AUSSIE INTERVIEW: Other Authors & New Work
Are there any Australian genre writers you like that U.S. readers might not have encountered yet? Who?
KJB: You couldn't really call him 'genre', but Rodney Hall is very good, and his writing often has strong elements of fantasy in it. I recommend his novel 'The Island in the Mind'.
GD: I love both Margo Lanagan's colletions, but I think people in the US have heard about them. I also really enjoy Brendan Duffy's stories; I think he's a great writer who's only going to get better.
TJ: There are so many. Here's just a few, that I know haven't had a lot of exposure in the US; Geoffrey Maloney; Marianne De Pierres; Tansy Rayner Roberts; Lee Battersby; Chris McMahon; Richard Harland; and Grace Dugan. This is one of those horrible questions. I know I'm going to forget someone.
JL: I predominantly read YA now. So I can't talk about the grown up stuff. But Sonya Hartnett, Matt Zurbo, Penni Russon and Margo Lanagan are current faves. Though I think Hartnett and Lanagan are pretty well known in the US now.
GM: Trent Jamieson, Kim Westwood, Lee Battersby, Paul Haines, Kaaron Warren, Brendan Duffy. All of them write great short stories. There are lots of others, but I think most of the others have been "encountered". Generally, there isn't much in the way of novels that people wouldn't have encountered before. Mostly in Australia, it's high fantasy novels that get picked up locally. There hasn't been much else getting published. Even Bishop's novel The Etched City couldn't find a publisher because it wasn't fantasy enough.
CS: Yep, pretty much all of them I expect. My top ten in no particular order would be Claire Mckenna, Dirk Flinthart, Kim Westwood, Brendan Duffy, Paul Haines, Deborah Biancotti, Kaaron Warren, Anna Tambour, Lee Battersby, Ben Peek and Martin Livings. Oops, that's eleven!
AT: The best introduction is the excellent "Year's Best Australian Science Fiction & Fantasy, Volume 1" (September 2005) edited by Bill Congreve &Michelle Marquardt, and published by Mirrordanse Books. Buy it.
"Daikaiju: Giant Monster Tales" edited by Robert Hood and Robin Pen, published by Agog! Press (2005) is an Australian production, but an international collection. That shouldn't matter. It is a wonderful book.
Also, see Donna Maree Hanson's Australian Speculative Fiction site. And her new book, Australian Speculative Fiction : A Genre Overview
I also feature Australians you might not know about in my Virtuous Medlar Circle.
Australian fiction in it so far:
"Predatory Instincts" by Chuck McKenzie
"Cinnamon Gate" by Deborah Biancotti
"Doorways for the Dispossessed" by Paul Haines
"A Very Long War" by Geoffrey Maloney
SW: Sean Williams' Star Wars trilogy has been widely read here, but his own sf isn't as well known. His latest book with Shane Dix, Geodesica: Ascent, is a really fascinating example of space opera (big dumb objects and big smart alien artifacts) that has been inflected by more current issues of information tech (the nexus of privacy, power, and identity).
KW: Actually, Australian SF writers seem to be doing pretty well in the US. Having said that, there are a lot of writers here who have a very big presence in the small presses and who would do brilliantly if given the opportunity. I'm thinking particularly of new generation writers like Brendan Duffy or Paul Haines; but also our heritage artists like Terry Dowling who is simply one of the best writers I have ever read.
Do you think Australian readers differ in any substantial way from U.S. or U.K. readers?
TJ: Not really. We tend to read mainly imported stuff. Working in a bookstore I'd say the bulk of our fiction comes from the U.S. or the U.K. Of course we're taller, and capable of reading our books while wrestling crocodiles and drop bears.
JL: Well, we're a lot more dedicated given that we buy as many, if not more, books even though ours are way more expensive than yours. I mean, seriously, you practically have to take out a mortgage to buy a book in Australia. I can't say anything about differences in how they read my work because my first novel only just came out in Australia this month and hasn't even been reviewed yet.
GM: If this is a qualitative question the answer is no. But if it's a quantitative question then the answer is yes: We don't have enough of them.
CS: I honestly don't know. I wouldn't expect so. Australians swallow a lot of US and UK television, which to my mind would give our three countries common cultural reference points. There are subtle differences between our cultures but I think speculative fiction is a particular language with its own set of readers' rules and conventions. I'm told that Australians read more magazines than citizens of other western countries but when I look around the carriage of my commuter train, most people are reading Da Vinci Code and Danielle Steel.
SW: I'm not sure about readers per se, but the fannish cuture there is a lot stronger and more active (per capita) than in the US. Maybe it's that massive urbanization, or maybe Aussies just like getting together for a drink more than USians do.
What are you currently working on?
GD: I'm doing revisions on my novel The Silver Road, which is due out from Penguin Australia next July. I hate it when people ask me "what is your book about?" but I will attempt to describe it in some form: it's a fantasy about a political rebellion and three characters who are involved in it in different ways. One is the rebels' candidate for the throne, who really doesn't want to be queen; another is a young woman who wants to be a warrior and avenge her father's death; the third is the golden boy of the rebels, who thinks he's clever and skilfull enough to solve any problem, but then finds out that he's not.
When I've finished the revisions, I'll get back to working on a new novel, currently known as The Motherland Garden. It's a fantasy set in a world which is industrialised but relatively low-tech. The protagonist lives in a women-only hermitage studying magic, in a country which is a subject nation of a much bigger empire. I'm envisioning it as a two book set: she falls in love, gets her heart broken, works in a mailroom, fails to learn magic, gets involved with guerillas, etc, etc.
TJ: My first collection of short stories, "Reserved for Travelling Shows" comes out through Prime any day now. I'm also working on a steam punk zombie novel called "Roil", and a Brisbane ghost story that's currently called "Walking Talking" both are keeping me occupied, and both seem a long way from being satisfactorily finished.
JL: I'm just about to start the third book in the Magic or Madness trilogy, but I'd much rather be working on this book I started in the (US) summer. It's the first great YA cricket Elvis fairy mangosteen novel ever.
GM: As a writer, a series of mundane and absurdist urban fantasy tales set in Brisbane, with titles like Fearless Flying Apartment People, Tale of the Little Hair Mermaid, Men with Squeaky Rat's Voices, Women Whose Perfume Smells Too Much, These Days Most People Are Having Their Insides Completely Removed and The Airplane That Nearly Killed Me. As an editor The Devil in Brisbane, The Devil in Brisbane, The Devil in Brisbane to 1000 lines.
CS: I have six short stories on the go and a fantasy novel -- no, not *that* kind of fantasy novel. No elves, unicorns, princesses or magic amulets in sight. Mine's called Sammarynda Deep and its set in a desert world where the remains of civilization cling to the coastline and the sands of the interior region shift and swarm with ancient creatures. Warring factions survive by harnessing each other's gods as power sources, mining the ruins of fallen civilizations for their old tech and their secrets. I am so into this book - I'd written 50,000 words of another one set in the same world but I abandoned it when I came up with the ideas for this one. I reckon Sammarynda Deep is gonna rock. Not that I'm biased or anything...
AT: Blue things. Poison. Hairy shoes. And I'm not so much working on them as they're working on me.
SW: I just finished Specials, the third book in the Uglies trilogy. Now I'm headed off to Mexico to work on a possible sequel to my novel of vampire parisitology, Peeps.
KW: I'm researching a novel which is three stories rolled into one: early 6th century Brittany, Paris in 1910, and a contemporary plot to tie them together. I love the idea at the moment, and don't want to jinx it by saying any more. But I get this delicious taste of it, and I can't wait to get writing…