1. You’re a communications specialist and work as a media advisor for the Queensland Government. What does this sort of work entail?
For a bit over four years I worked as a media adviser and political strategist for the Queensland Premier and Deputy Premier. I spent time heading up their respective media teams and provided political advice to them on media strategies and issues management. If you’ve got a media background and you’re a political junkie (like me, literally) this sort of job is like taking crack cocaine. But staying high on drugs that long isn’t conducive to achieving much else in your professional life.
So just before Christmas I stepped back into a more manageable job running the media affairs of a State Government department. Basically the job entails helping manage the reputation of the department and mitigate the risks it faces. This job will allow me to focus a bit more on my writing and get going on a few projects that have been languishing a little bit too long.
2. In the past you’ve had short fiction published and you’ve also worked as an editor for both Aurealis and ASIM. Do you still have writing and/or editing aspirations?
As I said, I basically took four years off writing (even though I assured myself at the time that I wasn't) to go play at politics. And it was immensely fun and rewarding and probably the biggest single boost to my professional career since I first learnt how to hold a pen.
I think I’ve got a better balance now between both sides of my professional career. I can go to work and use my skills and challenge myself without feeling like a mental wreck at the end of the day. And for the first time in a long while I’m back in a routine when it comes to writing. Dangling modifiers and weak verbs look out!
In terms of further editing... definitely. Just not right now.
Small press here do a good job of promoting new writers but I think Clarion South does a pretty good job as well. At the workshop we’ve helped bring a lot of great new writers to the attention of important professional editors, including major editors here and overseas. And it has worked – important professional connections, pro short story sales, novels and awards.
On top of that, we’ve paid around $80,000 worth of teaching fees to some of the genre’s best writers since the workshop started in 2004. And most of them have been Australian writers. They’re not figures any small press in Australia could realistically hope to match.
That’s a long-winded way of saying my professional resources in the near future will probably be devoted more to putting Clarion South on a stronger long term financial footing, rather than doing too much editing.
I also think too many small press publishers in Australia are still locked in the "editor-as-publisher" model, which I’d want to avoid I think there are some good small presses operating here and a few are even in expansion mode, which is great. But I think some people are fixated on being both an editor and publisher when they’re probably better at one of the jobs more than the other.
I’m also very keen to see what work our small presses will be doing over the next few years to harness the opportunities digital publishing presents. It’s a growth industry and I think it’s an important one for local publishers to work on because it will give them the best opportunity to shake the (sometimes fair) criticism that they’re publishing books with the same authors in them that are being bought and read by the same people.
3. You’re the driving force behind the ‘The Homegrown Hugo Nomination Campaign’, a push to get Aussie representation on the Hugo ballot. Obviously Aussiecon 4 represents a great opportunity for greater exposure of Australian writing. Why do you think this is important?
I started the Homegrown Hugo Nomination Campaign to encourage more Australians to think and talk about locals who are worth a nomination.
A healthy democracy is one that’s open and noisy. Rest assured there are plenty of people in the US and the UK (and here) who are out there right now pimping their own work on e-mail and quietly plugging for votes. That’s fine. But I think it’s much healthier and ultimately is more likely to grow the community and increase the number of nominations if we can have these discussions out in the open.
I know there’s been some criticism of the campaign, including from some of the members of the standing Natcon committee that run the Ditmars, but I’m not really phased by it. I’m happy to take advice from them when they get their house in better order.
This is a wonderful opportunity for us to get out there and promote great local talent. By definition, the Hugos are dominated by North American writers, editors and fans, Here’s our chance to do a great big shout-out to the Northern Hemisphere saying ‘Hey, come over here and have a look at this awesome stuff.’
You’ve got until mid-March to nominate. Go and do it.
4. And speaking of awards, which Australian writers or work would you like to see on the Hugo shortlists this year? What have you enjoyed reading?
In terms of professional writers I’m nominating, I’ll definitely be nominating Horn by Peter M. Ball, Sister, Sister by Angela Slatter, Inevitable by Sean Williams, Wives by Paul Haines, a Best Editor (short) for Jonathan Strahan and John W Campbell Award for Best Writer
nominations for Angela Slatter (who I just found out was eligible), Lezli Robyn, Jason Fischer and Peter M. Ball. Plus a Best Fanzine nod for A Writer Goes on a Journey by Nyssa Pascoe, Phillip
Berrie and Ross Hamilton.
But there will be more coming as I read a bit more stuff and I’ll publish a final list on my blog (http://www.roberthoge.com) and on the Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=271312902422) group, where most of the discussion is taking place.
5. Will you be at Aussiecon 4 in September? If so, what are you most looking forward to about it?
Thanks to Clarion South and the World Fantasy Awards I've got a lot of friends in the professional community right around the world. Normally I’d have to go overseas to catch up with many of them. It will be great to have a heap of them here in Australia all at once. So mostly I'm looking forward to catching up with old friends and making new ones.
And seeing some Aussies up for a Hugo award or two.
This interview was conducted as part of the 2010 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We'll be blogging interviews from Monday 15 February to Sunday 22 February and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus. You can read interviews at:
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