August 19th, 2007

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2007 Snapshot Interview: Kylie Chan

Kylie Chan is a relatively new writer, whose Dark Heavens Trilogy (White Tiger, Red Phoenix, Blue Dragon) was inspired by the years she lived in Hong Kong. Following on from its commercial success, she is now writing a second trilogy set some years later. Her website is: http://www.kyliechan.com/

1.The third book of your Dark Heavens Trilogy 'Blue Dragon' has just been released. Much of the background for the trilogy was inspired by the 10 years you spent living in Hong Kong. Are there any autobiographical elements in your work? How has the trilogy been received by the public and how do you feel now that all three books are out?

There are some autobiographical elements in the book, but more with the characters that the main character, Emma, meets in Hong Kong. Many of the characters - some good, some extremely nasty - are based on real-life people that I met and spent time with in Hong Kong. The characters of April, Louise, and Kitty Kwok particularly are very firmly based on people that I knew while working in Hong Kong.

The trilogy's had an excellent reception by the public, and all three books are this week on Dymock's top ten fantasy seller list. I receive a great deal of fan mail all the time and I wish I had time to answer it all. I'm delighted that so many people are enjoying my stories. How do I feel? I suppose I should feel accomplished and that I've reached a goal - but so many people are begging me to continue the stories that I feel pressured to produce the next trilogy as soon as I can!

2. Have you always wanted to write or is this a relatively new ambition? What was the process that led to your manuscript being picked up by Harper-Collins?

I've always written humorous travelogues and woven stories about my life for my friends. Writing fiction, however, was something that I never thought I could do. I was challenged to write a short story by a friend and discovered a vast hidden well of creative talent - I think I was surprised more than anyone.

The process that led to the manuscript being picked up was very interesting. The Queensland Writer's Centre offered 'Editorial Consultancies' with Linda Funnell, chief editor at Harper-Collins. She came up to Brisbane for the day and was available for personal chats with aspiring writers. You paid a fee, gave ten pages of a manuscript, and she chose a select few for a personal interview for two hours of her precious time.

I was first on the day and she was extremely enthusiastic about my story. She gave me a list of publishers and agents to submit the story to, and suggested that she would like to see it as well, to pass it on to Stephanie Smith of Voyager.

Every single agent and publisher she suggested rejected my manuscript, but Harper-Collins themselves were willing to take me on and I suppose the rest is history.

3. You're now writing a fourth book following on from the Dark Heavens trilogy? Should readers expect any major changes in this next chapter?

I'm writing the second trilogy, books four to six! Major changes - I suppose the major difference in the second trilogy is that Simone, who was six years old in the third book, is now fifteen years old, and growing into her role as the daughter of a god - who just wants to be an ordinary kid.

4. Enough about the writing, what's the best thing you've read this year?

Oh there's been so much wonderful fiction that I've read this year it's hard to pick a winner. Fiona McIntosh's 'Percheron' series and Jenn Fallon's 'Demon Child' have kept me away from my work for far too long. The favorite for me though has to be Naomi Novik's 'Temeraire' series so far, but I think that's mainly because I have a huge soft spot for the 'dragon as familiar' type story.

5. Finally, and certainly most inappropriately, you're given the opportunity to get it on with the fictional character you fancy most. Who will it be and why?

It would have to be a toss up between Jenn Fallon's Damin Wolfblade and Fiona McIntosh's Lazar. What a pair of hunks: well done, ladies. There are those who may be surprised that I haven't included Xuan Wu but he's really not my type, and neither is the White Tiger!


This interview was conducted as part of the 2007 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We'll be blogging interviews from Monday 13 August to Sunday 19 August and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus. You can read interviews at:

http://random-alex.livejournal.com/
http://girliejones.livejournal.com/
http://benpayne.livejournal.com/
http://kaaronwarren.livejournal.com/
http://cassiphone.livejournal.com/
http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/
http://rosies-travels.blogspot.com/

If you're involved in the Scene and have something to plug, then send us an email and we'll see what we can do!
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2007 Snapshot Interview: A. M. Muffaz

A. M. Muffaz has sold stories to a number of prominent overseas magazines and her story 'Mosquito Story' received an honorable mention in the 2006 Aurealis Awards. Future publications will include "Calamansi Juice", in the anthology Bandersnatch (Wildside Press), and "Into the Monsoon" in Fantasy Magazine #7. She's currently working on her first novella, Finches, and a chapter appeared in Chiaroscuro #29 as Rahim. Her website is: http://www.ammuffaz.com/ and she blogs at: http://vampyrichamster.livejournal.com/

1. 'Mosquito Story' is refreshingly different from the archetypal 'horror story', yet the horror is most definitely there. What motivates you to write, and what themes and topics most interest you? How important is it to incorporate a speculative or fantastical element into your work?

I'd love to be able to write a pure fantasy. Someday, I'll write my horror-fantasy vampire/werewolf feudal Sino-Japanese romance set in the middle of winter, with *ninjas*. My friends would mock me for all eternity, but by then, I'd be senile.

I don't always know if my stories will turn out speculative, definitely not as I'm writing them. I like to think I write dark fantasy, but I'm sure a lot of people who've read me have wondered where the 'dark' and the 'fantasy' ran off to.

Many of my stories come from observing the things around me. Very often, I start with my feelings for the places I know. I'm not good at plots, but I like to tell stories from the aspect of the places they're based in. It's like being stuck in the middle of a monsoon, and wanting to tell people about the dirt you can smell in the rain -- the story of the dirt, the smoke it came from, the cars that gave it out and the people in every part of that process.

Change, the way people react to change, fascinates me, so many of my stories try to look at how change affects culture. I've always been fascinated by where cultures intersect, but also in how they differ. Learning where a culture gets its POV is a lesson in how a culture thinks, and that's a huge tool for me in writing horror the way I would like it.

For example, one of the themes in "Mosquito Story" was a younger sister who disrespects her elder sibling. Within the story's Malaysian context, respect for one's elders is the starting point of a whole social system. Any well-raised Malaysian would find it rude for a younger sibling to treat an elder sibling as someone of equal rank. But that's exactly what's happening in Malaysia at the moment, as kids start absorbing far more individualistic values than their parents had. Many older people there think it's the dissolution of society -- because it is, as they know it.

Looking at the culture from their POV, we have a horror story. Not something really scary, but a disturbing story nonetheless, based on something we see every day. Speculative mosquitoes are a prop, but the idea of change terrifies even the best of us. I want people to be able to read my stories and be mildly bothered by it, nudged to look at some ordinary thing, even for a moment, in a slightly different light.

2. You spent two weeks as 'Young Writer In Residence' at the Katherine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre last year, and ran a workshop while you were there. What was your motivation to apply for the Writer in Residence program and how did you find the experience?

I found out about the Residency from my lecturers at Curtin University. It was the first time I'd ever applied for anything like this. There aren't many similar programmes where I come from for beginning writers, particularly for writers in the English language.

I found the experience very calming, in spite of the fact meeting so many other people in such a short time was actually quite nerve-wracking. The KSP itself is such a peaceful place. They have this lovely feral garden out back. I loved to sit there, just to clear my head. It helped me a great deal just to be able to think about my writing and nothing else. Interacting with writers from such a wide range of genres gave me a lot to think about. One of these thoughts was how I could make my own genre writing accessible to people who'd otherwise avoid the subject.

It was something I noticed when I ran my workshop. Although I'd advertised my workshop for speculative fiction writers interested in religious genre fiction, I ended up with a class of everyone but genre writers. This was the first time many of them read Frank Herbert's Dune -- extracts from which I was using for the class. The feedback I got was that the text was "different", and people struggled with the style of writing because reading genre fiction was just that new to them. Now, I came in hoping that somehow the literary aspect of Mr. Herbert's writing, and the religious influences he'd interspersed into it, would pull through -- that these things would be the focus of our study, rather than science fiction is weird. But, to my class, science fiction was mostly weird.

This echoed throughout the mixed writing groups I participated in -- SF/F/H writing was a different level from other genres. Horror had to have blood. Fantasy had to have elves. These genres were thought of as tacky, but elitist because of it, both for the people who wrote genre fiction and the people who didn't read it. I thought a lot about how to write fiction that would still be relevant to people on both sides, how to render a story so that people would look at it as a story first -- before they thought about how aliens and angels wasn't their usual cup of tea.

I'm still thinking on that.

3. You're currently working on your first novella, Finches, which follows the story of a religious Muslim man haunted by evolution. As an atheist (agnostic?), what interests you most about religion? Why a novella and not a novel?

Speaking from a perspective I'm sure will only get me in trouble, religious books to me are the ultimate genre fiction. It's genre fiction that's managed to get right down to the source of our disbelief and just bypass it. Imagine what we could learn about writing from books that many people will believe right on the spot, however strange or surreal the things they say, to the point where they'd build the largest fan clubs in the world to talk about them.

Imagine that even for hardcore Trekkies, for example, there has to be a point where one realizes, there's a real world out there and one has to interact with it. Religions can bypass even that last bastion of unbelief. They can fuse together our world and their imagined realities, and people are happy to run with it.

I guess I'm the sort of fan who writes these really dissenting fanfics about killing off the most loveable characters, and slash-ing the heroes at every turn.

As for why a novella - Finches began as a short story, a single piece about a Muslim man haunted by evolution. Eventually, I realized I wanted to explore his family members, how they were previously affected by his influence, and how the changes he initiated shook them.

I'd already introduced all of them in the first story, so it was a matter of expanding what they had to say in their own chapters. However, I didn't want to write a dynasty, and since each person's story was written as a self-contained short, it made sense to keep everything as a novella.

4. Enough about the writing, what's the best thing you've read this year?

Fujiwara Kaoru's Omae ga Sekai wo Kowashitai Nara (If You Want to Break This World). It has vampires, petty gods and the whole cycle of Buddhist suffering. More than that, it's a brilliant study of loneliness as the one unifying trait across all existence. I read it two months ago, but I'm still pacing around at night trying to unravel everyone's intentions.

5. Finally, and certainly most inappropriately, you're given the opportunity to get it on with the fictional character you fancy most. Who's it gonna be and why?

My version of "getting it on" being relative, I'd probably just strip the fancied naked and go try the clothes on myself.

If it was a guy, it'd probably be Liu Fei Loong from the Viewfinder manga. He has the most awesome hairdresser and tailor in the whole Hong Kong mafia.

If it was a girl, it'd be Naoto from Miwa Shirow's Dogs. I like a good pair of legs, and she always gets dressed in these *sensible* short skirts and awesome boots. She has a great sword too...


This interview was conducted as part of the 2007 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We'll be blogging interviews from Monday 13 August to Sunday 19 August and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus. You can read interviews at:

http://random-alex.livejournal.com/
http://girliejones.livejournal.com/
http://benpayne.livejournal.com/
http://kaaronwarren.livejournal.com/
http://cassiphone.livejournal.com/
http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/
http://rosies-travels.blogspot.com/

If you're involved in the Scene and have something to plug, then send us an email and we'll see what we can do!
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2007 Snapshot Interview: Russell B. Farr

From 1996-1999 Russell B. Farr ran Ticonderoga Publications, publishing short story collections by writers including Howard Waldrop, Steven Utley, Stephen Dedman, Sean Williams and Simon Brown. Following a six-year hiatus he resurrected Ticonderoga Publications in late 2005, producing Simon Brown's collection 'Troy' in 2006 and the 'Fantastic Wonder Stories' anthology in 2007. Russell's next release through Ticonderoga will be 'The Workers Paradise', co-edited with Nick Evans. He is also the founding editor of the online journal TiconderogaOnline, which can can be read at: http://ticonderogaonline.org/

1. Ticonderoga's next release will be 'The Workers Paradise', edited by yourself and Nick Evans. Given the recent criticism of the Federal Government's WorkChoices legislation, it seems a particularly timely release. What inspired you to combine speculative fiction with the (apparently) prosaic topic of industrial relations? Do you think it's important to explore current issues in genre fiction?

'The Workers Paradise' is actually a direct result of the Federal Government's WorkChoices legislation being passed in Parliament in late 2005. At that point I decided that I could either do something in response to the direction the Government was taking Australia or I could leave the country. I decided to do something and dropped a Nick Evans (the biggest leftie I know) a line to see if he was interested in a project that was both speculative and politically focused. This project became 'The Worker's Paradise'. I think it's very important that genre explores current issues. Speculative fiction is a genre of ideas and it can explore issues from all angles. In some countries, speculative fiction is one of the only forms of literature in which people can protest. I think Australians have become pretty complacent about the real issues affecting this country and I think this needs to change.

2. In the 2005 Snapshot you say that small press is not financially viable in Australia. Yet since then Ticonderoga has published two books - Simon Brown's collection 'Troy' in 2006 and the 'Fantastic Wonder Stories' anthology earlier this year. Have you changed your mind since then? What drives you to keep on keeping on?

Nope – small press is still not financially viable. And recent moves by Angus and Robertson to charge independent presses to stock their books won't improve matters either.

The basic problem is that the audience for most small presses is just not large enough for the financial model to work. It's still very hard to get overseas exposure – advances in communication like email and the internet really just mean that the signal-to-noise ratio is just that much worse.

Why do I continue? Well, for me, small press pays off in other ways. It's a chance to participate in something I believe in. Ticonderoga Publications is never going to be financially independent enough that it's viable for me to give up my day job, however I'll be satisfied if it makes enough profit to support and maintain future projects.

3. Like many editors, you came into the Scene because you wanted to write. Do you still have future aspirations as a writer? Do you think your extensive editing experience makes you a better storyteller?

I don't have any real future aspirations to be a writer - I don't think writing will be my main contribution to SF. I still get the urge to tell a story now and then and I still get ideas, although they're not necessarily genre. I think my editing experience has made me a better editor, but I don't necessarily think it's significantly improved my storytelling. The whole process of editing is about collaboration – two or more people working on one piece of work. If I'm editing my own work, then it's still just me involved. When I'm editing someone else's story, it's a proper collaboration.

4. Enough about the writing (and editing), what's the best thing you've read this year?

I have had a really slack year for reading and haven't read anything near as much as I would have liked, however there have been two books that have stood out. The first is Anthony Bourdain's 'Kitchen Confidential'. I think it's very important for writers to read widely and I think many could learn a lot from the techniques that Bourdain has used to make his memoirs both compelling and charismatic. Barry Hughart's 'The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox' is a trilogy of novels that I've read several times and keep coming back to, about an Ancient China that never was.

5. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you're given the opportunity to get it on with the fictional character you fancy most. Who's it gonna be and why?

That's a tricky one! On one hand there's Jessica Rabbit – the obvious crowd pleaser. On the other is Genevieve Dieudonne from Kim Newman's Anno Dracula – the 700 year old vampire babe.


This interview was conducted as part of the 2007 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We'll be blogging interviews from Monday 13 August to Sunday 19 August and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus. You can read interviews at:

http://random-alex.livejournal.com/
http://girliejones.livejournal.com/
http://benpayne.livejournal.com/
http://kaaronwarren.livejournal.com/
http://cassiphone.livejournal.com/
http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/
http://rosies-travels.blogspot.com/

If you're involved in the Scene and have something to plug, then send us an email and we'll see what we can do!
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2007 Snapshot Interview: Terry Dowling

Terry Dowling is one of Australia’s most awarded and internationally acclaimed writers of science fiction, fantasy, dark fantasy and horror. His Ditmar award-winning Tom Rynosseros saga (Rynosseros, Blue Tyson, and Twilight Beach) is soon to be completed with the fourth book, Rynemonn, being published by Coeur de Lion in October. His most recent collection, Basic Black: Tales of Appropriate Fear (2006), earned a starred review in Publishers Weekly and has also been nominated for an International Horror Guild Award. His website is: http://www.terrydowling.com/

1. With Rynemonn, the fourth and final book in the Rynosseros saga due for publication soon, how do you feel? Where did the original concept for the Rynosseros stories come from and what was it about Coeur de Lion that led you to entrust Tom's final chapter to such a relatively new publishing company?

I’m very excited about the book’s appearance. It’s very personal work and means a lot to me. A curious thing, but my hand was forced in a sense, in a very good and most appropriate way. As with all arc stories (BABYLON 5, FIREFLY etc readily come to mind) I could have kept the story of Tom’s search going a fair bit longer and gained by it. In a sense, it was Peter McNamara’s serious illness back in 2002-2003 that determined the shape and form of this closing instalment. Peter didn’t have long to live and was editing FOREVER SHORES with Margaret Winch. He asked for a story and I sent him "Coyote Struck by Lightning". Then, because his days were limited, I sent along "Coming Down" and "Sewing Whole Cloth", the companion stories that resolved the penultimate events described in "Coyote", and with them the whole RYNEMONN manuscript so he could read the sequencing of tales and the linking narrative, "Doing the Line".

Peter and Margaret ended up taking all three new pieces for FS plus a part of "Doing the Line", certainly not what I’d expected. Once the final stages of Tom’s journey of discovery appeared in that book, it seemed time to have the whole saga appear. In conversation with friends at one of our solstice celebrations, Keith Stevenson of Coeur de Lion expressed his and Andrew Macrae’s interest in picking up the book. It’s the sort of thing Peter would have applauded wholeheartedly: a book championed by one small press being passed on to another.

The Tom Rynosseros stories owe their conceptual beginnings to many things, some of which I’m probably not even aware of. But in there will be the powerful 15th/16th century song lyric "Loving Mad Tom" (aka "Tom O’Bedlam’s Song" etc) with its wonderful second-last stanza: "And those that cross Tom Rynosseros / Do what the Panther dare not". Those words, with the splendid and oft-quoted final stanza gave the spiritual heart of the series in miniature. It just need a dash of J. G. Ballard’s VERMILION SANDS stories, a healthy slice of Bradbury’s Martian tales, a jot of flavour from Fritz Leiber and Philip K. Dick and definitely the work of my dear friends Jack Vance and Harlan Ellison. Toss that up with the Arabian Nights and a few favourite pirate films, the discovery of the genuine term "char volant" and you have it.

2. Throughout your career you've produce work in a huge number of formats - song, theatre, short and long fiction, even computer games. What drives you to involve yourself and use such a wide variety of media? How do they differ in the satisfaction they provide to you as an artist?

It’s important to remember that storytelling has traditionally made use of whatever media are available and effective for presenting story. It can be puppet shows, bawdy ballads, fireside jokes and yarns, dance, whatever. I’ve always been predisposed to this sort of transmediation (it was the subject of my PhD thesis). There is always story. You’ll find it in the simplest, most minimal things. For all sorts of reasons (among them sheer delight at possibility) I’ve tried whatever comes to hand. It’s what storytellers should remember to do.

3. What do you think of the state Australian speculative fiction as it stands today? Has the community changed much since you first became involved?

Statistically, in terms of the delivery of what’s available, it’s arguably healthier than ever. Yes, there’s more derivative, formula work at the longer lengths than ever, surprisingly lacking in sense of wonder, but there are more players and that’s tremendously exciting. My only concern is that some writers are sidelining themselves by releasing less than A-grade work, but that is their call, and no doubt they don’t see their as less than top standard.

4. Enough about the writing, what's the best thing you've read this year?

Some of the work in Jonathan Strahan and Gardner Dozois’s The New Space Opera, and probably a re-read of Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination. The sheer bravura of the storytelling in that novel is astounding.

5. Finally, and certainly most inappropriately, you're given the opportunity to get it on with the fictional character you fancy most. Who will it be and why?

Probably Inara in Firefly, but then you know what we pirate types are like!


This interview was conducted as part of the 2007 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We'll be blogging interviews from Monday 13 August to Sunday 19 August and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus. You can read interviews at:

http://random-alex.livejournal.com/
http://girliejones.livejournal.com/
http://benpayne.livejournal.com/
http://kaaronwarren.livejournal.com/
http://cassiphone.livejournal.com/
http://kathrynlinge.livejournal.com/
http://rosies-travels.blogspot.com/

If you're involved in the Scene and have something to plug, then send us an email and we'll see what we can do!
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Snapshot Finish

There's a couple of stragglers left to come in, but for the most part Snapshot 2007 is now complete. We'll be archiving the interviews over the next couple of days and you'll be able to find them all here: http://www.asif.dreamhosters.com/doku.php?id=snapshot

All up so far, we've blogged 76 interviews - more than 10 a day - and it'll probably reach 80 by the end. This was no mean feat, even with 7 reviewers on the team. I still have no idea how benpeek did 43 by himself in 2005.

Despite feeling like a zombie with RSI on a couple of occasions, I have really enjoyed the experience. I've learnt a lot and there's heaps of new things I now want to read. Many thanks to all the interviewees, who were very generous with their time and, in some cases, got their answers back with unbelievable speed.

In regards to Question 5, I can now reveal it was Tansy's idea!!! Although, to be fair, I heartily endorsed her suggestion and it was a much better question than the two lame suggestions I made (and which I can't actually remember one week on). For fairness sake, and after a week of consideration, I can reveal that my answer would have to be Mr Darcy. Of course, in Jane Austen's world 'getting it on' would probably amount a polite smile across the drawing room. Perhaps we would express our sincere admiration of each other during a walk later in the afternoon. Obviously I'd totally do Snape as well, but perhaps not at the same time.

Anyway, I really look forward to the next Snapshot (as long as it isn't any time soon).

So, finally, in the words of the esteemed Dr Payne:

Peace out :-)