Snapshot 2014: Patrick O’Duffy

patrick o'duffyPATRICK O’DUFFY is tall, Australian and a professional editor, although not always in that order. He has written role-playing games, short fiction, a little journalism and freelance non-fiction, and is currently working on a novel, although frankly not working hard enough. He loves off-kilter fiction, Batman comics and his wife, and finds this whole writing-about-yourself-in-the-third-person thing difficult to take seriously. Find him at


1. At GenreCon in Brisbane last year, that mighty meeting of the genre clans, you presided over a panel on nicking stuff from other genres. What are your best tips for crossing the boundaries? Do the boundaries even matter any more?

I think the boundaries still matter a lot for some people – you only have to look at all the conflict and controversy around the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in the last 12 months. So much of that involved writers with new ideas about the SF genre coming into a space where other writers had extremely different, more conservative ideas about what was ‘true’ SF and how rigid the boundaries of the genre should be.

But those writers are on the way out, along with the idea that genres should be well-defined things that need to be ‘protected’. I don’t think boundaries matter – or, perhaps more accurately, they don’t have to matter. Readers have shown that they’re more interested in original ideas and good writing than they are with any kind of ideological genre- or subgenre-purity. There’s a market for any book that crosses or cheerfully rampages through genre boundaries, and I think that’s really exciting.

As for tips, there’s really only one that matters – write the story you want to write. Tell the story that you want to tell, and don’t worry too much about whether it fits nicely on the standard fantasy or SF shelves. If your imagination can reconcile spaceships and cyborg dragons and romantic relationships and terrible elder gods in the one story, readers can do the same, and they will if you make it worth the reading.

Actually, the reverse of that is another tip – don’t deliberately shop around for elements and tropes of other genres to cobble into your story if they don’t fit there or if they don’t resonate with you. YA steampunk spy thrillers may be so hot right now, but if that’s not the story you want to tell, don’t write it; don’t put a clockwork teenage secret agent into your zombie western just because you hope it’ll get some more attention and sales.

Genres are mostly just labels. Make your own. Stick them to things.

2. You’ve been upfront about the financial reality of your self-publishing efforts, but you seem to maintain your enthusiasm with, for example, plans for The Obituarist sequel. A Sinatra-like case of doing it your way? And what’s been the standout advice for others pursuing the same path that you’ve learnt along the way?

obituarist by patrick o'duffyIt’s not just that I enjoy failure or throwing money away, although lord knows those things are fun. I think self-e-publishing (or or whatever you call it) can definitely be financially viable, even lucrative, if you’re publishing the right kinds of books in the right market – and I’m not doing that. I’m publishing weird horror novellas and flash fiction collections and stories about social media undertakers.

And not many people want to read those things – but I want to write them. Because those are the ideas I have and the stories I want to tell. So given that I’m going to struggle to find publishers for these not-very-commercial books, and that I’ve written them or I’m going to write them anyway – why not put them out myself as e-books? I don’t make money from them, not yet, but it’s better than leaving them in a drawer, it’s an interesting process to explore, I’m not hugely out of pocket – and most importantly I’m finding that there are people who want to read these books, people who really enjoy them and want to buy and read more of my work.

Self-publishing has connected me to my audience. And if that audience is telling me that they want a second Obituarist novella, then I kinda figure I have to write one. Hopefully they can convince some of their friends to buy it too.

As for advice for others, I think the main one is that self-publishing gives you both power and responsibility. You get to make all the decisions, you control the way you find and interact with readers, you own the whole process. So you need to do everything you can to make the book the best it can be, you need to convince readers that it’s worth their time and money, and you need to be the one shouldering the blame if it doesn’t work out.

That sounds kind of heavy, but I think there’s a really exciting power in that, in the ability to follow your own ideas and play by your own rules. These days a lot of websites and outlets ask writers to work for free, or for exposure, and that can mean they make all the decisions for you. In the end, if you’re going to do things for exposure, it’s better to stay in control of that; it’s better to expose yourself.

No, leave that in. Don’t edit it out.

3. You’ve been working on a fantasy story, Raven’s Blood, complete with commissioned character art. How’s that looking, and what are your plans for it?

It’s looking pretty good! I’ve finished the foundation draft (which is like a first draft that I’ve polished and edited as I’ve written it, and hopefully explains why the draft took two years to write) and sent it to half-a-dozen alpha readers. Their notes are coming back in, and by the end of August I need to sit down and spend a couple of months revising and improving the manuscript. From there I’ll be looking for a publisher – because this book is one that could do well in traditional markets, in print and on bookshelves. And the joy of doing independent e-books is that it doesn’t stop me in any way from also going through the usual channels – or trying to, at any rate.

You didn’t ask what the book was about, but I’m going to talk about it anyway. Raven’s Blood is a young-adult superhero fantasy novel – yes, I’m walking the talk when I talk about wandering blithely over genre boundaries. This is a book where fantasy-Batman wields a +1 sword to fight steampunk cyborgs on the rooftops of pseudo-Elizabethan London. But it’s also a story about making your place in the world, about working out who you are and what matters to you. Plus it’s got fights, explosions, magic, a heroine who refuses to be what she’s told to be, a hero who refuses to be what she wants him to be, a variety of villains, some romance and occasional parkour. I had a lot of fun with it.

The character artwork wasn’t part of the book, though. I’d been talking to a friend of mine, the author Cam Rogers, about the way he surrounds himself with visual stimulus when he writes – photos, drawings, nightclub flyers, scraps of poetry, street art, things that keep him immersed in the work and in what he’s creating. I wanted to try that as a creative and motivational tool, so I commissioned a drawing of the Ghost Raven (the male lead) from an amazing local artist. Now it hangs next to my desk, prodding me whenever I see it to think about what more I can do to make Raven’s Blood the best it can be. I’m getting a second piece done soon of Kember, the female protagonist; then the two of them can scowl and yell at each other while I’m writing.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

Oh god, this is embarrassing. This year has been so busy with writing and day job stuff (mostly the latter) that I’ve barely had a chance to read any books, Australian or otherwise.

Hmm. Can I cheat? Can I talk about Australian works that I’m really looking forward to reading soon? Because I’ve got a bunch of them.

There’s a bit of a wave of urban fantasy thrillers out lately – Peter Ball’s Exile, Christian Read’s Black City and Alan Baxter’s Bound are all on my list. As is Jane Lawler’s Gladio, which is a non-fantastic thriller (you know what I mean). For horror there’s Jason Nahrung’s The Big Smoke (cheers! next year … JN) and Kirstyn McDermott’s Perfections; for weird fantasy I’m keen on Lee Battersby’s The Corpse-Rat King and Nina D’Aleo’s The Last City. And perhaps I’m most excited about Andrew MacRae’s Trucksong, a poetic post-apocalyptic story about AI trucks roaming the Australian wastelands.

I have no idea when I’m going to get a chance to read any of these. But I will. Scout’s honour.

5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

My day job is in the publishing industry, so changes there definitely influence the way I work – but we’re not here to talk about that, we’re here to talk about writing.

I don’t think that current events and changes are affecting how I work – I still plonk down in front of the PC several nights a week and type away until it’s all finished. But they have changed the way I think about the work after it’s finished, and I’m trying to work out the best way to get it out into the wild and find its audience. For example, Amazon have just started trialling a subscription library, where users can download all the e-books they want for a monthly fee. Is it a good or bad thing for authors? Is that something I should try to get my e-books into? If it is, I’d have to go Amazon/Kindle exclusive with those books – would the benefits outweigh the costs?

Questions like this, questions about the business/publishing end of things, are really important to consider if you’re self-publishing, and I think anyone making their own e-books needs to pay careful attention to tech and business developments. But they don’t really impact on the way I work; I try to put all of that stuff out of my head when I’m writing. Better to switch hats and gears once one thing is finished, rather than trying (and failing) to multi-task.

As for what I’ll be doing in five years? Good lord, I don’t know. Hopefully finishing up the Ghost Raven trilogy, possibly juggling that with an urban fantasy/horror trilogy I’ve been thinking about (but haven’t started yet) and perhaps getting back to the literary fiction book I shelved a couple of years ago to write The Obituarist. I’ll be reading more books on devices but not giving up on hardcopy; writing on a newer computer that doesn’t crash quite as often; possibly experimenting with new digital publishing platforms, such as those for serial fiction, and seeing whether I can do anything with them. Oh, and I’d like to write some comics; interested artists should contact me. We can Kickstart it or something!

2014 aussie spec fiction snapshot

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THIS interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian speculative fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at:

Snapshot 2014: Karen Brooks

karen brooksKAREN BROOKS is an academic, newspaper columnist and social commentator on national radio and TV as well as the author of eight fantasy novels. Having written fantasy for the YA market (five books), historical fantasy for adults (three) and a non-fiction book, Consuming Innocence: Popular Culture and Our Children, Karen has now written the first of what she hopes will be many historical fiction books, The Brewer’s Tale. When not writing, Karen loves being with her family (husband, Stephen, two adult children, Adam and Caragh) and her fur kids – the dogs, Tallow and Dante and her four cats – Claude, (Thomas) Cromwell, Jack Cade, and Baroque – spending time with friends, cooking, travelling, reading and dreaming. She lives in Hobart, Tasmania in a stone house with a name built in 1868, and which has its own wonderful stories to tell. Find her online at

1. With your Bond Riders series, you delved into Venetian history, and in your new book coming out this year, you’ve delved into the arcane art of brewing – perhaps not so much fun for someone who doesn’t much drink beer … What comes first, the story or the era?

The story always comes first for me – though I also find that the era tends to accompany it, sometimes, almost organically. With The Curse of the Bond Riders trilogy, I couldn’t conceive of a better fit for the story than a fictionalised Venice of roughly the 1500s – candle-making, masques, mists, borders, crossings and secrets all lending themselves to both Venice and the high Renaissance.

With my new novel, The Brewer’s Tale, again, the story came first. The idea of a novel about a female brewer occured to me while I was tossing back a whisky in a bar in Hobart (Lark) and reminiscing about a dear friend. But it wasn’t until I began the research that I knew the novel had to be set in a very specific time and, indeed, place: England (with references to Holland, Flanders, and the Mediterranean and North Sea regions) 1406-1409. The title also gestures to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, so I guess the era came with the story.

And, just for the record, I don’t drink any beer! Though I did sip quite a few different styles as I talked to brewers and learned how to make the stuff!

2. The book reviews on your website show a wide range of interests – including but not restricted to, crime, mystery, non-fiction historical fiction, SF. In what ways is that important to your writing?

Not only do I love reading, but I love the craft of writing and the way different writers and the genres in which they work both meet and challenge given ‘rules’ (including readers’ expectations) within specific generic structures. The way writers still manage to be original and compelling within these genres is just fantastic, and I am filled with admiration and lexical envy constantly. I think reading across a wide range of genres not only entertains and gives me enormous pleasure, it nourishes my imagination and helps with my own writing. I learn so much from other writers and genres, and I pay homage to that through my reviews.

brewers tale by karen brooks3. What can you tell us about your Harlequin deal? Has it given you a chance to further explore your interests as a social commentator and academic in the issues of gender equality and representation?

The Brewer’s Tale went to auction late last year and I was absolutely delighted when Harlequin ‘won’ the book. They have been meticulous in their care and vision for it and I have been privileged to work with some of the best editors and team of book professionals in the industry. The book comes out on October 1 and is a standalone historical fiction with a touch of magic realism.

What was wonderful about the three years of research I did before and during the writing was it did allow me to address, through fiction, issues of gender equality and representation because the the role of women in brewing, especially in the past, reflected and overturned what was happening in terms of gender in the wider world. What I discovered was historically, women were the principal brewers and responsible for making ale in virtually every community. It wasn’t until making ale and later beer became a commercially viable industry that men took it over.

As historian Judith M Bennett states, ‘when a venture propers, women fade from the scene’. This notion sparked my interest – perhaps more so because of my academic background, I am not sure, but I am a great believer in gender equity and social justice, so I wanted to explore why women ‘faded from the scene’, what were the reasons (and there are many – and they’re complex, it wasn’t simply men barging in and tossing women out) and what would happen if one woman didn’t ‘fade’. In that regard, writing the book really did help me pursue my research and writing passions.

I was fascinated by the history of brewing – how and why it became commercial, how it was managed prior to that, what was involved, the role of men and women, taxes, laws around pricing, distribution, quantities, etc., and so many other things besides in what was once a cottage industry. I was spellbound by what brewers of both sexes achieved and endured, and the fact that alcohol was such an integral part of the medieval diet – most people were a little (or a lot) pissed most of the time!

But of course, I am writing a novel, so what I learned (and still am) underpins the work, but it’s still a rollicking tale of adventure, betrayal, murder, mayhem and romance. But I have such a deep and abiding respect for brewers – men and women – and the products they make as a consequence of writing this book as well as their ongoing battles with multinational corporations. What I have also learned is that, apart from the sex of the brewers, when it comes to competition and craft or small-time producers trying to be recognised and compete in an industry dominated by major players who set the rules, not much has changed.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
Oh! So many. Kate Forsyth’s works, The Wild Girl and Dancing on Knives. I was astonished by the completely marvellous The Blue Mile by Kim Kelly, Michael Robotham remains one of my favourite thriller author’s – his latest is due out soon and I cannot wait. Katherine Howell’s Deserving Death, Kim Wilkin’s short story collection, The Year of Ancient Ghosts, The Fictional Woman by Tara Moss, Josephine Pennicott’s Currawong Manor, Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites and anything by Angela Slatter or Juliet Marillier.

5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

The main changes to the way I work are around the use of social media to maintain a profile and interact with readers (which I love doing) and I guess opening a dialogue on the creative process – both for my newspaper columns and books. This is encouraged by publishers who understand that the world has altered and writers need to be accessible.

In terms of the nuts and bolts of writing, recent changes in publishing have not affected the way I write. A writer must serve the story regardless of anything else, so I focus on that – on hopefully producing quality and being entertaining as well.

In terms of what I think I’ll be publishing five years from now – hopefully, more books 🙂 Seriously, I hope my historical fiction will continue to be published. It’s what I intend to write. I have a few ideas up my sleeve that I want to nurture and write (including the book I am working on now). As for reading, I will be doing what I have always done, reading widely and voraciously and appreciating the wealth of talent and the dedication of the wonderful writers out there and the good publishers that bring this work to us – and across a wide variety of platforms as well.

2014 aussie spec fiction snapshot

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THIS interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian speculative fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at:

Snapshot 2014: Ion Newcombe

ion newcombe of antipodeansfION ‘NUKE” NEWCOMBE is the editor of AntipodeanSF, and the AntipodeanSF Radio Show. He is also an on-air presenter, tech-head, resident sceptic, and secretary at community radio 2NVR, the ‘Best Little Station in the Nation’. On weekdays Nuke manages his own editorial, website and IT business in Nambucca Heads on the mid-north coast of NSW. On weekends he goofs off with the best of them, and occasionally writes really odd stories of his own.

1. You are approaching 200 issues of AntipodeanSF. What drew you to start it, and what keeps you doing it?

AntipodeanSF was first conceived in mid 1997 as a publication venue for Down Under authors seeking worldwide exposure on the internet, and as a venue for me to hone my own editorial skills. I didn’t think computer monitors of the day were good enough for readers to stick with longer stories. Short-short stories (as they were known back then) of about 500 words seemed the ideal length. As the magazine grew month by month I discovered a lurking love of the editorial process, and AntipodeanSF became the launchpad for many first-time authors. Similarly, many of those authors came back to AntiSF from time to time with new contributions of what came to be known as flash fiction.

Over the years the e-zine has continued to work with and publish new authors, mostly from the southern hemisphere, with a continued focus on stories that turn notions of ‘what if’ on their head. Editing is still my passion. Helping writers wrangle their words into the best story possible is my reward, whether it’s making suggestions to a specfic seasoned writer or newbie.

2. You’ve added a radio show to the website — a sign of the rise of the podcast/audio book? Has that caused you any challenges or exposed you to some unexpected joys?

The idea behind the AntipodeanSF Radio Show lurked in my mind for years, from well before podcasting became popular. I have been a radio enthusiast since childhood, have had my amateur radio licence for many years, and I produced and presented my first show on community radio 3MDR in the Dandenong Ranges back in the early 1980s.

After my move from Melbourne to the Mid-North coast of NSW, I lived remotely and did not get involved in local radio. Nevertheless, as computer technology became more and more capable of handling audio, I put forward the idea of audio story production to some of AntiSF‘s writers and readers in March 2001. Our first audio story, published online along with the on-screen version, was ‘The Visitor’ by Garry Dean, in Issue 40 of AntipodeanSF, online in June 2001. I did not receive much feedback about the audio, and temporarily shelved the idea — for 10 years as it turned out.

In the meantime, I moved closer to a centre of civilisation on the coast and involved myself in 2NVR, Nambucca Valley Radio. I started a Sunday evening program called Scientifiction. That and the continued success of AntipodeanSF, along with the rise of podcasting, led to the compilation of The first AntipodeanSF Radio Show in April 2011. It went to air and podcast in May, and has continued since.

Because of my long involvement in radio and my background in electronics engineering, the challenges in producing the radio show are mainly organisational — getting the audio from authors or narrators, finding narrators, and in finding the time to compile the shows.

As for joys, presenting stories in the best way possible, particularly as narrated by each author, is reward without measure.

3. Do you think Aussie writers have found a wider audience in the time you started the site, partly with a view to broadening their exposure?

I do. This was always one of the aims of AntipodeanSF. Unfortunately, I can only measure that notion with anecdotal evidence from Aussie writers who have since gone on to publish in wider markets. I believe that at least 20–30 writers with first-time publication credits with AntipodeanSF have gone on to publish in the wider marketplace. Many of the names that graced the early pages of AntipodeanSF now appear in the pages of professional or semi-professional speculative magazines, novels and story collections.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

A list, then:

  • Magic Dirt — Sean Williams (collection)
  • The Cuckoo‘ — Sean Williams (short story in Clarkesworld)
  • Everything is a Graveyard — Jason Fischer (collection)
  • The Bride Price — Cat Sparks (collection)
  • The Bone Chime Song — Jo Anderton (collection)

    Are you getting the idea that I like short fiction yet?

  • Dimension6, Issue 1 — Spec fic magazine from Coeur De Lion, particularly ‘Ryder’ by Richard Harland, and ‘The Preservation Society’ by Jason Nahrung (cheers, Ion! from an AntiSF alumni) therein.
  • Lexicon — Max Barry

    And all of the stories in AntipodeanSF, of course.

    5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

    Rather than directly influencing the way I work, I see changes in the publication industry as more influencing the forms in which AntipodeanSF is now produced. The rise in the popularity of mobile computing devices, such as dedicated e-readers, smartphones and tablets introduced the need for the website to be small-screen friendly, and ushered in the introduction of AntipodeanSF in modern e-book formats.

    But to address the first part of the question more directly, I also now store all of the submission queue of AntiSF stories and do the editing, organising, and production of radio scripts etc ‘in the cloud’, so that I am not tied to single computer.

    I envisage working and publishing in a similar way in the coming years, with more focus on electronic publications, the podcast/radio show, and in the promotion of AntipodeanSF via social media.

    AntipodeanSF will continue to be the publication where speculative flash fiction belongs …


    2014 aussie spec fiction snapshot

    * * *

    THIS interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian speculative fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at:

  • Snapshot 2014: Jason Franks

    jason franks by denh layJASON FRANKS is the author of the Aurealis-nominated horror novel Bloody Waters, as well as the graphic novels The Sixsmiths and McBlack. His short fiction has appeared in Aurealis, After the World, Ignition and many other places.
    You can find out more about Jason at or follow him on Twitter at @jasefranks.

    1. You already had a respectable CV in comics and graphic novels (harking back to about 2005?) before your debut novel, Bloody Waters, hit the shelves in 2012. Was there a reason you got your start in the graphic side of things?

    My first published work was actually a prose short story, back in 2001. The sale happened while I was in the process of moving to the States and I was quite preoccupied with that for a while, so I didn’t manage to publish much of anything for several years to follow. I was working on Bloody Waters already, and I more-or-less stopped writing any prose that wasn’t part of that or my other big project at the time. The comics thing started out as a lark – I hooked up with my first artist-collaborator while stuffing around on the internet. In 2005 I found I had enough shorts to self-publish a comic (self-publishing didn’t have the same stigma in comics that it did in prose) and suddenly I was a comics guy. From there I progressed to graphic novels and to editing anthologies. I had no plan, really; I just did whatever seemed like fun.

    2. You’ve been hitting Supanova and Oz Comic-Con this year. How have you found the experience? It seems to have done good things for your latest collaboration, The Left Hand Path

    Supanova and Oz Comic-Con have been great! In 2007, when I returned to Australia, the whole convention scene was really tiny. The shows are still smaller than most US conventions, but attendance is growing hugely. Now we have multiple cons in every major city. The number of people making comics in Australia is growing – it’s really been incredible to watch.

    Supanova was a great launchpad for Left Hand Path. Pat from Winter City Productions did an amazing job getting the book in print in time for Sydney Supanova and the response has been really gratifying. The first print run sold out before I even got to see a copy!

    3. What experience or lessons have you taken from your career so far to apply to your next project/s? What are those projects?
    Early on, when I was pitching Bloody Waters, an editor told me ‘I don’t like the story, but I like your prose’. The next editor said ‘I like your prose, but not your story’. I knew that there were always going to be people who didn’t like my stories, but I decided that I never wanted to hear that my prose wasn’t good enough again. So I went back to the woodshed and now … now most of the complaints are about my characters being unlikable. I dunno, man.

    Another lesson I apparently have yet to learn is not to take on too many projects at once. Right now I’m working on a multi-genre novel called XDA Zai, a dark fantasy novella called Shadowmancy (coming from Satalyte Publishing in 2015), the second half of The Sixsmiths, five more issues of Left Hand Path, more McBlack, and numerous other small commitments. I have been trying to streamline my workload over the last couple of years, but with limited sucess, it appears.

    4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
    There’s so much amazing Australian work coming out right now it’s hard to narrow down a list. Some of my recent favourites have been Nina D’Aleo’s genre-bending thriller, The Last City; Dirk Flinthart’s ridiculously assured Path of Night; Amanda Bridgeman’s blazing space opera Aurora: Darwin; Jason Fischer’s end-of-the-earth-awesome Everything is a Graveyard; Jason Nahrung’s beautiful and fraught vampire novel Salvage (why thank you, Mr Franks!); Adam Browne’s strange and gorgeous short story collection ‘Other Stories’ and Other Stories; Narrelle M Harris’s hilarious and big-hearted Lissa and Gary novels; Kirstyn McDermott’s Caution: Contains Small Parts … I know I’m missing a lot of good stuff, and I haven’t even mentioned any comics.

    I’m currently looking forward to Alan Baxter’s Bound, Jo Anderton’s Debris, Marta Salek’s Reticulum, Andrew McKiernan’s Last Year, When We Were Young and … I have a to-read pile that’s growing like a tumor. A delicious, juicy tumour.

    5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

    The publishing business continues to be as vexatious and confusing for me as it is for everybody else. Digital digital digital – I think that’s clearly the way it’s all going, given the prices of freight and printing. That isn’t news to anyone, I’m sure. ‘Going digital’ has probably had a bigger impact on my comics work than on my prose, since the various devices change the way that you can tell stories in that medium. I actually think it improves the experience – most comics are created with digital tools now and they just look better on the screen than they do in print.

    In five years’ time, I’m sure I’ll still be writing fiction. Novels and comics, most likely. In my day job I work in software, and to me it feels like tech and the creative arts are now really starting to converge. Designers can code now. Coders can design. I have this mad-scientist idea that I would orchestrate something that integrates prose, comics, videogames, music, travel … if I had the time and the funding. The technology is getting cheaper, the bandwidth is becoming available (well, everywhere except in this country). There are already a lot of small operators starting to do this stuff and I’d love to be part of it.

    What will I be reading? Everything. EVERY THING.


    2014 aussie spec fiction snapshot

    * * *

    THIS interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian speculative fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at:

    Snapshot 2014: Dean J Anderson

    unnaturals by dean j andersonDEAN J ANDERSON began his professional writing career in 2008. Living with his wife and son on the Central Queensland coast in Australia, Dean draws inspiration from striking local landscapes and everyday people. His transformation from avid reader to author is ongoing and one that has seen him come alive within the realms of dark urban fantasy where every character gets their hands dirty. Relationships are multilayered; challenging. Dark urban fantasy is not a genre he set out to choose; he says it chose him. He is a passionate member of the Bundaberg Writers Club. Find him at


    1. You’re based in Yeppoon, a place I remember for fish ‘n’ chips on the beach and houses clinging to the cliff. How has that coastal landscape informed your writing, in particular your Unnaturals series?

    Sand, salt and water formed the crucible where the spark for Unnaturals flickered into life. Under the stars, sand underfoot, volcanic headland at my back with the rhythm of the ocean resonating deep. From the very first concept draft to the finished novel, that connection flows strong through both the setting and my people… my characters in Unnaturals. Like myself, Mason and his family are never far from water.

    Time spent near water always seemed to feed my muse, stimulate ‘What if’ questions and of course provides me with a story setting that I have a deep connection with.

    2. The first book of the Unnaturals, your debut novel, came out last year through Clan Destine Press, and as well as being a supernatural romp, it challenges some of the usual gender binaries. Was that a conscious decision or did it flow naturally from the story?

    There is a line of dialogue between Nikki and Mason in the very beginning of the novel that shows the level acceptance of the person within the story:

    ‘Love does not discriminate against sexes and the longer you live the less it cares whether you’re male or female.’ She sat down beside Ruth. ‘You could be one of the few men who would understand this.’

    ‘It’s not easy.’ He let his eyes wander on her; her small dress flimsy and the whiteness of her thighs highlighted by Ruth’s hand. It was Ruth he desired, not Nikki.

    Acceptance of the person plays a powerful role within the story. Sexual plasticity between characters such as Mason’s acceptance and understanding that Ruth, his wife, can love more than one person underpins the power of acceptance of just the person. Not their sexual status.

    Same for Ruth: Mason is her rock, accepts who she is, and has no interest in any of her partners. But there is a part of him she has never been able to connect with and doesn’t wish to. This dark part of Mason’s personality is both frightening and exciting for Ruth. More so when she finally meets another woman who craves the darkness within Mason.

    As a mainstream modern family unit they would not survive, they never were. The natural progression to a clan-like family structure with intense intimate relationships between two or more characters creates a powerful dynamic. One that will give them a realistic chance at living, loving each other as who they are while protecting their family.

    3. As you proceed with the remainder of the series, what lessons are you taking from your experience with the release, and writing, of the first?

    ‘Say more with less’ is something I stick to now. No distractions, like falling in love with a secondary character and going off on a storyline that you write just to feed that obsession. For six months.

    Also editors are awesome. Seriously, they do things I cannot with words. Yes, you can argue but I’ve found that by taking their advice and applying it you grow as a writer. Even if the advice makes you scream and hurl objects at the walls, windows and trees. Try it, find a balance and understand it’s not about you. All that matters is the story.

    Finally, write a speech for the book launch. Winging it on the back of a stiff scotch only works for the likes of John Connelly, Chuck Wendig and John Birmingham.

    4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

    In the last year I have found myself hooked on sci-fi again with Perth-based author Amanda Bridgeman and her Aurora series. Love her voice, characters and of course the story itself.

    The Blood She Betrayed, a gritty Oz YA from Cheryse Durrant rekindled my faith in YA after being battered for years by a flurry of YA merging into paranormal.

    Also I have fetish for Oz vampire so I discovered The Opposite of Life and Walking Shadows by Narelle M Harris based out of Melbourne late in 2013. Which led me to RC Daniels from Brisbane, The Price of Fame, not vamp but a wicked paranormal read. Plus hanging for The Big Smoke, the follow-up from Blood and Dust by a Oz writer by the name of Jason Nahrung (cheers, Dean; cheque’s in the mail!).

    5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

    People love to read, whether it be ebook or hard copy, readers are always looking for their next book. Whether the book be self published, indie or from the big publishers, readers will read what they like. So I write, when I can.

    What I write is changing. Started out with dark urban fantasy but my publisher poked and prodded me to develop the flair for erotica I never knew I had. A novella and a series of short stories are now published and more are on the way and … wait for it … a straight, non-paranormal romance is being toyed with, in between the erotica and book 2 of Unnaturals. I like to exercise the muse by writing outside what comes naturally, the muse does protest a lot though …

    2014 aussie spec fiction snapshot

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    THIS interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian speculative fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at:

    Snapshot 2014: Janeen Webb

    Janeen WebbJANEEN WEBB is a multiple-award-winning author, editor and critic who has written or edited 10 books and more than 100 essays and stories. Her short story collection, Death At The Blue Elephant, was released by Ticonderoga in June 2014. Janeen is a recipient of the World Fantasy Award, the Peter MacNamara SF Achievement Award, the Aurealis Award and the Ditmar Award. She holds a PhD in literature from the University of Newcastle, and divides her time between Melbourne and a small farm overlooking the sea near Wilson’s Promontory, Australia. Find out more at her website:

    1. When we spoke two years ago, you had a couple of longer works on the drawing board; Sinbad, an Arthurian work, and an alternative history. How’s progress, or are you on to something different?

    Writing is a slow process for me. Since we last spoke I have been concentrating on short fiction. I’ve put a lot of time into my story collection, Death at the Blue Elephant, a mix of original and reprinted stories just released by Ticonderoga. I’ve also written stories for anthologies, most recently ‘Future Perfect’, for Use Only As Directed (ed. Simon Petrie & Edwina Harvey).
    I am still digging away at the alternate history, which turns out to be a much bigger project than I had anticipated. The third of the Sinbad books is still on the back burner, though I have not by any means given up on it – there’s a certain amount of guilt about that one. The mooted Arthurian novel remains very much just an idea at this stage.

    2. What is it about the likes of Sinbad and Arthur that keeps us coming back for more – what is their relevance for, or perhaps resonance with, this current age?

    Italo Calvino once remarked that stories live longer than people (and stars live longer than stories). As I see it, the old, archetypal tales are always with us – they inform our culture, and their narrative patterns influence the way we think, the way we write. Sometimes the old stories are camouflaged, but scratch the surface and they are right there. There is a universality about them that functions as a kind of narrative shorthand for storytellers everywhere, allowing us to meld them together into new shapes, new forms.

    My own most recent foray into the Arthurian mythos is ‘The Sculptor’s Wife’, the long story that closes Death at the Blue Elephant (and is probably my favourite story in the collection). This piece combines Ovid’s classical tale of Pygmalion with Malory’s Arthurian story of the enchantress Nimue, to produce a truly monstrous modern celebrity: for me, at least, the traditional sources somehow make the story feel right. I guess that’s how the resonance works.


    elephant by janeen webb3. In the forward to your debut collection, Death at the Blue Elephant, you remark that your broad travels have informed numerous of your stories. In what way does location influence your stories? What are the things writers on the wallaby should look for?

    Writers need to be able to represent perspectives other than their own, and for me it has been travel that has taught me how to look at the world in very different ways. I’ve lived in various countries, and a lot of my stories are set in exotic locations. But the stories are not just about place – they bounce off the histories and mythologies as well as the physical characteristics of their settings: as, for example, ‘Red City’ is located in India’s Fatephur Sikri, but it plays with the legendary predictions of the astrologer who lived there – so the setting is integral to the plot. I couldn’t write it any other way.

    There’s an old adage that travel broadens the mind, but it only works if you are prepared to be open minded about it. Too many tourists take their own atmosphere with them, seeing different scenery from an air conditioned bubble that keeps out all the really important things about being in a strange place – the people, the animals, the vegetation; the smells, the sounds, the tastes, the touch – the things that I think make writing come alive. I prefer an immersion approach, to live in another place for a decent length of time, to absorb the sensory input, to engage with a different culture. In other words, to take myself way out of my comfort zone, just for the hell of it.

    The downside for writers on the wallaby is that you can never go home again, not really – once you’ve lived outside the cultural box you can never quite fit comfortably back inside it.


    4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

    I’ve been reading mostly history lately. In genre fiction, the books I have enjoyed most recently are Robert Hood’s Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead, and Kim Wilkins’ The Year of Ancient Ghosts.

    5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

    The move to e-books has changed things for me in that I am still writing short stories for anthologies, but because those anthologies are now published in print and e-formats simultaneously the turnaround is faster. The publishing industry is in flux, and it is hard to keep up with all the changes: I honestly can’t begin to guess how things will play out, or what to expect in five years. All I can do as an author is to keep writing the things I am passionate about, produce the best work I can, and seek to place it as best I can when the time comes.

    2014 aussie spec fiction snapshot

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    THIS interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian speculative fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at:

    Snapshot 2014: Angie Rega

    angie regaANGELA REGA is a school librarian who spends her days telling stories and reading to teenagers. She has had long love affair with folklore, fairy tales and furry creatures but often falls in love with poetry. She drinks way too much coffee and can’t imagine not writing. She keeps a very small website here:


    1. Many of your stories have been based in folklore and fairy tales. What draws you to work with these stories?

    Both folklore and fairy tale are as important to me as my morning coffee.

    I was raised in migrant story-telling household where nobody finished a sentence in the same language. My grandmother couldn’t read so she would tell us stories. My sister and I were the first people in our family to get a secondary and tertiary education; this was a big deal for us but as the written word took over and so does the language and the world you live in, so much of how I was raised is now forgotten in terms of language and how meaning is made. I think this is why I am still deeply entrenched and in love with that oral tradition that stems from folklore.

    Folkore and folk tales contain disappearing histories. Fairy tales delve into experiential archetypes. This is what draws me to these stories, I guess. I go to them for comfort, for understanding, to make sense of the world, and sometimes, just to be entertained.

    2. In one of your most recent stories, ‘Shedding Skin‘ (Crossed Genres), your heroine and the object of her interest, if not desire, are a shapechanging dingo and crow. Is the idea of transformation important to your work? Ideas of body image and identity are probably things you see often as a school librarian …

    The idea of transformation is important to my work. The shedding of skins, feathers and scales appear all deal with, in essence, a return to the true, authentic and instinctual selves. Working as a school librarian I’m also often intrigued at how it is these tales of transformation that draw teens like magnets. I think it is because these tales deal with personal identity and body image in a symbolic and metaphorical way.

    Transformation tales are, in essence about deep truths. I guess they keep reminding us to be honest with ourselves. As we get older, this becomes harder and harder to do. Guess that is a benefit of working with teens on a daily basis. They keep you honest, authentic, true and open.

    3. Your beautiful book The Cobbler Mage came out last year in two languages. In what ways do you find your heritage appearing in your work? Do you have anything similar coming up (what’s next?)?

    Thank you for the lovely compliment! The Cobbler Mage came out in English and Italian and may also be translated into French given its setting and subject matter. I was very moved to read the Italian translation of the text because Italian was my first language whereas now I barely use it all. It was a strange experience reading my story back in my first language!

    I don’t have anything similar coming up next – I’ve written the first of a series of short stories about ‘totem girls’ and I’m working on a novel that is not speculative but deals with the Australian migrant experience, exile both self-imposed and imposed by another force, and the dispossession of personal memories and reconciliation in family dysfunctional relationships.

    Although, having said that, I do have a few stories drafted set within the Cobbler Mage’s world that may get pulled out of the drawer and given a spit-polish.

    4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
    I have loved quite a few stories recently not all speculative but all Australian. My top five for the moment would be:

  • Christos Tsolkias’s novel Barracuda because Tsolkias gives a voice to the Australian migrant experience and reading his work over the years validated my experiences in so many ways.
  • Questions of Travel by Michelle De Krester.
  • Juliet Marillier’s short story collection Prickle Moon published by Ticonderoga Publications.
  • Janeen Webb’s collection, Death at the Blue Elephant, published by Ticonderoga Publications.

  • My dear friend, Suzanne J Willis’s short story ‘No.34 Glad Avenue’, published by Fablecroft in One Small Step which will be appearing in the anthology Time Travel: Recent Trips by Prime Books edited by Paula Guran.
  • And of course, I adore ANYTHING written by the amazing Angela Slatter who writes some of the most lyrically dark fairy tales I have ever read. My favourite collection being The Girl With No Hands.

    5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

    I have tried the e-book thing – as a school librarian it is a great motivator for getting hesitant readers to engage with a book. You know, give them a gadget and they’re sold.

    For me, personally, I am a romantic at heart – my love for books is in volumes (pardon the pun). Bound within that is my love for the three dimensional object the book. I like the way a book smells and how a once very much loved book feels. And I like the fact that if I deeply love a book, and want to say how much I love the story, then I can hold it close to my chest and press it against my heart. Sorry! I am a hopeless romantic!

    2014 aussie spec fiction snapshot

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    THIS interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian speculative fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at:

  • Snapshot 2014: Jack Dann

    Jubilee-HJACK DANN is a multiple-award winning author who has written or edited more than 75 books, including the international bestseller The Memory Cathedral. His latest anthology, Ghosts by Gaslight, co-edited with Nick Gevers, won the Shirley Jackson Award and the Aurealis Award. He is the publishing director of the new imprint PS Australia. Forthcoming in August 2014 from Satalyte Publishing is an e-book edition of Jack’s retrospective short story collection Jubilee*: more titles from Satalyte soon to be announced. A collection of Jack’s holocaust stories entitled Concentration will be published by PS Publishing in the United Kingdom. In her introduction to the volume, critic and scholar Marleen Barr writes: ‘Dann is a Faulkner and a Márquez for Jews. His fantastic retellings of the horror stories Nazis made real are more truth than fantasy.’
    You can visit Jack’s website at, and follow him on Twitter [@jackmdann] and Facebook.

    1. This year marks 20 years since you came to Australia. What has been the biggest change in the speculative fiction scene here over the course of that time?

    Man, 20 years doth go fast! I can hardly believe it. Off the top of my head, I think the biggest change is the general integration of our writers into the international science fiction scene. The relative isolation of the 1990s is gone and the great talents of Australian authors are appreciated as a matter of course.

    The other great change, perhaps the greatest, is technological: the shift to electronic publishing, which affects writers and publishers worldwide. The paradigm seems to be shifting from publisher-pays to author-pays, and many middle-range writers are making even less money than before. And the ‘gatekeepers’ have virtually disappeared: by that I mean that virtually anyone can get published online and in print-on-demand format. However, it has become almost impossible for many of these writers to gain any kind of an audience and be taken seriously.

    Previously writers sent their work to established publishers and in a sense went through an apprenticeship: the traditional journey from form rejections to written notes at the bottom of rejection slips, to acceptance letters … and payment for the work. That’s how many writers over time learned their craft. That’s how I leaned the craft. This kind of publishing certainly still exists and is vital, but it exists within a much larger chaotic environment.

    2. At the national science fiction convention Continuum X in June, you ran a workshop for writers about how to write professional fiction. What’s your top tip?

    I’m going to do a cop-out here because I did a five-minute video for a master class I conducted for the Queensland Writers Centre. It points out what I believe writers need to do to write ‘readable’ fiction. As an old buddy of mine from Louisiana used to say: ‘I don’t chew my cabbage twice.’

    3. With a whole swag of your back catalogue being re-released in digital format by Satalyte Publishing, what’s next for the Dann oeuvre — both as a writer and an editor?

    Well, the wonderful Stephen and Marieke Ormsby are releasing my retrospective short story collection Jubilee with a new cover by Nick Stathopoulos, one of my all-time favourite artists. The next release will be one of my novels: we’re still deciding which one, but the time between releases will be short. To quote Satalyte: ‘Jack is back!’

    And I have a new collection coming out from PS Great Britain, which Pete Crowther bought, called Concentration. It’s a collection of my Holocaust stories with a terrific introduction by author and critic Marleen Barr. How’s this for an extracted quote?:

    In Jack Dann’s Holocaust visions, ‘imagination is used to enrich reality, not to escape from it’. His ‘invented, alternate worlds’ are related to the ones Faulkner and Márquez create. But Yoknapatawpha and Macondo are not Jewish neighbourhoods. Dann is a Faulkner and a Márquez for Jews. His fantastic retellings of the horror stories Nazis made real are ‘more truth than fantasy’.

    4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

    Ah, that’s a loaded question! Okay, most recently read work I loved: The Year of Ancient Ghosts by Kim Wilkins and Black Mountain by Venero Armanno.

    5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

    Actually, given my responses above, I must say that the fluctuations of the publishing haven’t influenced what I write … or the way I write. I sit with a notebook or a laptop on my lap and try to capture those incandescent images and narratives flashing in my head.

    As to the second part of your question, as you know I’m spearheading PS Australia, an Australian imprint of the UK-based PS Publishing. I anticipate bringing some wonderful work into print in fabulous folio-style slip-cased limited editions.

    As to writing: if all goes according to plan (he says, propitiating all the various gods), I’ll be writing the next book in my Dark Companions series (the first book, in progress, is called Shadows in the Stone). And, man, there’s so much I want to do: stories, novels, collections, anthologies. I do so love this insane, future-shocked business of being an author. It’s like standing on a motorcycle with one foot … and travelling at a cool 150mph!


    * Edit 30/7/14 to remove mention of first e-book edition; a Tor edition was previously published.
    2014 aussie spec fiction snapshot

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     THIS interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian speculative fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at:

    Snapshot 2014: Australia’s speculative fiction scene

    2014 aussie spec fiction snapshot
    The Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot has taken place four times in the past 10 years. In 2005, Ben Peek spent a frantic week interviewing 43 people in the Australian spec fic scene, and since then, it’s grown every time, now taking a team of interviewers working together to accomplish!

    In the lead up to the World Science Fiction Convention in London, I will be part of this team blogging interviews for Snapshot 2014: Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright.

    Last time, in 2012, the Snapshot covered nearly 160 members of the Australian speculative fiction community – can we top that this year?

    To read the interviews hot off the press, check these blogs daily from July 28 to August 10, 2014, or look for the round up on SF Signal when it’s all done:

    And you can find the past Snapshots at the following links: 2005, 2007,  2010 and 2012.

    Only Lovers Left Alive: pollution is a real pain in the neck, yeah

    only lovers left aliveJim Jarmusch takes the long, slow road to a vampire movie aimed squarely at what happens when you use up resources, but yet, there will still be music.

    Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) features Eve (Tilda Swinton), well read and generally wonderful, reconnecting with her significant other, Adam (Tom Hiddleston). She travels from Tangier, leaving behind good old mate Christopher Marlowe — played with the usual aplomb by John Hurt — to Detroit, where the collapse and abandonment mirrors Adam’s depression. Adam’s a muso of modest but enduring renown, and things are looking all right for the reunited lovers until Eve’s sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) turns up to rock the boat with her over-eager, insatiable consumerism.

    Because things are already tense for the children of the night, with the blood supply as tainted as the environment. Resources are getting scarce. The good stuff is in demand. And the food chain, and decency, are such fragile things.

    It’s a slow-burner, shot almost doco style as Adam and Eve drive through derelict suburbs, living their lives in splendid and not-so-splendid isolation.

    The vampire culture is wonderfully (under)drawn, with its own peccadilloes and gentle in-joke references. Living in the shadows, observers trying to find safe ways to interact, to leave a mark, however anonymously … the settings mirror the desolation, even Tangier — necessarily by night — an empty place where people offer only what is not needed. And the leads capture the mood perfectly. Swinton’s nuanced performance is a delight, and Hiddleston has the disaffected rock star air down pat.

    It’s crafty, too, how at least one certain prop never gets to satisfy the Chekhov law, although perhaps that’s a Jarmusch law. Along with the music, of course.

    As the predators prowl the decaying streets, the message is there in the coyote howls: nature will have its way, so we’d better look after it.