JACK 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 www.jackdann.com, 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.
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:
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