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Snapshot 2012: Peter Nicholls

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Peter Nicholls is a Hugo-award winning SF critic and scholar, best known for his work in conceiving and editing the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. He has also been an academic, film-maker, anthologist, first administrator of the  Science Fiction Foundation (SF), and editor of Foundation: the review of Science Fiction. He is Editor Emeritus of the third, online edition of the Encyclopedia, the SFE3.

Your two previous editions (in book form), and the current third edition (on the internet) of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction have been a central resource for SF critics and researchers. Can you tell us a bit of the history of how the first Encyclopedia came about?

In 1971 I had been made Administrator of the Science Fiction Foundation at North East London Polytechnic. The main thing my employers wanted was for me to help produce a literary course for undergraduates, including science fiction, that was reputable and viable. They didn’t get that, because the Council for National Academic Awards would not validate it, though their criticisms of it did not single out the sf content or indeed even mention it. However, my job was becoming obvious. I had to argue the case for sf’s importance and intrinsic interest to the academic world on one hand, and to the public at large on the other. In other words, I remade myself into a Public Relations hack, but not quite a hack -- I worked too hard for that, organizing travelling book exhibitions, editing a journal (called Foundation; it’s still going strong), giving lectures at other universities, organizing art exhibitions and lecture series, doing radio broadcasts and a tv special, and so on. Lots of stuff, a bit easier to do than you might expect. The British media were very supportive, partly because they thought my job was interesting, and also because sf is cool.

However, with all this publicity, the number of written and telephoned queries we received, mostly questions about science fiction, increased every year. We had a moderately good library in the Science Fiction Foundation, but answering these questions became more and more time consuming. It was difficult, too, because in the mid-1970s there was not very much published about sf. There were few historical and/or critical studies and few reference books of any kind. I took to moaning ‘if only there was a science fiction encyclopedia’.

And that was really that. The Fates intervened within a year, and I heard a rumour that a book packaging company called Roxby Press was interested in doing a big, illustrated book about science fiction. That was the catalyst I needed. A mental light bulb turned on right over my head. I myself could research, edit and write that very same science fiction encyclopedia I knew I needed. It had a wonderful, circular logic to it. I went to see Roxby Press, and they asked me to prepare an outline. There’s no need for too many details, I signed a contract in October 1976 and was ready to roll, still having no realistic idea of how much work this book would be. Over the next nine months I found out. It was sad that although I only really needed an encyclopedia for my work at the Science Fiction Foundation, finishing the book would take so much work that I would have to resign from the Foundation to do it. Another ironic circle. I resigned as of the end of 1977. One further decision in early 1977 arose from the realization that I had no hope of ever finishing the book if I tried to do it as sole editor and sole senior writer. I decided to invite my friend John Clute to be Associate Editor to my General Editor. This also had lasting consequences, in his life as in mine. In the same essay that I quoted from at the beginning, I wrote of John Clute:

‘John Clute…writes so vividly of subtext that he sometimes forgets, as he inhales the electrifying pure oxygen of his inbuilt aqualung, that there is an ordinary text up there on the surface, a position he visits only occasionally with a magisterial gruffle and spout before he sounds again into our sf deeps. The point I’m trying to make is that if Clute hadn’t existed, I would have had to invent him.’


So I unleashed a monster upon an unknowing world, and sf criticism has never been the same since. The encyclopedia manuscript was delivered in June 1978. It was published in 1979 by Granada, to whom Roxby Press had granted English rights, and also in 1979 by Doubleday in New York. It was three quarters of a million words long; and it had been touted by us beforehand—we were so innocent—as essentially complete. But encyclopedias are never complete, though it took us more than thirty years to realize just how incomplete it was. I cannot tell you how proud I am now that we (35 contributors including the by now five editors) researched and wrote this book in twenty months. My children I’m sure think of me as a sleepy old fellow who doesn’t do much more around the house than putting out the rubbish bins once a week. I sometimes think it’s sad they didn’t know me back then. They were not even born. Roadrunner was a dawdler next to me.

Do you ever feel that The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction is to you what the Monster was to Dr Frankenstein?

It is now more than a third of a century since I began working, in 1976, on The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, which was published in 1979. That was the year I turned forty. It is an irony that science fiction, which is largely read by young people and is largely about new things, has possessed me as strongly as ever over a period extending from middle age to what might be called old age now that I’m 73. Real-world actuarial research predicts that human life spans will steadily increase. Maybe I’m no longer by current standards very old at all. However, it is no coincidence that my hair (black and sinister) began turning white (benevolent and harmless) during my time planning and working on the first edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. It is not surprising that encyclopedists tend to have a haggard look. The thing is, they have no holidays at all, because they cannot allow themselves to fall behind. Only the swiftest and most focused can survive. You may start in the job thinking that an encyclopedist has to be a harmless drudge for only two or three years until the book is done. But you soon learn that the book is never done, and if the subject of an encyclopedia is science fiction, then we have a double jeopardy, because sf by its nature changes very fast indeed and thus inflicts twice the damage.

During the 1980s I either edited and/or partially wrote four or five books. In the case of Fantastic Cinema (1984) I entirely wrote it. I wrote a great many reviews. I wrote chapters or segments of other people’s books. I did not have to go back on the dole. I married in 1983, after a bachelorhood of nine years, which was ushered in back in 1974 when I split with my American girlfriend. My new wife Clare and I had a baby son, Jack (who, sigh, attended Clarion West Writers’ Workshop in Seattle last year. Time flies.) We even, possibly foolishly, came to Australia (back to Australia in my case) to live in the new Eden, and promptly produced a second child, Luke. None of this enabled me to shut out the quiet footsteps of my very own Frankenstein monster, the Encyclopedia, which had tracked me down over half a world. I had thought I might be safe back here in Australia, but in a parody of “No one expects the Spanish Inquisition” the Encyclopedia recaptured me and then coaxed me (or compelled me) into working with John Clute--this time we were equal co-editors--to write a second edition. I flew back to England to sign the contract in August 1990. The book was published in 1993.

This edition was not to be illustrated, but in other respects was much more difficult than the first time around. There were more than twenty years of new authors, films, tv shows, magazines and so on to be covered. We had to repair omissions and errors in the first edition, having long since realized how far the first edition had been from being ‘complete’. But the worst thing was simply the extra stress for John and me because we were working half a world apart, and the opportunities for misunderstanding each other were much magnified. It’s true that technological aids, consisting of the fax machine and a primitive home computer, enabled faster contact than previously, but that was not enough for us completely to recover the easy camaraderie that had characterized our previous collaborations. It also meant that John was relying much more heavily on the technical editor than before. This man was Paul Barnett who used the nom de plume John Grant for his work on the Encyclopedia. I had met him a few times, but didn’t really remember him. Unfortunately he remembered me and regarded me—I’m not sure why--as arrogant. At the beginning his communications with me were polite but chilly. By the end he was openly hostile and sarcastic. Many of the editorial changes Barnett made to my copy I disliked but we were running late and the changes stood.

It is not surprising then that the second edition was not a good time for me. Also, I had two young children in the house but was 52 years old, which probably had a bearing on why I was writing more slowly than in the 1970s. However, I was still no stranger to 12-hour working-days, six or seven days a week. The damage done to my relationship with John Clute was soon deepened, when I was squeezed out of the editorial team of the proposed Encyclopedia of Fantasy, because I refused to work with Paul Barnett again, but Barnett had the ear and the support of the publisher and a successful coup was mounted. One result was that though there were still nominally two co-editors, Barnett taking over my old position as John Clute’s co-editor, the Fantasy Encyclopedia effectively became a one-man book, Clute having an editorial personality that Barnett could not match, or so it appeared from what was now the outside. This arguably destroyed its balance: there were too many eccentrically titled theme entries, not enough solid entries for authors of commercial genre fantasy. It is certainly an interesting book, but perhaps more interesting if taken as John Clute’s theoretical attempt to define the nature of fantasy, and less interesting if taken as an encyclopedia. If this is the case, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction had indeed become a Frankenstein monster wreaking havoc not just on me, but also on John Clute, for it was the distancing between us that had occurred on the second edition (ESF 2) that finally resulted in my elimination from The Encyclopedia of Fantasy and its consequent lopsidedness.

Well, we’ve all cooled down since then, apologies have been made between John and me, and accepted, and I again think of John as one of my closest friends, perhaps the closest. And, importantly, I can now see that the blemishes I once felt were disfiguring my contribution to the second edition are seldom more than trivial. In fact, it is a very good book, and I’m proud of it.

The Science Fiction Encyclopedia [SFE3] is currently online in a Beta version, and is already well over 3 million words. What have been the highs and lows of seeing this amazing project come to fruition?

The Science Fiction Encyclopedia, third edition, is an online expansion and revision of the book version, including new material that first appeared in the CD ROM version of 1995 published in the USA by Grolier. It went online with a beta version (rather like an advanced review copy of a still unfinished book, which is not quite fruition) in October 2011. The officially ‘finished’ alpha version is due to go online at the end of November, this year, 2012. This will be 19 years after the second edition. A third of a century has gone by between first and third editions. Did I and John Clute knowingly sign up for this?

Work has been continuing on SFE3, at least since 2007, five years ago, but longer and more intensively for Clute and Langford than most of their various associates. By the end of 2010 the central group of Nicholls, Clute and Langford, now joined by sf critic Graham Sleight, a comparatively recent conscript, and also John and Pamela Lifton/Zoline who had backed us financially during the dark years, had incorporated ourselves as Science Fiction Encyclopedia Ltd. This company then signed a deal with Gollancz/Gateway, now our publishers, who would provide the SFE3 website, and a sum towards other costs of production divided into three equal parts over a two-year period. In exchange we would provide on our home page a hyperlink to the Gateway website, where Gollancz advertises and sells science-fiction e-books from the very extensive list of books to which they hold electronic rights. This was an arrangement of the first importance, a definite high spot; without this arrangement the chances of our distinguished but unsponsored group maintaining a web presence would not have been good. Very importantly (another high spot) we have total editorial control of SFE3 content. [By what I regard as a happy coincidence Malcolm Edwards, an old friend of mine, helped broker the deal. Malcolm is now Deputy CEO and Publisher of Orion Books, which owns the Gollancz imprint, but that, I’m sure has nothing to do with this! The coincidence is that, before he reached dazzling heights in the publishing business, he was a Contributing Editor of the Science Fiction Encyclopedia’s first edition.]

In the years since 2007, SFE3 became a small family business for the Nichollses; my then 21 year-old son Jack Nicholls began trying his hand at writing film entries at that time. At about the time he stopped (to concentrate on studies and writing fiction), my wife, Clare Coney, began proofreading all SFE3 copy. Clare was made Technical Editor just under a year ago, and her work continues.

If you put a lot of small family businesses together—and supportive partners have played a big role in many areas of SFE3--you can achieve a remarkable amount. The CD Rom text of 1995 was 1,378,000 words long. During May, 2012, the word count had achieved 3.5 million, substantially more than doubling its size. We expect to reach four million words by the end of the year, in the ‘finished’ alpha version. This is really astonishing productivity for a comparatively small group, many of them unpaid.

I am uneasy about saying too much about SFE3, which is still a work in progress. It feels unlucky to make possibly premature judgments. It will not be until after the website takes its final form that some questions will be answered. But there is still room to list a few more good moments.

A really important high spot for me was being acknowledged in SFE3 as an ‘Editor Emeritus’, which went further than necessary, although some acknowledgment had to be made, because I wrote and edited so much of the first and second editions, and nearly all of those entries have made it through to SFE3, either revised or as they were. This means that I remain an important copyright holder, and I still rank second only to John Clute in the list of contributors to SFE3 counted either by solo entries, or by solo entries plus partly written entries.

What does being an Editor Emeritus entail? It could be merely a salute to the aged from the younger and stronger (and I am the oldest editor, but only a year older than Clute!), meaning little except ‘Let’s say goodbye to the old codger!’ The preliminary material to SFE3 specifies my role more clearly:


‘Editor Emeritus Peter Nicholls wrote or revised some entries in the current edition, and exercised some quality control via editorial advice on a number of other entries, but on a very much smaller scale than previously.’


That description of what I have added to SFE3 is almost exactly correct, so far as I am concerned. It is, of course, a very minor achievement, compared to that of most of the other editorial staff, but in my eyes it was miraculous. I had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2000, and the next six years or so suffered intense depression and spent much of my time playing computer games. I did very little writing. As soon as I began work on SFE3 I became revitalized, not all at once, but perceptibly. That was especially true after I made two trips to London, one in October 2011, with Clare, for a week, and one in March 2012, travelling alone, for a month, on both occasions staying with the Clutes, where I quickly realized how very much I had been deprived, back in Australia, of the intellectual stimulation of discussing books, whether genre or non-genre, speculative fiction or poetry, with John Clute and many other friends. It derives from an easy camaraderie something I never quite found, or did not find often enough, back in Australia, not even with my wife, who is also my very good friend.

For me, a high point was the discovery that David Langford, with whom I have worked before but not as an Encyclopedia co-editor, was more than just a computer whiz seemingly capable of repairing technological glitches with an air of calm assurance, which I had known already. He is also among the very best encyclopedia writers that I have ever met. His theme entries are absolute models of their kind, succinct, good humoured, accurate and displaying an astonishing memory for books and authors who ought to be referenced in the entry, and very seldom have I ever caught him in an omission of an important and relevant reference. I am not a modest man but I think he is better at it than I was, even at my peak, and certainly less rambling. We all know about John Clute’s expertise, and it has been a great pleasure to work with Langford, who, in a wholly different style, turns out to be a really worthy and appropriate co-editor for him. I’ve always known David was good; now I know he’s very, very good.

My final high point is the pride I take in my fellow editors’ stubborn refusal to use Wikipedia as a model for SFE3. I have quite a few reasons for this: 1. Each SFE3 entry is signed by the author’s initials, which means that the writer is taking personal responsibility for the entry; 2. SFE3 publishes opinions and critical judgments, but Wikipedia does not; 3. SFE3 publishes original research, but Wikipedia does not. Despite Wikipedia’s undoubted usefulness in many areas (for example, film synopses) I have found it to be slightly more prone to error than SFE3. I believe that there is a profound philosophical difference between Wikipedia and SFE3, and that SFE3 should, and does, eschew the blandness that surely must follow from policies that disregard all opinions, and will not admit new findings (i.e. original research) that have not appeared in a reputable online source or (presumably) in print. Today my own entry in Wikipedia was flagged with the comment that this biographical article needed more citations for verification, and indeed it had already told me this some time ago. At that time it would not accept a verification from me (I tried) because it was not a citation. Thus I am not regarded as a suitable person to correct data about my own life, because original research is forbidden! As a result, the world believes that my 26-year-old son Jack is still living in the parental house which he fled two years ago.  Of course the great virtue of Wikipedia is that it uses donated labour, and has been successful to a degree that very few commentators in its early days would have deemed possible. SFE3 has far fewer compilers, and whether or not they are volunteers, they don’t get to write entries until they convince a senior editor or two that they are capable of doing so. This means that SFE3 is labour intensive.

You asked about low points. There have not been many, but there have been some difficulties. I don’t want to particularize, beyond pointing out that preparing a vast Encyclopedia when confronted by a deadline seemingly approaching at the speed of light is stressful, more particularly when contributors who would like to write more entries cannot responsibly do so because they need enough money to live on. Nobody ever got rich writing sf encyclopedias, and I suspect that would go for plenty of other specialist encyclopedias as well. Perhaps encyclopedists should not be compared to all-for-one-and-one-for-all musketeers; rather, they may be like members of some holy order that takes vows of poverty, like the Cistercians.  There have been occasional runs of bad health, and stress-related bad temper. I have myself. We are not as young as we were in 1979, when we lived in sunny ignorance of the Frankenstein monster that I had created, and which the Encyclopedia could become. To change the metaphor, but not much, John Clute once said of his nearest and dearest, ‘They may not have known it would be a life sentence.’

 
This interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 1st June to 7th June and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus. You can read interviews at:

http://thebooknut.wordpress.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://helenm.posterous.com/tag/2012snapshot
http://bookonaut.blogspot.com.au/search/label/2012Snapshot
http://www.davidmcdonaldspage.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://tansyrr.com/tansywp/tag/2012snapshot/
www.champagneandsocks.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://randomalex.net/tag/2012snapshot/
http://jasonnahrung.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://mondyboy.com/?tag=2012snapshot

Snapshot 2012: Kate Eltham

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Kate Eltham is a writer and CEO of Queensland Writers Centre. In 2010 she founded if:book Australia, an institute exploring book futures and digital media. if:book Australia forms an international fellowship with the Institute for the Future of the Book (New York), if:book London and if:lire Paris. Kate is also the Co-Director of Clarion South Writers Workshop, currently in hiatus, which supports the professional development of emerging speculative fiction authors. As one of the founding committee of Fantastic Queensland, Kate helped coordinate the Aurealis Awards from 2004 to 2010 and chaired Conjure, the 2006 Natcon in Brisbane. Kate has published short fiction in several small press anthologies including Fantastic Wonder Stories (Ticonderoga), Encounters (CSFG) and Glimpses (CSFG). In 2011 she contributed a chapter to Best on Ground, a Penguin anthology of essays about Australian Rules football. She is currently writing her third first novel.
 
You keep yourself very busy with your work for the QWC as well as iF:book Australia. Amongst your many projects is the intriguing-sounding 24 hour book – what’s it all about?
 
On 11 June, (next Monday!)  if:book Australia will challenge a team of writers and editors to collaborate, write, and publish a book in a single, continuous 24-hour period. At midday, nine writers (including Nick Earls, Steven Amsterdam, Rjurik Davidson and Angela Slatter) will gather at the State Library of Queensland and begin writing furiously. Their stories will be written live on the day, with work in progress posted online to allow readers to watch the story unfold and to submit ideas, suggestions and contributions across media. As the stories are completed, a team of bleary-eyed editors (led by Keith Stevenson) will take the text from manuscript to a book. By noon the following day it will be available in both digital and print editions, with a launch event to follow.
 
24-Hour book uses a Wordpress-based platform called Pressbooks. We know we can publish instantly using blogging and social media platforms like Wordpress, but we can also use web-based tools to transform the workflow of more "traditional" publishing media. With 24-Hour Book we want to see how far we can push those tools for collaboration, not just in producing a book in a compressed timeframe, but simultaneously to invite collaboration between writers and audience. I'm also keen to see, beyond the 24 hour period, what interesting things we might create or learn from the "data set" of this process, the minute by minute writing and editorial changes that will form part of the record of the publication.
 
The project has been entirely driven by Simon Groth, the Manager of if:book Australia. I just get to hang out and drink coffee and watch authors and editors inch toward meltdown.
 
 
Why were you driven to found iF:book? What are you hoping it will achieve?
 
It wasn't so much that I was driven, but rather inspired, to create if:book Australia as the third in an international fellowship of research centres investigating book futures. The first was the original Institute for the Future of the Book, created by Bob Stein in the US, and was followed by if:book London, led by Chris Meade. I did it because, while there had begun to be a lot more debate about digital publishing in industry circles by 2009, and some of it was bubbling up in Australia, most of this discussion focused on conversion of print books to ebooks, and fairly prosaic questions like "will people really read on screens?" and "is this ebook thing really going to take off?" and "will publishers go out of business?" As I'm fond of saying on the myriad "future of the book" or "death of publishing" panels I find myself on these days, ebooks haven't anything to do with the future of books, they are about the present. The future of books and reading is something we struggle to imagine, at least in the context of the publishing industry. When I first became aware of Bob Stein's writing on book futures, I was thrilled and fascinated in equal parts by the long-term ideas he had about, well, everything, from bricks and mortar bookstores to social reading. Really, he was imagining futures fifty years ahead. It's the same thrill and fascination I get when reading really good science fiction. I wanted Australian writers and readers to have the opportunity to be part of this discussion, and to engage with not just the thought experiments about book futures but the practical ones too. So what I hope if:book Australia will achieve is the new knowledge and insight that comes from actually testing a few wacky hypotheses, from trying things that aren't commercial or sustainable, that appear to have no relevance for current day writers and publishers but that hopefully give us new relationships between things we hadn't connected before.
 
Where will Kate Eltham be in two years time? What other crazy projects are you hoping to have out in the world by then?
 
I think my time at Queensland Writers Centre is winding its way to a close. I've relished the open and enterprising culture of QWC and its appetite for innovation, which has supported me to launch a range of projects that might otherwise be considered beyond the reach of a small non-profit arts organisation. GenreCon, for example, is a new national conference for Australian writers of genre fiction, which we are hosting in Parramatta, Sydney in November this year, ably led by talented writer Peter Ball.
 
But QWC is also, by definition, focused on creating professional opportunities for writers and I'm just as interested in creating meaningful experiences for readers and audiences. I think my next project will be something in this vein.
 
I also can't imagine myself straying too far from the digital space. I'm mostly interested in the intersection, or perhaps I should say melting point, between physical and digital modes. It seems, increasingly, that the web is the world. When you look through that lens, an interest in books and publishing is also, by necessity, an interest in topics like design, data, language, user experience and networks. Possibly not in the next two years, but at some point in the future, I'd love to be involved with a technology startup that is doing interesting things with all these elements.
 
What Australian works have you loved recently?
 
I adored Penni Russon's young adult novel Only Ever Always. It's a book that isn't easily classifiable, and certainly not as straightfoward in its structure as most teen fiction that I see nowadays, so I'm really pleased to see this kind of writing being supported by Australian mainstream publishers. Also on the YA  front, Sue Isle's Nightsiders is outstanding and, personally, I thought it deserved to be a bit higher up on the honour list for the Tiptree Award.
 
I'm loving everything that comes from Kathleen Jennings' pen at the moment, both illustration and prose. Let's all gang up on her and demand a graphic novel!
 
Outside of speculative fiction, I feel like Australia is experiencing a real moment in essays and long-form journalism. There's some outstanding writers coming through: Trent Dalton, Benjamin Law, Elmo Keep, Anna Krien - oh my god I love Anna Krien! This crop of talent is supported on the way through by literary magazines like Overland, Meanjin and Griffith Review who also publish fiction and just keep getting better and better I think. I'm always surprised more emerging Australian speculative fiction writers don't submit to these journals. Perhaps it is a perceived bias against genre fiction, but my sense is while this is sometimes justified it is rare. It can be a great opportunity to be read by mainstream publishers who are more likely to keep their eye on these magazines than on, say, Lightspeed or Strange Horizons.
 
Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?

Two things. Firstly, the larger trade publishers have finally woken up to the value and appeal of genre fiction. It used to be the case that there were really only two publishers to whom a writer or agent could submit speculative fiction novels with any realistic expectation of a fair reading, particularly adult science fiction. Today, I can think of at least six off the top of my head, with a bunch more who publish it (but are still cloaking it beneath the more respectable shroud of "literary fiction"). I've had endless discussion with friends and peers about why this might be so. Partly I think its generational. There are some younger editors who have finally made it into positions in publishing houses where they can influence the titles being acquired. In more recent months, I believe it is almost certainly influenced by the wild commercial success of genre fiction in ebook format. It has helped make more visible what we speculative fiction writers and readers have known all along. People actually want to read this stuff.

Secondly, I also see a new professionalism and confidence among the growing indie publishers. If ever there was a moment in publishing to build a business around a niche audience (or "vertical" as some like to say) this is it. And there's absolutely no reason a smart and entrepreneurial small press from Australia can't build a global readership for its titles. I'm pretty encouraged to see some of them attempting this and even more excited to see the early successes of it. Not that it's easy or fast, but it's possible, and I think that has led some publishers to realise that small press doesn't have to be amateur.

On a final note, it feels at least anecdotally true that the Aussie spec fic scene is more and more based around writers, and less so fans. I think fan culture of speculative fiction has broadened and migrated to places like Supanova. Given how overwhelmingly young (and massive) the audience for Supanova is, I can't help but feel this is a good thing for both creators and fandom generally. But it's a little sad for the older fan communities around the Natcon and other long-running conventions who have failed to attract the next generation. On the other hand, every other person I meet at a con these days is a writer or editor so perhaps it's simply that this community has focused itself around the professional aspects of the artform/genre.

This interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 1st June to 8th June and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus. You can read interviews at:

http://thebooknut.wordpress.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://helenm.posterous.com/tag/2012snapshot
http://bookonaut.blogspot.com.au/search/label/2012Snapshot 
http://www.davidmcdonaldspage.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://tansyrr.com/tansywp/tag/2012snapshot/
www.champagneandsocks.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://randomalex.net/tag/2012snapshot/
http://jasonnahrung.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://mondyboy.com/?tag=2012snapshot

Snapshot 2012: Wolfgang Bylsma

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Wolfgang Bylsma serves as Editor-in-Chief for Australia’s leading independent graphic novel publishing house, Gestalt, which he co-founded in 2005.  He has a passion for encouraging creative endeavours with both individuals and communities, drawing on his experience teaching media production and communications at the tertiary level. Wolf also acts as an industry mentor through the Australian Society of Authors and serves as consulting editor for two other graphic novel publishing endeavours.

As the editor in chief of Gestalt publishing, you must be very pleased with your recent successes, picking up another THREE Aurealis nominations this year for Graphic Novels and ONE for Best Childrens Book. Why do you think your books are doing so well?

We value and invest in our creators, and I think that shows in the work that they do. A major element of this is the fact that the creators also OWN the properties they are working on, which is something of a rarity in the greater comics world. This ownership and (hopefully) the respect they receive from Gestalt helps to inspire the creators into producing their best work, knowing that they aren't simply grinding time churning out pages as 'work-for-hire'.

I also like to think that our titles are successful because we respect the intelligence of our audience. We're not targeting titles/genres to fit perceived markets. We're crafting stories that echo beyond their pagecounts. I hold strong to the belief that sophisticated readers appreciate this approach and engage with our books more deeply because of it.

In addition to this, and on a slightly more personal note, I think an element of it also comes down to the fact that I'm never happy with anything we do, which is far more aspirational than it may sound. With every title we choose to develop and publish, I'm constantly striving to ensure both the content and the production values are as superb as can be. And with each title, I always manage to find some glimmer of disappointment, or some element that I'll know to scrutinise more closely with the NEXT book. With this mindset, I think I'm constantly raising the bar for myself and challenging myself to improve as an editor and designer.
 
Your involvement in spec fic goes back a long way – we first met at Murdoch in the early days of the Faster than Light radio show… so what inspired you to start Gestalt?

Oh, those weren't early days of Faster Than Light. I came onboard as producer of the radio show about halfway through its lifespan after it began in 1977, and was proud to helm the mixing desk from 1996 to 2012, taking the show to National broadcast in 1999 before becoming an early adopter of podcasting shortly thereafter. But I digress.

It was a connection to my previous live(s) in stand-up comedy, teaching at Murdoch University, holding a part-time job in a video library and a period of self-employment that all culminated in inspiring Gestalt. There's a much longer story there, and I dare say that it may prove too long for this snapshot. Suffice to say, a chance meeting with Skye Ogden (Art Director of Gestalt) and a previous student who spoke alluringly of "arts funding" spurred me on to found the company with Skye. Both he and I had been involved in graphic design and editorial comics for over a decade, and the desire to do something worthwhile, something that I felt passionate about helped provide the impetus as I grew closer to the age of 30 (and something of a pre-emptive mid-life crisis). Both Skye and I had encountered a great many people who felt stuck in the same quagmire of "wanting to make great comics" but feeling tied down by lack of opportunity, the need to get a day job to support themselves and/or their families. So we decided to do something about it.

Where to from here for Gestalt Publishing? What new publications are you looking forward to putting out?

We've just signed new distributors in Australia, USA and UK so I'm very much looking forward to getting our books available for more people in more places.

In terms of upcoming publications, we have some superb titles currently on the boards including the second volumes in the CHANGING WAYS, THE DEEP and WALLED CITY series, and I must say I'm excited to be developing a couple of titles with emerging talents such as Andrew Constant (his unique take on werewolves in the TORN graphic novel having been one of the finalist in this year's Aurealis awards) and Emily Smith whose work on UNMASKED is just breathtaking. We have a couple of new titles coming from Christian Read a little later that I cannot yet reveal, and a slew of others including a project written by Kevin J. Anderson and a couple of titles featuring legendary Australian graphic novelist, Gary Chaloner. And that just feels like the tip of the iceberg...

What Australian works have you loved recently?

I have precious little time to read anything beyond scripts and submissions, unfortunately. The last Australian work I read that I absolutely loved would have to be Terry Dowling's "Basic Black" which dates back to 2009, yet I've only just managed to read it! This would have to be the biggest downside to my role with Gestalt. There are many favoured authors like this whose works pile-up awaiting a lull or 'holiday' from work, but that has yet to eventuate and doesn't look to be happening anytime soon.

This interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 1st June to 8th June and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus. You can read interviews at:

http://thebooknut.wordpress.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://helenm.posterous.com/tag/2012snapshot
http://bookonaut.blogspot.com.au/search/label/2012Snapshot 
http://www.davidmcdonaldspage.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://tansyrr.com/tansywp/tag/2012snapshot/
www.champagneandsocks.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://randomalex.net/tag/2012snapshot/
http://jasonnahrung.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://mondyboy.com/?tag=2012snapshot

Snapshot 2012: Karen Healey

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Karen Healey is an Aurealis-award winning author of young adult fiction who likes World of Warcraft, teen romantic comedies, and nail polish. She currently lives in her hometown, New Zealand's steampunk capital, and supplements the glamorous life of a writer with the glamorous life of a retail worker. She enjoys both jobs far more than she's probably supposed to. Her first book is Guardian of the Dead, her second is The Shattering, and her third, When We Wake, will be released in January 2013.

Sadly for us, you have recently moved back to NZ, making it harder to keep up the classic Aussie tradition of claming all wondrous things Kiwi as our own. So did you start to feel at home here, or did it just make you more convinced that you guys actually invented Pavlova? (This is a roundabout way of asking about the genesis of your gorgeous online story, Queen of the Kitchen)

Hee, I don't really care which country invented pavlova, but the protagonist of that story feels very strongly about it. She is in fact opinionated on most cooking and eating related topics. The story came about because that was the year my first book, Guardian of the Dead, was published, and my blog readers had been terrific in their support and encouragement. So I wanted to give them a Christmas gift. I didn't know what it would be about, just that it would probably take place on or around Christmas, and I was noodling away when I thought, "The fairies came for me on Christmas morning, which was very inconvenient."

So, bam! The protag is about to be taken by the fairies, is unhappy about it, and expresses her unhappiness in a practical way - it's not "upsetting" or "terrifying", but "inconvenient". So she's practical. What do people do on Christmas morning? Well, in my family, the religious among us go to Mass, and the non-religious start preparing Christmas dinner. So in this family, everyone else is off at Mass, and the protagonist is busy in the kitchen and goddammit. Fairies. And it went from there.
 
Both the Guardian of the Dead and The Shattering have been very well received -  what have been your favourite reader responses to these books?

Definitely asexual teenagers who write thanking me for portraying an asexual character in Guardian of the Dead. But that also makes me really sad, because Kevin is not a main character, and may not even be a terribly good portrayal of an asexual person, and yet I get these emails saying "This is the only time I've ever read about someone like me in young adult fiction," and that shouldn't be true! There should be dozens, hundreds of acknowledged asexual characters in our cultural products, on account of asexuals exist.

You are now working on the book When We Wake – can you tell us about it?

Actually, I have long ago stopped work on When We Wake - it's coming out in January 2013 in Australia and March 2013 for North America, and the American publishing schedule wants things set a lot earlier, so I did the final edits earlier this year.

When We Wake is the story of Tegan Oglietti, a Melbourne girl who's killed on the happiest day of her life in 2027 - and wakes up again in 2128, the first successful human cryogenic revival. But Project Revival is a politically fraught army initiative, and secrets surround her resurrection, and Tegan wants answers. But will she risk everything she has left to find them? Also she made an idiot out of her self in front of the one person that might be able to understand her. Also her hair is taking forever to grow back. Also Melbourne is so much hotter now, it's gross.

What Australian works have you loved recently?

Tansy Rayner Roberts Love and Romanpunk is a recent re-read - I really love this collection of themed short stories, with their monstrous reimagining of Roman history. I just finished Garth Nix's A Confusion of Princes, which is a wonderfully Nixian space opera: full of interesting ideas and strange scenarios. And I'm halfway through Alison Goodman's Eon, which I thought I'd read but actually hadn't - I'm really loving it, particularly the deft characterisation and the very human and confused protagonist.
 
Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?

I've only ever been on the fringes of the Australian Spec Fic scene, so I honestly don't know! Personally, I loved Aussiecon 4 as a terrific way to catch up with some international and out-of-Melbourne friends, and make some new ones. Professionally, what I thought was a disastrous panel turned into an opportunity to be keynote speaker at a Monash University symposium. So, for me, any changes were positive, and I'd hope they were for the Aussie spec-writing community too!

 
This interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 1st June to 8th June and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus. You can read interviews at:

http://thebooknut.wordpress.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://helenm.posterous.com/tag/2012snapshot
http://bookonaut.blogspot.com.au/search/label/2012Snapshot
http://www.davidmcdonaldspage.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://tansyrr.com/tansywp/tag/2012snapshot/
www.champagneandsocks.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://randomalex.net/tag/2012snapshot/
http://jasonnahrung.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://mondyboy.com/?tag=2012snapshot

Snapshot 2012: Stephanie Smith

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Stephanie Smith has been an editor and publisher for some 20 plus years, and for 17 of those years she worked on the Voyager science fiction and fantasy list for HarperCollins Publishers. She left HarperCollins at the end of March 2012 and will be moving to Hobart in the next few months. She is now a freelance editor and proofreader and will forever remain a fan of the genre and a member of the sff/speculative fiction community in Australia.

Most people will know you have recently stepped down as one of Australia’s best known and loved spec-fic editors. What book was your farewell gig for Voyager?

 I'd have to say The Devil's Diadem by Sara Douglass as it was the last book I edited while at HC even though it was published well before I left the company. Because there are such long lead times in publishing many of the books that we were working on were still in production or just being published when I left. I recently finished a freelance editing job for Voyager for a book that we acquired last year, for instance.

On your recent resignation, your publishers called you the ‘Voyager Queen’, signaling the vital role you have played in the growth and support of Aussie specfic in the last twenty years. I won’t ask you to name favourites, but thinking back, what books or experiences stand out for you?

Lovely to be called the Voyager Queen; I think the new Voyager publisher, Deonie Fiford, will quickly establish herself as the Voyager Queen in her own right! It was wonderful to be able to be at the forefront of SFF/speculative fiction publishing in Australia for 20 years. When I started on Voyager, Louise Thurtell had already commissioned Sara, Sean Williams, Traci Harding and Simon Brown. So the groundwork was there and I was proud to be able to acquire authors such as Fiona McIntosh, Jennifer Fallon, Russell Kirkpatrick in those early days, and others such as Kim Westwood, Kim Falconer, Duncan Lay and Paul Garrety in later years. I'd love to list all the authors as stand-out experiences, but I'll spare you that! It is amazing to be able to phone someone and say that their book has been accepted for publication by HarperCollins … the delight on the other end of the line is always very heartfelt and warming. A standout experience for me personally was receiving the Peter McNamara Achievement Award in 2004 … that sort of support and feedback and appreciation from professionals in the genre was and always is appreciated by those receiving such an award.

This is not the last we will hear of Stephanie Smith the editor however…?

I'm freelance editing and enjoying getting back into the rhythm of hands-on copy-editing. It was one of my favourite parts of the job in the early days … as time went on, I didn't have the time to do this and most of the books would go to freelancers. Now I've come full circle and getting back to the basics. But as well as copy-editing, I'll be taking on proofreading jobs, or structural editing … whatever comes my way, really, that uses the skills I developed while working for HarperCollins and managing the Voyager list. I’ll allow a few ideas to percolate and see how life develops.

I also want to get onto the Voyager blog and other internet sites and be more communicative. But it’ll be a slow and gradual phase, that one, as various other commitments have taken precedence. I’ll be better organised once I shift and settle into Hobart, I’m sure! (And that’s sometime in the next few months, I hope).

What Australian works have you loved recently?

Now you've got me. I've been busy with house activity in preparation for shift to Hobart since leaving HC, and a couple of freelance jobs, plus I have been in NZ for the past few weeks ... had to come over suddenly for family reasons. Fortunately, I was able to bring my computer and finish my freelance jobs while I’ve been here. And that’s all to say that I haven't been reading a lot recently, let alone Australian … although I have just read Kate Forsyth's historical fiction Bitter Greens which I loved. My to-read list is growing enormously, including Claire Corbet's When We Have Wings, the series by Sean Willliams and Garth Nix, catch up with Karen Miller and Trudi Canavan ... and so many others. I did read a new Australian crime novel, Promise set up around Noosa, which was interesting for a local perspective, but didn't fully grab my imagination as a story. I am looking forward to finally reading George RR Martin's A Dance With Dragons … not Oz I know, but it's been sitting there for some months now.

Two years on from Aussiecon 4,  what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?

I think that would have to be the explosion of e-books once e-readers became easily available in Australia. It's a challenge for SFF writing and publishing as much as for any other writers and genres. We still want our stories, but the means by which we read those stories will vary. Personally, I still want a book in my hand and I love to browse through bookshops which I do at every opportunity. But I will also be looking around at the e-readers and deciding on which one to buy (haven’t taken the plunge yet!). So I figure I'll be mixing the formats in which I read, depending on where I am and whether it's easier to take the book or the e-reader. But it is undoubtedly hard for new authors to get the attention of readers without also still having a physical book in the shops; that’s probably changing as I type, so observing changes over the next few years.

I have an idea that the market is ready for more very adult science fiction --- most of the explosion of dystopian fiction being YA; although very adult friendly also --- but that readership seems, on the whole, to be small and difficult to publish to unless the writer is also a general fiction or literary author with good sales behind them. I’m thinking of a writer like Margaret Atwood or, on the local scene, John Birmingham, for instance. Voyager has tried to push the market’s boundaries with Steve Wheeler’s space-opera style scifi, and the wonderful Kim Westwood’s novels in the post-apocalyptic tradition and it may be that they will gradually shift perceptions.

I always believe that any terrific story will find its place, no matter the genre or the ups and downs in the market. We need our stories and we love to feed our imagination, whether through fiction or non-fiction. Each writer gives us a wholly different perspective from which to view our world and our communities.
 
 
This interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 1st June to 8th June and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus. You can read interviews at:

http://thebooknut.wordpress.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://helenm.posterous.com/tag/2012snapshot
http://bookonaut.blogspot.com.au/search/label/2012Snapshot
http://www.davidmcdonaldspage.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://tansyrr.com/tansywp/tag/2012snapshot/
www.champagneandsocks.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://randomalex.net/tag/2012snapshot/
http://jasonnahrung.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://mondyboy.com/?tag=2012snapshot

Snapshot 2012: Angela Slatter

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Angela Slatter is a Brisbane-based writer of speculative fiction. In 2010, she had two short story collections published, Sourdough & Other Stories with Tartarus Press (UK) (which was shortlisted for a World Fantasy Award) and The Girl with No Hands & Other Tales (Ticonderoga Publications) (which won an Aurealis Award). In 2012, she will have another collection of short stories, Midnight and Moonshine, a collaboration with friend and writing-partner-in-crime, Lisa L Hannett.  Her short stories have appeared in anthologies such as Jack Dann’s Dreaming Again, Tartarus Press’ Strange Tales II, Twelfth Planet Press’ 2012, Dirk Flinthart’s Canterbury 2100, and in journals such as Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and Shimmer.  Her work has had several Honourable Mentions in the Datlow, Link, Grant Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror anthologies, and the Datlow Year’s Best Horror anthologies, and her stories have been shortlisted for the Aurealis Awards four years in a row.

It is been a rather excitement-packed couple of years for you - no less than three short story collections out, slews of nominations, honours and awards, and of course your doctoring. What has been the highlight of your writing life recently?
 
Oh, gosh, how to choose. Last year’s Aurealis Awards were a definite highlight. Meeting editor Stephen Jones and publisher Jo Fletcher in London recently was also wonderful and fun. I think, though, I’d have to say that the big one has been writing this latest collection with Lisa Hannett, Midnight and Moonshine. It’s a really fun, scary, clever, engaging mosaic of stories and it’s certainly constantly challenging for both of us. I think it’s a good sign when we both stop every so often and say “I love this collection, Brain!” Being able to share stories and meld our various stores of knowledge and useless information, being able to work together on a project that’s close to both our hearts is just such a gift.
 
You are currently working on novel-length books featuring Verity from your short story “Brisneyland By Night”. Can you tell us more about the books and when we might expect to see them?
 
I guess the novel’s a mix of fairy tale, crime noir and urban fantasy, pitting Verity against a range of monsters you usually wouldn’t expect to see in a noir setting. The first book begins her journey through the world of the Weyrd, looking at the inciting incidents that set her on her path, battling Hansel and Gretel witches, golems made of garbage and trying to reason with angels and sirens who aren’t really reasonable, trying to build a new relationship and forget an old one. The second book, Vigil, is a sort of Eurydice and Orpheus tale, which takes her on a journey across the world, also while she’s dealing with morning sickness and a nagging newly discovered mother who has a few more issues than most.
 
As to when they’re going to be out – err, I need to finish them and get them to publishers! The plan is that by the end of the year the first one will be done and out there looking for a home, and the second one will be well and truly drafted. That’s the plan!
 
What other projects do you have on the boil? Are you and the other Evil Dr Brain currently collaborating on longer works?
 
I am scribbling, on and off, stories for a follow-on to Sourdough and Other Stories, called The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings. It includes the British Fantasy Award-nominated “The Coffin-maker’s Daughter”, and is what I’m calling a fairy tale serial killer mosaic novel. I have two other novels that are half done (Well of Souls and Gate of the Dead, which are set in a kind of alternative Crusader kingdom).
 
As I said earlier, the other Evil Dr Brain and I are finishing up Midnight and Moonshine, which is coming out in November from Ticonderoga Publications. We also have notes for another collection, The Sepphoris Mosaic which will include “The February Dragon”.
 
There’s always something on the boil.
 
What Australian works have you loved recently?
 
Margo Lanagan’s Seahearts springs to mind, as does Deborah Biancotti’s Bad Power.
 
Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?
 
Well, I hope people are thinking bigger and thinking more about placing work out in the wider world – actively trying to publish internationally rather than just at home. Also, I’d really like to think that the writing community is more supportive and hopefully less combative/competitive. If we build a stronger community, it’s going to be better for all writers and all fans.
 
 
This interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 1st June to 8th June and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus. You can read interviews at:

http://thebooknut.wordpress.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://helenm.posterous.com/tag/2012snapshot
http://bookonaut.blogspot.com.au/search/label/2012Snapshot
http://www.davidmcdonaldspage.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://tansyrr.com/tansywp/tag/2012snapshot/
www.champagneandsocks.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://randomalex.net/tag/2012snapshot/
http://jasonnahrung.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://mondyboy.com/?tag=2012snapshot

Snapshot 2012: Peter Ball

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Peter M. Ball is a Brisbane-based writer whose work includes the faerie-noir novellas Horn and Bleed, and his short fiction has appeared in publications such as Daily SFApex Magazine, and Eclipse 4. When not writing he's organising the Australian Writer's Marketplace GenreCon taking place in Sydney in November of 2012. Find him online at petermball.com and on twitter@petermball.

1. You’ve recently taken on a position at the QWC and are running the new writing convention, Genrecon. What can we expect from Genrecon, and how will it be different from other spec-fic conventions?

Lets set aside the big one as obvious: GenreCon caters to all genres, from horror and fantasy and sci-fi through to romance and crime. There's great writers in all of these genres and we wanted to celebrate them and their work
After that the biggest difference is going to be the lack of content for readers and fans. GenreCon is all about writers and writing, with a program focused on craft, the business of being a creative professional, and a research stream that's all about getting things right in your fiction. Couple that with the kind of things that are rarely seen at spec-fic cons in Australia, such as pitching sessions with publishers and agents representing genre fiction, and we're hoping to create a convention that helps launch the careers of new genre writers around Australia.
More importantly, because we're running under the Australian Writer's Marketplace banner, we're hoping to catch the attention of people who wouldn't ordinarily go to a sci-fi convention and connect them with the rich and supportive community of writers and fans currently active in Australia. I know that I've benefited from all the conventions I've been to since I started writing SF, but I wasn't even aware that they existed prior to attending Clarion South in 2007.
 
2. In addition to your short fiction, the last few years have seen you attract attention for your novellas, Horn and Bleed. Can we expect to see more long fiction from you? Is there a novel hiding under the bed?

There's nothing hiding under the bed, but there's a big list of novel ideas on my hard-drive and a bunch of works in various states of completion. I've backed away from writing short fiction in recent years so I can start figuring out how novels works, and I'm discovering that I rather enjoy writing in long form. I'm not good at it yet, but I'll get there. It took a few years of writing short stories before I really figured out the form and felt comfortable writing them, and I figure it'll be the same with novel-length fiction.
I do have a couple of novellas that I'm close to completing, for definitions of close that equates to "by the end of the year, maybe." I'm a somewhat slower writer than I used to be due to changes in my working life, but the trade-off is that I'm happier with what I'm doing and feel the freedom to do explore some more interesting ideas.
 
3. Where can we find some new Peter M. Ball, and what are you working on at the moment?

I spent 2011 writing a 12-peice short story cycle, Flotsam, for the Edge of Propinquity website. It was an experiment in a lot of ways, pushing myself to do a lot of things I didn't ordinarily do as a writer, and the results were pretty mixed so I didn't promote it as well as I should have. I've also got a handful of short stories coming out towards the end of the year, including a cyberpunk fable, The Minotaur's and the Signal Ghosts, in Stone Skin Press's The Lion and the Aardvark anthology.
I'm currently working on a short novel I'm currently calling The Untitled Victorian Planetary Romance, Part 1. It's basically playing with the John Carter-esque end of the Steampunk spectrum and exploring some of the real issues I had with the sexual and colonial politics at work in Burrough's A Princess of Mars. Obviously the finished novel will probably get a better title - the current one feels a bit on the nose.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

My favourite Australian work this year has been an issue of The Review of Australian Fiction featuring novelettes from Kim Wilkins and Meg Vann.
The Review is a great concept - each issue pairs work by one established author with the work of an emerging writer of the author's choice - and I think it's easy to forget just how phenomenal Kim Wilkins is as a fantasist because she produces so much. I was really excited to see her working at the novelette length, and I'm really interested in seeing what's coming from her forthcoming collection with Ticonderoga as a result of this piece.  
I have to admit, though, that the real reason I picked this issue up was Meg Vann's novella, Provocation. I first met Meg at a writing course a few years ago, and for a long time she was one of the best unpublished writers I knew. I'm really glad that's no longer the case.

5. Two years on from Aussiecon 4,  what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?
Short story collections. I mean, holy hell, those thing are everywhere these days. Between the Twelve Planets series and the Ticonderoga collections, fans of short stories (which I am) are seeing a lot of really cool collections coming out in a variety of formats.
I'm also really interested in seeing the increased discourse about gender and feminism in Australian SF. I'm a haphazard feminist - it comes with the territory when you're white, male, and middle-class, for obvious reasons - but I've always been interested in the discourse that surrounds feminism and the discussions about gender that results from that.

This interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 1st June to 8th June and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus. You can read interviews at:

http://thebooknut.wordpress.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://helenm.posterous.com/tag/2012snapshot
http://bookonaut.blogspot.com.au/search/label/2012Snapshot 
http://www.davidmcdonaldspage.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://tansyrr.com/tansywp/tag/2012snapshot/
www.champagneandsocks.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://randomalex.net/tag/2012snapshot/
http://jasonnahrung.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://mondyboy.com/?tag=2012snapshot

 

Snapshot 2012: Tracey O'Hara

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Tracey O'Hara grew up reading Stephen King, Raymond E. Feist, and J.R.R. Tolkien, where she developed her taste for adventure and the paranormal thriller. When she's not writing, reading, or listening to heavy metal, she spends time with her husband, two sons, and three cats and a ridiculously cute pug puppy called Colin. The author of the Dark Brethren series, she lives in Australia. Night's Cold Kiss was shortlisted in the Best Horror Novel category at the 2009 Aurealis Awards and won the Novel with Romantic Elements category at the Romance Writer's of Australia 2009 awards.

1. The third book of your Dark Brethren series is about to come out next month  - Sin’s Dark Caress – how do you feel about having the first three books out?
 It is a great achievement to have 3 books published. It also is the culmination of my first contract which now leaves me able to explore different things. Sometimes I still have to pinch myself that I have actually done this. I still keep expecting them to turn up and tell me it was all a big mistake and they didn't really mean to pick up the books. I know that sounds dumb, but it just seems so unreal at times.
 
2. The first book in the series, Night’s Cold Kiss was shortlisted for the Aurealis for best Horror and also won the Ruby award from the Romance Writers Association – what was it like getting such recognition for your first book?
 In a word - surreal. I never in my wildest dreams would have thought it would final in horror and  romance awards in the same year. It was fantastic. Unfortunately I couldn't attend the Aurealis awards as my son was turning 21 the same weekend, but thanks to twitter, I was able to virtually attend. It was all very exciting. The Ruby award completely took me by surprise. I was not expecting to win at all, I never even prepared a speech. But it was great for the book to get that kind of recognition.
 
3. Tell us about your current project – is it related to the Dark Brethren universe?
 Currently I am working on a couple of different projects when I'm not totally absorbed by my day job. While I have started developing another Dark Brethren story I am also working on a project to mentor new writers and produce an anthology of short erotic stories. This has been one of the biggest challenges I have done, but also one of the most rewarding. A couple of the writers taking part in the anthology project have just blossomed. I also have a non spec fic novel, a colonial Australian saga, that I am working on. It is good to explore different avenues.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
Because I am so time poor, splitting every minute between day job, family and writing, I've been listening to audio books more than reading. The closest thing to an aussie author I guess would have been listening to Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan. That was an awesome book and the first steampunk style book I have 'read' (though I know it isn't really steampunk as such). But the top of my aussie spec fic TBR pile is Kaaron Warren's Dead Sea Fruit. I love Kaaron's writing, I've been to a couple of her readings at cons and she always has me enraptured. I also have Alan Baxter's RealmShift and Nicole Murphy's Dream of Asarlai series as close runners up.

5. Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?
Wow - that is a hard one to answer. Two years ago I was just starting to get into the Australian Spec Fiction scene. Since Aussiecon I have met heaps of people in the spec fic community and have had an absolute ball. I think the wider writing industry has undergone huge changes. Spec Fic authors, like all other genres, have been affected by the changing face of publishing. Bricks and mortar bookstores are closing, print publishers are buying less, ebook publishers are emerging and self publishing is becoming another avenue to explore. In a way, times are uncertain and exciting at the same time. It not only allows some authors different avenues for publishing, it also opens up them up to small press as well. And two years ago self publishing was a dirty word. I still don't know how I feel about it, though the mentoring project that I am working on is looking at self-publishing the resulting anthology to help raise some money for a retreat we are going to hold later this year. So I would have to say the biggest change is in the publishing industry itself.

This interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 1st June to 8th June and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus. You can read interviews at:

http://thebooknut.wordpress.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://helenm.posterous.com/tag/2012snapshot
http://bookonaut.blogspot.com.au/search/label/2012Snapshot 
http://www.davidmcdonaldspage.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://tansyrr.com/tansywp/tag/2012snapshot/
www.champagneandsocks.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://randomalex.net/tag/2012snapshot/
http://jasonnahrung.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://mondyboy.com/?tag=2012snapshot

Snapshot 2012: Marianne de Pierres

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Marianne de Pierres is the author of the Parrish Plessis and award-winning Sentients of Orion science fiction series. Her Night Creatures trilogy for teen readers has been a recommended read by the Victorian Premiers Literary Award and is shortlisted for at Ditmar Award. Marianne is an active supporter of genre fiction and has mentored many writers. She lives in Brisbane, Australia, with her husband, three sons and three galahs. Marianne also writes award-winning crime under the pseudonym Marianne Delacourt. Visit her websites at www.mariannedepierres.com and www.tarasharp.com and www.burnbright.com.au
 
1. You have had a very busy few years and have published quite a few books since the 2010 snapshot – finishing off your Orion Sentients series, and beginning two more! Which new books from you can we look forward to this year?
2012 sees the publication of Night Creature #3, SHINE LIGHT (my gothic teen SFF novel) and STAGE FRIGHT Book #3 of the Tara Sharp paranormal crimes series. I’m working on edits of both of them right now.
 
2. Looking over your publications to date, as Marianne de Pierres and Marianne Delacourt, you’ve published across a range of genres – SF, SF/F, crime, YA – do you have China Mieville-like plans to publish a book in every genre?
 I didn’t know he had that mission :-)  I’m just writing books that interest me, so who knows where that might take me! No hard and fast goals though.
 
3. You also have the Peacemaker series up your sleeve – a western-styled SF/F series, which currently exists as a webcomic. What are your plans for the series and the comic in the future?
 When the original artist was no longer able to work on the series, I was terribly disappointed and put it on hiatus. But I’ve had a good think about it and have decided to continue. Hopefully issue 2 will be out later this year. It is dependent on the new artist who comes on board. I’ve loved every second of creating this and would hate to walk away from it before I’ve finished the series.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
I love Twelve Planet Press’s Twelve Planets novella series. What a brilliant contribution to Australian storytelling! And there are some excellent novels out recently from Joanne Anderton (Debris) and Trent Jamison (Roil) published by Angry Robot books. I’m reading Arrabella Candelabra, a fantasy parody by AK Wrox (Mandy Wrangles and Kylie Fox) and laughing all the way through it. I’ve also read some fantastic Australian YA recently. We’re having kind of an explosion in that department; Nansi Kunze, Kate Gordon, Jess Shirvington, Lara Morgan, Ben Chandler, Rhiannon Hart and Michael Pryor, to name just a few.

5. Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?
I think the rise of small press in TPP, Ticonderoga and Clan Destine has brought some real staying power to spec fic publishing in Oz. Particularly at a time when major publishers have become nervous about what to buy. The announcement of Genre Con is also a significant sign that we’re here to stay in a way that can’t be ignored.  
 
This interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 1st June to 8th June and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus. You can read interviews at:

http://thebooknut.wordpress.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://helenm.posterous.com/tag/2012snapshot
http://bookonaut.blogspot.com.au/search/label/2012Snapshot
http://www.davidmcdonaldspage.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://tansyrr.com/tansywp/tag/2012snapshot/
www.champagneandsocks.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://randomalex.net/tag/2012snapshot/
http://jasonnahrung.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://mondyboy.com/?tag=2012snapshot

Snapshot 2012: Kim Falconer

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Kim Falconer is a HarperVoyager Aus author writing epic science fantasy novels set in the worlds of Earth and Gaela. Her latest series is Quantum Encryption. Her novel writing is done every morning and the rest of the time she devotes to gardening, weight training, swimming and teaching her eclectic insights to anyone keen or curious. She also actively supports the respect and reverence of all life and habitats on Earth. Kim’s currently working on a novella, the final story in Quantum Encryption, as well as a new projected three book series. She lives on the far eastern point of Australia with two gorgeous black cats, three crows and a ridiculously magical garden.

1. The third book of the Quantum Encryption series is your most recent release, and has been recognized for a number of awards. Are you happy with how this series has been received?
The reception for the Quantum Encryption series has blown my mind! First Journey by Night is short listed for the ‘people’s choice’ David Gemmell Ravenheart Award, then Road to the Soul is short listed for the Norma K Hemming Award that marks excellent in works dealing with gender, race, disability, class and environmental issues, and finally Path of the Stray was chosen by Ian Somerhalder to be the first feature work in his Ian Somerhalder Foundation Book Club. All in all, a very uplifting year for this Aussie Woman Writer!

2. How does the Quantum Encryption trilogy relate to your earlier series, Quantum Enchantment? Do you feel with the second series that you have finished this particular story?
The first two books in Quantum Encryption, Path of the Stray and Road to the Soul, are really a duet, a prequel to the first series, Quantum Enchantment. They answer a lot of questions, explain the origins of Jarrod and the Lupins, the loss of the Southern Continent and give readers ah ha moments if they’ve read in the published order. But many readers are starting with the second series and that’s working well too. (All roads lead to Rome with my books.) Journey by Night, the sixth book, is best read last though. It brings everything, and I mean everything, to a conclusion ... almost. I am now doing the final edits on a novella that will clear up, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the link between Kreshkali and Nell. It will soon be released by HarperVoyager and mark the ‘final’ story. But . . . I had to write a tiny window on the last page, just in case I can return to Earth and Gaela. I think there is more to go here, though not until I’ve ventured to other places first.

3. You are currently at work on a new series set in a very different world, apparently based on a painting? What inspired this story?

Oh you mean Amassia! I am so excited about this series. It was inspired, in part, by a John Waterhouse painting called The Siren. The idea of Mar, a people of and in the sea, has been with me for a long time and that painting, which hangs in my bedroom, has been calling to me for years. Coming up with the ‘when’ of the story hit me one day while I was watching a YouTube video on how Earth’s continents would, in 250 million years, reform again as one land called Amassia. I saw the image of the single continent and got a huge YES. This is no high tech future world, I promise. Between now and then there will be more great extinctions, huge climate changes and adaptations in our DNA. I speculate that the human genome will travel down two divergent evolutionary paths, one on the land and one in the sea.


4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
Wizard Undercover by KE Mills (aka Karen Miller). I’m actually interviewing one of the characters in the story, Emmerabiblia Markham! Very fun! Angel of Ruin by Kim Wilkins, not new but new to me. I loved it! The Spider Goddess by Tara Moss.  Fields of Gold, by Fiona McIntosh and if I can include our Kiwi neighbours, Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox. Also Helen Lowe’s The Gathering of the Lost and Mary Victoria’s Oracle’s Fire. There are more. I could fill a whole page, there’s that much talent around.


5. Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?
The biggest change that comes immediately to mind is the recent passing of beloved author Sara Douglass. She was our spec fic pioneer and with her death I think every SFF writer in the country has paused to think of how far we have come and how much the efforts of single individuals can change the entire collective. We need to remember that and follow her example.
The changes in the industry (ie closing of bookshops, fluctuating economy, increase in electronic delivery, necessity of social media, book trailer craze etc) have touched readers, writers and publishers alike. We are all in flux. Do we go the trad publishing route or self-publish? Do we buy/write physical books or ebooks? And if we go with electronic delivery, how do we stop pirating. Should we stop it?
We write in a genre that is expanding in depth and breadth. Spec Fic is capturing the eye of the reading public, especially YA readers, and because of the growing popularity there is hope for greater opportunity and exposure for writers and increased diversity of works for readers. In a generally flagging industry, I see new types of bookshops (with a mix of electronic and physical offerings) sprouting up and readers, who are always looking for good stories, finding their way to the books they love. It has always been so, and will always be!
Thank you for inviting me back to SnapShot 2012!

This interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 1st June to 8th June and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus. You can read interviews at:

http://thebooknut.wordpress.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://helenm.posterous.com/tag/2012snapshot
http://bookonaut.blogspot.com.au/search/label/2012Snapshot
http://www.davidmcdonaldspage.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://tansyrr.com/tansywp/tag/2012snapshot/
www.champagneandsocks.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://randomalex.net/tag/2012snapshot/
http://jasonnahrung.com/tag/2012snapshot/
http://mondyboy.com/?tag=2012snapshot