Snapshots! Part Seventeen

Anna Tambour

But yes, living in a place uncluttered by humans constantly slaps me with how little I know, and pricks me, often literally – about this roiling mass of curiosities and contrarinesses that is the world. But it doesn’t matter where one physically lives these days. Almost everyone has the ability to shut off observation and contemplation, the more we are Connected; and the more we accept that to write, one must firstly, be taught, and secondly, write every day. The greatest unwritten modern horror story is that of the auditorium in which the victims of creative writing are laid out without their consent, probed and dissected (in front of underage children, no less!). To then think that any student would want, afterwards, to love these defiled creatures is a fiction that is oddly, not a subject in any story I’ve read, but deserves Poe.

And better than any writing course are life experiences, especially two things: failure and cross dressing (and if the shoes rub, all the better). Writers who haven’t failed (and I don’t mean just getting rejection slips for writing!) tend to be shallow; and writers to whom characters are components, are only themselves, mere machines producing at best, unpreservable junk food. The writers we love, lived everywhere from Mannaville to hell itself; but for the most part, followed their own unprescriptions.

I’m also not only very much looking forward to reading the novel that Ben Peek is working on, but hoping that it gets an international readership that Peek deserves. Although he could bore anyone with details of structure, his fiction shows nothing of that pedantry. Instead, he is what the bloated Thing maybe was, before Mieville’s hungry Ego hadn’t, when he was very young, mistaken him for a vanilla shake. What I admire about Peek is that his passion about society and the people that are its components are real, yet this fierce interest doesn’t hinder him from writing lucid, visceral fiction of great power and thought-provoking resonance – minus melodrama, manifesto, and Peek.

Thoraiya Dyer epitomises the ideal writer, in my eyes. She has so many interests, talents (that she hones), and could be called to be an expert witness in several fields. I especially love her fiction when it relates to science and the natural world. Yet she is always invisible in her fiction, and is like many people of true worth – so modest that to open her up, you need an oyster knife.


Sean McMullen

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.


Talie Helene

There is an amorphous danger zone of gender politics in the speculative fiction community in Australia, and in horror more than any other genre. It is in part due to a disparity in theorised feminism, because writers range from all walks of life – can I say thank fuck? That is something I can appreciate from both sides, because I’m not a theorised feminist myself. (I don’t have a degree, and while I do read feminist musicology with interest, I’m truant on Feminism 101.) I think the sticking point is that horror is often violent, and historically violence precedes from the patriarchy, so there has been confusion in separating confronting language from gendered language.

As horror editor of the Year’s Best, I’ve had to remain silent on feminist issues I might have otherwise been very vocal about, because I have conflict of interest – and I support people in their artistic practice who have completely contradictory views, including views that I don’t agree with. It doesn’t mean I’m not participating in the discourse, because I will recognise writers who are disrupting and interrogating those issues in their work, and that becomes an influence in my editorial process. I want the anthology to be a powder keg of awesome! My philosophy is stolen from an old 3RRR Radio Station ID: ‘Diversity in the face of adversity’.

The unfortunate melee that Robin Pen hilariously sketched as ‘Ballad of the Unrequited Ditmar‘ seemed to cause a lot of hurt – factions seem delineated, which I think is a pity because in a scene this small we all move forward together. (Who knew I was such a hippy?)


Simon Petrie

Well, the zombie apocalypse seems to have fizzled out … and I also have the sense that the horror scene has been a bit quieter of late. In fact it sometimes seems as though the local spec-fic scene in general is in a bit of a lull. I mean, there’s still plenty happening, a good number of exciting new writers appearing on the scene. But there’s a sense in which Aussiecon 4 was a crescendo towards which the scene was building, and things have been that bit quieter since then. I haven’t been around fandom long enough to know whether that’s always the way it goes, but maybe it is.

On the flipside, I will miss Paul Haines, lost to us at the peak of his powers; and Jimmy Goodrum, who was just starting out as a writer. We should’ve had novels from both of these guys.

In terms of broader changes to the scene – the biggies would seem to be e-books, and the (related) proliferation and rehabilitation of self-publishing as a valid way of ‘getting the stuff out there’. I’d like to hope that these things will be a force for diversification. We need variety, we need people willing to take the genre into new and unexpected directions, and I hope that happens. Time will tell.


Stephanie Smith

Lovely to be called the Voyager Queen; I think the new Voyager publisher, Deonie Fiford, will quickly establish herself as the Voyager Queen in her own right! It was wonderful to be able to be at the forefront of SFF/speculative fiction publishing in Australia for 20 years. When I started on Voyager, Louise Thurtell had already commissioned Sara, Sean Williams, Traci Harding and Simon Brown. So the groundwork was there and I was proud to be able to acquire authors such as Fiona McIntosh, Jennifer Fallon, Russell Kirkpatrick in those early days, and others such as Kim Westwood, Kim Falconer, Duncan Lay and Paul Garrety in later years. I’d love to list all the authors as stand-out experiences, but I’ll spare you that! It is amazing to be able to phone someone and say that their book has been accepted for publication by HarperCollins … the delight on the other end of the line is always very heartfelt and warming. A standout experience for me personally was receiving the Peter McNamara Achievement Award in 2004 … that sort of support and feedback and appreciation from professionals in the genre was and always is appreciated by those receiving such an award.


Zena Shapter

Well, it depends on what you want to get from social media. Social media is important to me because I get something from pressing my finger into the pulse of the communal psyche that is social networking – I guess it nullifies the existential loneliness that I would otherwise have to bear sitting alone at my computer all day! I also like to be social with both colleagues and fans. Plus, it helps me to stay up-to-date with the latest news and events – while the past and the future both fascinate me, I do enjoy being in the ‘now’ of living, and I love popular culture. So, if such things are important to other writers then, yes, they too should establish a social media presence.

However, I don’t think that any degree of social media presence can win you a publishing contract, an agent or fans – in that, your writing has to stand for itself. There are plenty of writers whom I admire with only the simplest website where you can read more about them, no interacting, and I still buy their books.

There are also plenty of writers whom I only heard about through social media, but that’s not to say I wouldn’t have eventually heard of them through some other route, and it’s also not to say that I enjoyed their writing enough to buy again. Story is more important to me than social media presence, and I’m guessing the same is true for most readers.

Strategies? Just be yourself, keep your manners, but have fun. Connect with readers and other writers, have LOLs with them, and you’ll soon build yourself a huddle of unmitigated support.


Liz Grzyb

At Worldcon Russell and I were talking about the idea, and how fun it would be as a tribute to the Datlow and Windling Years’ Bests. I don’t read a lot of horror, so we needed to find a joint editor. Talie was a great choice, as she’s got a thorough background in the horror genre in Australia and we work well together.

I’ve found the Year’s Best a really interesting process to read for: quite different to the way I read for original anthologies. To start with, only reprinting stories means the choice becomes immediately more difficult – most stories are of a pretty good standard because they’ve already gone through the slushing and editing process! In the end, the pieces Talie and I choose have to jump through a lot of other hoops as well as being a great tale – we try to not include too many stories from any one anthology, from any one author, and we like to have a range which reflects the breadth of each genre. Then we argue about whether a particular story “belongs” in Horror or Fantasy … and there is a lot of Australian writing in the past couple of years which really straddles both genres. Lots of fun!


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