As an Australian, the daughter of a farmer, I know about the preciousness of water. We bathed in untreated water pumped up from the river when I was a kid. Some of my earliest memories are about shortages – the summer a rat drowned in our rainwater tank, for example. Or the night my father walked through the smouldering remains of a bushfire to pump more water from the river so we could fight the fire. They are the stories of my childhood, and they have been reinforced by what is happened in today’s world. Wars are going to be fought over water.
It certainly seems to be a widespread complaint among authors that proposals have been a hard sell lately, especially last year. I was astonished by some of the Big Name Authors who have had been unable to sell their next works without a finished book in their hands. I think it stems from publishers being more circumspect about buying on spec while they try to work out where their industry is going. Once they decide what direction their company is taking, and have invested in new methods of distribution and sales, then things will settle down. It won’t be the same industry, but it will be perhaps less volatile and a tad more predictable than it has over the past year or two.
From a distance, then, I would say it has been the healthy growth and outstanding success of the small press; the international success of Australian podcasts; the success of Australian woman in fantasy, horror and science fiction writing. Generally, Australia appears to produce a huge pool of talent when you consider the small population. What I’d love to see in the next couple of years is some great Australian fantasy from indigenous writers and immigrant writers drawing on their own cultural/ethnic roots.
Marianne De Pierres
I think the rise of small press in TPP, Ticonderoga and Clan Destine has brought some real staying power to spec fic publishing in Oz. Particularly at a time when major publishers have become nervous about what to buy. The announcement of Genre Con is also a significant sign that we’re here to stay in a way that can’t be ignored.
Peter M Ball
There’s nothing hiding under the bed, but there’s a big list of novel ideas on my hard-drive and a bunch of works in various states of completion. I’ve backed away from writing short fiction in recent years so I can start figuring out how novels works, and I’m discovering that I rather enjoy writing in long form. I’m not good at it yet, but I’ll get there. It took a few years of writing short stories before I really figured out the form and felt comfortable writing them, and I figure it’ll be the same with novel-length fiction.
Short story collections. I mean, holy hell, those thing are everywhere these days. Between the Twelve Planets series and the Ticonderoga collections, fans of short stories (which I am) are seeing a lot of really cool collections coming out in a variety of formats.
I’m also really interested in seeing the increased discourse about gender and feminism in Australian SF. I’m a haphazard feminist – it comes with the territory when you’re white, male, and middle-class, for obvious reasons – but I’ve always been interested in the discourse that surrounds feminism and the discussions about gender that results from that.
My experience in feature films is mostly in the cutting room as an assistant editor, which taught me a lot about structure and story. I’ve always worked as a prose writer first and foremost; writing scripts never used to appeal to me. There’s not much beauty in a film script and I was all about the beauty of a sentence.
Now that I’m more experienced I realise how much I’ve learned about structure from film and that the gulf between writing novels and making films isn’t as vast as scriptwriters and novelists would have you believe. Character and story are key, as is good dialogue. I picked up a book by a famous novelist the other day and quickly put it back when I saw it had almost no dialogue. You lose so much if you don’t write good dialogue, including humour, and the ability to show your characters’ relationships economically. When Jane Campion read the book, she told me she particularly loved the dialogue and that meant so much to me, coming from a film director.
I believe new writers need to determine their goals. Why are you writing? Who are you writing for? What do you hope to achieve? It’s also very helpful if you can become realistically aware of your own abilities and try to establish your level as a writer. Most people believe they can write, and most beginning writers tend to believe they are more able than they truly are. I find it fascinating that so many people don’t regard writing in the same way as other skills. If I decide, for example, to become a football player, I don’t turn up at an AFL club and expect to get a game. I develop my skills and abilities and work my way up through the leagues until I reach the highest level of which I’m capable. Which may only be district or local football. In my case I wouldn’t get a game at all.
Money is for me is okay, as my writing is still paying royalties. And I’ve had some winners – mostly notably Trust Me!, an anthology is edited a few years ago, and several picture books that have sold exceptionally well. But most small presses do struggle financially. Although my books are distributed by Macmillan, it’s still hard getting small press titles into the shops. There’s always been a perception that books from a small press can’t be any good. If they were, they’d be published by a major publisher. Totally ridiculous, of course – many of the world’s classics and best-sellers were rejected by major publishers – the Harry Potter series is a recent example. My short-listed titles in Premiers’ awards were rejected by major publishers. So if you can’t get your books into the stores, they’re not going to sell. I get around this by organising festivals in schools and selling direct to the students, although this is time-consuming, and I rely on the good will of my authors and illustrators.
I loved being able to play in Ben Aaronovitch’s African future. In Transit, Ben introduced the genuinely futuristic idea that Africa will become the “first world” – culminating in the 30th Century aristocracy of which Roz Forrester is a part. I borrowed this future for Sleepy, and it was also an influence on Seeing I and The Year of Intelligent Tigers.
While the spirit of the NAs is alive and well in the new show – not surprising, given how many of the book authors went on to write for it – you have to remember that only thousands of people read the novels, compared to the millions who watch the current show. So while the NAs might have prepared fandom for some elements of the new series, I think changes in TV itself have had a much bigger effect on the new show – things like CGI, much larger budgets, the explosion of pay TV and the Internet, and the greater sophistication of audiences.