April 16th, 2005


Maxine McArthur, author of Less Than Human.

Maxine McArthur's latest novel is the Aurealis Award winning Less Than Human.

1) You got your start by winning the George Turner Award for Best Unpublished Manuscript in 1999 for your novel Time Future. The award died a year after that, you are the only winner so far to maintain your profile and publications with a publishing house since then. It was, however, not until 2002 that your sequel Time Past was published in the States, one year after the reprint of of Time Future for an American audience. Were there difficulties during this time in selling it, or rather the natural time it took you to write it?

Time Past appeared both here and in the States in 2002, so I'm just a slow writer. It took me about two years to write it, and then there was the usual lag before it actually appeared in print. I do recall that the editor took a long time--about half a year, at least--to get back to me with the first set of edits. Fortunately by then I had rewritten most of the bits she hated, so the delay was lucky in that sense. I wouldn't say there were no difficulties selling the book, however. It was a gamble for the publishers, as second novels often are, especially given that winning a prize can give writers a false sense of their own ability and importance. I was reminded of this at Worldcon in Melbourne, when Random put on a wonderful launch for Time Future, an absolute dream. "Enjoy it while you can," a certain fantasy author told me, "they won't do this for your next one." And she was right.

2) There is, at times, a tendency to not take authors who are published through awards seriously. What's your experience being a George Turner winning, and have you encountered anything like that?

Are you talking about the total strangers who kept shooting me dirty looks at Worldcon, whom I found out later were Turner runners-up? Seriously, before I published Time Future I had no contact with the speculative fiction scene in Australia, and knew very little about the literary scene in general. I'd been out of the country for 16 years, remember. I don't think I have had any experience of this sort, but then, perhaps my idea of being taken seriously is different to yours. If you mean have I ever felt looked-down-upon or excluded, the answer is a resounding No. From my first moments at Worldcon, when a kindly fan took pity on my gauchness and introduced me in quick succession to Jonathan Strahan and Dave Luckett, to the incredibly emotional finale at Conflux, and in between, I have never felt anything other than welcome in the Australian specific community. Love you all, darlings. On the other hand, I think that people are right to regard award winners with a certain amount of skepticism, especially if, like myself, they have written nothing previously. It is only natural to wonder if an award winner has it in her to produce something else that's readable, and for a winner to expect to be treated like a pro when she's had one sale (and that due to the award), is unreasonable hubris.

3) In addition to your writing, you're very active in the CSFG, to the point where you co-edited (with Donna Hanson) the anthology Encounters last year. Being as you have a lot of contact with emerging authors, how do you see the quality of the scene overall?

For short stories, very high. We chose 22 stories out of 95 submissions for Encounters, and we could have easily chosen another twenty or more for a separate anthology. One of the most difficult things I've ever done was turn down wonderful stories that simply didn't fit, for whatever reason. I think the quality of writing itself is high--lots of people are real stylists. I read a US magazine like Asimov's or F&SF, and frankly, half of those stories don't grab me anything as much as stories in Agog! or ASIM or Aurealis. I do wish we had a few more hard/straight SF stories published, but that's just a personal preference. The other thing I miss in some stories is a sense of the what the writer wanted to say, a feeling that the story was significant for him/her. It's great that new names keep appearing in the magazines, that new writers are polishing their craft and giving readers more variety. The proliferation of short story markets has helped this, I'm sure.

For novels, I can't really comment, as I haven't read many of the fantasy novels published here recently. They just don't appeal to me. And there aren't many SF novels published here, although I enjoy much of the work published overseas by Australian authors--Bishop, McMullen, de Pierres...

4) You're dead. Power cables really do give you cancer, but when they break and fall and rush through the air towards you... well, you had two caskets. A tiny one for you head. A larger one for your body. Still you're dead. You go to Heaven and you see God. You say?

Either I go down to hell, or you bring my body up here.

5) Favourite swear word?

That would have to be 'shit'. With a long 'sh', short 'i', and biting the 't'. I spent many years disciplining myself not to use anything stronger in front of the children, and now of course they're teenagers and fucking and cunting all over the place, and I'm stuck with my little s-word habit.
  • Current Music
    Patti Smith - Break It Up

Kyla Ward, author of short fiction.

Kyla Ward's latest story is "The Oracle of Brick and Bone" and it is in Borderlands #5

1) You've quietly established for yourself a reputation for producing quality dark fiction, as well as maintaining a strong reputation for RPG material, selling non-fiction work to magazines such as Dragon. These days, what attracts you to a project?

I went through a patch last year where I could hardly use my hands at all and definitely couldn't type (RSI -- it could happen to you). To write I had to rely on voice recognition software. Three months of that makes a person think.

In a word, Ben, what attracts me to a project these days is extension. I've written some short stories, some feature articles and have two novel manuscripts kicking around. I have done certain things and now I'm trying to push beyond them; in theme, style and exposure. From the outside, this probably doesn't show; Lady knows there's not enough of my work out there to form a canon. Which is, of course, part of what has to change.

My projects are all self-motivated at the moment; the most recent exception being the article in Dragon #329, "The Petit Tarrasque", which the editor actually pitched to me. That was gratifying. I must say, for those of you who have never done work for hire (which is how the RPG industry runs) that it can be both a useful and creative experience. The discipline of having to stick to a topic, a set of rules, a world, and yet come up with intriguing ideas, I find an excellent thing to apply to my fiction. Plus you have a contract and if the company is an established one you usually get paid. Being paid for your writing is good. It is very, very good. That's something I don't intend to give up.

2) Horror is not really a favourite of the publishing scene these days. What I see a lot of is dark fantasy, which is often two or three steps from reaching the horror genre. How has the market drift from traditional horror fare (if there was ever such a thing) influenced your own work, which began with strong horror roots?

Horror is a chameleon, Ben. It has little sucker feet and a long, coiled tongue. It adopts the colouration of whatever genre it clings to, shoots out its tongue and hits you on the back of the neck when you least expect it. Having said that, I do feel that there is a kind of pure horror fiction -- the chameleon's native habitat, perhaps. But I would be hard put to define it or possibly even recognise it. To illustrate; 'Kijin Tea', my story from Agog #2, was nominated for an Aurealis in the short horror category. I wrote that as fantasy.

I like dark fantasy. By which I mean Kirsten Bishop's The Etched City, Kim Wilkins' The Autumn Castle and Kate Forsyth's TheTower of Ravens; and that's just the Australian contingent. Fantasy has a lot to offer the horrific chameleon; I savour in horror a sense of possibilities opening beyond the norm and fantasy provides a way to follow through. Dark fantasy is where the teenage girl from the trilogy (brought up in various other interviews) gains amazing powers that are warped by her twisted psyche, and the dragons are not coming to help. And that could be taken as a very broad summary of one of those novel manuscripts I mentioned.

What I'm saying is that I don't think the market drift has influenced my work so greatly. It may be easier to summon up pure horror within a short story, or at least to spot it there. Ah heck, I write dark. Probably best to leave it up to you and the other readers and critics and dear-gods-yes the marketing departments to decide dark what. Don't forget to feed your chameleon.

3) Your honest opinion of the quality of the local scene, its positives and negatives.

The overwhelming positive about the local scene is that it's there. I saw the Sydney roleplaying scene shrivel up and die as something you could actually go to and meet people and wear an 18th century ball gown at. The speculative scene, writers and readers, is here on the net and it's there at conventions, parties and certain speciality bookshops of a Thursday night. It's where I don't have to restrain my more outré tendencies, and I can have a vocabulary if I want to. I pray that the people at my new day job don't get curious and google me like the last lot...

But I like to think of it as part of an international scene, swept by the same new waves and based on the same traditions, generating its own movements that in turn sweep back across the world. Why not? Speculative fiction has a history of local circles of writers generating the enthusiasms and trends that spread across the world; I'm thinking of the Crouch End Drinking Society, and a certain legendary get-together at the Villa Diodati. The circle can be based around a magazine, as when we refer to the Weird Tales writers. Am I fantasising here? Am I ignoring both the tyranny of distance and the importance of national identity? Maybe so, but in my opinion, to concentrate on such things to the exclusion of the work is very negative.

4) You're dead. In a rare act of charity, you kicked a crying child into the Sydney Harbour and it was eaten by, well, we're not sure which. Still, it was the lynch mob that did you in. You go to Heaven and God is there, waiting. What do you say?

"Don't think I'm backing down now!"

5) Favourite swear word?

I say "ah heck". I'm also the only person I know to have spontaneously sworn by the Lords of Chaos in a moment of stress. Never swear at voice recognition software.
  • Current Music
    The Cure - The Hanging Garden

K.J. Bishop, author of The Etched City.

K.J. Bishop's novel The Etched City has won the William L. Crawford Award for Best First Novel and the Ditmar Award for Best Novel. In addition to that, it has also been nominated for a World Fantasy Award, Aurealis Award, and IHG Award for Best First Novel. She is also up for a Campbell Award at the moment. She needs a blog, obviously, but at her website there is some free fiction for y'all to get. Yes, I just said y'all.

1) You began publishing in 1997 in Aurealis, with the short story 'the Art of Dying'. The years following that saw four or five short stories, which while not prolific, were enough to keep people aware of you in the Australian scene. But then the Etched City arrived and, suddenly, you were on the World Scene (notice my subtle capitalisation). That must have been one hell of a transition. I imagine drugs and cheap marriages in Vegas and plastic surgery gone wrong... Still, what was it really like?

Before World Scene, chop wood and carry water; after World Scene, chop wood, carry water, and try to ignore the sense that people are watching you chop and carry. Remind myself that they're not actually watching me, because I'm just not that important!

Seriously, it was wonderful. I mean, to not only get the book published but to have those good reviews and so forth, it felt rather like a dream. The best part was that it allowed me to meet some of my favourite writers, people I might have had trouble meeting otherwise. I got a lovely review from Michael Moorcock; I think that pretty much satisfied my craving for recognition. I mean, that was magic. And I've met some wonderful people via email - people who've written to me about the book, then we've got talking and become friends.

I have to say, though, it still feels like a dream. In one way, everything has changed; obviously I'm very happy about the book's success. And now I'm a writer instead of what I was doing before - scanner operater, envelope stuffer, piano player in a whorehouse, etc. But the day-to-day reality of my life hasn't changed that much. I haven't suddenly become wealthy, or tall...

Unfortunately, I already did my cheap wedding in Moonee Ponds. I'd have loved an Elvis chapel wedding. Maybe Stu and I could go to Vegas and get married again, just for the fun of it.

2) In recent interviews, you've talked publicly about writing a very different book to the Etched City, something that might only be related to the speculative fiction genre in a vague way--and then, maybe not at all. Was it a difficult to make that choice, given the overwhelming positive reaction (and financial joy brought) to the Etched City?

Nah, not difficult. Ideas come to me not in battalions but as single spies, so it's more a case of working with what comes along. Yes, the conventional wisdom is that I should write another fantasy, for, you know, the sake of my career. But I don't actually have ambitions concerning a career. I have ambitions concerning writing, which is different. I have a lot of curiosity about writing; I want to try different paths and see where they take me. I'm also a bit contrary. I really don't like being told what to do, which includes tacit expectations.

That said, I'd love to write another fantasy. But I need to fall in love with a character, a place, something - the element of eros has to be there, and so far nothing has come along. I've got stuff that I work on, projects that live on blocks in the back yard of my mind, but no dream machine has come out of the tinkering yet.

As far as money goes, it isn't as if anyone has waved a tantalising sum at me to write a book similar to The Etched City. But I'm sure I'd have my price; when love is absent, money may yet suffice. If anyone out there wants to make it worth my while to write a sequel or a clone, post an offer to imyourbitch@kjbishop.net. Pounds or Euros, please.

3) There's been a lot of talk in these interviews about the local scene not being critical enough of the work it publishes. Where's your stance on that and the work produced?

That's a hard one. Lately I haven't been reading a lot of science fiction or fantasy, Australian or otherwise, so I'm not really qualified to have a stance on this. Is there a branch (or even a twig) of the publishing industry, anywhere in the world, that is sufficiently critical of the work it publishes?

4) You're dead. It's not so glamorous playing piano in a whorehouse, but it never suited you as much as the gunfighting. Sure, you played piano after you bought yourself a pistol and answered the dueling calls from other piano players in other whorehouses, but it was the thrill you wanted and for a moment everything was very very wild in the West... but there was always someone younger. Bullets in the back of the head, like Wild Bill Hickok, and your opium habit are what did you in. Anyhow, being dead, you go to Heaven (assuming you believe, and so on and so forth) and you see God. You say?

Taking my cue from Anna Tambour - if God turns out to be Shiva I go all fangirly, simper at his dwarf-trampling feet, and start playing with his fabulous hair. If it's Buddha up there I say, 'Ok, I give up, what is the sound of one hand clapping?' If it's Jehovah, I'm so surprised to have actually made it to heaven that all poise deserts me and I say, 'Lord, I can see right up Your nose!'

5) Favourite swear word?

Shit, for nostalgic reasons. It was the first word I ever said, when I tripped over a doorstep and bumped my little noggin. I also like the variant shite - it has a Gaelic, poetic, Yeatsian tone.
  • Current Music
    A Silver Mt Zion - Babylon Was Built On Fire/Starsnostars

Fiona McIntosh, author of Odalisque.

Fiona McIntosh is the author of six novels, with another six on the way. Her two trilogies are the Quickening and Trinity, and a new triogy, Percheron, will begin with Odalisque at Xmas. Check her website for details on all.

1) If it's one thing that the speculative fiction likes to say, is that it doesn't get respect. But within the spec fic community, what often doesn't get any respect is high fantasy, the genre within the genre that is, arguably, keeping spec fic alive on the bookshelves. (By this I mean that science fiction appears to translate well and popularly to film, but high fantasy, outside Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings, often doesn't translate.) Does this have any effect on how you interact with the community at large?

Well, I sneer a lot - is that what you mean? I must be honest and say I have personally never felt a lack of respect within the spec fiction community. If anything I rarely failed to be surprised by the unexpected warmth that is extended to all writers of genres within the genre. I don't care for the term 'high fantasy' because it tends to perpetuate that wrongly held notion of wizards with bolts of magic coming from fingertips and a dragon or goblins in every tale. I'm working hard in the promotional area to reach as wide an audience as I can to educate them about high quality fantasy (rather than high fantasy!). Peter Jackson did a marvelous thing for all of us in the genre by bringing LOTR to the big screen and in such spectacular fashion. I feel it's a case of water dripping constantly on stone - we will wear the wider community down into reading speculative fiction as mainstream...but it's a long term campaign. And should I come across anyone who considers what I and so many write and enjoy inferior, then I and the others should just look at our sales and smile.

2) After having published six novels of high fantasy, and with a contract for another six, what are the things that you look for to challenge yourself with each book?

The challenge for me with the next six books is to find the right recipe that allows me to escape the pigeon-hole of 'fantasy' and move over into mainstream fiction. I don't want to be genre writer. My stories carelessly trample across the boundaries of historical fiction, thriller, romance, horror, even crime, so I want to breakout from the back of the store! Too many readers of popular mainstream fiction still wrongly believe that fantasy is somehow childish - usually those who've never read a quality fantasy series. I'd like to change that attitude by luring mainstream readers into the tales unwittingly - it begins with different sort of artwork on covers and will require a new sort of marketing as well as a change in mindset of retailers.

3) I haven't done any kind of study for this, mind, but I've found that high fantasy is drawing a lot of female authors to it. What I'm curious about, is if that means that high fantasy is drawing a lot of female readers to it—especially since for a long time, science fiction has been considered a boys kind of thing.

I run what we think is Australia's largest monthly bookclub and it's true, the boys are drawn towards sci fi - I know this from my own teenage sons who love space opera as a first choice. But when we've insisted everyone read Orson Scott Card for example, or Joel Shepherd, it was enjoyed across the board. You're probably beginning to suspect that I don't like that label of high fantasy one bit - it's meaningless to me. Just more pigeon-holing that I detest. Most of my daily email from around the world is from men, all hooked on fantasy and the huge emotional ride of the tales, so I think the notion that more women are attracted to fantasy is a fallacy but I do think women enjoy the strong relationships in fantasy that has perhaps not been given such a high profile in sci fi. But even that is changing. Fantasy's great attraction to the reading public right now is the total escape it offers - and particularly from today's often ugly reality - and I don't think that need is felt more greatly by either sex. Everyone wants it (the escape, not sex...ahem)

4) You're dead. You were a victim of Alanis Morrisette irony, which means you won the lotto, and died the next day, died. I know, it's more tragic than ironic, but what can you say? Since you're dead, nothing. You go to Heaven (assuming you believe, blah blah) and you see God. You say?

"Want to buy a lottery ticket?"

5) Favourite swear word?

When you stub a toe, burn your silk shirt beneath the iron, jump into the shower and the water's cold, there simply is no finer curse than 'fuck!' ... and it holds good for most irritations and inconveniences plus can be said in a variety of different tones and volumes to convey different sorts of messages. I find it very powerful and helpful. That said, 'bollocks' rolls easily off the tongue when a situation has gone bad and the tried and much trusted 'bugger' is great for when you drop your toast buttered side down or go through the dying glow of amber traffic lights and realise there's a camera flashing somewhere.
  • Current Music
    Johnny Cash & Willy Nelson - Don't Take Your Guns To Town

Matthew Chrulew, author of short fiction.

Matthew Chrulew has a story in the most recent Aurealis. The image next to this, I believe, is the cover. It's by Cat Sparks. There is currently a holding page for Aurealis, but as to where you can by the 220 page collection that just got released, I've no idea.

1) You're a new writer on the scene. What would you say your goal is with your fiction and why does that mean people should bother hunting out Matt Chrulew's work?

I can think of two main modes in which I write. One is to create some nasty or intriguing machine or schema or logic and follow the thing through to the end. Like, what would happen if a WWII soldier went to Valhalla? Like, what if cockroaches had strategic intelligence and a takeover plan? These stories tend to be either abject and dark, or just plain wrong.

My other mode is romance. Sort of. I love relationship stories, I love domestic situations, I love depicting intimacy - it's one of the hardest things to write. And I love giving them that little twist, throwing in a bit of grime like we all have with our partners, families, pets. And spec fic, horror especially, is the best genre for playing around with that stuff.

I'd really only be happy knowing that people hunt out my work because they like what they've read. But if my mates don't read it I'll kill them.

2) What's your long term plan? Do you even have one?

Well first I'd actually like to get all the stories I currently have in the drawer into the hands of some nice publishers. Some have been hanging around for over 5 years and the odour is rankling. I literally have twenty stories sitting at 90% done. I blame Clarion - I squeezed (some might say shat) out a load of words there, and since then... well you know the excuses. Kids and degrees and higher degrees. Perhaps I have a problem with finishing things, but there's a different sort of concentration required to do a final rewrite, and unfortunately that sort of headspace normally gets reserved for my academic work.

Long term, I want what everyone wants - someone to buy my novels and give me enough money to write more. Unfortunately, I don't think any of my ideas are commercial enough to make that happen. There's the cannibalism project, the alternate biblical history project, and the extraordinary creatures project. But then again, there's Tom Harris, the man we all resent Dan Brown, and everyone's favourite scapegoat, "fantasy."

I'm also a huge fan of the short story suite. If I can even approach what Terry Dowling has done with his Tom stories and Blackwater Days, I'll be content. But people are familiar with my Terry-worship. The only reason the restraining order was withdrawn is I shaved off the mo'.

3) Your honest opinion of the quality of the local scene, it's positives and negatives.

I'll leave it to the people with real experience and investments to comment on the publishing caper. But the local market seems healthy to me. I mean, there's people who will read your work and buy it if they think it rocks. Or for some other inscrutable reason. Like "The Destination of the Dimension Differentiator" in Fables - that was a whim of a story with it's head twelve inches up its own arse, but for some reason Lily still decided to publish it, and I'll be eternally grateful.

As far as writers go, there's so many with so much talent it scares me shitless.

4) You're dead. There was wild pigs and there was nothing left of you, not even bones. You go to Heaven (assuming there is, blah blah) and God is there, waiting. What do you say?

Tata-sa, tata-sa-tarishti, tata-sa-te tata-vate-sa-taristi tata-tatasitiwi, tata-sa tataish...

You do understand tongues don't you? What's with the horned guys? No God, I didn't mean it! I didn't know what I was saying...

5) Favourite swear word?

Sh... or f... Most of the time I have to keep it to a phoneme as the little ones are very quick learners with keen hypocrisy radars.
  • Current Music
    Art Of Fighting - Waiting

Shane Jiraiya Cummings is a writer and co-editor (with Angela Challis) of Shadowed Realms.

Shane Jiraiya Cummings is a writer and co-editor (with Angela Challis) of Shadowed Realms. Issue Four should be live within a day, but there's still the previous issues to check out. In addition, Shane currently has fiction in the latest, if allusive, Aurealis.

1) Shadowed Realms is a relatively new net based publication (issue four is just live), but it does appear that a lot of the strong new short story 'magazines' are being born on the net these days. What's the attraction to it as a medium for you, and why the decision to limit yourself to fiction beneath a thousand words?

Societal trends are pushing us towards technology, and especially the internet. From that perspective, I'm actually surprised that more hasn't been done to embrace e-publication in all its forms. While I have a huge soft spot for the physical connection between the paper book and the reader (and author for that matter), I believe minds just aren't tuned into the electronic possibilities at the moment. A book by necessity means one reader at a time. Ten books capture ten readers at any one time, but also requires those ten books to be printed. The attraction to an internet based magazine is one web page offers itself to multiple readers. Any e-publisher can potentially reach a billion people (hypothetically of course). While the number of readers for most webzines is relatively small at present, the potential remains. In saying that, a top selling Australian magazine or small press anthology may sell 500 or 1000 copies? I can't speak for other webzines, but in my web duties for Shadowed Realms, I know we exceed these figures (in terms of unique 'visitors') by easily a factor of ten. Not hundreds, but thousands of people reading our stories, and we've only just started to be noticed on the Australian SF 'scene'.

To think of it another way, consider your blog. A generation ago, your thoughts would have been written in a diary and read by one person. In today's context, you have thousands of people annually who incorporate into their routine surfing your blog and getting their daily 47.3 second fix of your thoughts. It's a phenomena that was previously unheard of--to harken back to the paper diary for a sec, to do the same thing, you'd have a line of people stretching from your living room out into the next suburb. Web logs are a culture-bearer for the naughties. All of it made possible, for the first time in history, since the advent of the internet.

The other thing I was hoping of doing with online publications is to experiment with the story format. To date, Shadowed Realms has presented relatively static text in a shiny, nicely illustrated box. This puts us (and other zines) on par with the our print half-siblings. The other 'strong new short story magazines' you allude to (which I'll take as venues like Ellen Datlow's Scifiction, Strange Horizons, Oceans of the Mind, and others like Ideomancer) all appear to suffer a production values mindset similar to print publishers. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, but I am suggesting that 'story' doesn't not necessarily equal words presented in a linear format. I'm looking into hypertext, image, and interactive media options that could accompany fiction in the future. Perhaps one day it will be harder to differentiate movies from literature. At present though, it's just a matter of taking baby steps and advancing with technology and experience.
So, to rein this spiel in, I believe webzines like Shadowed Realms, as long as they stay viable, are ideally placed to be the first to benefit from these new phenomena when they rock our worlds. I've heard about paper-based e-technology that is already being developed overseas. I can't wait to get my hands on that stuff.

And the 1000 word thing? There are two main reasons. Technology current limits internet users to sit in front of a screen of some sort--usually a stationary one. Why would anyone want to sit in front of a computer screen, or squint at a PDA, to read a 5k or 10k story (or even a novel for that matter). Books are ideal for that, especially when you can curl up around one or take it anywhere. 1000 words is a great online length--it's short, it's punchy, but still long enough to fill a few minutes. Shadowed Realms is specifically designed for the upcoming generation that's either too busy or has movie-trailer mentality (or a goldfish attention span, take your pick).

The other reason kind of grew organically in the first few weeks of Shadowed Realms' birth. We narrowed the focus to flash fiction and found ourselves with a boutique publication on our hands. There are a couple of dedicated flash fiction publications out there (print and online--including the venerable AntipodeanSF) but to my knowledge none pay full professional rates and specialise in dark speculative fiction. I believe we are unique in this regard, not just in Australia but internationally. We're a monopoly of one. We know this because our submissions don't just come from Australia, or even the US and the UK. We've been swamped with dark flash stories from countries we never knew existed. And it's great!

2) The real issue with publishing an ezine is that, financially speaking, it doesn't return in the same way that the purchase of a book does. Strange Horizons, for example, does a fund raiser once a year to raise the funds to pay their contributors, while their staff remains unpaid, by all accounts. How do you approach that issue? And does it present a concern for the future, especially when in previous cases, going to subscription based readers to pay for the zine is generally the kiss of death?

Profit can be measured in ways other than material gain. Sure, money is a factor in the society we're in, but I believe people are too focussed on definitions of profit. People squander money on collections of kitsch, or at the pub, or at the track, or up their nose, or whatever. What they're really purchasing is an experience. A collectible is collected because it gives the collector a sense of pride when seeing it displayed on the mantel piece. That is money spent to cultivate an experience, just as the guy with the beer or the happy pill is investing in cultivating an experience which is in every way fleeting. Spending money to publish high quality stories is an experience. One I believe worth having.

On a practical level, if I could live exclusively from writing and editing, I would. Most writers or editors usually need a day job (or their partner to have one) to pay the bills. That's all well and good, but I feel most (if not all) unpaid editors who have a day job might need to consider their motives. The online press (as it stands today) is not the place they should be. If they are out there for the financial profit, then unless they find a very innovative way to fund their zine, looking to make money is (in my opinion) the wrong way to go about it. I firmly believe in quality. I know Angela has even higher standards than I do. So what we're aiming for is purely and simply to publish the absolute best stories we can. Shadowed Realms pays professional rates to reward writers for providing the experience of an excellent story. That's why we pay 5c/word, and that's why the magazine is free to read. It's an investment in quality.

I can't emphasise that point enough. Quality is its own reward. I believe by hunting for the holy grail of the 'perfect story' and not exerting energy into making money, that we will one day earn a reputation. A true reputation, without hype attached. Reputations such as these are rare, but they inevitably attract positives, perhaps even supporters or like-minded investors. It sounds almost spiritual in a way (dare I say, karmic?), and in a way I think it could be. If nothing else, this relentless pursuit of quality, which Angela is very much at the helm of (warning to potential contributors now: the Shadowed Realms editing process is both active and exhaustive), reminds me of the Japanese notion of 'seishin' (excuse the spelling) or 'right consciousness'. It's a case of 'do it for the right reasons, or not at all'.

Which brings me to subscriptions. It may be the kiss of death for the web, but again, I think it comes down to the true intent of the publisher or editor. Subscriptions were never considered at Shadowed Realms, neither was advertising, pyramid schemes, or anything else in that vein. The site had to be a crisp and visually appealing vehicle for the stories. No extraneous bits. Shadowed Realms publishes the best dark flash stories available--full stop--not advertising banners, or a subscription service.

On a personal level, I would consider a fund raiser (ala Strange Horizons) as it doesn't interfere with the site. I feel likewise about grants, but only if the philanthropist, group, or government are using their money in a legitimate and (especially in the case of government) tax-payer approved way. However, given what I've just stated, any activity which significantly removes Angela and I from our duties is something that needs to be given serious consideration.

3) What's your opinion of the local scene, quality wise?

I can finally put down the Shadowed Realms hat for a sec... (although Angela wears that anyway).

As much as I've been into editing recently, I really am a writer first and foremost. As a new writer, I can view the 'scene' with a fair degree of objectivity (at least at present). Eighteen months ago (when I first took the plunge into the solitary writing thing) concepts like Swancon, Clarion South, Aurealis magazine, fandom, and Ditmars didn't exist in my little universe. Attending Clarion South 2005 really did open my eyes. The talent at Clarion South 05 was immense. I was surprised as I hadn't heard of half the names before I went, even with the magazines and a bit of internet research.

I feel the large publishers are attempting to do sincere work (well, the editors and staff anyway), although they are philosophically and commercially constrained on what they can and can't do. If a breakout new talent submitted an amazing manuscript which broke all the rules, I have this (possibly naive) faith a publishing house editor would seek to publish it. Otherwise, they're forced to stick with commercial viability.

The small press is a different matter. Given what I've seen and read about speculative fiction as a whole ten to twenty years ago, the scene appears quite vibrant. Let me (in no particular order) mention: Agog! and CSFG press (regular anthologies), Aurealis, ASIM, AntipodeanSF, Borderlands, Dark Animus, Ticonderoga Online, Fables & Reflections, and Visions (and/or its new incarnation), plus Shadowed Realms. There are also a few lurkers out there who may or may not be viable, like Altair Books, Aus SF Forum, Potato Monkey, and the Mitch? anthos, plus some one-off anthologists.

This is a wealth of diversity for today's writer to tap into. I congratulate each and every editor (or editorial committee) for keeping genre aspirations alive. But there is a downside to all this diversity. The focus has strayed, so instead of a few pro zines, we have a dozen semi-pro or unpaid zines. I will (and probably already have done) submit and continue to submit stories to many of these fine markets. But what I bemoan is the lack of financial reward available (and to clarify my earlier comments--I'm talking about paying writers). I know this is beyond the power of editors, but look at the figures: $25 or so flat fee from several of these markets. Aside from Shadowed Realms ($50 for a 1000 word story, based on 5c/word), Aurealis realistically ranges between the 2-4c/word mark, and that's it (aside from Zara Baxter's proposed antho) at pro rates. ASIM do their best at 1 & a bit cents, and the rest are flat fee (or none).

For the writer keen on making a living, the Australian scene, as well intentioned as it is, just doesn't have the juice the internationals do. It's fat fantasy trilogy (or YA series) or bust, these days. My true gripe is the 'powers that be' in control of the big players aren't actively seeking out the emerging writers, or those floating around at semi-pro level but can't get their 'excellent but too much horror or science fiction or other non-vogue SF element' novels published. I'd love to see a publishing house hand a wad full of cash over to Chimaera, or Agog!, or CSFG, and say 'here, find us twenty outstanding short stories for a mass-market anthology'.

I don't want to appear negative, because the Australian SF scene is great for emerging writers. From my limited experiences so far, the people already 'in' are welcoming and willing to share space at the table.

There's also a bunch of talent. The Clarion workshops have already churned out quality. People like Paul Haines, Cat Sparks, and Brendan Duffy cleaned out the Aurealis awards this year. Rjurik Davidson has simultaneously scored a Ditmar nomination and an upcoming story in Datlow's Scifiction. Mark Barnes has his first flash story ever appearing in the current issue of Shadowed Realms. Fantastic Qld deserves a huge thank you for their efforts in running Clarion South and in unearthing this talent.

Add to this established individuals like Dowling, Hood, Harland, Dedman, Battersby, De Pierres, Williams, Lanagan, Maloney, and co, and you have a depth of talent that rivals anywhere else in the world. There's also the incoming Prime Books and their barrage of upcoming collections. Australia is a thriving place right now.

4) You're dead. You were bitten by the white tailed spider, and lost your legs to gangrene. It didn't kill you, so you actually died of natural causes at the age of 91. Your legs were waiting for you in Heaven. After that, you saw God, and you said?

me: "Hey, G-man! I guess I was wrong, huh? I coulda saved $17 on that etern-e-sleep neck pillow."

*muttered conversation between God and Angelic scribe*

me, interrupting: "For disbelievers? How hot did you say that Lake of Fire thing gets?

*muttered conversation between God and Angelic scribe, some pointing at me and the world below involved*

me: "HOW LONG?"

*scent of sulphur wafts through the clouds*

5) Favourite swear word?

I'm not fond of swearing. It conveys nothing except 'I don't have the right words for this situation'. It's saying nothing in an aggressive way. However, I seem to be fond of exclaiming odd phrases in conversation--usually very ocka. If pressed, I'd throw in variants of 'bloody' (bloody hell, etc.), and the occasional 'crikey!' (as in, 'crikey! a croc took me leg!').

I'll add that I absolutely detest the 'c' word. I won't disassociate myself from someone who uses it, but I'll irrevocably consider their IQ to have dropped 40 points.
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