Snapshot 2014: KJ Bishop

etched city by kj bishopKJ BISHOP writes, sculpts, gardens, and really hates writing bios. Her website is at

1. You’ve been living in Thailand for how many years now? Is it having an influence on your artistic practice?

Getting on for nine years. I learnt sculpture here, so a new door has definitely opened. So far I’ve drawn ideas mainly from my own background, though I can see a Thai influence coming in here and there. I have a few ideas for pieces inspired by Thailand, but haven’t got going on them yet!

2. Do you find the themes of your fiction showing through in your sculpture? What is that sculpture does for you, that the words do not?

Yeah, I think they do show through. Or they’re just things I’m obsessed with that turn up whether I’m writing or making art. Loneliness, insanity, cheerful stuff like that. Masks. I’ve made a couple of minotaurs and a creepy baby that might look familiar to people who’ve read The Etched City. But I also find that sculpture gives me a visa to a few places I can’t manage to go to with writing. I happily get quite traditional with sculpture. I made a figure of a dancing Pan, playing his pipes – nothing weird or surreal about him. I don’t know how to write about a purely magical otherworld, but it’s been calling to me lately when I sit down with wax.

that book your mad ancestor wrote by kj bishop3. Your Aurealis Award-winning collection, That Book Your Mad Ancestor Wrote, shows a breadth of the fantastic, from an Ashamoil scene of Gwynn dealing with the paparazzi, to a take on Beauty and the Beast, to conspiring curtains. Where is your fiction heading? What can we expect to see from you next? Will you have a new sculpture in your pocket at Loncon?

I’ve learned not to jinx writing by talking about it. At the moment I’m not writing much, which isn’t to say I’m not writing at all. Maybe I should just say expect the unexpected? I’ll have some work in the art show at Loncon. My pockets are more likely to contain yucky bits of melted chocolate.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

Anna Tambour’s Crandolin was one of the most amazingly original books I’ve ever read, and I loved Christian Read’s Black City. (The sequel, Devil City, is out now. Just bought it!)

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 chose to self-publish Mad Ancestor through Createspace, and did all the work myself. Would I do it again? I’d certainly consider it, though it was hard yakka, especially doing my own copyediting. I read a lot of dead authors, and expect I’ll still be reading them in five years.

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 2012: Glenda Larke

australian speculative fiction snapshot 2012 logoGLENDA Larke is an Australian who has spent most of her adult life abroad, living in Malaysia (including Borneo), Austria and Tunisia, yet still feels herself to be 100 per cent Australian. She has worked as an English teacher and as a conservationist, specifically tropical bird conservation, on jobs that have taken her from peat swamps and tropical islands, to logging camps and fishing villages. Her 10 published novels, including three trilogies (Isles of Glory, Mirage Makers and the latest, Watergivers) have been published in six different countries, and she has had books short-listed seven times for the Aurealis Best Fantasy of the Year. She is now working on another trilogy set in a fantasy version of the 17th European century spice trade to Indonesia, involving buccaneers, birds of paradise, witchery, magical daggers — and the morality of colonialism. The first book is called The Lascar’s Dagger.

Find Glenda online at and on her blog,

Your most recent series have been set in arid lands — what’s the attraction for you as a storyteller?
As an Australian, the daughter of a farmer, I know about the preciousness of water. We bathed in untreated water pumped up from the river when I was a kid. Some of my earliest memories are about shortages – the summer a rat drowned in our rainwater tank, for example. Or the night my father walked through the smouldering remains of a bushfire to pump more water from the river so we could fight the fire. They are the stories of my childhood, and they have been reinforced by what is happened in today’s world. Wars are going to be fought over water.

In the 21st century, for the first time in recorded history, the Rio Grande has failed several years to flow out to the ocean. The Marsh Arabs had their livelihood and life styles taken from them because others wanted their water. In Australia we contaminate our underground water with salt water intrusion and endanger it with fracking. Fresh water is the most precious of all the world’s resources and we should treat it as precious.

There are so many water stories out there!

You mention on your blog that publishers are reluctant to buy a series based on a proposal, even from authors with your track record. Is this another sign of the decimation of the midlist we hear about?
It certainly seems to be a widespread complaint among authors that proposals have been a hard sell lately, especially last year. I was astonished by some of the Big Name Authors who have had been unable to sell their next works without a finished book in their hands. I think it stems from publishers being more circumspect about buying on spec while they try to work out where their industry is going. Once they decide what direction their company is taking, and have invested in new methods of distribution and sales, then things will settle down. It won’t be the same industry, but it will be perhaps less volatile and a tad more predictable than it has over the past year or two.

You are a regular visitor to Swancon, in your home state where you’re planning to retire to … soon? What is it about the convention that draws you to make the long flight from Malaysia each year?
Not every year, alas. But that is something I intend to work on once we move to Mandurah, which I hope will be within the next 12 months. Swancon was my very first con. I had no idea what to expect. In fact, I dragged my sister (a school teacher-librarian) along because I was so scared of having no one to talk to! I needn’t have worried, of course. I had a wonderful time, people were so welcoming, and they wanted to talk about all the things I wanted to talk about – it opened my eyes to a community of writers and readers and fans that I’d had no idea was out there anywhere. Every time I go to Swancon, it feels like home.

What Australian works have you loved recently?
Tansy Rayner Roberts’ Creature Court trilogy and Karen Miller’s Blight of Mages. I thought the first two books of Tansy’s were utterly brilliant, worthy of huge international acclaim. I had a few plot issues with the last one that I am dying to chat to Tansy about next time I see her, but that trilogy as a whole is one of the most original and well-written works to come out of Oz fantasy writers since, oh, since The Etched City by KJ Bishop.

Blight of Mages is a tour de force – for a start, it’s a prequel that can be read by people familiar with the series or by those new to her work, and either way it offers a startling read. On one level it’s a brilliant character study of two flawed people and the disaster they create. On another it’s a tragic love story. On another it’s a traditional fantasy with lots of magic and battles on an epic scale. I was surprised it never made the Aurealis shortlist.

What have been some of the biggest changes in Australian speculative fiction in the past two years since Aussiecon 4?
Hard for me to say because, living abroad, I am always so far behind in my reading. If I wasn’t, I’d probably be adding, say, Lanagan, Anderton or Freeman to the list of authors mentioned in the above paragraph…

From a distance, then, I would say it has been the healthy growth and outstanding success of the small press; the international success of Australian podcasts; the success of Australian woman in fantasy, horror and science fiction writing. Generally, Australia appears to produce a huge pool of talent when you consider the small population. What I’d love to see in the next couple of years is some great Australian fantasy from indigenous writers and immigrant writers drawing on their own cultural/ethnic roots.

Taking a broader outlook, I think Australian readers/writers of all kinds have to think very carefully about what kind of reading experience they want in the future. Simply put, if you want bookshops in High Street you have to buy from bookshops in High Street. If we want cheaper books, then we have to rethink how it can be done without bringing Australian publishing to its knees.

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THIS interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 1-8 June and archiving them at Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus. You can read interviews at: