Difficult to assess from a distance, but surely the big development not just over the past two years but the past decade has been the increase in the number of Australian specfic writers and the quality of their work. I thinkClarion South has a lot to do with this (and by implication Clarion South’s organisers), as well as the continued and it seems to me against-all-odds existence of short fiction markets such as Aurealis and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine.
The other big change has been the slow but inevitable move in Australia from ink to phosphor dot and LED, including e-books and online magazines. We’ll have to wait a year or 10 before properly assessing what effects this has had on writers and writing. If I’m still around, feel free to ask me again in 2022.
Oh, I have several responses, all pretty contradictory. My first response is that the division is false. Writers like Atwood, Ishiguru, Houllebecq andWinterson are clearly writing SF. On the other hand, there are plenty of SF writers writing very ‘literary’ science fiction: Gene Wolfe or M John Harrison, for example. Partly the division is invented by the marketing departments of publishing companies, partly there’s an inherited prejudice against SF in the ‘mainstream’ (which I find ignorant and repulsive), but there’s also quite often a self-reinforced ghettoisation from the SF community also.
I find it all pretty frustrating because there are all sorts of deleterious effects of the division. SF writers are unfairly ignored and ‘literary’ writers writing SF too-often claimed as ‘original’ when they’re really borrowing tropes that have been around for decades. At Overland we try to be inclusive: we’ve had special SF editions, publish SF stories and articles, but I do feel fairly sad that the SF community pretty much ignores us — something reflected not only in terms of our submissions but reflected in things like awards, links to our online articles and so on.
Another passed-down quirk of the division between the literary and SF worlds is the over-emphasis on plot-driven narrative in genre. Genre writers, readers and editors probably do want more ‘action’ than the literary world (which could often do with more action!). I’m not sure that’s healthy. Having said that, the SF community is a really welcoming and in the end, in terms of fiction, that’s where I happily exist.
The King who would burst into the literary consciousness only four years later was fully formed in this story. I am grateful that Steve later allowed me to publish it in my book, ‘Stephen King: Uncollected, Unpublished’ so now all King fans and those who want study his development can read it. Here is a true horror story and like so much of King’s fiction it’s not supernatural but examines the horrors that people will commit against each other, given certain pressures.
Yes, they’re quite different. With print, you need to focus on getting the page right, whereas with ebooks you need to focus on flexibility, on making sure it works well on each ereader, and with their individual settings. And covers are different too. Print covers have to look good on a shelf next to other, similar books. With online sales of print and ebooks, covers need to look appealing at thumbnail size, and it’s more difficult to predict what covers will be viewed alongside it.
But there’s also more flexibility with online. Covers don’t have to appeal to generic booksellers, they can be more adventurous and aim at smaller niche audiences. And the wide availability of technology means that more people can create their own books and covers. That can mean some ugly results, but it will also lead to more creativity and experimentation.
It’s all completely up in the air at the moment. We’re trying to predict the future, we’re trying to predict what we will do. But we’re the ones who are making the new rules. I think the best thing I can do as a designer is to pay attention to what’s happening and make the decisions I think are best. Rather than trying to predict what others will do its great to have this opportunity to be part of creating something new. That’s what I love about Twelfth Planet and FableCroft. They’re trying new ideas, and expanding the range of writers and stories in the world. It’s an honour to be part of that.
Fragments Of A Broken Land: Valarl Undead – Fragments, for short — has been a long-running obsession. It’s a fantasy novel in the “other-world” mode, both straightforward and paradoxically complex, that was begun several decades ago, and has been re-worked many times since. It has a long history of near publication and I’m quite serious when I say it’s only the enthusiasm of Jack Dann that has stopped me from abandoning it altogether. Jack enthused about it – and did a thorough structural edit on it – before I knew him as more than one of science fiction’s greats. He has become a good friend since and has tried hard to get the book into print, driven by his enthusiasm for it — without success, until recently. Why that is may be open to conjecture, but two agents who also tried to sell it both claimed it was the novel’s unexpectedly literary nature that lies at the heart of the problem. I’m not entirely sure what that means, but it’s been a struggle and has caused me to work at the book, on and off, for many years. Now Borgo Press – a long-established US small-press that has become an imprint of Wildside Press – have contracted it and it is due to appear, in various formats, either toward the end of this year or the beginning of the next. I await that Event with mingled fear, excitement and relief.