These Final Hours: time well spent

these final hours movie posterThese Final Hours is what it says: the last hours of Earth, burning to ash as a planet-killing meteorite does the business — the science feels a bit dodgy, but the story is superb.

In the tradition of On the Beach, this beaut Aussie flick traces how James (Nathan Phillips), who admits, finally, that he’s made a few bad choices — hence the prison tats, the wake of disappointment he trails after him — chooses to while away his last moments. Among the options are with his girlfriend at the beach, waiting for the end; with his other girlfriend at a killer party; or less likely, with his sister and her family, or with his mother. Others have chosen different courses: suicide, violence, hedonism, and desperate survival tactics such as wrapping a house in aluminium foil or digging bunkers.

James is en route to party away his fears when he chances upon, amid the anarchy, a young girl in need of help — for once, he makes the right decision. Rose (a delightful Angourie Rice) brings with her conscience and a sense of sacrifice — yes, this road movie is about redemption and finding a sense of self-worth where perhaps there was none. Rather than wanting to numb himself to the pain of that last moment — that last realisation — of mortality, James is given the option of embracing it, and being a better person for it.

There’s a sepia tone, a summer heat, infusing the film, and the soundtrack is well crafted — a jazz number out on the farm, dance for the pool party at the end of the world, and nothing anywhere else but the natural sounds of the world ending. The absence of music adds to the atmosphere and enhances the attempts to drown out reality.

There’s a voice on the radio counting down the hours as the planet boils and James dashes from one event to the next, meeting himself everywhere he goes, with the perceptive Rose riding shotgun.

There is a wonderful conversation between James and his mother that says so much without having to say much at all; the reactions of the characters not only to the apocalypse but to James are convincing and telling.

Written and directed by Zak Hilditch, it’s a relatively minimalist movie, intensely focused, offering tension and pathos in equal measure. As one of James’s girlfriends, Zoe (Jessica De Gouw), says at one point: it’s beautiful.

  • Check it out at the These Final Hours website.


  • Snapshot 2014: Guy Salvidge

    guy salvidgeGUY SALVIDGE was born in England in 1981 and moved to Western Australia in 1990. His first novel, The Kingdom of Four Rivers, was published in 2009 and his second, Yellowcake Springs, won the 2011 IP Picks Best Fiction Award and was shortlisted for the 2012 Norma K Hemming Award. Yellowcake Summer was published in 2013. Guy is currently working on a crime novel, Thirsty Work, and he is the co-editor (with Andrez Bergen) of The Tobacco Stained Sky: An Anthology of Post Apocalyptic Noir. His short stories have been published in Alien Sky, The Tobacco-Stained Sky, Tincture Journal and The Great Unknown. He lives in the Avon Valley with his wife and children. Visit him online at guysalvidge.com or guysalvidge.wordpress.com

     

    1. You have two novels – the second, Yellowcake Summer, came out last year – dealing with the prospect of a nuclear power plant in WA in the near future. Do you think science fiction is particularly well placed to comment on social and economic policy such as this?

    yellowcake summer by guy salvidgeYellowcake Springs and Yellowcake Summer were written, in part, in response to the WA State Government’s desire to allow uranium mining to resume, something I was and remain resolutely opposed to. Speculative fiction has had, since at least the time of Mary Shelley, the capacity to offer grim warnings to the contemporary generation. George Orwell certainly didn’t think of himself as a science fiction writer and yet 1984 is more relevant today than it has ever been. One of the dangers, of course, is that those warnings can become dated very quickly. The Fukushima disaster did more to damage the nuclear power industry than my humble attempts at scaremongering ever could, but I was glad to try.

     
    2. You’ve had a couple of short stories out starring Tyler Bramble, dealing again with a near future dystopia. Is there a bigger picture to his story that you’re working on, or otherwise a reason for the recurrence?

    The first Tyler Bramble story, ‘The Dying Rain’, was written at the request of Andrez Bergen who was putting together a themed anthology of ‘post-apocalyptic noir’. I enjoyed writing this story so much that I wrote two more, ‘Blue Swirls’ and ‘A Void’, which have since been published in Tincture Journal and The Great Unknown. I saw the stories as transitional in my own development as a writer in that they combined speculative and crime fiction tropes. I’m planning on writing straight crime from now on. I’d like to take Tyler Bramble for another spin at some point though. He was good fun.

     
    3. Earlier this year you landed a writer in residence gig in WA, during which you were working on a new novel, Thirsty Work. How did you find the W-in-R experience, and how’s the novel coming along – what are your plans for it?

    I’ve been lucky enough to complete two residencies in the past 18 months, at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Centre last year and at the Fellowship of Australian Writers (WA) this past April. It normally takes me two years to write a reasonable draft of a novel, but those two residencies allowed me to complete Thirsty Work in just one year.

    The residencies were incredibly enjoyable and productive times for me and I highly recommend applying for them. I have been surprised to discover that most Australian states don’t seem to offer much in the way of paid residencies, so WA might be something of a leader in this regard.

    Thirsty Work is notionally finished for now, which means that it’s ready to start doing the rounds with publishers and competitions. Fingers crossed I’ll have some good news to report on that front in the near future.

     
    4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

    This past year I’ve been enamoured with the novels of Peter Temple, especially An Iron Rose, The Broken Shore and Truth. I’ve also been impressed by other Aussie crime writers in David Whish-Wilson, Alan Carter and Robert Schofield. In the speculative arena, I very much enjoyed reading works by the likes of Angela Meyer, Andrez Bergen, Anthony Panegyres and Meg Mundell.

     
    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 try to ignore the doomsayers in publishing as much as possible. I think it’s a mistake to lose heart. Reading and writing will continue with or without the publishing field that has existed in recent decades. I doubt the situation will be very much changed within five years, although I’m sure many publishers and booksellers will have gone under in that time. That’s sad, but I very much doubt that the printed book will be extinct anytime soon. It may eventually become akin to the record in the music arena, something of a collector’s item. I’ve had a Kindle for 3-4 years now, but I still read more than 90 per cent of my books in printed form.

     

    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: Stephen M Irwin

    stephen m irwinSTEPHEN M IRWIN is a screenwriter and novelist. His career began with broadcast television documentaries, and broadened to include award-winning short drama films and short stories. Stephen’s debut novel, supernatural thriller The Dead Path, was published in Australia by Hachette and subsequently around the world, being named Top Horror Novel 2011 in the American Library Association’s RUSA Reading List. Stephen’s second novel, The Broken Ones, was released by Hachette and DoubleDay to exceptional reviews, including being named among the 100 Best Fiction of 2012 by Kirkus Reviews. Stephen was writer and creator of a six-part crime drama Secrets & Lies (2014) produced by Hoodlum Active, which has screened around the world and is being remade for American audiences by Kapital Entertainment for ABC (USA). He is currently developing several feature film and television projects for Australian and international audiences, and is writing his third novel. Find out more at www.stephenmirwin.com

     

    1. Since the last Snapshot two years ago, you’ve added to your oeuvre of supernatural horror with a story, ’24/7′, in last year’s A Killer Among Demons anthology. What is it about folklore and legends such as the Green Man, ghost and demons that draws you to write about them?

    Writers write for different reasons. For some, it’s catharsis; for others it’s simply a job; for yet others it’s a compulsion to express. For me, writing for pleasure presents a chance to go exploring, to go play. And my favourite sandpit is not necessarily this world, or this world as I’ve experienced it in the day-to-day, but a world like ours where fantastical things are possible. The fact that I enjoy my stories to be both well grounded in reality yet to have otherworldly shadows lends me to write about ghosts, spirits, unseen or barely seen forces … so, those stories begin in the ordinary and take that weird side-step into the extraordinary.

    One of the things I like about these stories is that they come with a suggestion that the protagonist doubts his or her own perception of reality – wonders, even, if they are mad or heading that way. In this era of social media and instant news, when everything is laid bare, it’s nice to think that some people (even if they are just fictional characters) are forced to keep secrets for fear of condemnation … and try to soldier on in silence … although this usually sows the seeds of peril. Great fun.

     
    2. Secrets & Lies is, possibly, your biggest screen project to date, enjoying a US rendition. How have you enjoyed the translation of your Australian story to the United States? In fact most of your written stories have been set here – have you ever felt any pressure to perhaps set them overseas or keep the ocker quotient low to enhance foreign market appeal?

    secrets and lies tv showI didn’t have a lot of time to writing the six hours of television that was Secrets & Lies – the preproduction was so charged with urgency that I didn’t really get time to enjoy the process. Now the series is done, and it’s screened here and in the UK, Canada, Scandinavia … I’ve had the chance to look back more fondly on the experience of writing the show. I don’t have any real input in the US version, but on a recent trip to Los Angeles I did get to meet some of the cast, and that was enormously fun – they’ve attracted some great talent, and I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

    Right now, I’m working on an Australian telemovie for a national TV broadcaster, and a supernatural crime show for an American network. The former is set firmly in Australia, the latter firmly in the USA. I’m a big believer in universality of story, but specificity of setting. We humans are territorial creatures – we like to know well our little nests and hunting grounds, our comfort zones. So, I think it’s important to write with respect for that – because people act differently when they are in their own territory, or taken from it, or threatened with removal from it, or discover it is not as safe and comfy as they thought it was. To that extent, character and place are inseparable.

    But I haven’t felt any pressure ever to heighten or lower the local tone of stories, either in books or in television – I think if it feels real, it works. The only changes that I’ve needed to be make are in terms of accessibility, so that readers or viewers aren’t jolted from the story because they don’t simply understand what a word means.

     
    3. There’s mention on your blog of adapting The Broken Ones for the screen, and a possible novel on the way. How are those projects coming? What’s next for you?

    the broken ones by stephen m irwinI was fortunate enough to see The Broken Ones receive the Chauvel Award (Screen Queensland), and I was asked by the producers who optioned the work to also write the screenplay adaptation. That was a strange experience – interrogating my own work, ripping it to component parts, and putting it back together in a different media (a screenplay). But it seems to have worked out well, and the producers are now shopping The Broken Ones around to potential directors. I hope it gets made; it would be fun to meet Oscar Mariani in the flesh!

    My third novel is progressing at, sadly, a much slower pace than I wish – my television commitments seem to always be grabbing at my heels like cattle dogs. I am hoping (perhaps foolishly!) to finish the draft by the end of the year.

     
    4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

    I adore Sonya Hartnett’s writing, and enjoyed her Children of the King (yes, it’s for younger readers, but that is no impediment to either great writing or enjoyable reading). I was captivated by Kári Gíslason’s The Promise of Iceland – and knowing the lovely Kári personally made the journey through the book so much richer. And being a contributor to A Killer Among Demons gave me the perfect excuse to read the other authors’ works – and there were some crackers. I’m a fan of Angela Slatter’s and Alan Baxter’s work, and enjoyed enormously reading their stories and the others, too.

     
    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 think my forays into feature and television writing have come at a good time for me. Since The Broken Ones was published, I’ve got a strong sense that publishers are being increasingly discerning about where (and in what kind of writers) they invest their money. Since I have no other appreciable skills beyond writing, I am grateful that I can derive an income from film and television as well as book writing to help pay the mortgage. But the moving picture media are every bit as volatile as publishing; more and more viewers are consuming content at home and on demand, rather than going to a cinema or waiting for a show to screen on a free-to-air broadcaster.

    And I’m as guilty as anyone of this: I consume books, television shows, and movies on my iPad Mini, and I’m the first to grow irritated if I can’t get what I want RIGHT NOW! That’s unhealthy, and light-years from the person I used to be, who could order a book from suburban bookseller and patiently wait weeks for the phonecall announcing that it had arrived.

    I think in five years’ time, things will have shifted subtly (but scarily) to a place where there is even more choice of things to consume, but with an ever-widening gap between the ‘big’ studio and publishing house projects, and the indie publications and productions. I hope that I’ll be able to do the splits enough to make a satisfying income from commercial works while still indulging in the free flights of fancy that smaller publishers allow and encourage. As long as I’m writing, I’ll be happy.

     
    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: Charlotte Nash

    charlotte nashCHARLOTTE NASH is an Australian writer with degrees in engineering and medicine, and an eclectic past in technical industry. Her short stories range from near-future cyberpunk to contemporary fantasy, and have been published in Every Day Fiction, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Electric Spec, Dimension6, Dreaming of Djinn (Ticonderoga) and Use Only as Directed (Peggy Bright Books). She is also the best-selling author of rural medical romance novels (Hachette) and teaches creative writing at The University of Queensland. She confesses a special love for motorbikes, heavy machinery and mock cream donuts, and isn’t sure which is more dangerous. Find out more at charlottenash.net.

     

    1. You have two rural medical romance novels out with Hachette (and a third on the way) – did that kind of take you by surprise?

    Hehe … you’d think so, wouldn’t you? But no. They’re all my stories. I’ve always read and written across the board as far as genre goes. I’m happy switching between reading Neal Stephenson and Jilly Cooper, and writing cyberpunk and contemporary romance. Good stories are good stories …

    My spec fic writing is actually what got me my introduction to my publisher – it just happens they bought my contemporary fiction. Besides, I managed to sneak more than passing references to Firefly, Jurassic Park, engineers and Starship Troopers into my romances – like I said, they’re my stories! Genre switching is definitely a branding problem for book-selling, one I’m going to have to look at managing, but it’s not an identity problem for me as a writer.

     
    2. In your comments accompanying your story ‘The Message’ in Dimension6, you talk about the lure of subversion mirrored against your varied background of experience. Is speculative fiction the natural home of subversion? Is that what brought you here?

    The nature of spec fic almost demands stories about subversive ideas and actions – making points about the shortcomings of the status quo, the dangers of particular systems, or the hopes of a different way. (I also hope that’s true of all fiction – it was important to me to subvert some ideas in my romance novels too). But it’s not the reason I’m here – not consciously, anyway. I write spec fic because I loved Michael Crichton as a teenager, and then I found Huxley and Orwell; later came Neal Stephenson who blew my mind. Then Ted Chiang and so many others. I’m here because I was inspired by those who came before, and I stay because I love it.

     
    inflight magazine asim 593. Your novella The Ship’s Doctor balances space travel, action and a little romance. Is that a sign of things to come, or are you off to subvert an entirely new genre?

    I tend to write spec fic in two camps – the space opera style things like The Ship’s Doctor, then the on-earth stuff, which tends towards punk but is sometimes fantasy. The Ship’s Doctor was actually the first thing I ever had published (I self-published a new edition when I got the rights back as an experiment), and I’ve had reasonable success with other short fiction since then. I have continued to write spec fic in short form, even while I’ve been writing commercial fiction novels. And I’ll keep doing that.

    My latest thing is what I’d call agricultural cyberpunk. I’m writing a novel that blends speculation about the future of food and two characters whose relationship I find very interesting. It’s currently half-written, and I desperately want to get it done, although I have no idea what I’ll do with it. ‘Blue ICE’ (a novellette, my most recent publication) (in ASIM #59: JN) is actually a prequel story for the novel.

     
    4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

    Most of them are actually unpublished! (I do a huge amount of manuscript reading for students, and some of them blow me away.) But in published works, I recently (finally) read Sara Douglass’s The Hall of Lost Footsteps. An amazing collection, and her essay in the back about her experience with dying is essential reading. Besides that, Kim Wilkins’ The Year of Ancient Ghosts – incredible.

     
    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 don’t know that it’s changed the way I work. It has made me consider, however, the appropriate channels for the things I’m writing – whether to self-publish my speculative fiction, for instance.

    The one thing related to changes in publishing that’s influenced me hugely (and not positively) is increased emphasis on social media. It’s the most destructive thing for my creative ventures. I’ve had to manage my use of social media actively and savagely to prevent it damaging my work. As a result, I don’t engage much with Facebook, Twitter or any of those platforms – and I think that’s the right choice for me. I’m happy to trade whatever I lose in sales (and that’s questionable) by not always being available in order to preserve my output and mental well-being!

    In five years, I hope to be: still writing spec fic short stories, have two spec fic novels out, as well as a contemporary novel each year. I hope I will have improved in my craft. The industry is fickle, though. I’m conscious my hopes may not meet with reality. But I’ll still be reading widely.

     

    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: Cheryse Durrant

    cheryse durrantDead fingers curled around an ancient crypt and a love of Celtic mythology were the two inspirations behind CHERYSE DURRANT’s The Blood She Betrayed, the first book in her Heart Hunter series. Durrant grew up on an Australian cattle farm where she chatted to scrub faeries and an imaginary superhero. She wrote her first story on her aunt’s bedroom wall but it did not attract the literary acclaim she deserved. She has since worked a variety of jobs from barmaid and dental assistant to journalist and PR guru. The coffee/chocolate/strawberry addict has won and placed in a number of writing competitions and lives on the central Queensland coast where she teaches writing through Creative Dragons and is a huge WriteFest fan.
    Cheryse loves chatting on Facebook, Twitter @CheryseDurrant, and her website.
     

    1. Your debut novel, The Blood She Betrayed, was released last year by Clan Destine Press. Based on your experience, what advice do you have for others looking down the barrel of having their first book published?

    Don’t sweat the small things – and every thing is a small thing. Enjoy the journey and celebrate each of those ‘first time’ moments (the first time you see your cover artwork, the first time you see it in print). Most of all, stay disciplined and keep writing. It’s harder to make time to write once the published author merry-go-round starts, so get creative and remember why this is important to you. After all, this writing gig nourishes our souls. That’s why we write (and attend conventions). Finally, keep a detailed daily diary. Not only is it awesome for tax purposes but it’s a great reminder of who you met when and that can be a great source of inspiration. It also shows that you are a professional author, living the dream.
     
    2. The Blood She Betrayed was a finalist for the favourite Science Ficton, Fantasy or Futuristic Romance award at the Australian Romance Readers conference this year. How do you find it, having a book that belongs to at least two genre communities?

    I feel very privileged that it’s found a home in both these genre communities because I belong to both communities. I love STORY, whether it comes gift-wrapped as fantasy, crime, horror – as long as the author transports me to another world where the characters are real and the storyline compelling. My fave reads often include romance or strong romantic elements because this explores an added dimension of character and ups the plot ante. It’ll disappoint some romance readers because it’s not romantic enough and it’ll disappoint some spec fic fans because there’s too much romance, but I’m not expecting a sci fi military lover to be picking up my book (unless he’s also got a hankering for quests, urban fantasy and teen female warriors). As a genre fan myself, I love being able to do things like pay homage to my fave books, TV and pop culture within my writing, for example, I always mention Dr Who in each of my Heart Hunters books. My publisher not only approved this but eagerly endorsed it. She did remove other references that she feared would jade too quickly in a dust-collecting novel.

    What has been an interesting challenge for me as far as genres has been positioning The Blood She Betrayed within the young adult and the newly evolving new adult genre ranks. This novel’s a story about an Earth guy helping an other-world girl on a fantasy quest in Brisbane so it ticks the superficial boxes of urban fantasy, cross fantasy, action, mystery, romance, adventure. The main characters are both 17. My publisher positioned the novel as young adult (14+), along the lines of The Mortal Instruments series, and I have pre-teens (especially boys) who love it, but there’s some Dymocks stores in Melbourne that only stock my debut novel on adult shelves because it’s ‘too sexualised’. Meanwhile, there’s adult readers who’ll never read my book because ‘they don’t like young adult’ (because it’s typically too angsty). Maybe this is the same dilemma facing all authors – whatever cross (or sub) genre labels deliberately or inadvertently tagged to our book will ultimately attract certain readers and repel others, based on their own personal experiences with that genre.

    On saying that, I love the fandom that comes from having spec fic and, especially, young adult fans. These are the readers who (quite unexpectedly) pay homage to my novel by sending me hand-drawn artwork of my characters or writing their own TBSB fan fic. There was even a miniature copy of The Blood She Betrayed featured in a State of Origin diorama that won a prize earlier this year. Who would have thought my novel would have anything to do with sport? Finally, some of my girlfriends organised The Blood She Betrayed T-shirts for their toddler and primary school aged children. The words scrawled across their chest, ‘Too young to read it, but excited enough to wear it’, were appropriately positioned above the cover image of TBSB. I love how some people who read my book pay homage by reinventing my story in ways I’d have never considered. It’s both humbling and flattering – and you wouldn’t find that as often in the socially accepted mainstream genres.
     
    3. You’ve still got volumes in the Heart Hunters series to come. Have you got them all planned out, or are you winging it?

    I’m a pantser and a big ideas girl. I start with an idea (and a picture or scene in my mind) and it’s soon pouring out into a long-winding series of complicated characters and plotlines. The Blood She Betrayed was different. My goal there was to pen a complete, stand-alone book because I kept on thinking in extended palettes, but was told that publishers were more interested in single-title books (even though once you’re published, they then want you to churn out more). I disciplined myself to write one story, one book only. Then, as soon as I wrote ‘the end’, the second two books tumbled out onto the page (as far as full synopses) within two days. Thwarted. Again. But it was meant to be because the Book 2/3 plotlines brought everything from the first book together. All the questions finally answered. All the quests and problems solved. I’m still ironing out minor plot problems, etc, as I write these next two books but the story is very strong and clear to me. The fourth book in the Heart Hunter series is totally different. This book’s main character is a minor character from Books 1 and 2, and I still don’t know if her story will span one or two or three books. I’m looking forward to being able to winging it again. I love a seat-of-my-pants journey. It’s delicious.

     
    4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

    I haven’t read enough published books in the past few months to give this a decent answer BUT I am very excited about some of the many unpublished manuscripts that I’ve been reading. One of these is the debut novel of WriteFest volunteer and Benaraby gal Sue-Ellen Pashley. Her YA storyline took my breath away. It’s simple, complex and gut-wrenchingly beautiful. She didn’t need to rely on a complicated plot to make it compelling and it’s as Australian as the Nargun and the Stars. There is nothing more delicious than reading a friend’s emerging manuscript and knowing she’s nailed her story and nailed her voice. It’s an inspiration for everyone on that emerging writer/author journey. Just keep stepping towards your goal, one paver at a time. You can’t imagine where those pavers will lead you. I’m looking forward to reading more of Sue-Ellen’s manuscripts and I know she’ll find an agent/publisher very soon.

    I’m also eagerly anticipating the publication of a score of books by new Clan Destine Press siblings, including Jason Nahrung’s Blood and Dust and The Big Smoke. I’ve always been a huge fan of Nahrung’s work (:P) so it’s awesome to be part of the same stable now, even if our thoroughbreds run at different race meets.

     
    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 imagination is fickle so I’ve always written across various genres and age groups. For me, it’s about writing the story that’s inside you right now (though I suspect that spec fic will always remain my first love).

    I think the recent changes in the publishing industry mean authors have greater choices in how and what we want to write. Traditional publishers have, in the past, railroaded authors into specific and limiting genres and sub-genres, based on what’s most commercially successful for the publishing company. I have friends who stopped writing, full stop, because the publisher was only interested in them writing a certain series or genre. After years of complying, they became disillusioned and burnt out. Today’s publishing dynamics gives authors the chance to explore genres and media. A traditionally published author can also write books in a different genre and publish elsewhere or self-publish. We are coming into our own. We suddenly have more control, more choices and better negotiating rights. Of course, with that freedom comes a backlash but we’re aware enough to go down that path, if we’re authentic.

    The changing dynamics also means that every person, the common man, can write that book inside them and share with a public audience, if they’re willing to make the time. The digital age has brought arts and culture full circle. Once upon a time, it was common for bards and musicians to play amongst a small group of people in a common pub or home. Story and song was as common as the air that every person breathed. The building of theatres, the printing of books, created an elitism that stole art from the common man and placed it on a pedestal. This digital age brings art back to the people, fulfilling the domino effect that the penny dreadfuls started. The only risk now is that our stories and voices will be lost in a sea of billions of voices. I’m not sure if this makes it good or bad.

    For me, I have a lot of projects on the boil in the next five to ten years. There’s quite a few books and trilogies that I wrote as I was learning the writing craft and I’d now like to rewrite, including a gorgeous children’s fantasy series that is tempting me away from Heart Hunters. I fear also that I should be putting more time into pursuing new writing ideas but I’ve trained myself too well to stick to my work in progress. I think a little bit of time for a new story in my life could do me good. Above all, I just want to make more time to read because between full-time work, contracts on the side, helping run the family business and health issues, there hasn’t been a lot of time for reading this year and what nourishes the soul better than soaking up other people’s ideas and journeys?

     

    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: Sean McMullen

    sean mcmullenSEAN McMULLEN lives in Melbourne, Australia, but has been published mostly in the USA and Europe. He has had 20 books and 80 stories published, has won 15 awards, and was runner-up for Best Novelette in the 2011 Hugo Awards. His writing is often steampunk in theme and his breakthrough novel, Souls in the Great Machine, featured a future Australia ruled by a caste of psychopathic librarians using a human-powered computer and internet. His most recent publications are e-book collections from Reanimus Press: Ghosts of Engines Past (steampunk) and Colours of the Soul (SF and fantasy). Sean works with large scientific computers in his day job, has a PhD in medieval fantasy literature, and is a karate instructor at the Melbourne University club. Before he began writing he was a professional actor and singer, and he can be heard reading some of his own stories at his website www.seanmcmullen.net.au

     

    1. Your story ‘Hard Cases’ has been made into a short film. What was the process like of seeing your words translated to the screen?

    It was nostalgia at first, because when I was an undergraduate I had become an actor and singer. Being on set for Hard Cases brought all that back, but this time I had done the script. That said, I particularly enjoyed developing the script further with the director and actors, it was as if the story and characters had escaped from my hands and taken on lives of their own.

    I originally had Mrs Medic as a burlesque, jolly sort of character, but Eve Morey decided to play her as a tentative, uneasy apprentice executioner, someone who found the idea of killing a fellow human a bit confronting. The actors decided to play Mr Judge and Mr Drake more or less as I had them in the script, but their personalities were still different to my original idea.

    I was surprised when the director, Terry Shepherd, asked me to play Mr Guard, a cameo part. He wanted Mr Guard to seem like an old colleague of Mr Judge (Mike Bishop), and because I look about the same age as Mike, I got the role. You would think that I would play one of my own characters just as I had written him, but no, as the script evolved, Mr Guard had to adapt to fit in.

    Hard Cases was basically about ordinary people having to give up luxuries and conveniences that harm the environment and chew up resources in the long term. However, people don’t like to be reminded that their SUVs, jetskis and huge, centrally heated houses are indulgences that cannot be part of a sustainable future, so while everyone who has seen it has said it was very well scripted and produced, we could not get exposure for it. I suppose Hard Cases was a messenger that got executed because it had an unwelcome message.

    Still, it was a great experience, and I have gone on to more involvement with the television industry since then. Hard Cases was made by professionals, and with very high production values, so perhaps it will be rediscovered in a more sympathetic future.

     
    2. You’ve been making audio versions of some of your short stories, including music, some of which you’ve played yourself. Is this a way of combining at least two of your loves?

    It certainly is. I had not thought about doing audio recordings until I met Terry Shepherd, who directed Hard Cases. He taught me the basic techniques of professional recording and sound engineering, and loaned me equipment to experiment with. I bought my own H4n and began to put readings on my website by August 2013.

    Many authors have told me that they tried doing recordings of their own fiction, but the results sounded a bit iffy so they gave up. That’s because doing good readings require a lot of acting skills and experience. I learned singing and acting from professionals like Lucy Altman and George Whaley, then spent years on stage professionally. Few authors have that sort of background.

    I use music in my readings to set the mood and provide scene breaks. Sometimes that’s only a matter of picking up my concertina or guitar, and sometimes my friends like Ann Poore, Graeme Smith and Peter Parkhill let me use recordings of their music in my readings. Unlike live-on-stage recordings, I can do half a dozen takes of a piece and select the one with fewest mistakes.

    There is one annoying aspect of getting good at audio work, though. While I have learned to appreciate really good readings by people like Sir Tony Robinson, Neil Gaiman and Douglas Adams, a lot of my old favourite readings by some other quite famous people – that I would rather not name – have started to sound a bit mediocre.

     
    ghosts of engines past by sean mcmullen3. In the snapshot of 2012, you mentioned you were working on scripts, but had an idea for a Regency steampunk novel, and you’ve had short stories out in the meantime, too. What are you up to at the moment?

    I started that Regency steampunk novel, but it soon became an espionage adventure rather than steampunk, and that was not what I wanted to write. Since then I have actually written or outlined several novels, but they did not have quite the same edge as Souls in the Great Machine or Voyage of the Shadowmoon so I dropped them as well.

    Because of the deluge of genre fiction that is now easily and cheaply available, it is no longer good enough to just write an okay novel. It has to be great, and it has to be at least as good as your best or you can lose readers very easily. I know more about late Victorian literature and technology than that of the Regency, so I have moved on to a series of stories set in the 1890s. They are developing into a novel all by themselves, so this is looking like my next novel.

    I have also been advising two other very talented people with their first novels. It’s quite a challenge to keep my hands off their ways of writing things, and it seems to be a good way of loosening up my own style. Writers tend to develop methods for themselves, then stick to those methods too closely because they work. This cuts you off from methods that might work better, however.

    Novels aside, Reanimus Press published two collections of my short fiction last year, Ghosts of Engines Past and Colours of the Soul. Ghosts was steampunk, while Colours was more traditional science fiction and fantasy. This was my first foray into the electronic/print-on-demand market, so I was a bit dubious about their prospects, but they have been selling unexpectedly well so I’m not complaining.

     
    4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

    This is a hard one to answer. Over the past few months I have read two stories and a novel that I have really loved, but all three have been unpublished works that were given to me for my opinion.

    Generally speaking, the Australian scene has grown too big for anyone to follow, so I only read a few local authors that I know like Cat Sparks and Alan Baxter, but I keep a lookout for interesting newcomers. Adam Browne’s collection had a very clever story about a man addicted to giving things up, and Andrew Macrae’s novel Trucksong was a very ambitious attempt to convincingly narrate a story using a character from the future, yet keep it accessible for today’s readers. I was an examiner for Andrew’s creative writing degree, in which Trucksong was the creative work, and it was quite a pleasant experience to be able to slow down and read a work really carefully.

    1994 was the last year in which I could have answered this question comprehensively. After that I gave up trying to buy and read everything in the genre that was published by Australian authors. The industry had grown up by then, and I had calculated that I would need a new bookcase every three years just to hold all the new books and magazines. Since then the internet has also blurred the literary national boundaries, so that being an Australian author no longer means what it used to. For example …

    My 2013 story ‘Technarion’ won the Interzone readers’ poll and was selected by Gardner Dozois for his Year’s Best Science Fiction anthology, yet most Australian fans don’t even know it exists. This is fair enough, because it was set in 1875 London, had no Australian references, and was published in a British magazine. I would not even classify it as Australian. The author (me) just happened to live in Australia. If someone had said it was the most enjoyable Australian work they had read recently, I would have been pleased but surprised.

     
    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?

    It’s not possible to be any sort of writer and not be affected by those changes. The internet in general and electronic publishing in particular have made it easy for everyone to be published, and nearly everyone wants to give it a try. A few months ago I checked the stories and novels published by Australians in 2013, and I calculated that a reader with a full-time job who also took time out to eat and sleep could not get through the total output for a year, in a year. Back in the early ’90s, you could read the annual output of Australian genre fiction in a fortnight. It’s the same situation worldwide.

    Desktop publishing and online marketing has demolished the old barriers to publishing. Three-hundred-and-ninety thousand vanity press ISBNs were issued in the USA alone a couple of years ago. Is this good? Not if you are a reader in search of a good read. How do you tell which are the 10 best of those 390,000 titles? In five years it will be even harder to find the good works because there will probably be three million vanity press titles coming out per year.

    For new authors it is no longer just a matter of getting published, but of getting people to give your fiction a chance by reading it. That means getting onto Facebook, Twitter, Good Reads, online writing groups and all other social media to promote your work – but they are already jammed solid with other authors trying to do the same thing. Anon once wrote that the hardest part of getting to the top of the ladder was fighting through the crowd around the bottom. Someone new enters that crowd every few seconds.

    I count myself lucky as an author because I made my reputation when it was much harder to get published, but easier to get noticed. Back in the ’80s and ’90s, if you got published, people noticed you because so few people got published. Because I already have a reputation, the readers and editors of 2014 recognise my name, but I still have to try a lot harder than before. Every story has to stand out, so I take a lot more time and care with my fiction.

    On the other hand, that extra time and care probably got me a Hugo Award runner up in 2011, the Analog readers’ award last year, and the Interzone readers’ award this year, so there are positives amid the publishing industry upheavals. In five years I think I will still be having stories and novels published, but the methods and markets have probably not been invented yet.

     
    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: Chris McMahon

    chris mcmahonBeing able to escape into the realm of the imagination was handy growing up as the youngest in a family of 11. CHRIS McMAHON continues his fantasy and SF writing habit from his home town of Brisbane, where he lives with his lovely wife Sandra and three young children, Aedan, Declan and Brigit. He has a third-dan black belt in Moon Lee Tae Kwon Do and also enjoys movies and exploring narrow alleyways. Chris is very passionate about music, if a little inconsistent, and loves singing and playing classical guitar.
    Chris has recently released his three-book Jakirian Cycle: heroic hantasy in a world of ceramic weapons, where all metal is magical! Think Kill Bill meets Dune!
    Chris regularly blogs on writing and Space news at his website: www.chrismcmahon.net.

     
    1.Your book Calvanni, one of the Jakirian Cycle, is fresh out on Amazon. Can you tell us a little about the series’ path so far, and any tips you might have picked up along the way you’d like to share?

    Hey, It’s not just Calvanni – I have three books out in the Jakirian Cycle, all of which were launched in March 2014.

    The first book in the Jakirian Cycle is The Calvanni, the second Scytheman, and the third Sorcerer. It’s a big series, with tons of fantasy action and unique worldbuilding. Getting them out has been a real landmark effort for me. All three of them look great, thanks to the efforts of designer extraordinaire Daryl Lindquist. They have been published in both print and electronic editions, something which is also new for me.

    The first edition of The Calvanni was published in 2006. To get the rest of the series out proved to be a long, gruelling effort. But the end result was definitely worth it. People love this series, even those who have never read fantasy before.

    If I had to share one thing, that would be to focus on the quality of the work.

    As a writer trying to get your work into publication, so much is dependent on luck and timing. You could have a brilliant manuscript, but until you find the right editor at the right time, conventional mainstream publication, and its blissful access to distribution and economies of scale, will always be elusive. If you focus on making the manuscript absolutely shine, then no matter what your route to publication – small press or independent – you can take pride in what you have produced. That means taking the time to make it the best novel you can, then investing in quality editorial – and thorough proofreading!
    calvanni by chris mcmahon

    2. How has your science background informed your writing – your Jakirian Cycle has an interesting mix of ceramics and metal, for instance?

    Yes, I would say it has. For a start I guess I bring that specialist mindset to the whole writing game (I am a chemical engineer). When it comes to technology and the mechanics of worldbuilding, I can bring an (obsessive) thoroughness that pays dividends in the depth and texture of the worlds I create, and in the scientific credibility of the concepts integral to my science fiction.

    What I create definitely has an edge of unique inventiveness. The only downside is the sheer density of ideas. That can bog a story down, particularly at the beginning. It’s tricky balance to keep the reader hooked as they enter a complex world, and yet introduce them to all these new elements.
    scytheman by chris mcmahon

    3. What is it about SF and fantasy that has led you to write it, and is that where your next work will be, too?

    Well, that’s a tough one. I’d like to see any writer really define the true reason they write.

    On a surface level, I guess it was the ideas that drove me. Unique SF ideas, or events and characters in a otherworldly fantasy setting. The heroic journey. That’s what gripped my mind and lifted up the back of my head with the intensity of the ideas’ birth.

    As to why I really write? What is it that keeps me at it? That’s something deeper, more intuitive and heartfelt, that (for me) defies explanation.
     
    4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

    Can’t think of any off hand.

    I recently devoured the (American author) Kevin Hearne Iron Druid books. I think I enjoyed those more than anything since David Gemmell died – and for me that’s saying a lot!
    sorcerer by chris mcmahon

    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’ve never managed to break into the publishing mainstream, so I can say that for me, this has not changed how I approach my projects.

    I guess in terms of sales and marketing, I have definitely focussed more on the internet since the first Calvanni publication in 2006. I had quite a few sales through bookstores with the first Calvanni edition, but now the higher percentage of my sales in the Jakirian series (The Calvanni, Scytheman and Sorcerer) are e-books.

    Since I’ve been bashing away at this for over 20 years now, I don’t think I’ll have changed that much in five years.

     
    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:

    Cherry Bomb: Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ pop

    cherry bomb by jenny valentishHa! See what I did there? Doesn’t matter, I’m sure Nina Dall would still roll her eyes at such a naff header (and damn you, unsmart quotes).The fact remains, her ‘autobiography’ makes for a compelling read.

    Nina Dall is one half of punk-pop duo The Dolls, the other half held down by her somewhat more brightly clad cousin, Rose. Their rise to fame from suburban Sydney pub band to international touring act is the subject of Cherry Bomb (Allen & Unwin), as told by Jenny Valentish.

    Claim to fame: I worked with Jenny when I pulled a stint at J Mag, and she now holds the fort at Time Off in Melbourne. She’s been interviewing musos since she was 16, and has knocked around in front of a few Marshall amps in her time as well. All that experience is put to good use in Cherry Bomb, where the world of the band on the rise is brought to realistic life — ambition, stress, creativity, publicity. Sex. Drugs. Spats.

    The story is told in Nina’s first-person point of view, in retrospect, so she can throw in the occasional tease about something that was to happen, or a dollop of background, or an aside. Sometimes those little asides break the flow, especially early on when they pop up in the middle of dialogue and a dinosaur like me has to go back to remember what the conversation was about. But mostly, it works — Nina’s voice is engaging and authentic, her vocab showing she’s not as dumb as everyone thinks.

    Sure, she’s got issues. Both the cousins do. Family secrets and questions of self-esteem run thick and acidic through their co-dependency, but maybe that’s what makes them a winning team, even if maybe you don’t want to share a taxi with them.

    Circling the pair is their aunt, a faded rock star who offers an in to the industry when they need it, and the producers and love interests and hangers-on all looking for their cut.

    I got a chuckle that Jenny was able to take her love of utes and country music muster experiences, as outlined on one of her blogs, and put it to good use here.

    Jenny’s got a great turn of phrase and an eye for detail that inform Nina’s observations.

    I pictured Kane’s wife as nagging him frequently, in a dithery voice. She’d be wearing one of those satiny dresses that women buy in provincial boutiques, with the pattern of a seventies casino carpet. Thin blonde hair, spindly wrists. You couldn’t even hate her.

    The text is broken up with artefacts: a faux review of Nina’s parents’ separation; record reviews; lists. It gives Cherry Bomb almost a scrapbook feel. Each chapter — check the heads for song titles — is introduced by a salient quote from aunty Alannah’s autobiography Pour Me Another. They make you want to read that book.

    australian women writers challenge logoIn the back, Jenny provides a soundtrack for each chapter. And yep, Cherry Bomb is in there. It’s no surprise the Runaways are mentioned, either, although now I’m doubting myself for thinking Kristen Stewart did a job in the movie. Damn you, Jenny, and your acerbic ways!

    This book — Jenny’s first fiction title — totally rocks. Read it loud!

  • Jenny is appearing at Bendigo Writers Festival August 8-10.
     

  • More reviews linked to the Australian Women Writers Challenge
     

  • Snapshot 2014: John Harwood

    john harwood pic by peter whyteJOHN HARWOOD was born in Hobart and educated in Tasmania and at Cambridge University. He went on to become Head of the School of English and Drama at Flinders University in Adelaide before leaving to write full time. His novel The Ghost Writer, first published by Jonathan Cape in 2004, won the International Horror Guild’s First Novel Award for Outstanding Achievement in Horror and Dark Fantasy. The Séance, a dark mystery set in Victorian England, won the Aurealis Award for Best Horror Novel of 2008. The Asylum (Random House) was published earlier this year.
     

    1. What elements of the Gothic have attracted you to write in that mode – and to set your stories, predominantly, in England in the Victorian era?

    I first read the Sherlock Holmes stories when I was nine or ten, and as much as anything it was the atmosphere I loved: the fogs, the gaslight, the hansom cabs, the labyrinthine streets of London, the way the stories flirt with the supernatural: until the rational explanation at the end, ‘The Speckled Band’ is classic Gothic horror. At around the same time I discovered the ghost stories of MR James and again I loved the sinister old houses and churches and libraries, the gradual, indirect approach by way of hints and glimpses, leaving as much as possible to the reader’s imagination.

    So when I began writing fiction full-time it was only natural that my childhood reading would come back to haunt me. I’d written and discarded a couple of novels with contemporary settings before I stumbled on the idea for The Ghost Writer, and as soon as I started writing ghost stories in that late Victorian idiom I knew – paradoxical as it sounds – that I’d found a voice of my own.

    The Victorian era attracts me because it’s very different from our own, but not so remote that the language becomes a barrier. And because it’s a darker, more elemental setting, without any of the technological insulation we take for granted. Once inside that crumbling Gothic mansion, you’re utterly alone with whatever may be lurking there …

     
    2. Your writing has been acknowledged in both literary and genre awards. What is your feeling about the tension or rivalry between these two camps?

    It strikes me as an artificial and fairly recent distinction – some of the greatest 19th century novels would now be classified as genre fiction – largely driven by the demands of marketing, and perhaps by a degree of prejudice. I’ve met readers who pride themselves on only reading literary fiction, and tried to explain to them how much they’re missing out on, but sometimes the prejudice is too deeply embedded. Whereas all that ultimately matters is the quality of the writing, in the fullest sense of that phrase.

    The best books across all the genres – SF, crime, YA, fantasy, literary – have far more in common with each other than they do with formula-driven, boilerplate fiction. And the best work, regardless of how it’s labelled, often defies classification, like Russell Hoban’s masterpiece, Riddley Walker. Or a book like China Miéville’s The City and the City, which tends to be shelved as SF because that’s mostly what he writes. But when you’ve finished it you still don’t know – at least I didn’t – whether you’ve actually crossed the boundaries of realism or not.

     
    3. The Ghost Writer had supernatural tales embedded within the text; The Séance took a Radcliffe approach to offering rational explanations for the mysterious events; and you play with lost or stolen identity in an asylum on the delightful Bodmin Moor in The Asylum. Where, and when, to next?

    the asylum by john harwoodI’m not sure yet. The Séance grew out of the original version of The Ghost Writer, which included a novella about a sinister mansion festooned with lightning rods, and then The Asylum grew out of material which didn’t make it into the finished Séance. Could be something quite different this time. For me, beginning a novel is like being a dog trying to follow a scent through a pitch-dark forest, falling down holes and bumping into tree-trunks until he picks it up again: you don’t really know what you’re pursuing until you get through that forest.

     
    4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

    Most of my reading in recent months has been about the looming reality of catastrophic climate change, and so the Australian work that comes first to mind is Morrie Schwartz’s invaluable review, The Monthly, with its superb coverage of all sides of politics as well as environmental issues. Which is not to minimise the work that Fairfax journalists are doing under extraordinarily difficult conditions. But with a government dominated by Tea Party lookalikes and climate change deniers, and most of the commercial media acting as their cheer squad, The Monthly is a source of light in a very dark landscape.

     
    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?

    Changes like the emergence of e-books and the ever-increasing power of Amazon haven’t really affected me as much as the exponential growth of the internet itself. When I began work on The Ghost Writer the internet was still relatively slow and clunky, whereas now it’s ubiquitous. The internet is a very mixed blessing, so far as writing is concerned; it speeds up research enormously, but it’s also a terrible distraction, and disruptive of precisely those long stretches of meditative concentration that writing fiction requires.

    Like many people, I’ve just kept adding new technologies to existing ones, so that I now have a Kindle as well as a paper library. I assume that the proportion of e-books sold relative to paper will continue to increase, like the proportion of books that will be available only in e-form. Environmentally speaking, I suppose it would be better if we all bought nothing but e-books from here on, but I’d very sorry to see that happen. When the survivors – if there are any – of the Great Anthopocene Extinction are picking over the ruins in a few hundred years’ time, a few printed books in deep cellars or caves may be all that remain of our vast output of words.

     

    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: Traci Harding

    traci hardingTRACI HARDING’s books blend the esoteric mysteries, time travel and quantum physics in adventurous romps through history, alternative dimensions, universes and states of consciousness. She has 18 books in publication with HarperCollins Voyager, Australia. The second book of her Timekeepers trilogy, The Eternity Gate, was released earlier this year along with The Ancient Future Trilogy Omnibus. Her books are published in several languages and regularly appear in popular book polls, most recently Dreaming of Zhou Gong made the Get Reading 2013 List of ‘Top 50 books you can’t put down’, and The Ancient Future was No.52 in the 2013 ‘Australia’s Most Popular Homegrown reads’ poll. You can discover more about Traci at traciharding.com and keep up with all her news at Traci Harding Fans on Facebook.

     

    1. You were a guest at Supanova this year. What did you get up to, and how does being an author there compare to, say, a literary convention or festival?

    Supanova must be one of the most fun and beneficial ways to promote yourself if you are a science – fantasy – horror fiction writer, or graphic artist or novelist. I love getting to meet so many other Australian and international writers and the other celebrity guests that Supanova attracts every tour.

    As for what we got up to … well. the action never stops really. From the opening night ceremony on Friday, through the book signing, panels, workshops and Saturday night’s themed VIP cocktail party, it is just non-stop excitement and entertainment – with the patrons of the event as the real stars of the weekend – some of the cosplay is seriously amazing! And to top it all off there is always an author dinner Sunday night, where the authors can wind down and chat amongst themselves.

    What I like most about this event is that 30,000–50,000 people come through these doors each day of the weekend, who are all my target audience. At the more mainstream literary festivals, only a small percentage of patrons are interested in my genre, where as at Supanova everyone is an enthusiast.

    Ineke Prochazka, who shepherds all the authors around, always ensures you are escorted where you should be, you are fed, and well taken care of. Ineke also hosts all the panels, which are aimed at fulfilling the audience expectation of a lively, interactive panel – no boring 20-minute speeches, just lots of great
    debate and insight into everyone’s different writing experiences.


    traci harding books
     

    2. You had a consultant help on Dreaming of Zhou Gong to ensure the Chinese elements were accurate, and they’ve since translated a short story of yours into Chinese. How did you make contact, and what kinds of things were they able to help you with that might otherwise not have been picked up?

    The consultant in question is Lee Pou Lon, who I met online. As a Hong Kong native who studied in Australia for three years, Lon not only knows Cantonese, Mandarin, some French and English, but also has a sound knowledge of China’s long and colourful history. Hence he was the perfect person to proof read and consult on Dreaming of Zhou Gong, which was set at the beginning of Zhou rule – about 1046 BCE.

    Through his guidance many of the titles, that I’d been using to address nobles, changed from the posthumous titles that had been used to refer to these nobles for centuries, to titles more contemporary to the time period. Some of the character names were more titles than actual names, so Lon helped me come up with names that were more appropriate. We completely rewrote the wedding scene to suit the customs of the time, and thanks to one missing word in a measurement, I nearly had a Qin (Chinese string instrument) that was 37 feet (more than 12m) long! In addition, Lon translated and sourced the Chinese calligraphy for the cover of the book, and designed a beautiful book mark to match, which we used when promoting the novel. We later decided to translate one of my short stories, ‘A Piece of Time’, from Ghostwriting into Chinese and renamed it ‘The Fob Watch’. It was posted for free on e-book in Hong Kong, and it was also published in one of the local online newspapers there.

    I have previously had books released in Chinese, but the translations were poor, and after receiving a small advance from my Taiwanese publisher I never heard from them again. The company folded and yet somehow those books are still retailing and no one seems to be able to tell me who is supplying them.

    A good translation and self publishing is certainly a route I would take in future, and the free e-book exercise, which was well liked and reviewed, was to test the waters. It is one thing to have a book translated and quite another to have one translated well. For unlike having a business document translated, a book requires the translator to have a certain amount of finesse and to be sensitive to the style and atmosphere of the story, so that it is conveyed as originally intended by the author.

     
    3. You’ve recently finished writing your latest book of the Timekeepers series, AWOL. Where, and when, to from now?

    AWOL is the last book in a trilogy that links back to three of my earlier time travel trilogies, thus I am very pleased to be heading into a couple of standalone novels next. These stories will aid me to do a little mainstreaming, whilst keeping one foot firmly planted in the fantasy genre. You know I cannot write a novel without elements of the supernatural in it, and I have tales tucked away half written, that are begging to be completed.

    The first of these will be The Art of Story, which I have already written the first 10,000 words of. I started writing this on the side whilst writing my trilogies, but the timekeepers just took over and I had to put it aside. I am dying to know what is going to happen in this tale, so now I’ll finally get to find out. This story takes place in the present, and is about a ghostly tale being collaborated on by an aging author and her young male nurse. Their tale could turn out to be more fact than fiction, and hark to a time when the master writer was a mere novice. The Art of Story will be out early 2016.

     
    4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

    This year I’ve not had much chance to read for pleasure, but I am currently enjoying Scott Baker’s time hopping fantasy The Rule of Knowledge, and thanks to doing Supanova I have discovered a whole lot more Aussie authors I will be reading – the amazing artwork of DM Cornish has made me eager to sink into one of his novels ASAP. The new kid on the Voyager block, Alan Baxter, has just released Bound to rave reviews, so I think I will have to have a read of that one too. Kim Wilkins, my favourite holiday read, also has a few new novels I need to devour.

     
    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?

    Fortunately for me, I am an established writer with a very loyal reader base, so I just keep writing a book a year, as I always have done, whilst exploring new mediums. I do spend more time doing the social network thing – self-promotion is vital for an author these days. But I only post when I have something relevant to say about my work, I don’t waste time tweeting and posting every little thought I have in a day, as basically social networking is only beneficial if it doesn’t detract from the writing. I don’t tweet, I don’t even own a mobile phone. For a writer, being able to disconnect is vitally important, and I think my readers would rather read books than tweets … and I know what I’d rather be writing 🙂

    As for what I will be publishing/writing/reading in future? What a question! I don’t usually know what I’m writing about tomorrow, let alone five years from now! I just go where the muses and my own curiosity takes me. I can assure you I will still be writing however, and reading great Australian fiction – there are just so many talented writers in this country and I’m sure the ranks are only going to swell. It is my dearest hope that physical books are still the norm, so that the next generation of great Australian science – fantasy – horror writers get to know the thrill of seeing their books in print and on bookstore shelves.

     
    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: