February 21st, 2010

coffee

2010 Australian Specfic Snapshot: Marty Young

Marty Young has a doctorate in Earth Sciences and several scientific papers to his name, but it is horror and writing horror fiction that really inspires him. He founded the Australian Horror Writers Association in 2002 to help the development of the horror genre and horror writers in Australia, and he has acted as the AHWA President since its inception in 2005. Young is also a horror writer, coeditor of the forthcoming Macabre anthology and has been an Aurealis Award judge and reviewer for ASif!

1. You're currently the President of the Australian Horror Writers Association. What do you see as the benefits to Australian writers for becoming a member? What do you see as some of the achievements of the AHWA so far? And where does your passion for horror and promoting the genre in Australia come from?

Right now, the AHWA is focused on two main goals: the first is getting our members to interact more with one another, and the second is stepping up onto the global stage. Both have huge benefits for our members. In regards to the first, we now have the successful Crit groups, the Mentor Program, the Market Hive, and Sinister Reads. This means there's a complete process available in the AHWA from that first draft right through to promoting your success. And working with other writers through this process means you each learn from one another, and get to enjoy one another's success.

With the second goal, we've been talking with Ramsey Campbell and his replacement as Chair of the British Fantasy Society, Stephen Theaker, and we're close to striking a deal with them that will benefit both our members and theirs. We'll also be developing relationships with other writing organisations across the world in order to promote Aussie horror on that world stage. I think it's important to look at the bigger picture.

The AHWA turns 5 this year, and that's a massive achievement in itself. We now have more than 200 members, with more joining all the time. More people are putting up their hand to help out too, and that's fantastic. As a volunteer organisation, you wouldn't exist without volunteers. Another great success story is our magazine, Midnight Echo. We've had 3 issues thus far and all have been very favourably received. Issue 4, edited by Lee Battersby, is looking damn good too. That will be released in April/May this year.

My passion for horror and promoting the genre? I've enjoyed being spooked since I was a demented teenager, so it's no real surprise to me that I'm neck deep in this genre. As for promoting it, well, that's a two way street - there are so many good Aussie writers that deserve greater recognition, and the AHWA wants to help achieve that. But I also have to think about my own writing career; the AHWA opens up opportunities for everyone, myself included.

2. How would you describe and characterise the local horror scene right now? Who are you favourite writers and why?

The local horror scene, talent-wise, is in great shape; more Aussie writers made it through to the next round of the Stokers this year than ever before. But with Australian markets drying up (eg, Shadowed Realms, Borderlands, and Dark Animus are no more), or even filled up until the end of the year (ie, Aurealis), things are getting tougher for Aussie horror writers to get published at home. I guess the only plus to come from this is that we're forced to look overseas to get published, which we should be doing anyway.

Probably my favourite Aussie writer at the moment would be Paul Haines - his 'Wives' novella was grim, tough, and fantastic, and his collection 'Slice of Life' has me rivited, too. Probably the fact he was born in NZ helps there, as well :)

3. You have some forthcoming works of your own. What can we expect from Marty Young in the near future? what are you currently working on?

I spent most of 2009 working on my novel with an editor in the States, and it's now polished to a fine scheen. The editor has a lot of confidence in the thing and is determined to see it published. We're about to start knocking on US Agents' doors as I write this. I'm not sure it's horror, but it does have moments of suspense and a bit of the supernatural to keep the demon in me satisfied. I'm really proud of it (the novel that is, not the demon).

Because my novel took up most of 2009, I only managed to finish 4 short stories last year (three of which have been published/accepted for publication - one in Festive Fear, another coming soon in the Masters of Horror anthology, and the third in Blade Red Press Dark Pages). Just recently, I have been working with a well-known writer in the US on developing my writing, and that has started to pay dividends. As a direct result, I now have a couple of deadlines to meet for professional markets, so fingers crossed 2010 will be a great year for me. All I need to do is actually write...

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

Everyone I know! Especially the kids from the AHWA Crit group 1. Go guys!

Because I spent the year working on my novel, I read more novels than short stories. Actually, no, that's not true. I hardly read anything last year. I've already read more this year than I did last year. That's pretty sad. But I did enjoy 'Wives' by Paul Haines, 'The Dead Path' by Stephen M Irwin, 'Shards' by Shane Jiraiya Cummings, and I'm looking forward to 'Slights' by Kaaron Warren. Oh, and 'Grants Pass' is a very cool anthology, too.

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

Heck yeah! That's shaping up to be something spectacular! The AHWA is going to have a huge presence at the convention, and we're also going to have a Masqurade Ball (Kyla Ward is putting in a whole lot of effort there - thanks Kyla!), so it's going to be a blast. I'm looking forward to sitting down over a good dozen or so scotches and getting to know all the people I've been chatting to via emails over this past year or so. And hopefully, there will be a launch of some kind too..... It's going to rock like a geologist :)

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: Lisa Hannett

Lisa Hannett began submitting work for publication in 2008, and since February of 2009 has sold stories to Clarkesworld, Fantasy, Weird Tales, ChiZine, Electric Velocipede, Midnight Echo, the Tesseracts 14 anthology, Twelfth Planet Press's Sprawl anthology and most recently, to Shimmer

1. You're a recent graduate of Clarion South. What were the most important things you took away with you from the experience? How have you incorporated what you learned into your work since?

It's been just over a year since I got back from Clarion South, and even so I'm convinced that I'm still learning from the experience. Almost every time I go to set a scene, for example, I hear Jack Dann's distinctive voice telling me to 'Use the camera, kiddo,' to lay things out as if I was leading the reader through the setting with a video camera (and if that style of writing suits the story I'm working on, I now find I'm inclined to listen to this voice in my head...)

But mostly what I took away from those six weeks in Brisbane had little to do with writing technique, and everything to do with how I relate to the writing process. I learned that I will not always write a polished, perfect story in one week—but there's no reason why I can't come up with a decent draft in that time, and no reason why that draft can't be manipulated into something worthwhile with a bit more (often a lot more) editing and effort. Discovering that I could, under duress, write a version I wasn't completely ashamed to circulate for critique was also a great confidence-booster. Now I feel like I can take my stories much further—to fifth or sixth drafts—before asking for outside input; at the same time, Clarion has also reminded me how important it is to have other people read early versions of my work. Listening to eighteen opinions at once is probably fifteen too many to sustain for more than six weeks, but the small circle of trusted readers I now turn to for critiques has proven to be invaluable for my development as a writer.

The most enduring 'lesson' I've taken home from Clarion is that every author, writer, editor and publisher is a person with his or her own tastes, agendas, ideas and quirks—which means, of course, that sometimes my work will be a hit and sometimes a miss, or it'll be a hit with one person and a huge miss with someone else. Either way there is nothing I can do to influence my readers' opinions except try to make each story I write my best one, and try to send it to an appropriate venue for publication. Beyond that point, it's up to the Fates to decide and up to me to keep writing new pieces to occupy their time.

2. How do you juggle writing fiction with writing your PhD? What tips and tricks can you offer those of us struggling with life-work balance?

This is a tough question because I don't want to come across sounding like a motivational speaker, or like some self-help guru shouting, 'You can do it all, people!' from the rooftops. Instead, I'll run through what works for me, in the hope that at least some of you won't have Tony Robbins nightmares after reading this. Basically, what it all boils down to is: having a fair idea of what I want to achieve (and being realistic in my goals); being anal retentive about scheduling my time, which (believe it or not) helps me be more flexible; and being surrounded by supportive friends.

Like many writers, my ultimate goal is to write full time. At the moment, I do write full time—it just so happens that much of that writing is academic, and will probably only ever get read by two or three people in the whole world. Five, tops. Even so, I'm determined to finish my PhD not least because it will be enable me to apply for university positions when I graduate. In other words, it will hopefully continue to fund my fiction-writing, as it has for the past *ahem* four and a half years. (It should be pointed out that I actually do enjoy working in a university atmosphere – it's not all about the cash that goes hand-in-hand with scoring an academic job. Honest.) I also want to finish the thesis (aka The Albatross) because it is preventing me from working on longer works of fiction. I've got two novels in the works, but I simply cannot devote much time to them until I've ploughed my way through 100,000 words about medieval Iceland. So even though I really want to write the novels instead, I won't let myself dig into them completely until the thesis is done – otherwise I will never finish it. Recently, my incredible desire to rid myself of this project once and for all has been hugely motivating.

But a life without fiction is no life at all, as far as I'm concerned, so I've made a compromise with myself and it seems to be a productive one: I treat the PhD like a 9-5 job and keep the evenings and weekends free for writing short stories. After working on a huge project like my thesis for so long, it has been really satisfying writing short pieces that actually end. Also, by designating my free time to writing fiction, I find that I resent my thesis less than I used to – I know that if I put in a good day's work at the PhD office I'll be rewarded with an evening of 'fun writing' at home.

Actually, my juggling act has a lot to do with such rewards. I've got an internal nag, who sounds remarkably like me (except her Canadian accent is stronger and she tends to look like Catherine the Great), and she sits in my head and dangles various carrots just out of reach while I'm working on my thesis: 'Finish reading this super-boring book about theories of nationalism,' she says, 'and you can have the tomorrow off to work on a story,' and/or 'Squeeze 20,000 thesis words out this January, and you can take a week off to go to Brisbane for the Aurealis Awards,' and especially 'You can't check your email/Facebook/LJ until you've explained why it's significant that medieval Icelanders burn each other to death in their houses...' For me, this system of work=reward is sometimes the only reason why thesis words get written.

And sometimes the only reason why fiction gets written is because I jealously guard my free time. That's not to say that I'm always a hermit with no friends and no life outside of work. I've been very lucky that many of my friends are so supportive. They humour me when I don't want to go out on 'school nights' because that's when I write short stories. They turn a blind eye to the fact that I schedule my writing time in my diary—in pen!—and they are generous when I ask them to accommodate my agenda. I book 'dates' with my partner, sometimes weeks in advance, and 'dates' with my friends, and then I do my utmost to keep those dates. I write it all out in my diary, so that I can see when I'm supposed to be where, how long I've got to work on which project, which days can act as 'buffer zones' if things go awry, and at which points I'm meant to put all writing aside and focus on my loved ones. I realise that this sounds very mercenary of me, but I find deadlines—like rewards—to be great motivators. If I know in advance that I only have one evening in a given week to write fiction, then I'm less likely to waste it.

3. What are you currently working on? What can we expect to see from you in the near future?

At the moment, I'm working on two collections of short stories. They're both untitled at this stage, but the first is based around the world and ideas I explore in 'The Good Window' (published in Fantasy Magazine in September 2009) and will consist of thirteen or fourteen interconnected pieces. This world is reminiscent of ours, except the people are at war with a group of entities they call the fée—or, at least, they think they are at war with them. Nobody has seen the fée for years, and yet battles rage unabated and the humans (civilian and soldier) have been left physically and emotionally transformed as a result.

I think of the second collection I'm working on as my 'bluegrass opera' – these stories are not interconnected, but they are all similar in tone, setting, and style so they'll hopefully sit nicely together. These pieces are where fairy tales and fantasy go a little bit country: snow-covered prairies, big-house plantations, housing trust settlements, and abandoned barns are prominent settings in these tales; the characters' hearts are sometimes bigger than their vocabularies, sometimes smaller than their moth-filled purses. Magic and superstition rule their lives, but they don't always make living life easier.

I've also got the two novels I mentioned earlier which, if all goes well with The Albatross, should be made a reality within a year. The first novel will most likely be one of a trilogy, and is tentatively called The Familiar. It centres on a young woman and her lunatic brother, a renegade witch, and the need to separate witch and woman without drawing undue attention—because the Puritan/steampunk society in which they live has zero tolerance for magic. The working title of the second novel is Steam—so of course it's going to be about dinosaurs. Or not. ;-)

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

I'd just like to see some Aussies on the list, full stop. I absolutely loved Peter M. Ball's 'On the Destruction of Copenhagen by the War-Machines of the Merfolk' (published in Strange Horizons last July) – actually, I'm a fan of most of Peter's short stories so it would be great to see him recognised. Angela Slatter's work is superb and also deserves recognition, and I've enjoyed reading Trent Jamieson's stories, and Jason Fischer's work, and Kirstyn McDermott's short pieces... and, and, and... so many others.

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

Yes, I'll definitely be there in September. I'm really excited about it because (dare I admit this?) I have never been to a *real* con before. I can't wait to catch up with friends, but also to meet new people; to celebrate the wonderful Australian book launches that are scheduled for the con; oh yeah, and to go to the sessions. Of course. I wouldn't possibly go to a con just to schmooze and go to the bar, would I? (Don't answer that.)

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: Lorraine Cormack

Lorraine Cormack is a prolific reviewer at ASif! She is also a founding member of the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild.

1. You're the hands down most prolific reviewer at ASif! What made you join the team? How many books do you think you read a year?

I'm a founding member of the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild (CSFG), but hadn't done any writing for years. Reviewing books, with an emphasis on Australian books, felt like a way to be a contributing member of the spec fiction community. Plus, I like reading and was going to be doing it anyway, and I'd enjoyed doing some book reviews years ago for other outlets. And rather selfishly, I thought that reviewing would sometimes force me to read books I wouldn't have otherwise, and you never know what surprises you'll come across. I have no idea how many books I read a year. I do know the number has dropped dramatically since I had children. At a guess, I probably still read around 200 books a year (3 to 4 a week), but there are definitely periods where I read considerably fewer. And depending on *what* I'm reading, sometimes more.

2. Why do you read specfic and what do you look for in a good specfic novel?

Well, first I should say that I don't read only specfic. I also read a lot of crime novels and thrillers, a smattering of chick lit, some mainstream fiction (for lack of a better term), and a bit of non-fiction. Sometimes I'll read a book because it suits my particular mood - I want something very light, or something contemporary, or something that makes me think, for example. So there's some variation in what I look for in a good book - I don't expect to get the same thing from every single novel I read. But in general terms, I want interesting and strong characters, although I don't necessarily have to like them. I want a plot that engages me, and that makes sense within the context of the world/environment that the author has developed. I like writing styles that make me want to keep reading just one chapter more, or are distinctive in some way. I have a weakness for wry and black humor, but that's not appropriate for every novel. And I like either originality or bringing something powerful to familiar structures or tropes.

In terms of specfic, I probably read it primarily for three reasons. One is that there are some very good writers working in the genre, and it's a pleasure to read them. Second is that specfic, done well, can provide a new angle or perspective on issues that affect us every day. That can be thought provoking, and sometimes can have a greater emotional impact than something that's too literal or, I guess, simply descriptive of the situation. I like that. And third is that spec fiction can take us to worlds and times that we'll never reach otherwise. That's interesting, and it really widens the scope of the stories that good writers can tell.

3. How would you rate Australian specfic compared to the international scene?

I think that because it's a smaller scene, it sometimes magnifies the two extremes - the really good work and the really bad. I probably have a slightly biased view of the Australian scene, because I don't see much if any international self-published work, while I do see a fair bit from Australia. And while there may be (probably are) some fantastic undiscovered writers self-publishing, generally the quality isn't there. It hasn't been well edited, if edited at all, and the authors generally haven't been challenged to take a really critical look at their own work and improve it. So that means I'm probably more aware of the weaker Australian spec fiction than I am of the poor international stuff. Sometimes, too, the weaker stuff stands out more in Australia because there isn't enough mid-quality work to obscure it, while it can be easy to "lose" some of the really awful stuff that's published internationally. But having said that, the top end of Australian spec fiction can absolutely hold its own with the best published anywhere. We have authors who deserve international success and whose work will, I think, stand the test of time and still be enjoyed in decades to come.

4. With Aussiecon4 coming up this September, there's been some buzz about nominating Australians for the Hugo awards. Which Australians do you think have put out work this year that you'd like to see nominated?

That's a tricky question, largely because I'm not too good at keeping track of when things are published and thus what's eligible. Of what I've read recently, I've really enjoyed work by Sylvia Kelso, Karen Miller, and Pamela Freeman. Freeman's "Castings" trilogy stood out for its' unusual structure and for being compelling reading. I like Kelso's more oblique style, where not everything is spelt out and the reader has to pay attention. And Miller has both a nice light touch in some novels, and an ability to make a fairly familiar story compelling reading. Also, I'd have to mention Margo Lanagan. I can't say that her work is among my personal favorites - "Tender Morsels" was a bit too depressing for my personal taste - but she's writing original and powerful fiction that deserves recognition for its quality and for the fact that it's thought provoking. It's really great to be reading work of that calibre from a number of authors and know it's Australian. Other Australians that I enjoy quite consistently but who might not have published anything eligible include Kaaron Warren, Maxine McArthur, Garth Nix and Kerry Greenwood. I haven't been reading much short fiction of late, so I'm completely overlooking anyone who's published mainly in that arena.

5. Will you be attending Aussiecon4? If you are, what are you most looking forward to?

No, I won't be attending. I have a young family, and I'm expecting another baby around the middle of July, so it's not likely I'll be travelling in September. But in general terms, what I enjoy most at conventions is just the chance to catch up with people face to face.


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

Willow

ASif!!!!

From kathrynlinge:

So we're winding things up here at Snapshot Central. There might be the odd straggling interview coming in over the next few days, but offically we're done. Over the last week we (Kathryn Linge, Random Alex, Girlie Jones, Rachel the Mechanical Cat, TansyRR and EditorMum) have interviewed 86 people from the Australian Spec Fic Scene! We've been delighted by the results - not just the sheer number (three more than last time!), but also thoughtful and fascinating answers our interviewees have provided. Thanks to everyone who has participated!

I want to say a big thank you to Kathryn who ran the show behind the scenes and got this whole thang off the ground!

If you missed any or want o see in one list all 86 interviewees, check out her list here.

Meanwhile, tonight I published the 800th (and 801st) review on ASif! since we began in 2005!