Author Archive: Alex

Snapshot: Kirstyn McDermott

Kirstyn McDermott has been working in the darker alleyways of speculative fiction for much of her career, with many critically acclaimed and award-winning short stories under her authorial belt. Her two novels, Madigan Mine (Picador, 2010) and Perfections (Xoum, 2012) both won the Aurealis Award for Best Horror Novel in their respective years, and a collection of short fiction, Caution: Contains Small Parts was published by Twelfth Planet Press in 2013. Both her novels are to be reissued by Twelfth Planet Press in 2014 – Perfections for the first time in print. When not wearing her writing hat, she produces and co-hosts a bimonthly literary discussion podcast, The Writer and the Critic, which generally keeps her out of trouble. After many years based in Melbourne, Kirstyn now lives in Ballarat with her husband and fellow scribbler, Jason Nahrung.

 1. Congratulations on “The Home for Broken Dolls” picking up a Ditmar this year! You said at the time that it was a horrible story and seemed surprised that it won the award… how hard a story was it to write? 

Thank you very much, I was so pleased with the Ditmar! Emotionally and psychologically, “The Home for Broken Dolls” was the hardest story I’ve ever written due to the nature of the research involved, and the need to stay intimately connected to all of that, to remain open and not inured to it, during the year or more I was working on the piece. Technically, it was difficult as well. The tone of the novella very much reflected the protagonist, Jane, so the writing itself needed to be calm and controlled and, to some extent, distant, almost clinical in its observations and descriptions. It was a departure in style for me from a lot of the work I’d done in the past, a commitment to a type of minimalism that was quite confronting. When you’re writing such sparse, deliberate prose, there really is nowhere to hide, artistically speaking. I actually learned a lot about myself as writer from working on “Dolls”, although, for various reasons, I didn’t actually compose another word of fiction for more than a year afterwards.

2. Twelfth Planet Press recently picked up and published Perfections, which is really exciting. What’s it like to have a book given a second outing? 

Exciting is definitely the word – and it’s such a relief to see it published again, especially in print. The amount of people who asked about the availability of a paperback when it was only a digital release was heartbreaking. I’m exceedingly grateful to Alisa from Twelfth Planet Press for picking Perfections up, dusting her off, and sending her out into the world with a swank new party dress! It’s a novel I’m very proud to have written, even if it did steadfastly refuse to be the novel I thought I wanted to write for much of its creation. It’s funny, but when I was proofing the manuscript for re-publication, I started to see some precursor themes and ideas – and even stylistic notes – that would later become core elements in “The Home for Broken Dolls”. I guess my own personal obsessions and concerns are never really far from the surface . . .

3. What are you working on at the moment? Do you have lots of stories waiting impatiently to be told, or do they form an orderly queue?

I’ve started a PhD this year, so my creative work for the near future will be in that arena. I’m writing a suite of short fiction that I think of as post-fairy-tales – the stories of what happens after the fairy tale ends, when the fairy tale girls become women. And because I’m also doing oodles of research on fairy tales, I actually do have a whole bunch of stories percolating in my mind right now, some more ready to be told than others. There’s no queue as such – I only ever really work on one story at a time, so whichever one is speaking the loudest once the current work in progress is finished will get my attention. I’ve spoken in the past of how I see my creative process as akin to walking around a junkyard, finding interesting bits and pieces and putting them in my pocket for later. After a while, sometimes after many years, I’ll stumble across a piece that fits with two or three others I have and – voila! – there’s a story to be written. It’s still the same process now, I suppose, only I’m exploring a much larger junkyard at the moment, my searching is a little more targeted and I’m finding a whole lot more interesting bits and pieces!

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

I’ve been catching up on story collections over the past year and have been so damned impressed by the wealth of talent we have here in terms of short fiction writers. The Bride Price by Cat Sparks, The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories by Joanne Anderton, The Year of Ancient Ghosts by Kim Wilkins, and Asymmetry by Thoraiya Dyer are all absolutely sterling books, imaginative and intelligent and exactly the kind of eclectic speculative fiction that I adore. Very recently, I read Dead Americans by Ben Peek, a collection I had been looking forward to for ages and which was well worth the wait – I’m even more keen to get my hands on his upcoming novel, The Godless, now.

5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be writing in five years from now?

I can’t say that any recent changes in publishing have affected how I work to any significant extent. I realised quite a few years ago that I’m not a highly commercial writer and – barring some miraculous confluence of events – the kind of writing that I do, the kind of writing that I am interested in doing, will never really be highly commercial. So I’m never going to have a writing career that will pay a mortgage but, on the other hand, I’m never going to have to rely on a writing career to pay a mortgage. Swings and roundabouts. I do find the recent developments in crowdfunding and regular patronage models fascinating, though, and I love the idea that this is where the former “midlist” might find a home, with a direct connection to a readership. That would be a model I might be tempted to consider in the future, if I had the right project for it.

As to what I see myself writing in five years from now, I haven’t really thought about it. Barring incident, I’ll be finished my story suite and PhD by then so who knows? There is a quasi-SF novel that’s been loitering about in the junkyard for a while now and I might have found enough pieces to start putting it together by then. Or the Dolls might have finally convinced me to write their novel, or else I might have stumbled across some other compelling idea that I can’t put down. Five years is such a long time. As long as I’m still writing, and developing as a writer, I’ll be happy.


This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at:



Snapshot: Bruce Gillespie

Born 1947. First eleven years spent in the south-eastern suburb of Oakleigh, along with my Mum and Dad and two sisters, both younger than me. Various house moves took us to Melton (which then had 500 people) and Bacchus Marsh, even while I was gaining my BA and Diploma of Education at Melbourne University (1965–68). At the end of 1967 I met quite a few of the best-known SF fans in Melbourne, and joined fandom in 1968. I attempted to teach in Ararat (1969–70), before gaining a position in the Publications Branch of the Education Department (1971–3). After travelling overseas for five months (September 1973–January 1974), I decided to try a life of freelance editing, which I’ve been doing ever since. I met Elaine Cochrane in 1974, but we did not get together until 1978, and married in March 1979, about the time we moved into a house in Collingwood, along with five cats. We moved to Greensborough, a northwestern suburb, in 2005. We still have four cats.

1. You’ve been publishing SF Commentary since 1969, according to the all-knowing Wikipedia, and it’s been nominated for a Hugo Award three times. You’ve also published other fanzines over the years. What is it about publishing fanzines that you love? 

In 1961, when I was in Form 3 (Year 9) at Oakleigh High School, my friend Ron Sheldon and I published 26 issues of 6-page duplicated magazine and sold it to fellow students. I did not know the term ‘fanzine’ then, but read about fanzines later in a column by Lin Carter in If. That’s what I wanted to do — publish a magazine in which I could write about anything I wanted and could send it to anybody in the world I chose. In 1966, I bought my first fanzine from the front counter of McGill’s Newsagency (run by Merv Binns, the organiser of the Melbourne SF Club, which was situated in a lane behind McGill’s). It was Australian Science Fiction Review, edited by John Bangsund. At last! In-depth articles about science fiction, plus literate humour from Bangsund and his correspondents. However, I did not write to John until I had finished my degree. I enclosed two articles I had written about the novels of Philip K. Dick. John asked me to visit him in Ferntree Gully. On that weekend in December 1967 I met many of the people who have remained important in my life, such as John Bangsund, Lee Harding, John Foyster, George Turner, Damien Broderick, Tony Thomas and Rob Gerrand.

I desperately wanted to begin publishing, but had no real income until I started teaching at the beginning of 1969. I typed, and John, Lee and Leigh Edmonds actually produced and posted the first issue of SF Commentary early that year. Although that first issue was one of the worst-looking fanzines of all time, it elicited an enormous letter response, including a letter from Philip Dick, my favourite author. I managed to buy a duplicator, produced 18 issues of SFC in two years, and in 1972 I gained my first Ditmar Award and Hugo nomination. SF Commentary itself has lapsed in production from time to time, but I have also produced such magazines as The Metaphysical Review (dealing with all my interests other than SF, and now replaced by Treasure), Steam Engine Time (co-edited with overseas friends, featuring longer articles about SF and fantasy), and *brg* for ANZAPA (Australian and New Zealand Amateur Publishing Association [of which he's been the official editor for ten years - ed]) and its online version Scratch Pad.

To answer your original question: the main pleasure of publishing fanzines has been the pleasure of making something oneself, and receiving a huge amount of warm response, including letters of comment, magazines exchanged with mine, and articles and artwork. In later years, people began giving me prizes as well, including making me Fan Guest of Honour at Aussiecon 3 (1999) and giving me a trip to the west coast of USA (the Bring Bruce Bayside Fund in 2005). But even these awards are not as rewarding as the actual act of publication.

2. One of the fascinating things about your fanzines is the letters columns, wherein people appear to be having conversations that have lasted over many issues — and therefore, sometimes, over years. Have you made friends via letter columns? What is it about that venue that works for people? 

I had very little self-confidence when I was a young man, and not much now. But my life was transformed when John Bangsund enjoyed the articles and reviews I sent him, and then many people responded by mail to the first issues of SF Commentary. At my first SF convention, Easter 1968, few people wanted to talk to me. At my second convention, Easter 1969, after SFC 1 had appeared, I was greeted at the door. I seemed to become a different person in print, somebody people wanted to meet. In turn, I could introduce my readers to each other. The conversation, a sort of slow-motion, in-depth version of the Internet, keeps going.

3. Do you anticipate keeping on with SF Commentary, and Treasure, into the future? Are there still things that you want to say? 

The problems of producing SFC have always been practical. When I had the time to produce an issue, I did not have the money to print and post it, and when I had the money I did not have the time. These days the main brake on the print version of SF Commentary is Australia Post. Most of my most enthusiastic readers live overseas, but airmail postage has shot up greatly over recent years. To compensate, Bill Burns in America offers the website, where he will post issues of fanzines in PDF format for anybody to access. This has proved a lifesaver to me and many other fanzine editors who no longer have the income to print and post their zines. Until Australia Post makes it quite impossible to send out print copies and/or Bill Burns has to give up his website, I will keep going. Producing fanzines is what I do.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

There are not many Australian fanzines still being published. One of the best, Ethel the Aardvark, can only be read by members of the Melbourne SF Club. However, I can point to Chris Nelson’s Mumblings from Munchkinland (available both as a print and PDF version) as being the ideal small fanzine that covers a lot of ground, especially the history of fannish activity in Australia. Bill Wright is still publishing his Interstellar Ramjet Scoop on, and Van Ikin told me at Continuum that he has four issues of Science Fiction nearly finished.

The Australian fiction scene has expanded in the last 20 years, from a time between 1975 and 1985 when Cory & Collins (Paul Collins and Rowena Cory) and Norstrilia Press (Carey Handfield, Rob Gerrand and me) published most of the new Australian SF titles, two or three a year. The mainstream publishers are now not putting out many more SF and fantasy books than they did in the 1980s, but the new crop of small press publishers (beginning with Aphelion Books, and Eidolon and Aurealis magazines) now produce a huge quantity of fine books every year. The trouble is that very few of them are science fiction books (i.e. realistic books about the future). The switch to fantasy and horror titles was initially puzzling and disappointing to me, but has been justified by the quality of the writers who have emerged in the last 20 years. My own favourites include Kaaron Warren, Angela Slatter, Cat Sparks, Deb Baincotti, Rosaleen Love, Jack Dann and Rick Kennett. (Only two males? Who would have believed that in 1968, when Australia’s small number of working SF writers, all male, would huddle in one corner at conventions?) I feel left behind by the sheer quantity and quality of current fiction, and admire people like Nalini Haynes (Dark Matter) and you podcasters who try to keep up with the field.

5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing or reading in five years from now?

As I say, I can keep publishing while the physical means (either print or remain available. I have no interest in changing to blog production, and indeed rarely access websites, blogs, or podcasts. It’s hard enough finding time to read the incoming emails each day. I don’t want to read books on a tablet or computer screen, so do my best to obtain physical copies (preferably hardback) of major new books. If new books appear only as e-books, I won’t be reading them. Not that I have any problem with lack of reading matter — our house is filled with books, many of them unread. And I have many great books to re-read, especially those by Philip K. Dick, Brian Aldiss, and Cordwainer Smith.


This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at:

Snapshot: Kathleen Jennings

Kathleen Jennings is an illustrator and writer based in Brisbane, Australia. Her (mostly illustration) blog is at Her art has won a number of Ditmars and been nominated for two World Fantasy Awards. When she doesn’t have paper to hand she has been known to draw on people.

1. You always seem to have a number of art projects underway – can you tell me what you’re working on at the moment, and what process  you’re using to construct it?

I’m working on several book covers, but am moving between them at the moment, so I’m not sure which I’ll be working on when this is published!

  • For one, I’m constructing a scene out of several existing elements – a digital collage of sorts, but with my own work. I anticipate some frustration with this, as I will have left it to the last minute (since it’s new) and because I have to *make* things fit, instead of creating them to.
  • Another is part of a series of covers for Laurie Marks through Small Beer Press. The intention is for the covers to interlock, but the books weren’t all ready when I started. So we had to design an interlocking element and add the specific elements as we went.
  • And I’m sketching ideas for Fablecroft’s Cranky Ladies while waiting for the contents to be finalised so I can lock it down! That’s an interesting one as it needs to work both as a cover and a separate piece of art, for crowd funding reward. I’m also doing a cover for its twin publication Phantazein.
  • I’m also evolving a possible project with Tiny Owl Workshop. She creates marvels, and is inventing as she goes, which is wonderfully freeing, because we are both working out what can be done. The process so far is a series of fits and starts: idea, inspiration, procrastination, angst, frantic activity, lull, run into each other at parties, apologise, scheme to exclusion of all others… Once we lock it down, it will run much more swiftly and smoothly. It seems to involve Hounds.

These will be a combination of digital, cut-paper silhouettes, scratchboard and pen-and-ink. My usual process involves about 90% angst, sketches and delay. If I have a lot of sketches to do (a wide variety of ideas to work up, or internal illustrations & collateral material), I’ll use an accordion-fold sketchbook of watercolour paper to make a little book of ideas, colour, reference – that way there’s something physical and pretty at the end! Then I send thumbnail sketches for approval. If the final piece is very constructed and detailed I’ll send developed pencils for approval, but often it’s a more organic piece, particularly when people want a sketchy style. Then I might just get approval on direction and the final before tidying up.

I’m never sure if I enjoy more getting art direction, or just being turned loose. Both are great privileges. It really helps to work for someone with a strong sense of purpose and aesthetic judgement, but who will let me use mine – it’s nice to know that they will have an opinion if I need one, or at least parameters I can work within.

2. A number of your artworks are available on your RedBubble page, including the cover of Midnight and Moonshine. How has a site like RedBubble affected the way you think about art, and where it might be used or seen? 

I’m still learning to see art as a decoration/product. I grew up seeing art-as-part-of-story, and I’m on continuous horrifying journey of discovery of the organisation and logistics involved in the fine/decorative arts, and in making art products, which doesn’t exist in illustration by itself. Also striking a balance between pictures full of movement and more static images, which works best in which context, etc.

I plan to take some time to sit down and explore the possibilities of RedBubble and similar sites in a more deliberate and systematic way, instead of just putting something up when requested!

But it’s so delightful when people show up to something wearing a shirt with my drawing on it – gratifying, but also that sense of a shared discovery: “this came out of my pen, and you liked it too!!”. I hope to make things beautiful, and that suggests to me it may have worked.

Part of it is learning to manage time and think about money, too, and how they feed into each other.

3. In the next five years, do you hope to be doing more art or more writing or balancing the two? Are there projects that you’re desperate to get onto the page? 

I hope to be storytelling, in words and pictures. It is a balance act practically, because one has more paying deadlines, and the other takes longer! But even though I don’t often combine them in my own work, illustration and writing are inextricable for me.

I am desperate to get more stories on the page. Short stories, long pieces. I have a number of works in progress, short and long (including the infamous Large Amorphous Manuscript and a novella I’m turning around trying to work out how to expand it into a novel). I am learning how to create the space I need for editing when I lack mental, temporal and physical room (everything in my house gets taken over by ink and paper). Angela Slatter flenses things for me with great patience and enthusiasm – a vigorous Slatterian pruning does wonders for a writer’s growth.

But writing is happening, if slowly. I have two or three stories coming out this year so far: “Skull and Hyssop”, an airship adventure (maybe this year, details to come at some point); “The Last Tale of Detective Charlemagne”, a noirish tale of inspiration and publishing in Insert Title Here, and “A Small Wild Magic”, a comic in Monstrous Affections: an anthology of beastly tales. So you know, I am a writer too!

I want to develop my own illustration projects as well – I’m getting too used to only being guided by other people’s deadlines, and need to fool myself into believing in some of my own. I keep coming up with all these ideas during workshops and lectures – scraps of paper full of sketched notes for stories about invisible paths, or crane mothers…

And I still keep an illustration wishlist, which has a habit of coming true very indirectly. Endpapers are still on it! I’ve tried twice, but the first time they turned into cover art for Kelly Link’s Stranger Things Happen (Subterranean Press) and the second time they became internal illustrations for Angela Slatter’s Bitterwood Bible (Tartarus, forthcoming). Endpapers and a wine label and being asked to be artist-in-residence on an expedition or unusual worksite. Among other things.

Thinking about time and finances, as mentioned above, are high on my list of Things To Be Done. Where is time made? How do we create and contribute to a sustainable industry, do we do it for love, how do we show and transfer love? What is professionalism? What about patronage? Can you be self-supporting? How many different ways are there to do this, and which don’t we talk about enough? What are the interstices between starve-your-art, starve-for-art and become-wildly-successful? What about resilience when circumstances change – what gives? What matters? Where are the interesting conversations? Is this all just procrastinating? Peter Ball is covering a lot of this territory – the business of creative work – on his blog, and Clare Bowditche’s Big Hearted Business takes another inspirational angle.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

Everybody’s! This feels like a trick question… Alas, most of what I read now is the manuscript form of something I’m illustrating. I need to get out more.

I will mention Shaun Tan, always, because he creates worlds that you can fall into – hugely textured and detailed and just inexplicable enough to be all-encompassing. I’ve been seeing his art for his latest, Rules for Summer, in Spectrum for ages, so I’m delighted to have it all in one book at last. I don’t know if he gets enough credit for his writing, as well as his art. Tales from Outer Suburbia is one of my very favourite books of short Australian fiction – unsettling, enchanting, hopeful. It’s like a little box of wonder. And the art and words are so interwoven…

Angela Slatter’s Bitterwood Bible should be coming out from Tartarus very soon (full disclosure: I illustrated it). Dark and vivid and beautifully tragic, and I still get choked up by a few of the titles. “Now All Pirates Are Gone”. Good grief. Oh, and Black-Winged Angels is coming from Ticonderoga Publications.

And everything Tiny Owl Workshop is doing, and everyone with whom it is done. Utterly charming and delightful.

5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? How do you think you will be writing/creating in five years from now?

Yes, but not in the way I would have predicted. Ebooks were meant to be the death of illustration, and hard copy books, and of course this failed to be true in the usual ways. But then people also started being freed up to make beautiful books-as-objects again, and now there’s this niche where gorgeous, heavily illustrated books are taking off – I mean, look at Subterranean and Folio and Tiny Owl (not saying Folio or even Subterranean are that recent, but it seems there’s a new resurgence and visibility, and I keep seeing my favourite illustrators showing up in their catalogues). It’s given small press a new niche as well, to do really jewel-quality limited-edition pieces, often for an established market. And of course the internet and social media have opened up the visibility of those books, without traditional marketing channels, and created ways to finance them.

The biggest impact for me has actually been the shift from ‘traditional’ publishing finance back to an older form of raising funds: pre-orders and subscription printing. That is, crowdfunding. It’s both good and… weird. On the one hand, it lets everyone get paid reasonable amounts, commensurate with market rates and audience, so it removes that curious guilt/bargaining/barter barrier to quoting on projects you really, really want to work on, lets people make high-quality books and a real community around a book, and can remove a lot of the game-of-chance quality. And it can be tremendously exciting and fun. On the other, it completely skews timeframes and deadlines. Definitely positive on balance, but a learning curve.

So, how will I be writing/creating in five years from now? Not how I expect to be. But I hope to team up with publishers and authors who’ll experiment with new technology to create beautiful physical objects, and beautiful communities online or in real life. As technology and services are more affordable, open-source, widely available, etc, small presses will be able to take a keen look at the aesthetics of what they’re making, and afford to compete on that level, as well as the content. Beautiful stories.


This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at:

Snapshot: Narrelle M Harris

As Narrelle M Harris, I’m a writer of crime, fantasy, horror and non-fiction. My first book was Fly By Night (2004), containing the novellas Fly By Night and Sacrifice, about Frank and Milo, musicians who are also a couple and get caught up murders. The book was nominated for a Ned Kelly Award for best first crime novel, and was translated into Croatian. In 2013, my vampire novel Walking Shadows (Clan Destine Press) – sequel to The Opposite of Life – was nominated for a Chronos Award for SF and fantasy, and shortlisted for the Davitt Awards for crime writing. Other books include Witch Honour and Witch Faith and the short story collection, Showtime. When Clan Destine Press invited me to submit stories for a new erotic fiction imprint, I accepted the challenge. Now writing as NM Harris, I have two series currently underway with the Encounters imprint and a third on the way. My short story, Sky High, Bone Deep was published by Escape Publishing in July 2014. My new romance blog is Adventurous Hearts ( My other current project is an online novel about a rock band that saves the world from monsters, at I’m preparing the manuscript for submission and embarking on a research trip to London for the second in the series. Find out more about all my work at

1. You’ve recently finished up Kitty and Cadaver, your online novel about family and vampires and music. Did the novel itself accomplish what you hoped, and what was it like to publish it as a serial?

In terms of the book itself, I am pretty happy with how it turned out. I’d structured most of it in advance and I think apart from one week, I posted a new update of the book each Monday for the duration. I’m happy with the result – I got some lovely comments on the story posts – and am currently editing and polishing it for submission to a publisher.

It was slightly terrifying publishing it online in this way – but it kept the push on to keep writing, to keep ahead of the deadline. It’s as well I did plot it all out in advance. It could have been a disaster, story-telling wise. I used to laugh in a slighty panicked way about having seen a cliff-face, deciding ‘fuck, yeah, I can fly’ and flinging myself off into space – only to spend the next 12 months flapping my arms like crazy and hoping I won’t crash too hard.

In terms of the bigger project – it was much harder than I’d expected. I really should have thought that through a bit more! I was trying to write a book, promote a book, maintain the related blog, develop creative partnerships for the music, comic and jewellery side projects (and when you’re working with others, you just don’t have the control over the output) – all at the same time as holding down a day job, working on other writing projects, maintaining two other blogs and just getting through the challenges of everyday life as well.

No wonder I’m tired.

But seriously, even just looking at the Kitty project by itself – that’s a lot of stuff to be doing, and while I feel I have the capacity within myself to do all of those jobs, given time to learn, the fact is that they take separate skill sets and a lot of time, so I set that bar a bit high.

Having said that – the jewellery project side is underway now and we have an Etsy store set up. I’m still working with Jess on music and we’re going to bring in some more musicians to complete the songs, so I still plan on getting the album done. It’ll just take time.

The same is true of the comic project – the artist will need money up front to pay for his materials, but he’s busy establishing his career in another comic project and as a tattoo artist. When we have time, we’ll do costings and look at a Kickstarter or Pozible fundraiser to get the comic done.

In the meantime, I’m about to head off to London for a few weeks to research the second book of the series. If all goes well, there will be even more to come, each book set in a different city.

2. Much of your work in speculative fiction tends towards the darker side of things, while also including significant amounts of humour. What appeals to you about this combination?

It’s just life, isn’t it? Full of darkness and light, and often simultaneously. I have always enjoyed juxtapositions – the humour in dark situations, the darkness in the mundane. All of that. In story telling terms, it’s where the meat is, too – the exploration of what it is to be human, and to suffer, and to seek hope and redemption, and we do that through our self-kknowledge and in the way we form relationships.

Basically, people are fascinating, and what makes us tick is fascinating, and I doubt I’ll ever get tired of poking into all of that with a pencil (or a keyboard) and trying to unravel it all.

3. You’ve got at least one more Kitty and Cadaver story in your head – do you think you will go the web-novel route again, or go for a more traditional approach?

It may depend on what happens with finding a publisher for the first book, Not the Zombie Apocalypse. My intention at this point is to find a publisher (either web or print) to take them both on, but continue with the blog site to post related stuff, things about the ongoing projects and short stories. I have more than one Kitty story idea in my head, you see – I have ideas for a story in Montreal as well, and some stories set along the band’s 700 year history. The concept has legs and I want to see how far it can run.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

*quickly checks Goodreads to see what I’ve read this year*

I’ve just finished The Rosie Project, which was terrific. Nobody told me it was a romance novel, and it really was among the very best of its genre. Kate Hendrick’s The Accident was also fantastic. I caught up on some of the anthologies on my bookshelf too, so loved the variety of Australian talent showcased in collections like Worlds Next Door, After the Rain and Australis Imaginarium (all Fablecroft books I think). And I loved Marianne de Pierres’s ‘Aussie Sf Western’ Peacemaker. She’s always a good read.

5. Recent changes in the publishing industry have obviously influenced the way you work, having explored the web-serial option. What other changes do you anticipate in the future? What do you think you will be writing in five years from now?

I think it’s really hard to see how the future will shape up – the whole industry is still very much in flux. Bookshops haven’t quite died out in the way predicted, and there remains a place for print and digital books, both. Maybe that will change as a generation used to reading on screens grows up without the nostalgia for print.

I expect that, rather than consolidating, the way books are presented will remain diverse. We’re in the age of ‘mass customisation’ after all – with small press and small print runs having a place alongside people trying online multimedia projects, and everything in between. The idea of ‘artisan books’ has grown, too.

The internet has shown that people like to engage more actively in their entertainment – though there are plenty who are happy to just consume. But cosplay isn’t limited to fan conventions any more, and online reviewing and discussion is lively. People are keen to support interesting, niche publications through crowdsourced funding models. There’s a lot going on!

Self-publishing through digital has brought a huge number of books into the arena and in ways that makes it harder to sort through the volume to find work you like – but there are huge numbers of reviewers and blog sites too, and people share their favourite finds through word of mouth (or type of tweets) so I think that quality will continue to be found. (After all, as I’ve said before, not all books that make it to print are that good either. Excellence and dross are equally to be found everywhere.)

I think while the methods of distribution will remain diverse (print as well as digital) perhaps the main changes will come in the ways readers are encouraged (or choose to take on) different channels for engagement with the work. Those ways have existed for decades, at least, of course (as any fan can tell you – from 19th Century Holmesians onward) but the technology and opportunities for doing so have increased.

So in the end, five years from now I hope to still be writing stories that interest and excite me, and I hope that I’ll have found the time and expertise to better engage with readers using the tech at our disposal, whether those stories are published on paper, as digital books, in serial form on a blog or in a weekly engraving on a thin sheet of tin to be found at hidden locations all around the Melbourne CBD…


This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at:


Snapshot: Tehani Wessely

Tehani Wessely was a founding member of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine in 2001 and started her own boutique publishing house, FableCroft Publishing, in 2010. Now firmly entrenched in Australian speculative fiction and independent press, she also judges for several national literary awards and reads far more in one genre than is healthy.

Since 2002, Tehani has edited ASIM #4, #16, #27, #31, #36 (co-edited) and #37, three Best Of ASIM e-anthologies, the Twelfth Planet Press anthology New Ceres Nights and e-mag Shiny, and for FableCroft produced the original anthologies Worlds Next Door, After the Rain, Epilogue, One Small Step, reprint anthologies Australis Imaginarium and Focus 2012. She is currently working on FableCroft’s Insert Title Here anthology, Cranky Ladies of History (with Tansy Rayner Roberts) and several other projects. Tehani also edited To Spin a Darker Stair (a boutique gift book), the original novels Path of Night (Dirk Flinthart), Ink Black Magic (Tansy Rayner Roberts) andGuardian (Jo Anderton), and the award-winning debut collection The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories by Joanne Anderton.

In her spare moments, she works as Head of Library in a Canberra boys’ school and enjoys spending time with her husband and four children. You can find Tehani online as @editormum75 and @fablecroft on Twitter, or at and

1. You’re currently working on the anthology Cranky Ladies, which was crowdfunded earlier this year. What was it like to crowdfund a project like this? and what’s it like editing this anthology in general, given such an awesome premise? 

Cranky Ladies was my first foray into crowdfunding, and it was a great experience – I think the fact we funded less than halfway through the campaign was a big help with that! The Cranky Ladies concept really seemed to strike a chord with people, and we were fortunate to get a good amount of mainstream media attention for the campaign, which was a huge help. Well, I say fortunate, but really that was partly good management – Tansy realised that March was Women’s History Month, and we pushed up our timeline to fit in with that – super smart move Tansy! This is why it’s important to work with clever people :) It was a heck of a ride, running the campaign and the blog tour, and I don’t think my nerves could handle doing it regularly. That said, it’s a really interesting way to finance a project that has a broad appeal, and when the funding is essentially a pre-order system, and the funding is designed to funnel straight to the authors/artist, I think that helps.

The editing process hasn’t really started yet, although some of our wonderful authors have already sent in stories (which I am resisting, because I’m neck deep in edits for other projects!). It’s very exciting working with new authors though, and particularly international authors I’ve not been privileged to publish before. I’m looking forward to the challenge of balancing the historical and speculative elements that some stories will have, and absolutely cannot wait to see what our writers have come up with. It’s also been a long while since I’ve co-edited with anyone, so I’m really pleased to be doing that again with Tansy, too!

2. Something you’ve done recently is rescue a series of books where the final book hasn’t been published, for some reason. You’ve done this for Tansy Rayner Roberts, publishing Ink Black Magic, and for Joanne Anderton with Guardian. Is this the frustrated reader in you swaying the publisher, and do you anticipate doing more of the same in future? 

Tansy coined the phrase “bibliophile search and rescue” when we launched Jo’s book at Continuum in June, and I’m totally stealing it! It’s an interesting experience, publishing the last book of a trilogy, with some adjustments in thinking required. There are some challenges involved – how do you market to a new audience if it’s been a while between books? Conversely, what if you’re targeting an existing audience, how do you reach them? There were some differences with Guardian and Ink Black Magic, in that we had the rights to reprint the first two Mocklore books for Tansy, but Jo’s are still being sold through Angry Robot, which has some implications for marketing and promotion. Given we were following through on relatively recent releases with Guardian, we really wanted to make sure the cover art looked like it belonged with the series, and that the format of the book itself (and the price point), was as close as we could get to the first books, in order to be appealing to those who already had the first books. One challenge has been in reviewing – third books are often really hard to get reviews for, because many reviewers are reluctant to invest the time in them if they don’t standalone. We like to think that both Guardian and Ink Black Magic DO work as individual books, though of course the experience may be enhanced by reading the others in the series!

I don’t think it’s something I would do without having already loved the first books of the series, which of course I did for both of these, but it certainly is not something I would write off doing again in the future, that’s for sure. In fact, I may have a little something similar already on the boil, but shhhh…

3. You always seem to have a ludicrous number of projects simmering away. Will Fablecroft be branching into new arenas in the future, or do you anticipate strengthening the things you’re already doing well? 

Heh, yes, ludicrous is probably a very GOOD word for it! It’s quite amazing to me how many avenues keep popping up that I’d like to explore. I will continue to produce anthologies regularly, as long as I keep having crazy ideas for them, and I’m keen to look into more original novels as well as the ebook reprint line, such as with Glenda Larke’s Isles of Glory trilogy. That said, FableCroft is definitely branching out – I’m working on several children’s book projects right now, one under the Cranky Ladies banner, and another that involves several works in a shared world series – although given our first book was a children’s anthology, maybe it’s not so much branching out as coming back to our roots! I’m also looking at a new non-fiction range of ebooks that will essentially be “related works” for SF & F. Still working on some details there, so don’t want to say too much yet. Keep an eye on the website or the Facebook/Twitter page for announcements!

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

Other than books I’ve published myself? Oh, SO MANY! I judged for the CBCA Book of the Year last year, so I can’t really talk too much about the fantastic YA and Children’s books I read as part of that, though I do encourage people to check out the OR category, as there are several speculative books on the list that I highly recommend :) Likewise the Aurealis Awards shortlists – I’ve worked my way through most of those, and really enjoyed them (go AA judges!).

In 2014 work, I was lucky enough to read an advance copy of the Twelfth Planet Press anthology Kaleidoscope a few weeks ago, and I will be terribly surprised if the book and stories from it don’t appear on shortlists all over the world. It’s an amazing collection of diverse YA fantasy and SF, and it’s brilliant. I read Glenda Larke’s new book The Lascar’s Dagger earlier this year and it’s just as good as everything else she’s done – awesome fantasy with great plot and characters. DK Mok’s first novel also crossed my path, which was a really fun but also thought-provoking read. I enjoyed Marianne de Pierres’ Peacemaker, which holds a little piece of my heart because I was lucky enough to republish the original short story the novel grew from in Australis Imaginarium, and I love seeing things like that happen! I’m sneak reading Sean Williams’ next book (nyah nyah, you’re not!) which is excellent, and I have a bunch of Aussie books on my TBR shelf right now that I’m looking forward to – some really new, some that I just haven’t had a chance to get to yet, but I’m looking forward to. My Goodreads page will have them when I get to them!

5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing in five years from now?

It’s a really fascinating time to be a boutique publisher, because we have more opportunities now than ever before to reach a global audience and engage with readers all over the world. Rapid changes in technology have seen us broaden our horizons and our expectations immensely, and this brings with it both challenges and rewards. We’re able to market to an international audience now, in both print and ebook, and we’re really seeing the advantages of this, particularly in the ebook field, which seems to be so much more advanced in the US and UK, so that helps! However, of course we’re competing with the internationals too, but that’s okay, because Australia produces darn fine writers, and I think an international stage can only mean good things for them. We’ve seen some pretty big changes to the major publishers in recent years too, which seems to mean there are a lot more fantastic manuscripts out there that the majors aren’t willing to take a risk on, but that offer great opportunities for boutique publishers.

Self-publishing is becoming more mainstream and accepted, particularly when a lot of self-publishers are putting in the hard yards and finances to professional editing and design. However, the authors are also seeing established small press as a good option over self-publishing, because when it comes down to it, most of them would rather be writing than hustling their books, and marketing and promotion is such a big part of the job! It’s also an area that indie press still does it tough in against the majors, but with our social media connectedness, that too is gradually changing.

I think we’re moving towards a situation where loose conglomerates of publishers of various sizes will really work together to support and promote each other – not necessarily in a proscribed way, but in that really, working together makes so much more sense than competing with each other!

What will FableCroft be publishing in five years? I have NO idea! I daresay our ebook catalogue will continue to grow – I’m excited about bringing awesome books back into “print”, particularly those which didn’t receive the fanfare they deserved when they first appeared, so I’m looking out for that sort of thing. I would love to see Cranky Ladies or similar projects have legs that take them five years into the future. I hope to be publishing more brilliant original novels, and to keep my finger in the anthology pie. But given the changes in the past five years? Well, I think the best thing I can do is be open to ANYTHING, and see what comes.


This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at:

Snapshot: Angela Slatter

Queensland Writers Fellow Angela Slatter is the author of the Aurealis Award-winning The Girl with No Hands and Other Tales, World Fantasy finalist Sourdough and Other Stories, British Fantasy Award-winning “The Coffin-Maker’s Daughter”, Aurealis finalist Midnight and Moonshine (with Lisa Hannett), and the forthcoming The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings, Black-Winged Angels, and The Female Factory (also with Lisa L. Hannett). She has an MA and a PhD in Creative Writing, and is a graduate of Clarion South 2009 and the Tin House Summer Writers Workshop 2006. She blogs at about shiny things that catch her eye.

1. You’ve recently finished a novel, Vigil, based on a short story you wrote for the anthology Sprawl. As someone who loved that story I’m very excited, and I’m curious about the process of transforming a story from one length to another. Was this something you always had in mind, or did it grow on you over time? 
Haha! At first I thought it was just a single one-off story, but I enjoyed writing it so much and I got so much great feedback on it that I thought I should take it a little further. Originally I thought I’d write three novellas with the same characters and pitch them to small presses in Australia. But I got to the point (after writing the original short story and two of the novellas) of thinking “You’re an idiot, just write the damned novel.” So I did and it’s taken three and a half years, and that’s as much because I’ve had to pick story threads apart and re-work them to fit into a more traditional novel structure as because I was also working on other projects and doing part-time work (and finishing a PhD). In short, it was a nightmare I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. But I got there in the end, with a huge amount of beta reading from Lisa Hannett, Peter M Ball and Alan Baxter — thanks, guys! Now it’s a matter of seeing how it goes out in the real world on the hamster wheel of agents and publishers — which has started.
2. You’re well known for collaborating with Lisa L Hannett in writing fiction, for instance on Midnight and Moonshine and your up-coming collection The Female Factory. Can you tell me how that partnership came about, and what helps it to be so successful?
Lisa and I met at Clarion South in 2009 and became fast friends there — two halves of one very big, very messy, slightly evil Brain — and the opportunity came about after Clarion to co-write a story. That became “The February Dragon”, which Liz Grzyb ended up buying for the Scary Kisses anthology. The story then went on to win the Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Short Story, so we figured we were doing something right! Basically the process succeeds because we absolutely trust each other as writers (or, as Lisa’s said before “We trust each other not to make our work shit!”), and neither of us is precious* about having someone else change our words because we can see how those changes improve the overall quality.
We spend a lot of time working out the overarching structure of what we’re going to do, which is basically sitting around telling each other stories (and when is that ever not fun??) and just developing and mining these characters we make up. At its core? It’s just so much fun to do. We’re currently plotting how we can fit writing the Sepphoris Mosaic, which is a mosaic novel/collection that will include “The February Dragon”, into our schedules. Write it, find a publisher, etc.
*Caveat: it only works with each other. Should someone else try to change our writing we would put on our tiaras and turn into Drama Empresses.
3. Your work has ranged over a number of genres within the speculative fiction field, and you seem as comfortable at the shorter end as at the longer end. Are there stories or ideas that are desperate to get out of your head and onto the page? 
I’ve been really lucky that Stephen Jones has invited me to submit for a number of anthologies that gave me a real challenge to write something different (Zombie Apocalypse, Weirder Shadows Over Innsmouth, and some other things that are genuinely more seated in the horror field than I’d done before). And The Female Factory is a mix of horror and science fiction because Alisa said “Hey, how about something science-fictiony?” I must admit Lisa and I gave each other sidelong glances and muttered “Science-fictiony? Have you met us?” But again, a really great challenge and chance to break away from whatever the usual is perceived to be.
I started out with short stories and honed my skills on that form. The word length has been growing the longer I spend writing — I’ve done two novellas this year — and some of the stories in The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings are novelette or novella length. It feels a bit like stretching the wings — I’m still a bit terrified of the idea of a full-length novel, but the novellas and Vigil have shown me that I can actually do it, I just need to become more of a plotter and planner than I am as a short story writer.
As for stories that want to spew forth … there are some for sure. I’ve found it difficult the last couple of years … no, actually not difficult, but different to how I started out because I’ve not had to cold submit a story in that time. All the shorts I’ve done have been commissioned and that’s a really nice place to be as a writer — so most of the ideas I’ve had have been channelled into an anthology that I am already fairly certain of having a place in. The other stories, those that made up collections like Sourdough and Other Stories, and The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings, and The Tallow-Wife and Other Tales (which I’m finishing now), have been written for mosaics collections, so the tales need to fit together as part of a greater whole.
That being said, I had a story pop up the other week and demand to be written. Not sure where “Mr Underhill” will live when he’s done, but I’m pretty happy with it so far.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

Ah, Kirstyn McDermott’s Caution: May Contain Small Parts, Alan Baxter’s Bound, Jason Nahrung’s Blood and Dust, and a lot of the material that’s been appearing in The Australian Review of Fiction.

5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? Do you think you will be writing differently in five years from now?

I’m still writing the same thing, but I keep my eye on what’s happening in the publishing industry. I think the ructions in the big trade publishers have been to the benefit of the small presses and writers because the small presses can pick up books that the biggies wouldn’t take a chance on, and writers can get a book published that might not otherwise have been taken up. Of course, you’ve got to watch that you’re still getting your advances and royalties — a small press might be someone’s beloved hobby but for a writer it’s their bread and butter, and getting paid is sometimes the difference between paying the phone bill and being reduced to smoke signals.
I keep an eye on the big publishers to see who’s being bought by whom, and whether it will affect the markets the books are being sold into. Who is doing ebooks? Who is doing them well? What kinds of advances are being offered and which agents are negotiating good deals? Which agents and which publishers are taking on new writers? I try to be a well-informed writer who takes charge of my career rather than one who spends a lot of time whinging about ‘things no one told me’.

One of the things that I really like is that novellas are on the rise again: small presses like Earthling, TTA, Twelfth Planet, and Gray Friar Press are producing some terrific works.

I don’t think I’ll be writing any differently, but the means of getting the work out there may well change. The message stays the same though the medium might change. And I think it’s important for writers to network and maintain relationships with individuals in the industry, rather than think their future is entirely invested in a single publishing house — very few writers nowadays are ever published by a single house. But editors and publishers and agents and booksellers all move around the industry: keep your ties with them and new opportunities may well come from that.

SnaphotLogo2014This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at:

Galactic Suburbia 105!

drowned vanilla coverThis episode of Galactic Suburbia is brought to you by the flavour vanilla and the colour of fairytales. You can get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.


Drowned Vanilla Cover reveal – order the book at the publisher’s site.

Tansy’s Drowned Vanilla Pinterest board

Wiscon Update

Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot is on again.

What Culture Have we Consumed?

Tansy: Go Bayside (April Richardson); Breaking Bubbles; Dimetrodon, the Doubleclicks; First 3 Harry Potter movies, The Prisoner of Azkaban

Alisa: Squaresville; The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet; What book will she discard?

Alex: The Elenium and The Tamuli trilogies, David Eddings; Snowpiercer; Reality Dysfunction, Peter F Hamilton; Extant

Please send feedback to us at, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon ( and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Snapshot: Sean Williams

Sean Williams is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of over forty award-winning novels for children, young adults and adults. His latest include Jump and Missing, Presumed Evil, with Garth Nix. For more information, please visit

1. You’ve recently completed a PhD – congratulations! – and you’ve published a few stories connected to the topic of your research. How did your fascination with “d-mat” start, and do you think it’s a concept you’ll use in future stories?

I’ve been obsessed with matter transmitters for about as long as I’ve been obsessed with stories. Where the obsession comes from isn’t hard to identify–it’s Doctor Who (not Star Trek)–but it’s taken me forty years to work out why I keep coming back to it. And boy, do I. Before Twinmaker, I had over two dozen published novels and short stories featuring the trope (plus my very first, unpublished short), and the number of Twinmaker-related stories just passed twenty-five. I’m currently working on two more, and I have an unsold novel featuring matter transmitters that I co-wrote with a friend last year. It would be fair to say that there’s no sign of the flood easing any time soon.

But why keep coming back to it? Because the matter transmitter is a trope that allows an author to tackle any aspect of society, identity, physicality, and spatiality she wants. It is the perfect SFnal trope, in fact: there’s literally nothing about the present world you can’t interrogate with it. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it!

2. Some of your best known work is your Star Wars novels. What was it like working in a shared universe like that? Has it had much of an impact on your other writing? 

It’s both fun and extremely hard work. I enjoy doing it because it takes me out of my own worlds and into a much larger collaborative space than the one in which I normal operate, where I’m working on my own or with another author, with the help of my agent and editors. Tie-in work is massively constrained in lots of ways, but that forces you to be more creative. I find that kind of thing immensely stimulating.

3. You’re in the midst of a children’s series, with Garth Nix, called Troubletwisters. Do you already have an idea of where the story will take the twins, and how many more books are there to go? 

Yes and yes. We have always known pretty much where the twins would end up, although the journey there has brought its share of surprises, as with all writing. As with all journeys, I guess. I feel like we could write about Jaide and Jack forever, but sadly all stories must come to an end, and Garth and I are even now looking into the stories we’ll be telling next.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

I’m way behind on everything, including, most shamefully, the work of my friends and peers. Here’s some I’ve read this year, in no particular order:

These Broken Stars, Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

Beauty’s Sister, James Bradley

Newt’s Emerald, Garth Nix

It Shines and Shakes and Laughs, Tim Molloy

The Bride Price, Cat Sparks

5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be writing in five years from now?

As I mentioned earlier, Garth and I are mapping out our post-Troubletwisters series, while at the same time I’m looking at what will come after Twinmaker. There have been no radical changes to the way this falls into place, for me, anyway. I still work pretty much the same way I did when I sold my first novels, ie drafting stories in a word processor (no Scrivener), delivering through a traditional publisher and an agent, and selling books mainly in paper form. That doesn’t mean I have a problem with e-books. Quite the contrary! They’re all I read, and most of my earlier novels are available that way now. The only reason I haven’t gone down that road yet is because I have no interest in being a publisher myself, not to mention the time to learn the skills required. But that could change if the right project comes along.

What do I think I’ll be writing in five years? Five years ago I thought I’d be writing adult crime novels, and here I am loving every moment in YA and MG, so what do I know? Whatever it is, I’ll be totally invested, and totally loving it. That’s the only way to be.


This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at:

Snapshot 2014

Snapshot has taken place four times in the past 10 years. In 2005, Ben Peek spent a frantic week interviewing 43 people in the Australian spec fic scene, and since then, it’s grown every time, now taking a team of interviewers working together to accomplish!

In the lead up to Worldcon in London, we will be blogging interviews for Snapshot 2014, conducted by Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely, Sean Wright and me. Last time we covered nearly 160 members of the Australian speculative fiction community with the Snapshot – can we top that this year?

To read the interviews hot off the press, check these blogs daily from July 28 to August 10, 2014, or look for the round up on SF Signal when it’s all done:

Galactic Suburbia does Orphan Black AGAIN!

Yes, Alisa and I got together after watching the second season of Orphan Black to debrief about all things clone. You can hear us on iTunes or over at Galactic Suburbia – we are very, VERY spoilery!

And just to get you in the mood, this is one of my favourite scenes of television in ages:


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 443 other followers