Author Archive: Alex

2016 Snapshot: Kirstyn McDermott

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Author Photo Kirstyn McDermott

Author Photo Kirstyn McDermott

Kirstyn McDermott has been working in the darker alleyways of speculative fiction for much of her career. Her two novels, Madigan Mine and Perfections, each won an Aurealis Award and her most recent book is Caution: Contains Small Parts, a collection of short fiction published by Twelfth Planet Press. When not wearing her writing hat, she produces and co-hosts a 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 where she is currently pursuing a creative PhD at Federation University with a research focus on re-visioned fairy tales. She can be found online (usually far too often) at www.kirstynmcdermott.com.

You recently hit 50 episodes of your podcast The Writer and the Critic – congratulations! You sounded quite surprised, in the episode, that you had got there. Was that because you didn’t think you’d put up with Mondy for that long? How are you feeling about the podcast at the moment? 

Thanks! I’m feeling pretty good about the podcast right now. We made some minor adjustments to the format so that we can be a bit more curatorial about the books we choose to pair together, rather than each of us simply recommending a book we like. Also, no longer constraining ourselves to picking books we have already read has been kind of liberating … especially for my To Be Read pile! It’s a little daunting as well, in that neither really want to spend half an hour bitching about a book we ended up hating, but we do make our selections in good faith, choosing books we are genuinely interested in reading and think we will enjoy. Of course, as with our latest episode, it doesn’t always work out that way! I also love the interaction we have with listeners and being on Patreon this year has been great for that. Our next episode is “Patron’s Choice” where some of our supporters on Patreon have nominated and voted for the books they’d like us to read. I’m really looking forward to that one.

And I see I’ve somewhat dodged your original question – ha! The only reason I didn’t think we’d make it to 50 episodes was that it covered such a long time period. We started recording eleven times a year, then only every second month for a while, so Episode 50 seemed a lifetime away. I wasn’t sure how long I’d have the stamina, especially once I started a PhD, but I’m glad we’re still recording. Ian, to his credit, seems indefatigable! I love chatting with with every month and coming across books I might not otherwise have thought to pick up. Having intelligent, in-depth conversations about books (whether I loved or loathed them) really is one of my favourite things to do in the world, and getting to have those conversations with a dear friend on a regular basis is brilliant. It’s like my own personal book club. Plus it makes me read non-PhD stuff and that’s a good thing.

Your novels Madigan Mine and Perfections recently got re-released by Twelfth Planet Press. How does it feel to see your older works (well, they’re not THAT old!) released back into the world? 

Yes, Madigan Mine was published in 2010 so not that old really! But it does feel a long time ago. I’m stoked that Twelfth Planet was able republish them both digitally as well as giving Perfections its first life as a physical book. I’m particularly grateful for the latter – Perfections had a troubled road to publication and was originally only available as an ebook with limited exposure, so it’s great to see it get a second chance, so to speak. That doesn’t come along too often in publishing.

You’re currently working on a PhD. You may be sick of answering this question, but what’s it on and have you been surprised yet by any of your research? 

It’s a creative PhD, so the core of it is a collection of re-visioned fairy tales which, as it happens, are all turning into novelettes. Research wise, I’m focusing on collaborative female relationships within narratives and I guess the surprise – though that word connotes delight, so perhaps it’s not quite the one I would use – is realising how pervasive the absence of these types of relationships really is, not just in fairy tales but in broader cultural narratives about real and fictional women. We don’t tend to tell a lot of stories where women (who might not even necessarily be friends) help one another or band together for a common purpose without animosity or acrimony –especially in a relationship which is defined in some way other than by a connection to a male character. Or else, when we do tell those stories, they tend not to be valued very highly or taken seriously by the larger culture. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I love the remake of Ghostbusters. For all its flaws, the collaborative relationship between those four women is the beating heart of that movie and it’s found an permanent place in mine. And Holtzmann. Oh my god, Holtzmann.

What Australian work have you loved recently?

Two novels spring immediately to mind: Lament for the Afterlife by Lisa Hannett and A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay. I adored both of them on all levels – intellectual, emotional and visceral – and think they’re both incredibly important and engaging books that should be widely read. Honestly, I’m still stunned by how damn good Lament is from a craft point of view; it’s one of those books that make me … not wish that I had written it precisely … but wish that I had written something like it. And Single Stone, well, I still tear up thinking about certain aspects of it. Highly, highly recommend them both.

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

Oh my goodness, what an opportunity that would be. I cannot choose a living author as that would feel way too much like stalking, so I’m going to nominate Shirley Jackson and Angela Carter. I’d tell Shirley that she has written the best opening paragraph to a novel EVER (The Haunting of Hill House). I’d tell Angela how her versions of fairy tales have edged me along the same fascinating path. All three of us would drink pre-mixed G&Ts and chat about ghosts and the gothic and fairy tales and feminism and the magic of words until we were completely sozzled and cackling like wise old crones while flagging down flight attendants to bring us more cheese and crackers. Can it be a flight all the way to Europe? Please?

FarScape: s1, e9

Farscape rewatch

Each week on a Sunday afternoon, join Alex (of Randomly Yours, Alex) and Katharine (of the unpronounceable Ventureadlaxre), as they re-watch the Australian-American sci-fi show Farscape, notable for the Jim Henson animatronic puppets, the excellent mish-mash of accents, and the best OTP ship of all time.

Season One, Episode Nine: DNA Mad Scientist

A scientist promises a way home for the lost wayfarers, but of course all is not as it appears. Friction results within our merry band…

A: EW NEEDLES IN EYES gross.

Continue reading →

2016 Snapshot: Tehani Wessely

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LogoTehani Wessely was a founding member of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine in 2001 and started FableCroft Publishing in 2010. Now firmly entrenched in Australian speculative fiction and independent press, she has edited for Twelfth Planet Press (among other duties), has judged for the Aurealis Awards, CBCA Book of the Year and the WA Premier’s Book Awards, reads far more in one genre than is healthy, and writes reviews, non-fiction and interviews. In her spare moments, she works as a secondary school Teacher Librarian.

A while ago you suggested that FableCroft might be slowing down, but you’ve recently put out both In Your Face and The Rebirth of Rapunzel. Is this a case of interesting projects just coming your way and being unavoidable? 

I’m pretty sure both those projects were already on the books by the time we had that conversation, which probably explains them, though it’s not uncommon for me to think I’m ready to take a break then come across a bunch of great projects I HAVE TO DO. There’s been a few big changes in my life recently, though, so FableCroft is on a slow down right now and I’m not too sure what the final outcome will be. I won’t call it hiatus, because I’m actively working on one book and potentially have at least two others on the cards, but as you can see from the submissions guidelines on our website, I’m not reading for anything else and I certainly won’t be planning any anthologies or other types of submission calls in the immediate future. A lot will depend on what happens over the next six months, so it’s a bit of wait and see. I’m starting to work a bit more on reviews again (see my ActiveReviews tag on my blog) and am looking at other creative outlets as well, while I mark a bit of time…

In Your Face coverIn Your Face might be described as a brave anthology, dealing as it does with controversial themes and ideas. What value do you see in exploring such topics in fiction? What was it like editing such an anthology? 

I found this book both incredibly challenging and incredibly rewarding to work on. So many of the stories are very personal to the authors who wrote them, and I felt very grateful they were willing to entrust them to me. This also made the editing process more personal, but I was very lucky in that most of the stories were absolutely beautifully done, and needed very little work. I think the value of presenting such stories is immeasurable, and I hope that every reader will find something that resonates for them. It’s not an easy book to read (and I don’t recommend trying to do it in one big chunk) but it is worthwhile.

Rapunzel CoverThe Rebirth of Rapunzel was quite a different book for Fablecroft, being mostly non-fiction. What drew you to such a project? Is this an avenue that you’re interested in Fablecroft continuing to explore? 

I blame Sean Williams for this – the thing is, writers are pretty good at what they do, even when the writing they are doing is compiling research. I read Sean’s PhD exegesis on matter transmission (which was awesome) and it made me think about all the fantastic authors I know who have done / are doing creative PhDs, and wonder if any might have similar works on their own topics that they might like to see published. Funnily enough, there are quite a few of them! I still hope to be able to do Sean’s exegesis, and I have a couple of others in my hands for consideration as well. I’m not sure it’s a terribly financially viable project, but it’s certainly one I’m enjoying.

What Australian work have you loved recently?

My favourite question! I have list… Vigil by Angela Slatter is fantastic and I’m excited to see where she takes the character next; I thoroughly enjoyed CS Pacat’s Captive Prince trilogy; I was delighted to see a new instalment in Tansy Rayner Robert’s superhero world with the story “Kid Dark Against The Machine”; revisiting Livia Day’s Café La Femme series last week was great fun; I FINALLY read Garth Nix’s Sabriel series this year (I know, I can’t believe it took me this long either!); Welcome to Orphancorp by Marlee Jane Ward was astonishingly good and I’m so glad I got a story from her for In Your FaceMagrit by Lee Battersby is perhaps the darkest and best children’s novel I’ve ever read; and this year I read for the WA Premier’s Book Awards, so powered through several dozen Aussie YA books too, which I can’t really discuss. But check out my Goodreads page and ActiveReviews to check out what I’m reading!

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

This is actually a really hard question, because how do you pick just one?! Hmmm. Okay, I’ll go with Anne McCaffrey, because she’s been my best and favourite for such a long time, and I wish I’d had the chance to meet her.

2016Snapshot: Paul Weimer

SnaphotLogo2016paulweimerpic.jpgAn ex-pat New Yorker living in Minnesota, Paul Weimer has been reading sci-fi and fantasy for over 30 years. An avid and enthusiastic amateur photographer, blogger and podcaster, Paul primarily contributes to the Skiffy and Fanty Show as blogger and podcaster, and the SFF Audio podcast, as well as other places. If you’ve spent any time reading about SFF online, you’ve probably read one of his blog comments or tweets (he’s @PrinceJvstin).

You’ve got a story coming out soon in Fox Spirit Books’ Eve of War – congrats! What’s it about and how does it feel to be in this anthology? 

Actually the anthology is out now! The Eve of War anthology, a follow up to the TALES OF EVE anthology, looks at women in combat and war.

My story is called “The Crossing” and is a low fantasy sword and sorcery fantasy about a commander faced with the difficulty of defending a kingdom already on the ropes against an enemy that…well, that would be telling.

How does it feel to be in such an anthology? I don’t write enough fiction, and my fictional path is much slower than my non-fictional path. So it feels good, very good, to be in an anthology with the likes of Juliet McKenna and Adrian Tchiaovsky, among many other worthies.

A lot of people were sad to see SF Signal close, a venue that you had a lot to do with and which Australians often felt supported by. How are you feeling about this change, and has it actually changed the way you interact with or think about the SF scene yet?

I am still coming to terms with the loss of SF Signal. It was sudden and surprising, even to those of us relatively on the inside. I had been part of SF Signal for over 6 years at the time of its closing. Although The Functional Nerds had been the first venue to, in the words of Hamilton, to give me my shot, it is at SF Signal that my voice found audience, with Americans, Europeans, and as you say, Australians. And in turn, especially through Mind Melds, I became more connected with people across the world.

I do feel that the loss of that major venue has changed my voice, somewhat, and its a void in the community. SF Signal WAS a major clearinghouse for a lot of SF news and information, as well as having features of its own. Not having it there as a hub has made my personal mission of linking stuff on the internet a little harder, and its made me realize how fragile this community can be when a major venue goes silent.

As part of SF Signal you wrote essays and engaged in the genre really thoughtfully. Do you have plans to keep doing so? 

As a matter of fact, YES. I’ve written one essay already for Tor.com, and I am also doing work for BN Sci Fi. And of course, I write reviews and columns for Skiffy and Fanty. SF Signal’s departure from the scene means that my work is more spread out, but looking at my to-be-written pile, it’s not reduced. If anything, I have more to write than ever!

What Australian work have you loved recently?

Although they came out a few years ago, I’ve been delving into the early Pellinor novels of Alison Croggon (recommended to me by author Courtney Schafer). I’m happy to broaden my horizons, as most of the fantasy I’ve read out of Australia has been by men (Ian Irvine in particular). So as part of my mission to read more women and support women writers, getting in an Australia connection keeps me up on the work at the antipodes.

Also in that vein, there is fantastist Ben Peek, whose The Godless and Leviathan’s Blood are extremely interesting epic fantasy. How can I, map lover and digital map maker, resist a book with a cartographer as a main character?

Does the anthology work of Jonathan Strahan count? If so, I have been lately extremely enjoying his anthology work like Reach for Infinity and his Best of the Year series, and I am looking forward to digging into his big fat anthology on Alastair Reynolds soon.

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

Long plane trips are not something I enjoy, and only take when I have no other choice (like my November trip to Rome, and my 2014 trip to London, and when I go to Helsinki next year). Being stuck inside a flying box is not my idea of a good time. So if I had an author to sit next to me and talk to, and keep my mind off of the rigors of plane travel, that would be most excellent. I’d want someone intelligent, well spoken and personable. And someone whose work I love, so that at the very least I can talk to the author about that. So I’d go with Octavia Butler.

Crossposted, along with all the other 2016 Snapshots, to the Snapshot blog.

 

 

2016 Snapshot: Lucy Sussex

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Lucy Sussex was born in New Zealand. She has published widely, having edited five anthologies, written five short story collections, and the award-winning neo-Victorian novel, The Scarlet Rider (reprinted 2015). Her Blockbuster!: Fergus Hume and the Mystery of a Hansom Cab (Text) won the 2015 Victorian Community History Award.

The pic shows Sussex and Prof Chris Browne in costume for a Fergus Hume walk, last July, for Rare.

One of your most recent works is Victorian Blockbuster: Fergus Hume and The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, which has been getting some good reviews around the place. What brought you to Hume’s story, and what kept your interest as you researched him and his work?

Actually Blockbuster!, because Victorian means different things in different contexts. Yes, good review in Washington Post, to my astonishment.

I knew about Hume when I was working as a researcher for Stephen Knight on his history of crime fiction in Australia. There was clearly a story behind the HANSOM CAB becoming the best-selling crime novel of the 1800s, but it wasn’t to be found. Then the digitisation of newspapers revealed the tale–and what a saga it was. Brilliant marketing, bank fraud, copycat murder, gay blackmail. It got more and more interesting as I joined the dots

Similarly, you’ve done a lot of work in investigating female crime writers of the nineteenth century. What value do you see in this ‘literary archaeology’?
We really ought to know about these women, how tough, productive and simply talented they were. They’d been elided from the HIStories. I put them back in.
Have you discovered things that surprised you?
Well, Mary Fortune, who wrote the longest early crime serial (1868-1908) in Australia, was a bigamist with a career criminal son. That completely upsets notions of Victorian values.

You’ve written in a variety of genres – including crime, fantasy, science fiction, and non-fiction varieties too. Is there one genre you’re hoping to write more of in the coming years?
If I can get my hybrid crime/fantasy/quantum physics/neo-Victorian novel into print, I’ll do more of the same
Are there genres that you feel you haven’t explored sufficiently yet?
See above.

What Australian work have you loved recently?
I like a lot of stuff I’ve seen recently. Liam Moriaty. Kaaron Warren. The late lamented Paul Haines.

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

Probably Sensation novelist Mary Braddon, an ex-actress who had five illegitimate children with her publisher and managed to be a best-seller in the middle of the Victorian era. She was fun.

Crossposted to Australian Snapshot, along with the other interviews!

2016Snapshot: Cheryl Morgan

SnaphotLogo2016CMM-03.jpgCheryl Morgan is a writer, editor, critic, publisher, radio presenter and expert on trans history. She has no idea how she managed to end up with so many interests, and often wishes that there were more hours in the day, but at least she is never bored. Cheryl is of Welsh ancestry and currently lives in the English portion of the Disunited Kingdom. She has formerly lived in Australia and California, and very much wishes she had been able to stay in either of those places.

At a recent con in Finland (so jealous) you presented a panel on Trans Representation. Do you think that panels along these lines have become easier to present, or more generally accepted, in the last few years? Does it seem like people are more interested in discussing genuine diversity of gender? 

I’m not sure. I remember doing a trans panel at the Toronto Worldcon in 2003 and there were something like 8 people in the audience. LGBT panels at Finncon and Archipelacon have been packed out. I was a bit worried about a trans-only one, but we got a very good crowd (I have asked for numbers). So from that point of view things are looking good.

On the other hand, those panels happen because the Finns trust Suzanne van Rooyen and I to do a good job, and they have firm evidence of demand. I’m not sure that the same panels would work elsewhere. My local convention, BristolCon, doesn’t have them, but that’s because it is a one-day event with only two program rooms and an enormous amount of competition for program slots. I don’t know whether an Eastercon would run such a thing.

Something you’re currently involved with is presenting a show on the radio station Ujima. What does the radio show let you do? And what’s it like preparing for a regular show like that?

Being a presenter on Ujima is a great privilege. The station broadcasts mainly to the Afro-Caribbean community in Bristol, and I certainly don’t fit that demographic. However, the station management, and in particular my Producer, Paulette North, have a commitment to diversity. Having a trans woman fronting a women’s interest show appeals to them.

My main job on the show is to showcase feminist issues, which I am very happy to do. I’m also encouraged to do features about books. That enables me to run interviews with many famous authors, and a bunch of talented locals. I have to branch out of the SF&F field occasionally for the show, but that’s probably good for me. Finally I have to fill my diversity role by talking about LGB, and particularly Trans, issues.

A two hour radio show might not sound like much work, but it is. It can take me a couple of days to find all of the guests and research questions to ask them. I also have to decide what music to play. And although the show is only 2 hours long the studio is in Bristol, so doing the show takes up much of the day with far more travel than air time.

It is, of course, tremendous fun. Had you told teenage me that I would one day have my own radio show I would have laughed at you and said that dreams like that don’t come true.

On your blog you’ve talked a bit about the trials and tribulations you face with Wizard’s Tower Press, and especially the inability to have the Bookstore because of EU changes. Where do you see the Press going in the future? 

Thanks to the hard work of Juliet McKenna and her colleagues, we are starting to get somewhere with the VAT issue. It is now legal to sell ebooks without charging VAT if you email the book to the customer rather than allow them to download it direct from a website. I know that sounds stupid, but that’s the way government bureaucracies work. In the longer term the EU does want to sort this out, but as 52% of my fellow Brits have just thrown a gigantic spanner in the works no one has any idea of over what timescales that will happen, or if the UK will be affected.

Meanwhile I am definitely planning to do more books. I can use Kickstarter and Patreon now. Watch this space.

What Australian work have you loved recently?

Well obviously I am very fond of Letters to Tiptree and Galactic Suburbia, but that’s kind of incestuous. I do have a copy of Angela Slatter’s Of Sorrow And Such waiting to be read, and I’m looking forward to that. What I have read is an early ARC of Foz Meadows’ debut novel, An Accident of Stars. I’m slightly reluctant to pass judgement as the book was clearly still in the process of being edited, but there’s some really good material in there and I very much like how Foz handled the trans character.

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

Hmm, that’s a hard one. I can think of quite a few authors I’d like to spend time chatting too (Cat Valente, M John Harrison, Ursula Le Guin, Joanna Russ, Octavia Butler, Gene Wolfe, for example), but I suspect that over a long plane trip I would end up feeling embarrassed and stupid because they are so much smarter than I am.

I would appreciate a chance to catch up with Neil Gaiman, because although we have known each other for decades he’s so much in demand that when we are in the same place together we rarely get time for more than a few minutes chat. Then again, knowing Neil he probably looks forward to long plane trips as an opportunity to get some writing done.

So I think I will go for China Mieville. We have a lot of interests in common besides fiction. Also all of the other women on the plane would be incredibly jealous of me.

Crossposted, along with all the other Snapshot interviews, at the Snapshot blog.

2016 Snapshot: Jonathan Strahan

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Jonathan Strahan is an award-winning editor, anthologist, and podcaster. Since 1997 he has has edited more than fifty anthologies including The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the YearInfinityNew Space Opera, and Eclipse anthology series. He is the recipient of the World Fantasy Award, a three-time winner of the Locus Award, a four-time winner of the Aurealis Award, and an ten-time Hugo Award nominee.  He is the reviews editor of Locus, and the co-host of The Coode Street Podcast. He lives in Perth, Western Australia with his wife and their two daughters. (Photo by Cat Sparks; used with permission.)

Your new anthology of originals is Drowned Worlds, with authors confronting the prospect of, as the title suggests, Earth drowning. What led you to imagine such a theme for an anthology, and has it turned out like you expected? 

Every book changes as you work on it, shifts and changes in your hands before you finally deliver it to the publisher. A lot of that has to do with communicating with authors and how they bring their own worldview to the challenge you’ve placed before them. Drowned Worlds is a good example of this. It started out simply as a book of stories that featured inundated landscapes. I’d recently read Paul McAuley’s story “The Choice”, which features a drowned England, and then picked up a copy of Ballard’s The Drowned World, which is hypnotic, powerful and crazy. I thought a book of stories in that space could be fun. That was my inspiration. It quickly became clear that the authors saw Drowned Worlds as a climate change challenge, and one story after another took us there. One even managed to do it by leaving the ‘drowning’ off camera, and showing us a parched landscape in a world where rising sea levels had radically changed everything. So it didn’t turn out at all like I expected. It didn’t even strictly hit the original theme, but I’m very happy with it. Why? I think it touches on a nerve, is timely, and shows what writers are focussed on right now. That’s a good thing.

You edited your tenth volume of the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year for Solaris Books this year. What do you see as the main value of such an endeavour, and what sort of audience are you imagining when you put the table of contents together?

The first book I edited was a year’s best anthology. That was back in 1997, so I’ve been doing this for nearly twenty years. I think the essential value of ‘year’s best’ anthologies as a project remains unchanged. They serve as simple one-stop shops for readers, where readers can find some of the best stories of the year in a single book. Given the incredible variety of places where stories get published, I think that’s valuable. I think they serve as books of record. There always is a varying number of ‘year’s bests’ being published, but collectively they tend to provide a good record of what the field has been doing over time. You wouldn’t want to rely on a single series to give you that overview, but collectively they do a good job of recording the history of SF/F. I think they also stand as one reader’s record of the history of the field. Gardner Dozois’ nearly 40 year long library of SF, my own 20 year long one, and others give readers a picture of the field from one perspective, which is interesting. And finally they can be a tool for change over long periods of time. An editor, if lucky, can mount an argument over many years about what excellence is in SF/F and that can have an effect. And, perhaps less pretentiously, they are pretty good reading value. As to what sort of audience? Hmm. I suppose a blend of me (we can only read from our own perspective after all), and an idealised notion of a reader who is interested in the SF/F field who has a broad taste. I edit a best science fiction and fantasy. By it’s nature, it’s a book less interested in definitions, more willing to tolerate ambiguity and strangeness, and the reader I imagine wanting my books is a reader who considers that a good thing.

Bridging Infinity is planned for later this year (2016), and Infinity Wars for next year. You’ve edited original anthologies, best-ofs, and author collections, as well as short stories for various venues. Do you see yourself continuing to work across a variety of projects for the future? Are there authors you’d really like to collect, or themed anthologies you’re desperate to pitch?

I do. I can’t imagine just doing one thing, but editing original anthologies, year’s bests, single-author collections, reviews and so on helps to keep editing fresh and new for me. In terms of authors I’d like to collect, there are so many! From Keith Roberts and Howard Waldrop, to Margo Lanagan and Elizabeth Hand, there are many many short fiction writers I’d like to see properly collected and presented to readers. I’m hoping Geoff Ryman’s “100 African Writers” project will also see more new books coming from the many African nations that are producing great writers. As to anthologies, I don’t know. I’m actually thinking on that right now.

What Australian work have you loved recently?

I’ve read a few things I’ve really loved. Greg Egan’s “The Four Thousand, the Eight Hundred” is a really powerful piece of science fiction that came out last December and should in my opinion have won all sorts of awards. Sadly, it hasn’t so far. I really enjoyed Angela Slatter’s debut novel Vigil, and just finished Garth Nix’s latest Old Kingdom novel, Goldenhand, which was smart and funny and moving and absolutely wonderful. I also loved James Bradley’s terrific novel Clade.   There has been other stuff, but those stand out.

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

I don’t know. I’m tempted to say Garth Nix, because he’s already a good friend, or Sean Williams. Um. Robert Heinlein, I think. Why? Because he was so fundamental to me as a young reader and young person growing up. I’d love to have been able to sit down and talk to him about his worldview and his books. I think a good long flight – hopefully in First Class – would give me a chance to talk to him about those stories that I loved so much and to get a feeling for the person behind the stories.

Crossposted to the Snapshot blog, along with all the other interviews. 

2016 Snapshot: Lisa L Hannett

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Lisa L HannettLisa L. Hannett has had over 60 short stories appear in venues including Clarkesworld, Fantasy, Weird Tales, Apex, the Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror, and Imaginarium: Best Canadian Speculative Writing. She has won four Aurealis Awards, including Best Collection for her first book, Bluegrass Symphony, which was also nominated for a World Fantasy Award. Her first novel, Lament for the Afterlife, was published in 2015. You can find her online at http://lisahannett.com and on Twitter @LisaLHannett

You recently won the Ditmar Award for Best Novel for Lament for the Afterlife – congratulations! What’s the response been like to this novel, and what was it like to write?

Thanks! I was (and continue to be) so chuffed that Lament won a Ditmar for Best Novel; it was a wonderful and surreal experience hosting the awards ceremony at Natcon this year, having no idea who the winners would be, and then announcing my own name in that category! More importantly, though, it felt really special to receive this nod from my peers, especially since Lament is my first novel.

lamentfortheafterlifeWriting this book was a fascinating challenge, to be honest. At one of the launches, I mentioned that Lament was a complicated response to my perhaps naïve question: “Why war?” and that’s still how I think of it. I am perpetually interested in war stories — particularly wars that seem futile, or that drag on endlessly, or that seem hopeless — and I’m also constantly attracted to narratives exploring ideas of masculinity and/or what it means to “be a man”, which is no doubt also one of the reasons I’m so hooked on researching and writing about the Viking Age. I’m always wondering what happens to the regular folks when they’re confronted with huge social upheavals, and I’m also interested in the power of language to effect change (for better or worse). So, bearing all this in mind, working on Lament meant I was immersed in a bunch of topics that I find so absorbing, which made writing it — well, I won’t say fun because it was sometimes really hard, especially when dealing with such harrowing material. (The footage I watched of WWI soldiers suffering from shellshock while researching this story will be burned into my memory forever.) But it was engrossing, and putting this story together certainly made me grow as a writer. The book’s unconventional structure meant that I could write Peytr’s life narrative out of sequence, which I’d never attempted before, and that also opened up a lot of possibilities in terms of characterisation, plot, and world building. It also meant I avoided the mid-novel slump, since I wrote the middle of the novel after writing everything but the final chapter. It’s a bleak story, so people who are after a cheerful escape won’t necessarily find it’s up their alley, but I couldn’t in good conscience write this story in any other way.

One of the best responses I got was from my editor at ChiZine, who said she was bawling her eyes out at the end, which was the perfect reaction in my opinion. Another brilliant surprise I got was listening to the Writer & The Critic’s “Fab 50” episode and hearing Kirstyn McDermott (whose writing I admire immensely) pick it as her #1! That was pretty exciting. Of course, it was so great seeing Lament get positive reviews on Kirkus, i09, Publishers Weekly, SF Signal and to see it longlisted for the Sunburst Award in Canada. But probably the very best responses have been from soldiers who’ve read the book, given it five stars, then said I’d nailed the guys’ sweary voices, the overall tone, the confusion and dread and boredom of being on the frontlines, and so on. Man, that was as much an honour as it was a relief.

You and Angela Slatter have collaborated on a number of collections in Australia, such as The Female Factory, and these works are quite different for you both. How do you go about writing those stories?

In many ways, Angela and I have such different interests in reading and writing — she’s an enormous crime buff, for instance, and can write a cracking mystery tale, whereas I love reading and watching crime stories but don’t know if I’d ever write one; she’s got such a strong commercial voice, whereas I love veering off into experimental narrative structures; she’s often drawn to writing strong female characters, which I also love doing, but I find myself often depicting vulnerable men — but we have so very many interests in common (mythology, history, fairy tales, etc etc etc) there’s always a place where our styles and ideas can overlap.

When it came to writing The Female Factory, Alisa had given us the challenge of creating Science Fiction pieces (which neither of us do overly much) so it was fantastic having two minds on the job! We brainstormed as much for that collection, I’d say, as we did when writing Midnight and Moonshine, even though that book was about three times longer. No matter what we’re working on together — whether it’s stories about raven-women and Norse gods or about kids cobbling a mother together out of stolen body parts — we always discuss the main ideas, character arcs and plot points together before starting a project. Then, usually, one of us writes the opening, or a key scene, or something crucial to kick things off. Once there are words on the page, we pass the document back and forth between us — adding bits, deleting bits, editing each other’s paragraphs, building on them — until we’ve got the whole thing drafted. This process sometimes takes up to ten drafts, which is many more than we do when working on stories individually. Mostly this is because we’re perfectionists, but also because we’re communicating so clearly and extensively throughout the drafting process; we add loads of comment bubbles explaining the changes we’ve made, and why, so that we’re both on the same page and aiming for the same narrative goals. Also, by the time we’ve gone through this many drafts, the “voice” of the piece no longer seems to be either just Angela’s or just mine. Instead, it’s a third voice that you won’t find in our individual projects — and I think that’s an important feature of our collaborations. Most of all, our partnership works because we’re so open to discussion, we’re not precious about being edited, and because we trust each other implicitly.

You often seem to have a lot of projects on the go at the same time. What’s the most exciting one you’re working on at the moment?

I’ll narrow it down to two because I’m equally excited about them! I’m a whisker away from finishing the edits on my next collection, The Homesteaders, which is a sort of follow-up book to Bluegrass Symphony. Backwoods witches, immortal soothsayers, bear-shaped child-stealers, raven-shaped miners, and lots of ghosts appear in these short stories, and they’re all tinged with a down-home country twang. I’m also doing rewrites on my next novel, Ketill’s Daughter, which is the first in a two-book series called The Invisible Woman. Set in Viking Age Norway, this first book tells the early story of Unn the Deep-Minded — wife of one king, mother to a second, and eventually a famous Viking herself — as she struggles to find her own fame and fate in this warrior world, all while her shape-shifting time-travelling fylgja (a kind of spirit guide) keeps butting in to mess things up for her… The second book in the series (called Deep-Minded) will follow Unn out of Norway into medieval Ireland, Scotland, and finally Iceland.

What Australian work have you loved recently?

Alison Goodman’s Lady Helen / The Dark Days Club is such a rollicking read! I enjoyed it so much, I’m dying to read the next book in the series. James Bradley’s Clade was an astounding work of speculative fiction, and though I read it last year, I still think about it frequently. Another Book One I devoured last year was Kim Wilkins’ Daughters of the Storm; I’m hanging out for Sisters of the Fire! And of course, Angela Slatter’s Vigil: it’s a really fun urban fantasy set in Brisbane, and I gulped it down almost whole.

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

Well, they’d have to be outgoing enough to kick off the conversation because, usually, I’m one of those people on planes who’s like, I don’t care how close together our seats are: please don’t talk to me I just want to read my book and watch a crappy movie and hopefully fall asleep. BUT, assuming I was in a chatty mood … and excluding any writers who are currently my friends (because how to choose only one?!) … I’m going to go with the first name that pops into my mind, and that’s David Malouf. I’ve recently re-read Ransom, which is an incredible reimagining of the story of King Priam, Hector, and Achilles, and good lord it’s a brilliant book — as brilliant as An Imaginary Life, really — and I’d love to have a long talk with him about it, antiquity, poetry, myths, short stories, the libretti he’s written, the great breadth of his knowledge about language, life, the universe, and everything — and I’d also like to ask him where he’s stashed the painting that’s ageing on his behalf (because, seriously, how is it possible that he’s 82? He looks at least twenty years younger. Witchcraft, I say! Or a supernatural portrait.)

Crossposted to the Snapshot blog, along with all the other interviews. 

2016Snapshot: Katharine Stubbs

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In the past, Katharine has been mentor and municipal liaison for NaNoWriMo (2005-2012), was the Northern Territory judge of the CBCA Book of the Year Awards for 2013/14, and is currently the Judging Coordinator for the Aurealis Awards. 

Youve recently taken over as the chief organiser of the Aurealis Awards – congratulations – and youve been involved as a judge for quite a long time. What value do you see in these awards?

Thank you! I don’t think it’ll be something I can manage for very long, there is so much work behind the scenes that it’s a little overwhelming. Tehani Wessely has been doing such an amazing job though, and she’s trained me well – and she’s still a few pixels away from helping me with further advice!

The value I see is having a group of people not only read the same works, but the collection of works from the entire year and be able to see both what we have to offer in that genre but also how it stacks up in general against each other, in an all-encompassing way. The more people on a panel the better in a way, to get as much of a balanced and invested view as possible, whilst also still making it manageable for the publishers or authors submitting copies, and the convenors managing their panels. We have a number of other awards in Australia but not all are judged by a panel – they can be judged by the public or members to a particular convention or group, which means that while the pool of voters is much, much larger, they may not have read the entire scope of what’s eligible for that year – hence the different results over the different awards. I like that the Aurealis Awards makes it as manageable as possible to read everything that’s eligible – we really push for everything that’s eligible to be entered as early as possible – and the discussions that come from this are grand.

It certainly makes it easier for the public who may not have the time or desire to read a hundred books a year, to have a shortlist to dive into!

Youve done a lot of work as an intern for two Aussie indie presses, Fablecroft and Twelfth Planet Press. What drew you to wanting to be involved in these two endeavours?

I think it started out as just wanting to be helpful in general, and from there it’s expanded into taking on small projects here and there, handling the slush pile and taking pitches, and being mentored in how to proof and edit manuscripts. It’s all so interesting and I’m really passionate about doing it all full time one day – I can dream, at least! I love that indie press can do projects you’d rarely see from big publishers, and that authors have more say in what goes into their book as a whole – the graphic designs and the media. It’s such a nice step between the big publishers and really high quality self-publishing – more say in your book without having to do all the work! Indie publishers are also so much more a labour of love, too. We’re certainly not there for the pay (though the tea and chocolate is lovely!)

What plans do you have for future involvement in the Australian science fiction scene? 

Oh, goodness only knows. I’d love to be part of a comeback of a ASIF https://aussiespecficinfocus.wordpress.com/ style website, and really push more media on the excellent books we have here – especially from small press and self-published works.

As for anything else it’s a little hard, still, being stuck up in a remote part of Australia away from all the action – there’s so much I can do online, but it keeps me safe from doing anything really crazy, like joining a concomm. I’m happy seeing what comes in the next few years and flailing madly for volunteering when it happens. I still feel quite new and like I should keep quiet as I don’t know enough to do much… but I think I’d love to edit an anthology one day.

What Australian work have you loved recently?

Hrm, what have I read so far this year? I’m part of a re-read of the Twelve Planets series by Twelfth Planet Press, where we read and review one book each month. Some I read when they first came out so it’s been a few years, and some I never actually got around to reading so it’s been excellent so far! What else… The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman – that was very enjoyable and I can’t wait for book two. The Ghost by the Billabong by Jackie French had a few speculative aspects, and I was sobbing by the end of it so I totally got attached to the poor characters. Squid’s Grief by DK Mok, and Vigil by Angela Slatter were both so engaging I couldn’t put them down, and I read them as quickly as possible – I loved the characters so much, and I was so happy when DK told me I’d probably be able to hug her main character without getting stabbed – that’s exciting. Defying Doomsday anthology edited by Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench absolutely blew me away and I really, really hope we get some novels spawned from some of those short stories.

Other than that I’m really looking forward to Sisters of the fire by Kim Wilkins, If Blood Should Stain the Wattle by Jackie French, Swarm by our magical trio, Den of Wolves from Juliet Marillier… and countless other things. This is another awesome aspect of working with the Aurealis Awards, it’s impossible to miss what’s coming out! (But a little more impossible to have time to read it all!)

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

Charles M. Schulz (creator of the Peanuts comic strip, Snoopy, etc) is such an amazing creator. He counts as speculative fiction, right? C’mon, Snoopy thought he was a WWI flying ace fighting the red baron! Jim C. Hines would agree with me.

Fine, after all the work we’ve done for Letters to Tiptree, I think I’d have to say Alice Sheldon. I’m not entirely sure that she’d want to talk to me, but I’d love to hear her just talk about opinions about just about anything. Or if someone was sitting next to her so I could listen in on their conversation. Hang on, since it’s a long plane trip, surely I can say that I’m sitting in the middle of a set of four seats on say, an British Airways A380-800 flying from Singapore to London on my way to Helsinki Worldcon 2017, right?

So let’s say I’d like Joanna Russ to be seated in Row 25D, Alice Sheldon in 25E, I’ll take 25F, and Charles Schulz in 25G. That flight would go by so fast. I wonder what movies they’d all put on?

Crossposted to the 2016 Snapshot blog, along with all the other interviews. 

Galactic Suburbia: Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters (2016) Spoilerific!

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Was it better than the original? Did we love it or hate it? Was it appropriate for a 6 year old? If you want the new Ghostbusters movie thoroughly Spoiled, who you gonna call?

You can get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

Some links to other think pieces/reviews:

Ghostbusters is Still Haunted by Negative Racial Tropes (Polygon)

The Clothes of Ghostbusters (Women Write About Comics)

Ghostbusters 1984 vs Ghostbusters 2006 (Book Smugglers)

Not discussed but interesting: the clothes of Ghostbustersthe clothes of Ghostbustersthe clothes of Ghostbusters

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, 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!

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