Category Archives: snapshots

Snapshots: Kim Lakin-Smith interviewed

[Kim Lakin-Smith’s Autodrome is reviewed by Keith Brooke in today’s Guardian]

Autodrome by Kim Lakin-Smith

How would you describe your latest novel, Autodrome?
Death Race with a soul. Autodrome is my wink to the gear-nut and the petrol-head, from rusting rat rods to caterpillar-tread wheelchairs to howling V8s. Its action-adventure with a hefty dose of Indiana-style questing. It’s also a story of survival against the odds and trying to not just beat but better the system.

On one level, it’s a fairly straightforward quest story, what makes it stand out for me is the lovingly detailed backdrop. Tell us a bit about the city of Autodrome.
Everything I write has a strong basis in fact; for me, it is what makes a story engaging and, ultimately, believable. While researching Autodrome I read up on MotorCity, a retail, sporting, recreational and residential development in Dubai. (Incidentally, this was prior to the evolution of the ‘Autodrome’ that now takes pride of place in the development – science fiction becoming science fact, god damn it!) I wondered what would happen if race fans and vehicle enthusiasts flocked to MotorCity in droves; it would soon outgrow itself and be forced to relocate.

At the same time, I needed to consider the geography of a new UAE redevelopment. Given the arid climate, the siting of the city next to a water source – Lady Luck Lough – was essential, as was keeping it in a country rich in oil.  Next came the inner workings of the city, and this was where I really got to have fun just imagining all of the out-there possibilities for a future world dedicated to racing. Equally, I wanted the environment to have its roots in real-world commerce, for instance advertising revenue comes from MasterCard, Antram, et al.

For me, cities are characters in their own right.  If characters are to come to life for the reader, they have to live in a world that feels gritty and all-encompassing and tangible. This meant giving Autodrome a seedy side; while the west of the city revels in the spoils of the sport, the east is drug-addled and desperately poor, its young people siphoned off to race for cash and perpetuate the dream.

The novel’s protagonists are mostly 15 to 18 years old, and so could the book be read as a young adult novel; but then it’s equally easy as an adult novel and it’d be a shame if it was overlooked by anyone not wanting to read “kids’ stuff”. Who do you see as the audience for this book?
Autodrome exists very much in the ‘crossover’ between YA and adult. The decision to focus on teens was based on some early feedback which suggested the story would have more punch with a younger cast of characters.  I really hope that readers who have enjoyed my work in the past will agree that, stylistically, Autodrome stays firmly in my ballpark. I haven’t indulged my characters’ youth; rather, they are expected to earn a crust from an early age, and they have the pride, skill and sheer bloody-mindedness to keep going when older competitors end up dead or jaded.

Something that is always really important to me is to retain my political stance as a writer. The crossover potential of Autodrome allowed me to feature a multicultural society and explore gender, disability and sexuality as part of the natural human condition rather than makes them the sole focus of the plot.

Your research and knowledge show through in the best possible ways – was it an easy book to write, or tough to hit that level of verisimilitude?
I did a lot of research before and during the writing of Autodrome. The race scenes were intrinsic to the book’s success, of course, and I did get carried away with the numbers of those, eventually cutting a few scenes that had taken a fair amount of time to write. I was also very conscious that not everyone shares my love of mechanical detail, but I figured there had to be a balance. This was, after all, my ode to the hotrodder scene and I wanted there to be a level of retro-cool and gear-geek self-indulgence. I had the added bonus of being friends with Lee Whitmore, petrol-head and rodder, who didn’t seem to object to spending many an evening drinking beer and talking shop.

My real hope with Autodrome is that it fires the imagination of readers, even if they don’t have a vested interest in vehicles. I also wanted to create a world where girls race just as hard as boys and on an even playing field.

What are you working on now?
I am working on my next adult book with the provisional title of Curtain Falls, but I’m sure that will change. It is a challenging book to write because it will cross time periods and has its roots in the notion of man as animal, the value of the written word, and fascism. Some pretty heavy subjects which make my head spin! Its early days so I don’t know how the book will pan out, but it feels like a book I should push myself to write, no matter how terrifying the prospect.

What have you recently finished?
I have just completed two children’s books, The Mouse Morrow Map and The Wylde Witches. They are part of a six part fantasy series featuring 12 year old Scarlet White and her adventures next door in Lone Hall, home to sorcerers, elder spirits, boggles, ghouls, sprites and meddlesome mice. I love writing the series between my adult stories; it is freeing to let the imagination flow, no holds barred.

What’s recently or soon out?
My debut novel, Tourniquet, is being released as a limited edition by Jurassic London in 2014. I am very excited to see what Jurassic are going to do with Tourniquet; there is talk of including artist plates and the cover art is a striking take on the religious iconography which features in the book.

Newcon Press recently launched Looking Landwards, an anthology commissioned by The Institution of Agricultural Engineers and which includes my short story, ‘Soul Food.’ This is a prequel piece to my novel, Cyber Circus.

Describe your typical writing day.
After the school run, breakfast and a stalk over the fields with Drake, our fat lab, my writing day starts at 10.00am. I write long-hand, in notebooks or on scraps of paper, and go through a lot of pens. If I am writing a new story, I sit in my ‘writing chair’ beside a window that looks out over the garden and some gorgeous old trees in nearby gardens and I think or write. The best stories flow very quickly, and I research extra details as I go. Other days, I’m in the office trying to make sense of my scrawls and typing up on the laptop. I’d like to say I break for lunch – more like I eat at my desk while catching up on news.

By 4.00pm my daughter Scarlet is back from school and it is time for homework, housework and slaving over a hot stove. Work begins again at 7.00pm until 9.00pm, at which point I pour a large wine or several, listen to music and chat over plot ideas with my husband, Del, or collapse on the sofa to watch some spectacularly bad sci-fi.

What would you draw attention to from your back-list?
I really liked the idea of packaging my novel, Cyber Circus, with a sister novella, Black Sunday; there are overlapping themes and, while both are stand alone, this lent an extra dimension to both stories. I would like to publish Black Sunday in its own right in the future as it garnered good reviews and it is my personal favourite of my stories.

My short story, The Island of Peter Pandora, is a steampunk reimagining of Peter Pan and The Island of Doctor Moreau. I think Peter is one of my most disturbed characters to date! The story first appeared in Resurrection Engines (Snowbooks, 2012) and was selected for The Best British Fantasy 2013 (Salt Publishing, 2013).

Which other authors or books do you think deserve a plug?
I am overwhelmed that I get to meet so many incredibly talented writers, editors, publishers, marketers and artists. Everyone works so hard and I am always amazed by how supportive the writing community really is.

To highlight a few real contemporary gems, I’d say authors Adrian Tchaikovsky, Nina Allen, Gareth L Powell, and Den Patrick are among my favourites. I am a huge fan of Philip Reeve’s YA series, Mortal Engines, and I can never get enough of Diana Wynne Jones’s mischievous fantasies.

I would also like to give a special mention to Ian Whates (writer, editor, publisher and all round talent) of Newcon Press, and Jared and Anne Shurin of Jurassic London. Both small presses are doing amazing work with both established authors and exciting new talent.

If you were to offer one snippet of writing advice what would it be?
Just the one? 😉

Plot is everything.

So… the easy one: what’s the future of publishing? How will writers be making a living and publishing in five or ten years? What will readers be reading?
This is such a difficult question. In terms of large publishers, commerciality is key, which means, more than ever, the independents are home to books which push boundaries or fall just outside of the traditional remit.  Authors need to have lots of fingers in lots of pies if they are to make any kind of a living out of writing; the majority have daytime jobs and write when they can. I like the idea that publishing will evolve into a far more autonomous model where writers are solely responsible for their output, but, at the same time, this is already a solitary profession.

I am horrified by the return percentages from the behemoth which is Amazon – if ever there was a science fiction horror in the making, it is the story of Amazon’s monopoly over book consumerism. But I am a realist, and I am excited by the evolution of publishing in one of two directions. The first will be a much more stripped back art form. Gone the palpability of book production; instead the sole focus will be the consumption of words. The second will be the enrichment of the eBook format through reader interaction and all manner of artistic content.

As for what readers will be reading, I’m hoping that teenage boys will find a voice and either refute the belief they don’t read or find a renewed interest in books. I think this is where the virtual format may come into its own.

More…
Cyber Circus by Kim Lakin-SmithKim Lakin-Smith is the author of Tourniquet, Cyber Circus – shortlisted for the 2012 British Science Fiction Association Best Novel and the British Fantasy Award for Best Novel – the YA novella, Queen Rat, and Autodrome. Her short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines, including Interzone, Black Static, and Celebration: 50 years of the BSFA.  2014 sees the release of Tourniquet as a limited edition run from Jurassic London.

More:


Snapshots: Frank Chadwick interviewed

How Dark the World Becomes by Frank ChadwickWhy science fiction?
I think science fiction is the most optimistic genre of writing, because it is about what is possible. Even when it deals with dystopic futures, as it often does, it’s essentially optimistic because, as Marx said, “Everything seems pregnant with its contrary.” The writer would not bother telling a tale of an unavoidable future, so stories about how bad things can become are incantations against their realization. Even that famous pessimist, H.G. Wells, must have had hope that his stories would deflect our trajectory somewhat. Otherwise it’s all just howling in the night. The simple notion there will be human beings centuries – even millennia – from now, recognizable to us as of the same spirit, with similar values, similar emotional needs, is itself a proposition engorged with optimism.

Why fiction at all? What do you think it is that makes a person have to make up stories and write them down?
My formal higher education was first speech and rhetoric, and then later communication, so my earliest serious academic grounding involved Aristotle’s Rhetoric. Since I have a wandering mind, I read the rest of Aristotle, and that was many decades ago so much of it is lost now. But something which stuck with me was Aristotle’s disdain for the study of history, but his deep appreciation for poetry, which for him included drama and what we would call historical fiction. History, he said, was simply a recounting of what “had happened,” a meaningless listing of “what Alcibiades did, and what he suffered.” Poetry, on the other hand, dealt with what was possible, and when it recounted historical events, it did so to reveal what the gods expected of us – what constituted right acts.

I have a better opinion of history than did Aristotle, but in part that’s because we expect more from its study these days than he did. But I’m still with him in believing fiction is a better vehicle for exploring what is possible, and what constitutes right acts. Why? Because it enables readers to put themselves in the place of the hero or heroine, live their struggles and learn their lessons, in a more intimate way than they can with historical figures already passed from the scene. We can imagine knowing Voltaire, but we cannot as easily imagine being Voltaire.

Describe your typical writing day. 
I prefer to write in the morning. I’m much more productive if I can start my day with writing, when my mind is still uncluttered. Later in the day it’s harder for me to tune out the distractions, so that’s when I do the more mundane stuff.

When I’m working on a project, I usually start writing in the morning as soon as I’ve showered and have a cup of coffee in front of me. I like to get about 250-300 words down before I stop and have breakfast. Then I spend the rest of the morning trying to hit or exceed my daily target of 1500 words. I’ll do some revision and rewriting as I go, but my target is 1500 net words: today’s final tally minus yesterday’s final tally. If I’m on a roll I’ll keep rolling until noon, but I always like to quit while I still know what’s coming next. That way when I sit down the next morning I can pitch right in, not sit there looking at a blank screen as if I’m hypnotized. If I’m being very good, I’ll write a short synopsis of what I’ll do the next day. I’ve found that writing a synopsis of what I’m going to write next pays off in greatly increased daily word count.

If you were to offer one snippet of writing advice what would it be?
Write simple stories about unforgettable characters.

Do you think writing can be taught?
The craft of writing can absolutely be taught. I don’t think the artistry of writing can be, nor can inspiration be taught, nor can you teach someone, by the numbers, to have a unique writer’s voice. Genius cannot be taught, and genius is what separates truly great writers from most of the rest of us, but there are some wonderful writers among “the rest of us.” I think you can learn to be an accomplished writer who reliably produces stories with compelling characters and intriguing worlds, stories which satisfy and enlighten readers, and that’s something worth aspiring to. I don’t think you can learn to be Joseph Conrad, Mark Twain, or Ernest Hemmingway.

How did you learn to write?
Here’s how you learn to write (or at least how I did):

First, read. Read a lot and read the best writers you can find, but make it a joy, not a burden. Find good writers whose words you enjoy. Read different writers in different genres, with different strengths and with distinctly different “voices.” Pay attention to what works in their writing and what doesn’t, and think about why that is.

Second, write. Write a lot, write poorly, but write.

Third, read about writing. There are some excellent books on writing. None of them are gospel, but many of them will help. They aren’t magic doorways to success, but they can make the lessons you are learning slowly, as you write, come more quickly and in sharper focus.

Fourth, keep writing until you write better. Eventually you will – some people say about a million words down the road. I don’t know that there’s a magic number. Just write a lot, and then write a lot more.

Some people can write timeless prose their first time at bat. You are not one of those people. Accept it, and don’t beat yourself up over it.

You’ve collaborated on a few books, particularly in your gaming-related work. How does collaboration work for you?
I’ve collaborated on a couple ebooks in Untreed Reads’ “Space 1889 And Beyond” series as well as the game books, and those ebooks are probably closer to what you’re after here. One of those, “Dark Side of Luna,” was a sort of collaboration-after-the-fact with J.T. Wilson, but “Conspiracy of Silence” was a true collaboration, planned from the start,  with Andy Frankham-Allen. What made that an easy collaboration was there were two distinct plot threads, with two principal protagonists, which finally met late in the second act. After we roughed out the plot, Andy wrote the Nathanial thread and I wrote the Annabelle thread, and then I wrapped things up after the two thread merged. I did an edit on his chapters and he did an edit on mine, but both of us had written in the series before and so we were already on the same page with respect to style and tone, and we both knew the characters quite well.

One of the things which made the collaboration go so smoothly is that Andy and I write the same sort of stories, what I call (for lack of a better term) “shipwreck” stories. In a shipwreck story, everything starts out on an even keel, then things happen to upset that. There follows an escalating cascade of disasters which the characters are always caught off guard by until, finally, they manage to get mentally out in front of what’s going on, and come to grips with it. The suspense lies in the fact that, for most of the story, neither the readers nor the protagonists know what’s coming next.

I contrast that with what I call “mountain climbing” stories. In this sort of story the challenge facing the protagonists is enormous, but fairly clearly known at the start of the story–this looming mountain facing them which they must climb. From the start the readers and protagonists have a clear idea where everything’s going and (usually) not much question about the story ending successfully. The protagonists usually know how they will accomplish this from the start, but they don’t let the reader in on their thinking. Instead the suspense lies in how the protagonists manage the climb, revealed gradually, ledge by ledge.

By way of classical analogy, Xenophon’s “Anabasis” is a shipwreck story. Arian’s “The Anabasis of Alexander” is a mountain climbing story. A more modern analogy would be “Die Hard” as shipwreck story, and almost any episode of the old TV series “Mission Impossible” as mountain climbing story.

If you could pick one dream collaborator for a story, who would it be?
I think if I answered that right now, it would sound too much like ass kissing. Ask me again when I have a few more books in print.

I will say I think it would be harder for me to collaborate with someone who prefers mountain climbing stories to shipwreck stories, but if it worked, it might make for a pretty good read.

More…

This interview is a companion piece to my interview with Frank over at SF Signal.

How Dark the World Becomes by Frank ChadwickFrank Chadwick has designed or written over one hundred games and game–related books. In the science fiction field he is probably best remembered for his work on Traveller and Space: 1889. He also writes military history and his Desert Shield Fact Book (1991) reached number one on the New York Times best–seller list. His debut print novel, How Dark The World Becomes, was released by Baen Books in January of 2013, The Forever Engine, will appear in January of 2014, and he is currently working on the sequel to How Dark The World Becomes. He lives in east–central Illinois.

Buy stuff:


Snapshots: Jessica Rydill interviewed

Malarat by Jessica RydillTell us about Malarat.
Malarat is the name of a person and a place. It’s the title of the Duc de Malarat, a powerful nobleman who plans to put a puppet king on the throne of Lefranu. The Duke wants to rule the whole country so he sets out to attack the independent southern states. He’s backed by the Domini Canes, an order of monks who are a cross between the Inquisition and the Crusaders. The name means ‘Hounds of God’ and was a nickname for the Dominicans historically, when they staffed the Inquisition. They are commanded by a young man called Valdes de Siccaria, who is stunningly beautiful but malevolent.

Their main problem in attacking the south is the shamans, a group of humans with magical powers sufficient to drive them off. Siccaria develops a secret weapon called the Spider, made from iron. Shamans, being magical, react badly to iron, so he discovers a way to neutralise them and sets out to do so. He believes that they offend against the natural order of things, so he is determined to eradicate them.

The shamans learn about this through intelligence information but have no idea how bad it is until they experience it first hand. And then they’re in trouble. Only a handful of them are powerful enough to fight – most shamans just do healing, otherwise you can imagine – kerpow! So it’s an immediate problem for them as a group, and for the people they’re trying to protect.

In addition to that there’s a demon on the loose – no-one knows how it got out (or in). It tends to go round possessing people and hiding out, occasionally emerging to cause trouble.

How does it relate to your earlier work?
It takes place in the same world and the same country. I have ret-conned a few things, such as the name of the country (Lefranu). A lot of people thought it was set in Eastern Europe, but in fact it’s an alternate version of France. I wanted to emphasise that detail. The confusion arises because of the large number of characters with Russian names. In fact, they are all exiles or émigrés of various kinds. Climate change plays an important part in the background of the novel! A mini Ice Age has just ended, and some places have been left technologically and culturally stranded. It’s like the Victorian era with bits that are stuck in the past.

Though the story follows on from the events in The Glass Mountain, my second book, it can definitely be read on its own. It’s not a children’s book. There are some graphic scenes and the themes are dark. It continues to explore my interest (or obsession) with the underworld, and two of the narrative threads take place in the afterlife or spirit world, from the shamanic point of view. I use elements from Russian and Jewish folklore, together with some origin myths about the English. There’s an Anglit (or Englishman) with a mad and spectacular plan to colonise Heaven. He believes that his countrymen are the true Israelites (Ya-udi), as opposed to the Wanderers, and sets out to alter history accordingly.

Are there more Malarat stories to come?
There could be sequels. I’m working on something at the moment, but I’ve zoomed the perspective out a bit and brought in two more parallel worlds, one of which is supposed to be this one – up to a point. I hope the next one will be lighter.

What is the significance of Goddesses in your work?
Many years ago, I was hugely influenced by Robert Graves’s book The White Goddess with its ‘eternal theme’ of two men fighting for the love of one woman. And then after a life-long interest in the mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau, made famous by Holy Blood and Holy Grail and The Da Vinci Code, I came across the legend that Mary Magdalene had sailed to France with a group of companions that included two women also called Mary (a tradition still celebrated in the South of France today).

This triggered the idea of a hidden and heretical goddess-based religion in France, starting with the two Marys who settled in Arles with their Egyptian servant Sara. Not unlike the syncretisation of African gods and goddesses in Vodou, Candomble and Santeria!

That lay behind the creation of several goddess-based sects. Doxa, the state religion, is similar to Christianity with the Virgin Mary as part of the Trinity. Though it’s a matriarchal religion, men hold positions of power. The other religion is worship of the Lady, who appeared in Children of the Shaman as two separate divinities – the Bright Lady and the Cold One. They are aspects of her, dark and light, and in Malarat the Goddess has been reunited with herself. But she’s an ambiguous character– is she good or evil? What is she up to? She has her own way of being, her myth, and some of the characters get caught up in it. So though she seems benign, she’s ambivalent.

Describe your typical writing day.
I don’t have a typical writing day, but I find it easiest to write late at night when there are fewer distractions.

Some reviewers have suggested that your writing is filmic, or even designed to be filmed. What films have influenced you?
One of my all-time favourite films is Fanny and Alexander by Ingmar Bergman. It is a historical film with elements of magic and is really scary in places. It becomes a fight to the death between a young boy and his really horrible step-father, the Bishop, who is one of the scariest characters in film. I also like cartoons and anime and would love to be filmed by Studio Ghibli (in my dreams!). I wanted to convey that atmosphere of a fairly realistic world where nonetheless some strange things happen. And I enjoyed Cronos by Guillermo del Toro – I’d love to have seen what he made of The Hobbit!

What would you draw attention to from your back-list?
I’m planning to reissue my first book, Children of the Shaman, as an ebook – and its sequel, The Glass Mountain. They are both out of print now and I’d like to bring them back. And also to harmonise the language with that of Malarat. Some people criticised me for using untranslated French and I think that’s absolutely fair, so I want to remove some of the French and otherwise provide translations, as I have done in Malarat.

Which other authors or books do you think deserve a plug?
There are so many good people out there. I love the work of Kari Sperring, who writes intelligent and thoughtful fantasy novels that deserve to be published in this country – her latest title is The Grass King’s Concubine. I’d like to mention Adele Abbot, whose novel Postponing Armageddon, an alternate history, is due to be published as an ebook in June. And I enjoy the writing of Meyari McFarland, whose Matriarchies of Muirin tales have been issued as a series of ebooks on Amazon.

Publishing is going through a period of rapid change. How has this affected you as an author, and what are your plans?
My plans are to carry on writing, and to see whether Malarat finds an audience. It is hard to predict how things will turn out in future. I would love to be published in a traditional manner, but the digital format gives me an opportunity that would otherwise be missing. The real problem is bringing readers to the novel – there is so much out there and readers are spoilt for choice. Unfortunately, a lot of the advice you are initially given about using social media is flawed since, as someone observed, the result can be writers trying to sell their books to other writers. (cf. ‘WRITING ON THE ETHER: Writers in the Inferno’ by Porter Anderson, guest-posting on Jane Friedman’s blog.)

If you were to offer one snippet of writing advice what would it be?
Not to self-censor on the first draft but once that is done to edit and re-edit. And then edit some more.

More…
Malarat by Jessica Rydill

Jessica Rydill was born in Bath in 1959. She read English at King’s College Cambridge before training as a solicitor. In 1998 she gave up work to write. Her first two novels, Children of the Shaman and The Glass Mountain, were published by Orbit in 2001 and 2002. She lives just outside Bath with her husband and her collection of Asian Ball-jointed Dolls, some of which resemble characters from her invented world.

Buy stuff and find out more:

 


Snapshots: Stephen Volk interviewed

Whitstable by Stephen VolkQ: Just published by Spectral Press is your new novella, Whitstable, a creepily disturbing mixing of fact and fiction that pays homage to the Hammer House of Horror and the Gentle Man of Horror, Peter Cushing. Why Hammer? Why Cushing?

Because the idea centres around a young boy who needs a monster-hunter, and to me a monster-hunter is Van Helsing – and Van Helsing is Peter Cushing! It’s really as simple as that. The idea of the boy came first, a boy who is the victim of harm of the most despicable kind, and the only way he can assimilate it and deal with it is through the metaphor of fiction. Of the horror films he watches. The only kind of evil he understands is the vampire and the only hope he can expect is that of a vampire-hunter. The surface lore of the story is all about the horror genre I love – but underneath that, it is about real horror, the horrors of real life.

Having said that, I wouldn’t have become so excited about the story if it wasn’t about my favourite actor and my favourite film company. I grew up on Hammer films, and in many ways their mythos has informed everything I’ve wanted to write since – it certainly contributed to my wanting to become a horror movie writer. When I saw names such as Tudor Gates or Jimmy Sangster on the screen, I always thought: how brilliant would it to be to have that job, to dream up stories like this and be paid for it? So I was happy that my idea for “Whitstable” allowed me to indulge in my passion for the films of that era and, more importantly (if I got it right) pay an incalculable debt of gratitude to Peter Cushing, the actor who made many of those films so vivid and unforgettable.

Q: Given that this story centres around a rather well-known actor, did you feel constrained by needing to stick to the facts and the desire to pay tribute to Cushing, or was it more the case that fiction freed you to do so?

I knew I had to go as far as possible to get it to feel right. I knew I was putting him in a fictional situation, so there was a point where research runs out and my imagination or skill has to take over – and that is the fun of it, and the challenge. To worry about whether people might pick holes in this or that detail would completely stymie me, so I tried to forget about that. First of all I had to please myself and feel I’d done a good job. A case in point (spoiler!) is that I was wondering how Cushing could defeat his nemesis. I found it impossible that he would kill or be violent to the antagonist: it simply didn’t feel in character, even in fiction, to do that – and I felt desperately that even though this is fiction, it had to be plausible. The good thing is that the solution to this was much more fitting to the story – it really added another layer, which is that Cushing finds the strength to stand up to this monster, and in doing so, destiny takes over. Fate takes a hand. He doesn’t cause the ending physically, but somehow that seemed better, to me. Like his moral strength had nevertheless vanquished the enemy.

Q: How important is sense of place to you in your work?

I think in most stories specificity is important. Well, authenticity is important. If you are trying to convince the reader or viewer that something weird or outlandish really happened, the trappings of real life are often useful to give a feeling of realism, in a way. If somebody lights a Silk Cut rather than a cigarette. All those touches – not to belabour them, obviously – add to the feeling this could happen.

Beyond that a sense of place also helps with the symbolism and theme. I’ve always found off-season seaside towns evocative, even ghostly, in their dry, slumbery atmosphere. This was excellent in Don’t Look Now, of course – somehow making the place itself otherworldly. And in “Whitstable” – look, the place is the title, even! – the image of the bereaved man looking out to sea seemed fundamental. There’s something about the constant nature of the sea and our fickle, fragile lives. And then, of course, I thought about the industry there of fishing and fishermen. I didn’t want my “vampire” to be a nobleman or toff, or office worker, or weirdo with pervy glasses – I didn’t know what he could be without it being a cliché. Then I described him as a hippie, very much of 1971, in contrast with the fuddy-duddy, old-fashioned Cushing, and I thought Cushing would probably observe that he looked like Jesus Christ (as people often said of John Lennon). Then, bingo – the connection with being a fisherman was complete. Les Gledhill became the exact reversal of the Saviour that Cushing felt had abandoned him. The themes all came together, largely by thinking about the place.

Q: Official publication date is 26th May, but I believe the hardcover edition has already sold out. What kind of response has Whitstable received?

To be honest it has been beyond my wildest dreams. It got 5 out of 5 stars in SFX magazine and an amazing review in Starburst. I’ve girded my loins for a bad one but there simply hasn’t been, touch wood! I’ve even had some tremendous feedback from people who knew Cushing and are experts on his work – David Pirie, Jonathan Rigby, Wayne Kinsey, to name a few. They’ve all been massively encouraging. But of course it was vital for me to get input from people like that to reassure me I’d “caught” the great actor convincingly. I’m happy to report that, to a man, they reported I had. Director Mick Garris and critic Kim Newman have also said they love it. I feel a bit humbled by the positive response, to be absolutely truthful.

Q: What brought you to horror fiction?

Growing up with Hammer, with comics, with Famous Monsters of Filmland. Gravitating to Pan and Poe and Stephen King. I think it is a familiar route, except for some bizarre reason I didn’t particularly want to be a novelist, I wanted to write movies. I picked up a paperback of the screenplay of Westworld just after it came out, and that was my Bible. I actually loved the screenplay form. I loved seeing films in my head. The only way to do it.

Q: As well as prose fiction, you’re a successful scriptwriter for TV and film. What makes an idea a book or short story, rather than a TV or film proposal and script?

A short story is a succinct idea with a definite voice that you can bite off as whole, I find. You know how to do it. A film is simply a drama of definite length with dramatisable action and good roles. A TV show is a proposition – a set-up with open-ended possibilities: an engine that can run and run. The format, the way it works as a drama, is everything – and that can take months or years to work out. Even Call the Midwife, which you’d think would be a no-brainer, was in development at the BBC for ages. That’s what people don’t realise about TV when they watch it, and it works or it doesn’t work. It takes bloody forever!

Of course, some ideas are perfectly suitable as a film or a novel, so there’s malleability sometimes. One idea that I’ve just had turned down by a broadcaster I might turn into a proposal for a series of books – I don’t know. You can waste an awful lot of time re-circulating ideas and sometimes it’s better just to ramp up new ones. But you don’t want to waste that perfectly good idea just because that one person didn’t get, either.

Short stories for me are “instant gratification” – and I do it for love, certainly not money. I can tell a story exactly as I want it, and it gets in a book. That is a very welcome contrast to films, which take five, ten years to get into production – if they get produced at all. I can spend a year on a TV script and even then only six people will ever read it before it’s rejected and that’s that. So it’s very soul-destroying at times. I write short fiction because I’ve got to write stories and I have to get them out there, and getting a story accepted in an anthology, as happened today, can be just as much of a thrill as having a big screen movie released. It sounds insane – but it’s true!

Q: What has scriptwriting brought to your prose fiction?

Planning. And not planning! I’m punctilious about organising my thoughts on a screenplay because a script is about concision – less is more. It’s about structuring the scenes and what happens within the scenes, and that is 99% of the work. Thinking, not typing. So I bring a sense of structure to story writing, I think, and a sense of dialogue and subtext, which you would expect.

Paradoxically, though, what I like in writing fiction is what you don’t do in screenplays which is the voice, the voice of the story or the tone of the narrator, be it first or third person. I also enjoy that fiction can meander – you can go “off piste” with little thoughts or big thoughts, but in film it is all about the spine and forward motion. Then again the reverse is true and I like to think that the freedom I have in fiction filters back in to my scripts, and I’ve learnt there are no rules – break them, divert, do whatever the hell you like. They can’t shoot you for it.

AfterlifeQ: What are the highlights of your writing career to date?

Wow. Tough one. Most enjoyable moments? Walking along the South Bank after the premiere of Gothic at the old NFT. Felt I was walking on air that night. Felt like it was all taking off (…but of course it wasn’t!). Being with Lesley Sharp and everyone at the Royal Television Society Awards when she picked up Best Actress for Afterlife. That was very special. And of course, the night I collected a BAFTA for writing the short film The Deadness of Dad starring Rhys Ifans. I stood on stage between Sean Connery and Sigourney Weaver. I’ve never been so excited in my life! Unless you count going to a party at Carrie Fisher’s house in LA and lining up for barbecue chicken next to Harrison Ford, Danny De Vito and Jack Nicolson! That was pretty nuts!

Q: What are you working on now?

I’m head down in a new series for BBCTV. Early days yet. But I’m very excited about it. And quite a few spinning plates with TV and film companies, including Playtime, a script I’ve written with Tim Lebbon, and Telepathy – which I hope will get its financing confirmed at Cannes and be filming later this year. On the fiction front I’ve stories coming out in a Professor Challenger anthology soon, in Beyond Rue Morgue (Titan), in Terror Tales of the Seaside (Gray Friar) and in The Burning Circus (BFS Publications). I’m also hoping to hear news soon about a second collection, my follow-up to Dark Corners. Which is very exciting.

Q: Describe your typical writing day.

Yikes. Must I? I’m a chronically slow starter and mornings are useless (unless I’m on a deadline) – paperwork, noodling, the inevitable emails, and coffee. Afternoons, I get stuck in, but I’m at my most productive in the evening and night time. If I had no family or social life I’d probably work from 4pm to 2am. But a lot of writing happens when you’re not writing. You’re never off work because problems and ideas are always percolating. They come together when they need to. I get panicky if I haven’t sat at my desk for a certain number of hours, but the work always gets done. Though doing 10 pages a day on a script is different kind of work than working on a treatment or outline, which is different from rewriting, which is different from writing memos or notes or having meetings, or pitching. There is no typical day!

Q: What would you draw attention to from your back-list?

The best of my drama is probably Afterlife. The best of my fiction is possibly “Whitstable”. But others might tell me differently. In terms of “back-back” list I’d like the old BBC series Ghosts to be released on DVD – I wrote two of those, and they weren’t bad. Is Network TV listening?

Q: Which other authors or books do you think deserve a plug?

I’ve just read Joel Lane’s collection Where Furnaces Burn, which is marvellous. I loved Mark Morris’s latest collection from PS too. And of course Graham Joyce’s Some Kind of Fairytale. And Stephen Gallagher’s The Bedlam Detective. One of the joys of joining the community of writers in the independent genre press or via the BFS (British Fantasy Society) is that I now count all the above people as my friends. I’d also like to plug Pain Cages, a great collection by Paul Kane, for which wrote the introduction.  And for no personal reason other than it’s brilliant, I’d recommend Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeannette Winterson.

Q: If you were to offer one snippet of writing advice what would it be?

First of all, if you are a genre writer interested in Horror, SF or Fantasy, join the British Fantasy Society. Then, I’d say:

Perseverance + Talent = Luck

You can’t do anything about your innate Talent (you’re either a storyteller or you aren’t) but you can work on the Perseverance part. And make sure when Luck comes along you are ready for it because you’ve been working your arse off!

Whitstable by Stephen VolkMore…

Stephen Volk is best known as the creator of the TV drama series Afterlife and the notorious 1992 BBC “Halloween hoax” Ghostwatch. His screenplays include The Awakening starring Rebecca Hall and Dominic West, Ken Russell’s Gothic and The Guardian directed by William Friedkin. He has been a finalist for the Bram Stoker, British Fantasy and Shirley Jackson awards, and his short fiction has been selected for Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, Best New Horror and Best British Mysteries

And more:

 


Almost as Big as The Hollies… An interview with Ian R MacLeod

Ian Hart as an aging John Lennon

Ian Hart as an aging John Lennon in the Sky Playhouse adaptation of Ian’s story ‘Snodgrass’.

Your alternate-Beatles novelette ‘Snodgrass’ has been filmed as part of the Sky Playhouse series (first aired in the UK on 25 April, with repeats over the next few days). Tell us a bit more about the story.
The story features an embittered John Lennon who quit the Beatles just before they became famous, and ended up living a life of urban obscurity whilst his band became “almost as big as The Hollies.” In it, a rich and successful Paul McCartney attempts to make contact with his old friend, who meanwhile is trying to get work. It’s set in the 1990s. I’m not a great Beatles fan, although my sister was very much part of Beatlemania, but I’ve always been fascinated by those people who left big bands just before they became famous. To put John Lennon in this situation, and see how he got on, seemed like an interesting and amusing way of examining ambition, talent and failure.

How did it come to be filmed by Sky?
It was thanks in part of Kim Newman, who apparently gave the scriptwriter David Quantick a copy of the In Dreams anthology that he and Paul McAuley put together with a recommendation that he read the final story, “Snodgrass”, knowing he was a Lennon freak. I don’t think that David and the production company North of Watford Films were actively looking for Lennon material, but if fits in with some of the things they seem to like and I can see why it might have intrigued them.

What was your involvement in the screen adaptation? Were there many changes between print and screen versions? 
I had very little involvement. With some other stories of mine which have had some interest displayed (all of which, so far, have yet to make it any further) I’ve expressed some interest in working on the script, but to be honest I couldn’t quite see how Snodgrass was going to work at all – there are just so many flashbacks. I have been up to the film set and what they were doing looked very impressive, and I’ve seen the script but I haven’t yet seen the finished piece. The emphasis is somewhat more on the humour, I think, but we’ll have to see if that’s really the case, as that’s the hardest of all things to judge. This is actually only about a third of the whole story (which isn’t that long) so the hope is for further productions. Unlike me, David Quantick who wrote the script is also a huge Beatles fan, and he and the people at the production company really revere Lennon. Talking to them, we agreed that someone like me, who admired Lennon’s work but didn’t have a very strong connection, could have written debunking such as Snodgrass. Having a story you’re written bought to life and dramatised by someone else is a bit like being invited back by the new owners to take a look at a house you used to live in. You’re really interested to see what they’ve done, but at the same time, you’ve got your fingers crossed and you know it won’t be quite the same. I’m hoping they haven’t knocked down too many walls or installed purple toilets, but we’ll see.

“Snodgrass” is also the title story for your ‘greatest hits’ collection, published by Open Road this month. Tell us how you went about selecting them for the book. 
Not that easy, especiSnodgrass and other illusions - the best short stories of Ian R MacLeodally as not many writers have “hits”, me included. I thought it would be good to go for a variety of themes and settings, and a selection which covered my of my career. To be honest, I am most fond of my oldest stuff. But I think that’s what happened with most writers, musicians and artists. So I’ve done my best to cover the ground. To be honest, I don’t really like looking back. You either think the stuff you’ve done is great, and wonder if you can do anything as good again, or not so good, and wonder why you’re bothering. But perhaps that is just me!

What else is recently or soon out?
I have a couple of novellas due out, both in the autumn. One, The Discovered Country, is in Asimov’s and the other The Reparateur of Strasbourg is being published as a stand-alone chapbook from PS Publishing. Also I’ve just done a Borgesian fable that I’m not quite sure what to do with.

What are you working on now?
Just finished another longish SF story, this one set in a happy future where the human condition has seemingly been solved, and I’m exploring more of the vampire theme from The Reparateur of Strasbourg, but in other parts of history, which should end up as a novel. I have hopes that the world of The Discovered Country, where the virtual dead dominate the living, will also work as a novel. And I have a beta version of a young adult novel that I’d like to try out on anyone who’s prepared to read it. It’s called Lisa Moon and the Leonardo Timepiece. E-mail me via my site if you’d like to see and/or comment on an extract – although the plan is to put up a link to a pdf so people can download it direct pretty soon.

Describe your typical writing day.
If my day is free, ideally (ie – it doesn’t happen as often as it should) I write in the morning, do other stuff in the afternoon, and reflect a bit in the early evening. Oh, and I walk the dogs.

What would you draw attention to from your back-list?
Wake up and Dream by Ian R MacLeodEr – I think I’d say everything! But, if there’s one novel of mine which I feel deserves more attention than any other, it would be The Summer Isles. I think it deals with important issues, especially about being English, and reflects some of my best work. But good luck in getting hold of it – at least until the e-book comes out as  part of complete set of my work, which is also in the channels from Open Road Media, so should be within months. Otherwise, I think my alternate LA novel Wake Up and Dream should provoke thought and enjoyment in equal measure. Go out and buy a paper copy, or listen to the excellent audio book.

Which other authors or books do you think deserve a plug?
I’ve just enjoyed The Islanders by Chris Priest, but he probably doesn’t need my plug. I think Maureen McHugh is an interesting writer. Also Elizabeth Hand. I like thoughtful, well-written fiction. But I’m terrible with keeping up to date, and a lot of what I read comes from junk and charity shops. Not because I’m mean (or not entirely) but because I like to find things I’m not really meaning to look for. I’m just discovering D G Compton at the moment, and his stuff is well worth a look. I read much more outside the genre than in it, although I do keep coming back.

If you were to offer one snippet of writing advice what would it be?
At least some talent and a feel for language is necessary if you want to be a fiction writer, but it’s pretty common; probably five or ten percent of people have it. What really makes the difference in getting yourself known and published is being stupidly determined. It’s the same with footballers. The ones who make it are the ones who have the drive. Oh, and don’t – there are enough writers already. Just move on and do something else.

So… the easy one: what’s the future of publishing? How will writers be making a living and publishing in five or ten years? What will readers be reading?
I still think, as I’ve thought throughout my career and most of my reading life, that “SF” is a silly and outdated term. I’d like to think that the way other media have moved on with the fantastic, films especially, some broader sense of what can be done with non-naturalistic fiction, and what it should be called, will gain currency. I know the western had to pretty much die before it was resurrected, but nowadays no one dismisses that genre as shallow escapism. Meanwhile, I reckon the rise of e-books is unstoppable, and that I’ll miss the paper ones as much as I miss vinyl, although paper books will probably have a similar niche collectors’ following. Some inroads seem to have been made in preventing illegal downloading, but the main worry remains that the “for free” culture of the internet will mean that us writers will be reduced to wandering from village campfire to village campfire, telling tales in exchange for some food and a bed. I mean that figuratively, of course – unless things carry on getting worse.

Ian R MacLeod has been an acclaimed writer or challenging and innovative speculative and fantastic fiction for more than two decades. He grew up in the English West Midlands, studied law, spent some time working and dreaming in the civil service before moving on to teaching and house-husbandry, and now lives with his wife in the riverside town of Bewdley. His most recent novel, Wake Up and Dream, won the Sidewise Award for Best Alternate History, whilst his previous works have won the Arthur C Clarke, John W Campbell and World Fantasy Awards, and been translated into many languages.

More:


Snapshots: Linda Nagata interviewed

What’s recently or soon out?
The Red: First Light by Linda NagataIn any other month, the big news would be the publication of my short story, “Through Your Eyes,” in the March/April double issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction. It’s a near-future story with a theme focused on technology and civil rights, and it’s the first story I’ve ever had in Asimov’s, so I’m pretty pleased about that. But the news that supersedes this is that I have a new novel also out this month, called The Red: First Light—and in a nice bit of synchronicity, “Through Your Eyes” was the direct inspiration for the novel.

Sometimes characters just walk on stage and demand attention. That was the case with James Shelley, the protagonist of “Through Your Eyes.” Though I was done with the short story, I was not done with the character, and within a week of sending the story off to Sheila Williams at Asimov’s, I was writing the novel. Like the story that precedes it, The Red: First Light is concerned with the impact of evolving technologies, but the novel takes a different approach. It’s a boots-on-the-ground military thriller that engages with warfare, politics, and other, stranger things.

Near-future fiction has its own special challenges. Given the ongoing, rapid rate of technological change in the world it’s easy to imagine a near-future novel becoming obsolete almost overnight—or perhaps reclassified as an alternate history. Despite the risk, I like the immediacy of the subgenre. I’ve written in the near-future before, in particular with my novel Tech-Heaven, but also with the more recent Limit of Vision. I’ve also written about armed conflict on occasion, but The Red: First Light is my first true foray into military science fiction. That was pretty intimidating for me, but I really wanted to write this book—for the adventure, for the tech, for the politics.

What are you working on now?
Mostly I’ve been working on promotion for the new book. The Red: First Light is an indie book, published under my own imprint, so the responsibility for getting the word out is all mine—and of course I’m finding that publicity is even more challenging than writing a novel. But I’m also well begun on the follow up to First Light. No publication date yet for The Red: Trials, but the goal is to have it out within a year, and sooner if possible.

I also have several short story ideas brewing. In my early career I was never very interested in short stories, but over the past year and a half all that has changed and I’ve really come to enjoy reading and writing them.

Tell us about your experiences with publishing – both traditional and the new e-publishing environment that’s emerging.
Looking back, my experience with traditional publishing seems like a psychological experiment designed to test my sanity, with each incident of sublime luck countered by disaster. On the plus side, my first four books sold to Bantam Spectra, where I had terrific editors. The books had great covers by Bruce Jensen, most were picked up by the Science Fiction Book Club, one won an award. On the downside, I had three different editors for the first two books. All were published as mass-market originals, and despite good reviews, they were out of print in short order. At Tor I was better paid and I had hardcover editions, but a failure of communication made it a tough ride.

As far back as the nineties, though, I was interested in being a publisher. At some point I decided to learn the page layout program InDesign, thinking I would do a new print version of my novel, Vast. At the time, I couldn’t figure out how to make that work economically, but circa 2010, the technology arrived. I’d spent nine years working in web development, and ebooks are just HTML (web) pages wrapped up in zip files. So it wasn’t a big leap for me to start putting out my backlist in electronic format. I remember being shocked when some of my books sold in the first week they were available. I put out everything in ebook editions as quickly as I could, and by early 2011 I released my first print book, using the print-on-demand services at Lightning Source. Bruce Jensen, the original cover artist for the Nanotech Succession books, very generously let me re-use the cover paintings, even putting together new front covers for me. Now almost all my books have print editions.

Sales are modest, but I’m happy with this new approach. With traditional publishing, my work was in someone else’s hands. I had no real input on the production of the books, and simply had to accept the result, whether it turned out good or ill. Now I’m in control and I like it a lot. If I mess something up I’m in a position to fix it, which is also grand. Book covers that don’t work out can be changed, book descriptions can be revised. It’s wonderful. I would like to find a solution to the distribution issue—right now you will not, to my knowledge, find any of my print books in bookstores—but new options may be emerging. We’ll see. For now, I intend to stick with indie publishing.

Describe your typical writing day.
Up very early, regardless of when I went to sleep. Consume coffee and squander time on the Internet. Note in shock that a large portion of the morning has slipped away with nothing accomplished. Force myself away from the big, beautiful Mac desktop and plant myself in front of the aging Toshiba laptop that I use for writing. Try to get into the zone. On good days this happens very quickly. I become completely involved in what I’m doing and it’s hard to pry myself away to fulfill other obligations. On bad days every word is a struggle. When I’m working regularly on a draft I do try to produce some minimal word count. A thousand words is the goal, but sometimes I have to be happy with five hundred. Much of the time I don’t know what will happen in the next scene. It takes time to work that out.

At any rate, if it’s a good day I’ll generally keep writing well past my goal, taking advantage of the zone while I can. If it’s a bad day, I’ll struggle along until I get my thousand words. If it’s a really bad day, I’ll quit early and go mow the lawn.

What would you draw attention to from your back-list?
For those new to my work, the first back-list book I point to is The Bohr Maker, which won the Locus Award for Best First Novel, and is the first book of The Nanotech Succession story world. As an alternative, and especially for those new to science fiction, I recommend Memory, a far-future, coming-of-age tale. Or for something completely different, the Puzzle Lands books, starting with The Dread Hammer—my experiment with fast-paced, scoundrel-lit fantasy.

Which other authors or books do you think deserve a plug?
Chaz Brenchley recently re-released his novel Dispossession through the writer’s cooperative Book View Café, of which I’m a member. Mildly curious, I started reading it, was immediately hooked, and enjoyed it immensely.

If you were to offer one snippet of writing advice what would it be?
Flee! Run away while you still can! …but if it’s too late for that and writing is already in your blood, then don’t stop. I more-or-less stopped writing for roughly ten years. It’s true I was intermittently working on a fantasy novel during this time (The Wild, now being serialized on my blog), but I wasn’t publishing anything, I wasn’t diversifying, I wasn’t learning anything new about writing, I wasn’t even following the genre, and I fell way behind. What readers I had must have assumed I’d given up and gone away. So don’t stop. Keep pushing yourself to try new things.

So… the easy one: what’s the future of publishing? How will writers be making a living and publishing in five or ten years? What will readers be reading?
Ha! Well, in my best scenario, droves of readers will be preordering the next Linda Nagata novel (FYI, preordering isn’t currently possible for indie print-on-demand books or ebooks). But I suspect the future of publishing will be a diversity of options, with more and more writers working both sides of the fence—indie and traditional—along with the ongoing development of some cool new trends like enhanced ebooks that include more art and maybe even music. As always the big question will be how to earn a living from our creative endeavors. That’s a question I’ve never managed to answer, but during my occasional bouts of optimism, I keep imagining it will work out.

More…
The Red: First Light by Linda Nagata

Linda Nagata is a Nebula-award-winning author of both science fiction and fantasy, with multiple novels and short stories. She grew up in Hawaii, in a rented beach house on the north shore of Oahu, and has been a writer, a mom, a programmer of database-driven websites, and lately a publisher and book designer. She lives with her husband in their long-time home on the island of Maui.

Buy stuff:

 


Snapshots: David D Levine interviewed

Space Magic by David D LevineWhat are you working on now?
I’m currently writing a YA Regency Interplanetary Airship Adventure. (Yes, another one of those. Sorry.) It takes place during the English Regency in a world in which the solar system is full of air and it’s possible to travel to Mars and Venus by airship. Naturally both of those planets are inhabited. My main character, Arabella Ashby, is a young woman who was born and raised on Mars but was recently hauled back to Earth by her mother, who didn’t want her youngest daughters growing up surrounded by aliens and turning out as wild as Arabella. Arabella, child of the frontier, is a Patrick O’Brian girl in a Jane Austen world; she’s stifled by England’s gravity, climate, and culture and dearly misses her father and brother, who remain on Mars. When her father dies and she learns her evil cousin plans to travel to Mars to kill her brother and inherit the family fortune, she disguises herself as a boy and joins the crew of a fast merchant ship in hopes of beating him there. But pirates, mutiny, and rebellion intervene. Will she reach her brother in time?

This novel takes place in the same universe as my story “The Wreck of the Mars Adventure” in Old Mars, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, which will be published in October.

What have you recently finished?
My most recently completed short story, titled “Goat Eyes,” is based on a question that has been kicking around the back of my head for years. Suppose you — the actual you, in the real world — discovered that vampires actually exist. How would this affect your life going forward? How would it change your behavior and worldview? This story is currently under consideration at an anthology.

What’s recently or soon out?
My short story collection Space Magic will be out on January 15 from Book View Café. This collection of 15 science fiction and fantasy stories won the Endeavour Award, for the best SF or Fantasy book by a Pacific Northwest writer, when it came out in paperback a few years ago, and now it’s available as an ebook from all the major ebook stores as well as directly from bookviewcafe.com. This is my first venture into e-publishing, and if it is successful there will be more.

In addition to the collection itself, $5.99 for all 15 stories, I’m also making the stories available for 99¢ each, following the iTunes singles-and-album model. It turns out that creating and uploading a single-story ebook is almost exactly as much work as a full novel ebook, so the work involved in doing it this way was much greater than I’d anticipated. I hope it pays off. If nothing else, I think, having 16 titles in the bookstores will make it more likely that people will find me than if there were just one.

Describe your typical writing day.
Lately I’ve been spending a lot more time on what my friend Jay Lake calls “writing-related program activities” such as e-publishing, promotion, and submission than I have on the actual writing. This kind of stuff can take up a surprising amount of time. For example, when a short story is rejected (and yes, I get rejections all the time) I often find that it takes an hour or more to decide where to send it next. Even though I have a spreadsheet with a list of markets to submit each story to, a lot of the time when I go to submit I discover that a market is temporarily or permanently closed or I already have a story in submission there. So then I need to research markets, see if there are any new ones, and determine which of the currently-available markets is the best fit for this story. So just at the moment my typical “writing” day doesn’t involve any writing at all! I hope to change this in the new year.

What would you draw attention to from your back-list?
Although “Tk’Tk’Tk” won the Hugo Award and has been translated into seven languages, the story I am proudest of is “The Tale of the Golden Eagle.” That’s the only story I’ve ever written that made me cry. Both of them are now available as ebooks, as part of Space Magic and as individual stories.

Which other authors or books do you think deserve a plug?
Tobias Buckell is a fine writer who is doing excellent work straddling the divide between self-publishing and traditional publishing; Mary Robinette Kowal is an inspiration to me with her broad range of long and short fiction and her selfless work with SFWA; and Jay Lake is a good friend and extremely talented writer who doesn’t let his serious health issues get in his way.

If you were to offer one snippet of writing advice what would it be?
Write. Finish what you write. Submit it to a paying market. Keep submitting until it sells.

In this modern world, “submit” may mean to self-publish and “until it sells” may mean “until it sells enough copies to make you happy,” but, at this point in the evolution of the industry, whether to self-publish or seek traditional publication is a personal decision. But the basic idea of continuing to write, finishing what you start, and putting it out there for people to buy has not changed.

So… the easy one: what’s the future of publishing? How will writers be making a living and publishing in five or ten years? What will readers be reading?
I anticipate that the current free-for-all will not last. We are in a period of chaos right now, with the former “Big Six” New York publishers losing control of the industry they used to dominate, and individual writers can make a big splash. But large corporations always win out in the end (look at the fate of small independent bookstores, video stores, coffee shops, and gas stations in the past decades). In five or ten years there will be a new Big Six of publishing, and I expect that four of them will be Amazon, Google, Apple, and Wal-Mart.

What will readers be reading? Same as today: most people will read bestsellers, based on recommendations from their friends and trusted media sources, but a significant minority will seek out quirky independent works that match their idiosyncratic tastes. The latter readers are the ones I’m writing for.

What are you most excited about?
I have been working on a video based on my story “Letter to the Editor” in the forthcoming anthology The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination, edited by John Joseph Adams. It will be going live on January 21 and I think people will like it a lot. I am also extremely excited by my new web page, www.daviddlevine.com, which looks fantastic.

More…
Space Magic by David D Levine

David D. Levine is the author of over fifty published science fiction and fantasy stories. His work has appeared in markets including Asimov’s, Analog,F&SF, and Realms of Fantasy and has won or been nominated for awards including the Hugo, Nebula, Sturgeon, and Campbell. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife Kate Yule, with whom he co-edits the fanzine Bento. His web page is at www.daviddlevine.com.

Buy stuff:


%d bloggers like this: