Snapshot 2016: Interview with PRK

Snaphot Logo 2016

The mysterious man who has his fingers in many pies, from Worldcon to the Aurealis Awards. PRK is one of the most genuine people I’ve ever had the fortune to meet and the chance to interview him is pretty amazing. This interview was conducted as part of Snapshot 2016 and is reposted from the Australian SF Snapshot Project. #Snapshot2016.


PRK Smaug interview photoPRK is a long time speculative fiction enthusiast who regularly escaped to Middle Earth during primary school. Since then he’s become more omnivorous in his spec-fic reading, enjoying and reviewing works in a wide variety of genres including fantasy, science fiction, horror, cyberpunk and paranormal romance. PRK is an IT Geek by day, which provides him the means to fund his spec-fic habit and devour whatever books he can get his hands on. Contributing to spec-fic in Australia, PRK runs conventions as a hobby, and is on the Board of the Western Australian Science Fiction Foundation, where he is the convenor for the Aurealis Awards. You’ll usually find him roaming the corridors at Swancon and Continuum, or online via Twitter: @prkaye or his website: http://www.prkaye.com/

 

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about running conventions in Australia over the past several years?

I think the most surprising thing I’ve learned is that the community passion and sheer volume of institutional knowledge in the community have frequently lead to a quality of convention organisation beyond that I’ve seen from many professionally run conferences. Conventions like Swancon, Continuum and Conflux are run by volunteers and it’s incredible to see the kind of events that our community produces, out of love for the genre.

You were recently one of the readers for the inaugural Sarah Douglas Award for the Aurealis Awards, what was it like to read so many books for that award and did it give you particular insight into what makes a good series?

It was both incredibly challenging based on the number of novels and incredibly rewarding to read that many series. Reading specifically for series really highlighted, for me, the difference between using the same characters and world with a different plot versus growing and evolving the characters and/or world in a way that a single novel doesn’t readily allow for. In addition, all the novels in the series have to work together to build a story that’s vaster than just the sum of the individual novels. Having read for the Sarah Douglas Award, I’m convinced that the differences between good standalone novels and novels that make up a good series result in the latter being under represented in awards, and I hope to see more series based awards in the future.

There are rumours that one of your long term plans is to bring Worldcon to Perth, Australia. What attracts you to the idea of a Perth Worldcon?

Worldcon is such a fantastic experience for both fans and professionals alike that I want to make it accessible to as many people as possible. The last Australian Worldcon was in 2010, and there’s a growing number of fans and professionals who haven’t experienced a Worldcon. Australia has thriving and varied speculative fiction communities, with Western Australia’s Swancon running over over 40 years – I’ve been told it’s the longest continuously running speculative fiction convention in the Southern Hemisphere. With over 40 years of experienced convention runners and fannish traditions, hosting in Perth would provide a fantastic opportunity for the Australian community to experience Worldcon, and also be a different and unique experience for the International community, compared to previous Melbourne based Worldcons.

What Australian work have you loved recently?

I really enjoyed Season one of Cleverman. It was a fantastic use of science fiction targeted at a mainstream audience which examined and commented on the racism prevalent in Australian society and our government’s policies. While distressing in some areas, it didn’t hold back on showing the human impact that policies and attitudes can have. Despite, or perhaps because of that, it also provided a strong and powerful representation of Aboriginal people struggling with the impact of, and fighting back against, injustice.

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

I hate small talk on planes, people rarely want to be there – they’re either on their way to or from somewhere, and it’s a closed environment with no ability to leave if a conversation turns out to be distressing. Besides, I’d much rather an empty seat for the extra space! So let’s say it was at a convention bar instead, where anyone was free to enter or leave as they pleased. I’d absolutely love to talk with Mary Shelley.

It would be fascinating to discuss with her the current state of speculative fiction, all the sub genres, and her thoughts on the development of it, from the context of Frankenstein. I’d also love to hear Shelly’s thoughts and experiences of the genre over such an extended lifetime (assuming that’s how this has worked, rather than a sudden resurrection), and also her predictions for the future of the genre.

Snapshot 2016: Interview with Ambelin Kwaymullina

Snaphot Logo 2016

Ambelin Kwaymullina writes the kind of books you fall in love with, at least *I* did and so it was a particular privilege to interview her. This interview is part of Snapshot 2016 and has been reposted from the Australian SF Snapshot Project. #Snapshot2016.


Ambelin Kwaymullina author photoAmbelin Kwaymullina is an Aboriginal writer, illustrator and law academic who comes from the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. She is the author of the dystopian series The Tribe for young adults, and has also written and illustrated a number of award-winning picture books. Find out more about Ambelin at her website: www.ambelin-kwaymullina.com.au.

In one of your interviews for #LoveOzLit, you refer to a need to trust the story and to not get in its way. I also notice that much of your work features the element of transformation and I wondered if that was deliberate or if it relates to your trusting the story you’re working on?

In my culture, everything lives, including stories. That means to tell a story is a profound responsibility, and part of that responsibility is allowing the story to honour its own truths. Stories, like all life, are capable of unexpected transformations. Another part of that responsibility is to understand that not all stories are yours to tell – we all occupy a particular position in this world and that position informs our understanding but also places limits upon it, especially when it comes to the stories of cultures and identities not our own.

Are there any speculative projects (writing, art, appearances) that you’re working on presently that you can share any details with us?

I’m working on a new novel (YA, spec fic). It’s not part of The Tribe series – but like The Tribe series, it’s a work of Indigenous Futurisms, which is a form of storytelling where Indigenous creators use the spec fic genre to challenge colonialism and imagine Indigenous futures.

The Tribe Series - covers

In recent years you’ve written for The Wheeler Centre about Indigenous storytellers, power and privilege, about Aboriginal storytelling and young people, and about the need for diverse stories in Australia. Have you noticed any changes in the number or nature of Indigenous storytellers and stories being produced and distributed to wider audiences since then?

Nope.

Indigenous publishers (like Magabala Books) continue to do amazing work, and some small presses (like Fremantle Press and University of Queensland Press) also publish a significant list of Indigenous voices. But there’s been no fundamental shift in the literary industry more generally, either in relation to Indigenous authors or other diverse voices. Here’s the thing: as I’ve said before, a lack of diversity in literature is not a ‘diversity problem’. It’s a privilege problem, in that it is being caused by structures, behaviours and attitudes that consistently privilege one set of voices over another. That means that change is required at an individual and systemic level to address privilege before diverse voices will ever have a real chance of being heard. And this change needs to encompass the entire industry, not just publishers (as recent conversations in the US over the role of reviewers reminds us).

Part of this change involves being informed. I blogged recently about some things editors should know when editing books with Indigenous content, but much of what I said applies to the literary industry more generally.

What Australian work have you loved recently?
Cleverman!

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?
My friend from across the sea, fellow speculative fiction writer Zetta Elliott. We have only ever met in cyber-space and it would be so nice to connect in person.

Snapshot 2016: Interview with K.A. Bedford

Snaphot Logo 2016

Another day, another awesome interview for Snapshot 2016. This time I’m interviewing the lovely K.A. Bedford whose writing is as insightful as he is. This interview is reposted from the original over at the Australian SF Snapshot Project. #Snapshot2016.


Adrian Bedford author photoK.A. Bedford is a sometime writer living in Ballajura, Western Australia, with his lovely and long-suffering wife Michelle, and their dog Freckle. He’s the author of several sf novels, including Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait, Eclipse, and, his most recent release, Black Light (2015). Time Machines and Eclipse won Best Novel at the Aurealis Awards in their years, and Time Machines was shortlisted for the Philip K Dick Award in its year.

 

Your novel ‘Black Light’ has been very well received and very different from your previous novels, what inspired you towrite a historical supernatural novel this time?

Thank you! I did not set out to write a historical supernatural novel “this time”. I wrote the original draft of a book that featured the original version of the Ruth Black character, the brainy but wronged wife of a mysteriously disappeared “diplomat”, in the late 80s. Then I had another go with the character, still trying to get a clear fix on her, in a book in 1996 (it was one of the two books I originally sent to the publisher in Canada (the other being my space opera/detective novel Orbital Burn; and they rejected Mrs Black but quite liked the story about the sad talking beagle)).

But in 2001, after my third book, Hydrogen Steel, was written, I found myself coming back to Mrs Black, this time with a much sharper idea of who she was and what she was about. She was a writer of science fiction novels, her husband was killed in a great war, she was independently wealthy, and burning with the suspicion that something about her late husband’s death was not as she had been informed. I wrote a complete draft, but I knew it had problems — problems I didn’t, at the time, know how to fix, so I put it aside on a floppy disk–which was then lost.

A few years ago, at a time when I was thinking about giving up on writing, I came across this ancient, dusty stack of floppies, and was going to toss them. But I wanted to just see what was on them first. I bought a USB floppy drive (my current PC doesn’t read them), and started going through them–and discovered the original Black Light draft, complete. I read it, and it was quite okay. The problems were fixable, so I fixed them. I changed the setting to Western Australia, a slightly alternate version where magic of a sort can coexist with science. Where elves who’ve found themselves here because of all the British and Irish immigrants brought them here with their cultural baggage and mythology, struggle in the savage heat and with the wrong sorts of trees, and become monstrous and angry.

Then a weird thing happened. I thought I had a decent book on my hands, but wasn’t sure. I asked very nicely if my friend Georgia Richter at Fremantle Press would mind just having a read, to see if it read okay. I knew Georgia from when Fremantle produced their edition of Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait. She said yes, and I sent it, grateful for her help.

Next thing she rings me one morning to tell me she wants to buy the book, she loves the book, and when can I come down to Fremantle to talk to them about it?

So you could say it’s been in the works a long, long, looooong time!

Black Light - cover (courtesy of Fremantle Press)

If you were to go to another country on an expenses paid trip to research a novel, where would you most like to go and why?

Antarctica. I’ve always wanted to go. It would most likely be very bad for emotionally, with the light and the isolation, but the place itself, the extremity of it, fascinates me the way Mars fascinates me, as if it were another planet helpfully stuck on the bottom of our own. I’ve been fascinated about Antarctica my whole life, and it is number one on my list of places to visit. I know it’s possible to do artist-in-residency gigs down there, but I have no idea what I’d actually write about. I loved Kim Stanley Robinson’s Antarctica novel (though a bit didactic in the end), and other books about Antarctic explorers, notably Sir Ernest Shackleton’s South.

I’ve been following your candid discussion on dealing with health and mental health issues recently, your honesty has allowed insight into something not discussed so openly often. What prompted you to share your experiences so openly and have you found it to be beneficial?

Beneficial, yes, absolutely, because in writing about it, even on Facebook in front of friends, is like journalling, it allows me to think my way through what’s happening (and not happening), and how it feels. It’s a window into a situation many people would never previously have seen or experienced. It helps me process stuff.

Why do it, though, in the first place? Because it’s something happening to me. It’s my life. There’s no reason to keep it secret. In 2012 I shattered my left elbow when I fell on a concrete floor. I reported on the entire experience from the first day all the way through to the end of rehab, when I finally got full movement in my arm back. There was no shame in having a broken arm that needed fixing, and I strongly believe there is none in what’s happening to me now, as I make my way through depression and mental illness in a psychiatric hospital. It’s no different. I’m working on regaining full function in my mind, and my life. I’ve been plagued with depression all my life, since I was a kid. For most of that time I was acutely aware of the notorious stigma that surrounds mental illness. My reporting of my struggles now is my way of striking back against that stigma. No matter how personal, how private, how intense, it gets. Because there’s nothing shameful about it.

There is one weird and disturbing thing about my current situation: my mental health has been declining since late last year, culminating in what is now my second hospital stay this year. But I’ve barely written a word, and worse, have had no desire to write a word, for some time now. The writing part of my mind has, apparently, gone. As if removed. As if writing is a thing I used to do. There’s just a silence where previously there was always “radio chatter” from that part of my mind, with characters and stories and plans and ideas. Now there’s nothing. My doctors have an idea it might all be due to very low testosterone. We’ll find out.

What Australian work have you loved recently?

Lee Battersby’s Magrit novel for younger readers was wonderful. I loved it very much for its mysterious sadness, for its plucky protagonist, its bony antagonist, and for the way, on every page, you could feel the author’s deep love for his own children.

Which author (living or dead) would you mostlike to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

Gosh, I really wouldn’t. I’d be worried about too many things, about disturbing them, or bothering them, interrupting their concentration if they were trying to work, or sleep if they were trying to rest. I wouldn’t want anybody bothering me in the reverse situation, so I wouldn’t do the same to anyone else.

 

Snapshot 2016: Interview with Sean Williams

Snaphot Logo 2016

This is the first of the interviews I conducted for Snapshot 2016 with the always lovely Sean Williams, reposted from the original over at the Australian SF Snapshot Project. #Snapshot2016.


Sean Williams - Photo by James BraundSean Williams is an award-winning, #1 New York Times-bestselling author of over forty novels and one hundred stories, including some set in the Star Wars and Doctor Who universes, and some written with Garth Nix. He lives up the road from the Australia’s finest chocolate factory with his family and a pet plastic fish.

Although your Twinmaker series concluded with the release of ‘Fall/Hollowgirl’ last year, it looks like this universe still has a hold on you. Is there more to come from within the Twinmaker universe?

The Twinmaker universe, and the idea of the matter transmitter, definitely still has a tight grip on me. Apart from the fantasy landscape of The Stone Mage and the Sea, which I’ve returned to more than a dozen times, this is the world I’ve most visited, with four novels and over forty short stories so far, plus a PhD thesis to prove that I’m taking it all very seriously.:) I have a couple of stories yet to come, and there are still ideas kicking around. One is to write a non-fiction book on the rise and fall and rise of the teleporter. If I could drop everything in order to do that, I would. Then I’d be done with it. Maybe.

Because, honestly, this has been obsession for more years than I care to count. The first “serious” story I ever wrote, i.e. thinking that I might actually have a shot at being a writer, was a matter transmitter story. That was in 1989. Going back even further to 1978, I wrote a mammoth epic, or so it seemed when I was eleven years old, and it too featured a matter transmitter. If anyone’s looking for recurring tropes in my work, this would be the one that stands out. I would justify this obsession by saying that it’s the ultimate science fiction trope, the one that allows an author to explore every imaginable idea, except for travel back in time (and hell, Michael Crichton used it to do even that). But really it’s because I think it’s cool … and the ideas it generates just keep on coming.

Fall - Twinmaker - cover

You’re well known for writing science fiction and dystopia, and I’m a particular fan of your fantasy work. Do you think you’ll continue to work across genres?

Most likely. I’ve always liked moving across genres and styles. It keeps me from getting stale–or so I tell myself. Maybe it’s really just to keep me from getting bored. One thing that’s stopped me from writing much horror lately is the feeling that, if I’ve played with a trope once, it’s time to move on. Of course, given the answer to the question above, some tropes comprehensively break that rule. I’ve also come back to some styles or worlds many times over, but only when I feel like I have something more to say about or with them.

Forthcoming projects include my first ever published 1st-person novel, my first mainstream novel, and my first medieval fantasy (co-written with Garth Nix). At the same time, I have a space opera novel kicking around, and I’m actively researching another book set in the world of the Books of the Change. Plus the non-fiction book on matter transmitters. So there’s lots of old and new stuff to keep me interested for a while yet.

In your blog you mention two YA novels that you’re writing. What is it that draws you to YA?

The first of the two YA novels is In My Mind, a first-person novel set in the present day that uses speculative elements to explore social anxiety and chronic pain; that’s sold in the US, and I’m editing it at the moment. The second is Impossible Music, a mainstream novel about deafness and music. It earned an Australia Council Grant (for which I’m incredibly grateful, times being tough) and is still in the research phase. Both are very personal novels, dealing with things that are very close to me, or things I have suffered myself (particularly In My Mind, which was difficult to write as a result). They’re topics I find easier to write about in YA because they speak to the age I was when I discovered/endured them in real life. More or less. These aren’t memoirs, but they do come from very intimate spaces that I don’t normally foreground in my fiction.

In general, I find a freshness, a vividness, a rawness, and an immediacy to YA fiction that is very appealing to me. As genre writer, and reader, I am drawn to stories that pull few punches in terms of plotting and characterisation. Themes, subtext and style are equally important, but I don’t want them foregrounded to the point where they seem to become the point, if that makes sense. Finding the right balance between the many facets of storytelling is one of the most challenging things about being a writer–and a reader as well. There’s nothing more rewarding than finally getting it right.

What Australian work have you loved recently?

Justine Larbalestier’s My Sister Rosa, Jaclyn Moriarty’s The Colours of Madeleine series, Liane Moriarty’s The Husband’s Secret, Deb Biancotti’s Waking in Winter, Anna Smaill’sThe Chimes, Zeroes by the fabulous Westerfeld/Lanagan/Biancotti trio. I’m also going on a bit of an Elizabeth Knox binge lately; her Dreamhunter duet really hit the spot. (I’m conflating a couple of New Zealanders with the Australians here, but I figure it’s okay to be inclusive. Hopefully!)

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

I wish I’d met Robert Anton Wilson when he was alive, so I guess that’s my answer. It would be fair to say that his Schroedinger’s Cat books literally changed my life (more than Illuminatus! although he’s more famous for them). I was a teenager thinking thoughts that didn’t really fit into the box I was living in, and here was the guy writing about exactly those things, but with a sense of humour and wonder sorely lacking in the other pundits I’d stumbled across. He had a joyous knack of telling stories that underpinned everything he wrote. If I had the opportunity to hear some of those stories in person, I would take it in a flash.

Snapshot 2016: A slice of Australian Speculative Fiction

Snaphot Logo 2016

I’m reposting this from the Australian SF Snapshot Project because this year I’m participating as one of the interviewers and over the coming two weeks I’ll be posting several interviews I’ve conducted with Australian creators.  Yay for #Snapshot2016!


The Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot has taken place five times in the past 11 years. In 2005, Ben Peek spent a frantic week interviewing 43 people in the Australian spec fic scene, and since then, it’s grown every time, now taking a team of interviewers working together to accomplish.

From August 1 to August 14 2016, this year’s team of interviewers have their turn. Rivqa Berger, Greg Chapman, Tsana Dolichva, Marisol Dunham, Nick Evans, Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Stephanie Gunn, Ju Landéesse, David McDonald, Belle McQuattie, Matthew Morrison, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Matthew Summers and Tehani Wessely scoured the country (and a bit beyond) to bring you this year’s Snapshot.

You can follow all the action here at the Snapshot site, via Twitter @AustSFSnapshot or on Facebook, and follow our interviewing team to keep up with all the happenings!

You can find the past five Snapshots at the following links: 2005, 2007, 2010, 2012, 2014.

 

Link Salad: Post Spill Edition

Head shot of Julia Gilllard giving a speech with the Australian flag in the background.

Julia Gillard addressing the nation with her resignation speech. (Image from Guardian UK)

The Labor leadership spill last week leaves me with a deep feeling of sadness, and quite a lot of anger. It’s not even that I particularly liked or advocated for Gillard’s policies – actually I disagreed vehemently with a bunch of her decisions and actions. While they may also be the actions of the party, they made her ultimately responsible for them. However, I cannot view the way she was treated politically and by the media as anything other than horrendous – and very tellingly evidence as to the massive problem with gender inequality in the country. (This is not to downplay the other massive issues of inequality, just that I’m focusing on gender stuff in this post).

This is my current round up (it may get updated) of links to articles and blog posts about Gillard and the spill, because something like this needs to be acknowledged and talked about. I want to read analysis and I want to commiserate and I want to speculate. I want people with whom I can share my anger and my sadness, my disgust over all that happened. If you want me to add any links to this, leave me a comment.

It’s also worth noting that I haven’t vetted the comments on any of these – I don’t tend to read comments if I can avoid it as a rule, so proceed with care if need be.

I think that the Guardian piece ‘Julia Gillard: where did it all go wrong?‘ by Katherine Murphy gives the best overview I’ve seen politically as a post fact analysis of Gillard politically and with consideration given to the gender issues. I also think it’s one of the most balanced views I’ve seen.

Another article looking at the value placed in neutrality and respect surprisingly comes from the Herald Sun (?!) where Wendy Tuohy discusses the reaction to Gillard’s knitting photo and the coverage of that by the Australian Women’s Weekly. I’ve seen people angry about the photo because somehow there’s this idea that knitting isn’t feminist (it absolutely can be), that the photo was staged and therefore a ‘cheap ploy’ and also plenty of outrage that Gillard was attacked for her knitting when it is a very popular craft.

Delahunty’s opinion piece ‘Is Australia serious about women in power?‘ (Answer: no) is less about the value of neutrality and balance and instead gives voice to the anger and disappointment around Australian politics right now, especially the overall misogynistic treatment by politicians and the media of our first female prime minister.  I kind of wish I could just quote almost every other paragraph from this piece, it’s both candid, astute and empathic.

Secombe is satisfyingly snarky in his article ‘Abbott vs Rudd: The choice Australia deserves?’ [link no longer available] discussing the leadership spill, the overwhelming disrespect to both Gillard as the PM and the office itself, and the Labor infighting. He calls it plainly and his contempt for the state of politics is obvious. Not exactly a positive article, but it is a satisfying read.

Monica Attard reports on Gillard, her prime ministership and the leadership change from a foreign perspective. The overall sense of the article is summed up in the title  ‘Julia Gillard: admired abroad, vilified at home.‘ The outside perspective on Australian voters and politicians is quite interesting.  

Last but not least, Gillard’s resignation speech. Classy and forthright.

Opportunity to host asylum seekers

Opportunity to host asylum seekers

Dear subscriber,

The Australian Human Rights Commission has been approached with a request to publicize an initiative of the Australian Homestay Network to provide short-term accommodation to asylum seekers who have been recently released from immigration detention.

The Commission has long called for a far greater use of community-based arrangements for asylum seekers pending the resolution of their protection claims.

Information regarding this initiative is provided below. Please consider forwarding it on to anyone who you think may be interested in providing accommodation support to asylum seekers as they transition to life in the community.

The Community Placement Network (CPN) offers interested people the opportunity to host an eligible asylum seeker in their home for a six-week period.  The program is designed to select and train people who are interested in assisting asylum seekers to support themselves in the Australian community.

The Community Placement Network (CPN) is an initiative of the Australian Homestay Network (AHN), to make short-term homestay accommodation accessible to asylum seekers exiting immigration detention on a bridging visa. 

The Australian Homestay Network (AHN) will provide all approved hosts with information, training, insurance and support services throughout their involvement with the Australian Homestay Network (AHN). Anticipated costs to the host of providing accommodation will be reimbursed through AHN.

The Community Placement Network complements the Australian Red Cross capacity to deliver short-term accommodation support to eligible asylum seekers exiting immigration detention.

There has been much goodwill in the community over a number of years to support asylum seekers.  Members of the public interested to help by becoming a host may wish to visit the Community Placement Network (CPN) website (http://homestaynetwork.org/cpn) to apply and to find out more information.

An initiative that may be worth considering. My reaction to this is one of exasperated ‘well finally!’ appreciation. So often we privilege the financial considerations or constraints around ‘issues’ (and I don’t for a second consider people seeking asylum to be issues, but I’m well aware that they’ve been constructed as such). We forget about drawing on the human capital around us.

This isn’t to suggest that there aren’t financial constraints or impacts to be considered. However, they can be considered in conjunction with other factors. Like the divide between Australian citizens and people who are refugees and seeking asylum. An initiative like this has the potential to break down some of those barriers to people’s understanding, acceptance and welcoming of people.

Initiatives like this also have the benefit of assisting people in the forming ties with a new community, with settling into a (potential) new home country and may provide a counter to some of the hostility expressed and experienced by refugees and asylum seekers. Community is in part formed through shared experiences, or the sharing of experiences and this initiative has huge potential to capitalise on this.

I realise that my idealism toward a less racist and more open-hearted and more human-rights aware Australia is showing here, but I’m not ashamed that I’m motivated in that direction and I see this as potentially furthering a number of aims in those directions.

Would that my house were not already filled with people, pets and stuff… so in lieu of volunteering myself, though I’ll talk to the boys about it anyway, I will pass the word far and wide. I want this program to succeed and to grow.