A A Bell
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.
I’d loved the story ever since I studied the 5th century BC Euripides playMedea (in Ancient Greek) as part of my degree in Classics. After all the modern retellings that concentrate on how ‘heroic’ Jason was, and what a monster Medea was to kill her brother and her children, I was astonished to see Euripides rip into him so cuttingly, and so appallingly accurately. Jason could never have brought the Golden Fleece back to Greece without Medea’s help -– but a few years later, he wanted to trade her in for a younger, better-connected princess (not foreign witch), and expected Medea to be happy about him providing a better future for their children! Euripides converted me to Medea’s side, and I want to convert everyone else.
Achieving the dream of having a trilogy published was fantastic. Amazing. Wonderful. The thing is that it’s been nearly twelve months since Rogue Gadda came out and once you’ve achieved a dream, what you find is that it becomes not as important as it was. So on the one hand, it’s a wonderful achievement. On the other hand, it’s done and I’ve moved on and so it feels very distant and small. It’s weird to feel that way about something that for years was my priority, the one thing I wanted to do with my life. I look at those books on my shelves now, and I smile, and I’m proud of them, but they don’t mean that much to me any more.
What means something to me now is the next book, the next contract, the next story. I’ve had no problems keeping up momentum because I’ve wanted to get the next books out as quickly as possible.
‘In fabula-divinos’ came about because I wanted to return to editing, which I really enjoy. I also wanted to pay back all the help and support I’ve received over the years, and I gain a lot of satisfaction from seeing great writers achieve.
I don’t think there have been big changes. I think what’s happened is that Aussiecon came at a point when a lot of us were starting to get tired, and it’s spurred us all on with the realisation that we really do stand pretty tall in the world. So we’ve got publishing houses like Twelth Planet and Ticonderoga doing really cool things, and more and more writers coming up and having the guts to get out there and do stuff. I love our industry at the moment – the confidence, the interesting things that are being done. It’s inspiring to be a writer in Australia at the moment.
It was wonderful affirmation of the substance of the novel, because while the scaffolding of The Courier’s New Bicycleis climate and political change, pandemic and infertility, at its heart are issues of identity and disentitlement. It’s one gender transgressive’s adventure in a city where a prohibitive regime has divested a section of the community of their civil and social rights. It’s also about a community under great duress, and how ‘outsiders’ carve out community for themselves. The Courier’s New Bicycle is a call-out for breaking open the gender categories to make way for diversity. Did I mention it’s also crime fiction? Noir lyricism? Intergenre?
I actually think the biggest changes are coming in the next couple of years. The real impact of e-books has yet to be felt here. I think, well, the publishing establishement is going to have interesting times here. My biggest fear is that we follow US trends – which is bad enough when they’re in step with the US but really not good when they’re 5-10 years out of synch with the causative agents on a world scale. The US went into overdrive with angst-and-literary driven sf/fantasy in the naughties – when the US was heading up toward the sub-prime economic crisis, but was doing rather well. It always takes these trends a few years to start and several more to die when the zeitgeist has moved on. And some sf/fantasy authors do suffer from low self-esteem and were pathetically eager (at least some of them) for the ‘respect’ moving the genre in this direction would bring. Well, I suspect they’re in for a rude shock as ‘literature’ is judged by time and not the current fashion in academics and the literati. Books these ‘judges’ set as literature seem destined to be tomorrow’s toilet paper, while their ‘trash’ – you know, Dickens, Shakespeare, Verne… endure. We need to let our books be judged by readers, and that, hopefully, is what e-books will allow. There’s a place and a market for literary sf, and it should be able to find publishers, but if I am right and publishing and Australia are in for some choppy economic waters, books that make people laugh, that give them battlers they can identify with, that will lift them and cheer them… those might be the ones to save the establishment. If I was to give a single piece of advice to publishing it would be to learn from Baen: stop betting the entire farm and putting all your resources into one chosen book, and spread your bets.
Two short years? Not a lot that I have noticed. Of course, I’ve been mostly involved with YA and with ASIM, which is about to produce its 10th anniversary issue and has recently added mobi and ePub to its PDF availability, so I might not have noticed any other changes. But quite a lot has happened since Aussiecon 3(1999), hasn’t it? A lot of small presses have started up, providing a bigger market for everyone. Some are now online, making themselves more available. Marianne De Pierres, whom I met at the Tor group of the A3 writer’s workshop, when we were both pretty new, has become a best selling spec fic novelist and has recently strolled into my area of YA and done some great stuff, drat her! There are some Kiwis who have also done well in recent years, but you asked about the Aussie scene. A lot of stuff is being published at the small press level and I, for one, find it exciting.