It’s definitely changed my approach to writing in one very simple but central way: I’m a novelist now. That probably sounds a bit flippant, but the whole texture of my life has changed recently, including a day job promotion to a co-ordinator position that really eats my days. I have very little time left over for writing, so what time I have has to be devoted to one task, whereas in the past I could skip from one project to the other on a whim. Right now, I’m exclusively focused on novels because I have to be: time just doesn’t allow me to do anything else, and I’m on contract, so I have to cut away everything bar the novel work for a while. As to my profile, I don’t know– I’ve been slowly sliding into the background over the last few years, and not being so prolific at magazine level hasn’t helped. Perhaps the promo splash of a novel release will bring me back into peoples’ thinking for a short while, but as long as the work stands up and satisfies people, that’s the important thing, not whether I get recognised at Cons.
I don’t know. It’s hard to tell. Everything I’ve ever heard about Aussiecon in 1999 led me to believe there would be a seismic shift in the way we do things, but Aussiecon 4 doesn’t seem to have had any real impact at all. Maybe I’m just too divorced from the scene at the moment to see it, but apart from increased discussion about electronic publishing, which seemed to be on the rise anyway, I haven’t really seen anything massive taking place. I’m not be the best person to ask, though: the story of my journey over the last 3 years seems to be a slow parting of the ways with the intense, involved world of the Australian SF small press scene, which saddens me somewhat because that’s where I keep all my friends (although the friendships remain) and where I’ve had some of the best times of my life over the years. But the scene changes, and evolves, and something new will always arise. It’s the nature of the beast. I think we’re going to have the best small press publisher in the country come out of that scene in the next couple of years, and that’s going to be worth watching.
And I guess when I started asking myself ‘what makes a superhero’, I couldn’t escape the cynical side of my brain that believes power corrupts. And if absolute power corrupts *absolutely*, what would a superpower do? Particularly if you’re the first. Particularly if there’s not a society set up to believe – or even deny – that there’s such a thing as ‘heroes’ or ‘powers’. In a world where you can be famous just for being famous, where individualism is treasured over clan, where ‘society’ is a word that compensates for a multiplicity of worlds and cultures and beliefs, where ‘hero’ is a label that’s usually used by the media and usually used to describe someone who’s died – what WOULD you do if you found yourself in possession of something strange and potentially divine?
I think I got bored with crime reading back in the nineties when it became trendy (which shows how desperately perverse I can be about this sort of thing) & kinda gave it up for a while. All the crime I was reading felt like more of the same. And then, years and years later, all the genre I was reading began to feel like it was ‘different’, but different in ways that were oddly predictable and annoyingly self-conscious. I thought, ‘hell, is anyone even telling a good STORY anymore?’
It could be just me, but I’m seeing a lot more diversity in the scene, a lot more individual voices, a lot more projects happening. It feels like a groundswell, like something expanding in all directions at once. Which is kinda brilliant, actually!
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 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.
I’ve been writing fairly seriously since I was around 14 or 15, and I’m nearly 31 now so I’ve been at it for a long time. For many years I was a SF reader without having any engagement with the scene here in WA, despite the fact that I worked in the now-defunct Supernova Books from 2001-03. I started up my wordpress blog around four years ago, and that enabled me to engage with the community a little more, and eventually some of these reviews made it onto ASiF. Through my interest in the works of Philip K Dick, I came into contact with Australia’s grandfather of fandom, Bruce Gillespie. A big thing for me was attending last year’s Natcon in Perth, where I met the late Paul Haines for the first time, and I attended Swancon again in 2012. I also joined the Katharine Susannah Prichard Speculative Fiction group in 2011. The most worthwhile about the scene for me is feeling that I’m not, in fact, operating in a vacuum, that there are other people around who share similar views and interests to myself.
Tansy Rayner Roberts
The lovely thing about science fiction and fantasy is that I don’t have to choose, not at all. If one piece of work is especially successful then I have no qualms about doing more of that sort of thing, but otherwise I prefer to keep my work as diverse as possible, to keep me entertained. Lots of genre crossing and -blurring, as much as possible! BRING IT.
Right now, for instance, in an only slightly chaotic tangle of novel and short story projects, I am writing steampunk Victoriana gothic with faeries and robots, contemporary ghostbusting comedy, genderbending science fiction, smutty superheroes, and a boarding school time travel romp (or tragedy; haven’t decided yet). The four shorts I’ve written so far this year (I am RICH in short stories) are post-apocalyptic surrealism about Wuthering Heights, magical realism with talking kangaroos, horror-fantasy with imps, and a war veteran romance set against the backdrop of a famous children’s fantasy novel. I really don’t like to be tied down…
Well there certainly are common themes — among them that Cinderella theme of the neglected and left behind winning through to love and happiness; also an examination of courage and its antithesis, which to me isn’t cowardice so much as cruelty; the world within the world rather than beyond it — I am firmly imbued with the idea of what the Welsh called Annfwn, the ‘In-World’ — the magic world is not outside of ours but living by it and behind it. I think my own experiences growing up as a child between two worlds — France and Australia — and two languages — French and English — have contributed to that. I am also very much interested in metamorphosis in all its forms, and dreams.
I’m not sure — but perhaps the biggest change, and challenge, has come actually from general trends in publishing including the global financial crisis, which sort of made things harder for both writers and publishers, and the disruption but also opportunity afforded by e-publishing. Things are still shaking down from all that.
Natalie Costa Bir
When it comes to e-books, I think publishers are still experimenting but aren’t completely certain about they are doing. This is partly because of the sheer number of books the big publishers were dealing with at the start of the process. Without wanting to get too detailed, converting thousands of e-books and ensuring the resulting files are error-free is a huge task. Readers are making it known that they want their e-books as soon as possible and if you make it too hard for them to buy books in legal channels, they will seek the book files elsewhere. There’s also the question of applying Digital Rights Management (DRM) to e-book files. It’s easy to crack so is there any point in applying it and stopping readers buying e-books legally from reading those books on the device of their choice? At the same time, publishers must protect the interests of their authors, which includes making it more difficult for readers to acquire unpaid copies of books.
I think one of the changes I’ve seen is the growing success of self-published Australian authors thanks to the ease of publishing with Amazon. I follow quite a lot of authors on Twitter and have seen them talking about their successes and the ways they have promoted their works. I’ve also seen it with small press – just recently Jodi Cleghorn got Chinese Whisperings: the Yin and Yang book up to number two on the Amazon free list and is promoting another anthology from eMergent publishing that way this week.
I also think more options have opened up for traditional publishers to take a punt on authors. This is partly because they are freed from the costs of warehousing and printing books (though they still rightly invest in editing and proofreading). It’s also them being more open to experimentation in a world they are not sure of. They’re still willing to take some chances and see what sells in the e-book world – including trying out short stories and novellas. It’s great to see Pan Macmillan taking the initiative with Momentum, their e-only and print on demand list.