As for big issues, a fiction writer’s first priority must be to entertain their reader (or you won’t have readers). There are many examples of great Spec Fic that don’t explore big issues, however, when I begin to wonder about the universe it leads me to big questions. I love fiction where humankind gets a cosmic spanking for its arrogance, like when extra terrestrials come down and beat us up because we have technology but no conscience about how we use it.
I think my main future goal is to continue to not to take it TOO seriously. I tried being a serious writer while living in London, and it quickly drained all the pleasure out of the process. As long as I tell myself I’m just doing this for fun, rather than profit, I think I’ll write better and, perversely, probably make more money from it. Go figure!
I’m not sure there have been any huge changes, but we’ve seen such a healthy growth again in the independant publishing field, especially when it comes to women being published in spec fic, something which can only be a good thing. In this year’s Ditmar nominations, the large majority of them are for women writers, including all five of the novel nominations, four out of the five collection nominations (and all five of them are edited by women!), and in the short story category, I’m the only man, and I co-wrote with a woman! Do I feel that my gender is threatened? Of course not! Writing isn’t a zero sum game, the success of one group doesn’t translate into the failure of another. I just think it shows the breadth and depth of talent in this country, and makes me incredibly proud to be a small part of it. I love what both Twelfth Planet Press and Ticonderoga Publications are publishing, so many brilliant works by so many brilliant writers, both male and female, and of course we have Dark Prints Press just rising on the horizon, I’d be horribly remiss to my publishers if I didn’t mention them as well. I’d say it’s an exciting time to be in the industry, but to be honest, I’d have a hard time thinking of a time in my twenty years of doing this when it wasn’t an exciting time!
In many ways, writing fiction has been a blessing, a boon. It has allowed me to escape, to use aspects of what I do in my other roles in different ways and has given me a freedom my other writing and professional roles don’t always allow. I am now semi-retired from academia, so can dedicate more time to fiction and research and I am enjoying that immensely. I still do social commentary and write for newspapers and do radio and some TV work and I find that very stimulating and energizing, working to tight deadlines, doing live-to-air opinion. Keeps you focused and nervous!
What a difficult question. I think, on the positive side, it’s been great to see some exciting new writers really step up into their own such as the absolutely amazing writer, Angela Slatter. The beauty of her prose takes my breath away. She is a star. On the negative side, I think there’s been a tendency in spec-fic, post-Twilight, to follow fads – particularly in the YA market and I find the glut of vampire/para-normal books especially a bit depressing. My wish would be that we take more risks – not just writers, because I think many are, but publishers.
I also think we’re all a little more confused and wary about where publishing, particularly of spec-fiction is going in light of changes to the industry. But I keep telling myself, a good story is a good story and readers will always crave those, regardless of the format or delivery, so we have to keep creating them!
For short stories, things have deteriorated, but in a way that doesn’t matter so much because of how the writing industry has changed. There are not many active Australian magazines that take horror (you could count them on one hand and still be able to hold your scotch in that hand). In the early 2000’s, there were 8 or more Aussie mags taking horror, one of them a pro market paying 5c/word. Midnight Echo now pays 3c/word, so is semi-pro, and has plans to become a pro market, but it’s sad to see no full pro markets in this country.
However, the internet has turned the world into one big digital family, so many Aussie writers are being published in overseas-based magazines that are easily available to us here at home through the click of a button. So in that way, the digital age of eBook magazines means the lack of Aussie horror magazines doesn’t matter so much. Besides that, there are more options available to writers these days – again though, this is both good and bad.
Novels are also being published by many different publishers–even if those books aren’t being labelled horror. But my view is that horror isn’t quite as healthy as it was a few years ago. The Aurealis Awards didn’t have a shortlist or winner in the horror novel category in 2012, which was a real disappointment–but I know they weren’t the only awards to find themselves in that position. There are some golden gems of short stories being published, but there are a hell of a lot of bad stories out there, too (I say that with my editor’s hat on). Could self-publishing be swamping the market, like what happened in the 1980s and 1990s, when anything remotely horror was being published and the genre burnt out? I doubt the genre will burn out again as it’s too entrenched in other genres and the mainstream now, but unless writers start having their books professionally edited before they self-publish, they’re not going to be helping anyone.
The biggest changes… for me, everyone seems busy. Busier than they’ve ever been. Flat out with their own projects. It’s great to see so many people developing successful careers. Maybe that’s why it feels like that spark isn’t there anymore; maybe it is there, but folks are nurturing it their own way and being more selective in who they talk to because they just don’t have enough time anymore.
It also feels like the genre itself has been infected with advertising. Like giant billboards have been plated right through the genre. Perhaps we can call this period in the horror genre the Buy My Latest Book period, because it feels like everywhere you turn or every group you join, a horde of salivating writers are telling you to buy their book, but their book, BUY THEIR BOOK! I guess I’ll be joining them, soon…
I think I’ve said before that barely a day goes by without me thinking of stopping the press, but there’s never a week that goes by where I don’t think I’m doing the most worthwhile thing I can. While that continues I guess I’m here for the duration, though I do expect to review things in a couple of years as we approach 20 years in this biz.
I’ve been pondering this recently, and I think the biggest change has been a lack of change. In 1999, Aussiecon 3, a lot of independent presses geared up for a big show, produced some fabulous work, and either aimed for this to be their swan song or burnt out in the aftermath. There was a definite trough in the couple of years following.
There was certainly a big push for Aussiecon 4, a lot of awesome titles on display, and while it represented a winding down for a couple of presses overall the genre is showing a lot more resilience than a decade ago. It’s a good thing that there’s a lot going on right now.
Simple. I’d learned all I could and I’d done what I set out to achieve. TISF was was a trail-blazer for independent Australian spec fic podcasts, preceding Galactic Suburbia by 15 months. But, like coeur de lion, TISF was a one person operation. For 30 months I presented, engineered and produced the show and got some fantastic stories read by a lot of very talented Australian writers. That was a lot of work, and once I’d learned how to do it and felt I’d mastered that, I started thinking about the next thing to do. After 30 shows it was time to pull the pin. Those shows are still out there on iTunes and at www.tisf.com.au. And we’re also in the National Archives.
Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. Aussie spec fic grows and wanes. New players come and fill the vacuum left by departure of the old. That was true after Aussiecon 3. I don’t see that anything’s changed since then.