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April 10th, 2005

Start.

Pimp Your Shit Week begins in a moment.

Regular blogging won't be back until a week from now, or until we run out of people.

If you end up with questions for the authors and editors and publishers, use the comments. Likely they'll be round. Think of this as creating a week of local scene noise.

Also, you if you haven't told me I can use your interview, it won't be used. So to change it, say it.






Trent's collection Reserved for Travelling Shows will be out from Prime books shortly. His fiction is also in Agog! Smashing Stories and the latest issue of Aurealis.



1) Reserved for Travelling Shows is the title of your collection. How would you describe the work in it, and what would you say unifies the work as a whole?

Me, that's the major unifying force, that and that most of the fiction is quite short, I don't tend to write long. The stories themselves range from fairly straightforward fantasy to post human fiction and even a bit of stuff that, when I feel pretentious, I'd call more mainstream literature. I'm kind of obsessed with relationships, how they work, how they fail, but also, how words fail. Writing is a scrambling for the inexpressible, thoughts and feelings and pain. Words are pretty terrible nets, well that's how I see them, nets that are pretty and terrible.

2) You've been around the scene for a while now--I can remember reading your first appearance in 1994 (or thereabouts) in an issue of Eidolon. How do you think you've weathered the scene, and how do you think the scene has coped through the years?

Yeah, that was my first sale. I don't know if I've so much as weathered the scene as been lucky that there's always been someone who's bought my stuff, not all of it, which is a good thing, but a fair percentage. The scene is pretty robust, not huge, but there's always been markets, at least as long as I've been writing. I've heard Cat Sparks mention this a couple of times and I think it's true, we've a good scene but it would be nice if not everyone was a writer, we need more readers.

3) For a brief period you edited Redsine, and you edited K J Bishop's Etched City from Prime, and both were critically well received. Do you have any desire to go back to that, or to, indeed, go in different avenues outside writing fiction?

Editing is exhausting, unless your brain's wired that way, mine isn't. I stumbled into both gigs and had a lot of fun, particularly working with Kirsten, but it would have to be something pretty amazing to get me back. I love writing fiction, it's play; you can tell a story in so many different ways and short fiction gives you even more latitude. I trained to be a
journalist and sucked at that, seems fiction's about the only thing I can manage, though I'd love to write a book of really bleak nonsense poems, in fact I've got nearly enough material.

4) You're dead. The kitchen knives were really that sharp, and you shouldn't have played with them. Oh well. So, you go to Heaven (assuming you believe) and you see God. What do you say?

Why'd you have to make the knives so sharp? I was having so much fun, and then there's all this arterial blood, and now who's going to clean up the mess, and I'm sure the dog's going to eat my corpse, he's been looking at me oddly for days. I thought you'd be taller.

It'll either be that or, "Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck" see question 5.

5) Favourite swear word?

Fuck. It's a noun and a verb and, like tofu, you can substitute it for just about everything.

Martin Livings, author of short fiction.




Martin's work is currently appearing in Ticonderoga Online, Borderlands #5, Robert Hood and Robin Pen's anthology Daikaiju, and Mitch? 4: Slow Dancing Through Quicksand. Shortly he will be appearing at Antipodean Sci-Fi and the anthology Robots and Time.




1) You began publishing in 1992, at the age of 22 (or around), so how has a Martin Livings story changed? What attracts you now that didn't attract you then, and vice versa.

I'm really not sure. Asking that is a little like asking how you've changed yourself over the years, which in turn is like asking you to look at the back of your own head without the benefit of a mirror. It's a question of perspective, an inability to see the forest for the trees, and all that cliched crap. I guess I'm a helluva lot happier than I was back then, in a relationship and a decent job, getting a regular trickle of stories out there, but have my stories actually changed over the years? They've matured as I've matured, I guess, and the craftwork has probably developed, but I think the subject matter's pretty much remained the same. I'm still attracted to horrible things happening to people. Hmm... that's pretty tragic, actually!


2) My first exposure to your work was as the reviewer of Eidolon, and your reviews then were uncompromising, scathing, and quite entertaining (as well as being informative). Did you cop any flack over that? And why did you give up the reviewing?

I copped a little flack over my reviewing in Eidolon, yeah, though it was tremendous fun and incredibly liberating to be able to just say whatever you were thinking. I know I'm not on Shannah Jay's Christmas card list, and Sean Thomas O'Brien put a fatwah on my head years ago. And I don't think Terry Dowling's ever forgiven me for reviewing his collection as something even slightly less than brilliant. But the only actual face-to-face flack I ever had was from Tess Williams, who cornered me at a room party at a Swancon and berated me for a luke-warm review. Ironically, I didn't ever write the review, only edited it, but nonetheless, I got the blame.

That only lasted a few minutes, though, and then we had a good chat. So if that's the worst that can happen, so be it. Certainly nothing compared to your own public flaying of a certain someone recently. ;)


3) Awards. You appear to be quite partial to the recognition they bring, and--just on what I've read--you do appear disappointed you have gotten more in this way. Why on both parts of that?

Like most writers, I'm shallow and insecure, and thrive on the adulation of others. No-one writes in vaccuum, and we love to have people tell us we're doing okay, that they like what we're writing. After all, we're hardly doing it for the money! And awards, right or wrong, are considered by most as a barometer of quality, particularly by those unfamiliar with how they actually work, so to get awards (or nominations thereof) gives one that nice warm fuzzy feeling of a wide positive response. And, conversely, missing out feels like a cold shoulder, irrational as that is. It's particularly frustrating when a story of yours that you weren't that keen on gets nominated for everything, while one that you think is actually something special doesn't even make a blip on the radar. You start to question your own ideas of what's good and what's not.

But hey, that's show biz! If I ever want to be nominated again, I'll just have to write a followup to "Freud"! ;)


4) You're dead. It was a tragic, tragic pumpkin accident. Sufficient to say, a whole second grade of Catholic children will never be the same. Anyhow, you go to Heaven (assuming you believe, yadda yadda) and you see God. You say?

"Oh mighty Lord, accept me into your kingdom, as I accept you into my soul as my saviour and father... NOT! PSYCH! Uhhh... oh, okay... down that flight of stairs? Keep going? Okay... bloody God, can't take a joke..."


5) Favourite swear word?

It depends on the time of day. Rush-hour traffic usually provokes "fuck" and "shit", but in general, I probably use "bollocks" the most. Or the worst swear word of all, "dubya".



Stuart Barrow is the editor of the Gastronomicon which will be released at the end of April. It'll be sold for eleven bucks, postage and handling. How could you say no?




1) The Canberra Science Fiction Guild serves an important function in providing a place for new authors to emerge, but at the same time, the anthologies have not been greeted with acclaim by the rest of Australia. How does that sit with you when you approach a new project, or when a new anthology is decided upon within the group?

This'll be a hard question to answer without appearing defensive, you know.

I'd say the anthos have been received ok - we've had good reviews, and indifferent ones. It goes without saying that we'd love everyone to worship our work; we'd love to be the must-submit venue; we'd love to sell a million copies and live high on the hog for a few years. But I think we do ok, really. Encounters, for example, got five listings in Ellen Datlow's Recommended Reading list, which isn't to be sniffed at. We do the best we can, like anybody, and have to accept that it won't be good enough for everybody. Doesn't stop us trying, I guess.

I think the bar is a lot higher than it was when Nor of Human came out, and I think that can cause a bit of frustration for an editor. That's part of why I chose to sidestep the regular anthology process with the Gastronomicon - this was only my second fiction editing project, the first I've had full responsibility for, so I wanted to do it as much on my own terms as possible. One thing I absolutely love about the CSFG, though, is that they are so fantastically supportive. It wasn't a case of, "A cookbook? Sure, Stu, do what you want," it was "A cookbook? Fantastic! How can I help?"

The other thing is, of course, as a CSFG insider I don't necessarily hear what's being said by other groups, in other circles. Certainly, there are times when knowing what we're doing wrong from an outsider's point of view - or, knowing what an outsider thinks we're doing wrong, which isn't the same thing - would be terribly useful. In my darker moments I sometimes wonder if the reception for any given project has more to do with the personalities involved as the quality of the work. But I'm not really a man of dark moments; such thoughts are defensive and don't help anyone very much.

As for approaching a new project, I'm not actually sure how we decide anything. Ideas seem to percolate until either they find someone willing to drive them, or they reach critical mass and become something we're already doing and have been for some time. This generally means that things don't happen until they're ripe, which is nice. I initiated the Gastronomicon as something I've wanted to for a while - it would have gone ahead regardless, but I'm happy it's gone ahead as a CSFG project.

(Oh, and: Psst - "Speculative"!)

2) The Gastronomicon, I think it's fair to say, is a quirky project that will not appeal to all (it contains 20 short stories and 22 recipes). It's immediate audience appears to be the Canberra scene, and I imagine it will be a difficult sell outside that. How do you plan to bring to book to the attention of the rest of Australia?

Actually, I'm kind of relying on the quirk factor to move it. For everyone who says, "Quirky? I'm not sure..." there's someone who says, "Quirky? Bring it on!" I'm expecting a market beyond those people who'd normally buy the various anthologies that come out; it's a neat gift product, it's got the recipe angle, it's got a silly cover... it's quirky. It's not just quirky - I've approached this professionally, and it's the best damn quirky anthology/cookbook I can produce.

And it's cheap, too.

I'll be pushing it as much as I can through the usual venues - reviews, advertising, spamming the various writing lists. I'm going to pull in favours to get it visible at all the various cons. I'm not exactly a marketing genius - I'm relying on the rest of the group for cues and ideas.

3) What place do you think projects like yours occupy in the Australian scene?

Buggered if I know.

I mean, there is clearly a place for off-beat, personality-driven projects. I think it's important to have fun with what you're doing - a regular anthology would have broken me, I think, because I'm just not all that interested in doing fiction for fiction's sake. I must admit that I'm more excited about a clever and witty themed anthology like Daikaiju than I am about just another fiction anthology - even one of ours.

The Gastronomicon has stories - and types of stories - that would never get written, let along published, in the regular magazine-and-anthology circuit. Good stories, mind, just stories that only belong in an anthology/cookbook. I like that. It pushes people to produce something a little different.

4) You're dead. Sadly, that chicken recipe I gave you... no good. Sorry. Anyhow, you go to Heaven (assuming you believe--man, do I even need to be writing this anymore) and see God. You say?

I like to think I'd say something terribly witty ("Was it Peek what done me in?"; "You're taller than I expected!"; "No time for you, where's the second-hand bookshop?") but, in reality, I'd probably show the embarrassed deference I reserve for authority figures I've had disagreements with, when it turns out that they're right and I'm wrong (I am an atheist, you see).

And it'd be a Christian second-hand bookshop, wouldn't it? Eek.

5) Favourite swear word?

I use "fuck" and particularly "fucking pain in the fucking arse!" a lot, but that's your basic, everyday swearing. My favourites would be more elaborate concoctions: I saw the phrase "cock juggling thunder cunts!" on an lj icon and immediately adopted it. When I've got the presence of mind I like more old-fashioned curses - favourites being "Curses!" or "Blast!" or "Damn it!"