available here]

Twelve Planets podcast

Twelve Planets podcast at Embiggen Books

There were panels on vampires, e-books, Australian writing and many other things; launches; parties; costumes; crafts; dinners on Lygon St; the nearest Japanese restaurant would’ve seen a pleasing surge in income. And there were awards, with Paul Haines and Sara Douglass both receiving posthumous accolades. A further highlight of the Ditmars was the squeaking octopii, given out as stand-ins when the actual awards failed to arrive in time.

Also awarded were the Chronos awards, recognising achievements by Victorian writers, artists and fans, and how pleasing it was to receive one for ‘best fan writer’. A lovely acknowledgement of my new address! And Kirstyn and co-host Ian Mond landed Ditmar and Chronos awards for their podcast, The Writer and the Critic. The awards lists are below.

Convention pictures by Cat Sparks*

More pix from yours truly

So amidst the catching up, the memorials and general frivolity, a bittersweet announcement has been made: my wonderful boss, Kate Eltham, is leaving the Queensland Writers Centre to take the reins at next year’s Brisbane Writers Festival. Kate is a dynamic woman and talented writer who has made the QWC such an active organisation, reaching out across the state and the nation and overseas through various programs all aimed at not just keeping writers of all ilks in the loop but helping them to be part of the loops. It’ll be interesting to see what new ideas she brings to the BWF. This is great news for Kate and a real shift of gears, but I confess that I will sure miss her. Good luck with it, mate!

Kirstyn McDermott, Ian Mond host Continuum awards ceremony

Kirstyn and Ian host the awards ceremony

Ditmar Award winners:

Peter McNamara Award: Bill Congreve

A. Bertram Chandler Award:Richard Harland

Norma K Hemming Award, TIE: Anita (AA) Bell for Hindsight; Sara Douglass for The Devil’s Diadem

And a new award, the Infinity:Merv Binns

Best Novel

  • WINNER: The Courier’s New Bicycle, Kim Westwood (HarperCollins)
  • Debris (The Veiled Worlds 1), Jo Anderton (Angry Robot)
  • Burn Bright, Marianne de Pierres (Random House Australia)
  • The Shattered City (Creature Court 2), Tansy Rayner Roberts (HarperCollins)
  • Mistification, Kaaron Warren (Angry Robot)

Best Novella or Novelette

  • WINNER: ‘The Past is a Bridge Best Left Burnt’, Paul Haines (The Last Days of Kali Yuga)
  • ‘And the Dead Shall Outnumber the Living’, Deborah Biancotti (Ishtar)
  • ‘Above’, Stephanie Campisi (Above/Below)
  • ‘Below’, Ben Peek (Above/Below)
  • ‘Julia Agrippina’s Secret Family Bestiary’, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Love and Romanpunk)
  • ‘The Sleeping and the Dead’, Cat Sparks (Ishtar)

Best Short Story

  • WINNER: ‘The Patrician’, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Love and Romanpunk)
  • ‘Bad Power’, Deborah Biancotti (Bad Power)
  • ‘Breaking the Ice’, Thoraiya Dyer (Cosmos 37)
  • ‘The Last Gig of Jimmy Rucker’, Martin Livings & Talie Helene (More Scary Kisses)
  • ‘Alchemy’, Lucy Sussex (Thief of Lives)
  • ‘All You Can Do Is Breathe’, Kaaron Warren (Blood and Other Cravings)

Best Collected Work

  • WINNER: The Last Days of Kali Yuga, Paul Haines (Brimstone)
  • Bad Power, Deborah Biancotti (Twelfth Planet)
  • Nightsiders, Sue Isle (Twelfth Planet)
  • Ishtar, Amanda Pillar & KV Taylor, eds. (Gilgamesh)
  • Love and Romanpunk, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Twelfth Planet)

Best Artwork

  • WINNER: ‘Finishing School’, Kathleen Jennings, in Steampunk!: An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories (Candlewick)
  • Cover art for The Freedom Maze (Small Beer), Kathleen Jennings

Best Fan Writer

  • WINNER: Robin Pen, for The Ballad of the Unrequited Ditmar’
  • Bruce Gillespie, for body of work including The Golden Age of Fanzines is Now’, and SF Commentary 81 & 82
  • Alexandra Pierce, for body of work including reviews at Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus, Not If You Were The Last Short Story On Earth, and Randomly Yours, Alex
  • Tansy Rayner Roberts, for body of work including reviews at Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus, and Not If You Were The Last Short Story On Earth
  • Sean Wright, for body of work including ‘Authors and Social Media’ series in Adventures of a Bookonaut

Best Fan Artist

  • WINNER: Kathleen Jennings, for work in Errantry, including ‘The Dalek Game’
  • Rebecca Ing, for work in Scape
  • Dick Jenssen, for body of work including work in IRS, Steam Engine Time, SF Commentary, and Scratchpad
  • Lisa Rye, for Steampunk Portal series
  • Rhianna Williams, for work in Nullas Anxietas Convention Program Book

Best Fan Publication in Any Medium

  • WINNER: The Writer and the Critic podcast, Kirstyn McDermott & Ian Mond
  • SF Commentary, Bruce Gillespie, ed.
  • Galactic Chat podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Tansy Rayner Roberts & Sean Wright
  • Galactic Suburbia podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Tansy Rayer Roberts, & Alex Pierce
  • The Coode Street podcast, Gary K. Wolfe & Jonathan Strahan

Best New Talent

  • WINNER: Joanne Anderton
  • Alan Baxter
  • Steve Cameron

William Atheling Jr. Award for Criticism or Review

  • WINNER: Alexandra Pierce & Tehani Wessely, for reviews of The Vorkosigan Saga, in Randomly Yours, Alex
  • Russell Blackford, for ‘Currently reading: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke’, in Metamagician and the Hellfire Club
  • Damien Broderick & Van Ikin, for editing Warriors of the Tao: The Best of Science Fiction: A Review of Speculative Literature
  • Liz Grzyb & Talie Helene, for ‘2010: The Year in Review’, in The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2010
  • David McDonald, Tansy Rayner Roberts & Tehani Wessely, for ‘Reviewing New Who’ series, in A Conversational Life

 

Chronos Awards

Best Long Fiction: The Last Days of Kali Yuga, Paul Haines (Brimstone Press)


Best Short Fiction: ‘The Past is a Bridge Best Left Burnt’, Paul Haines (in The Last Days of Kali Yuga)


Best Fan Writer: Jason Nahrung


Best Fan Artist: Rachel Holkner


Best Fan Written Work: ‘Tiptree, and a collection of her short stories’, Alexandra Pierce (in Randomly Yours, Alex)

Best Fan Artwork: Blue Locks, Rebecca Ing (Scape 2)

Best Fan Publication: The Writer and the Critic, Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond

Best Achievement: Conquilt, Rachel Holkner and Jeanette Holkner (Continuum 7)


 
* It’s possible there might be a photo of me with a bottle of wine and a glass: I was pouring for other people. Honest.

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:

    Salvage launches — tomorrow night!

    salvage by jason nahrungA gentle reminder — well, more of a whoop, really — that Salvage is about to be launch. A bottle of red cracked across the bow and sent out into the stormy waters of the marketplace for your — I hope — reading pleasure.

    Tomorrow night’s launch at Continuum 8 in Melbourne is part of the Twelfth Planet Hour: a party to celebrate not just Salvage but the latest titles in the rather awesome Twelve Planets range of collections by Australian women writers: Kaaron Warren’s Through Splintered Walls and Margo Lanagan’s Cracklescape. You can schmooze with some of the other TPP authors, too. If that wasn’t enough there’s cupcakes, a juggler and a surprise announcement from the press … oo-err! The party kicks off  at 7pm; entry to the convention is by gold coin donation today.

    Can’t make it to the party, nor the convention but still want some seaside love-on-the-rocks with added vampire? Order Salvage at www.twelfthplanetpress.com, and/or enter the Goodreads giveaway for a chance to win a copy.

    At Continuum, I’ll be:

    • Launching fellow TPP author Narrelle M Harris’s sequel to The Opposite of Life, Walking Shadows, published by Clan Destine Press, at 6 o’clock tomorrow night
    • Discussing Backyard Speculation — Australian settings in fantastic fiction — on Saturday 10-11am
    • Reading, probably from Salvage, on Saturday 2-3pm alongside Cheryse Durrant, Alison Goodman and Margo Lanagan
    • Discussing e-books: what are they worth? on Sunday 11am-noon
    • Chatting with guest of honour Alison Goodman on Sunday noon-1pm
    • Discussing Vampires: From Horror to Heart-throb on Monday 10-11am
    • Discussing the Awards Debacle on Monday from 2-3pm.

    It’s gonna be a grand weekend!

    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.

    * * *

    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.

    * * *

    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: