Snapshot 2012: Simon Brown

australian speculative fiction snapshot 2012 logoSIMON Brown started writing fiction every day at the age of 14, which means he’s been a writer for more than 40 years. He’s had six novels published in Russia, which means his brag shelf has books he’s written that he can’t read. He currently lives in Thailand with his wife, who is an English teacher in Phuket, and his two school-age children.

PanMacmillan, under their Momentum imprint, have just released e-book versions of his previous fantasy trilogy, the Chronicles of Kydan. He’s working on three different books – a young adult/crossover horror, the first book in a new fantasy trilogy and a non-fiction book – because he can’t make up his mind which one to concentrate on.


You’ve been living overseas for the past few years. Grist for the writer’s mill or one huge distraction?
Living overseas is a great way to concentrate the mind on what you’ve left behind, at least initially. After four years in Thailand, I find that some of the things about living in a different country and a different culture are finally starting to get under my skin and become a part of me. It’s a nice feeling. But when I look up and towards the horizon, it’s always towards Australia. I think my time here in Thailand will start seeping into my work about the time I come home. That’s the way of things.


Momentum has re-released one of your series as e-books. What’s been happening to let readers know they’re available?
Mark Harding at Momentum Books has been great at getting the Chronicles of Kydan some attention. It was recently one of the books of the week on Google Play, for example, and the Momentum site has a piece by me on writing the trilogy. Gillian Polack has also kindly let me blog about the trilogy on her site. I just have to save up for an e-book reader now so I can download them myself. Imagine carrying hundreds of books in your pocket. Weird.


Can you tell us more about what’s inspired the latest projects?
The young adult/crossover horror novel, based on a short story I wrote called ‘Water Babies’ (published in Agog! Smashing Stories), is currently with a publisher, so until I get word back it’s difficult to say where it’s going.

The idea for the new fantasy trilogy I’m working on was inspired by reading about the importance of trade in ancient and medieval societies, something usually ignored in most fantasies. Since it’s just kicking off, I’m not sure how it’ll pan out at this point, but I’m enjoying booting ideas around.

The non-fiction book I hope to co-author with a good friend who is also a great writer is about the development of quantum theory. The book will concentrate on the Fifth Solvay Conference in 1927, which featured an amazing array of scientists who were also larger-than-life personalities.


What Australian works have you loved recently?
I’m ashamed to say that I’ve been so detached from the Australian scene over the past four years that I’ve read very little home-grown fiction. I did manage to read and enjoy the first book of Sean and Garth’s Troubletwisters and Scott Westerfeld‘s Leviathan (we’re allowed to poach Scott, aren’t we? (definitely: his snapshot his here — JN).


What have been some of the biggest changes in Australian speculative fiction (or the industry?) in the past two years since Aussiecon 4?
Difficult to assess from a distance, but surely the big development not just over the past two years but the past decade has been the increase in the number of Australian specfic writers and the quality of their work. I think Clarion South has a lot to do with this (and by implication Clarion South’s organisers), as well as the continued and it seems to me against-all-odds existence of short fiction markets such as Aurealis and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine.

The other big change has been the slow but inevitable move in Australia from ink to phosphor dot and LED, including e-books and online magazines. We’ll have to wait a year or 10 before properly assessing what effects this has had on writers and writing. If I’m still around, feel free to ask me again in 2022.

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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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Snapshot 2012: Garth Nix

australian speculative fiction snapshot 2012 logoGARTH Nix has been a full-time writer since 2001. He has worked as a literary agent, marketing consultant, book editor, book publicist, book sales representative, bookseller and as a part-time soldier in the Australian Army Reserve. Garth’s books include the award-winning fantasy novels Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen and the science fiction novels Shade’s Children and A Confusion of Princes. His fantasy novels for children include The Ragwitch; the six books of The Seventh Tower sequence; The Keys to the Kingdom series; and the Troubletwisters books (with Sean Williams).

More than five million copies of Garth’s books have been sold around the world. His books have appeared on the bestseller lists of The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, The Guardian and The Australian, and his work has been translated into 40 languages.

Garth also produced the IF Award-winning and ACTAA-nominated short animated film The Missing Key, directed by Jonathan Nix; is a silent partner in the literary agency Curtis Brown (Australia); and is a co-founder of the online games developer Creative Enclave.

He lives in a Sydney beach suburb with his wife and two children. Find him online at www.garthnix.com.



You and Sean Williams looked to be having fun with the whiteboard when it came to plotting out your Troubletwisters series. How did the two of you go about collaborating on that series?
The whiteboard video you can see on YouTube is a kind of condensed version of how it actually works. Basically, we got together at various times to work out the story in considerable detail, building up a chapter outline for the first book, and a backgrounder for the characters, setting and so on. Then I wrote the first chapter, Sean took it away and wrote the first draft of the rest of the book, mostly following the chapter outline but varying where he wanted to or thought it necessary. Then he flicked it back to me, and I revised it, sent it back again and he revised it, and so on for a couple of iterations. We also discussed any major changes as we went along. The end result is that when we look at any given page, neither of us can remember who wrote what, it is a true joint effort. We’ve repeated this basic process in the next two books, including the one that is just out now, Troubletwisters: The Monster.


A Confusion of Princes is based on a computer game and you’ve done a great job of absorbing the game conventions such as respawning into the narrative. What were the challenges of this adaptation, if that’s a fair description of the process?
It would be more accurate to say that the game, Imperial Galaxy, shares a background with the book. I actually had started writing the book first, then when Phil Wallach and I began work on the game, I suggested we use the background of the galactic empire, the three teks and so on, for the game. I had intended to finish the book earlier, but got distracted, so a kind of limited subset of the game came out in a beta version before the book was finished. You can play that game at www.imperialgalaxy.com, but essentially the game is stalled at the moment for lack of funds, and has been frozen for about two years now. We do still hope to return to it at some stage.


You’ve been branching out and drawing on your family’s various skills as well: a very well received short film, self-publishing a collection of Sir Hereward stories, the computer game and the novel, and goodness knows what else. What have been the biggest pleasures you’ve found from exploring these diverse creative worlds?
The film, The Missing Key (trailers at www.themissingkey.com), is very much my brother Jonathan Nix’s work. I co-produced it, but had little creative input, just the business management and so on typical of a producer. It has won a bunch of awards, and I am pleased to be an IF Award-winning and ACTAA-nominated producer, but I can’t take much of the credit.

I self-published Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz: Three Adventures as an experiment to test new digital waters. I like to keep up with and investigate publishing trends and changes were I can. I do like to be involved in various ventures and activities, and I like to use my business mind as well as my fiction-writing faculties.

What Australian works have you loved recently?
I was enthralled by Margo Lanagan‘s Sea Hearts and greatly enjoyed Dave Freer‘s Cuttlefish (not yet released), but in general I haven’t read much Australian (or in fact any) science fiction or fantasy. I’ve been mostly reading non-fiction, particularly history. I was kind of shocked at myself when I realised how little of the Aurealis shortlist I’d read at the awards ceremony last month, so I have picked up a bunch of books and stories to read when I get the chance.

What have been some of the biggest changes in Australian speculative fiction in the past two years since Aussiecon 4?
I’m not sure changes are obvious until much later, perhaps six, seven or even 10 years, when you can look back and point to things that have become significant or made an impact over time. That said, I think in general it is encouraging to see so many people involved in reading and writing speculative fiction, and to see more and more Australian authors getting a foothold in the USA and UK, and in translation.

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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: