February 19th, 2010

cuppa

2010 Australian Specfic Snapshot: Stuart Mayne

Stuart Mayne is editor of Aurealis Magazine. As The Mayne Press, he recently published the Paul Haines collection A Slice of Life.

1. As editor of Aurealis magazine, you are focussed on Australian writers and artists. How would you characterise the local scene at the moment? What reflections do you have on the slush pile and on the current crop of writers coming through?

The SF scene is very strong. I think that SF writers are using short fiction better than any other writers of Australian literature, whether literary or other genre of fiction. Our established writers, in particular, are writing short fiction at the zenith of it's technique and structure. I'm thinking of people such as Lucy Sussex, Geoffrey Maloney, Kaaron Warren and Adam Browne.

Given that assessment I personally find it frustrating that I publish only two issues a year. I have enough strong Australian work coming to my in-box that I could easily fill four to six issues a year.

The slush pile is as it always is - a mishmash. I publish about 4% of submissions and as I, mentioned above, could publish twice as much of that. But that still leaves 92% that doesn't make the grade.

The current crop of newer/younger short fiction writers are good, with a range of skill levels and I have seen a particular development in skill levels from a number of young writers some of whom are being published in Aurealis for the first time this year.

2. You recently published a collection of Paul Haines stories under The Mayne Press, which was nominated for an Aurealis Award. Has the collection been all you hoped for? What future plans do you have for The Mayne Press?

Slice of Life is a fantastic collection. I am very proud of it and am immensely impressed by the work Geoff Maloney did pulling it together into a coherent structure. Paul Haines' is a very talented writer whose work needed to be made easily available to the Australian audience. It is all I hoped for. But I have no plans to publish any other collections under the TMP imprint.

3. What can we expect from Aurealis magazine this year?

I have two strong issues selected. And I've continued to do in these two issues what I do in each previous issue, create an issue with a mix of SF sub-genres along with established and new writers.

I've enjoyed allowing my inner horror nerd come out by continuing to include a bush horror story in each issue I've edited. I've not had enough quality science fiction for my own tastes; science fiction is my preferred genre, but have found one or two for each issue.
Last year I tried to publish two themed issues, but they didn't quite work as I would have liked, despite great overseas reviews, because I was mixing too many elements. This year I've gone back to the principles of Occam's Razor (a mix of SF sub-genres along with established and new writers).

4. Which Australian writers or work would you like to see on the Hugo shortlists this year? What have you enjoyed reading?

I'd like to see Paul Haines get on the shortlist; I appreciate his male focussed contemporary horror. Would also love to see Adam Duncan, who does the covers of Aurealis, get some recognition for his consistently high quality illustrative work. Kaaron Warren's Slights was a particularly fine long piece and I think deserves to be shortlisted. On the short fiction front there are many new and established authors who have written very strong fiction that should be considered.

5. Will you be at Aussiecon 4 in September? If so, what are you most looking forward to about it?

Yep, I'll be there manning the Aurealis table. I'll be looking forward to getting off the table.

To read all the 2010 Snapshot Interviews hot off the press, check these blogs daily:

http://random-alex.livejournal.com/
http://girliejones.livejournal.com/
http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/
http://www.mechanicalcat.net/rachel
http://tansyrr.com/
http://editormum.livejournal.com/

Will we beat 83 this time? If you know of someone involved in the Scene with something to plug, then send us an email at 2010snapshot@gmail.com

coffee

2010 Australian Snapshot: Paul Haines

Paul Haines is a Melbourne based writer. At the most recent Aurealis Awards, he tied with himself to win for Best Horror Short Story and his second short story collection A Slice of Life was shortlisted for Best Collection. He attended the inaugural Clarion South writers workshop in 2004. And he is notorious for his graphic, horrific writing.

1. You have had such an amazing success with your novella, "Wives", in the anthology X6. What were you hoping to do with the story and what has seen you move to the longer length story? Are you surprised by the response to the work?

It was originally supposed to be a 2,500 word horror short story about a man who buys himself a wife, much in the same 'comic' vein as my "Lifelike & Josephine" story. It was inspired by a footnote in the Lonely Plant Guide for China that I was travelling with at the time and was therefore supposed to be a commentary on the continued abuse of human rights that happens over there. What came out was somewhat different and the story took over, demanding it tell itself at that length.

I knew when I was writing it that something special was happening, and I was scared that it might really hammer home the Misogynist nail into the coffin that could be perceived to be my work, although that wasn't what I was intending at all. I was scared to put this story out there, and yet the response I've received for it has been marvellous, especially from female readers. I also feel immensely gratified by the critical response it has garnered, because my heart and soul went into this piece, and it hurt in several places to write the necessary scenes. To know that people are reading it is really the biggest thrill.

That we *still* live in a world where women are perceived as something less than men staggers me. How the fuck can this be?

As for story length, Wives took over from me, I couldn't stop it. I probably could have put on another 20k for that piece too, and have probably blown what could have been my first novel. I also find my short story writing really lending itself into the 10,000 word plus mark too -- I'm finding that I need this length to seed what appears to be throw-away, irrelevant, crazy facts and ideas that relate to the protagonist and their world, and then really enjoying tying them all into together as the stories move from what could be reality into that other, off-kilter world known as Haines.

2. Your third short story collection Slice of Life was released last year and short listed for an Aurealis Award. Has collecting your works in these volumes differed across the projects? What would you have done differently and what advice do you have for other writers looking to collect their work?

Slice of Life is actually my second collection, but it was supposed to be my third. Hopefully Brimstone Press will manage to get Last Days Of Kali Yuga out this year, finally.

Doorways For The Dispossessed (Prime Books, 2006) started off great, working closely with Geoff Maloney at a time when I had Aurealis and Ditmar awards coming in, regularly finding myself on shortlists and in TOCs. It was exciting, Prime were going to do huge things, and then the wheels fell off and it was the worst experience in my writing career to date. Everything bad that people quote, well, that was my experience with Prime. My contract arrived over a year after my book had been in print and so I renegotiated the Australian side of that contract, and Prime, quite happy to be rid of me, said go for it. I have two unbankable cheques in US dollars from Prime for $12 each.

At that point I contacted Brimstone Press and asked them if they were interested in producing the Australian edition of Doorways and they were. And things went quiet. This is of course several years ago now and the landscape has changed somewhat. I got cancer. The Aussie SF community rallied behind me to keep me alive and as part of that Geoff Maloney and Stuart Mayne decided to put out a collection of mine to help raise funds for the cause. I informed Brimstone of this and they said they were about to move on my collection but wanted to make it more their own (ie Kali Yuga rather than Doorways) and that was fine with me. We then went through a fairly easy process of selecting stories for each collection without any real shit-fighting for the desired stories. Brimstone wanted the dark scary stuff and Geoff wanted the crazy unhinged stuff. I thought this perfect, as thematically they were quite different and yet very complementary. Due to my illness and other unforeseen circumstances Slice Of Life was somewhat delayed. However, the process was great, working with both Stuart and Geoff. These guys were doing it for love, and it shows in the final output. I got to proof the copy! Twice! (Prime published without proofing and the book is full of typecast errors - I've pointed them all out, but they have never been corrected). Slice of Life was a labour of love and I cannot express my thanks enough to the guys who worked on it.

I'm hoping to get down to details with Brimstone Press very very soon for the Kali Yuga collection.

What would I have done differently? I would not have gone with Prime.

Advice for writers looking to collect their work? Man, that's a hard one. I really wanted a collection, and I thought I had hit it good with Prime. At that point they were still considered Indie darlings. The research and the story and the company all looked good. What would I look for now? People I think I can work with, who have open and honest communication channels. Someone who can actually distribute the book into not only specialist shops (which I still haven't had happen), but also into a chain book store. Where the publishers produces good looking work, manages to get it noticed and reviewed and promoted and in the right places at least some of the time, and a publisher who cares about your work. As for money, well, that's a bonus, but don't expect to be making anything off your collection unless you're Stephen King or Jeffrey Archer.

3. After a while of not being able to write you seem to be in a period of creativity - what are you working on and what can we expect from you in the near future?

This year I have decided, health pending, to try to write as full-time as somebody can fighting a terminal illness and trying to raise a young daughter who thinks Daddy is always at home just to play with her. I have a couple of short stories that need to be rolled out of my mind as they've been stagnating in their far too long. I have a couple of colloborations on these too, that are long overdue, one of which I've finally started with Adam Browne. I have a couple of other Interferer novellas I'd like to write, and this is the year that I need to commit to the novel. My hand is slowly being convinced it should turn the episodic Haines/Vogon tales into a proper thing. I want to have a novel finished before I die. Ideally, I'd like to have a whole fucking lot of them published before I die too.

4. Which Australian writers or work would you like to see on the Hugo shortlists this year? What have you enjoyed reading?

Me! I'd love WIVES to get a nod. (Forgive my monstrous ego, people...)

I'd also like to see Peter Ball and Lezli Robyn up there for the John W Campbell. Peter's Horn would be great to see too, as well as Margo Lanagan's "Sea-Hearts" (but, shit, they'd be competing!). Jonathan Strahan (can Keith Stevenson and Alisa Krasnostein compete against the Strahan juggernauat at this stage?), Kaaron Warren (have I been espousing lately how much I have fallen in love with this woman's work?), Tansy Ranyer Robert's "Siren" (hell, I'd be happy to see a bunch of Twelfth Planet Press stuff up there). And why don't the Hugo's do Collections? If they did, I'd be barracking behind that wise-cracking Biancotti woman whose "The Book Of Endings" has been ending up on lists everywhere.

5. Will you be at Aussiecon 4 in September? If so, what are you most looking forward to about it?

Health pending, I will be there. Entertaining the thought of performing my ten-dollar blowjob joke in front of a Hugo crowd. Catching up with all the people who have provided so much support for me and my family over these couple of extremely difficult years.

To read all the 2010 Snapshot Interviews hot off the press, check these blogs daily:

http://random-alex.livejournal.com/
http://girliejones.livejournal.com/
http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/
http://www.mechanicalcat.net/rachel
http://tansyrr.com/
http://editormum.livejournal.com/

Will we beat 83 this time? If you know of someone involved in the Scene with something to plug, then send us an email at 2010snapshot@gmail.com

coffee

2010 Australian Specfic Snapshot: Stephanie Campisi

Stephanie Campisi is a Melbourne-based writer. Her work has appeared in magazines such as Fantasy Magazine, Sybil’s Garage, Voiceworks, and Shimmer, and anthologies including Polyphony 7 (Wheatland Press) and Paper Cities (Senses Five Press).

1. You tend to be published in overseas publications more than locally. Is that a personal submissions preference or because you feel your work appeals to a niche market that's not catered for locally?

It’s a little of both. I’ve found that overseas publications tend to accept electronic submissions, respond in a timely (or at least more timely) manner, and pay better than many of the local publications, so it’s no surprise that I don’t tend to submit to many publications here. While there is certainly some interesting material being published in Australia, there also tends to be a lot more diversity of content available with the overseas magazines, although is perhaps simply due to the sheer number of markets out there. I have an unfortunate tendency to write odd, niche stuff, and I’ve found that it’s more likely to find a suitable home overseas than it is in Australia, which I feel tends to be quite conservative in terms of its short fiction.

2. What projects are you currently working on? What can we expect from you in the near future?

My goodness, I feel as though I never stop. I’m currently working on a few novels, one of which is a dark fantasy novel about the Devil’s orchestra set here in Melbourne (the Devil lives in St Kilda, didn’t you know?), and one of which is a young adult novel about surveillance in schools. I have a few other longer pieces I’m considering, but their viability is a bit tentative right now. I am working on a novella called Above, which will be part of a novella double that I’m writing with Ben Peek and that will be published through 12th Planet Press later this year. Ben’s writing Below, which will accompany Above.

I have a few short stories coming out here and there over the next year or so, with forthcoming publications in Polyphony 7, Quantum Genre, Sprawl, and Scenes From the Second Storey. I also have two novels that I’m currently shopping about.

3. A lot of the work you write is hard to classify in hard genre terms. What appeals to you about slipstream or surrealism?

I write largely because I love to play with language, and I find that work with a surrealist or odd bent readily affords this. I enjoy writing about strange situations and events that seem disconnected from reality in some way, as well as working with skewed perspectives and from whimsical points of view. I don’t see this sort of writing as escapist, really, but as a signpost to encourage you to see the world a little differently. To look up every once in a while.

4. Which Australian writers or work would you like to see on the Hugo shortlists this year? What have you enjoyed reading?

I’ve actually read very little Australian fiction over the past year, and what I have read has not been speculative at all, so it might not be best to recommend for the Hugos (although David Malouf’s Ransom might, at a stretch, count). I am seeing a few names popping up with increasing frequency, though, and it looks as though many authors primarily known for their short stories are doing well at breaking into novels.

5. Will you be at Aussiecon 4 in September? If so, what are you most looking forward to about it?

I will be, actually. I have no idea what to expect really, having only been to one (very small) convention before, and from which I think the most important thing I took away was the fact that I’m woefully disfluent in all things Doctor Who. I’m looking forward to meeting in person the various authors, editors, and reviewers I only know online, as well as catching up with a few friends.

To read all the 2010 Snapshot Interviews hot off the press, check these blogs daily:

http://random-alex.livejournal.com/
http://girliejones.livejournal.com/
http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/
http://www.mechanicalcat.net/rachel
http://tansyrr.com/
http://editormum.livejournal.com/

Will we beat 83 this time? If you know of someone involved in the Scene with something to plug, then send us an email at 2010snapshot@gmail.com