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 www.glendalarke.com and on her blog, www.glendalarke.blogspot.com.

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:

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Surviving the End

surviving the end anthologyDark Prints Press has released the table of contents for its Surviving the End anthology, to be launched at the Swancon “Doom Con” in Perth at Easter next year — lovely thematic resonance, there! (Marianne de Pierres is a good choice of guest of honour, given her dystopian outings.) The antho sounds nice and tight, with extra interest thanks to the inclusion of Craig’s between-story interludes and the novella.

As well as my yarn, ‘The Last Boat to Eden’, there is:

  • Unwanted, by Martin Livings
  • The Long Ago, by Amanda J Spedding
  • Hiatus, by Michael Bailey
  • The Stuff of Stories, by Kathryn Hore
  • Harvest, by Ashlee Scheuerman
  • the novella, The Failing Flesh, by Joseph D’Lacey
  • and narrative interludes by the ‘Story Collector’, Craig Bezant
  • The end is in sight — bring it on!

    Swancon, Ditmars and a darn fine time

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    Swancon, the annual get-together of Aussie spec fic fans held in Perth — usually at Easter — doubled as the country’s national science fiction convention — the 50th — this year. It’s a four-hour flight from Melbourne and worth every frequent flyer mile.

    This year’s convention was held in the Hyatt and the venue was a good slab of the reason the con went so well — chiefly, the foyer, which offered a raised lounge encircling a non-functioning fountain featuring elephants, lions and a Cleopatra’s needle aimed like a rocket at the lofty atrium roof. The foyer also had a bar which featured a Hyatt-priced drinks list and some of the most harried bar staff I’ve ever had the pleasure of waiting to be served by. Honestly, if you’re a hotel hosting an SF convention, you need to heed the warnings about our thirst levels. Sure, some folks wander around dressed as giant chipmunks (I’m told it was a raccoon, but I truly believe it was a chipmunk, or possibly a squirrel: just he or she was in disguise because it was masquerade night), but we do like a drink when we haven’t seen each other for so darn long. Especially our pals in the west, who have churned out 36 Swancons so far but don’t get to come east anywhere near as often as they should. (That four hours can be a costly trip.)

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    The beauty of the foyer was that it provided a natural gathering place. I’m not sure the various bridal parties, holidaying families and Eastering businessman appreciated the confluence, but I thought it was grand: here was the perfect alternative panel of writerly types drawn from all around the country, and overseas (very happy to hear that Glenda Larke has designs on returning to her native West!).

    The guests were Sean Williams, Justina Robson and Ellen Datlow — Sean and Ellen are always great value and Justina proved so engaging I bought her book — Lila Black has been “tortured and magic-scarred by elves, rebuilt by humans into a half-robot, part-AI, nuclear-fuelled walking arsenal”, and that’s just part of the blurb for Selling Out.

    Some organised highlights included the delayed appearance of the Paul Haines collection The Last Days of Kali Yuga, a gorgeously produced title from Brimstone Press; Paul’s reading of a new story proved a very emotional moment.

    Another enjoyable launch was the Ticonderoga Publications double — More Scary Kisses and Dead Red Heart — in which I’ve got some yarns. The launch also marked 15 years for TP — not a bad achievement at all!

    There were panels of interest covering the craft of writing, the business of writing and all manner of stuff relating to fandom and movies and conventions.

    We ate far too much curry — Anzac Day and Easter combined to keep sleepy Perth very snoozy indeed — but the curry at the little place across the road was damn fine and they did a respectable breakfast as well, bless their holiday-defying work ethic.

    There was a masquerade ball — it went off, I was told, and there was a most excellent Japanese lantern girl costume and a ginormous lizard and Little Red Riding Hood and the aforementioned squirrel-in-disguise — but I was late back from the dinner hunt and, you know, there was a great impromptu panel being conducted in the foyer at the time… followed by a room party! Yes, the sound proofing at the Hyatt meant we could squeeze 20 people into a room and spill chips and some truly, um, intriguing confectionary puddings around the place.

    Cat Sparks has posted her Swancon photos

    There was also awesomeness at the Ditmar awards — fan-nominated and voted on by members of the natcons — which started with the decoration of mighty pillars in the auditorium as rocket ships and finished at the last announcement. I’ve listed them below, but draw attention to my wife’s win for her short story, ‘She Said’ (a tie with the inimitable Cat Sparks!), and the special awards (not listed below) won by Paul Collins (A Bertram Chandler) and Lucy Sussex (Peter McNamara award) and Anita Bell (the Norma K Hemming award for her novel, Diamond Eyes).

    Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann must be reeling — a Ditmar on top of their Oscar for The Lost Thing!

    But most of all, the best thing about Swancon was the people: my buddies from Brisbane — I miss you guys! — and all over the place, all coming together to congratulate and commiserate and enjoy the camaraderie of those who value imagination as one of the most prized of human faculties.

    DITMAR AWARDS

    Best Novel: Power and Majesty, Tansy Rayner Roberts (HarperVoyager)
    Best Novella or Novelette: ‘The Company Articles of Edward Teach’, Thoraiya Dyer (Twelfth Planet Press)
    Best Short Story (tie): ‘All the Love in the World’, Cat Sparks (Sprawl, Twelfth Planet Press) and ‘She Said’, Kirstyn McDermott (Scenes From the Second Storey, Morrigan Books)
    Best Collected Work: Sprawl, Alisa Krasnostein, ed. (Twelfth Planet Press)
    Best Artwork: ‘The Lost Thing’ short film (Passion Pictures) Andrew Ruhemann & Shaun Tan
    Best Fan Writer: Alexandra Pierce, for body of work including reviews at Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus (Twelfth Planet Press)
    Best Fan Artist: Amanda Rainey, for Swancon 36 logo
    Best Fan Publication in Any Medium: Galactic Suburbia podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Tansy Rayer Roberts, & Alex Pierce (Twelfth Planet Press)
    Best Achievement: Alisa Krasnostein, Kathryn Linge, Rachel Holkner, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, & Tehani Wessely, Snapshot 2010
    Best New Talent: Thoraiya Dyer
    William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review: Tansy Rayner Roberts, for ‘A Modern Woman’s Guide to Classic Who’

    Australian Shadows shortlist announced

    The Australian Horror Writers Association has announced this year’s finalists for the Shadows award, presented in the categories of (eclectic) long fiction, short fiction and edited publication, and I can safely say I’m happy I’m not trying to judge such a strong field — leastwise because my wife has two works in the running! I’ve read all but one of the final field, and they’re all darn fine yarns. Congratulations to all for making the final cut!

    The Shadows are announced in April, just ahead of the fan-based Ditmars at Swancon at Easter, and the country’s premier genre awards, the Aurealis Awards, at a gala bash in Sydney on May 21. Last year offered a bumper crop of tales spilling from Aussie pens: if you’re looking for some reading material, the shortlists make a great place to start.