Tag Archives: 2012snapshot

Snapshot 2012: a final word

I found it really hard to personally keep up with all of the interviews that were conducted over the Snapshot week; turns out there were something like 158, so I don’t feel too bad about that. Happily, the awesome Tehani has done a great job at collating the links for all of the interviews, which can be found here, at ASif! If you want to get a feel for some of the interviews without reading all of them, Ben did an amazing job of picking a quote or two from each interview, assembling and linking them in what amounts to a snapshot of the Snapshot, which can be found over on his blog. 

I’m really pleased with how this turned out! Now someone needs to run the numbers for us and work out the trends, particularly for question 4 – who people are reading – and 5 – what’s changed in two years. I don’t think I’m volunteering  😀

Snapshot 2012: DM Cornish

An illustrator by training and a deeply unrepentant word-nerd, D.M.Cornish is old enough to have seen the very first Star Wars. From such delighted flights of fancy he has developed an almost habitual outlet for his passion of word conjuring through the invention of secondary worlds and in particular the vast and dangerous Half-Continent. A foruitous encounter with children’s publisher, Omnibus Books, gave him an opportunity to develop these ideas further. A thousand words at a time, this has lead to the writing and illustrating of the Monster-Blood Tattoo series – Foundling, Lamplighter and Factotum.

In 2010 you had a story included in the anthology Legends of Australian Fantasy, edited by Jonathan Strahan and Jack Dann. What was it like being included in an anthology with the likes of Sean Williams and Isobelle Carmody? And did you enjoy the opportunity to explore the Half-continent, initially created in your trilogy of novels focussed on the young character Rossamünd, from a different perspective?

It was an honour to be asked to contribute and an honour to be included amongst such lights as Sean and Isobelle: though I have such a thick and purple way of writing I fear some readers who were the for Isobelle or Sean or Ian etc might have found my own story a bit “lumpy”.

It was a delight to write from not just one but several different points of perspective about the Half-Continent, to tell a simpler tale with all adult characters not limited by their youth or social station.

Your (first, hopefully!) trilogy, formerly Monster Blood Tattoo and now often known as The Foundling’s Tale, was also completed in 2010. What was it like to have all three books out into the wide world? What sort of reception has the trilogy as a whole received?

It feels good, though kind of remote too: they have a life of their own where ever so often a reader contacts me with encouragement that lets me know the story is finding a good home somewhere.

Probably the change of series title from Book 2 to Book 3 in the USA has not helped its cause there, but here is Oz it has done okay. I did not perhaps take the story to places some were hoping for and can see myself now how I might have done things better

On your blog you have mentioned that you’re working on a new novel, which may or may not turn into a multi-volume series, that is definitely not about Rossamünd. Can you tell us who the focus is instead? Is it still set on the Half-continent?

It is indeed still set in the Half-Continent and it focuses on a very very minor character from the third book of Monster-Blood Tattoo, Factotum, who becomes a protagonist unto himself and has adventures all of his own. I am finding that he is in some ways a successor to Rossamünd, that the themes of MBT are carrying on in this new fellow’s story, though he is older – in his twenties and has a sense of direction and control over his life that Rossamünd never felt in MBT.

HINT: for those who have read Factotum, the character I am writing about now makes an appearance in MBT 3 based upon his ability to draw.

What Australian works have you loved recently?

Well, as lame as this is going to sound, I have not been doing a whole lot of reading for a little while now, but there is one beautiful gem that has got me fascinated, Anywhere But Earth, an anthology jammed with the luminaries of the Oz spec-fic scene.

Also, I very much loved the animated version of Mr You-rock-sir Tan’s The Lost Thing.

Two years on from Aussiecon 4, the World Convention held in Melbourne in 2010, what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?

Now that I cannot answer – I sit in a room on my own making up stuff and rarely poke my head out to test the wind’s direction. So, shame on me, I can only offer a shrug.

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






Snapshot 2012: Grant Watson

Grant Watson is a writer, critic and playwright. While in the past his professional writing has included copious amounts of speculative fiction, in recent years he has shifted to more down-to-earth matters (including his award-winning 2009 play Cry Havoc). As a fan he has been attending and organising fan clubs and conventions since 1991. He likes Doctor Who, Blake’s 7, Alien 3 – as well as arguing with people who don’t sufficiently appreciate Alien 3. He blogs at angriest.blogspot.com and podcasts at Bad Film Diaries and Panel2Panel.

You’ve been working on the Bad Film Diaries podcast for a couple of years now, originally by yourself and more recently with Sonia; you’ve also been recording a podcast about comics, Panel2Panel, with Kitty. What do you get out of doing podcasts, and what has the response to them been? 

Well of late I’ve been remarkably tardy with my podcasts due to illness, so at the moment I suppose I’m not getting much out of them at all! I think podcasts are marvellous things: basically they’re old school radio, only you can listen to it whenever you want and it’s always about the stuff you’re actually interested in. The big advantage they have over other mediums (particularly actual written bits of criticism) is that there’s no ambiguity over tone. You can be funny with podcasts, you can rant and rave, you can do all the sorts of things that are often quite hard to express in text but when spoken aloud become remarkably easy.

They also feel a lot more personal – particularly the conversational ones such as Shooting the Poo, The Writer and the Critic or (of course) Galactic Suburbia. By hearing *how* someone says something, rather than simply paying attention to the words said, you get a much better insight to where they are coming from.

I really enjoy the conversational aspect of my own podcasts: talking about films with Sonia or comics with Kitty is highly illuminating, because they always point out intelligent, interesting things that I’ve never noticed myself.

Over Easter you had the very awesome opportunity to go to one of the major British conventions, Eastercon, and it’s hard to describe how jealous I am of that! So, make me properly jealous: what was it like? How is it similar to or different from an Australian con? Who did you schmooze? 

One person I absolutely didn’t schmooze was Christopher Priest. I passed him in a corridor, recognised him, and was immediately too star-struck to say a word.

The convention itself was remarkably fun, and broadly speaking very similar to the conventions I’ve been to here in Australia. I probably went in knowing less than five people in the building, and came out knowing a good thirty or more. I suppose my personal highlight was probably doing a panel on Shakespeare’s fantasy plays, where I was the only male panelist out of five. It was an odd contrast to a panel one day earlier, where I explained why Philip K. Dick’s work display a certain amount of misogyny from an all-male panel to a mostly male audience.

Another highlight was the ridiculously well-stocked dealer’s room. I’m not sure what made me happier: buying a t-shirt with “Don’t panic” written on the front in large, friendly letters, or finding a signed hardcover copy of a Steve Aylett novel I’ve been hunting down for the past few years.

British fandom is very friendly and welcoming, and have only a mildly frightening obsession with beer.

Anyway… recently you announced that you’re starting a fanzine, doubleplusgood, that will exist both electronically and in hard copy. What’s the rationale behind that? What does the fanzine format allow that, say, your blog and podcasts don’t? And where do you see its audience coming from?

The big difference between blogs and podcasts and fanzines is that the fanzine is a self-contained, discrete object. It doesn’t get updated down the track, or expanded, or continued. Each issue is published as a single object for the reader to engage with. Being all put together has a particular effect as well. The breadth of the science fiction and fantasy genres is really quite apparent when you put a group of disparate reviews and articles together. There’s a huge element of nostalgia to editing this new fanzine, since I used to write for and edit fanzines an awful lot in the 1990s. 

I think a core appeal of the fanzine is that it isn’t transient. Individual episodes of podcasts and blogs in particular feel very ephemeral and disposable. Since each issue of a fanzine is a discrete, concrete object, it feels like is has a bit more weight to it than other media.

I don’t think fanzines are likely to ever go away, but they’re certainly never going to be the predominant form of fan expression ever again. One thing that’s definitely keeping them around is e-publishing: there’s a fantastic resource called www.efanzines.com where you can download a regularly updated range of fanzines from the UK, USA, Australia and other countries. Anyone who says “I’ve never read a fanzine, I don’t really get what they’re about” should definitely go download a few and get a better idea.

What Australian works have you loved recently? 

At the moment I’m really digging what Twelfth Planet Press is doing with the Twelve Planets range on short story collections. I like short books, and always have: they match my short attention span very well. Since most short story collections feature five exceptional stories, and usually another 10 stories or so of filler, it’s refreshing to see a publisher cut the chaff away and sell a smaller, cheaper volume that’s all wheat.

One book that I’m really looking forward to in the coming year is Lee Battersby’s debut novel The Corpse-Rat King. I’ve been a huge fan of Lee’s work since he first sprang onto the scene about a decade ago, and can’t wait to see his prose style expanded to a fuller length. Hopefully it won’t be *too* long a novel though, so it can match my short attention span…

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

To be honest I don’t think too much has changed at all. One big shift in the paradigm has been an increased awareness of gender bias (and to a lesser degree other cultural, sexual or racial biases) in our field and our community. I don’t think we’re anywhere close to solving some big problems in the culture of science fiction fandom, but I do think we’re beginning to become more aware of them. That’s a positive step, and a difficult one to achieve. 

I think there does need to be a significant change taken as to how we as fans develop and present our conventions. The current model of SF convention has remained pretty static for as long as I’ve been attending them, and I think there’s huge scope to improve how they’re done. We shouldn’t allow “it’s a tradition” to become a barrier to new things. 

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






Snapshot 2012: Sean McMullen

Sean McMullen has had seventeen books and seven dozen stories published. His neo-steampunk story Eight Miles was runner up in the Hugo Awards in 2011, and he has won a dozen other Australian and international awards. His latest novel is Changing Yesterday (2011), a young adult time travel story described as Terminator on the Titanic. Sean works in scientific computing, has a PhD in medieval fantasy literature, and teaches karate in Melbourne University. More of Sean’s background and some sample stories may be found at www.seanmcmullen.net

Last year you were nominated for a Hugo Award, for your novelette “Eight Miles,” which appeared in Analog in September 2010 – belated congratulations. What was it like to be nominated? Did it change how you felt about the story?

 Thank you, belated congratulations are still congratulations and are very welcome. As a general observation, once you have “Hugo” attached to your name life is never quite the same again. I had represented nominees several times at Hugo ceremonies, and I once I even presented a Hugo, but nothing prepares you for the celebrity status of actually being a nominee. As it happened, Eight Miles came in second, but I then discovered that being runner up is pretty special as well. It’s rather like winning a silver medal in the Olympics: it may not be gold, but nobody else has one and people cheer almost as loudly.

I always felt that Eight Miles was an exceptional story, but I never thought it would be noticed widely enough to get a Hugo nomination. The final version turned out pretty well exactly as I wanted it to, which is probably rare for all authors – no matter what they say in interviews. We tend to know what we want from a story idea without being able to get the full 100% of the vision into words. When we do manage it, I think it happens more by luck than design. For me, stories like Neil Gaimen’s Ramadan, George R. R. Martin’s Sand Kings, and Terry Pratchet’s Troll Bridge manage to get it all together in this way. My most recent story, Electrica, gives me the same general feeling as Eight Miles, but unfortunately getting a story noticed is just as much a matter of luck as turning the vision into text, so I’m not getting my hopes up yet..

Your novels have often garnered praise not just for the characters and pacing but for their humour. Is the humour an intentional inclusion, or is it a result of what you yourself are like and like to read? What can humour add to an otherwise already enjoyable story?

Without humour a novel cannot be realistic. Humour is everywhere in our lives, so how can anyone leave it out of fiction? Humour helps us cope when we’re staring into the abyss, just as it gets us through the mind-numbingly boring bits of our lives. We use it to deflate the pompous, to take the edge off tragedy, to get over loss, and to resist the temptation to take success too seriously. I can’t write anything without humour sauntering in and making itself at home. I’m particularly proud of getting some laughs into my PhD thesis and still passing (warning to other PhD students: don’t try this at home, I was probably just lucky). So what does humour add to an otherwise enjoyable story? Realism, as far as I’m concerned.

If you can’t joke about an extreme situation, you are probably not aware of how terrible the situation is. During the S11 attacks I was in a United Airlines jet over the Pacific, and when we landed in Auckland the captain announced what had happened to the World Trade Centre. We passengers were horrified and terrified, yet we tried to cope by swapping jokes about it. For example, someone said I looked like a member of some Goth Liberation Movement, so I was sure to be taken away for questioning. My contribution went thus: “The LA terminal was shaken by three minor earth tremors while we were waiting to board, which was pretty unsettling. After we took off I said to my daughter If a bigger earthquake happens now, at least we’re up in the air and safe.” It was gallows humour, but everyone laughed.

Getting back to fiction, have a look at some serious and often quite bloody TV shows like Rome, Dexter, Babylon 5 and Game of Thrones. They are definitely not comedies, but they contain more humour than many supposedly funny shows.

You have mixed writing novels and short stories for much of your career, exploring different sorts of issues and ideas in the different lengths. Why do the different formats appeal to you? Do you see yourself continuing in this vein?

If you have a great idea, you need the right vehicle to display it. The idea might be wonderful, but too limited for a novel or too big for a story. That means you must either throw it away, or write it in a length that suits it. True to my Scottish heritage, I’m too stingy to throw anything away, so I write everything.

Sometimes I finish a story and realise that I could incorporate it as part of a novel. Queen of Soulmates was a story of love, longing, betrayal and mathematics that finished with all sorts of possibilities that could be explored further, so I later expanded it into the novel Voyage of the Shadowmoon. My 1999 novel Souls in the Great Machine had four earlier short stories in it. Would the novels have been written without the stories coming first? Probably not.

By contrast, my story of time travel and music, The Colours of the Masters, was built around an idea which only needed about seven thousand words to tell it very nicely, and had no scope for further development. In the same way, some plots can only be told as novels. Before the Storm was very heavily character based and needed a lot of background to establish the 1901 Melbourne setting and society, so it could only work as a novel.

Scriptwriting has a lot in common with short stories, so I seem to be writing more short works now that I am also doing scripts. On the other hand, I’m also writing another novel because I have a great idea for a Regency steampunk plot. Stoke up that furnace, Heathcote, her batteries are running down…

What Australian works have you loved recently?

I have been concentrating on non-print Australian genre works for a while now, so this is probably not the answer you are expecting. Currently Australian companies produce about one movie in four that is identifiably SF, fantasy or horror. Although most are written overseas, this still represents a lot of Australian creativity in these genres, so I’m calling them Australian works and using them for my answer (My apologies for talking about some things that are not yet on release, btw).

Generally speaking the recent movie themes are fun rather than profound, but then we need a bit of fun. The Last Man On Earth features a girl telling her blind date that she would not see him again if he were the last man on Earth. In an echo of The Quiet Earth, she wakes up the next morning to find everyone on Earth but herself has vanished. In Iron Sky, Nazi spacecraft have secretly taken the Third Reich off-world in 1945, and now they are returning to give us a dose of deja vu. Speaking of carrying retro carnage on into the future, I, Frankenstein has Frankenstein’s monster become immortal, and pop up alive and well in the Twenty-First century. Rather cheesily, he is now called Adam. According to Ben Adams has the devil being so thoroughly outclassed by humans in terms of evil behaviour that he has a nervous breakdown and has to book himself into a clinic.

As I said, most Australian genre productions are written elsewhere, but occasionally something great comes out of a local story. Back in 1998 the Australian director Alex Proyas turned his vision Dark City into a brilliant movie with international stars and local production companies. Why are there not more locally written genre movies like this, while there are dozens of genre books from Australian authors being published? According to my calculations it costs about a thousand times more to fund a commercial movie than a commercial book, and this sort of money is generally not available here. Because most of the finance for the films comes from overseas, the scripts tend to come from there too.

I have been spending a lot more time on scriptwriting lately, and have had movie options taken out on six of my published works. Out of all these, one script for a short film, Hard Cases, has got as far as casting, and it probably has enough finance to actually go ahead. This is out of out of over a hundred stories and novels that I have had published, and a couple of dozen scripts that I have written. As I said, print is a lot easier and cheaper than media, but I like both so I do both.

Two years on from Aussiecon 4, the World SF Convention held in Melbourne, what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?

The massive expansion of social media and digital publishing are, without a doubt, the dominant factors. Fans are spending a lot more time on Facebook and Twitter, which are making authors accessible on a scale undreamed of even five years ago. This has pretty strong implications for promoting books, getting awards and everything else associated with publishing.

However, add this to online publishing and ebooks and we start to see the down side. There was a time that one person could get a book published for every thousand who wrote one. Now the whole thousand authors can and do get themselves published, so promotion has become a nightmare because there is just so much stuff out there. We authors with pre-existing reputations are not quite so badly off, because our names are recognisable, but talented Australian beginners have problems that were not even invented when I started writing, so they certainly have my sympathy. Readers have my sympathy too, because the ratio of drek to quality has increased enormously, making it much harder to track down a good read. Eventually some sort of literary spam filter will be developed and make someone very rich, but currently that particular app is just science fiction.

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











Snapshot 2012: Alisa Krasnostein

Alisa Krasnostein is an engineer by day and an editor by night… and lunchtime and weekend. Having started the reviews website Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus (ASif!) she has moved on to indie publishing with Twelfth Planet Press. Through TPP Alisa has published anthologies and single-author collections, and will soon begin a novel line. TPP and Alisa were last year recipients of a World Fantasy Award. In her spare time, Alisa is also one third of the Hugo-nominated and Peter McNamara-winning podcast Galactic Suburbia.

You began an indie publishing house, Twelfth Planet Press, a number of years ago. You’ve been responsible for several anthologies, single-author collections and novella doubles, as well as the shared world of New Ceres and the e-mag Shiny. Why did you start TPP in the first place, and has it lived up to expectations?

 I got involved in small press via ASIM [Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine] and starting up ASif! These both whet my appetite for what could be possible in local publishing. I fell in love with the local specfic scene. I spent a lot of time watching behind the scenes at ASIM and learned a lot. By 2005/2006 I was very keen to have a go on my own and see if I could make small press work. I had a lot of ideas about the kind of press I wanted to create and I really wanted to see if you could make small press work, financially.

TPP has well exceeded my expectations. The jury is still out on whether you can make a small press work financially (though certainly there are more than a few American presses that do). A start up can take 5 years to get on its feet and this is about year 5 for TPP. There have been more successful projects than others. And both the successes and the failures have taught me a lot about publishing, editing and business. The recognition TPP has received and the work we have published has been far more than I could have ever dreamed possible this early on.

Your current project is the Twelve Planets series, wherein you are publishing twelve short, single-author collections by a range of Australian authors. What has it been like to edit the twelve planets, and what has been the reaction to those published so far?

This series has been so much fun to work on and so unlike any other project I’ve done so far. I’m finding it a very personal experience, each volume, I think because a 4 story collection is so intimate – you’ve got nowhere to hide with just 4 stories so each story has to hit out of the ballpark. There has been such a great synergy and creative vibe with each author I’ve work with so far. And added into that is the synergy with Amanda as she creates the look of the whole series book by book and with Helen as she pairs up an introducing author for each volume. So, intimate, but a bigger team working on each book than we’ve had before, especially when you add in proofers and a publicity and ebook team.

The reaction so far has been fantastic! We’ve had some outstanding reviews, and new subscribers are coming on board all the time (you can subscribe at any time and get the whole series). The ebooks are popular too – we’ve had a college class in Texas adopt Love and Romanpunk as a class text! I got to manage their textbook buying before the school started in January. Which went how you expect that to go. 🙂

It’s been such a great opportunity to show to a much wider audience the fantastic, strong and innovative writing Australians are producing right now. We’re starting to see works from the 2011 published works make it onto Years Bests reports and lists, they featured well in the Locus roundup for last year and of course had nods in the Tiptree Jnr Award and the Aurealis Awards. I’m so happy and also so excited for the 2012 books – Showtime came out in March and Through Splintered Walls, Cracklescape and Asymmetry are not far away now. 

You recently opened TPP up to novel submissions, which strikes me as a bold move when it comes to considering the slush pile! Has slushing for novels been different from slushing for short stories, and do you still think it was a good idea?

Well, I in no way attempted to work through that slushpile on my own! I was lucky enough to have 7 generous readers who kindly volunteered their time and worked through most of them and offered their thoughts and noted what they thought I should read. I did do a bit of quality assurance testing and am really happy with how that process went in terms of what was forwarded to me to read.

Slushing the manuscripts really helped me cement exactly what it is that I’m looking for and what I see my novel line being. I think it’s been a really worthwhile exercise in that regard. Opening to novel submissions was also a really important step in coming out and stating a future direction for TPP. I have a really clear vision now for the novels I want to develop and publish and hope to clearly express that going forward. Of course, you still get submissions that are completely outside your guidelines no matter how you frame them.

I think I liked slushing for novels better than shorts in that we had a reading crew which meant I was able to discuss manuscripts with people and get a bit of an idea about how others saw the same piece of work. It was much less lonely. You tend to spend longer on a novel submission than a short story because you’re more forgiving as a reader with a novel than a short story and novel stories take longer to develop and unravel, they’re bigger beings. And because you have a package with the submission including the synopsis, you have more to consider and maybe, if the synopsis is written well, more reason to invest in some submissions than others? Like, well the story starts slow but it sounds like it might go somewhere interesting?

I should mention that I haven’t finished the manuscript reading yet. Maybe I’ll get more jaded by the end of it (June 30).

What work by Australians have you been loving recently? 

PODCASTS! Australians are dominating the soundwaves and there are some truly fantastic Aussie podcasts. We have real depth in this format, with so many great ones to choose from. My faves are probably the Writer and the Critic, Coode St Podcast and Boxcutters though I’m just starting to warm to Shooting the Poo. 🙂 

As for fiction, Kim Westwood’s The Courier’s New Bicycle was by far my favourite Aussie work in 2011, and I cannot rave about it enough. I also, despite common folklore, finished and loved Tansy Rayner Roberts’ Power and Majesty and am working on The Shattered City (I read slowly, and trilogies are a huge commitment).

I also adored Outland. I hope there will be a second season some day.

It’s been two years since Australia hosted the WorldCon. What do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian speculative fiction scene? 

It feels like more authors are gaining international recognition but I’m not sure if that’s just my perception in that authors *I* am friends with are progressing and growing in their careers. It also feels like a lot of authors have left short stories to work on novels. Certainly a lot of the authors I came into the scene reading in the short form have sold novels in that time and have tended to be quiet, working at the long length.

Novellas have kind of grown too. I remember a time when the Ditmar ballot couldn’t field a shortlist for novellas/novelettes and now this has become one of the most competitive categories. Again, I think this relates to the maturing of a lot of our authors as they play with form and length towards the elusive novel. 

Women authors are being taken more seriously outside of the epic fantasy subgenre. And more women are being collected.

Podcasts – Australians really are punching above our weight class in the podcast department and I think that’s brought the world closer to us in ways that have really previously been hard to overcome. We have a greater voice in the international scene and with that comes the ability to get the word out about what we’re doing here. Exciting, when I think about it. Where will be next time the Snapshot comes round to take a picture?

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






Snapshot 2012: Helen Merrick

Helen Merrick is an SF reader, critic and fan. By day she teaches Internet Studies at Curtin University in Western Australia and writes a bit about SF, feminism, fandom, online communities and sustainability. Her publications include the edited collection Women of Other Worlds, and numerous articles in books such as On Joanna RUss, and The Routledge companion to SF. Her book the Secret Feminist Cabal was shortlisted for the Hugo, won the William Atheling, and was on the honours list for the James Tiptree Jr Award. She has just finished a co-authored book on feminist theorist Donna Haraway called Beyond the Cyborg (forthcoming from Columbia UP) that manages to include a fair bit of SF and Ursula Le Guin, which makes her very happy.

Your examination of the role of feminism in science fiction fandom, in The Secret Feminist Cabal, was on the Honor List for the Tiptree Award in 2010 – congratulations! What was it like to be recognised in this way?

I was totally blown away! It was the icing on the cake in terms of how the book was received by the SF/F community, which I totally did not expect, given it was an academic book. I seem to recall I found out about it on twitter, as I hadn’t even seen the honours list. It was all the more rewarding as the Tiptree award mostly honours fiction, and only a handful of non-fiction works have been recognised by the judges. It was also, of course, a lovely feeling as so much of the book is indebted to, and documents, the communities and histories that surround the Tiptree award, its motherboard, and the feminist sf fandom that helped support its foundation. I even ‘stole’ the title off the Tiptree award motherboard (they did give me permission)!

 Some of your research interests lie, broadly, in how feminism interacts with science fiction and vice versa. Do you see the two converging or diverging at the moment, and why?

Both, actually. I think we are seeing some really important conversations happening around feminism, gender, sexuality and race within the community in the last few years. And while there are certainly times when it feels like we are still fighting the same old battles Joanna Russ, Vonda McIntyre and others were waging back in the 70s, I think there is an improvement in terms of the kind of audience that are listening, and changing their views. What really encourages me is the impact of a younger generation of awesome feminist authors, editors and readers on this dialogue: like the Galactic Suburbia team (yourself, Tansy Rayner Roberts and Alisa Krasnostein), Alisa’s Twelve Planet series, and others such as Brit Mandelo (Tor) and Julia Rios (Outer Alliance), and authors such as Cat Valente, NK Jemisin and Karen Lord. This is not to overlook the work of others like TImmi Duchamp at Aqueduct Press, the Wiscon group, the Tiptree award and other feminist initiatives in the field that have kept these conversations on the board. On the other hand, I do wonder, along with Gwyneth Jones, about how well contemporary feminism/s are being expressed in the SF/F fiction itself, and whether we are too ready to welcome kick-ass female heroines as an easy sign of success? Not that I don’t enjoy reading books with kick-ass heroines, but I worry about what it means if this becomes a mainstreamed, diluted sign of what feminism in genre is about. But then again, we have had recent works as diverse as Kameron Hurley’s God’s War, Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death, and Kim Westwood’s The Courier’s New Bicycle which all do brave, confronting work with gender, sex and sexuality which are anything but comfortable!

You’ve been involved in helping to edit and re-write some of the gender-related entries of the SF Encyclopedia, now (moving) completely online. What importance do you attach to this sort of resource?

I’m so glad you asked me about this! The SFE3 is — and will be — an amazing resource. I felt it was an incredible honour to be asked, and I was really chuffed when Peter Nicholls brought me on board in order to work on entries related to feminism and gender. I remember back when I was first working on my PhD thesis, Nicholl’s first edition of the Encyclopedia was a very important source for me. Even though it was very much of its time, there were long lists of female authors of SF that provided an important starting point for much of my research. The SFE3 is a herculean task of bring the second edition up to date, which has involved an absolutely enormous amount of work behind the scenes by the editorial team of Nicholls, John Clute, Dave Langford and Graham Sleight. So far I’ve edited the entries on feminism, and women writers of sf; I’m working on a new entry on gender, and also will be editing the older entry on women as subjects of sf.

What works by Australians have you been loving recently?

So Many! I’ve been following along the Australian Women Writers Challenge which I think is a great initiative, and has helped me keep track of the aussies I’ve been reading. Books I have loved recently: Rayner Robert’s Creature Court trilogy, all of the 12 Planet collections, Glenda Larke’s Stormlord trilogy, Lara Morgan’s Rosie Black Chronicles, and Kim Westwood’s Courier’s New Bicycle. I’ve also enjoyed Carole Wilkinson’s Dragonkeeper (which is from a few years ago, but I just read it when she came out for the writer’s festival – lovely children’s fantasy), Kate Gordon’s Thyla, Rebecca Lim’s Mercy series (paranormal YA), Joanne Anderton’s Debris and I have Margo Lanagan’s Sea Hearts waiting on my to-be-read shelf.

It’s two years since the WorldCon was held in Australia. How do you think the speculative fiction scene in Australia has changed since then?

Aussiecon 4 was such a buzz, and a great chance to showcase Australian talent — in some ways it feels like the energy has just carried on. We seem to be seeing more and more quality Aussie spec fic being published all the time; certainly the Aussie awards lists of the last couple of years have been absolutely packed with fantastic work. And I can’t help but notice how well Aussie women are doing in the field – especially in fantasy and YA. It’s also worth noting the enormous growth of home-grown podcasts in the spec-fic scene, which certainly seem to help keep up the Australian profile in the international scene: Galactic Suburbia, Coode St, Writer and the Critic, Bad Film Diaries – the list goes on. I think its very encouraging that off the back of Aussiecon there appear to be all sorts of avenues and channels that have opened up in terms of conversations and connections with the international scene. We may be small, but we get noticed 🙂

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






Snapshot 2012: Jonathan Strahan

Jonathan Strahan has been luckier than any one person has a right to be. Happily married with two lovely daughters, he has edited or co-edited more than fifty books, has been the Reviews Editor for Locus for ten years, is the producer and co-presenter of more than a hundred episodes of The Coode Street Podcast, and a long time ago he once worked on a magazine called Eidolon. He is a recipient of the World Fantasy, Locus, Aurealis, Ditmar, Atheling and McNamara awards, and is a six-time Hugo Award nominee. Although his Twitter profile says he dreams one day of being covered entirely with jam, this is not entirely true.

Right now you seem to be working on a million anthologies or collections, which must surely get confusing. One in particular that is getting close to release is Under My Hat, a witchy anthology that has a very interesting list of contributors. What brought about this particular theme, and how was it to work on?

It’s true that I do tend to have a number of projects going at any one time, but Under My Hat has always been special. About three years ago I was having a conversation with my youngest daughter, who was about eight years old at the time. We were talking about what it was I did for a living, and at one point she asked me if there was any of my books that she could read. That really struck a chord with me, and I became determined to do a book that would really appeal to both her and her sister.

As it happened, both girls grew up loving witch stories, and when visiting the US to attend World Fantasy Convention each autumn I would search through stores for wands and hats and witchy stuff to bring home for them. A witch book seemed perfect. The title came to me when reading one of Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching books, and the whole thing seemed inevitable.

The book was actually a dream to work on. I sat on the idea for a while, busy with other projects, but then one day I did the calculations that made it clear the girls would only be the right age for the book if I did it now so I really got my act into gear. It sold quickly to Random House in the US – my editor Jim Thomas has been a dream to work with – and the book itself has come together quickly and easily. Everyone got the idea immediately, and everyone seemed to love it. The final book is one I’m really happy with. One of the nicest things about doing it was working with my daughter, who actually read some of the stories in the book and provided editorial opinions on them that I sent to the authors. It’s been a real family affair.

Speaking of themes, over the last few years you have brought out four anthologies in the Eclipse line, which is a consciously non-themed set of anthologies. How different is it to solicit and edit for non-themed rather than themed anthologies? What has it been like to see the Eclipse ‘brand’ develop over the last four years, and how have they been received?

It’s both similar and quite different. Obviously with a theme anthology you need to solicit stories within quite a narrow range. They have to address the theme, but not be repetitive, and while you have scope to control the feel of the book the direction is pretty much set. With an unthemed project like Eclipse you have almost total freedom, at least at the outset. You’re only limited by what you and the publisher have agreed, and by the stories you can find. I revelled in that freedom, and really tried to reach out to a broad range of writers whose work I loved.

As happens, though, over time the series evolves its own character, which I think became most clear with Eclipse Three. It really is quite a wide-ranging book, and it has quite a diverse range of writers and subjects, but they all never quite lose touch with genre or story. The books have been received incredibly well, with stories winning many awards and the books themselves either winning or being shortlisted for awards. I’m very, very happy with and proud of the series, and am even now contemplating its future.

As well as original anthologies, you’ve also been involved in putting together collections, particularly of Jack Vance. What do you regard as the value in collections such as these, and how are they different from anthologies to work on? 

I’ve been remarkably lucky to collaborate with some wonderful people at Subterranean Press and Night Shade Books on collections by Jack Vance, Bruce Sterling, Kim Stanley Robinson, Joe Haldeman, Fritz Leiber and others. Probably the heart of them are the seven books of Vance stories I’ve co-edited with Terry Dowling, and probably my favourite is the Robinson book.

The value of these books is that they either preserve an important piece of genre history, or they present a chance to look at a writer’s body of work through a different lens. I think that’s what happened with the Robinson book, which really highlighted the variety and strength of the short fiction he’d done over a long period of time.

The main difference between editing single author collections and anthologies, the obvious one of there only being one author to deal with aside, is that you do get to go into a different sort of depth. You’re balancing styles, approaches, flavors while also trying to remain true to the historical perspective on the author. It’s a challenge and a delight and I hope to do many more.

What Australian works have you loved recently?

I don’t read as much at novel length as I’d hope to these days, so I’ve only read a small number of novels by Australians over the past decade. The most interesting and exciting of those that I have read was Kim Westwood’s The Courier’s New Bicycle, which I came to quite late in the piece, but loved. At shorter length, Margo Lanagan’ continues to amaze, and the stories in her short collection Cracklescape are simple terrific. I also spent some time recently taking a second look at Deborah Biancotti’s Bad Power, which I enjoyed a great deal, and would happily recommend Tansy Rayner Roberts’ Love and Romanpunk. 

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

When I started to think on this my initial reaction was to back away from the question a little. I think a lot has been happening in Australian SF, but initially I wasn’t sure how transformative it was. On reflection, though, I think there have been changes. The most obvious one, from a personal perspective, is the rise of podcasting. Before Aussiecon 4 it was a side event, but now it’s an important central part of Australian SF and we contribute significantly at an international level, with two of them (he notes immodestly) currently up for the Hugo Award. I think the small press has also been invigorated. Perth’s Twelfth Planet Press has been undertaking a series of really ambitious projects and publishing some very fine books, and Ticonderoga Press has really emerged from a long quiet period with some terrific books. That change has to be good for the field. I also think there is some potentially important change with our major publishers. I’m not sure if a publisher like Voyager would have published Westwood’s The Courier’s New Bicycle five years ago. They seem, perhaps, willing to take more artistic chances, and that can only be a great thing.

All in all, the the nearly two years have proven really vigorous and adventurous and I’m optimistic for the future (though I’d still like to see some more SF being published <g>).

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






Snapshot 2012: AA Bell

Anita Bell is the author of three of the bestselling business books of the decade. Writing as AA Bell, she’s also a multi-award winner with her first speculative thriller Diamond Eyes, which won the first of its many accolades while still only a draft manuscript (at half its final length) in the 2009 FAW Awards. In the past decade, she’s also published over 200 short stories, articles and poems under her pen-names, and picked up various awards for crime, comedy and children’s adventures.

Your novels Diamond Eyes and Hindsight (and the forthcoming Leopard Dreaming) revolve around Mira Chambers, a character who is blind and, for part of the time, institutionalised. How did you develop Mira?

In two stages; the real character, and her fantastical ability to see the past. As Mira says;

“I’m trapped between two worlds. The one I can see from yesteryears, and the one I must live in, that remains invisible to me.”

For the fantastical ability: I was driving to an optometrist’s appointment to get my eyes checked 12 years ago, when my young son asked me how eyes worked. So I used my diamond ring to show how lenses can bend and focus light, which also sparked the idea for the story and title; Diamond Eyes.

Anyone with over-crystallised eyes is usually blind. To them, we are invisible, but from personal experience, I knew that having one sense robbed away, while making life extremely difficult, can also help us to “see” the world more richly through other senses. It’s also an interesting phenomenon that blind people can still dream and have visions, same as sighted people. And sometimes, sighted people can detect movement through their own eyelids, or see through the skin of their hands when a bright light is set behind their palms.

So my love and wonder of the sciences behind our amazing world also makes me question if the light and other wave-length radiations that we currently know through sight, warmth and mechanical means of detection, are merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. And I know from basic kindergarten science that light travels differently through water and other materials, so with Mira, I’ve simply challenged the concept that light always travels at the same speed, by proposing that there is a band of “slower light” that she can see:

“Can you keep a secret? … I can only see the way things used to be, leaving me blind to the normal visible spectrum. I see the ghosts of yester-year, while you remain invisible to me… From my perspective, there are ghosts and invisibles. So if I can see people I cannot hear, and hear people I cannot see, which ones are really my hallucinations?”

Ben scratched his head. “From your perspective, I suppose they all are.”

“Bingo!” She clapped him on the shoulder. “If I’m crazy, you’re part of my insanity. The only way I’ve been able to cope so far is by obeying the rules of the ones who can hurt me.” – Diamond Eyes

The Setting: Until Mira learns to control her ability to focus on different dates, she can only see life a century ago, so consequently, everyone thinks she’s crazy, and that gave me the initial setting of an asylum.

As luck would have it, I’d just worked for a decade in the spooky halls of a century-old mental health facility, which afforded me a wealth of rich characters, juicy settings and conspiratorial sub-plots to draw from.

For the character: Mira is an amalgam of all the people I’ve come to admire for their ability to rise each new day with fresh dignity and determination, even though life and other people consistently conspire to knock them down again. She also gives me the opportunity to explore concepts of freedom and independence, and the irony that the more freedoms we gain for ourselves, the more rules society can have for constraining us.

“I’m not afraid of dying,” Mira cried. “I’m afraid my life will never begin!” – Hindsight

What were you aiming to do with and through her, and do you feel that you’ve succeeded?

In addition to the concepts of dignity and independence, as above, the trilogy with Mira has given me the rare opportunity to propose unique new slants on ghosts, ESP and the afterlife. And she’s finally learning how to see any time period, past or future, from a million years back to a million forward – so no. I’m not finished with her yet. Although the trilogy concludes with Leopard Dreaming in October, there’s still so much potential to explore many other fantastical and supernatural concepts in fresh new ways, and at any moment in time or space, even if it’s not with Mira as the main character.

“I’m cursed with the ability to see any secret, solve any crime and witness any moment in history, so for me, the door to great dangers has barely creaked open.” – Leopard Dreaming

Diamond Eyes won the 2011 Norma K Hemming Award for Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Themes – congratulations! How did that feel, and what impact has it had on you and your thoughts about writing?

Last year, Diamond Eyes won by unanimous vote from the judging panel. I was stunned. That book took me ten years to write as my first foray into speculative fiction, but they told me it stood so far apart from the many hundreds of other wondrous entries, they didn’t need a shortlist. So when I saw there was a shortlist this year, my husband dug me in the ribs and joked, “you must have slipped.”

Then I saw the caliber of writers in the shortlist for 2012 – writers I’ve admired for ages – and could finally appreciate that the Hemming Award for Excellence is one of the highest and most coveted we have. The award itself is also the most beautiful. (Designed by Sarah Xu.)

Since the sequel Hindsight is currently shortlisted in 2012, the feeling is amazing. I’m blown away. But I didn’t write to go after any awards. I wrote because many of the terrible experiences I’ve had in my life have been eating away at me. One of the most sinister characters from the trilogy portrays it succinctly in Hindsight:

In the candlelit darkness of his wine-cellar-dungeon, Fredarick sat on an empty beer barrel, with two taller wine barrels that supported a plank as his table. No sensor lights or intruder alarms to disturb him anymore; he’d disarmed them, so in this loneliest place on the island, he was as free as he could be to prepare for the coming conflict.

With the stolen weapon set up and waiting, he tapped at the M key once, like a kitten testing a snake.

It didn’t bite, so he tapped another key and another, until his fingers fluttered feverishly over the Braille keyboard and he realised the venom was already within him, needing to bleed out onto the page. Safer there in code, he dared to hope, since a small dose had once served as its own antidote…

Are there more Mira Chambers novels in the works, or do you have other projects underway? Where do you hope to go in the next few years?

Leopard Dreaming is the grand finale for Mira’s trilogy. At least, it was meant to be the grand finale. There’s a spooky little boy with a gift similar to Mira’s who keeps popping up in the backstory, so if he survives the final draft, only Mira can see where the future may take her… or him.

<evil laugh>

What Australian works have you loved recently?

• Kim Falconer’s Road to the Soul,

• Alison Goodman’s Eona, and

The Devil’s Diadem by the late great Sara Douglass.

Coincidentally, they’re all shortlisted with Hindsight for this year’s Hemming Award for Excellence. ☺ Alas, compared to their experience in this genre, I’m still the rank outsider.

It’s been two years since Aussiecon 4, the World Convention that Melbourne hosted. What do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian speculative fiction scene in that time?

The market has become a financial fist that’s closing around Aussie publishers and booksellers. Libraries too, to some extent. It’s squeezing the life out of them, and all genres are suffering for fledgling writers and best-sellers alike. Meanwhile, internet sales are booming with dreck that could be so much better, if properly developed. So the sooner these two worlds can kiss and make up with new living arrangements, the better for all of us.

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






Snapshot: Sean the Bookonaut

Sean Wright (AKA Sean the Blogonaut, Sean the Bookonaut) considers himself an aspiring writer, he tends to do quite a lot of aspiring and not much writing.  He co-wrote a novella in a weekend with two school friends in the early 90’s called Goldfish, French Fries and Space Invaders which ended up being published for the Adelaide Fringe Festival along with a number of other teen writers – the highlight of his writing career. He blogs at Adventures of Bookonaut in attempt to keep himself sane and connected with other humans who share his tastes in fiction and to comment on and support the Australian speculative fiction scene.He has lived remotely for most of his life and currently lives rural South Australia, in the midst of wheat fields, in a 120 year old farm house which has its own history book but no ghosts.Sean has worked as a teacher librarian, pizza delivery driver, a security guard, a workplace trainer for an international company and as an activities coordinator for a community mental health service. He currently does casual relief teaching  to pay the bills while he puts all his effort into aspiring to write. He holds a 2nd Dan in Chung Do Kwan, a Korean School of Shotokan Karate, and consequently can speak about 10 korean words and can break pine boards with just his mind.He is currently working on two manuscripts and studiously managing to avoid finishing any of the short fiction he’s attempted.

Your blog, Adventures of a Bookonaut, aims to promote Australian speculative fiction through reviews and interviews. Why did you decide to start the site? What have been the challenges and rewards in writing for it?

I have been blogging since about December 2006 in various forms. I never thought it would stick. I have a shelf full of empty journals because I love the idea of recording my thoughts but writing down something that no one ever read kinda felt a bit silly, pretentious even.

I think the difference with blogging was the interaction and the exchange of ideas, the connection to a wider community that shared my passions.

In March 2008 I started blogging about an abusive Ministry that promised an all in one solution to various issues affecting young women, from unwanted pregnancy to mental health issues. From 2008-2010 I helped a group of abuse survivors get the Ministry closed in Australia, it still operates internationally.

After those 2 years I was suffering from burnout, it’s very hard to blog when all you have to write about is injustice and bad news. Adventures of a Bookonaut was initially a way to enjoy blogging and talking about my love of books, and it’s mostly good news stories.

The blog started in August 2010 but I decided to focus on Speculative Fiction around the time I got a chance to review Trent Jamieson’s Death Most Definite. So yeah you can blame Trent. I had also finished some studies in Journalism so I was eager to use some of my training.

Promoting the Australian speculative fiction scene seemed to be both a natural extension of my personality and I had a couple of very good role models in Marianne de Pierres and Rowena Cory Daniells who despite their heavy workloads, promoted other authors and writers, and were brilliant at building community (still are).

The challenge has been keeping a balance. A balance in my blogging and in my reading. It’s cool getting review copies for about the first 3 months then the reality sets in that you really have quite a bit of reading to do and it never stops. The rewards have been meeting and interacting with authors, fans and other book bloggers.

You’ve been pretty vocal on your blog and other social media sites in promoting and encouraging other people to get involved with the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2012. Why did you decide to take the challenge on board? How do you feel about it, five months in? What have other people’s reactions been?

Now this one I can blame on Galactic Suburbia. In 2011 after having listened to Galactic Suburbia for a few episodes I ended up doing a Gender Audit of my reading. Sadly the original post was lost in a blog move instigated by hacking; but the results were very poor, much poorer than I’d led myself to believe. Somewhere in the 18 % Female author range was the end result – pretty ordinary for a reviewer. So that year I made a conscious decision to focus on trying to get a 50/50 split. I managed 40/60 due to a loss of focus and the fact that a lot of my review copies were by male authors.

So in 2012 Elizabeth Lhuede started the Australian Women Writers challenge in response to the poor reviewing that Australian female authors were getting from traditional reviewing sources. I was engaged in a couple of posts about gender, and implicit bias and decided to put my money where my mouth was and give myself a very structured approach to achieving gender parity in my reading and reviewing. Nothing like fear of failure to motivate.

I truly think the only way that you can tackle cultural bias is through fairly blunt and blatant approaches like a challenge or instituting some sort of systematic approach. Left to personal whim you’ll just end up reverting to what is ingrained.

I think it’s important to be vocal about it because we need to show men reading, reviewing and enjoying books by women. It’s going very well by the way. I finished the challenge a couple of books back but will continue until the end of the year.

There’s no sign of quality female speculative fiction running out.

As well the as the blog, you’ve been contributing to Galactic Chat, a podcast of interviews with – mostly – Australian authors. What has it been like to record interviews rather than write them? What are its challenges? Do you find ‘live’ interviews more rewarding than written ones, or do they both have things to recommend them?

A lot more work for a start. Writing questions for written interviews is generally fairly easy; the interviewee has to do all the work (unless it’s transcribed from audio, which you’d have to pay me to do – two finger typist).

The challenges are generally technical. I got over my nerves when I interviewed Kelley Armstrong.Everything seemed to be going wrong that day. I had the wrong number, I was recording in my lunch hour, people wanted to use the room I was in. Nothing like interviewing a New York Times bestseller as your first. She was lovely though.

I do enjoy the live interviews as they feel more dynamic to me and you can take advantage of the ebb and flow of conversation. Sometimes questions just naturally flow into one another. I still do some written questions of course, it’s handy if you want to ask a group of people the same questions to get a consensus or to form a large picture on an issue.

What Australian works have you loved recently?

Gotta love goodreads, it makes answering this much easier. When We Have Wings by Claire Corbett, I thought was brilliant. Kind of sad it didn’t make it to the Ditmar ballot. It just blew me away with the vision of a world with genetically engineered wings- the physical, social and cultural changes that would be a result of such an innovation.

Margo Lanagan’s Sea Hearts was another book that showcased her skill and playfulness, I wrote of it: “Reading Lanagan is like watching the world through aged glass. The world and its characters are identifiable but there is a ripple, a distortion that separates us.” And she makes me feel like this with most of her work.

Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth was just one of those joyful surprises you get as a reviewer. I’d never read her work before and Bitter Greens tickled several of my fancies – historical fiction and mature fairytales being two of them.

The Shattered City by Tansy Rayner Roberts was a bloody good second book, not a bridge between book 1 and 3, but upping of the ante in what is a very unique tale.

Bad Power by Deb Biancotti just makes me want to read an expanded novel length version of the world that’s been created.

Roil by Trent Jamieson, I think is his best work to date. I could go on.

What would you like to see happen in the Australian speculative fiction scene over the next couple of years?

I have only been participating in and observing the scene for a relatively short time, so take what I say with that in mind. I’d like to see it more connected. By that I mean, I get the distinct impression that in fandom at least, there are distinct communities within the larger community. I think this is the result of geography to a large extent and I am not sure that we have taken full advantage of online resources to address this. I think things are beginning to coalesce though, podcasting seems to be growing and fanzines once consigned to the printed form are getting easier to find online. But perhaps fans are happy, I come from a culture of isolation, living in remote communities most of my life.

I’d also like to see a deeper appreciation of our Australian Speculative Fiction history. I do get the sense that we might be too forward looking, focussed on the next best thing. Have you tried finding copies of George Turner’s work, even his Miles Franklin Award winning book? Very difficult.

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






Snapshot 2012: Penni Russon

Penni Russon is fascinated by adolescence and the intersection that exists in that period of life between language, bodies, reality, imagination, poetry, sexuality, and ideas, which is why she mostly writes literary fiction for teenagers. She sometimes writes for boring grownups too, now that she is one. She has a story forthcoming in Island Magazine #129 called Softly the Fall.
Your novel Only Ever Always is a finalist for the Aurealis Awards for 2011 – congratulations! Thanks. (Edited to add: and won the Young Adult Novel category!!)
One of the really intriguing aspects of this novel, aside from the plot itself and its changes between characters, is that you alternate between first, second and third-person voices throughout the novel. What did this technique allow you to do that staying with one narrative voice wouldn’t? And was it difficult to keep track of?
Only Ever Always was an exploration about where stories come from. You know those big narrative dreams you have, where the world is ending, or where you’ve been kidnapped and you are trying to escape, that stay with you? Where you wake up and feel you’ve just read a novel, or watched a movie? Well, I was wondering, what are those dreams for? What are stories for? And then that also led to an inquiry into how stories are told. The second person came about after teaching a subject called Radical Fiction at Melbourne University. One student used second person to great effect (before then my experience of second person had been mostly confined to Choose Your Own Adventure books, with the exception of If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler). Second person is actually First Person when you think about it, a narrator is still implied. So this intrigued me – who tells the story? Who is the dreamer? The reader, the writer, the character?

It was occasionally difficult to track. I decided that when Claire entered Sedge that it would be third person, to highlight a further disconnect (the waking dream), but also to make it really clear to the reader that a significant shift had happened. There was one scene where Claire and Clara occupy the same space and I had a lot of trouble deciding what POV that should be from!

Your trilogy from a few years ago, Undine, Breathe and Drift focussed on a teenaged girl and her discovery of magic. What drew you to working with this particular mythology, and bringing it into the modern world?

I grew up in Tasmania which is where Undine is set. I was fascinated by what it meant to grow up on an island – I am still curious about this, as I come to realise actually just how socially disadvantaged Tasmania is compared to Melbourne where I live now. Anyway, to me it seemed natural that magic would be linked to the ocean. I once commented on Twitter about experiencing ambivalence with regards to the ocean. Another writer scoffed (I’m paraphrasing), ‘The ocean makes me feel many things, but nothing so wishy-washy as ambivalent.’ But I am happy to embrace my wishy-washiness! I am fascinated by ambivalence, ambiguity, halfway states, where you linger between, not quite one thing or another. Undine is all about being halfway between – human and magical creature, love and like, the thing and the reflection of the thing and so the Undine myth (which is not literally in the novel) is a metaphor for this.

I love Margaret Mahy’s YA fiction, so I wanted to write something with “magic in the real world”. Writing Undine was a very organic process, I really didn’t understand much about the practical aspects of writing fantasy when I began. The Undine books are actually incredibly autobiographical in parts, many incidents in the books actually happened to me.

You’ve written both speculative fiction and what might be called mainstream YA as part of the Girlfriend series; do you see yourself having to choose between genres, or continuing to cross them, in the future?

I think all my books belong together, despite the genre crossing. They are really all about those halfway states, about what’s real and what’s pretend. In The Indigo Girls the girls go night surfing – this is very similar to the way Undine experiences power and her body. In Little Bird Ruby-Lee falls in maternal love with the baby she is babysitting, and then transfers these feelings onto the baby’s single father in a romantic way and then has to try and figure out what is real and what is part of her fantasy life. I don’t think I will ever tire of this theme

What are some works by Australians that you’ve been enjoying recently?

I loved Queen of the Night, Leanne Hall’s excellent sequel to This is Shyness, with its comic book aesthetic. The FitzOsborne’s at War, the third book in Michelle Cooper’s Montmaray trilogy, made me cry and smile and laugh – these are historical fiction, though Montmaray is a made up island. I really admire Cooper’s world building, the way she stitches her fictional world and history together so seamlessly. Also this year I loved Foal’s Bread, which I read as magical realism.

Also I am reading Emily Rodda’s Fairy Realm books aloud to my six year old! Emily Rodda and I will be on a panel together at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival – my daughters are very excited!

It’s been two years since the World Science Fiction Convention was held in Australia. How do you think the speculative fiction scene in Australia has changed since then?

Well, the biggest change in Australia in the last two years is the loss of Borders and Angus & Robertson, the “middle” market, and at the same time many publishers are dropping their sales staff, instead having booksellers go to the website to select stock for their stores. I think as a result we are going to increasingly see a bigger divide – a lot more trashy trash, and some really interesting, experimental “literary” spec fic that works hard to catch a bookseller’s eye. Perhaps as a result of this, I think publishers are more focussed on “The Pitch” than on “The Talent” (though I don’t think a talented author will ever be overlooked). Still, it’s easier for publishers to sell books that can be summed up in a sentence, not just to customers, but to their own marketing departments, to booksellers, to reviewers, to overseas markets. It was really hard for me to sum up Only Ever Always in a sentence, and the exercise seemed artificial, nothing to do with marking art. It was actually the rights manager, Angela Namoi who crystallised it by describing it as ” a meditation on grief”. Of course the question I started out asking was where do stories come from? And Angela made me realise I had answered that question: “from lack, from absence, from loss. From the spaces between where the lost things dwell.”

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